Trail Swag Interviews Rider Mel


You will recognize Mel from Rider Mel's Mountain Bike Guide to Ontario from your local bicycle store. The current (2nd) edition covers pretty much every major trail worth riding across Southern Ontario. I bumped into Mel as he was touring around Ontario working on his third edition (which should be out the beginning of next year) and sat down with him to hear more about his work.

Trail Swag: So where did the idea to do a trail book come from?

Rider Mel: I did a MOAB book first back in 2000, and fellow Ontario riders kept asking me... "Why did you do a MOAB book and there is no Ontario book?". So I checked in to it, and there were a few, but they were more of a journalistic style. Norco (who is an advertiser) was very encouraging and the local shops said that it would be great to do. So I travelled around and did the first edition, which was a lot of fun, and it did fairly well. Then I went out and did a few updates for the second edition, but now I think it's been about six years and it's time to do another update.

Trail Swag: How do you gauge when it is time for a new update?

Rider Mel: I know that there have been significant changes to some of the trails, such as construction, trails lost and new areas built. Over time it makes it harder to sell books to the shops, so I thought it was time for an update. At the same time, my son who is 15 (and an avid mountain biker) would be ideal to try and take on the book as there are a lot of business aspects to creating and selling the book.

The third edition will add trails such as Peterborough's Harold Town Conservation, the new trails at Shabomeka, the Forest Lea trails at Petawawa, and the Beachburg Tract. There will be a new map of the Don Valley, and the same with Bayview Stouffville. New stuff outside of Hilton Falls. Mansfield was in the first edition, but I had to remove it in the second edition when it became a 'fee area', but now they have the Agreement Forest. Puslinch trails were around for the second edition, but there were tail access issues. Big changes to Kanata Lakes area. I understand there are more trails at Coulson's Hill just off Highway 400 near Bolton. A new area near Sudbury. A couple of new trails near Buckwallow. Sir Sam's is new. There's a lot of new stuff near St. Catharines.

Trail Swag: What are your thoughts of how Ontario trails compare?

Rider Mel: Most people in Ontario have no clue how lucky we are. We have an unbelievable province. I think we have different style riding in comparison to other provinces. You don't have to be in the mountains to have great trails as Ontario has a tremendous number and variety. Sure, places such as California have a few great spots. I used to write for Bike Magazine and we used to write about California all the time, but I believe that we have better biking across the board. Canadians aren't big on tooting our own horn, and you believe what you read.... but you travel across this province, and you will find a tonne to do... and not just biking. Hiking, fishing, boating... almost every area of the province, it's fantastic!

There are new trails which I have to hit. I have yet to see the ones at Turkey Point, a place that most people think of as beaches and kind of flat but everyone who has been there has told me that "No, you're going to love them! Fast and fun!".  Take the Don Valley for example, you're in the middle of a huge city, and you have fantastic trails. Only Anchorage Alaska reminds me of that where trails go right through the city.

Everyone likes to complain, but we are incredibly fortunate. No matter where you live, you probably have trail options within an hours drive.

Trail Swag: Any favourites?

Rider Mel: Lots! No one favourite. I love Muskoka, it's a beautiful area with fantastic trails. Definitely some rocky stuff and I like nasty trails. I also like the Ottawa trails for mountain biking, cross country and road riding. There is a little pocket of trails out by Kitchener/Waterloo that I like too. I enjoy areas that have three or four different options. Sudbury and North Bay are fantastic, even though most people think it is too far to go.

There is a lot of surprising stuff. Cornwall this cool area called Charlottenburgh Forest. Brockville has this little area right behind the Black & Decker factory that is really fun. At one point you are on the Canadian Shield looking on to the 401.

Trail Swag: Tell me more about the book itself

Rider Mel: The book is supposed to be approachable. I trace the topographic map and then cartoon it and add points of interest. The Mel cartoons were done by a kid who is now a well sought after tattoo artist. When he originally did them, he was pumping gas for a living. The book isn't grammatically correct, as it is supposed to be as if I was actually talking to you. I have a sense of humour about myself, and it's supposed to be fun. It is geared towards those that like to travel to ride. It's pretty cool to get e-mails from people who say "We're planning our Summer vacation based on your book". It's a little scary, but if that's causing people to spend time doing things like that... to me, the world is a better place.