When the snow melts, the fun at the Ski Hill really begins. Yup, you read that right! Batawa Ski Hill to be exact, with its 22 km of non-motorized trails for cyclists and runners to enjoy during the non-winter months. With many ski resorts embracing off-road cycling as part of their yearly programming, Batawa Ski Hill saw the perfect opportunity to collaborate with community organizers and volunteers to create a truly unique mountain biking experience for the area. The creation of the trails was initiated by the Ski Hill with construction by Transitions Bike Parks and many hours contributed by volunteers like Craig Ross and other local avid cyclists.
As an avid road cyclist and cyclo-tourist, my wheels spun—pun intended!—at the chance to give mountain biking at the Batawa Ski Hill a try. The Quinte MTB Club organizes weekly novice and intermediate group rides during the summer. Knowing how limited my off-road cycling experience has been, I signed up for the next upcoming novice ride, which caters to all levels of experience, including beginners.
After a quick round of introductions with fellow club members, and a briefing about the trails and recent maintenance updates, Andrea Jengle, President of the Quinte MTB Club and frequent group ride leader, led our group to the trailhead.
If I thought that I was about to embark on a leisurely ride through the forest, I couldn’t have been more wrong! My friendly chit-chatting with the fellow riders quickly turned to huffing and puffing as I focused on my front wheel bumping over the rocky and root-y single track. It wasn’t long before we came face-to-face with a wall of ‘switchbacks’ – the dreaded zig-zagged shaped trail required to climb steep mountain faces. Be prepared to work hard on the uphills, and be rewarded with a great view from the top of the ski hill and fun descents.
My fellow group riders encouraged me the whole way, and I benefited from valuable one-on-one coaching on my technique going downhill to increase my control of the bike and my speed. (Author’s note: can you believe some of these riders are travelling at speeds of 40-50 km/h downhill?!)
That evening’s group couldn’t have been more wonderful; and while it’s a traditionally male-dominated sport, the females outnumbered their male counterparts 2:1 that night, demonstrating how inclusive this sport truly is. “There’s so much to love about mountain biking: the outdoors, exercise, social interaction and adrenaline rush, but most of all, I am in love with the learning process and just being present in the moment,” says Andrea. This would be an exhilarating ride I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Whatever the case, you’ll need to get comfortable riding on trails… and you’ll need a bike! If it’s been a few months (or even years) since you’ve last used a bike, give it a try with a commitment-free rental first. Doug’s Bicycles Summer Pop-Up is now open all summer long at the Riverside Park in Belleville, and offers hourly, half-day and full-day rentals on Norco Hybrid Bikes, Giant Mountain Bikes, BMX and Kids’ Bikes.
Once you’ve gotten a feel for flat trails, a group ride will help you work your way up to tackling those uphills and safely zooming down the other side. And if you’ve been bitten by the mountain biking bug as I have, reach out to club members to help you become a skilled and confident rider.
Andrea shares that the best way to get started is to reach out to club members: “We can help determine what you need and how to make that happen. Some people need a bike and don’t know where to start looking, some people have a great bike but they are unsure about the trails. Mountain bikers are great at helping others because we all started off at the same place and understand what it’s like.”
What’s Next for the Club
With a dedicated and growing membership and plans to create formal ‘Intro to Mountain Biking’ programs, the future looks bright for the Quinte Mountain Bike Club. While mountain biking, cyclocross racing and winter fat biking continue to gain popularity, the Bay of Quinte region now has the potential to become the next adventure cycling destination in Southern Ontario.
If heart-pumping action and thrill seeking is your thing, then riding this trail network may just become your new summer go-to activity. Bonus: a refreshing beverage to quench your thirst awaits you at the Batawa Pub Nights!