Trail Rating

Wide spinning wheel

How This Site Rates Trails: ...and is different from the rest

Here at Ontario Bike we do things a little differently than the rest of the trail review sites. All reviews are written by one rider, me, Dan Roitner. WHY? This gives you a consistent, even perspective when deciding if a trail is worth doing.

Almost all the rides reviewed are 100% off the roads that cars use. If there have to be gaps/detours to connect to more trail that use a road, it will be a minimal amount (5-15%) and not on busy streets. Some trails have road crossings that are busy. Most trail layouts have lights and signs to aid you.

From there, these trails need to be long enough for you to make it worth an outing to ride. Usually at least 10 km or more is the minimum for a bike ride, but sometimes a trail is so popular, scenic or connects to other routes that I may post it. And mountain bike trails are not necessarily that long, but still give riders a few good hours of enjoyment, so some short ones are listed.

This site’s objective is to list the best off road, car-free, bicycle friendly trails in Ontario.

working the roots

Unlike most other sites that have spotty, inconsistent, old info and dead links, I have refrained from posting trail locations on the site until I have done thorough research for the review. And that at times is not easy, as some locations have very little to go with.

When I write a review my reference point is comparing the trail to others in the province of Ontario. That is the rating benchmark, as we all know there can be more awesome trail elsewhere in the world, that is truly double black diamond, life threatening, but here the difficulty scale is Ontario-based.

Next, trails that I scout need to welcome bike riders and be “legal”; open to the public. Sure we all know of secret runs but I don’t want to put off land owners, so they are going to stay secret.

All the trails have been ridden by me once, if not many times, in my 20 years of riding trail. Exceptions are Rail trails that can be 30+ km long to ride so I may not ride the whole length (and back) for the review.

So you might be wondering what are my riding skills to base your view of the trail reviews. Wellll…I am a seasoned mtb rider in my 50’s, but not a kamikaze one, those days are behind me. I also take the family out for cruises in the park or a rail trail with a different agenda.

I consider what each category of bike rider may be wishing on a ride. I do try to give a broad objective view, based on all the bikers I have ridden with, and what trails the province has.

Dan in Sudbury

BMX Parks was added to the site as an afterthought. Though not truly a trail ride, it is an off road bike sport that shares interests with mountain bikers and I wanted to support this group too. And no, at my age I am not test riding them. lol

Most photos are taken by me and one day I will get to the pile of GoPro trail videos I have shot and post that too!

I love maps and am slowly making my own trail maps from my GPS tracks. For now, courtesy of many organizations, I am sharing their maps to aid you.

At the end of the day, I hope these reviews help you plan your next ride and give you a good idea of what to expect.

Have favourite trail I should review and post on the site? Then place a flag on this map and tell me about it.

Otherwise on my Contact page your welcome to say hello and send other details, clues and suggestions.

Type of Bicycle Recommended: Hybrid or Mountain Bike, BMX

City Park trails are paved and a street bike with thin tires could fare well. But often there may be patches of loose gravel and sand so using a hybrid bike with fatter tires on most of these trails will certainly make your ride more enjoyable and safe.

All MTB trails listed need a mountain bike to ride, anything less will not have the gear ratio for the hills, traction in the tires and comfort, and control of the shocks = no fun.

And at a few Advanced Park and Rail Trail locations you may benefit using a MTB as well.

A BMX  bike for those racing or doing tricks at skate parks.

Skill Level: Easy, Intermediate or Advanced

Trail Difficulty Symbols

Each bike trail category Mountain Bike, Park Path, Rail Trail and BMX Park is rated Easy, Intermediate and Advanced based within their own category criteria. An Advanced MTB trail is way harder to ride then an Advanced Rail Trail.

putting your weight back on a rocky decent

There are some overlaps on a few MTB/Park Trail locations. Often single track MTB trail interweaves amongst wider easy dirt access road a Park rider would enjoy. So I may mention (if there is enough trail to ride) that both bike riding styles are possible.

Another point to note is a Park Path Category can encompass everything from a city ride with manicured park lawns and gardens to country wood lots. The trail surface can be paved or on the more advanced end, a rough dirt path in the forest.

Rail Trails are usually very easy to ride, no hills and flat. But there are a few abandoned railway beds that are pretty rough riding. These more Intermediate-Advanced rides can have tall grasses, large stones, ruts, flooding, missing bridges so be aware.

Here is a chart drawn up by IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association) to try to set a standard. Symbols are the same on ski hills but refer to bike riding terrain. You may come across ride locations with these posted. Dagmar has them, but a black diamond there is not as hard as a loop in found in BC.  Read more on IMBA

IMBA rating chart

IMBA Trail Rating Chart

When in doubt of your riding skills, take a pass and ride for another day.

Don’t be a hero on that log hop, rock drop, skinny bridge and blow it. Scout anything challenging and never ride it blind. Work out an exit route if you lose your cool and gravity takes you. Being injured can put you out for the riding season. Major Bummer!  Know your limits and work on your skills/confidence to get there.

And for god sake wear a helmet, gloves and maybe even armour.  Trees, boulders they are not going move out of the way when you take a dive.

sometimes you have to walk it

Trail Surface: Definitions of Trail Base

In trail reviews I mention various bike riding terrain surface materials you might encounter. Here is descriptions to reference if you need to know, and I added a few tips on riding them.

Crushed Stone, limestone screening, is very fine and use extensively on Park and Rail trails. Traction and drainage is good.  Though heavy rains and flooding can wash deep ruts into the sides. Take care if the path is covered with leaves for surprises.

Bikes roll well over this surface when the base has been packet down a few seasons. A newly laid path has loose and deep patches to be aware off. Sharp turns and sudden stops can skid your bike out from under you.

Personally my favourite base to cycle on. Eventually these paths may get paved with asphalt, which I find is not necessary.

Sand is common in Ontario due to glacial deposits after the ice age. Not being too good for framing many woodlots with pine trees have a sandy base. This surface drains very well and after a good rain or spring snow melt, one can ride sand on a regular MTB bike.

Once dry, sand is so loose and soft a lot of your pedal energy is absorbed and walking may be a better choice. Fatbikes do well and are the answer.

When riding through a patch of sand, have enough speed, keep your front wheel straight and avoid turning. Any attempt to turn, will likely send you down on your ass. (at least it will be a soft landing)

Round gravel is common on most trails. Naturally it comes from river bed and glacial deposits. In the woods you may find it in small patches on single track trails and laid down on forest access roads as bedding.

It is common on hills too, due to erosion runoff of finer soils too much traffic. Sometimes severe, care has to be taken zooming down as these round rocks become a sea of ball bearing and falling is possible and nasty.

Riding on gravel does take more energy if loose and turns have to be done gently to not skid out.

Crushed gravel is similar in size to glacial gravel but man made. With sharp edges and points this trail surface is not very bike friendly. Large MTB tires may be required to roll over and handle the terrain.

Found on park paths and forest access roads, usually to control erosion and create a firm base. Rail trails can have leftover ballast gravel from when the tracks were there on less popular track bed. Eventually finer crushed stone may get laid.

Watch for loose sections that could compromise your steering.  Not tire friendly as new large pointy gravel may puncture old, skinny tires. Ouch!

Rocks come in may sizes and shapes and are larger than gravel. From the size of an egg and larger. When rocks get as big as a loaf of bread I call them boulders.

Most round river rocks are mixed in with sand and gravel. Some can be randomly spread around from glacial deposits on the trail. Other times farmers may have piled them in heaps by the side of a field.

The choice to ride over or round these large stones is yours depending on how well packed the terrain is or not. Riding over a large rock needs speed and to pull up on the bar when you hit it, otherwise bike stops;  you keep going. lol  If in doubt go around these nasties.

MTB riders like the challenge of these rocks laid down on a path to form a “rock garden of baby heads”.

Few areas in Ontario have sharp pointy rock to contend with, thankfully.

Wood chips vary in size and may be used to firm up a soggy muddy base. Found on a few Park Trails in more wooded areas.

Natural and pleasant to hike on, not so much for bike riding. Much of your energy can be lost if the base is new, soft and loose. Take care on turning and braking as mud may be mixed in.

Not used as much as crushed gravel for paths as it does decay over time.

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