We love riding in Ontario. And we love debating the best routes, roads, and destinations. To finally settle the score, we reached out to our most avid motorcycling friends and asked them to tell us definitively: What's the best place to ride in Ontario? We got a lot of passionate replies—from a truck stop to a city of waterfalls. Which one is your fav?
The best place to ride in Ontario is...
The Niagara Escarpment north of Lake Ontario (Milton area).
Before we get into the details of my trip, first, an update on my ride.
So what happens when your motorcycle is out of action in the middle of a pandemic? You switch to a scooter, of course!
So it came to pass that my much used-and-abused 1998 Suzuki GS 500 was on its last legs, unceremoniously towed to Fada Motorrad, my local repair shop. I was looking forward to a long and eventful riding season, seeing that with current lockdowns, there wasn’t much to do aside from getting a leg over, hitting the starter and twisting the throttle to wherever.
And now, that wasn’t happening.
Borders were closed and parts were harder and harder to source, so it seemed that I’d be resigned to riding pillion on my partner Georgette’s Vespa for the rest of the season. After a few glum weeks, I received a reprieve in the form of an email: a friend had sent me a message that his girlfriend had upgraded and she was looking for a buyer for her 2009 Aprilia Scarabeo 200 scooter.
I had owned one previously and knew that it was a nimble, responsive scoot that handled more like a motorcycle with its 16” wheels. The fact that it was fully highway-capable (great power-to-weight ratio) made it that much more attractive, and she was willing to let it go to a good home for $1000…
The Scarabeo instantly became my time machine, taking me back a decade to when hot summer evenings consisted of bombing around Toronto, when the traffic turned to a trickle. With Georgie riding alongside, we got a lot of urban miles in, getting reacquainted with night photography by capturing the city lights.
Our days were spent doing day trips within striking distance of the Big Smoke. A friend, Steven Troupe, (and his fleet of vintage Italian bikes), introduced us to the backroads around Milton and Burlington – great twisty roads, both relaxing and challenging, including the dirty, fearsome blind hairpin up the Escarpment on Appleby Line, to Rattlesnake Point. We became explorers, making new discoveries around every bend.
At the same time, Georgie had struck a friendship with The Piper Doves, a cool, all-girl scooter group. Stylish and colourful, their retro-styled modern machines were perfect for getting them to-and-fro on their vintage clothing runs. Consisting of mostly new riders, they were in the midst of discovering the thrill of life on 2 wheels. Their growing riding ambition had them looking past Toronto’s borders, and westward towards Hamilton for their next run.
Now scootering is a different beast, with a little more to think about than just heading out on the highway and speeding on until you get to the curvy roads. Tanks are small, so you have to factor in gas stops, as well as breaks for when a scoot’s unforgiving suspension takes it out on your body on bumpy secondary roads. You’d be lucky to get 200km in a day (which is something that fellow Mad Bastard Scooter Rally veterans would take issue with, but I digress).
A seasoned scooterist will turn these stops into enjoyable activities. Whether it’s thrift shops (ample storage under that seat and in the top box), quaint cafes, or ice cream joints to beat the heat, there’s always something fun to do down the road.
A sunny, late-July morning greeted us in The Junction, with the group assembling for breakfast at The Purple Onion diner. I led on The Scabby, while Georgie swept on Coco, her 300cc Vespa. Riding west towards our first bike-friendly stop – Back Road Coffee Roasters in Port Credit – the Doves were riding smoothly, in perfect staggered formation. As we had our first proper coffee of the day, I suggested that we take a more interesting way than the busier Lakeshore route that was originally planned.
Our first stop at Back Road Coffee Roasters in Port Credit. // Photo credit: Georgette Peters and Armando Lulu
Tacking north up winding-and-diving Mississauga Road, we turned west and battled city traffic on Eglinton Avenue. Crossing into Halton Region, the traffic died down as Eglinton morphed into Lower Base Line, with its fields, barns, and wicked turns as it wound through a couple of valleys.
After a watermelon stop in Lowville Park, we took in what the western part of Brittania Road offered us – lush greenery, rollercoaster hills, and a happy ending – a challenging uphill turn with an abrupt stop at Cedar Springs Road.
Heading south again, we aimed for Waterdown. We had arranged to meet the Hammer Down Scooter Club in Hamilton at a certain time, so we saved Smokey Hollow Waterfall for another ride and took on the legendary Snake Road. For the Doves, it was pure enjoyment – their first time riding twisties, a full contrast to the traffic, potholes, speed bumps, and red lights of Toronto.
With tiny wheels, so close to the ground, flying around Snake’s curves, even within the speed limit, is exhilarating, to say the least.
At Steeltown Garage, around 20 big bikes were there to witness the rare sight of a girl gang roaring in on their wee machines. Nothing elicits cheers, honks, and hollers more than a parade of scooters – kids’ eyes light up, women wave, and tough guys give the thumbs up – and Barton and James, Hamilton was no exception.
When the usual suspects found out that we rode in from Toronto, their expressions changed from bemusement to respect…
We refuelled with even more caffeine and checked out Steeltown’s retail store (hooray, you can finally browse inside!), the HammerDowns offered to give us a tour of their city in the form of a short downtown ride, ending up off Locke St., which was closed to vehicular traffic that day, for the enjoyment of pedestrians.
After a late lunch at The West Town Bar and Grill, we enjoyed sweet treats at Donut Monster. Back on the scoots, our hosts escorted us to Bayshore Park in Burlington, which has great lakeside views of the Skyway, and industrial Hamilton. When we got there, the skies had turned ominous and a decision was made to take the most direct way home, through one last set of twists on North Shore Blvd.
We just beat the rain and made it back to Toronto after a couple of hours of straight riding. Big smiles all around, no one noticed how saddle-sore we were after our 11-hour day trip.
At least not until the next day…
What makes this route so special?
A twistier, more interesting way to get to Hamilton than the busy Lakeshore route. Curvy, but forgiving for new riders. Scenery along the way is phenomenal.
The ideal amount of time to spend on this ride/route?
There and back on a small-displacement bike with plenty of stops—plan for 9-11 hours.
Where's the must-stop place along here?
So many places, depending on where you meander.
On this trip, Lowville is exactly what the name implies – a town at the bottom of a valley that Guelph Line dives into. A rest stop under a tree in Lowville Park is a must.
If you could pick a soundtrack that captures the experience/vibe of this ride, what would it be?
The Who – I Can See For Miles And Miles
The Kinks – Dandy
Deep Purple – Hush
Pink Floyd – Bike
Polite Society – The Medusa Malfunction
13th Floor Elevators – You’re Gonna Miss Me
Montrose – Bad Motor Scooter
The Stone Roses – Fool’s Gold
Guided by Voices – Motor Away
The Beethoven Frieze – Chameleon Blazer
(My old psychedelic indie band – just had to get it in there…)