Biking at Algonquin Park: mountain, fat, and tandem (or, that time I became a movie star)

Ever star in a photo or video shoot? I hadn’t, until recently at Algonquin Provincial Park during a weekend of biking adventures.

Given that I will be participating in a canoe/mountain biking/trail running race on the Bruce Peninsula later this summer with my friend Rebecca, I figured that we should practice actually doing these activities together! Algonquin Outfitters graciously offered to let us borrow 2 mountain bikes for the weekend in exchange for a blog post on their website about my biking experience, and a photo shoot so that they could update their website content. A few days before our trip, we found out that in fact we could try any of their bikes, simply exchanging one kind for another over the weekend.

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Ready to hit the trails!

So Friday night we stopped at the Lake of Two Rivers Algonquin Outfitters store where we borrowed two Specialized mountain bikes. Because the Minnesing Mountain Biking Trail along Highway 60 was closed due to flooding, we had to drive 1 1/4 hours to the south end of the park, where we could try out the Byers Lake Mountain Bike Trail. We stopped quickly at the Pog Lake campground to register for our campsite, and then headed for the trail. When we got there, we were quickly discovered by the resident mosquitoes!! Bug spray and riding quickly were pretty effective, but if you’ve mountain biked before, you’ll know that you don’t always go quickly!! We got stuck in mud puddles at times that reduced our speed to zero and increased our bug swatting immensely! The trail wasn’t super well marked, so we weren’t totally sure that we were on it the whole time (there were lots of trail junctions), but we had fun and rode for just under an hour.

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At the end of the Byers Lake Mountain Bike Trail, on an old logging road.

On Saturday morning we met Randy from Algonquin Outfitters at the Lake of Two Rivers store for the photo shoot, which was actually a photo and video shoot. We spent a couple of hours pretending to go through the process of getting out of our vehicle, looking at the bikes, getting help from the bike rental shop, getting explanations of the various bike components, getting a helmet, and finally trying out the bikes. Chris the photographer/videographer had us reshoot some scenes multiple times because of the lighting, where we stood (or didn’t), what we did (or didn’t), etc. We had fun but we felt funny at times doing it over and over. After clear instructions from Chris to ignore stuff around us, we did just that and did not glance over when a vehicle honked its horn long and hard multiple times. It turns out we missed 2 moose crossing just in front of the store!! Randy asked us if we’d be willing to ride the trail-a-bike, which essentially is an adult bike with part of a kid’s bike trailing behind. I rode in the front, and Rebecca on the little kid’s seat! It was so hard to go straight, because our balance was way off – the back seat isn’t designed for an adult!! We were laughing though, and after 3 attempts we managed to smile and wave without falling off or crashing.

After the photo/video shoot was done at the bike shop, we exchanged our mountain bikes for fat bikes and hit the Old Railway Bike Trail. We met Randy and Chris at the old Mew Lake airfield for a few more shots.

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Map of the Old Railway Bike Trail.

The trail is pretty much flat, with just a slight uphill grade one way and a slight downhill grade the other! You can ride it on almost any bike (other than a road bike with a skinny tire – it wouldn’t be so fun on the loose gravel). We even saw a kid with training wheels on his bike. The trail is 16 km long, and quite scenic in places.

 

We decided to head West for Cache Lake, and stopped at the very end of the trail at a little bridge over a pretty creek for a snack. I had never been on a fat bike before, and thought it would be heavy and unwieldy. It wasn’t at all like that – it was light and maneouvreable. I loved it. While riding, we saw a painted turtle and tons of dragonflies. By the time we returned to the Lake of Two Rivers store, we had pedalled about 15 km. We had a delicious ice cream cone before trading our fat bikes in for a tandem bike.

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Yummy salted caramel.

The Algonquin Outfitters employee gave us some tips on riding the tandem before we tried it in the parking lot. We were pretty wobbly at first! Rebecca started in the front and me in the rear. There is a tandem bike challenge: ride all the way to Rock Lake and back (approximately 25k) and get 15% off the rental fee. We wondered if we could make it that far.

 

The hardest part was starting, and then slowing down or stopping – we took turns at the front, and had to remember to tell our passenger that we were going to slow down, because the pedals and chain are such that you pedal in sync! If one stops pedalling, the other has to as well. And when you decide to coast or brake, you need to tell your partner to stop pedalling. It didn’t take too long for us to get the hang of it. We actually rode through the Rock Lake campground all the way to the trailhead for the Booth’s Rock trail! By the time we returned to the Lake of Two Rivers store, we were pros!! The tandem was super fun!

You can also rent kids’ bikes, “cruisers” (you sit more upright, kind of old fashioned style, with more padded seats), and bikes for people with accessibility issues.

I can’t wait to go back to Algonquin this winter to try fat biking again!! While fat bikes were originally designed for winter riding, they are great for trails, mud, loose gravel etc.

I’m also looking forward to checking out Algonquin Outfitter’s new pictures and video! In particular the trail-a-bike bit…

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More photos, and eventually the videos, here.

Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyrapaterson

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