The year is 1985. Durham Forest, a 1500 acre parcel of public land 45 minutes northeast of the city lays vastly underused. Two horseback riders one day, and none the next. A retired couple break the interminable silence with the click of their walking sticks. Suddenly, rare as a Sasquatch sighting, a bicycle comes screaming around the corner. Mouths drop, seniors point and children cower behind the safety of their mothers. Yes, Mountain Biking has found its way into the forests of Southern Ontario.

Fast forward over 25 years to 2011. Durham Forest is now the epicenter of riding in the Oak Ridges Moraine. Km after km of trails, many built specifically for cycling now weave though the undulating terrain of Durham Forest and Walker Woods/Glen Major. Riders of all ability levels come in droves to ride the 100+ kilometers of uninterrupted trails, enjoying the beautiful countryside in a healthy and environmentally responsible way.

Those 25 years have not been without its headaches, but it’s been really great to be a part of mountain biking in this area since it’s vanguard in the 80’s. As one of the first people with a mountain bike in the area, I remember going doing long rides (minus today’s highly touted singletrack), often over 2 hours without seeing a hiker let alone another mountain biker. Rigid bikes; Norcos, Nishiki’s and the odd Rocky Mountain were a rare but burgeoning newcomer on the scene in Ontario forests. As part of Chico Racing mtb events, I helped my older brother Adam run the first Chico event in Durham Forest in 1994 – and a year later built the first cycling specific trails in the area. Singletrack was the new wave, and we were riding it, building trails and opening the window for mountain biking in this area. The last 16 years has seen mountain biking continue to take off, with receptive land stewards embracing cycling and other users groups, sometimes reluctantly, sharing the forests with what is now by far the biggest user group.

With over 4000 acres of land under the jurisdiction of Conservation Authorities, and a great network of interlacing trails, Uxbridge has been named the Trail Capital of Canada! Living in Uxbridge, I’m able to leave my front door and within 300 meters I am on trail, leading through beautiful meadows and eventually to Durham Forest or Walker Woods. There’s arguably no better place in Southern Ontario to live if you want to ride from your front door!

For those of you new riding in this area, the gentle nature of the trails, relatively minimal rock and decent trail marking make this a great place to get into, or continue in the sport. Directions are a google away, and organizations like the Durham Mountain Bike Association (DMBA for short) are always available to help.

Cycling is one of the best low-impact aerobic sports you can do, but with winter’s icy grip upon us the time is running out, so get out before the snow flies! Tom Ruppel, my dad blew most the leaves off the trails in Durham Forest – so the riding is great!

If you’ve put away the bike and are getting out the nordic skis these areas are also great for skiing-but get in quickly after the snow falls before the dog walkers wreck the ski tracks!

Happy Trails and we’ll see you on the trails!

Sean Ruppel

Monvida MTB self-proclaimed guru!

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