Trail Bike Riding in Ontario
An insider's view on where to ride
Trail bike riding in Ontario seems to be a closely guarded secret even though our province has more trails available to off-road motorcycles (ORM) than some European countries and most US states. A German rider recently visited my house and told me there are no public motorcycle trails in Germany – at all. New Jersey has just recently approved its first state ORM trail; Vermont and New York don’t really have anything and Quebecers tell me they have nothing that comes close to Ontario’s trails.
When I re-entered the sport about 15 years ago I was fortunate and found a club that welcomes amateur riders; I was quickly re-introduced to the sport through the camaraderie of my local club. Riding motorcycles on trails has forever changed my weekends and absolutely improved my quality of life and happiness.
You can most likely find a club near you by checking with the Ontario Federation of Trail Riders (OFTR), they are a provincial organization for recreational off-road motorcyclists, or possibly your local dealer.
If you’re just getting started, try to find a club in your area or in an area you would like to ride. Local knowledge is key, and some clubs even own their own trails. The Ontario Dual Sport Club and the Adventure Rider motorcycle forums are probably the most helpful since you can find most of your answers on-line before you get your boots muddy. Off-road motorcyclists are typically very helpful, especially to newcomers.
If you don’t have a dirt bike yet but would really like to try one, there are two excellent facilities in Ontario. Canadian Motorcycle Training Services (CMTS) in Horseshoe Valley and Trail Tours in the Ganaraska Forest. Both offer instruction, equipment and motorcycles for beginners up to advanced riders as well as children. Be sure to check the age requirements for each school. Trail Tours also offers off-site adventure rides at other locations.
If you already own an off-road motorcycle or dual sport and you just want to go riding, be sure you clearly understand the requirements to ride on public lands in Ontario:
• Your Motorcycle must be registered with the MTO
• Off-road plate (green letters) are for ORMs
• Road plate (blue letters) are for dual sport motorcycles
• Your Motorcycle must have liability insurance
• Off-road motorcycles are often misunderstood by insurance agents; you should pay around $200 or less per year. Shop around.
• Your motorcycle must not be excessively loud. It is just not acceptable anymore. Read more here.
You do not need a driver’s license to ride on a trail and there is no age limit. Riders under 12 must be closely supervised by an adult. Yes, your kids can ride with you on a trail. You need an “M” class license to ride on the roads that connect the trails as well as a “Blue” plated motorcycle.
ATV and snowmobile trails are mostly located on Crown Land in Ontario and you have the right to ride on them. There is no exclusive use of Crown Land, although you may be told otherwise. Municipalities and tourist regions are starting to enter into management agreements for Crown Land trails with the MNR in order to attract tourists for longer stays.
The Voyageur Multi-Use Trail System (VMUTS) trails are suited to the needs of novice, intermediate and advanced riders with accommodation nearby. Trail options are very reasonable and you can pick up a day-pass in town.
Municipal lands such as forests and rail trails may or may not be restricted so you have to check with the municipality. Some have by-laws that specifically restrict use by vehicles, so you have to check with the municipality.
You may not ride on trails that are on private property unless it is a designated OFTR trail. There will often be an OFTR sign near the entrance that designates the area as an authorized OFTR Motorcycle Trail Area, which makes it easy to determine if you can ride there without breaking any rules.
Here’s the most current list of the Municipal Forests where you can ride scot-free:
• Simcoe County – Several closed loop tracts for trail riding. Street plated trail riders can link up the tracts into a great day of riding. OFTR membership required.
• The Pinery – Somerville Forest near Kinmount. Several loops are available, including an area for beginners and kids. OFTR membership is required.
• Northumberland Forest – Designated ORM areas. OFTR membership required.
• Limerick Forest – Designated ORM trails. Nice trails and maps.
• Larose Forest – Designated ORM area. OFTR membership required.
The following are conservation areas with their own rules and regulations on access
• Ganaraska Forest – Daily use fee or annual membership required. West and east forest only.
These private parks are pay-to-play tracks and trails. In most cases, insurance and registration are not required, but sound limits are often imposed. Check with the facility before you go.
• Burnt River Off-Road Facility – 10 minutes north of Fenelon Falls - 13km trail system, motocross track, peewee track, snack bar
• MotoPark Training Facility – 20 minutes south of Owen Sound - 6km trail and motocross track
• Gopher Dunes Track & Trails – 30 minutes south of Woodstock - 26km of groomed trails, motocross track, peewee track, lessons, rentals, store
Another great option for riders looking for a day out on the trails are organized rides and club fun days held throughout the year in Ontario. Most of them are held in the areas listed above as well Crown Land Trails in the Haliburton, Madawaska and Calabogie regions. The KTM Trail Ride series is sponsored by KTM Canada. The OFTR website and email list is the best place to find our more.
So there it is – if you didn’t know about off-road riding in Ontario, the secret is out. ORM enthusiasts are often concerned about sharing information about where they ride because they don’t want irresponsible riders or loud motorcycles to impact their access to quiet, clean and well-maintain trails that are a part of a healthy recreation community. Joining a club, meeting the riders and attending events are the best way to learn about ORM trails in Ontario. Have fun!
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