How is it like to ride in Ottowa?-
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  1. #1
    Yasmine A.
    Join Date
    Nov 2013

    How is it like to ride in Ottowa?

    Hey riders, I am looking into perhaps moving into Canada and in my field of work Ottowa is the city with most employers. How's riding like in Ottowa compared to BC or Alberta?


  2. #2
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    I'd say any comparison of Ottawa to BC or Alberta for mountain biking is going to come off downright silly.
    I don't live in the Ottawa area but have several relatives there and visit quite often. Hopefully someone from the area can give you more specifics.
    Ottawa is a great city, amazing transit, very bike friendly. Miles of bike paths, lots of bike lanes. Some good rail trails. Lots of very good road riding. Good local bike stores. Depending on where you are now, bike season is pretty short.
    As a big university city as well as the capital of Canada it has great bars and restaurants, lots to do. Cold as hell in the winter, can be hot in the summer.
    Some good mountain biking and not too far from some decent downhill. But not very extensive trails.
    Take a look at Ottawa Mountain Bike Association

  3. #3
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Dr.Zoidberg's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    A buddy of mine just moved here from Vancouver. We did one race together and his comments was the riding here is a lot more xc oriented and less technical. XC in BC appears to be wide sweeping bermed trails whereas here trails tend to be tighter with more switch backs.

    There are less gravity type trails like shore but there are a couple of places nearby with dh trails although shorter in duration than out west (search Camp Fortune, Mt St Marie, Rigaud).

    The main trails in Ottawa are in Kanata Lakes aka South March Highlands. Goto ombaDOTorg and there are sections showing where the various riding locations are.

    Also the Ottawa Mountain Bike Association has a FB page that is open so join it and post up there.

    With winter around the corner many will be riding their fat backs in the Greenbelt and Gatineau Park, which will be opening up a trail or two for fatbiking as a demo/trial project.

    I'm curious other than Federal govt and govt relations what kind of work is most concentrated in Ottawa?

  4. #4
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Not as bike friendly as Montreal or Calgary, but trying to get there. We do have the NCC bike paths networking the city. Year round riding too. And talk of more of the bike paths (shared bike/walking) being plowed in the winter so you don't need a fatbike. Plowed paths are salted; need to treat it like you're salt/beach riding. Good tires a must; studs are useful. I don't ride if it's less than -20C/-4F; others do.

    For Mtn Biking, not much. Basically Kanata Lakes and some in the NCC hills across the river. See the like in the first response.

    Still need to drive defensively, particularly on the faster roads, even in the bike lanes. Many car drivers still don't see bikes. Car drivers are nuts here. Very aggressive. You'll see cars at the 40kph/25mph limit approaching a 4 way stop, only they'll hit the gas from 200 feet back to race at double that to be first to get there so they're first to go.

    Outside of downtown, a number of times at night I've been pulled over by a police cruiser and told to:
    • turn the lights off,
    • get off the road, and
    • ride on the sidewalk,
    before you're run over by a DUI. This is against the law, but if an an officer tells me to do that...
    So for over a decade now (outside of downtown) I go no lights, but carry lights with me in case I'm ever stopped for not having them on. Hasn't happened yet.
    At bike events with a police presence, they say that as along as you're being safe (not risking/scaring pedestrians) then you'll likely be ignored for riding at night on the sidewalk.
    If you're riding one of the paths (10' to 50' to the side of the road) along the unlit road "parkways", then DO NOT use a rear light. Cars are unsure of where the winding roads go so they'll hop the curb to "follow" your rear light. A friend (who hadn't believed me) called me on his cell, lights off and hiding behind a tree, to come get him in the van after the fourth car to try the curb made it up the curb. I've got retro-reflective, so I just stay right away from the parkways by the river at night.

    Parking meters were taken out, so hard to find a place to lock your bike, but there are some bike-stands around.
    Crazy on this ship of fools...

  5. #5
    trail gnome
    Reputation: ray.vermette's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    I live in Ottawa and I've ridden in the Rockies in Alberta & BC, but not out on the West Coast.

    Obviously, Ottawa is pretty flat in comparison. Gatineau Park across the river in Quebec has some hills, but you can bike from the bottom to the top of the park in under an hour.

    There's about 15 km of trails at South March Highlands (a.k.a Kanata Lakes) in Kanata in the west end of Ottawa. It doesn't sound like much, but you can easily spend 2 hours or more in there. Twisty, technical riding. Lots of rocks and roots. Not much climbing or descending. Bridges. Lots of riding on exposed Canadian Shield bedrock.

    There are some trails in the Greenbelt, also in the west end, maybe another 15-20 km worth. Much less technical. Very flat. Fast. Officially, biking is not permitted on those trails, but the NCC turns a blind eye and it is tolerated.

    In the east end, in Orleans, there isn't much. There are some small networks of trails near Forest Valley Drive and down by the Ottawa river. Maybe 1-3 km worth. Not technical, not rocky. Fast hardpacked clay. Don't ride when wet.

    Across the river in Gatineau Park, there is 90 km of official shared hike/bike trails. Mostly wide, paved in gravel, and smooth. Not technical at all. Lots of climbing and descending. There are lots of unofficial trails in the park that are technical and fun to ride, but you take your chances riding them. The National Capital Commission tickets riders caught on them (not often, but it does happen). The Ottawa Mountain Bike Association (OMBA) is working with the NCC to gain official access to some of these trails.

    There is a short but fun XC trail network just outside the park in Old Chelsea. It's not well known and largely on private land, with landowner permission. 2 of the landowners do not permit bikes on the trails that cross their land.

    There is a ski park within Gatineau Park called Camp Fortune that has about 10km of technical XC riding and maybe about the same in downhill trails. The descents are short, very technical, and rocky. Not a lot of dirt. About 1.5 hours north of Ottawa, there is about 15-20km of trails at another ski hill called Mont-Sainte-Marie. There are some rocky, technical trails there (Lager, Pilsner), but the newer trails have more dirt and more flow (Lake Loop, Kasbah, Cookies Climb, TTOP, Growler, Stout). Lots of climbing and descending. Lots of tight switchbacks. A little closer to Ottawa, La Rocca operates a bike instruction camp at Val-des-Monts with about 5-10 km of trails.

    Limerick Forest about an hour south has a good network of flowy, sandy, non-technical trails that are shared use (motocross, horse, hiking, and biking). Forest Lea about 2 hours west has an extensive network of xc trails with a nice balance of technical and easier flowy bits. Mont Rigaud about 1.5 hours east is a ski park with some flowy machine-built and technical trails.

    If you are into road riding, there is an extensive network of paved bike paths crossing the city, some good road circuits in all directions, and Gatineau Park, which is closed to vehicular traffic from late October until mid-April-ish. The parkways and Gatineau Park are also closed to vehicular traffic on Sunday mornings from Victoria Day to Labour Day weekend. There is a bit of a cyclocross community here, but all of the events take place outside of Ottawa (long story).

    Fatbiking is really taking off. South March Highlands sees so much traffic in the winter that the trails become compact enough to support regular non-fat mountain bikes. Gatineau Park is opening up some of the snowshoe trails to fatbiking on a trial basis this year. You need to purchase a day or season pass to access those trails. There is fatbiking at the Old Chelsea trail network as well.

    TL;DR: Much flatter than out west; lots of tight & technical XC riding on short trail networks; road biking is good; fatbiking is taking off..

  6. #6
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    That about sums it up. ^^^

    I would also say don't let the lack of elevation fool you, despite there being no sustained climbing, some of the the trails in SMH are as technical as anything I've ridden anywhere (including BC). Outback for instance. Fortune too. There are some pretty decent climbs over there, though. I'm in Ottawa right now and we rode out at trails on a friend's private property as well as SMH. My buddy's trails are ridiculously hard and fun. There's also the indoor bike park which we're planning to hit up tomorrow.
    Last edited by L. Ron Hoover; 12-03-2015 at 12:30 PM.

  7. #7
    mtbr member
    Reputation: langford's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Hey L. Ron, let us know how the bike park is, I'd seen something on Facebook that it had closed, but it looks like that was a short term thing.... My 6 & 9 year old grandsons in Ottawa are getting new bikes for Christmas, I plan on taking them to Epic. Is it comparable to Joyride? I checked numbers when if first opened, it looked like it's about half the size of Joyride.

  8. #8
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Quote Originally Posted by langford View Post
    Hey L. Ron, let us know how the bike park is, I'd seen something on Facebook that it had closed, but it looks like that was a short term thing.... My 6 & 9 year old grandsons in Ottawa are getting new bikes for Christmas, I plan on taking them to Epic. Is it comparable to Joyride? I checked numbers when if first opened, it looked like it's about half the size of Joyride.
    We finally made it out to Epic Wednesday evening and it was really fun. I haven't been to Joyride but my buddy who took me to Epic has and he said that it is about half the size as you suggested. They have a couple of pump tracks, 3 different jump lines, an "XC" loop and a big skate park-like section with various ramps and drop-in points. Oh, and a foam pit with a couple of different lips. I loved the foam pit, wish I had one at home. Plenty of stuff for kids to progress on and they rent Striders and other small bikes. If I lived here I would buy a pass for sure. I could see me spending a lot of time there.

  9. #9
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    As someone who's been riding in the area since the late 80's, Ray summed it up really nicely.

    I'll add that Mont St Marie is really taking off rapidly. A lot of trail has been built there in a relatively short period of time, and its high-quality on good terrain. There's a lot of variety and they are adding more all the time. Go when the lifts are running and the the parking lot will be filled, the bar open, and the BBQs cooking!

  10. #10
    mtbr member
    Reputation: fritZman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    As a long-time Ottawa MTBer (and one of the primary builders of Lager and Pilsner at MSM), Ray.Vermette has a good summary of the region.

    I would also add BrockTel (in Brockville) and Blue Mountain (not Collingwood, but southern end of Charleston Lake - about 15min west of Brockville on 401). Both are about the same distance south of Ottawa as MSM is north.

    Brocktel is comparable to Outback in terms of technical with about double the elevation. Blue Mtn is MEGA technical - quite a bit more difficult than Outback IMO, and offers a good 1/2 day of riding. If you want a challenge, that is the place to visit. - MTB & Gravel lifestyle in Eastern Ontario

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