The Basics

Winter Fatbike Riding in Ontario

winter 2020 update

When winter comes around in Ontario most of us fair weather riders put our bikes away.

But Fatbikes (or is it Fat Bikes?) are a new design of mountain bike that enables riders keen on riding year round to get out of the spin classes and do real riding.

This new trend evolves our bike sport to new possibilities and one day I see it in the winter Olympics.

These new bicycles are a hybrid of the MTB concept.

The obvious difference you can see is the fat tires that help you “float” over loose, soft terrain, be it snow, sand or soggy soil. A base on regular MTB tires to have an easier and more enjoyable ride.

What also has changed is one crank gear up front, fewer speeds to change and a lower gear ratio. These bikes are not made for speed as there is plenty of friction at work as the fat tires plow through the snow.

Fat bikes come with wide handlebars, disc brakes on a wide fork frame, but few have shocks. You just don’t need them on the soft stuff. Tires may have studs for ice and tire pressure is a low 10 psi or less.

With the fat soft tires and wide handlebar stance, riders have firm control and keep moving beyond what a typical MTB could handle.

There is a limit naturally, traveling through half a metre of powder is going to be tough. Ice is more manageable but still treat with caution as any rubber bike tire can slip from under you in a blink.

Metal studded tires come to the rescue giving a rider a firm tread on maneuvering precarious icy patches.

In a way riding on snow would give you a soft landing when a fall comes. Still wear a helmet over a thin toque cause those trees are not moving.

Keeping warm is an issue and requires a change in tactics. How to keep your feet, fingers and drinking water from freezing is a concern. You may opt for flat pedals and winter boots, or covers for riding shoes and your bar handles. Lots of accessories are coming out to fill this niche.

If you cross country ski you know all about the balance between staying warm but not sweating too much, as this moisture will chill you out eventually.

One has to dress in layers and peel before overheating. Remember that the days are short and be certain not to get lost. That’s definitely more of a problem than in the summer.

So with that short intro where can you ride your Fat Bike in Ontario? The simple answer is everywhere you could with your summer bike. Well almost… there are exceptions to this new sport.

Many summer ride locations on this site’s map pages are Nordic ski locations in the winter. Be sure you are welcome and give lots of space to skiers as you have better braking and turning then they do. And never ride over the ski tracks set in the snow, that’s just bad etiquette.

Most MTB, forest parks and rail trails on this site have easy routes to try. Also up north snowmobile trails are a possibility with hundreds of kilometres to ride if you find a quiet side loop. Use caution as these snow machines need as much respect as cars.

Below is a list of links to get you on your way. Rent first then buy into it later.

Check the Weather and Snow Depth, before you Go

Where to Ride a Fatbike in the Winter:

First try my Fatbike Tag on this site for ideas…


My close to Toronto favourites – free, few hills, no crowds:

Whitchurch – flat, easy, just north of Toronto

Bendor  – easy rolling hills

Long Sault – hilly, small fee north of Bowmanville

Eldred King – gentle grades, sandy too

Palgrave – north of Albion Hills and similar

Durham Forest – free, groomed loops!

Glen Major – beside Durham for more action


Farther away from Toronto

Northumberland – free, hills, large area north of Cobourg

Dufferin Forest – south of Collingwood, some grooming

Hydrocut – Waterloo

Guelph Lake – Guelph,

The Pines – Woodstock, some grooming

Turkey Point – on Lake Erie, snow depth could be low

Ottawa – river park trail

Larose Forest – south of Ottawa

Kivi Park – Sudbury

Torrance Barrens – Bala

Algonquin Park – Minnesing,  Rail Trail

BRMC – Bracebridge

Shuniah Mines – Thunderbay

+ Groomed with Trail Fees $

Why would you pay when you can ride for free? Well, few times the snow base is ideal for Fatbike riding. There may be too much snow and you are getting nowhere fast burning up energy. Or it could be icy and lumpy, no fun either.

A groomed path sets up the snow base to roll easier with better traction. Climbing and zipping down winding tracks become manageable and fun too. Plus even your regular MTB  with not so fat tires can take on these trails.


Albion Hills –  Black Trail only

Horseshoe – 9 km on snowshoe trail and beyond into Copland forest

Hardwood – Barrie lots to ride

Highlands Nordic – Collingwood – New trail

Georgian – Parry Sound

Walden – Sudbury

Hiawatha – Sault Ste. Marie

Gatineau – Ottawa area

LivOutside – Bracebridge, bike park


Rail Trails – And then there are many Rail Trails in Ontario that one could Fatbike on. Granted they flat and straight, but if you want to put in some mileage they go on forever.

Most Rail Trails allow snowmobiles on parts of or the full length of the route. Some are popular snowmobile highways and likely not a good experience (or safe). Lesser traveled routes may be found and other Rail Trails, where sleds are banned, you will have no one but only the odd Nordic skier or hiker in sight.

Where to Rent a Fat Bike:

Approximate full day bike rental rates below, some shops do half day and hourly rentals. Also, the price gets better if you rent for additional days. Call ahead to be sure they have them as some locations have very few.

Horseshoe – $38 for 2 hours

Hardwood  – $ 50

Albion Hills – $56 (8 bikes, different sizes) no reservations

Algonquin Outfitters – Huntsville $45

Parry Sound Bikes – $50

Try Sports – Parry Sound  $48

Liv Outside – in Bracebridge ~$42

Oxygen Bike Co. – Toronto $ 75

Kamikaze Bikes – Collingwood $50

Friday Harbour  – Lake Simcoe  $25 for 2 hours

Adventure 360 – Sudbury $65

velorution – Sault Ste. Maire  $50


Here are a few websites for more info:

Wikipedia – Fatbike

Bike Cottage Country

Explorer’s Edge

Northern Ontario Travel



Now get out there and have some fun you crazy kids!

February 5, 2020 / 7 Comments / by / in , , ,
Hazards on the Bike Trail

Be Aware and Ride a Lifetime

Before getting into any sport, it’s wise to know what you’re up against. I will quickly summarize some aspects of bike riding on trails in Ontario that everyone needs to be aware of.

My intention is to inform and warn everyone of the possible (yet unlikely) perils of trail riding. A little education will lessen the concerns of anyone apprehensive about riding.

I’m not trying to scare anyone away from bicycle riding; actually, I’d like to encourage people. Just be aware of your surroundings and what to expect so you can go out and enjoy the good times.

I have been bike riding for decades with next to no injuries to speak of. Was I lucky, prudent or both? Knowing what to expect on a ride and how to circumvent problems keeps me going injury-free every year.

A lot of these concerns are for MTB riders and Park forest rides. Doing an asphalt path in a city park is safe with few hazards. Just the usual park traffic to avoid hitting – other cyclists, walkers, dogs, strollers, kids…

Getting mugged or worse could happen, but thankfully here in Canada, a very rare occurrence.

So here is some basic information (with links at the bottom) on how cycling trails can be enjoyable with few real dangers.


Trees, and a few Nasty Plants

Objects to avoid hitting and plants that have thorns and toxic sap.

Obvious objects to avoid are trees. The woods have plenty of them and hitting one with your handlebar or shoulder tells you they are not moving. Firmly rooted, trees will not give, hence measure your ability to navigate around them wisely.

A fallen tree can be fun to hop over with a mountain bike when approached with enough speed and confidence. Otherwise, carry your bike over the log or ride around.

Thickets of Raspberry bushes close to a narrow trail can scratch and cut you with thorns on the larger canes. These plants often like to grow on the path if not cleared by trail maintenance crews. Plowing through an overgrown path slowly is possible, but if they are Blackberry bushes, stop! These plants have dreadful thorns that shred and entrap you.

The next category to avoid are plants that have toxic sap. Brushing against these plants, or touching the sap on broken branches could cause allergic reactions on your skin, blindness, or worse if eaten. Yikes!

Stick to the middle of the trail, or ride in early spring when the plants are low, or late fall when the frost has killed them off. To avoid skin contact, wear high socks or pants, long shirts, gloves and then contain and wash these clothes well afterwards if contaminated.

Avoid spreading these toxic oils around. Don’t scratch an itch or rub your eyes.  Handling your bike may lead to oils transferring from your tires. The sooner you wash with soap and cold water (not to open the pores) the better the chances of containing any stray residue. Perhaps the bike needs a scrub too. Jeez, this sounds like some kind of nuclear fallout. lol

Poison Ivy This plant is common in Ontario and grows in sandy soil on the side of paths. In the spring it starts small but can grow waist high by late summer. Easy enough to avoid at the beginning of the riding season, later it can fill in a path and be impossible to avoid.

The sap from these plants can cause an allergic reaction. Not to say you will have one, as my many encounters with this plant suggests I am not affected or just lucky. Not wanting to find out, I avoid close encounters.

I also heard recently that new strains of Poison Ivy are affecting many who had tolerance over the older strains.

Giant Hogweed, Wild Parsnip, Spotted Water Hemlock  All these plants are to be avoided, touched, eaten or fallen into, oh dear. Get to know what they look like. Not as common as Poison Ivy, yet more alarming as they are multiplying and spreading around in ditches, by roads, around moist thickets and giant they can become.

The last plant I’ll mention is Stinging Nettles. Not nearly as dangerous, but when you brush by a few bushes it gives you a short burning sensation. So do not fall into this either.

poison ivy
Poison Ivy

Hogweed in Toronto
Hogweed in Toronto

Stinging Nettles
Stinging Nettles

Biting Bugs & Bears – Beware

Lessen the typical party of mosquitoes, black flies and other insects wanting to dine on you by avoiding a few things. Late May through June into mid-July, the bugs are active, plentiful and hungry, so doing a forest ride then is sure to keep you busy. High humidity and high heat gets them frisky too.

Black flies are the first to breed in spring water runoff, then the mosquitoes move in where there is standing water.

Perhaps stick to a more tame city park or Rail trails at that time of year. The open areas with less water and more wind will likely reduce this problem. By the fall, the bugs are all gone, which is wonderful.

Wear loose clothing, avoid black and dark blues as those colours seem to attract their attention. Favour white, yellow, or orange colours. Outride them if you can and then use bug juice when it gets bad. I put Deet on my clothes rather than my skin, and sparingly.

I have encountered Fire ants in the Don Valley. Not native but there are pockets of these aggressive critters. So if you are standing around too long on their home turf and they bite, it burns.



Ticks are the new threat to our biking enjoyment. With warmer winters, ticks are moving north into Ontario. There are many species of ticks, the Deer tick is the one that can carry Lyme Disease. A nasty aliment that can debilitate you, in a few weeks or stay dormant for years until triggered.

This can be a serious condition that I have seen occur regrettably in friends. You do not want to get this.

Ticks take their time feeding on you. There is no stinging feeling like other biting insects. They say you have a day to find any on you before their saliva could infect you.

Avoid ticks, prevention is important.

So when riding, stick to the middle of the path. Avoid brushing up against tall grasses. Ticks wait there for a host to come by and latch on to. Check each other after a ride for the little beasties. They can be very tiny and work their way up your shirt sleeves, shorts or in your hair.

If you find a tick, you must remove it whole or you will leave the mouth part embedded in your skin. Squeezing it from the back will possibly transfer a nasty infection.

Other than pesky insects, there are no tigers or alligators to warn you of here in Ontario.

We do have a few bears and they do not like to be surprised. If you ride a remote forest trail, having a bear bell or chatting among other riders makes enough noise for bears to head the other way.

tick sizes
tick sizes

Deer and Wood Ticks
Deer and Wood Ticks

Ontario Lyme Risk map
Ontario Lyme Risk map

Terrain –

Watch where you are going.

Bicycle trails and paths vary greatly in Ontario. For some who cycle leisurely city parks their expectation of hazards is low, while a veteran mountain bike rider may want those “challenges” and tricky sections on their loops.

Everyone has to be aware that any bike trail can have hazards like rocks or tree roots. Riding a paved park trail certainly adds comfort in knowing the path is designed for easy, safe navigation. But here is where you may get too comfortable and drop your guard.

Any trail can have sudden surprises in the terrain caused by rain washouts, fallen trees, flooding, sinkholes and animal burrows. On any path that is new to you, watch for the unexpected.

Never assume anything!

That goes for finding some fun structures and just blindly flying

Stick jamb in derailer

Stick breaks derailer

off the end of a ramp, unaware of what comes next. When in doubt, scout your log jump, skinny bridge, or giant boulder drop on the first run. The next time around you are now aware of the thrills and consequences.

Of all the potential objects found on a path, my most troublesome is a fallen short branch around the thickness of a broom handle. When this stick is parallel to the path, your tires may suddenly roll sideways when you ride over it.  This could throw your weight and tip you over on a fast hill.

If this stick lays across the trail then what can happen is, your tire snaps it in two as you ride over it. The two ends may flip into your spokes and rip you derailer off. This now leaves you two options, walk the bike back or shorten the chain and ride out on one gear.

Weather –

On trails, recent weather conditions can give you surprises that you need to be mindful of.

Whatever makes the terrain slippery, you need to be conscious of any impending accidents it may produce. Water, snow, ice, mud, wet moss, algae and leaves all reduce traction and can cause a fall.

During and after rain or snow, you now have a lubricant between the rubber tires and the terrain. Certainly, knobby treads with save you from sliding out, but only to a point.

Testing those limits cautiously will give you a new reference for the day as to how much play you have in maneuvering. This a good thing to know in a pinch when you need to make a sudden move.

Avoid crossing patches of ice, and if you must, stay straight. After the length of your bike, there is no grit left between the ice and the tire. You can easily have the bike slide out from beneath you. Boom!

Rain can also bring with it trail washouts. Rivers can totally erode the banks of a path or wash sand and gravel onto asphalt routes. They can become a hazard to even unsuspecting regular riders.


Last bit of advice…

Plan to Fall –

At any given moment in the back of your mind have an exit plan. As the trail continually changes form a plan to exit a crash with the least amount of damage to you and your beloved velo. That plan should continually change in tandem with your surroundings.

Think over what may happen and where you would fall.

Try to dissipate the energy in a fall by rolling your body or walking off the momentum. Avoid straightening out your arms and legs to lessen breakage.

Eject the bike in the process. You do not want to fall on it, or it on you. Make sure if you use pedals that clip in, you can quickly detach. Or unclip your shoes at any precarious sections.


Wear Protection –

Enough of the perils of this bike riding gauntlet, let’s ride anyway.

Cracked helmet

Cracked helmet = non-cracked head

Though only kids and teens are required to wear a bicycle helmet in Ontario, you would be a fool not to. Your bike gives you lots of freedom, so wear a helmet, one day it may spare your life. Not convinced, imagine whacking yourself with a 2×4 in the head with and without a helmet.

I wear riding gloves (not only to look cool) but in case I fall and instinctively put my hand out. A sure road rash is lessened.

Forest trails can have a lot of pointy branches ready to jab your eyes. I wear on narrow trails clear sport/safety glasses. (Dark sunglasses in the woods would not be my first choice.)

Those mountain bike riders game to push boundaries and take on rocky terrain and wooden structures should wear armour. Wearing knee, shin and elbow pads is a good policy if your ride that day warrants it. The ladies can spare themselves leg bruises and odd looks at the office.

And let’s not forget getting too much sun has its risks. Lather on the sunblock before you need it.

Be Seen !!! –

My pet peeve these days is all the black clothes I see. Riders dressed in black on black bikes. Trendy yes, but just the worst colour to be seen by others. Being visible to other riders, hikers and cars, will avoid possible collision, injury, and deadly trauma. Why would you wish this? So why do I see even cycling club jerseys in black? Think this through everyone and...Be Seen!


You might think looking at this list that it’s scary to go on a bike ride and a sport to avoid. On the contrary, get off the couch and get in some fun!

Just know the facts and make good decisions. I leave to you to follow the links to sort it out and feel confident you can take on the wild kingdom safely.

June 8, 2019 / by / in ,
What is a Bicycle Park Path?

I think we can envision what cycling a Park path is like, though I am not going to be just stating the obvious here. I want to mention how I define the category and finer points of Park bike riding for the Ontario Bike Trails (OBT) site.

This will be informative for anyone new to cycling and tourists visiting Canada.

First I tend to intermix the terms trail and path when talking about Park bike routes. Here they mean the same though I see a path as wider, like the width of a car.

Now mentioning cars, they are seldom seen on these paths/trails, so one less concern (except for the odd detour). OBT reviewed routes need to be more than 85% off road, and most are 100% car free.

As the name implies, about half of the trails on the OBT site are Park type rides. These will split into two subtypes: City Park and Forest Park riding.

City Park riding is an easy beginner bicycle route in a city park. Whereas a Forest Park ride is for more experienced Park cyclists that want to go out of town, try a woodlot with rougher terrain and have few amenities.

Most trails do not loop back. So often doing a shorter ride requires returning on the same path. Sometimes you can connect with other trails and work your way back making it a longer route. Note that all paths have two-way traffic, so be aware.



What is it Like to Cycle a Park Path in Ontario?

A path through a City Park usually has gentle turns put in them to keep you interested. Sometimes paths share old roads or rail beds no longer in use. You might be able to tell.

Many park trails follow along a creek or river. This makes for a gentle incline with few hills of any length.

These rides are in typically well-manicured parklands, with cut grass, flower beds, open fields, and a few random trees here and there.

You may pass by benches, picnic tables, baseball diamonds and soccer/football/cricket fields. Kids’ playsets offer a stop for the little ones to go wild or exercise stations for you to get a total work out.

Some more popular paths now have bike repair stations. A nice touch if you have to tighten something or put in some air.

I would have to say that there are never too many washrooms on any route. So if you think you need to take a pit stop, do so. Same with water fountains and snack bars.

A few other observations. City Park trails can be busy on sunny weekends with not just other bikers but challenging obstacles called people, kids and dogs. Many of them are oblivious to cyclists coming up behind them. A small bell on your bar is good to have or call out “on your left” as you pass on the left, which can help.

The terrain of a Park path in the city will usually be all smoothly paved asphalt. Sometimes at the end, where it peters out, it turns to finely crushed stone or smooth soil. Bridges take you over waterways to keep you connected. Some bridges are rather pretty and worth a picture.

Some city rides have more naturalized and less manicured grounds with small woodlots and ravines to pass through.



The other type is a Forest Park path that will take you to even more of a natural wooded setting.

The terrain will be mainly smooth soil or stone dust with sections of sand and gravel. There may also be leaves, woodchips, and the odd rock, patch of mud, puddle or animal burrow holes to negotiate.

Some locations have hills. Not steep ones as in mountain biking, but fair-sized inclines. None of these hills will last longer than a minute to climb, as Ontario is not a mountainous province.

This kind of Park trail riding may be at a MTB location as well. There is a bit of an overlap here between more advanced Park riding and the beginnings of MTB riding disciplines.

You may eventually take to it and ride the easier MTB side trails. These are what they call single track trails that loop in and out from the main wide access paths you are riding.

If you ride beyond these Park trails, I would recommend using a mountain bike to navigate the twisty loops safely. You will enjoy the experience as well as be on a more solid bike with a front shock, better brakes and lower gears for climbing.




Who is Suited for a Park Trail Ride?

Well everyone is the quick answer…let’s divide the masses into two camps:

#1 City Park
• Bike owners who are fair weather riders and cycle a few times a year
• Beginners of all ages, learning skills and not wanting to encounter road vehicles
• Commuters going somewhere, work, shopping…
• Citizens and tourists exploring the city

#2 Forest Park
• Riders with Intermediate skill level as a Park cyclist
• Cyclists wishing to improve bike skills and endurance
• Naturalists seeking a peaceful environment with some adventure
• Day Trippers out of town, vacation riders


City Park cyclists have few challenges, an easy journey, with plenty of time to unwind. They enjoy the weather and see the scenery drift by far away from the office and dishes.

This is a recreational pastime to meet up with friends or get the kids out of the house not a race.

It is also rather a safe route to cycle, with no cars and easy terrain. Yet watch out for kids and dogs zipping across your path.

One of the main causes of accidents are riders chatting to each other and not looking ahead. (This has happened to me.) Also when the leaves fall they can hide nasty holes and crevasses that will send you flying, or be slippery when wet after rain.

You may encounter stairs to get over bridges or up out of the valley but otherwise little biking skills are needed to stay the course beyond the basics.

A Forest Park ride gets you into what I rate as an Intermediate Park ride. Good for seasoned road/path cyclists, where the added skill and leg power needed is there.

Are you looking for some adventure in a peaceful setting in the woods? You might even see some wildlife. Make it part of a day trip, weekend or vacation to stretch those legs after sitting in the car so long.

As recreational cycling grows in popularity here in Ontario, you can even ride paved paths in the winter, if you dress for it and have the right bike.



What do I Need to Bring ?

Riding in the city one need not be totally self-sufficient. (Though it’s better if you are.) Usually within walking distance is a means of getting your bike repaired or taking transit/ taxi back home. In the city, you can find many places to eat with a quick search on your phone.

Getting out of the city on a Forest Park ride, one needs to pack for the occasion and have a plan. Few forest rides have anything more than a parking lot and outhouse. So bring plenty of water, snacks, a rain jacket, a bike tool kit, a pump and a spare tube.

Maps and signage on most trails are adequate but reviewing your location on your phone will help. Saving a map offline on your phone or printing out a paper map may be wise, as cell reception can be limited in the rural areas.

Up north in the bush, having a bear bell might be smart as they do not like to be surprised. Or keep talking, singing, reciting Shakespeare…



Being seen and highly visible is never a bad thing on a bike. You are a thin object moving quickly. Cars, people (hunters) cannot see you easily dressed in black on a black bike. I know BLACK is the trend but it’s not helping. Why do road workers wear safety vests?

Wear some bright colours folks! Do you own lights, have reflectors on your bike for when it gets dark?

Cycling local park paths with our parents or friends is how many of us started bike riding. Carry on and explore other trail areas in your own neighbourhood, town and province.

It’s a great way to be a local tourist. You see plenty at a leisurely pace. Not too fast like in a speeding car, or too slow walking it. No hassles with parking, gas or traffic jams; I love it!

Combining your planned route with local subway stops, GO train stations and other public transit makes it stress free.

And isn’t that the way your cycling day should be?   Stress Free !

Enjoy the ride and tell us about it back on the OBT trail pages. Leave a Trail Review !




August 11, 2018 / by / in , ,
What is Mountain Biking?

Each spring, there are new bike riders who consider buying a mountain bike to get into the sport. If you are curious and want to try MTB trails, here is an overview of what to expect.

For 20 years I have been riding on most of the trails in Ontario. I still love it and wear a permanent smile every time I go out on the trail.

What is Mountain Biking? & Would I Like It?

First off, you don’t need a mountain to go mountain bike riding and (sadly) there are none in Ontario. Still, here in the province we do have enough hilly, varied terrain, to make your legs feel the burn after a few hours.

What you do need, is a reliable mountain bike and to be in good health. This is a fun sport but also full exercise. It’s not about speed or distance; it’s all about challenging terrain and overcoming it. (And staying on the bike LOL)

And yes we all go over the bars at one point, but the trick is to be aware, plan your crash, and walk away.

If you are a road rider, and you have good legs that helps. From there you will need to hone your skills in balance, climbing, braking and perspective as you weave between the trees.

There are many subcategories of mountain biking that you may gravitate to:

  • Cross-Country
  • All-Mountain
  • Downhill
  • Freestyle
  • Dirt Jumping
  • Bikepacking

 but first, let’s get to the basics.

mountain biker rider turning

What is it Like to Ride a MTB Trail?

Most mountain bike trail areas are made up of a few straight wide dirt access roads (I never see vehicles on them) or often these are Nordic ski tracks in the winter. Then add random hiking trails that are more narrow and still rather straight and boring.

Finally the third blessed type are the trails cut specifically for MTB riding. Amen!

Called single track, they twist and turn going nowhere in a hurry. Add some mean hills, roots, rocks, logs, mud…ya it gets to be a technical slow grind sometimes, but that’s the draw. Then minutes later the payoff of a fast winding descent, now hold on to your bars, it’s more thrilling than a roller coaster. 

Some trails are smooth and easy with packed soil, others have a mix of glacial stones and rocks. Up in cottage country you have giant boulders and solid flat rocks to ride over, OH what fun!

A few locations have man-made structures to entertain and dare you. Ramps, skinnies, bridges, jumps..for now, AVOID until you have experience.

The key to MTB riding is to challenge yourself, grow your skills and not have a bad crash that takes you out. There is no shame in passing on a tricky structure or walking a steep hill so you can ride another day.

At times, it’s how fast can you go without putting your foot down, how tight can you take a turn before the bike slides out or how skilled are you at clearing a log or rock garden.

You are one with the machine, taking on the challenges, winning every metre as you go.

Your focus is the terrain 3 meters in front, no time for daydreaming here. This sport demands your attention and if not, you go down.  :^(

Looking at a typical MTB ride it can take 2 – 3 hours and only cover 15 – 20 kilometres, but you earn them. Most trails run both directions so heads up on blind corners, call it out. Besides the odd cyclist about, you may see hikers for a walk, their dogs and kids but not often.

Be polite, slow down, announce yourself, especially if passing horses.  You now represent mountain bikers and we want to stay friends with everyone who is a trail user. As for noisy ATV traffic, there is next to none on the loops I have reviewed on this website.

Half of the MTB trail loops in Ontario have few signs or directions, so a GPS app on your phone (if you get coverage) or a paper map & compass can keep you on track.

Being out in nature, car free, in a never crowded, peaceful forest environment is a welcome change from the city life. If you like hiking it is sort of similar, though you cannot sightsee much as your focus is on that trail.

Most loops are shaded from the burning sun, block the wind and light rain. Expect bugs in the spring and all summer when close to wetlands. Keep moving to keep them off, yet the moment you stop for a snack or get a flat, you can be a target and a tasty snack! And check for ticks, a new problem in tall grasses.

Almost all MTB areas are out of the city, so look at putting in an hour + of driving to get there.


Who is Suited for Mountain Biking?

If you are a bicycle road rider and you love going long distances really fast, this isn’t going to work for you.

Mountain biking is all about technique, riding slow and taking on the ever-changing challenges of the terrain.

Beyond the hills (and some of them are very steep) the terrain can be anything from loose sand and gravel to mud, wet grass, rocks, roots, boulders, sticks, logs…..

Fatbikes are a new offshoot, that keeps MTB riders doing it all year round over snow, ice, frozen lakes, even in blizzards!

Though 75% of the riders I see on the trail are guys, women enjoy it as much and why not? Riders ages go from kids with their Dads to old veterans. I noted the average age of MTB visitors to this site is in their 40’s, yet you can keep at perhaps well into your 60’s.

Some young riders who have done BMX and Skateboarding take on MTB trails as a similar added activity.


What Kind of Bicycle Do I Need?

You just cannot take a road bike on a MTB trail, that is going to trash you and the bike..and get you a flat for sure.

My first mountain bike had no shocks and that was a rough ride. These days front shocks are a must for more control and less hammering to the body. Add a rear shock as well, and your ride gets more smooth and you can go faster.

The next thing your bike needs to be is quick to stop with disc brakes and have fat knobby tires for traction.

You also need some really low gears (big rear rings) to get you up those steep inclines without cursing or walking.

There is plenty to say for later, so here is a bit more advice on buying a bike to get you started.

Want to rent a bike to try? A few shops in your town may rent and Hardwood does.

bike riding flat rock


What Do I Need to Bring on the Ride?

I’m not going to mention everything one needs, but quickly you would bring lots and lots of water and granola power bar type food to keep you going. Running out of energy in the middle with 2 hours to go is not smart.

You must carry a repair tool kit that has a pump, spare tube and also the option of a patch for a flat tire. Include tools for tightening loose bolts and fixing your chain if it snaps on a hill, or else having to walk out 10km, with the bugs biting will teach you a few lessons. lol

This kit can go under your seat in a pouch, or better yet in a small backpack that has a water bladder and room for a jacket, your phone, (GPS unit) ID, car keys, camera, a paper map and bug repellant…and wear a helmet!

What you don’t need on the trail is money (where are you going to spend it?) or a kickstand, bike lock, saddlebags or sunglasses. Though I would suggest clear safety glasses for those pointy branches.

Some of the trails on this site are remote and seldom travelled. Give yourself enough daylight. Be prepared! And tell someone where you are going.

mtb riding ramp


Where to Learn How to Mountain Bike Ride?

Getting into MTB riding is a gradual progression, testing and honing your skills.

Ideally, you should ride with others to learn from them and as support if something breaks or you get hurt.

Joining a local MTB club online or a ride group at a local bike shop is a good idea. Be sure other seasoned riders don’t mind a slow learner and are willing to teach and wait for you. (Some advanced ride groups are hyper and never stop or wait for anyone.)

A few locations rent bikes and have lessons. This can help you decide if it’s your thing cause watching YouTube videos vs. actually MTB riding will be harder than you thought.

So mountain bike riding techniques are all about balance and knowing what speed and gear to be in to get over the terrain/obstacles in the next 5 metersPick your “line” to ride through then you reassess the next 5 meters and make adjustments, and on and on… Once you get into the flow of it, you will love it.

Want to Learn More?

Here are a few good books from Amazon to guide you to greatness:


Mastering Mountain Bike Skills – The old master Brian Lopes shows you how to do it. Well written and illustrated. This pro MTB rider will give you plenty of tips to work on over the next few years to practice. So get crank’n!

The book comes highly recommended by seasoned riders.




Mountain Bike Like a ChampionNed Overend another great veteran MTB rider. Learn plenty of tips on how you can improve your riding techniques on the trail. Not just for beginners, it is full of great content for all levels.

Ya, it’s a little dated but the core info is timeless.  A new edition would be welcomed…



The Mountain Biker’s Training Bible – Joel Friel writes the bible on designing your own training program to improve performance both mentally and physically. More of a cycle training guide and little on actual MTB techniques. If you want to get serious and fit for MTB endure and racing this book will point the way.


As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

And now for a few Laughs…

Suggested Easy MTB Trails in Ontario for Beginners:

Note: most of the trails at these locations are rated for beginners but not all,  some trails may be too difficult for you.

Please review maps and ride within your skill level to not get injured. Mountain biking is a thrill, and sometimes a spill, it has its dangers which you need to be aware of and avoid. Ride at your own risk.

North of Toronto –

Centennial  – all MTB track,  hilly, some not for beginners

Eldred King – forest park ride with some hidden single track

Jefferson – close but hilly, some simple runs

Albion Hills  – hilly, ride the X -ski trails easy, other MTB loops not for newbies


Christie Lake – north of Hamilton, perfect for beginners, almost all MTB trail and easy

Midhurst – Barrie – half of the trails are easy

Coulson’s Hill – Brandford – hilly, many trails, twisty but not too tough

Guelph Lake – Guelph, most trails are easy, a few roots

Torrance Barrens – Bala – flat rock, little climbing

Hardwood  – Barrie –  bike rentals, lessons, enough easy track, most advanced

Northumberland – Port Hope, most trails are easy 

Wildwood – near St. Mary, long, varied cross country park ride

Sauble Falls – Southhampton – some easy track in here

3 mtb riders in the woods


ALSO: Some intermediate Park Paths on this site aren’t quite up to mountain biking specs but are trails in the woods that can suit beginners in getting used to terrain that is not paved.

Bendor – N of Toronto, mellow not single track

Whitchurch – N of Toronto, easy, close, flat, little MTB trail

Heber Down – Whitby, a few hills, variety

Awenda – Midland, long and easy

Bracebridge RMC  – one hill, forest park ride


Beyond this quick run through, there is much more I could say, but for now, this is enough to help you consider mountain biking as your new outdoor pastime…and you should.


and if you do, say hello when you see me on the trail  – Dan

May 31, 2018 / 4 Comments / by / in ,
What is a Bicycle Rail Trail?

What is a Rail Trail in Ontario?

What once were railway lines are now public recreational trails. As railroads abandoned many of their extra routes, local governments and outdoor groups took on the redevelopment of these transportation corridors.

With the tracks removed, railway beds are often re-paved with crushed stone and marked with signage along the way.

The more popular Rail Trails are well maintained, drain well, with an even grade. Others are a little wild and overgrown with larger gravel, tall grasses and maybe a missing bridge or fallen tree.

Rail Trails are free to use, easy to cycle, long in length and far removed from the city chaos.

As multi-use paths, you will be sharing the route with hikers, joggers, horse riders and cross-country skiers. Some Rail Trails ban motorized vehicles, while others may allow ATV and snowmobile traffic.


What is it Like to Cycle a Rail Trail?

Cycling a Rail Trail is unique and different than other forms of trail riding. Because trains needed a gradual slope to climb hills and it was always cheaper to lay straight track, your path will be similar.

This makes for an easy cycle along flat, wide, straight paths. The turns along the route will be an even, wide arc as trains would need broad curves to stay on the tracks at higher speeds.

So if the riding is level there is little shifting to do. Find your groove and start cruising. 

What you will find are quiet, uncrowded, car free routes that take you through woodlots, across farm fields and behind homes and cottages. Nature is right by as you cross wetlands and pass through rock cuts. You may even see a deer or hawk.

Some rail trails have opportunities to find some good fishing or even pitch a tent.

Most rail trails have been grown over with trees for shade but there will still be times the hot sun and blowing wind will be there along the stretches of open field.

Often old train bridges and underpasses are still in place which is pretty cool. Some sections of old rail line may have been sold to farmers or land developers before the Rail Trail was created. This, unfortunately, will create a detour on side roads. Other times a bridge could be missing or replaced with a smaller version.

Rail Trails are not crowded. There is plenty of privacy and elbow room for your bicycle. You might see one rider every 15 minutes coming the other way. Some are barely used, undiscovered relics that are more known to the ATV and snowmobile crowd


Who is Suited For a Bicycle Rail Trail Ride?

There are Two Types of Bicycle Riders that would Typically Enjoy Rail Trails :

#1 – The casual cyclist who rides easy park paths with a hybrid bicycle. They want no hills and nothing tricky to navigate. These bike riders just want to cruise with friends or family on a car free route, maybe do 10 – 15 km then turn around and head back.

#2 – The long distance mountain bike rider who wishes to cover 40 – 80 km in a day at a faster pace looking for some adventure, car free. This could be a multi-day outing Bikepacking connecting with other trails or dirt roads to do a loop. One would carry supplies, similar to Bike Touring on the road.

As an easy ride, I find Rail Trails good for a relaxing, effortless pedal to ponder and reflect on things or think of nothing at all. To some, this can be boring as it is nothing like a MTB trail that needs your full attention.

But it is a great way to just cruise and get away from your troubles and all those tasks back home. One’s focus can wander to thoughts and plans of future projects, trips…( or even what my next site post could be)


What do I Need to Bring on a Rail Trail Bike Ride?

Since most Rail Trails pass few towns that have amenities or bike shops, you need to be somewhat self-sufficient. As always have your repair kit with you for flats or mechanical bike fixes.

Now you could ride well maintained routes with a crushed stone base on a road bike, but you will likely get a flat with those skinny tires beyond this. A better choice is a hybrid bike or MTB that has fatter tires to manage the larger pointy rocks and sandy spots, a must on trails like the Seguin.

Pack lots of water and snacks. Some routes have towns with diners and variety stores. Do check on this because Ontario is a large place and these spots are far between.

Bring layered clothing, as the weather could change and a rain shelter may be an hour away. Bugs are sometimes a problem in the spring or in wet summers when travelling through marshlands.

Since rail trails are pretty wide, picking up an itch from poison ivy or a tick is reduced if you stick to the center of the path and avoid tall grasses.

A smartphone with GPS can help tell you how far you have gone and how far to go. And some of those rail track beds go straight on forever… so getting lost is not easy to do.


Rail Trail Bicycle Routes in Ontario

Having been here first, railway lines cut across Ontario, Canada in all directions. Many go straight into town along waterfronts and through now populated neighbourhoods. Trains carried people from town to town and goods to ports and local enterprises.

At times the terrain made track switchbacks, and bridges had to span valleys and rivers to get through. If a farm got there first, surveyors had to find cheaper routes and put track along wetlands and ravines.

Upon the Canadian Shield, the railways had to contend with getting around many small lakes and blasting through rock to make an even grade.

Track also passed by farms that could ship their produce, or mines with their ore and sawmills with loads of timber. Though much of this is history you can ride a trail and often figure out what transpired and why they laid the track as they did.


enjoy your ride and give yourself LOTS of time – Dan



April 27, 2018 / 11 Comments / by / in ,
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Hey, this may be interesting for you: Winter Fatbike Riding in Ontario!

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