Cycling in Niagara is one of the best outdoor adventures to experience in Ontario. There are lots of paved bike paths, expansive green spaces, and beautiful waterways throughout Niagara Falls and Niagara region. It’s easy to hop on your bike and ride for days. But, what if you’ve never embarked on a long distance bike ride before?
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Before being introduced to Ontario By Bike, I never considered taking a long distance, multi-day bike ride before. While I regularly go cycling when I travel (for example, this bike tour in Berlin, Germany and riding bikes in Quebec City), I’ve never made it the focal point of my trip. Even though I live on the doorstep of the Waterfront Trail in Mississauga, I’ve only ever biked between Mississauga and Toronto, a distance that’s only 25km max.
In this blog post, I’m going to introduce you to Ontario By Bike so you can participate in a fun biking weekend, just like I did. Ontario By Bike offers a welcoming, inclusive environment for cycling enthusiasts to ride at their own pace on a thoughtful, well-planned journey.
You’ll meet lots of new friends, ride through picturesque towns in Ontario, and perhaps even surprise yourself by being able to complete a ride like this. By the end of the weekend, I was beaming with pride. Not only was I really proud of myself for completing the ride, but I finished the ride with some really wonderful people. We were all cheering each other on, and it was a really good feeling!
What is Ontario By Bike?
The Ontario By Bike network is the ultimate place to find the best cycling routes and bike trails in Ontario. They are a non-profit organization that works to promote and develop cycling tourism in Ontario.
In addition, Ontario By Bike are also the same folks behind the Bike Train service (using local passenger train services to go cycling around Ontario) and Park Bus (group shuttles to provincial parks and conservation areas, allowing access for those who don’t have their own cars).
Their website has so much valuable information for beginner and avid cyclists alike. There are cycling day trip routes and multi day bike trips that are completely mapped out for you. It’s easy to search for bike friendly businesses, such as accommodations, attractions, cafes, wineries, breweries, restaurants, and more.
Ontario By Bike Rides
I experienced one of the Ontario By Bike rides through Niagara region. Essentially, you’ll ride with a small group of cyclists from all over Ontario (less than 50) on a designated route. Some cyclists ride with friends or family members, and some attend on their own. Ride on your own or within a group, and you’ll likely make friends on the way!
You don’t need to be highly skilled at cycling to attend a ride. On average, daily bike rides are around 60km with a stop in the middle for lunch. You can ride at your own pace, and most people take a leisurely approach in order to stop and enjoy the sights on the way. It’s one of the best bike tours for expert and beginner riders alike.
Ontario By Bike takes all of the guesswork out of the trip for you. There is a central meeting spot where you’ll start (and leave your car behind, if you traveled by car). Load your overnight bag into the support van. The support van is always just a phone call away if you need any assistance at all.
Ontario By Bike plans a lunch stop halfway through the ride, whether it’s a picnic in the park or a stop at a local cafe. Your accommodations are also included in the cost of the trip. They provide a printed map, as well as GPS directions that you can use with a phone app called “Ride with GPS”. You can also choose to ride with others who also have directions to ensure that you won’t get lost.
Cycling Itineraries in Ontario
If you aren’t able to attend a group ride, you’re welcome to use Ontario By Bike’s cycling itineraries for routes all over Ontario. These routes have all kinds of suggestions for fun bike getaways in Ontario. There are day trips and overnight trips with trail guides and bike friendly business recommendations.
Cycling in Niagara with Ontario By Bike
I embarked on my very first long distance ride going cycling in Niagara, one of the most premier cycling destinations in Ontario. We started and ended our adventure in Thorold, leaving our cars safely at a local community center. While this 128km adventure might seem daunting, the paths are mostly flat and you are welcome to ride at your own pace each day.
Before we left, Louisa of Ontario By Bike debriefed all of the riders. We all quickly introduced ourselves and where we were from. There were riders from all over Ontario: Ottawa, Belleville, Toronto, Mississauga, and beyond. While there were many repeat cyclists who participate in many Ontario By Bike group rides, there were also newbies like myself who had never cycled more than 10-20km at once.
Day 1 of Niagara Bike Ride: Thorold, Niagara and Fort Erie (71km)
On day one, our route took us from Thorold to Fort Erie, riding through a little portion of Niagara Falls / Niagara-on-the-Lake. We rode on the Welland Canals Trail (part of the Greater Niagara Circle Route) next to a section of the Welland Canal.
Port Robinson Ferry Crossing
After about 10km, we encountered a really unique and useful attraction. The Port Robinson ferry crossing allows cyclists and pedestrians to cross the Welland Canal on a small pontoon boat for free.
We continued our journey on one of the only portions of the trip that wasn’t on a bike path. Although we were cycling on the road, these were all back country roads surrounded by farm land. Even on a Saturday, we barely encountered any vehicles or traffic at all.
Lunch Break at Kingsbridge Park
Halfway through the trip (after around 35km), we stopped for a picnic lunch at Kingsbridge Park in Niagara. I ate a hummus and veggie sandwich with a small salad and fruit. Ontario By Bike can easily accommodate vegetarian and vegan diets, no problem!
Kingsbridge Park is a huge green space where the Welland River meets the Niagara River. You can stay and relax for a while at Kingsbridge Park beneath a shady tree before continuing on your ride.
Niagara River Recreational Trail
After lunch, we cycled in Niagara on the Niagara River Recreational Trail, a paved path that runs parallel to the Niagara Parkway and the Niagara River. The Niagara River Recreation Trail offers 56km of paved paths on the Niagara River from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort Erie (Lake Ontario to Lake Erie).
You’ll be able to admire beautiful scenery of the deep blue waters of the Niagara River and eventually ride past the Peace Bridge that connects Fort Erie and Buffalo, New York.
This was the most challenging section of the two day. It was very hot outside and the heat was beginning to get to me. I stopped when it was necessary to relax by the Niagara River beneath some shady trees. It’s also really important to drink lots of water! I reached the hotel by about 3:30pm. After checking in, I ended up showering and immediately had a long nap.
Where to Stay in Fort Erie When Cycling in Niagara
Our cycling group spent the night at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Centre in Fort Erie. If you’re attending an Ontario By Bike group ride, your hotel stay is included in the trip’s fee. If you’re planning to go cycling in Niagara on your own, I recommend that you stay at the Clarion Hotel in Fort Erie.
The hotel is clean and comfortable with a complimentary breakfast and free Wi-Fi. When we went on the group ride, they had a separate designated room to store all of our bikes. If you’re riding on your own, I’m sure it wouldn’t be a problem to ask about bike storage or bring your bike up to your room with you.
Day 2 of Niagara Bike Ride: Fort Erie, Port Colborne and Welland (57km)
For day two, Louisa debriefed us once again outside of the hotel. While the map still had a set route, our plans could include some optional stops at nearby Lake Erie beaches (Crystal Beach and Sherkston Beach) if you chose to incorporate them into your trip.
I opted to stick to the original plan. To be honest, my butt was still sore from the day before, and I didn’t want to add extra kilometres to my journey just to be on the safe side.
We cycled from Fort Erie to Port Colborne on the Friendship Trail. It’s a relatively flat path surrounded by trees and farmland. While it wasn’t the most interesting part of the journey, it’s a great way to get from point A to point B without riding on the road at all.
What got me through this section of the ride the most was dreaming about the huge iced coffee I was going to buy at our lunch stop.
Lunch Break in Port Colborne
When I arrived in Port Colborne, I headed straight to the Green Apple Coffeehouse, our lunch spot just off the main street. Yes, I immediately ordered that massive iced coffee and it exceeded all of my expectations. We had boxed lunches prepared by the Green Apple Coffeehouse.
My vegan meal came with a sandwich, a quinoa and bean salad, a green apple, and a big cookie. I was really impressed! Everything was really delicious. The staff members were lovely, and it was such a treat to dine inside an air conditioned establishment.
While in Port Colborne, we also had the unique experience of watching a large ship travel beneath a lift bridge through the Welland Canal. Once the ship passed through and the bridge was lowered, we continued on our way.
Cycling in Port Colborne and Welland
For the remainder of the cycling trip, we rode on bike paths from Port Colborne to Welland and back to Thorold, mostly along the Welland Canal. I cycled these Niagara region trails with Louisa and some new friends that I met at the event.
At one point, some dark clouds rolled in and there was a huge downpour! It was another hot day outside, so I welcomed the clouds and even the rain to cool down a bit.
As we approached the end of the ride, spotting the community centre and our cars was a welcome, yet bittersweet sight. I was feeling pretty exhausted, but I wasn’t quite ready for my Ontario By Bike experience to end. It was such a memorable adventure that truly sparked my love for cycling.
The volunteer support van driver rattled on a cowbell as we glided past the imaginary finish line, and we all cheered for each other. It was so much fun going cycling in Niagara with Ontario By Bike, and I loved the encouraging spirit of this positive and uplifting community of riders most of all.
What to Bring When Cycling in Niagara
You’ll want to be prepared before embarking on a lengthy cycling trip, whether you’re cycling in Niagara or elsewhere in Ontario. Here are a few things that I recommend that you bring for the ride:
- Your bike (this might be an obvious one, but you’ll need to bring your own bike)
- Bike backpack: I would totally get one of these for next time. I rode with a backpack on my back, and it got heavy after a while. Having a pack attached to your bike makes all the difference!
- Light rain jacket
- Lots of water (more than you think you’ll need!)
- Energy bars
- Bike helmet
When you ride with Ontario By Bike on a group trip, you don’t need to worry about your transportation or your luggage. You’ll leave your car at a meeting spot and you’ll eventually ride in a big loop back to where you started. The support van will transport your luggage to the overnight accommodation.
More Ontario By Bike Rides
Interested to learn about more group rides by Ontario By Bike? Beyond cycling in Niagara, Ontario By Bike offered three other rides this year. You can always browse their website for more details on the group rides. Maps and itineraries are always available in case you’d like to plan your own cycling trip anytime you like.
Sarnia Lambton Loop
The Sarnia Lambton Loop is a 161km, two day tour of Ontario’s Blue Coast. You’ll ride on the St. Clair River and the shores of Lake Huron, which often resemble the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean. Cycle past the peaceful pastoral countryside, ride through the heritage towns of Petrolia and Oil Springs, see historic sites, and learn about the history of the Underground Railway.
1000 Islands River Ride
The Thousand Islands region is so gorgeous, so I can only imagine that it would be quite spectacular to see by bike. It’s amazing for outdoor adventures, including hiking the 1000 Islands National Park, kayaking around the islands, and cycling the trails. This 147km ride across three days showcases the best of “Upper Canada”, from Brockville to Morrisburg.
Cataraqui Kingston Cruiser
Ontario By Bike’s newest multiday tour explores some of Ontario’s best rail trails through Kingston and southeastern Ontario. Ride on the Cataraqui and K&P rail trails, exploring waterfront scenes and historic sights on the way. There are so many awesome things to do in Kingston, so you’ll want to spend some extra time in the city before or after your ride.