Fatbiking in Muskoka
With winter on the way and the temperature dropping, many cyclists put away their gear and pull out the trainer for a winter’s worth of sessions riding in the basement, which, to an Adventure Seeker, is the worst-case scenario. An emerging cycling category called fatbiking allows one to cross terrain they normally wouldn’t, so you can experience the joy of cycling in the worst of conditions. Outfitted with oversized tires, fatbikes make the perfect companion for winter riding.
We’ve teamed up with Algonquin Outfitters in Huntsville, Ont., which provides the Salsa Mukluk bikes for us to explore on (they offer daily rentals) and fellow Adventure Seeker Nate, who lives in Huntsville and knows all the good spots from his time spent extensively exploring the region. We start on a snow-covered cottage road just outside of town to get used to riding the bikes. With no suspension and huge tires, there is definitely an adjustment period due to the weight and manoeuvrability of the bike. The large tires broaden the contact patch and float on top of terrain, whereas a smaller tire will cut through and sink, impeding forward movement.
After getting familiar with our new steeds, and winter apparently already in full force in Muskoka, we set out to hit the trails at the gorgeous Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve and to spend time at the old ski hill and at Buck Lake.
Limberlost is about 15 minutes outside of Huntsville and is an absolute gem, with hiking and biking trails, lookouts, lakes and 10,000 acres of natural Muskoka beauty. Situated just south of Algonquin Provincial Park, it shares the same type of terrain and wildlife. Visitors just need to sign in at the booth, take a pass and explore.
After a quick stop-in to speak with the park rangers, we head to Buck Lake as the skies open to unleash a white fury upon us.
Mid-November is when winter hits in Muskoka, and we’re right in the middle of it. With eyes wide, we have an ever-growing appreciation for what we’re about to get ourselves into; the feeling of being in the middle of a snowstorm on a picturesque lake on bicycles with huge tires is something everyone needs to experience.
We take the bikes up the Buck Lake lookout trail to get a better vantage point of the lake and test out the traction in the brand-new snowfall. Once up top, we take a break and use the moment to capture the lake from a different perspective.
From the summit, we take off towards the old skill hill. Opened in 1934, the Top of the World Ski Hill lasted until the early ’70s and provided a resort and leisure facility for locals and tourists. With much of the original infrastructure still intact, you never know what you’re going to find. We discover a cabin at the top of an old ski run, outfitted with original marketing material displayed inside and a logbook for visitors. We decide to stop and rest and imagine what life was like atop Limberlost in its heyday.
It doesn’t take long for us to learn that the only way back down is through a cut ski trail that follows the shoulder of the hill and turns towards the bottom. With fresh snow on the ground and excitement in the air, we bomb down on the Mukluks hooting and hollering, quickly realizing just how fun these bikes can be. Word to the wise though, a snow-covered trail makes it very difficult to determine what obstacles lie beneath. Take it from us, if you try to brake on snow-covered ice you didn’t know was there, you’ll fall.
We continue our loop back to the shore of Buck Lake for a post-ride refreshment and a quick snack of Mr. Noodles. We’re blanketed by a rush of falling snow as the sky opens up once again. A perfect time to end the ride, we set up camp to get some water boiling and eat some grub.
Our exposure to riding the fatbikes is nothing but positive. The fatbike experience is unlike riding a normal mountain bike; it takes away the chore of inclement weather riding and unlocks a whole new way to cycle. You can ride your favourite trails in the winter, commute on groomed snowmobile trails, bushwhack your own trail, or, load it up with pannier bags and start your own Adventure.
Adventure Seekers would like to thank Algonquin Outfitters, Salsa Bikes, and Limberlost Forest and Wildlife reserve for their participation in this Adventure.