Two Wheels Good: The Joys of Cycling in York Region
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What better way to explore York Region's most beautiful places up close and at your own pace than by bike? Whether you like natural spaces, urban areas or quaint villages, there's a cycling opportunity for you.
“York is blessed with country roads in the north ideal for road cycling, as well as a number of excellent trails. There's something for everyone,” asserts Shawn Smith, York Region's program manager for active and sustainable transportation. “It offers a sense of adventure and an opportunity to explore the region in a different way. When you're cycling, you see things differently because you are at a slower pace and you use all your senses. It's really enjoyable.”

Getting into cycling
Cycling is one of the easiest hobbies to take up. There's really only one requirement for cycling: a bicycle that you can comfortably ride for several hours at a time. Bikes come in many different shapes and sizes, so it's important that you're riding one that fits both you and the terrain you're going to tackle. Road cycles are designed for smooth asphalt surfaces, whereas mountain bikes are for off-roading. Hybrid bikes are a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike and can handle everything except hard core off-road trails.
If you're tempted to use that old bike gathering dust in the shed, a thorough service is essential to ensure your brakes, cabling, chain and tires are in good order. Before you commit to a lengthy ride, wheel your bike around your block a few times. This should alert you to any mechanical problems.
While there is a host of cycling gear on the market, the only piece that's essential is a well-fitting helmet.
Are you fit enough to cycle? The simple answer is yes. Anyone of even middling cardiovascular health can ride a bike over simple terrain and moderate distances.
While you shouldn't immediately jump into a bike tour of all that York has to offer or embark on an arduous trail, even beginners can find a route to enjoy. Start conservatively and progress from there. When planning a trail ride, start with something short and along flat terrain, like a former rail bed.
An important tip is to stay fuelled while riding. Eat before you're hungry, drink before you're thirsty, rest before you're tired. Carry two bottles, one with water and the other with an energy drink that will keep you going and bring along energy bars to sustain you.

Off-road cycling
York Region is blessed with a number of off-road trails. While the image of a mountain-biker careening down an impossible slope is what often comes to mind when one talks about off-road cycling, that's a very specific and extreme type of cycling. There are, in fact, off-road bike trails for every skill level, including gentle gravel rail-trails ideal for even novice riders. Here are some of the trails York has to offer:  
Brown Hill Tract: This East Gwillimbury section of the York Regional Forest offers 15 km of mountain biking trails suitable only for mountain bikers, though there are trails suitable for novices through to hardened adrenaline junkies. The Brown Hill Tract is located at McCowan Avenue and Ravenshoe Road.
Holland River Valley Trail: A short (4 km) trail through a peaceful valley between Yonge Street and Bayview Avenue, ideal for beginners. Links to Sheppard's Bush Conservation Area and Oak Ridges Trail offer opportunities for lengthier rides for more advanced riders.
Lake Simcoe Trail: This 50 km of mostly paved rail trail (some minor off-roading is required along a short stretch) follows the southern edge of Lake Simcoe, offering scenic water views. The Lake Simcoe Trail represents a perfect choice for a four- or five-hour excursion.
Oak Ridges Trail: Portions of this 250-km trail across the Moraine are open to cyclists. For more information, see oakridgestrail.org.
Sutton Zephyr Trail: This 14-km hard-packed gravel trail on former CN rail bed passes through quiet wooded areas following the Black River watershed from Holbourne Road/Hwy. 48 on to Brown Hill and ultimately Sutton.
Tom Taylor Trail: “A part of the Nokiidaa Trail, I consider this a jewel of Newmarket. It connects to Fairy Lake, historic downtown and the GO Station, and is paved, well-lit and is really safe because most road crossings are of the under-road variety,” enthuses Smith.

Road cycling
Because it is blessed with a number
of quiet rural roads, York Region is ideally suited for road cycling. A number of York Region bike routes are plotted on the websites mapmyride.com and ontariobybike.ca. Another resource is the recently updated map published by York Region with possible routes; print versions are available at municipal offices, libraries and chambers of commerce, with PDFs downloadable at york.ca/cycling.
A great way to get introduced to road cycling is by joining a road cycling club, such as the Newmarket Eagles, which formed in 1985 and currently has 200 members.
“We offer a learn-to-ride program, which teaches people how to ride safely on roads shared with cars and how to ride safely in a group,” says club president Andrew Darke. “There are several group rides each week, which are organized so people are divided into groups based on ability, as well as weekly time trials and club races against other clubs (Barrie and Collingwood, for example) for more advanced riders.”
“Riding in a group has benefits over riding singly,” Darke explains. “In a group, it becomes a social event as much as it is exercise and people enjoy the camaraderie and encouragement. It's also easier to ride in groups due to the draft, or slipstream, effect.”
Whatever your preference in terms of terrain to be explored, and whatever your skill or fitness level, York Region offers a myriad of cycling opportunities for you. There's no better way to experience the outdoors than at your own pace atop a bicycle.

Find your pack
York Region is home to several cycling clubs, including the King-Vaughan Cycling Club, Richmond Hill's Evolution Cycling Club, Woodbridge's North Toronto Cycling Club and Vaughan-based Veloforte Cycling Club. All offer camaraderie, weekly (or more frequent) group rides and most cater to cyclists of all abilities.
For more information, visit the York Region Cycling Coalition website at ontheroadwithrespect.ca.


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