Maybe it comes from the calming sound of tires rolling across the pavement mixed with the naturally occurring sounds and scents.  Maybe it comes from the welcome feeling of being disconnected from things like technology, routines or the state of current events.  Wherever it comes from, the peace of experiencing the Almaguin Highlands from the saddle of a bicycle is something that all residents and visitors absolutely need to experience.  I mean, what’s not to like?  These thoughts cross my mind nearly every time I suit up for a ride; however, Autumn holds a very special place in my heart every riding season – and 2020 is absolutely no exception.

Now, to address the proverbial elephant in the room: sure, 2020 has certainly brought a litany of reasons for people to be disrupted from their routines and comfort zones.  One interesting trend that stands in the face of a seemingly insurmountable negativity is people’s rediscovery of things like cycling, hiking, canoeing and numerous other forms of connecting with the glorious nature all around us.  It’s kind of crazy; what started out by all of us being stuck inside is turning in to a new appreciation for something we didn’t realize we were taking for granted.

Having ridden for a few years with a group of passionate cycling enthusiasts know locally as Almaguin in Motion (or AIM), I have had the good fortune of discovering first-hand why cycling in Almaguin is on a whole different level of enjoyable.  While I don’t claim to be as well travelled as some of my cycling community compatriots, I have been fortunate enough to take in rides and tours in a few areas of our province, country and continent.   Every time I return, there are a few things that remind me that I truly live in a veritable cyclist’s paradise:

Quiet, well maintained roads are a common feature that every cyclist craves.  The AIM Crew have curated a bunch of rider-certified favourite routes that give access to a collection of unique villages and welcoming local businesses.  The AIM Triangle route, for example, connects the three villages of Burk’s Falls, Magnetawan and Sundridge while winding past several lakes and through many scenic landscapes that embody everything you’d expect in the rugged Canadian wilderness.  For more information on this and other amazing routes, check out the Discovery Routes website.

A ton of riding style options are available throughout the region.  Some of the AIM Routes cater to the ‘roadies’ or road cyclists looking to crush kilometers on smooth, paved roads.  Others cater to the gravel-grinders that aren’t afraid to get a little dusty in their pursuit of discovering those lesser-known corners of rural paradise.  For the adventure buff, trails like the Park to Park Trail or the Nipissing Road segment of the Great Trail will provide all the rugged nature you’re looking for.

That small town, neighbourly feel is something that I never take for granted living here; however, all local and visiting cyclists can feel welcomed as they tour through the area.  Many of the major/promoted cycling routes feature signage to remind motorists that they may encounter the occasional cyclist as well as designated parking areas in village centres (in some cases including bike fix stations).  Local businesses are keen to welcome cyclists; many of which have bike racks available for secure storage.

While I could go on and on, the best part about Autumn in Almaguin is you get to experience all of these things while taking in the breathtaking fall colours.  Sure, many have seen them while driving – but taking in the stunning visuals while also breathing in the unmistakable Autumn smells and listening to the wind dancing through fallen leaves will bring you to a whole new level of connectedness with nature.  This is where I find a level of peace that, in my opinion, everyone should embrace as often as they can.  If you’re looking for that kind of connection to nature – challenge yourself to one of the self-guided mini-tours featured in the Almaguin Harvest Spin Series.  These mini-tours have been hand-picked to showcase why, from a cyclists perspective, Almaguin is our ‘happy place’.

Written by Dave Gray