Biking in Ottawa – Living in Ottawa Cycling and Mountain Biking Trails
I don’t know about you, but biking in Ottawa is one of my most favourite ways to get around a city! Whether you’re looking to go for a leisurely cruise or get your heart racing with a more intensive workout — cycling is a great way to see all the city has to offer and an eco-friendly mode of transportation.
In fact, back in 2012 –” the city of Ottawa received Ontario’s first-ever Gold Bicycle Friendly Community Award from the Share the Road Cycling Coalition (The Coalition) at the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference.”
With over 980-kilometres of bike lanes and multi-use pathways in the city — Ottawa is a cyclist’s dream destination, with the municipality looking to further prioritize a car-free lifestyle in the upcoming years. You can find out more by heading over to my New Official Plan video here.
In this video, I’ll be sharing with you everything you need to know about cycling in Ottawa and my top five favourite paths to explore in the city.
bike in ottawa rentals
If you’re not an avid biker and looking to just rent a bike for the day, there are a few rental spots in the city you can check out. Most shops are located in the heart of downtown Ottawa, in close proximity to the more popular bike routes around the city.
Some notable rental shops are:
RentABike and Escape Bicycle Tours and Rental also both offer guided tours if you want to learn more about some of the incredible historical landmarks found in Ottawa — or even bike tours focused on speed and distance.
Bike-tune ups and repair
Depending on how much milage you put on your bike, at least once a year minimum, you should be tuning-up your bike or bringing it into a bike shop for some TLC. Tuning you bike will prevent daily wear and tear from turning into large repairs down the road and ensure your bike is in proper working order. You don’t want your brakes or tires to stop working midway through your ride!
Sporting goods stores like Bushtukah and Kunstadt are conveniently located throughout the city but there are more specialized bike stores like Foster’s Sports Center, Fresh Air Experience and Joe Mama Cycles if you’re looking for the experts. If you already know how to tune-up your bike, head over to DIY shop and not-for-profit re-Cycles where they have all the tools you need to keep your bike in tip-top shape.
plan your route
Before you head out on your next cycling adventure, make sure you plan ahead the right bike route for you! Whether you stop along the way to have a picnic or go for a swim, check out this Ottawa-Gatineau Interactive Cycling Map powered by The National Capital Commission (NCC) to find the most enjoyable, and scenic, ride to your destination.
Pro-tip: with OC Transpo’s Rack and Roll program, you can be sure nowhere in the city is too far to bike. Ottawa’s public transit equips busses from spring to fall with bike racks to combine biking and transit with ease — while on the LRT you can bring your bike onboard all year long. Some bus stops also have a bike repair stations for minor fixes like deflated tires. You can find their location over on their website.
sunday bike days
Since 1970, the annual Nokia Sunday Bikedays program has been a long-loved city tradition. This year, in 2021, the NCC has expanded to program to Nokia Weekend Bikedays so you can enjoy car-free cycling on Saturdays as well. From May to October, several parkways which include Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway, Queen Elizabeth Driveway, Colonel By Drive and Gatineau Park, are closed to traffic. You can head over to NCC’s website to see the full schedule. Most years you can also find free bike clinics and water stations long the way.
Top Five Pathways
1. Capital Pathway Network
We can’t talk about cycling in Ottawa without talking about the Capital Pathway Network. Boasting over 200-kilometers multi-use pathways, the Capital Pathway Network connects Gatineau Park to Ottawa-Gatineau through to the Greenbelt. From parks, gardens, museums and local attractions, there’s a ton to see and do as you bike through one the most extensive pathway networks in North America.
The Ottawa River Pathway, Voyageurs Pathway and the Rideau Canal Pathway are definitely the most popular routes in the network — and for good reason too! Ride along the Ottawa River with pit stops to Parliament Hill and the War Museum, or breeze through Commissioners Park for a picnic and stop to smell the flowers along the way.
Tourism Ottawa has put out a great Sightseeing Cycling Route you can find here to see the best of what the city has to offer.
You can also check out any of the Greenbelt pathways if you’re looking for something a bit more hidden in nature.
2. Rail Trail and Winery Ride
Countryside cycling? Check. Scenic farmlands? Check. Wine and cheese tasting? Double check! This 23.4 kilometer self-guided leisurely bike tour on the Ottawa Prescott Russell rail trail is the perfect afternoon outing if you’re looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. As you explore the back roads south of the village of Navan, there are two wineries Vignoble Clos du Vully and Domaine Perrault Vineyard & Winery to stop by on the way and go for a little winery tour. Who can say no to local wine?
3. Big Ottawa Loop
New to Ottawa? This one’s for you. Embark on this moderate 31-kilometer cycling adventure that travels through a large perimeter of the Ottawa region. The adventure takes you through Carleton University and the University of Ottawa along the Ottawa Rive and into the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, Dow’s Lake and the Rideau Canal.
4. Munster Meander
Here’s a bit of a fun for the more experienced cyclists out there. This 50-kilometer bike tour is sure to hit the spot for those of you looking for a path less travelled. Explore the village of Munster as you make your way to the Old Mill in Ashton which has now been converted to an authentic English brew pub. Make a final pit-stop to Jabulani Vineyard and Winery (are you picking up on a pattern here?) before finishing your route. The Munster Meander is sure to leave your legs feeling a little sore the next day!
5. Gatineau Park
Alright — you know I can’t make any Ottawa outdoor adventure content, whether it be hiking or biking, without mentioning Gatineau Park. This moderate 25-kilometer bike ride starts at the NCC Park and Ride and makes a loop inside Gatineau Park. Make sure you pack a bathing suit with you to go for a swim midway or bring your fishing rod (and permit from most local sports and hardware stores!) and spend the afternoon relaxing by the water. Once you’re done, head over to any of the charming local restaurants in Ottawa by Hintonburg or Little Italy.
If you want to check out the full list of self-guided tours provided by the city of Ottawa, head over here >>
Notable Mention: Mountain Biking in Ottawa with all the greenery you can find within, and surrounding, the Ottawa region — it’s no surprise the city is a mountain biker’s paradise! From May to November, Gatineau Park is home to 90-kilometres of rugged terrain to explore — just be sure to give right of way to hikers. You can also find a ton of off-road cycling spots scattered across the Greenbelt region if you’re looking for areas a little quieter. If that’s not enough, for the adrenaline junkies and expert mountain bikers reading this, Camp Fortune offers incredible vertical climbs and descends — and is a popular training ground for competitive bikers across the province. During the snowier months, you can head over to The Yard which is home to Ottawa’s indoor biking and skate park all year round.