As motorcycle touring goes, it seems that the adventure touring movement is leading the charge and gaining momentum. With the latest ADV bikes offering comfort, reliability and go-anywhere ability, why would you settle for pavement when you can have it all? As you may have heard, Northeastern Ontario was made for adventure bikes.
OK, OK, it wasn't, but considering that the paved roads within its boundaries are outnumbered 10 to one by gravel and dirt, it might as well have been. So where do you start? I have a few suggestions – I won’t call them the best or even my favourites, because this is just the tip of the gravel iceberg and it’s too soon to make such claims. But they are a good ride on a big adventure bike and give a taste of the area’s potential.
Mattawa is one of my favourite riding destinations—a big part of that is because getting there is half the fun. Sure you can buzz along Highway 17, but just a few kilometres south you will find Pioneer Road, a meandering ribbon of gravel that takes you through a dense forest and past farmers fields. In fact you can travel the entire distance from Highway 11 to Mattawa without touching pavement.
Fox Lake Road
Heading west from Highway 6 just south of Espanola this narrow, limited maintenance road ticks off all adventure bike requirements. Rocks, gravel, soft spots, and potential mud—it can be a piece of cake one day, impassable the next.
Sultan Industrial Road
Starting west at Highway 144, this wide, gravel-covered, 100-km stretch of nothing might just be the best-known gravel road in Ontario. It's often compared to a mini-version of the Trans Labrador Highway. During the day it’s a main thoroughfare for log-moving goliaths, but late in the day and on weekends it offers middle-of-nowhere solitude.