by Joe Meissner | January 2023
Here we are in the midst of our southwestern Ontario winter: wind and snow, cold and repeat. Our activities have been restricted to scraping car windows, shovelling snow, maybe a walk around the block or to the mailbox. What else is there to do? Well, if you have a bicycle, how about getting out for a ride?
Waterloo Region is a great year-round cycling destination. Want to experience the best of Waterloo Region by bike? The new Cycling Guide app includes curated recreational rides developed by Explore Waterloo Region and Ontario By Bike to provide inspiration for your visit! Discover charming destinations, bicycle-friendly businesses and learn more about Waterloo Region while riding your bike. Cycling Guide is free to download and is available for both iPhone and Android.
And, if you want a little cycling inspiration from a local, here are some of my favourite routes to get you out and enjoying a winter ride in Waterloo Region.
Winter Cycling is for Everyone
For the kind of winter riding that I enjoy the most in Waterloo Region, find a local trail or seek out the myriad gravel roads that surround our small rural towns and get ready for a winter adventure. In my area, some trails are winter maintained, including the Spurline Trail and the Iron Horse Trail. As well, a number of community trails are interesting to ride–the Health Valley Trail and the Kissing Bridge Trail come to mind–keep in mind some of these trails might be a little rough, and I’d suggest using a mountain bike or fat bike in order to soak up some of the bumps.
While I enjoy riding these trails, my go-to winter rides are geared toward the gravel roads. They are quiet (i.e. few cars) and even when these roads are snow-covered, they offer enough grip to keep the rubber side down. The scenery tends to have a pristine quality, and whether you’re riding solo or with a group, the silence can be wonderfully surreal. However, keep in mind that after a big snowfall, you might consider waiting a couple of days for the plows to do their thing and the sun to melt any residual snow. After a day or two these roads are then truly wonderful to ride on.
Local Routes to Get You Started
While getting out and riding in the winter is enough of a reward in itself, there is another reason to get out and ride – it’s a chance to check out the shops and galleries you’ll discover along the way and speak with the locals you’ll meet there. Generally in the small towns you will ride through, you can find a café or small restaurant with good hot coffee and locally made treats (check out Bonnie Lou’s Cafe in Floradale or Anna Mae’s in Millbank). If you’re riding along the maintained trails throughout Kitchener, Waterloo or Cambridge, you can find a number of bicycle friendly places to stop and refresh before getting back out in the cool air.
This loop provides a route and suggested stops to get you started. It starts at Waterloo Square and takes you along the Iron Horse Trail. This trail passes right by Belmont Village, so it would be a good opportunity for an early stop at Lady Glaze Doughnuts. You can then continue along the Iron Horse Trail towards Victoria Park, and if you didn’t stop already you could make a pit stop at City Café Bakery before continuing into the park. After making your way through the park you will leave via Water Street. Here you will ride some protected bike lanes that continue along Weber Street until you reach the Spurline Trail at Wilhelm Street. You can then take the Spurline trail straight back to Waterloo Square, unless you make a pit stop at the Café Pyrus Outpost or CE Food Experience & Bakery.
For a slightly longer ride to see more of what Downtown Kitchener has to offer, after Victoria Park you could continue a little further along this route.
More information on Waterloo Region trails and inspiration for your cycling itinerary can be found here.
Being outside on a bike in this coldest season is not only fun, but very therapeutic. There are so many places to see and the rewards (in the form of fresh air, exercise and delicious coffee and treats) are all worth the effort. Enjoy your explorations!
Joe Meissner is a cyclist living in Woolwich Township in Waterloo Region. He prefers life on two, human-powered and pedal driven wheels and is always on the hunt for new roads and trails to ride. You might find him exploring uncharted dirt roads, embarking on family cycling adventures with his wife and three kids, training for an epic ride, or simply commuting by bicycle to work. You can find him on facebook and twitter, but check out him out instagram for daily two-wheeled inspiration.