10 Reasons You Should Try a Bike Race in Ontario This Year

Sign up for a bike race to meet new friends, conquer a personal challenge, or have fun with your family.

Like most people, I have enjoyed riding bikes since I was a young child. However, it was not until I finally tried a mountain bike race at the age of 30 that I went over the handlebars in love with the sport of cycling. Take it from me, bike races offer excitement, new challenges, great people and much, much more.

There are cycling races hosted by many communities across Ontario every year. Great events are organized by local cycling clubs, bike shops and many passionate volunteers. In major northern centres like Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie and Sudbury, you will find big events that draw people from near and far with the promise of big fun and a little friendly competition.

Participating in a bike race is not about winning or losing. Most people enter a bike race to enjoy the social aspect of the sport, to have a goal to work towards, or to share an activity with family and friends. There are countless reasons why different individuals are drawn to the sport of bike racing, but let’s whittle it down to a short list of 10 of the most popular motives, with the hope that it inspires even more people to try a bike race in Northern Ontario this year.

teenage boy pops a wheelie while taking part in a bike race
You don’t have to be competitive to have fun at a race. Photo: Jonathan Portinga Photo // @tingadinga

1. It’s all about having fun

Riding a bike is really all about having fun, is it not? Participating in an organized bike race like Thunder Bay’s epic Shuniah Forty Miner mountain bike race is simply an extension of that fun. Look past the butterflies in your stomach at the start line and you are likely to find that the joy of riding bikes is amplified when you have a number plate fastened to your handlebars. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is impossible to finish a bike race without smiling.

family rides together during an offroad bike race
Make it a family tradition. Photo: Jonathan Portinga Photo // @tingadinga

2. A chance to spend quality time with family

If you really think about it, there are not a lot of sports where the whole family can participate and have fun together. Usually, we see parents sitting and watching their kids from the sidelines, but with bike racing, nobody is left out. What makes this cycling extra special is the fact that families can continue to enjoy riding and racing together year after year as the children grow into adults. Case in point, you can get a great sense of the potential for family bonding while discovering some of Ontario’s best single-track and urban trails at the Sault Cycling Club’s Trail Fest weekend.

volunteers stand in front of a tent at the Shuniah Forty Miner bike race
There are lots of ways to get involved. Photo: Jonathan Portinga Photo // @tingadinga

3. Family and friends who are not racing can still be involved through volunteering

Race promoters are always on the lookout for more volunteers. Even friends and family members who are not interested in racing their bike can still be involved in a race by helping out with registration, course marshalling or any number of other jobs that keep them active and engaged during the event. Check out a promoter like Superfly Racing to find an exciting event in your area.

five male cyclists in racing gear pose with arms crossed in front of a trailer
Explore new bike haunts. Photo: Suzanne Goodmurphy Jones

4. The chance to travel and race in another city

One unbeatable aspect of bike racing is that each different community will host unique events to highlight their top trails and provide exposure to some of the best local businesses. Travelling to a bike race in a different city or town can be an exciting weekend getaway with friends or family. Most marquee cycling events feature a sponsoring hotel with discounted rates or a nearby campground to host all the racers arriving from out of town.

For example, the Ontario Cup mountain bike series includes a stop in Sudbury in late July to race the Walden trails. Racing in a new area also means you will get to meet new people, experience new trails, and discover local restaurants, bike shops and breweries that all add up to a very memorable experience.

older woman puts a medal over the head of a helmeted child after a bike race
Feel a sense of community no matter where you go. Photo: Jonathan Portinga Photo // @tingadinga

5. To be a part of the cycling community

The sport of cycling is filled with a diverse group of really cool and interesting people who tend to be fun, supportive and full of energy. Whether you are travelling to a destination event or participating in one close to home, you are sure to meet some amazing people who are racing, volunteering, watching, or supporting a family member. It is pretty much guaranteed that all your interactions with the good folks you will meet at a bike race will be positive ones. For a great spring day of backroads riding and socialization check out the Turas Mor gravel race in idyllic Creemore Springs.

a bike mechanic tunes up a bicycle in front of an open tow trailer
The perfect time for a tune up. Photo: Jonathan Portinga Photo // @tingadinga

6. Get a little love for your bike

At most races you will find the local bike shops’ mechanics are set up to help you out with a last-minute flat tire repair or derailleur adjustment. Sometimes we ride our bike for weeks with a wobbly wheel or skipping gears that can be quickly fixed with a small tweak from a knowledgeable mechanic.

Jeff Pylypchuk is co-owner of Fresh Air Experience in Thunder Bay, a bike shop that has been supporting racers at the local events for nearly 20 years. He says that the store and the club have grown together, creating “an amazing and strong community around a common interest and lifestyle”—supported by great events organized by the local Blacksheep Mountain Bike Club and the Thunder Bay Cycling Club.

a crowd of cyclists gather in front of a stage in the grass surrounded by trees
Make a weekend getaway out of it. Photo: Jonathan Portinga Photo // @tingadinga

7. Have something to look forward to

While many races are small, low-key events that are usually part of a weekly or monthly series, every city is likely to feature at least one marquee race. Selecting a few key events and adding them to your calendar will always give you something to be excited about. In places like Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury and Thunder Bay, you will find cycling events that are much more than just a race. The main event in each city is likely to include a full day or even a weekend of fun and activities.

After your race, you can stick around the venue to play games, socialize, enjoy some beer from the local brewery, watch the podium ceremonies or sample some food from one of the local vendors. For example, try the brand new Salty Marie event In Sault Ste Marie.

three girls wave on a stage with their prizes after a bike race
Feel proud that you showed up, no matter how you perform. Photo: Jonathan Portinga Photo // @tingadinga

8. Feeling pride in your accomplishment

Whether the goal is to earn a spot on your age group podium or simply to complete an event, we can all find something to be proud of at the end of a bike race. For many people, just signing up for a future event provides the inspiration and motivation to make healthy choices and establish a positive routine in the weeks leading up to a race. Setting a goal and seeing it through to completion leads to a sense of accomplishment that is so contagious, you will find yourself immediately looking for the next opportunity to race again.

A great way to get started with formal racing is the Tour of Kincardine, a fun yet competitive way to kick off the cycling season in mid-May.

two younger cyclists look at a table with race prizes while a crowd sits on the grass behind them
It’s not all about winning. Photo: Jonathan Portinga Photo // @tingadinga

9. You don’t need to win the race to be a winner

Most bike races feature a prize table with donations from local businesses. The best part of the prize draws is that they are always random, so even if you finish the race in last place with a flat tire, you still have a good chance of taking home a sweet prize.

Dan Fiorito, manager of Rollin’ Thunder bike shop in Thunder Bay, believes that when local businesses like his support the local races, they are helping people to embrace a healthy, active lifestyle. “We hope to encourage participation and inspire a love for the sport in riders of all ages and skill levels,” Fiorito says.

three cans of local craft beer sit on a red table while people watch a performance on stage behind
Celebrate—you deserve it! Photo: Jonathan Portinga Photo // @tingadinga

10. The afterparty never disappoints

Even when the race is over, there is still fun to be had. It might be the simple act of enjoying a beverage and telling race stories with a few buddies in the parking lot, or it could be a full-blown festival with music and food. Regardless of how big or small the post-race social gathering is, it will always be a highlight that helps keep the good vibes flowing long after you cross the finish line. The 8-hour Enduro at the Mansfield Outdoor Centre, the Sea Otter Canadian Bike Festival in Collingwood and Hardwood Hills’ Summer Epic 8-Hour Relay are prime examples of events that include great biking with a fun party.

a bicycle is parked in front of a lighted stage while musicians perform in the evening after a race
Experience all the fun of riding a bike race in Ontario. Photo: Jonathan Portinga Photo // @tingadinga

Sign up for a bike race today

There are many great reasons to try a bike race in Ontario—and having some good healthy fun with friends or family ranks right at the top for most people. Regardless of whether you are an experienced rider or brand new to the sport, you are sure to find a category and a distance that are just right for you.

Even those who would not consider themselves to be the competitive type will discover that simply participating is incredibly fun, rewarding and a great way to motivate yourself while meeting some of the amazing people involved in the sport of cycling.

About Keith Ailey

Keith Ailey is a visual artist, writer and high school teacher based in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He spends all his free time hiking, biking, paddling and skiing with his family in the beautiful outdoor surroundings of Northwestern Ontario.

Recommended Articles

Ontario Bike Law

Know your rights and responsibilities.

Mountain Bike Races & Events in Ontario

Find out when these experiences are running in 2024.

Gravel Grinders

Ontario’s best gravel riding events in 2024.

E-Biking Bliss

Everything you need to know about riding your electric bike in Ontario

Ultimate Guide to Road Cycling Events

Discover Ontario's best races and events in 2024.

13 Spectacular Bike Rides

Where to see the best of the province.

Ride the Best Bike Parks in Ontario

Choose from pump tracks, jump parks, and downhill mountain biking.

Bike in the Shadow of a Sleeping Giant

Best year-round bike trails at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.

Bike Rental and Shops

Where to rent or buy bikes in Ontario.

Best Bikepacking Routes

11 unforgettable trip options in Ontario.

Timmins Bike Adventures

5 terrific trail networks you need to ride.

Lakeside Bike Rides

Spectacular waterfront routes for every cyclist.

Bikes, Lakes and Brews

Take a refreshing self-guided bike tour in Ontario.

A Complete Guide to Cycling in North Bay

What to check out at this up-and-coming cycling hot spot.

Sudbury’s Best Bike Rides

Your ultimate guide to cycling the City of Lakes.

Expand Your Cycling Bucket List

Discover your next adventure now.

Ride Gravel

Ontario's 9 best off-road adventures on two wheels.

Best Ontario Cycling Events

Road biking, mountain biking, BMX, cyclecross and more.

Camp & Bike

12 bike-friendly campgrounds in Ontario.

Go Now

The only things missing from Manitoulin Island are you and your bicycle.