Peterborough and the Kawarthas is a cyclist’s playground—for both road and mountain bike riders—about an hour and a half drive from Toronto. The region is perfect for a break from the daily bustle and a great destination for a longer cycling get away. Peterborough and the Kawarthas is dotted with lakes and criss-crossed by quiet rolling country roads. Still, you have the City of Peterborough with all the amenities of any urban centre. The region and Shimano Canada have worked to make it easy for bike-riding visitors to find their way: there are more than 160 cycling-specific signs installed throughout the county to help riders get on and stay on the nicest routes and roads.

The geography of Peterborough and the Kawarthas

The County of Peterborough consists of rolling countryside and has numerous beautiful freshwater lakes. To the south of Peterborough is Rice Lake. North of the city are several lakes including Chemong, Buckhorn and Stoney with cottages on their shores. To the north, the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park can be found which has 375 square kilometres of preserved wilderness and recreational areas. It is the largest wilderness area south of Algonquin Park in Ontario. Road cyclists can enjoy route infrastructure to all corners that make scenic rides on quiet roads quite easy. Additionally, there are mountain bike trails in a few conservation areas, parks and forests such as Harold Town Conservation area or just outside the county in Ganaraska, which is southern Ontario’s largest continuous block of forest.

Cycling Peterborough and the Kawarthas

Road cycling in Peterborough and the Kawarthas

Lakes, Rivers and Cafés route
60 km (See the route on Strava)

A popular route for mornings or weeknights, Lakes, Rivers and Cafés gives riders a taste of the region’s character. Riders head north out of Peterborough toward Chemong Lake before making their way toward Lakefield on beautiful farmland roads. The route then heads back toward Peterborough on the east side of the Otonabee River. It’s a route that gives riders a sampling of some of the region’s best features with rolling roads near bodies of fresh water and through lakeside communities. On route, riders will ride along the Bridgenorth causeway, past the locks on the Otonabee River, through Millennium Park and past Trent University.

For mid-ride stops, there is the The Nutty Bean Cafe in Lakefield. Riders can grab a coffee, pastry or full lunch. For something a little sweeter, there’s Bun & Sweets in Bridgenorth. For a craft brew after the ride, Ashburnham Ale House has a patio and some refreshing beers.

Cottage Country route
100 km (See the route on Strava)

The Cottage Country route is a longer outing that takes riders through Peterborough and the Kawarthas’s farming communities, the more isolated forested areas and cottage country. The route leaves Peterborough, crosses the Otonabee River and heads toward Lakefield, where riders enter the cottage country of the Kawarthas on Birchview Road. Beyond the cottages is Canadian wilderness along Stoney Lake. Afterwards, it’s south, back into farm country before turning toward Peterborough. With quick access to the scenic back roads that pass lakes, rivers and cottages northeast of Peterborough, riders will feel as if they’ve really left the city behind. Riders can start or end their rides at the Silver Bean Café in Peterborough. Stop for a mid-ride bite to eat at the Lantern Restaurant and Grill at McCracken’s Landing on the Stoney Lake waterfront.

Shimano Gran Fondo route
150 km (See the route on Strava)

For a good challenge, riders should take this route to the southwest of Peterborough that was used in 2016 for the inaugural Shimano Gran Fondo. The route features rolling hills, scenic lakes and winding rural roads. With more than 1,500 m of climbing, the course will have roadies going up and down. The hardest climb is 1.5 km on climb on Zion 4th Line near Millbrook. The route uses many of the roads that have signage for cyclists. It passes through farm country, and the towns of Franklin and Millbrook, where riders can stop for a break at the famous Pastry Peddler.

Mountain biking in Peterborough and the Kawarthas

Harold Town
While Peterborough and the Kawarthas have many scenic roads to ride, there are also plenty of singletrack to checking out. The Ganaraska Forest is the largest forested area in Southern Ontario and has hundreds of kilometres of single- and doubletrack trails for riders to discover. If you start your ride from the Ganaraska Forest Centre, there are marked trails to ride including 15-, 30-, 60- and 100-km routes. The Forest Centre also has washroom and shower facilities. The Harold Town Conservation Area is east of the city and is a top destination for mountain bikers. It boasts some of the area’s most technical trails, but also mixes in less-challenging options. Jackson Park has a mix of family-friendly trails including the rail trail a converted from railway bed. The rail trail and singletrack both run parallel Jackson Creek, which flows to the city centre.

Plan your visit

Where to stay in Peterborough and the Kawarthas

The Elmhirst’s Resort has nice cottages with one to five rooms along the lakeside and resort-style accommodations on Rice Lake. It’s a good place for cyclists as bikes are more than welcome and easily stored. Located in Lakefield, north of the City of Peterborough, the Lakefield Village Inn is a great place home base for rides as its situated on the Lakes, Rivers and Cafés route and the Cottage Country route. With hotel-style accommodations, visitors are welcome to bring their bikes. Holiday Inn Peterborough has a waterfront location on the Otonabee River. If you are looking for something easy with predictable accommodations, it’s the perfect place for your stay in Peterborough. The Peterborough and the Kawarthas Tourism website can help you plan your visit.

A notable gran fondo

The Shimano Gran Fondo costs $250 and includes a Pearl Izumi jersey and a goody-box of swag that even the most discerning cyclists will love. It is an annual event that takes to the roads of Peterborough to showcase the region’s road cycling. There are two route lengths for riders of different skill levels.

Local bike shops

Before traveling with your bike, you’ll want to make sure it’s tuned and ready to go so you don’t need to have valuable riding time taken away because of mechanicals. If you do need to stop by a bike shop, you want good and reliable service. Wild Rock Outfitters is located in downtown Peterborough . It is a bike and outdoor shop where you’ll find the services needed to get your bike ready. Staff can take care of your road, mountain bike or hybrid. The shop also offers cycling vacations for those who want some guidance during their visit. Fontaine Source for Sportsin Peterborough will service your bike and get you out of the door with a working machine. With a reputable name that’s been in town for ages, you know you will get well taken care of when you walk through the door.

Cafés

So many good rides have a café en route for a mid-ride refuelling. The Silver Bean Café is owned by an avid cyclist Michael VanDerHerberg, as well as Andrea VanDerHerberg, and is located on the waterfront in Peterborough. It’s a great spot to start or end a ride. If you are heading through Millbrook, be sure to check out the Pastry Peddler, which is a bike-themed café where you can enjoy a pastry and a good cup of coffee.

Relax and have a drink

Few things are more refreshing than a good brew after a long hot ride. The Ashburnham Ale House has craft beers, full menu and is located in the Peterborough’s downtown. Smithavens Brewing Company produces European-style beers. It’s a good choice for post-ride refreshments or for grabbing to enjoy on one of the Kawarthas many lakes.

Dining

Cycling and being active is going to require some refuelling. For a nice meal, check out Apollo Grill a 1940s-style diner that says it serves Peterborough’s best burgers. The grill also has options for vegetarians. St. Veronus serves Belgian-style dishes and has many beers on tap. For a spot to eat in Lakefield, stop by the Canoe and Paddle. It could also give you a substantial mid-ride meal if you are just passing through on your bike.

Shimano Canada

Peterborough is home to Shimano Canada’s head office. As you would expect, the Canadian division of the Japan-based company is a big supporter of all things cycling on its home turf. In addition to being the headline sponsor of the Shimano Gran Fondo, the region’s dedicated cycling routes—the Peterborough and Kawarthas Classics—are also created with the help of Shimano. Members of the local Peterborough Cycling Club, one of the best organized clubs in the country, are similarly supported by Shimano Canada. If you are out on a weekday, chances are good that you will spot the staff on a lunch ride on one of the routes.