I have always been an avid biker. My first big purchase with my own money was a 10-speed racing bicycle and I proceeded to put thousands of kilometres on it.
As a writer and artist I always appreciated the decompression that came with coasting along an open road and in this day and age I particularly enjoy getting unplugged from the phone, texts and computer to breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the scenery.
Over the years I have lived in different places with very different biking experiences. Living in New Brunswick and Maine my cycling consisted primarily of long winding rural roads alongside the occasional car with each trip consisting of many kilometres between stops. Over the 5 years I lived in Phoenix I really enjoyed the endless desert parks and trail systems, for short hot rides under blue skies all year long. Vancouver offered beautiful ocean and mountain views but congested trails and very limited access to safe roadways.
Niagara has been a beautiful fit for Katie and I for bicycling. The multi-use trail system spans the entire region, there is access from nearly anywhere in Niagara and the pristine trails are generally flat, mostly all paved and provide views of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, the Welland Canal, various creeks, parks, orchards and wineries. Even though these trails interconnect through the region they actually all began as individual trail systems primarily maintained by volunteers.
The thing I like best is the safety factor. Most of the hundreds of kilometres of trail systems are constructed away from the roadways making it a comfortable ride for even the most casual or young rider.
These trail systems are designed for multi-use and with a few exceptions (the stretch of Lakeshore Road between St. Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake comes to mind), these are wide, safe routes that can easily be used by cyclists, rollerbladers, hikers and even wheelchairs.
Some of my favourite biking in Niagara includes a peaceful stretch that runs along the north part of St. Catharines along Lake Ontario from Port Dalhousie in the west to Port Weller and Malcolmson Eco-Park. We regularly get to choose between the trail that runs along the Welland Canal all the way from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario or the Friendship Trail that runs from Port Colborne to Fort Erie alternating from the shoreline into tranquil forest and farmland.
Serious bikers may consider riding from one lake to another, touring dozens of wineries along the route, enjoying the picturesque Niagara Parkway which travels along the Niagara River past the gorge and to Niagara Falls (Winston Churchill called this the best Sunday drive in the world) or even doing the circle route that touches nearly every community in Niagara.
During the summer, Go Trains bring bicyclists in from Toronto and other areas that take advantage of this friendly bike access to explore the region and many wineries have made an effort to provide bike-friendly services along the wine route.
I expect with Niagara’s new commitment to become the Green Capital of Canada that eco-friendly tourists will recognize that there may not be a better way to embrace the wonders of Niagara than travelling by the power of their own pedals.
For a map of all of the Niagara bicycle routes CLICK HERE.
A comprehensive overview of cycling in Niagara can be found at gobiking.ca
Schedules and additional information on the Bike Train from Toronto to Niagara.
Finally, the Ontario Trails Council has an excellent resource for determining trails according to skill level as well as location and time required at their website.