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  1. #1
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    beginner cross country in southern ontario

    I live in Toronto and occaisionally bike on the don valley, but I've never been elsewhere. I rented a car for next weekend, and I'm looking for a nice place to go mountain biking with my wife, who has never mountain biked.

    I'd like something with beginner-friendly trails but nice scenery and forest trails, and a place where I can rent two mountain bikes near the trail entrance so I don't have to worry about stuffing bikes in a dinky rental car.

    Any recommendations for places within, say, a 3 hour drive of Toronto?

    Thanks!

    EDIT: I'd also be interested in hearing about places that have nice accomodations close by -- although with only one week's notice before a long weekend I'm probably too late...

  2. #2
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    RE: beginner cross country in southern ontario

    Only place that comes to mind off the top is Hardwood Hills northeast of Barrie. There may be some b&bs in the area or you could check out Horsevalley Resort for accommodations.
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  3. #3
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    beginner cross country in southern ontario

    Try Albion Hills conservation area just north of Bolton on Hwy 50. Lots to bike there for the experienced and inexperienced. It's only about 30-40 minutes from downtown TO. Just take the 427 to hwy 7 and take 50 north and you are there.


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    I think the Hydrocut trails in Waterloo are a good location. Everything is one way, the trails are relatively smooth and non-technical, and they're all rated with (very conservative) difficulty ratings. It is easy to pic and choose the trails for the most part and easy to bail out on the multi-use trail once you've had enough.
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  5. #5
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    I don't think you can go wrong with Horseshoe or with Hardwood, both are pretty good!
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    Thanks for the suggestions. I booked at horseshoe resort with a bike pass deal that in retrospect I probably shouldn't have opted for. The rentals at hardwood hills are cheaper, and I haven't found out much about the horseshoe trails... Oh well, I guess if it's crap I'll just drive 15 mins to hardwood hills and rent/ride there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bishskate View Post
    I think the Hydrocut trails in Waterloo
    Hydrocut for a wife that has never mountain biked before? You're not married, are you?

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    There are some nice trails on the west end of Etobicoke and Mississauga. Along the Etobicoke creek.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slash5 View Post
    Hydrocut for a wife that has never mountain biked before? You're not married, are you?
    Smooth swoopy trails, very little climbing, and broken into small manageable sections. I can't picture anything much closer to a rail-trail. I did miss the bike rental comment. I guess I really only know East Coast trails and the Don, so the Hydrocut seemed practically groomed to me.
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  10. #10
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    Cool I'll have to check those out. I should be able to ride down there from my place downtown...

    Quote Originally Posted by caRpetbomBer View Post
    There are some nice trails on the west end of Etobicoke and Mississauga. Along the Etobicoke creek.

  11. #11
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    beginner cross country in southern ontario

    Durham forest and the surrounding trails in uxbridge?


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  12. #12
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    Etobicoke Creek is not beginner friendly unless you're just riding the gravel multi-use path. Lots of cliff edge trails with death drops, the intimidation factor is way up there. Serious fun for experienced riders, but it'll end in tears for most beginners.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slash5 View Post
    Hydrocut for a wife that has never mountain biked before? You're not married, are you?
    I don't think most riders are capable of putting their ego aside and thinking like a beginner.

    To the OP....you mention that your wife has never ridden off road before. As a rider who has taken at the time his Fiance a complete beginner off road. Any of the places ..Albion, Mansfield, Horseshoe, and such are not a good idea. Especially since you mentioned never mountain biked before and those trails will be a bit much for her. Better to look for something closer to the Don Flats for the first time out.

  14. #14
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    you can try blue mountain, wife can get lessons also...

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    probably the nicest scenery within a 3 hr drive from toronto

    my wife never really rode mountain bikes before she meet me. now she is downhilling with me... spend some time at a skills/bike park like sunnyside or joyride. invest in lessons.




    Quote Originally Posted by period3 View Post
    I live in Toronto and occaisionally bike on the don valley, but I've never been elsewhere. I rented a car for next weekend, and I'm looking for a nice place to go mountain biking with my wife, who has never mountain biked.

    I'd like something with beginner-friendly trails but nice scenery and forest trails, and a place where I can rent two mountain bikes near the trail entrance so I don't have to worry about stuffing bikes in a dinky rental car.

    Any recommendations for places within, say, a 3 hour drive of Toronto?

    Thanks!

    EDIT: I'd also be interested in hearing about places that have nice accomodations close by -- although with only one week's notice before a long weekend I'm probably too late...
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    I would agree - while I love Hydrocut and it is beautifully groomed, there's lots there that would be very intimidating for a beginner. When you're not comfortable on a mountain bike and you come across multiple log-overs and ladder bridges (even though they're low and easy), you get scared. Then you get off. Then you stop having fun.

    Hardwood is fine, but stay away from anything beyond beginner trails the first time out. Albion is mostly fine for the tech level, but it does have lots of climbing and descending. I would recommend Christie Lake (just skip the black loops) - I've seen lots of beginners out having a good time. Less than an hour's drive from Toronto. Only thing is, the closest bike rental is Freewheel in Dundas, which is a 15 minute drive from Christie. There are a couple of nice B&Bs in Dundas. I haven't been to Guelph Lake for a long long time, but it used to be beginner friendly too, though I have no idea about bike rentals.

    Anyway, general advice for riding with your newbie wife. Be very clear ahead of time that there's no shame in walking something she's not comfortable with - better to walk now and ride later than crash now and never ride again (mostly because it's not fun to crash, rather than because of a permanent injury - though you never know). I would also suggest that you either let her ride first (though she might be too self-conscious for that) or stop really frequently. It's easy to get into a groove and get out of sight really fast, which is no fun for someone who is not entirely sure of herself and feeling a bit lost and vulnerable. Also, try really really hard to rein in the advice. Only provide suggestions if she asks for them. You can talk about general riding tips before and after. It just adds to the stress to give lots of tips while riding. I say all this, because riding with your spouse is the best thing ever if you can get it right, but a lot of initial rides with experienced guys and newbie partners do not go well. Have a great time!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by period3 View Post
    Thanks for the suggestions. I booked at horseshoe resort with a bike pass deal that in retrospect I probably shouldn't have opted for. The rentals at hardwood hills are cheaper, and I haven't found out much about the horseshoe trails... Oh well, I guess if it's crap I'll just drive 15 mins to hardwood hills and rent/ride there.
    i should've clarified that horseshoe is more dh oriented and hardwood would be more appropriate for beginners. Ask them if you can get,out,of,your package; explain your situation i dont think they would want you guys to be disappointed.

    all the other suggestions are good,except,none have trail head rentals. Except,blue mtb but i don't think it would be good,for,you guys.

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    Not the most detailed post, as I'm short on time.

    But if you are looking for easy trails that are close to Toronto, check out Ravenshoe near Keswick. The trails are marked well, they aren't long and there isn't anything back there that is too hard for a beginner. The only downside is no option of bike rental.

    I would also air on the side of caution with Durham forest. While it might have some "easy" trails, it is a big adventure to go out there if you haven't ridden trails before. You cover a lot of ground.

    If you go to Horseshoe, keep in mind that there are over 50km of trails across the street in the Copeland forest. But, they aren't mapped and they aren't marked. If you find someone to guide you, there are some easy trails and fire roads that can be ridden. And then once the skills progress, there are some fabulous gems to be found in this forest.....

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by period3 View Post
    I live in Toronto and occaisionally bike on the don valley, but I've never been elsewhere. I rented a car for next weekend, and I'm looking for a nice place to go mountain biking with my wife, who has never mountain biked.

    I'd like something with beginner-friendly trails but nice scenery and forest trails, and a place where I can rent two mountain bikes near the trail entrance so I don't have to worry about stuffing bikes in a dinky rental car.

    Any recommendations for places within, say, a 3 hour drive of Toronto?

    Thanks!

    EDIT: I'd also be interested in hearing about places that have nice accomodations close by -- although with only one week's notice before a long weekend I'm probably too late...
    My wife had bad experiences at both Albion and the Etobicoke Creek as a beginner. I didn’t think she’d ever try again.
    After some research we found these 3:

    Hardwood Hills (they have rentals) Great beginner trails. The double track to the trailheads can be a bit of a grind for a true beginner. She also took a beginner lesson her first time there.

    Ravenshoe - no rentals, but the trails were well marked and not scary for her.

    Awenda Provincial Park (Penetagueshene) – Although not known for mountain biking, we camp there often and she really enjoyed the 10K multi use trail. It’s got very little elevation although there are lots of roots. Great scenery and it got her hooked.
    After a few months of fun rides, she’s developed enough skill that I can take her to Albion hills. She even pre-rode the Solstice with me and is bugging me to ride Buckwallow.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barflyrocks View Post
    Hardwood Hills (they have rentals) Great beginner trails. The double track to the trailheads can be a bit of a grind for a true beginner. She also took a beginner lesson her first time there.
    Between the rentals available on-site and the very progressive setup of the trail system (within the scope of XC riding) I haven't seen a better option than Hardwood Hills. The Sprockids and Fun loops are great ways to get a newbie's feet wet with very moderate elevation gain/loss and no technical features. If they are handling those easily then they can keep moving up in a very logical manner if they want to, all in the same trail system.

    I've had first timers out who adapted very quickly (women and men) and moved up to Crank'd and Sidewinder, and others who were just tapped out with a few repeats of the Fun loop. For people who aren't regularly riding a bike, even on the street, or aren't very fit in the sense of pedaling up grades, that may be all you can realistically expect. Even those who stuck to Fun gained more confidence and skill with a few reps for practice, knowing better what to expect each time, and got to finish their day without feeling like they had a mountain biking experience, but not to the point of were being pushed beyond their comfort zone.
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  20. #20
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    I would also say Harwood would be your best bet if you need a rental. Just my two cents as regards riding with a spouse that is beginner and does not want to be advanced. We do have biking destinations, but I always make sure that there is a beach or some other thing that she is going to like. Most beginners do not want to ride more than an hour before their butts hurt and want to stop. I would not get too hung up on the riding and find a nice spot, with riding within the hour paying more attention to your other wishes. Awenda is a nice place to ride for a beginner and has 4 beaches to hang out at after. I do not remember it as particularly rooty and remember my wife actually enjoyed it. It is pretty flat. We are doing Gravenhurst over the long weekend. We had it planned for some time, have a motel and so on. Lots of stuff for her to do while I ride at Buck, Torrance Barrens and maybe Satan's Village.
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    Too bad a rental is needed as the perfect beginer trail would be Pushlinch Lake . No "loop" commitment once started . She could ride 20 mins or 2 hrs .

  22. #22
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    Ooh - disagree about Puslinch. The start through the pines is beginner friendly, but the rest is... not. I love it, but all those roots and steep up and downhills could really frustrate a beginner.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nerdgirl View Post
    Ooh - disagree about Puslinch. The start through the pines is beginner friendly, but the rest is... not. I love it, but all those roots and steep up and downhills could really frustrate a beginner.
    Agreed. Even in certain parts of the pines there are some steep ups/downs transitioning between sections and some mild rock gardens.

    I'm pretty amazed what people here are recommending for a true beginner who has never mountain biked before. I think we all forget at times what that means.

    In saying that, as usual, Circlip has the best response to this thread. Hardwood hills is the place. It's a mountain bike facility that is set up to progress riders from true beginner to international level XCO competition. The easy trails will be just that, easy. Built to progress and inspire confidence. If that is conquered there is a natural progression.
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    What parts of Etobicoke creek are the best?

    I've just started exploring it and like the section from Queensway to Dundas along the East bank.

    Quote Originally Posted by caRpetbomBer View Post
    There are some nice trails on the west end of Etobicoke and Mississauga. Along the Etobicoke creek.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CptSydor View Post
    In saying that, as usual, Circlip has the best response to this thread. Hardwood hills is the place.
    Ahem...pretty sure i was the first one, not that I'm keeping track or anything. ��

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr.Zoidberg View Post
    Ahem...pretty sure i was the first one, not that I'm keeping track or anything. ��
    I didn't say first, I said best.
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    Place I forgot about is Georgina,

    http://www.georginaroc.ca/fac-bike-park.aspx


    There is small trail system off the in a small wooded area there. The trail is gravel and there are no hills or roots. While there are technical features they all have ride a around so you can miss them. Compared to any other option listed these are very easy trails. Other then say Christie or Don Flats.

    Then you can go to Barrie after if you like or whatever else interests one.

    Bike rental will be a harder thing to find as majority will be near places like Blue which will see higher traffic.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr.Zoidberg View Post
    Ahem...pretty sure i was the first one, not that I'm keeping track or anything. ��
    My post was effectively just an expanded +1 to your original suggestion, of course. You win.
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  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by CptSydor View Post
    I'm pretty amazed what people here are recommending for a true beginner who has never mountain biked before. I think we all forget at times what that means.
    This was really highlighted to me when we were designing the green trail at Christie. The grades IMBA suggests for green are so shallow (average 5%) that we had some of the designers initially trying to push grades and difficulty. And even with all the care we took to keep grades low, technical features out and the tread wide and smooth, some people are still a bit intimidated. It was worth it though - my two year old son rides it, and we've seen lots of relative newbies and young families out enjoying those trails. But it can be hard to keep builders motivated to build such trails, because they are typically very experienced riders who want to build something they find challenging, having forgotten the learning curve they went through years ago. This is also, I think, a component of why guys who are good riders have so much difficulty getting their inexperienced spouses to ride with them; they have forgotten what it was like to learn to ride a mountain bike trail.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nerdgirl View Post
    they have forgotten what it was like to learn to ride a mountain bike trail.
    My first ever 15 minutes of trail riding consisted of the main access climb at Kelso followed by the (now closed to hikers only) escarpment trail. While that all became second nature eventually, it seemed like a pretty harsh initiation at the time! If I had the chance to do it all over again, it's easy to see now that a more progressive introduction on gentler trails along with a couple of helpful tips would have been much better for developing confidence and a basic skill set to build upon for the long term.
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  31. #31
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    Some of the trails mentioned I have not been to but absolutely no way I would recomend the hydrocut for a beginer. To be honnest I would stick to local community trails until the new rider gets some lungs and knowledge of the bike they are on. Then they will appreciate how good the hydrocut is or trails like it are as opposed to just being upset you tried to kill them first time out.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luis691 View Post
    What parts of Etobicoke creek are the best?

    I've just started exploring it and like the section from Queensway to Dundas along the East bank.
    There is alot of beginner friendly trail starting right from lake Ontario. Basically all the trail in Marie Curtis park. Once you pass under the QEW the trail gets more difficult. I take it to Dundas and turn around and do the Mississauga side going back South. Like most people said not really beginner friendly.

  33. #33
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    Found this new trail last Thursday near Trenton that has been built in the last say3-4 years. And within the 3 hour driving limit.

    Welcome to the Lower Trent Trail



    After consulting Rider Mel's 2nd Ontario Edition. If I am reading his description of it correctly and without having seen it in person. Maybe Loree Forest may fit the requirements.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Enduramil View Post
    Found this new trail last Thursday near Trenton that has been built in the last say3-4 years. And within the 3 hour driving limit.

    After consulting Rider Mel's 2nd Ontario Edition. If I am reading his description of it correctly and without having seen it in person. Maybe Loree Forest may fit the requirements.
    Requirements such as bike rental at the trail head?
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  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Circlip View Post
    Requirements such as bike rental at the trail head?
    Unless one is riding at Blue or Camp Fortune the chances of there being a bike rental within a 1,000m radius of a trail head are minimal at best. Especially when you talk about singletrack and a easy beginner trail.

    In Loree's case it is near Collingwood. So the best one could do is phone the local shops to arrange a rental. Use a bike rack to get to Loree and ride. Then drive the rental back.

  36. #36
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    I did some parts of Kelso on my cross bike this past weekend and no trail riding MTB experience and had a good time.

  37. #37
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    I'll echo singlesprocket. I can also suggest the XC trails on top of blue mtn. I sometimes rode those trails during the 2 years I was having chemotherapy and was too fatigued and feeling too achy to ride dh. I had my own all mtn bike but the main building by the gondola rents a variety of bikes (plus body armour... knee, elbow pads, helmets....etc. There are maps and good signage and you can even hire a guide. The trails are well groomed and are smooth enough to accomodate Segways. The scenery and views are beautiful and there is so much more to do besides biking.

    If you want dh lessons or ride a segway... it's all there.
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    I'll suggest a slightly different tack while echoing some of the suggestions above to aim low rather than high... leave the first-time ever mountain biking for less of an occasion than a long weekend out of town. The Don valley has exactly what you need in the flats as mentioned above, or even just the unpaved ravine trails like beltline. Starting from the brickworks, you can do both quite easily, as well as mix it up with some stretches on pavement. I've just been to the brickworks for the first time last week, and although it wasn't open at the time, the sweet pete store there has a sign that they rent bikes as well.

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    be cautious or careful. 16 years ago a friend took me out on a bike for the first time in 30 some years and I loved it. Bought a Peugeot hybrid at the police auction and started riding down in E'ville on the rode mostly until a neighbour took me up behind Holimont and into the MTB trails. That first time I crashed and dislocated my shoulder that still has an unusual bump to remind me. After driving home for 2 hours and going into the emergency, with an ice pack I was not sure I wanted to ride again, but fortunately the joy of riding was imprinted well enough that it became a big part of my life. Don't under any circumstances put this new rider in danger the first time out. The biggest loss would be for her to not want to ride again.

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by P90Puma View Post
    I did some parts of Kelso on my cross bike this past weekend and no trail riding MTB experience and had a good time.
    those were some very limited parts of Kelso. Unless sticking to double track - I do not think Kelso and Hilton Falls should be on the list of beginner XC trails...

    Kay is making the most sense with his proposal. Keep it simple for the first time... probably avoid tight singletrack - no matter how well packed down and smooth it is... let's learn to walk before we run...

    if the first experience is not completely positive - it may be a lost cause... why take a chance...
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    Re: beginner cross country in southern ontario

    Quote Originally Posted by osokolo View Post
    those were some very limited parts of Kelso. Unless sticking to double track - I do not think Kelso and Hilton Falls should be on the list of beginner XC trails...

    Kay is making the most sense with his proposal. Keep it simple for the first time... probably avoid tight singletrack - no matter how well packed down and smooth it is... let's learn to walk before we run...

    if the first experience is not completely positive - it may be a lost cause... why take a chance...
    Hilton Falls was not doable on a cyclocross bike (other than the wide track) , many of the upper trails were good for me at Kelso.

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kay. View Post
    I'll suggest a slightly different tack while echoing some of the suggestions above to aim low rather than high... leave the first-time ever mountain biking for less of an occasion than a long weekend out of town. The Don valley has exactly what you need in the flats as mentioned above, or even just the unpaved ravine trails like beltline. Starting from the brickworks, you can do both quite easily, as well as mix it up with some stretches on pavement. I've just been to the brickworks for the first time last week, and although it wasn't open at the time, the sweet pete store there has a sign that they rent bikes as well.
    Forgot about Sweet Pete's location.

    Kay though does bring up a valid and overlooked point about keeping it simple and short. First time out you want to let her set the pace of how things develop. Remember the average woman approaches things differently then a guy or a woman used to highly competitive challenging environments

    I did the same thing when I took my wife riding off road for the first time in 2006. She had ridden a few times on road on a road bike. But she didn't like it. She thought she would prefer off road more.

    Day before checked the Don flats to make sure it was okay. Day off rode the Don flats only. Let her decide the pace walked over the little creek. Then walked in to what was then the dirt camp. Surprised her with a cold beer hidden in the hydration pack. She met some of the Don Rats. Rode by the dirt jumps and watched the guys jumping. Asked to see me ride the Rhythm section Paul had built because she wanted to see it. Then back to the car. Hour out and maybe 20 minutes of riding. She was happy and wanted to ride more.

    Bit more riding over the summer and every time she got better. No pressure and let her decide what to do. In October that year just before Blue closed she wanted a weekend away with the bikes. Well...she surprised me with a trip to blue. It was only one run on the hill down the easy track. And even that is a run I would never have taken her near unless as she had spent the time to get confidant riding. Sadly the riding wouldn't last as 2 months after some info came to light and the next year my daughter was born.

    Keep in mind that how she will like off road will vary from individual to individual. It is all a mental thing and some will love it immediately and others will take time to feel comfortable enough at it.

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by P90Puma View Post
    Hilton Falls was not doable on a cyclocross bike
    you need to practice more then...

    here is some training suggestions:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5z1fSpZNXhU

    you are welcome.

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    And this:

    Burnt Norton

  45. #45
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    The thread was for BEGINNERS.

  46. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by P90Puma View Post
    The thread was for BEGINNERS.
    point taken. my apologies. did not know you were a beginner too.
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  47. #47
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    My wife and I end up going to Hardwood Hills if she's going to ride too. She gets annoyed at me anywhere else. The best part about HH as far as she is concerned is that she can tell me to go away if she feels like it and not worry about getting lost or getting onto a trail that is too intimidating. The trails are all well marked and predictable in terms of difficulty. We normally end up riding together for a bit, then apart, then together again and then I go off for one last spin while she relaxes at the chalet. We've also taken friends of hers up there and been able to rent bikes that are in very good condition.
    That's my input for ya.
    Cheers, Dave

  48. #48
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    Agree on Hardwood - I've been trying for three years to get my SO out riding at my various faves (Albion, Hilton, Kelso etc) with little luck, but shes fine on the easier trails at HH. (and they have great rentals)

  49. #49
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    The Flats is not currently beginner friendly. Blind corners, washed out trail dropping 15 feet into a river, deep sand, wooden bridges, FAST oncoming traffic.

    Some of the responses here really surprise me.

    Another thought, there is is a huge difference between a beginner cyclist who has (obviously) not ridden off-road, versus a more experiences cyclist (ex. commuter) who has never ridden off-road.
    2015 Brodie Romax
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  50. #50
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    The Etobicoke creek southern section is relatively easy. Plus you don't have to leave the city. Map here.
    '11 Epic Comp, Shimano SPD M780, Giant Contact Switch-R, Specialized Ribcage, Bontrager Trip 200, Ergon GS1

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