Exploring Essex County by bike
When the group of 35+ riders set off from Comber on the Saturday of the 2018 Labour Day long weekend here in Canada, it was already heating up and most knew it was bound to be scourcer. It didn’t take long for riders of the Essex Windsor Loop, an opens in a new windowOntario By Bike Ride and small group tour, to get right into the quiet countryside amongst the corn fields and wind turbines.
It certainly brought back memories for many returning riders who rode our Uxbridge Kawartha Rail Trail weekend in 2017. opens in a new windowWe stated in a previous blog post that that tour will go down in history as the hottest one. This one may have topped it and the turbines gave no reprieve.
This was the first time an Ontario By Bike Ride had been hosted in Essex County and the region delivered a wonderful cycling experience, leaving many of our ride participants with lasting memories and a desire to return.
Here’s the nitty gritty about the route:
Day 1 – Comber to Windsor – 52km
The group set off from Comber Community Centre and headed north, quickly connecting to agricultural lands, towards the southern shores of Lake St. Clair. The views stretch on for days in Essex County, which is known for being relatively flat. It makes for a warm day with little coverage from trees, but also for a fun ride full of great views and easy riding with friends.
Connecting to the opens in a new windowGreat Lakes Waterfront Trail, we continued heading west towards the city of Windsor. The morning ride took us past sleepy cottage communities along Lake St. Clair into the community of Belle River. Our lunch spot for the day was at opens in a new windowLakeview Park West Beach & Marina and was a welcomed stop after a hot morning of riding with shaded picnic tables, washrooms, beach views and an ice cream vendor! Our boxed lunches were provided by opens in a new windowIron Kettle B&B in Comber. Certified as a opens in a new windowFeastON culinary provider, as well as a opens in a new windowcertified bicycle friendly accommodation. Benjamin (the chef and proprietor) nailed it, leaving our guests more than satisfied and refueled for the afternoon ride.
In Belle River, we were met by Tom and Sue, founders of opens in a new windowShare the Road – Essex County, an independent and unfunded, regional cycling advocacy group. Amazing people and great ride companions, they set off with the group heading west towards our next stop of the day, opens in a new windowUrban Surf Co. Located along a river’s edge on the eastern end of Windsor, they serve up great smoothies and cool drinks and was the perfect spot to regroup and rest up on a hot day.
Our final routing into Windsor included road riding along Riverside Drive, a portion of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, before connecting to the opens in a new windowGanatchio Trail, a paved off-road trail. After some additonal road riding, this route connected to the stunning opens in a new windowRiverfront Trail along Windsor’s waterfront parklands with a stunning view across the Detroit River to ‘Motown’.
Our hotel, the opens in a new windowBest Western Plus, was located on Riverside Drive, a stone’s throw to the Riverfront Trail. A very bicycle friendly hotel, guests were allowed to roll their bikes right into the lobby and leave them in a secure conference room for the night (or bring the bikes up to their room). After a hot day, many enjoyed a swim in the pool and a visit to opens in a new windowCraft Heads Brewing Company, the location for our group social that evening.
Day 2 – Windsor to Leamington – 73km
We started off with a ride along Riverfront Trail, heading southwest as we started our curve along the edge of the peninsula passing under the Ambassador Bridge. A short section of quiet city streets and park trails connected the group to the brand new and paved opens in a new windowHerb Gray Parkway Trail, which runs adjacent to the Herb Gray Parkway a new highway in Windsor. An absolutely amazing path that criss-crosses above and below the highway for nearly 17km, taking our group southeast out of Windsor and connecting to the opens in a new windowChrysler Greenway Trail, a 48km crushed stone rail trail.
Our 30km morning ride led us to our schedule break stop, the opens in a new windowEssex County Steam and Gas Engine Museum. Volunteer led, the organizer’s opened up their doors just for our tour giving us an opportunity to cool down, refill water bottles and visit the amazing collection of agricultural machinery that worked the lands we rode through this weekend. After a short stop, the group set off to our lunch destination at opens in a new windowColio Estate Winery in Harrow. Located just off the trail, the winery was a perfect stop for lunch, with its covered pavillion and air conditioned tasting room. We were met again by Tom and Sue from Share the Road – Essex County, who took a group of riders south to ride on County Road 50 through one of opens in a new windowOntario’s emerging wine regions.
For many others, our afternoon ride continued along the rail trail through Kingsville and on to Leamington. After short stops in opens in a new windowdowntown Kingsville (a must if you’re riding in the area), opens in a new windowMettawas Station Restaurant (an amazing trail-side Mediterrean restaurant in a converted rail station) and opens in a new windowPelee Island Winery (another must visit, trail-side attraction), the group got in to Leamington late afternoon. After settling into our hotel for the evening, the opens in a new windowcertified bicycle friendly Quality Inn and Suites Leamington, riders headed off to local eateries, hungry from riding over 70km that day. Many made their way to the beaches of Lake Erie and Seacliff Park for an ice cream and to watch a sunset before calling it an evening.
Day 3 – Leamington to Comber – 61km
On the final day of riding, the group set off early to head south out of Leamington to opens in a new windowPoint Pelee National Park. A beautiful section of road riding into the park was made more enjoyable with frequent views of Lake Erie and marsh lands, as well as the tree-covered route through the park itself.
A stop into the fantastic Visitor Centre and a trip down to ‘The Tip’ was a highlight for many, as was the walk out into the wetlands along a boardwalk.
The day continued with road riding back into Leamington and a picnic lunch in opens in a new windowRick Atkin Park where guest enjoyed views of the opens in a new windowPelee Island Ferry and Leamington waterfront. After lunch, riders began their ride north, through Leamington, connecting to the Trans Canada Trail that runs for 18km to Comber. While a little rocky at first, and with storm clouds approaching, only a few got caught in a shower before making it back to Comber Community Centre and the end destination for this 3-day tour.
Additional Visitor Information:
Use below to find out more about riding the area. Be sure to plan to stay an extra day or two to see more.
Getting To/From Start:
Comber is conveniently located just south of Hwy 401, on County Road 77 exit (#77) and is 35 minutes east of Windsor, 1.5 hours west of London.
Arriving Early / Staying Late:
Consider an overnight option at the certified bicycle friendly opens in a new windowThe Iron Kettle Bed & Breakfast in Comber or stay at other nearby Ontario By Bike Network accommodations in opens in a new windowWindsor Essex or opens in a new windowChatham-Kent.
What a season!
We’ve wrapped up our small group tours for 2018, having ridden over 500km with more than 125 cyclists in 4 amazing destinations across Ontario! Visit our Ontario By Bike Ride page below to download one of the self-guided itineraries and ride any one of our past routes on your own!