Mississippi Mills became the first small community in Eastern Ontario to receive a Bicycle Friendly Community Award from the Share the Road Cycling Coalition (2016). “It’s not given out lightly,” says local cycling advocate Jeff Mills of the award, which requires applicants to go through a rigorous application process. Among other things, the Lanark County community had to prove that it encourages cycling, enforces road-sharing laws and provides infrastructure to support cyclists.
Clustered around Canada’s Mississippi River (yes, the Ontario version), the small communities that make up Mississippi Mills are great destinations for recreational riders. After cycling quiet roads past picture-perfect farms, they can photograph the scenic five-arched stone bridge in Pakenham, refuel with lunch in a converted riverside mill in Almonte, visit small museums or kick back in conservation areas.
The community is so keen to foster cycling that it holds Mississippi Mills Bicycle Month each June. Events include rides for beer lovers and birders, screenings of cycling documentaries, the 100K Tour de Mississippi Mills, a street party, and musical and theatre performances with a cycling theme. The month-long celebration even features a challenge between Lanark and Renfrew counties to see whose residents can log the most kilometres travelled by bike in a month.
The other big news in Lanark County cycling is the opening of Heritage Bikes and Rentals in Perth, Ontario. Beyond simply renting bikes (although they do indeed do that), company president Julie Brunelle and her husband Pete Wood are also keen to introduce locals and visitors alike to the unique history and attractions of Lanark County.
“I want to show people things only locals know,” Brunelle says. She and Wood have forged relationships with local sites ranging from a flower farm in Balderson to the Fieldworks open-air art installation.
Tours include a one-hour route through the historic town of Perth, known for its pretty limestone buildings. There are also four countryside tours ranging from a 25km excursion to a bakery and a cheese shop to longer trips focusing on mines, trains, the Rideau Canal and more. Cyclists can do these on their own or ride with a guide.
Brunelle emphasizes that you don’t have to be a Tour de France-style athlete to take one of her company’s tours. “The bike movement has changed a bit,” she explains. More and more casual riders are becoming interested in “slow biking”—touring on two wheels that focuses more on the sights than the distance. Heritage Bikes plans to serve both markets.
So come explore Lanark County from a bike saddle. You may not need Lycra shorts…but you should definitely bring your appetite and a camera.
Mississippi Mills Bicycle Month: https://mmbm.ca/
Heritage Bikes and Rentals: http://www.heritagebikesandrentals.com/
Photo by Shawn De Salvo