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Peterborough and the Kawarthas, Ontario

Peterborough County offers enough diversity to put a smile on any rider's face.

Whether you’re looking for wide-open countryside vistas on a road ride, undulating free flowing singletrack, or maybe a loop around one of the many small lakes in the area, Peterborough County offers enough diversity to put a smile on any rider’s face. The rolling drumlin style hills make for great cycling while showcasing the beautiful views and pleasant weather of the summer and early fall months.

The city of Peterborough is located 140 km east of Toronto and 200 km west of Kingston. Peterborough County consists of several smaller surrounding towns including Lakefield and Apsley to the north and Norwood, Havelock and Douro to the east. The roads in and around the city are well maintained. Motorists in the area are used to seeing spandex clad cyclists spread over the countryside and are generally considerate when overtaking small and large groups of riders. The Peterborough County Cycling Map does an excellent job of highlighting the best roads to ride. The map was a recent project by a group of local cyclists and the result is a well-designed tool that highlights the major information for riders such as road surface, climbs, traffic activity and rail trails in the area. Copies are available at the Kawartha tourism office, many information stations and at local bike shops.

If you would rather not deal with traffic at all, Peterborough County also offers a wealth of great mountain bike trails. With the area’s signature rolling hills, you can work your legs and lungs to the top of a climb and meander down the other side: flowing and swerving your way through the forest. Being on the edge of the Canadian Shield, you can expect to run into some tight-winding singletrack through hardwood forests as well as challenging rock gardens and technical sections to test your bike-handling skills.

The cycling season in the area typically starts in April and can go as late as December. Fall is an amazing time to ride in Peterborough – pedaling over rolling hills overlooking a colourful countryside. If you would rather not bring arm and leg warmers, the warmest months to ride are June to September.

Where to ride

The best part about road cycling in Peterborough is that you can be outside the city within minutes. The surrounding county roads provide many options for the length and difficulty of your ride. For mountain biking, Ganaraska Forest is the largest and most popular destination boasting over 150 km of singletrack. It hosts a number of mountain bike races through the summer including the now-famous Paul’s Dirty Enduro which has 30, 60 and 100 km race categories. As of this year, the race loops have been classified as IMBA epic rides, so all the trails are now well-marked and maintained. Until recently, you couldn’t find sweet singletrack without taking a short drive outside of the city. However, a new trail network has emerged in the last few seasons. It took a lot of effort by local riders and builders to get the trails established, but now there are plenty of perfect trails for all different types of riders to enjoy. A short pedal just past Peterborough’s famous Liftlock and you can challenge yourself with steep technical terrain, or blast through some fun, winding singletrack.

Getting there

There are a number of ways you can drive into Peterborough. Coming from Toronto to the west, the most common way is to take Hwy 401 east to the Hwy 115 Peterborough/Lindsay exit. Coming from the east, take Hwy 401 to Hwy 7 north. If you’re flying in, the closest major airport is Toronto’s Pearson International.

Where to stay

Being a popular summer cottage country destination, Peterborough County has plenty of fun and interesting places to stay and eat. The city of Peterborough has many hotels including the Holiday Inn, which rests beside the harbour on the bank of the Otonabee River overlooking Little Lake. If you would like something a little more quaint, try one of the many bed and breakfasts that can be found all throughout the small towns surrounding the city. Some places, such as Elmhurst Resort, even cater to cyclists, offering a fall cycling tour. Riders can enjoy the beautiful countryside and fall colours while pedaling in a supported tour format. Unclip at the end of the day and enjoy wine-tasting and top-notch cuisine.

Matt Stetson is an Ontario-based freelancer who enjoys riding and wrenching any bike built for speed.