When all of the roads and trails anywhere near my home are covered in this much snow, I know I for one start thinking of where I want my first rides of the spring to be. One of my last rides of the fall might just be repeated as soon as possible. In mid-October, I spent the day with Trail Tours Dirt Bike and ATV School.
Trail Tours is located about an hour and a bit east of Toronto on the edge of the Ganaraska forest. When I was researching a trail school or guiding company to go riding with, being close to the Ganny was a major reason for choosing Trail Tours. I have come to learn that the multi-use forest is really, really big. I had no intention of heading into uncertain areas with sketchy cell coverage without someone who knew their way around. TrailTour being right there, with a fleet of bikes and guides was an easy choice.
I booked on a weekday in the 3rd week of October last year, and the school was understandably not very busy. There was one couple there other than me, which I understand is not typically the case, it normally being much busier with groups of friends, corporate groups or the like.
Their Facebook photo stream shows a more typical day. Your booking confirmation includes a “rally point” which feels pretty much like a carpool lot in the woods just off of the highway. A rider came and found the other couple in their truck and I, and directed us to follow him to an unmarked parking lot a few hundred meters away, and to walk through the woods over a short trail. This led us to a small compound of buildings, tents and garages for the school. A small process takes you through paperwork and payment and getting your gear before a short rider meeting.
While riders can bring their own trail-appropriate bikes, I didn’t want to ride my DR650 all the way there, ride all day, then back to Toronto. I did, however bring all my own riding gear. For the less experienced though, the school includes everything but long underwear; boots, pants, jerseys, pads and of course helmets and goggles. Bringing my own boots, goggles and helmet would have been the absolute least for me if I didn’t have a full kit, but Trail Tour’s gear looked to be in good shape even at the end of the season.
I opted for a full day, which was around $270, including lunch. The morning was a skills session in their training area; a field with trails, berms, obstacles and such for all levels of riders. One of the other 2 people there had never ridden at all before. Part of the rider meeting was a small assessment of riding skills; our morning was spent teaching me to wheelie and to manoeuvre slowly in tight trails. This was exactly what I was looking for as an very experienced trail rider on mountain bikes. There were two guides with me, Mike and Al, who took me through a progression to get my wheel off the ground and to use that sill to get over logs crossing the trail.
After lunch, we basically ripped around the forest. IT being a cold, rainy day in October, the forest was basically empty except for some loggers and us as far as I could tell. This was a lot of fun. Really a lot. Our terrain varied, and I am sure Mike, my guide, took me through a progressively more difficult set of trails at first to properly gauge my skill out on the trails before opening things up a bit. Riders should feel confident I think that beginner riders are not going to be out-paced by their guide to an uncomfortable place and skilled riders are going to get pushed. We ended up riding through everything from slow tight technical single-track including some climbs up gravel ravine drainages, faster sidewalk-wide dirt rails, and logging roads where I had to be doing 80kph in 4th gear, which felt plenty fast. Mike and I were out on the trails for the afternoon for about 3 hours, which was as much as my muscles had in me.
Trail Tour’s web site notes that it offers dual sport bikes and instruction as well as trials riding. I had asked a couple of times about getting a dual-sport while registering online with Steve Weykamp which I was a bit disappointed to not see when I was set up with my bike for the day. In honesty, my day riding a Honda CRF250 was all the better for it. The ride in the forest was plenty varied without having to get onto a public road needing a blue plate and licencing for a Dual Sport. The trials riding looks like fun as well, though I want to go and rip around fast in the forest another couple of times before trying that slow and technical riding.
I’ll be heading back to Trail Tours this coming season for sure, maybe more than once. For riders who don’t have access to dirt, this is a relatively low-cost way to see what its like, to get yourself dirty and have a heap of fun on a trail bike in a pretty accessible place.
For those interested:
Trail Tours Dirt Bike and ATV School