The Ultimate Guide to Snowbiking in Ontario
Snowbiking is one of the amazing winter adventures available to thrill-seekers here in Northern Ontario. With few restrictions on where you can go and no limit on the amount of fun you can have, this sport is the unknown now known. Here are some of the key things to know about one of Ontario's amazing winter sports.
Get ready to get into snowbiking!
What is snowbiking?
A snowbike is the perfect vehicle for exploring snowy Ontario this winter. It's basically a mashup between a motocross bike and a snowmobile. If you know how to ride a bike, there's a good chance you'll be a natural at snowbiking. All you need is a regular dirt bike or motocross bike and a conversion kit. You can also rent snowbikes at various locations and from outfitters across the province including Muskoka Wild.
the bikes: choosing and outfitting a snowbike
The first thing you’re going to need is a reliable and well-maintained bike. The most common motorcycles to convert are off-road or motocross-style bikes. The simple answer is yes both motorcycles with two and four-stroke engines make great snowbikes—however, each has its own unique characteristics like how they perform on dirt. Two strokes have zingy controllable power and four strokes dominate with arm pulling, hill climbing torque.
Second to the bike is the track kit & ski, the two most popular being Yeti SnowMX and Timbersled kits however there are others. After the bike and kit, you need and will enjoy a basket full of goodies for your bike including snow-specific air intake set-up, thermostat, carburetor heater, engine jacket, handguards, and even coolant heated handlebars if you wish. Snowbiking has had more than a decade of technological progress so there are a ton of accessories and parts to customize and winterize your motorcycle.
The friends: why the snowbiking Community is awesome
More Snowbikes = More Fun. It’s as true today as when I first coined the saying many years ago. The snowbike community locally here in Ontario, across North America and in fact globally is like one big family. Although riding your bike is a solo endeavor riding is often a team effort, more on that later; with that in mind the SnowBike community is always willing to lend a hand, share knowledge, advance your enjoyment, and of course, ensure you return home on each ride. Social media has been a great tool and facebook groups such as SnowBike Ontario and Timbersled, Yeti, & Anything Snowbikes are fantastic places to gain a ton of knowledge from fellow riders, share best practices, and have a few laughs. These groups are the encyclopedias of the snowbike world. Best of all it’s a great way to connect with other riders and join up to ride together.
The Rides: where to ride your snowbike in ontario
As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. So if you are too snowbiking is something you should consider getting into. You will more than likely be taking your ride into the deep depths of Northern Ontario’s wilderness and you’re going to do this with your riding buddies! Snowbike riders are somewhat of a special breed, were not content with the road well-travelled or pre-groomed, (more on “groomed” later)—we get our thrills by seeking out and accessing those remote backcountry locations that are otherwise inaccessible. The stories, adventures, and camaraderie built within a snow bike crew are often incomprehensible to “outsiders” who stare back with a dazed look asking, “You did what? You went where?” The hashtags used by our ever-expanding group—#IntoTheUnknown, #AnyWhereYouWantToGo and #ThisIsNarnia—are an accurate picture of our adventures. Each ride is different, with constantly changing snow conditions, new wilderness to explore with each challenge always being a uniquely original experience.
Pre-planning rides is critical to their success and the enjoyment of the entire crew, with that in mind I implore you to be a snowbike steward and not trespass on private property or ride on OFSC snowmobile trails. Snowbikes are not permitted on OFSC Snowmobile Trails. Ten out of 10 snowbike riders will tell you they prefer to be off in the soft powder untouched snow vs. on a groomed packed trail so don’t even waste your time thinking about riding on Ontario’s Snowmobile Club trails. Please familiarize yourself with acceptable riding locations or check out the Crown Land Use Atlas.
the events: Snowbiking Events in Ontario
There are now three official SnowBike events in Ontario. Two of these events are connected to form the only Snowbike Challenge Event series in Ontario. The first-ever official SnowBike event was hosted by Rally Connex and is dubbed the Wawa Snowdown. 2022 marked the Snowdown’s 5th year and each year the competition stiffens as riders improve. Nevertheless, this event is also perfect for newer riders as it’s a GPS Waypoint Challenge vs. an all-out race! Stamina, strategy, and teamwork are critical as you navigate demanding terrain, elaborate natural obstacles and strenuous deep snow. The event goal is over multiple days to reach as many of the pre-placed and GPS downloaded waypoint flags collecting your tokens, at the close of the event during the banquet you hand in your tokens which determines your total points, the more points you get the more tickets you get for the chance to win a ton of great prizes. The 2nd event is hosted by Valley Rally Enduro – SNOVR, the format is the same as the Snowdown as you will be challenged with various waypoint locations. Both these events combined form the Boondocking the Boonies Snowbike Series. The third event is the Cabin Fever, also hosted by RalleyConex also involves GPS navigation in the Muskoka Region, an area known for deep lake effect snow and rugged terrain.
the race: snowbike Racing in Ontario
The Canadian Snowcross Racing Association (CSRA) has a race class specifically for snowbikes, with 7 races across Ontario there are plenty of opportunities to match up against fellow racers and throttle towards to finish line. The competition is varied with Snowmobile Snowcross Racers, Motocross Racers as well as regular riders just looking to have fun, they even have a class for kids on 110cc converted bikes. Check out the CSRA website and on Facebook.
the gear: snowbiking Gear
Whether you are exploring the backcountry or racing you’re going to need high-quality protective gear. This includes
- a powersports helmet and eye protection,
- a winter snowmobile suit,
- warm gloves
- and either snowmobile or snowbike specific boots.
I highly recommend investing in high-quality underlayers that are breathable and wick away sweat. During your snowbike ride you're going to get a workout and it's incredibly important that you can stay warm and dry out in the elements. Note that I find the best set-up is multiple underlayers and an uninsulated shell onesie snowsuit is the best set-up. In terms of backcountry exploration, it's recommended you carry a suite of safety gear including a first aid kit, emergency fire-starting materials and various tools. Our group utilizes BCA radios to communicate with each other during rides, this not only creates a ton of laughs between the crew but it’s a major safety consideration as you can easily become separated from your riding buddies in the forest. A fully charged working cell phone with GPS capabilities and or a GPS is an important tool as well for navigation and communication. If you’re going to be venturing out of cell service, I’d highly recommend a Garmin In-Reach or SPOT device.
On that note, it’s important to consider you’re venturing into the wilds of Northern Ontario. You’ll navigate challenging terrain in areas with no cell service and in some cases no access roads. There may only be one way in and out. So, you need to be prepared for anything and everything that can happen. You must know and accept that it's at your own risk. Have respect for where you are and what you are doing—use your head out there.
More Snowbikes = More Fun. I hope this article inspires you to get into the amazing sport of winter converted track and ski motorcycle riding! See you in the Backcountry!
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