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Trail riding cycles the balance between profit and fun

Local volunteers with the SCMBC work hard for residents seeking outdoor activity
2020-06-18 dh
At the entrance to The Tip, located on Wilson Road north of Golf Link Road, is an SCMBC sign informing trail riders of all experience levels to their involvement. Derek Howard photo.

When master poet William Shakespeare penned “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, one wonders if the intent would extend toward the Simcoe County Mountain Bike Club’s trail area formerly known to locals as “The Dump,” signifying its proximity to North Simcoe's waste facility location.

“Some people didn't like the name The Dump, so we just started calling it The Tip— which actually means The Dump (in British slang) anyways,” explains Joel Andrews, Midland’s regional director for the bike club (SCMBC).

And yet, rubbish is the worst description that should be applied to the lush woodlot that was crafted by the SCMBC for its riders. The 15-kilometre packed-dirt trail has been carefully sculpted and is dutifully maintained with prideful frequency.

The Tip is loaded with features for riders just starting out or who are veterans to the activity. Rock gardens and log overs are a few of the design choices as well as the gentle paths throughout.

“That’s the great part about the sport,” says Andrews. “You can mitigate the risk and make it as dangerous as you want it to be, or, you can just go out there and ride casual. And I think that’s one of the big reasons why it’s getting so popular as well.”

As of the date of this article, the Simcoe County forestry department has issued a statement on its website reminding residents to adhere to all COVID-19 Public Health and Provincial regulations.

“If you are to be self-isolating, do not use the Simcoe County Forest,” the statement reads. “We respect that those who can get outdoors during this pandemic, may use these trails for exercise and fresh air. However, you must maintain the safe physical distance of at least two metres apart from others as per the Provincial Order.”

There are signs at all the trail entrances reminding people to make sure they’re practising social distancing.

“We're actually very fortunate up here in our area and throughout Simcoe County,” says Andrews of the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on trail riding, “because the forestries never shut the forest down like they did in York and Durham Regions. We were able to ride the whole time.”

Andrews points out that other than not being able to have large groups out to build or maintain the trails at the beginning of the season, the region’s biking scene is very strong right now.

“Bike shops can't keep stuff on the shelf; they're selling bikes like crazy,” he says.

Total Sports The Bike Shop sales and service manager Colby Matthews agrees: “We’re almost sold out of all our bikes. We have just a couple more left, even from our suppliers, and then we’re pretty much sold out until the end of the summer.”

Regarding the spike in demand, Matthews says, “mainly it’s just people getting out, wanting to ride their bikes because there’s not much else anyone can do. Gyms are closed, can’t go out to a party… might as well ride your bike with some friends.”

Cycling in the pandemic has been profitable in both sales of bicycles for local retail outlets, as well as sales of bike club memberships.

“We’ve already surpassed what we had for total membership last year,” Andrew says.

Memberships are $40 per year for adults, and $10 per year for youth; revenue is alloted into club funds, insurance, and the remainder toward “whatever trail region you would like to direct it to go.”

The Tip isn’t the only trail that the SCMBC has worked on. A new, as-of-yet unnamed trail is in the works for a 2021 opening.

“We have a new trail going in with the Town of Midland and we put 140 rough hours into it last year,” Andrews says of the 14 or so volunteers across the county who work on trail development.

“It’s a process. You pick the lines and then you get a group of guys together, you go out and start raking and trimming trees back, and moving logs… it's quite a lot of work.”

One key element of constructing trails is to measure the grade, with Andrews adding, “to be honest, it's mostly just experience building and experience picking lines.”

The Tip is bound by the woodlands and trail systems just southwest of Penetanguishene, within County Road 93, Robert Street West, Golf Link Road, and Overhead Bridge Road. Limited free parking spaces are available at the north end of Wilson Road and Overhead Bridge Road.

Who knows what fauna and flora a rider could encounter on the trail? It’s possible that a rose could be seen on any given day, even if its name is a bit of a thorny issue.

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