Trail Tails – Ottawa MTBing.

While I find the Canadians honest, open, enthusiastic and fun loving, there is a certain whiff of smugness about them. And with good reason – a thinly populated sports playground, clean air, low crime, vibrant economy and a work/life balance that sees everyone knock off at 5pm. Ottawa is a good example of this. It suffers the same urban sprawl that circles most UK cities , but nobody really cares. Because there is just so much land to build on that even when a thousand houses spring up in a place where there use to be forest, a million kilometres of bugger all still extends in all directions.

My friend Andy was an hour late picking me up from the airport because the local bike shop had forgotten that I’d hired a bike from them. Despite two phone calls remind them; Welcome to Canada the land of the occasionally smug and extremely laid back. We still had time to go riding straight from his house with the woody singletrack, nestling under a rain lashed sky reminded me of home, but home on steroids and free from people.

Still this was just a warm up (or more a rain down) and less than twelve hours later, we drove 10k to Kanata Lakes, a well known MTB mecca squeezed by encroaching development. More rocks, more roots, less mud, more fun. Andy’s shock exploded about 10 yards in but he gamely carried on.

The North Shore is there for a reason, to transport you over bogs and streams. I found the best way to tackle it was at walking pace. That was me walking and the bike being pushed. I wanted to hate the Specialized Epic for the race bike it was, but a combination of bling kit and a singletrack missile hidden behind the graphics meant I ended up really loving it. Except for the insanely low bottom bracket which with fat flat pedals installed made it a bit of a handful in the rockier sections.

Not even slightly sated, we sandwiched in the extreme oddness that is Canada day with another ride in the evening. True to form it pissed down again but only for the first ten minutes. After that, a long lost feelings of fitness and bravery propelled me flying through the singletrack which quickly ended in yours truly getting properly lost. Thankfully the fellas came back looking for me or I was bear food for sure.

Our last ride was to Camp Fortune on the far side of Ottawa deep into the Gatineau mountains and super bike friendly with marked trails and chairlifts. Sadly the chairlifts were only servicing the big rig downhill trails and the nice lady at reception felt the cross country trails would provide more options in the staying alive phase space. So we winched up hot fireroads and plunged down double black trails peppered with north shore, steep drops, monster roots (see above) and endless ways to properly hurt yourself.

As can be seen Martin with his twelve year old canti-braked, lead lined wheeled grip reaper rode most of it. The bits he didn’t ride, he fell off on but this strangely didn’t deter him from getting back on again. When he gets a proper mountain bike, he’s going to enter the ratified stratosphere of “super nutter”.

We even found a safe little jump to play on and regressed to teenage years until Martin – what a surprise – hit it so fast he totally missed the trail on the far side. Time to leave, drink beer in the sunshine and reflect on four rides that’ll live long in the memory.

British Columbia it isn’t. But if you boat is floating on woody singletrack, fantastic views, endless trails – right on your doorstep – and just damn nice people to ride with, Ottawa and the surrounds takes some beating.

So there’s a brief trail review. As the Canadians would say “You’re Welcome

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