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The Peterborough Biking Experience

The Peterborough Biking Experience

“Drumlins” explains Kieran Andrews, one of our two guides from Wild Rock Outfitters, are “400 – 800 metre long hills that can be steep with the worst of them on this morning’s ride”.

Later – as in 90 kilometres, a shower and a glass of wine later – the truth comes out. Kieran proceeds to tell me “that the Tour of Flanders in Belgium, one of the hardest one day cycling races, shares the same topography as the Peterborough and the Kawarthas area.”

This is what a drumlin looks like

This is what a drumlin looks like

Good to know after the fact! Mostly it makes me feel proud of my day’s accomplishment – and I’m pretty sure the other cyclists on the tour had similar feelings.

I love hills, I really do. But I was seriously surprised at just how many drumlins there are in the Peterborough area – and I can tell you now that I’ve done a three day bike ride, that there were just as many drumlins in the afternoon.

Peterborough cycling route

Checking out our plan cycling route before starting in the rain

I had traveled to Peterborough for a travel media conference and had signed up for the three day pre-tour so I could explore the area in some depth. Although I’ve driven through Peterborough several dozen times, I had never stopped.

Introduced to our guides over breakfast at the Silver Bean Cafe in Peterborough, the day ahead did not look promising. At 9:30 AM it wasn’t just raining. It was pouring and discussions about what else we could do were taking place.

Me in the rain at breakfast - Silver Bean Cafe

Me in the rain at breakfast

But we had a tough, keen group and amazingly no one was put off by the rain. So we lingered over breakfast until the rain turned to drizzle.

Hopping on our bikes, we quickly learned that the beauty of any bike ride in the Peterborough area is that within 10 minutes you’re on country roads and the road traffic all but disappears.

Our first day of cycling took us from downtown Peterborough to the Elmhirst Resort on Rice Lake. Greg Elmhirst, the GM of the resort, joined us for 1½ days of the ride. Not only was he an enthusiastic cyclist and a great addition to our group, but as a fourth generation Elmhirst, he had lots to share on the history of the area.

The ride took us mainly through farm country as you can see in the photos.

All smiles at the start of our ride - Peterborough, Ontario area

All smiles at the start of our ride

We nicknamed Stan on the left - The Silver Bullet for his attire - and the electric bike he rode

We nicknamed Stan on the left – The Silver Bullet for his attire – and the electric bike he rode

Cyclists are always on the lookout for a great bakery - and there were many in the Peterborough area

Cyclists are always on the lookout for a great bakery – and there were many in the Peterborough area

iking in the Peterborough area

Biking is a great way to get to know people (Freelance writer Anne Bokma and Kieran the guide)

Cycling through farm country - Peterborough area

Cycling through farm country

Lunch was at the Pastry Peddler Cafe in the small community of Millbrook – at about the halfway point of our ride. The cafe is a great destination – even if you’re not a cyclist. Their food is amazing – and after cycling hills for 40 kilometres I had no problem chowing down on flatbread pizza with a mushroom duxelle-parmesan topping, followed by to die for lemon squares.

Leaving the restaurant I had an affliction Kieran calls “cafe legs.” It takes a while to get moving again – but move we did – up the drumlins with the reward some awesome downhill!

Quiet back roads are the hallmark of a Peterborough cycling trip

Quiet back roads are the hallmark of a Peterborough cycling trip

Roadside flowers- Peterborough

Roadside flowers

Straight lines, big skies; Peterborough farm country

Straight lines, big skies

Towards the end of the day we hopped on a section of the Trans-Canada and made our way to the Lang Pioneer Village. Although it was closed we still walked around with Greg Elmhirst acting as our tour guide. From there it was a surprisingly quick ride – thankfully, to get to Elmhirst Lodge.

You can ride sections of the Trans-Canada Trail in the Peterborough area

You can ride sections of the Trans-Canada Trail in the Peterborough area

Look out for turtles in the spring - Peterborough area

Look out for turtles in the spring

Classic farm scene

Classic farm scene

We only had a night at Elmhirst and most of it was spent eating, drinking and sleeping. As we’d arrived at about 6 PM, there was only enough time to have a shower before we met up again for drinks, followed  by dinner with a killer view of Rice Lake. After dinner, we all trooped to the underground wine cellar. Greg pulled out a Cabernet Franc (2006) from the Foreign Affair Winery. It was a taste bomb – cherry, coffee, leather – pure deliciousness. If you do make it to the resort it’s definitely worth arranging a wine tasting.

There's plenty to do at the Elmhirst Resort

There’s plenty to do at the Elmhirst Resort

Greg Elmhirst pouring a Cab Franc in the underground wine cellar

Greg Elmhirst pouring a Cab Franc in the underground wine cellar

On our second day, the plan was to cycle about 65 kilometres to Lakefield. Again the riding took us through farm country but come lunch time we’d left the drumlins behind and entered cottage country.

Cycling past fields of canola - Peterborough area

Cycling past fields of canola

One of the small but very pretty rivers we crossed en route to cottage country

One of the small but very pretty rivers we crossed en route to cottage country

Our lunch at the Lantern Restaurant & Grill on the shores of Stoney Lake was also delicious. As big fans of the eat local movement and a reputation for pouring cocktails with home grown herbs, the owners Geoff & Lesley Kirkland have done a super job of the restaurant. With a patio and a view, it would be easy to spend an afternoon here.

From farm country to cottage country - Peterborough area

From farm country to cottage country

The ride after lunch was far mellower than anything up to that point. The landscape flattened and we could really make good time. By about 3:30 we were ensconced in our hotel rooms at The Village Inn in Lakefield.

Break time - Peterborough cycling trip

Break time

Some of the group elected for an afternoon nap. Others wandered through the cute town that is Lakefield. Our routine, fashioned in short order was to meet for drinks before dinner. We sampled beer paired with cheeses (who knew?) at the Canoe and Paddle Gastropub (18 Bridge Street) before heading over to Nutshell Next Door for dinner.

Our third and final day of cycling took us full circle and within a few hours we were back in Peterborough. Most of the cycling was flat and easy along the Otonabee River. We passed houseboats, Trent University and ended up just before lunch at Lock 21 on the Trent Severn Waterway. Our timing was impeccable as a boat was in the process of being lifted the 19.8 metres that is enough to make this hydraulic lock the biggest in the world. There are boat tours you can take to experience it.

No hills on day 3 of our cycling trip

The third day of cycling is an easy one – we’re out of the hills

This section of cycling trail takes us from Trent University right into Peterborough

This section of cycling trail takes us from Trent University right into Peterborough

The largest hydraulic lock in the world - Lock 21 on the Trent Severn Waterway

The largest hydraulic lock in the world – Lock 21 on the Trent Severn Waterway

With food as a popular theme on this bike trip, it was fitting to end at Ashburnham Ale House. Boasting a great menu, that will make you chuckle as you read it, and food that will make you smile, this is another must visit restaurant if you’re in the Peterborough area. Try the Sweet Mother of God Coconut Chicken Curry.

Our three day cycling trip ends fittingly at the Ashburham Ale House

Our three day cycling trip ends fittingly at the Ashburham Ale House

If you’re looking for a cycling experience that’s interesting and different – and one that is relatively unknown outside the cycling community of Peterborough, this is the one for you. You don’t have to grind your way up the drumlins; there are lots of easy trails as well.

Here’s a map of our route.

A huge thank you to our two guides Kieran Andrews & Dee Hutchison of locally owned Wild Rock Outfitters. They were kind, helpful, warm and a pleasure to ride with. 

Further reading on biking in Canada

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The Peterborough, Ontario biking experience

A huge thank you to Peterborough Tourism for underwriting this trip. As per usual, all thoughts/opinions are my own. I can say with complete confidence that if you love biking and food you will have a fabulous time in the area.

 

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. I do like biking and food, but up and down the drumlins might be a bit challenging. I’d love to be riding along in those flat areas in your photos even in the rain. Beautiful scenery. The resort and restaurants all seem enticing, too. Glad I now know of Peterborough.

  2. I can understand why Kieran didn’t mention the drumlins before the ride, Leigh, but I doubt you’d have changed your mind.
    Peterborough is so pastoral and picturesque — that’s for sharing your adventure with us.
    That Sweet Mother of God Chicken sounds delicious!

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