Algonquin Outfitters

Trip report: a wintry bike ride in Algonquin Park

Your humble author, dressed for winter riding.

AO’s bike shop manager, Glenn Buckmaster, and I went for an epic bike ride in Algonquin Park the other day. Since it is deer hunting season outside of the park and we did not want to get shot, we decided to go for a drive and check out the Minnesing Mountain Bike Trail. These trails are not for the casual rider, I can assure you, and the description on park website certainly doesn’t pull any punches: The Minnesing Mountain Bike Trail is a steep, rugged mountain bike trail consisting of hilly, sometimes muddy, terrain filled with rock, roots and obstacles unsuitable for small children and unfit adults. For MTB enthusiastics used to the flowy singletrack found at local destinations like Buckwallow, the Minnesing trail offers a very different experience. These are old school cross-country style trails, in a very remote area (especially at this time of year) and they don’t get much maintenance. Riders should be self-sufficient and be prepared for the weather, rough trail conditions, possible breakdowns and carry a first aid kit. We had a headlamp and cell phone, just in case, though discovered that there was no cell reception on the furthest reaches of the trail. Glenn and I experienced below freezing temperatures, snow on the ground (not much), and lots of wet, muddy and rocky sections. It was classic mountain biking at its finest. I had to use a stout stick to whack ice off the pedals several times and only got mildly hypothermic. Here is our story in pictures…

 

We arrived just before noon and were not surprised that the parking lot was empty.

The fire was out and the wood locked up out back. Brrrr.

Here’s the map. Of course we did the big loop. Silly us.

It was warmer outside than inside the cabin, so even though we were dressing as if we were going cross-country skiing, we changed outside. Glenn was riding his brand new Salsa El Mariachi on its maiden voyage. Poor bike, it had no idea. I brought the newest addition to AO’s bike rental fleet, the Salsa Mukluk, which turned out to be the ideal bike for the trail conditions.

I think Glenn likes his new bike.

There are a few stretches of pleasant, easy riding.

Bridge out! No problem on a bike, not so sure about the x-c skiers in the wintertime.

There were a few wet spots…

A few portages cross the trail. Glenn wanted to follow this one for some reason but I convinced him to check the map.

At the half-way point. The temperature was dropping and the snow wasn’t melting.

Although the trail gets pretty close to four lakes, this is the only good lake view. Linda Lake looks inviting but half of it was iced over.

Both bikes and riders had issues in the cold and wet conditions. It is really hard to pedal effectively when your pedal looks like this. I just about lost it on a fast downhill when both feet slipped off at the same time. Glenn was riding “clipless” pedals and they did not ice up. By the later stages of the ride, the front derailleurs on both bikes were completely frozen up and non-functional.

After lunch we switched bikes (Glenn the bike shop manager brought his pedal wrench). I liked the 29er hardtail but really would have rather stayed on the Mukluk. The icy pedal issue really became a drag and we had some long hills, both up and down. Finally, I staggered into the parking lot and we loaded dirty, frozen bikes into the truck (can you stagger on a bike? I think so).

I felt a bit goofy wearing XC ski gaiters on a bike ride but in this case, it was a really good idea.

 

On the drive home, we both agreed that it was a grand adventure and that we would do it again. Next year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *