OBT 10th Year Anniversary

OBT 10th Year Anniversary

10 yearsThis year, 2023, marks the 10th year since I launched the Ontario Bike Trails (OBT) website. To mark this milestone, I wanted to celebrate my success, give you a brief history, and add some insight to its beginnings and the path I took to get here. 

In 2013, I started the website as a way to share information about mountain bike trails that I’d learned while leading groups for a dozen years as a member of the Toronto Bicycle Network (TBN).

I had basic experience in building websites and when I came upon a WordPress directory theme that could display my reviews properly, I got to work. Initially I had about 30 short reviews that year that were mainly mountain bike loops I knew. Some needed photos, so I had to revisit them (what a good excuse to go for a ride!).

I had always been frustrated with the lack of accurate trail information available online. (And this has only got marginally better over the years. I still find government sources fall short when it comes to informing the public about their trails.)

I could have posted all the trails that existed on my site that first year but I promised myself that I wouldn’t post any trail until I could give it a complete review, after I had ridden it and taken photos. I didn’t want half-finished pages.

old OBT home page
old OBT home page

old OBT trail page
old OBT trail page

Every year I ventured out farther to add new locations, sometimes taking my young son and partner on family cycling outings. It was a slow process, but now, 10 years later, I have almost 180 trail locations between my books and on the site. 

Over the years the website evolved from those very humble beginnings. As with most websites, for the first few years, I was out there in the WWW wilderness with very little traffic. But I carried on and kept gradually building an audience while working as a handyman by day. 

I invited my friends to like my Facebook page and got about 40 to start with. Now I have 4,000+. That number took many years to grow (and thousands of dollars in Facebook ads to get there sooner). 

The first five years, I didn’t even bother putting annoying Google ads on the site. Yet eventually I did, and they have paid for better hosting, new plugin features, and security monitoring. OBT is not government funded, unlike most Ontario bike info sites so ads exist.



My audience over the years has been a consistent split between 65% male and 35% female visitors, with a median age group in their 40s. At the beginning, users viewed my site from desktop computers; now everyone uses a phone. I’ve had to change how the web pages look over the years to suit this transition to tiny screens. Can’t say I like how limiting it gets.

My busiest times are fair-weather weekends. Cyclists come to my site in the mornings looking for ride ideas. And that’s the purpose of the site. (I even use it when my mind’s blank for places to go, lol.)

Eventually I expanded out from mountain biking trails to include Park path and Rail trail reviews, as it seemed to me that the MTB universe was covered by other sites, but these other categories offered more opportunities. I also came to realize there are way more weekend recreational cyclists than avid mountain bikers in search of outings. 

At one point, I started posting BMX locations, but that has not evolved as my son did not take to it, so that category remains incomplete.

dreamy bike path

From the traffic and questions I get, I’d say OBT became the go-to website for Rail trail info in this province. 

The influx of riders during the two Covid summers was a surprise, and a little overwhelming for my web server. During those summers I had over 2,000 daily visitors on weekends. Yet with supply shortages and closed businesses, no one was advertising on Google, so the increased traffic did not equate to more revenue.

The site had a major theme redesign in 2016, and hosting has moved a number of times to adapt and improve page loading speeds, always an issue on a photo- or map-heavy site. I am happy now with the service from Hawkhost, an Ontario web hosting business I recommend.

The site logos have changed a few times. I think we need a new one soon. Anyone have any ideas?

old OBT logo
old OBT logo



At first, trail reviews were written to be a short read, but now I can go on and on. The real challenge is how to write about the same thing over and over again (how many ways can you describe a bike trail?) without getting repetitive and boring.

It can take a few days for me to find an angle (as they say in the press) to write about this topic. Then I use that perspective and work on stringing together all the points to sum it up. I think most of you get the picture. Though I am no faster at typing it out than before.

Even to this day it’s hard to get used to the idea that thousands of unknown people visit the site weekly. Few reach out, but I know that people find joy on the trails that I recommend. Knowing this gives me satisfaction: what I do benefits the many who need a little escape from their weekly grinda chance to enjoy the outdoors, perhaps out of townon their bicycles as much as I do.

The future ahead has promise for cycling and bike trails in Ontario.

There is a momentum coming out of the pandemic, and it’s growing steadily. OBT will continue to follow this growth and keep you informed as best as I can.  

 

To reuse a quote from my recent book, “May the weather be on your side and the wind at your back!”  

Dan Roitner

a younger Dan at Kelso MTB
a younger Dan at Kelso MTB

Trevor and Dan
my son Trevor and I last year

10th Anniversary eBook SALE

10% Off with Coupon Code – 10th year

P&R bike trail book vol 1

PR Trail Vol 2 book cover

MTB book cover

Most Pages Views

These are the most popular trail review pages visited on my OBT site. Results are from 2016 onward and a little skewed, as older posted reviews have more visits then ones written in the last few years.

 

Humber River – Park Trail 41k page views

Nokiidaa – Park Trail 18k

Toronto Islands – Park Trail  17k

Welland Canal – Park Trail  17k

Ajax Waterfront – Park Trail 17k


Caledon – Rail Trail 40k  page views

Hamilton Brantford – Rail Trail 30k

Uxbridge Lindsay – Rail Trail 28k

Elora Cataract – Rail Trail 19k

Oro – Medonte – Rail Trail  18k


Durham Forest – MTB 17k page views

Dufferin Forest – MTB 16k

Albion Hills – MTB 15k

Don Valley – MTB Trail 15k

Palgrave – MTB 15k



bikes on trail
September 1, 2023No comments

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Hey, this may be interesting for you: OBT 10th Year Anniversary!

This is the link: https://ontariobiketrails.com/obt-10th-anniversary-overview/

Lets get together and do a ride soon.