Isn't dirt biking something that only 17-year-old boys do? That's what came to my mind while driving to Peterborough, Ontario for a two-day dirt biking adventure with Trail Tours. In less than a month we'll be circumnavigating Lake Superior by motorcycle.
Since we're new riders that have only been out on motorcycles a total of 6 times this summer, we need all the help we can get.
Dirt Biking the Ganaraska Forest
We've been told that by taking a dirt biking course, we'll improve our motorcycle riding skills by years. It will help our confidence and boost our performance.
Besides how cool do we look in our dirt biking gear?
Dirt Biking Ontario
We met owner Steve Weycamp of Trail Tours at a parking lot by the highway. We followed him and his bike into the back woods of the Ganaraska Forest where their motorcycle business is set up for training.
There are hundreds of km of dirt biking trails in the Ganaraska Forest and Trail Tours is smack dab in the middle of it.
The operation is set up in trailers and steel containers filled with Honda Motorcycles and dirt biking gear.
Dirt Biking Gear
After signing our lives away and gearing up with shoulder and chest armour, knee pads, heavy duty bike boots and a dirt biking helmet, we set off with Al to learn about how to ride one of these babies on their dirt biking course.
Luckily we have some experience on motorbikes, so we didn't have to start with the basics. Instead, we practiced riding around the dirt course getting used to the bikes and the new way of riding.
We've only driven street bikes so far, and there's a bit of a different technique when it comes to riding dirt bikes.
There are a few different rules when riding a dirt bike compared to a road bike and here are a few of the major differences.
- On a road bike, you use both brakes when braking with a focus on the front brake. When dirt biking, you want to use the back break most often.
- When riding a motorcycle on the road, you lean with your turns and do push turns. When riding a dirt bike, you lean in the opposite direction of the bike when turning.
- On a dirt bike you sit more forward with your elbows high
- You stand a lot on a dirt bike when riding it.
- When taking tight corners, you put your foot down for balance. That's not a common practice on a road bike, when riding a motorcycle on the road, you don't want to put your feet down at all except when stopped.
The morning was spent practicing going around pylons and working on tight turns. It was quite a bit of work and our minds were racing with all this new information. We loved standing up on our bikes and practicing our skills on the safety of the course.
We'd speed up in the straightaways and hit our back brakes to practice skidding. We made tight corners around pylons and worked on leaning deep into our turns while accelerating quickly out of them. There's a freedom on a dirt bike that you don't get on road bike.
Some Basic Dirt Biking Moves
- We practiced going around in circles standing up on the bike and then sitting back down again.
- We practiced skidding to a stop by using our back break when standing.
- We learned how to drive over logs, roots and obstacles.
- We learned how to take corners while putting our foot down for leverage.
It was a lot of new skills, but it prepared us for what was next to come.
Hitting the Trails of the Ganaraska Forest
After lunch that was catered by Trail Tours, we suited up and set off for the trails. We practiced on some single track just off the field where they have all their obstacles set up and went around that a few times.
It was intimidating at first. Being on a machine on a narrow single track is nerve-racking.
When you make a mistake, your instinct is to pull the throttle, but if you do that, you could run right into a tree. We took it slow until we got the hang of it and went around the course a few times. It reminded me of mountain biking, only we didn't have to climb hills.
Once we felt comfortable on single track, it was time to join the big boys in the Ganaraska Forest. The Ganaraska Forest is the biggest dirt biking trail area on the east coast of North America.
There are 6000 acres of dedicated ATV and dirt biking trails to ride on and we spent the afternoon (and the next day) exploring all there is to offer.
One of the first obstacles we came up to was a long stretch of bumps that our guide Allan called, loop dee loops. He told us to stand up and relax and don't take it too fast. Soon we'd fall into a rhythm to go over the long stretch of hills.
He warned us that if we start off too fast, we could easily lose control. I was a bit nervous hearing this, but once I hit the first couple of hills, I felt a rush of excitement.
We went over the hills with ease and it was so much fun to feel the bike lurch up and down as we went over the stretch of mogul like terrain. We then followed him into some narrow single track trails that took us through a winding forest.
There were tight turns, loose sand, and roots and logs to navigate. It was so much fun.
As I rode through the forest I thought to myself “I'm never going back to mountain biking” this is so much more fun, with far less physical work.”
Dirt Bike Safety
Dirt biking actually is one of the safest forms of riding a motorcycle. Allan told us that many people have this idea that dirt bikers are crazy and are adrenaline junkies but taking a bike out for a spin on the trails takes you to a safe and controllable environment.
There isn't any traffic to worry about and if you go at a reasonable speed, you are quite safe from doing any harm to yourself.
At one point during our ride, I flipped over my handlebars when I hit a patch of soft, loose sand. We had a camera crew with us and they asked us to drive by a few times. We kept having to drive by and do different things for them, then turn around and do it all again.
As I went past the cameraman, I thought I'd try going to the other side and that's when I hit the dirt.
But I was totally fine! I wasn't going to fast and I landed on dirt, so after a quick check, I got back on the bike and started all over again.
Dirt biking was pure fun. Whether you've ridden motorbikes before or not, by the time you leave Trail Tours, you'll have the experience you need to head out on the trails.
While we were there, we saw a young girl learning to ride who had never been on a bike before. By afternoon, she'd be out on the trails as well!
Where to Stay
Our adventure ended at the beautiful Elmhirst Resort in Keene Ontario. Open year round this family run resort offers a true Canadian getaway experience. Located on 1000 acres on Rice Lake, there is a golf course, airstrip, luxury spa, indoor/outdoor pool, the elegant Hirthside Dining room and The Wild Blue Yonder Pub.
Cabins are spacious family size accommodations with separate bedrooms, sunken living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms with jacuzzi tubs. Plus they offer free wifi! One could spend a week here relaxing in the beautiful countryside of Ontario just 2 hours from Toronto. It's also a great destination for road biking too with lots of motorcycle friendly establishments all around the area.
For more information on Peterborough and the Kawarthas visit thekawarthas.ca
For more information visit the Trail Tours Website for ATV and dirt biking lessons
Motorcycles courtesy of Honda Canada
Our motorcycle gear provided by Parts Canada – the national distributor of aftermarket parts and accessories for the Canadian power sports industry. They are exclusive to many brands including our HJC helmets and Alpinestars boots, pants, jackets and gloves.
MotorSoul Driving School runs motorcycle training courses for all skill levels all summer long.