Reliving The North Bay & Lakes Cycling Tour

This weekend-long cycling tour in North Bay offered good times, friendly faces and beautiful shots. Discover Ontario by Bike this summer!

Last August I was invited to North Bay, Ontario, to document a unique weekend-long cycle tour involving 3 different loops varying in length from 39 to 68 kilometers. The sold-out tour was organized by Ontario by Bike who planned the route and also booked accommodations for participants. The only thing you needed to bring was a bike. With beautiful summer weather in the forecast, riders from all over the province were eager for the first ride to commence on Friday, August 25th.

a pack of cyclists on the North Bay and Lakes Cycling Tour riding together up a paved road surrounded by thick green forest on all sides.

Typically for Destination Ontario photoshoots, we use ‘models’ (aka local volunteers) and we stage a good portion of the action to obtain the required visual assets. For the North Bay & Lakes Tour, it was a different scenario because these were avid cyclists who signed up to ride a tour, not participate in a photoshoot. My assignment was to capture the stunning beauty of the ride while blending into the background as much as possible and not being a distraction to the participants.

Always up for a new challenge, Friday morning rolled around and I loaded my rental car with camera gear and headed for North Bay with designs of getting an iconic shot of the entire group departing in formation. As luck (or lack thereof) would have it, I missed the group shot I wanted by five minutes (*sigh*) but luckily came across one of the organizers from Ontario by Bike who was at the back of the pack on ‘sweeper duty’ (sweeping is being the last rider in a large group to ensure no one is left behind) and they proceeded to hand me a detailed paper map of the 3 planned routes. This was exactly what I needed and would allow me to get ahead of the main group so I could start strategically staking out the best shooting locations. Beautiful!

a cyclist waves at the camera, followed by closely by another while riding down a stretch of smooth paved forest road on the North Bay and Lakes Cycling Tour. two happy cyclists on the North Bay and Lakes Cycling Tour ride along a stretch of smooth highway that runs along a tall brown rock face dotted with green saplings.
Getting intel from a sweeper helped to stake out some great shots.

With most of my past tourism projects being power sports related it was a nice change to trade the loud noise of an internal combustion engine for the faint whirring of tires on the pavement mixed with the light clicks of shifting gears. I’ve been to the North Bay region dozens of times but what really struck me is how much more scenic the landscape is when you aren’t flying past it at 80kmh in a vehicle.  The 3 selected loops were incredibly beautiful right from the start and had a plethora of different terrain set as the backdrop for the cyclists. It was made up of gently rolling hills, winding roads, lush green farmland, dense forests and best of all several lake sections.

a row of cyclists pedal along a smooth, rolling stretch of paved road edged by dense green forest on the North Bay and Lakes Cycling Tour. 3 cyclists pedal happily along a smooth paved trail shaded by thick green forest on a sunny summer day. They are biking the North Bay and Lakes Cycling Tour near North Bay Ontario.
Long, smooth road segments and beautiful vistas make this tour a cyclist's dream.

From a cycling perspective, the asphalt was in quite good condition, smooth with minimal bumps. There were a few places with dirt roads but the vast majority was pavement. Regarding elevation, it had just about everything—small manageable hills, and steep grades where you could see the most experienced riders thriving while some of the less seasoned ones were labouring to get to the crest. To their credit, even those who had to push made it to the top and carried on with a smile.

a cyclist smiles and holds her arms outstretched at her sides as she coasts along a smooth paved forest trail along the North Bay and Lakes Cycling Tour.
Participants on the tour were obviously enjoying themselves despite the exhertion. 

Throughout each loop there were designated group rest stops where cyclists could grab a bite to eat, hydrate, post to social media and most importantly socialize with other attendees all of whom share a deep passion for cycling. A key component to rides like these that span large distances on public roads is the support infrastructure supplied by Ontario by Bike. For each day there were staff riding in the front and rear of the main groups to ensure no one was left behind and in case any issues arose.  Another nice touch was a designated support vehicle that was available at each stop to offer drinks, tools for minor repairs and medical assistance in case any issues popped up (thankfully none did).

a group of dismounted cyclists standing and talking next to their bikes at the side of the road next to a black van with an open back door, labelled "support vehicle". It is a sunny summer day near North Bay Ontario and there are lush green trees shading the road. a sign on the side of a black vehicle which has a bicycle logo and reads "Ontario by Bike Support Vehicle". dismounted cyclists smiling and chatting during the North Bay & Lakes Cycling Tour. a long table seated with many dining cyclists on an outdoor patio. They are socializing at the end of a long ride during the North Bay & Lakes Cycling Tour. A bike seat, rack and back tire are in the foreground.
Friendly, well-organized support staff and a welcoming crowd of cyclists made for a fun social environment over the weekend.

What really impressed me was how accommodating the riders were in having a photographer following them around to document the journey. I got lots of friendly waves and greetings as we meandered through the countryside. I could really tell these people from all walks of life shared a genuine passion for riding their bikes. This was particularly evident when the ride concluded on Sunday back at the South River Brewing Co. where many had gathered for food and refreshments on the patio recounting the last three days.

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a relatively new rider I’d highly recommend contacting Ontario by Bike to arrange one of their tours this summer, in fact, I’m trying to round up a couple of friends and try one out myself!

For more information go to

About Virgil Knapp

Virgil Knapp is a freelance motorsports photographer and writer.

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