They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I find you can judge an area’s mountain biking potential by its bike shops. So, as we pull into Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, our approach to research is the same as always: type “bike shop” into the GPS and press go.
As it turns out, the nearest option, Vélorution Bike & Ski, is just around the corner. We barely get into the driveway before we realized we are in for a treat.
“Is that a pump track?” We came to Algoma Country in search of mountain bike trails but little did we know that we are about to spend all our free time hanging out at the coolest bike shop I've had the pleasure of hanging out at in Sault Ste. Marie.
Yes, that is a professionally built pump track in the front yard. Inside, world-travelled touring cyclists mingle, discussing where they've been, and where they are going. All this while taking advantage of the accessible washrooms, a hot shower and, of course, bike repairs.
Behind the counter, a big shiny coffee machine is always set to brew, and a coffee mug awaits everybody that passes through the door. We're not talking your off-the-shelf coffee here. Oh no, we're talking high quality, locally-roasted beans sporting the Vélorution name.
“We are interested in local mountain bike trails.”
Jan is the shop owner. His eyes light up bright enough to match his smile. I'm not sure his excitement is because of my trail inquiry or because of the high-octane coffee.
“Hiawatha Highlands,” he offers without hesitation.
“As a matter of fact, we are planning a ride later today. You're welcome to join.”
Not one to ever pass up an opportunity for some local guidance, of course my answer is yes—but how will we pass the time? Where there is a will, there is a way. Coffee, anybody?
- Martin Lortz