Mountain Biking Events in 2024

Discover Ontario’s best trails at a mountain bike event in Sault Ste. Marie

By Conor Mihell

An epic trail network and incredible terrain is rapidly making Sault Ste. Marie a hub for mountain biking. Ontario cyclists are buzzing about the new trails in the Hiawatha Highlands, only a few minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie’s city centre. Hiawatha has it all: Over 50 km of trails include a mix of impeccably-built, flow trails with fun tabletops and banked corners; old-school, lovingly handbuilt trails with steep drops and rooty climbs; a pump track; and a challenging and scenic backcountry route that blends machine-built features with handmade technical sections.

Three events scheduled for this spring and summer promise to showcase Sault Ste. Marie mountain biking and reveal why this bustling city in Northern Ontario is emerging as one of Ontario’s best cycling destinations.

Skeeter Slam, June 15-16

You may have heard that June is mosquito season in Northern Ontario. But mountain bike competitors at the Ontario Cup races in Sault Ste. Marie will leave biting insects in their slipstreams as they flow along Ontario’s most exciting network of single-track in the Hiawatha Highlands, in the third stage of these province-wide mountain bike events.

Skeeter Slam – Ocup #3, presented by Ontario Cycling and the Sault Cycling Club, is scheduled for June 15-16, and it features something for everyone: a grueling 45-km XC Marathon on Saturday morning, high-speed Short Track racing for all ages on Saturday afternoon, and a full day of OCup age-bracket racing for kids, youth and adults on Sunday.

“The races are open to anyone,” says Travis Anderson, one of the event organizers. “We’re hoping to get people who want to try racing for the first time, all the way up to some of the best up and coming racers in the province—the future World Cup and Olympic racers. We’re really positioning the event as a fun-filled event highlighting our world class trail system, rather than your conventional OCup.”

Hiawatha’s outstanding trails will be the centrepiece of this Ontario mountain bike event. Ontario Cup racers will be challenged by rocky uphills and thrilled by flowing descends. Out of towners will surely fall in love with the area’s wilderness feel—yet it’s so close to great accommodations and dining in Sault Ste. Marie. “I think the new trails are a great fit for the event,” adds Anderson. “They’re the perfect combination of fun, fast and technical with features that you won’t see on any other race courses in Ontario.”

  • Register online for the 2024 OCup Mountain Bike #3, hosted by the Sault Cycling Club at the Hiawatha Highlands

Salty Marie Trails Festival, July 27

Last year, Sault Ste. Marie cyclist Graham Atkinson and a few friends came up with a clever play on words to name the city’s newest mountain bike event, hosted in the Hiawatha Highlands. The Salty Marie is a nod to “people not being able to pronounce ‘Sault’ Ste. Marie,” Atkinson says. “Turns out ‘salt’ names are also easy to come up with for different races.”

Atkinson was blown away with the support for the inaugural Salty Marie, which attracted over 200 participants last year, including 50 visitors from Ontario and the United States. Registration is already booming for this year’s event, scheduled for July 27, and Atkinson is anticipating an even larger contingent of out-of-towners as Sault Ste. Marie gains recognition as a top destination for mountain biking in Ontario.

“Last year’s success showed us that the city was ready for something like this,” says Atkinson. “This year we’ve decided to double down, and we think a lot of our growth will come from cross-pollination with the OCup races in June and Crank the Shield in August.”

The Salty Marie is equal parts “trails festival” and a “party in the woods,” Atkinson explains. There are multiple mountain bike race options, ranging from the beginner friendly 2 km Saltine Shred to the epic 50 km Big Brine (further evidence that Atkinson and the team of organizers take their salt puns seriously). Mid-distance 10- and 25-km events are also available so anyone can test their limits while having fun. What’s more, you don’t need to be a mountain biker to participate, with 10- and 21-km trail running events also on the schedule.

“It’s a trails festival for everyone,” says Atkinson. “The racers are going to love it, but you can have just as much fun attending as a spectator, with live music, great food, beer and races to watch.”

  • Register online for the Salty Marie Trails Festival, hosted by Red Pine Tours and the Sault Cycling Club at the Hiawatha Highlands
Racers at the start line
Racers preparing to race
Racers receiving medals
Winners on the podium
Racers enjoying drinks
Enjoying some relaxing drinks afterwards!

Crank the Shield, August 16-18

The passion for “adventure cycling” oozing from Sault Ste. Marie native Sean Ruppel is a big reason why the area has become prominent on the Ontario mountain bike map. Ruppel’s 3-day Crank the Shield stage race has earned a reputation for being a seriously challenging mountain bike event, with rugged climbs, river crossings, incredible vistas and the feel of a long-distance adventure race through remote backcountry. Ruppel scoured the Algoma wilderness north of Sault Ste. Marie to weave together Canadian Shield trails, double-track and flowy single-track to create Ontario’s toughest mountain bike event.

Adventure remains a central element of the 2024 Crank the Shield, slated for August 16 to 18. But this time, Ruppel has tweaked the race itinerary with more focus on single-track, creating a more accessible event and taking advantage of the smooth and flowing machine-built Sault Cycling Club trails in the Hiawatha Highlands.

“Crank the Shield opened people’s eyes about the great mountain biking in Northern Ontario,” Ruppel says. “Now it’s time to showcase the great trails that the city has put so much investment into. This year, the pitch is more single track than ever.”

Crank the Shield has always given riders an excellent cross-section of mountain biking in Sault Ste. Marie This year is true to form. Day One follows a 52-km route through the backcountry of Stokely Creek and the Algoma Highlands Conservancy, a wilderness network of single- and double-track with plenty of climbing and hidden swimming holes along the way. Day Two makes a 35-km link from Stokely to Hiawatha, including the challenging handbuilt trails at Bellevue Tower, which ranks amongst the longest downhill single-track for mountain biking in Ontario. Day Three is brand new for Crank the Shield, featuring over 55 km of riding in the Hiawatha Highlands.

Besides running great mountain biking events, Ruppel also knows how to put on a serious party, and apres Crank the Shield doesn’t disappoint with food and beer at the awards ceremony and post-race dinner at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Museum.

  • Register online and check out accommodations options for Crank the Shield 2024
Mountain Bike Racing
Racers at the start line
Mountain bikers enjoying the view
Racers enjoying the view
Mountain bikers descending
Racers on a downhill
Racers at the podium
Racers on the podium

Make a weekend of it!

Come for a races, stay for the weekend! Enjoy a 90-minute river cruise on the Miss Marie Soo Locks Tour boat! If you are just looking to relax and enjoy some local drinks, check out our own microbrewery Northern Superior.

Check out our famous Bushplane Museum featuring 24 real Bushplanes to explore! Inside the Bushplane Museum you’ll also find Entomica Insectarium, complete with a host of real life insects and bugs you can actually hold! 

Have you ever tried axe throwing? Check out one of our newest and most fun indoor activities! Missing golf and still need a fix? The Up and Down Lounge has state of the art golf simulators, which can be booked by the hour. 

Get info about hotel stays or any other info by visiting the respective page on our website… and enjoy the races!