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Virgil Knapp’s Top 10 Ontario Power Sports Rides of the 2010’s

Article by: Virgil Knapp

As a powersports journalist and photographer I’ve had the privilege of trying out more cool rides then I probably ever deserved. The fact that it took an injury from racing motocross, leading to a career in media and thus this fortunate opportunity, has a delicious yet twisted irony. When we’re out with some new equipment, be it for a media ride or photo shoot, I’ll typically spend my time at the back of the pack chasing the crew between locations. This guarantees I’m riding something of similar performance to the product I’m photographing. The only difference being, I get the less photogenic unit (usually black or white), while the flashy ones with bold graphics will be on camera.

I thought it would be cool to compile a list of my 10 favorite machines I’ve spent some time on or around when travelling and shooting in the vast expanses of northern Ontario. Although I’ve been riding over 20 years, I kept my list to 2010 and up (about the same time I started working with Ontario Tourism). Now… it would be easy to just list the fastest machines and call it a day, but seeing as this is MY list, I’ve included factors like comfort and stability as stand out features (a 6’8” photographer carrying a ton of gear has certain requirements above just raw performance). Other criteria considered were; innovation, versatility, value, power and finally fun factor. Each category receives a rating from 1- 5 stars with the location of each region being included as well.

#10 - 2011 Polaris ‘Rush’ 600 Snowmobile

IMG 8259- 10-Polaris Rush-Rainbow Country-Virgil Knapp

Location of ride - Rainbow Country/Parry Sound

Comfort and Stability - ★★★★

Innovation - ★★★★★

Versatility - ★★★

Value - ★★★

Power - ★★★★

Fun Factor - ★★★★

The Polaris RUSH was a highly regarded sled at the time with an all-new snocross inspired rear suspension and crisp handling. While the original MSRP was as high as any 600 it’s class, it was a blast to ride on the OFSC trails of Parry Sound.

#09 - 2012 Sea Doo GTI SE 155 PWC

IMG 9774-9-Sea doo GTI SE 155-Ottawa River Valley-Virgil Knapp

Location of ride Ottawa River Valley

Comfort and Stability -★★★★

Innovation - ★★★★★

Versatility - ★★★★★

Value - ★★

Power - ★★★★★

Fun Factor - ★★★★★

My first time on the opens seas with a modern PWC was exciting and nerve racking. This beast was my ride for an epic PWC touring adventure along the Ottawa River in North Eastern, ON. Our crew covered close to 1000km in less then a week and a machine of this caliber was key in making such long voyage Possible. Although priced on the high side, innovative features like The IBR (Intelligent Brake and Reverse) and massive 1500cc engine made it worth every penny to the hardcore touring enthusiast.

#08 - 2013 Air Rider 45 Ranger Hovercraft

 MG 8409-8-Air Rider 45 Ranger Hovercraft-Parry Sound-Virgil Knapp

http://airriderhovercraft.com Location of ride Parry Sound

Comfort and Stability - ★★★★★

Innovation - ★★★★★

Versatility - ★★★★★

Value - ★★

Power - ★★★★

Fun Factor - ★★★★★

By far the most innovative machine on this list the Air Rider 45 Ranger wins the innovation category hands down. Versatility would be an understatement with applications ranging from water rescue to mobile ice fishing huts. If the great flood ever comes this would be the vehicle of choice.

#07 - 2013 Honda CRF 250X

 MG 8632-7-Honda CRF250X-Parry Sound-Virgil Knapp

Location of ride Parry Sound

Comfort and Stability - ★★

Innovation - ★★★

Versatility - ★★★

Value - ★★★★★

Power - ★★

Fun Factor - ★★★★★

Although I didn’t rate this very high on the list, it’s intended purpose as an off-road dedicated motocross bike, is spot on. Light and nimble ergonomics make it a weapon through tight trails and a heavier flywheel gives it much more torque in the bottom end then the motocross version. Compared to others on the list the price is a steal!

#06 - 2013 Ski-doo Renegade 800 R E-Type Snowmobile

 MG 5731-6-2013 Ski-doo Renegade 800 R E-Type-Sudbury-Virgil Knapp

Location of ride Sudbury

Comfort and Stability - ★★★★

Innovation - ★★★

Versatility - ★★★★

Value - ★★★★

Power - ★★★★★

Fun Factor - ★★★★

If I had to come up with one word to describe the ’13 E-Tec it would be POWER! My best memory of this sled was hard acceleration out of the corners in the Sudbury trail system, and barely being able to hold on. Nothing stood out because it did everything well.

#05 - 2013 Sea Ray 220 Sundeck Power Boat

229A8650-5-Sea Ray 220 Sundeck-Lake of the Woods-Kenora-Virgil Knapp

Location of ride Lake of the Woods-Kenora

Comfort and Stability - ★★★★★

Innovation - ★★★

Versatility - ★★★★

Value - ★

Power - ★★★★★

Fun Factor - ★★★★★

Lake of the Woods in Kenora was the perfect location for a photo shoot with this hot rod. With close to 15000 islands and 105,000km of shoreline, we needed every bit of the 300hp inboard motor to buzz around from one location to the next. This vessel felt more like a jet ski and could easily be flicked around through the water. No wonder why the price tag is on the steep side.

#04 - 2015 Honda Goldwing - Touring Motorcycle

229A3941-4-Honda Goldwing-Peterborough Kawarthas-Virgil Knapp

Location of ride Peterborough/Kawarthas

Comfort and Stability - ★★★★★

Innovation - ★★★

Versatility - ★★★★

Value - ★

Power - ★★★★

Fun Factor - ★★★

This one was unique in the fact that I never actually rode it. We were out shooting with two Honda test riders on some twisty country roads south of Peterborough. I actually sat on the back while taking pictures and felt more stable then any passenger experience I can recall. Once I hopped off, I was blown away at how these things handled for such big machines. The test riders were just about scraping the foot pegs around the sharper corners. The price is high in two wheel terms but this sets the bar for long haul motorcycle touring.

#03 - 2015 Yamaha SR Viper - Snowmobile

229A1389-3-Yamaha SR Viper-North Bay-Virgil Knapp

Location of ride North Bay

Comfort and Stability - ★★★★

Innovation - ★★★★

Versatility - ★★★

Value - ★★

Power - ★★★★★

Fun Factor - ★★★★★

Yamaha loaned us a press unit of the SR Viper for a ride we did with UFC star Mitch Gagnon. Mitch is an avid snowmobiler and was quite comfortable on such a big machine. I remember flying across a frozen lake and as I was tapped out Mitch blew by me on the SR like I was standing still. With a 1049cc engine and 135hp this thing is built for speed and acceleration

#02 - 2016 Yamaha YZ 250 Motocross bike

229A8353-2-Yamaha YZ 250-Horseshoe Valley-Barrie-Virgil Knapp

Location of ride Horseshoe Resort-Barrie

Comfort and Stability - ★★

Innovation - ★★

Versatility - ★★★

Value - ★★★★

Power - ★★★★★

Fun Factor - ★★★★★

With roots in motocross it’s no wonder why this bike with older technology, ranked so high on my list. This was on loan from Yamaha Canada for another UFC star who was riding in Ontario for a summer vacation in 2016 (Bantam weight world #3 Bryan Caraway). Despite the basic design not changing in years, a 2-stroke motocross bikes have snappy power and a sweet sound that you’ll be hard pressed to find in today’s modern 4-stroke thumpers. The price is also very right on this one.

#01 - 2012 Can-Am Commander UTV

 MG 3376-1-Can-Am Commander-Mattawa-Virgil Knapp

Location of ride Mattawa

Comfort and Stability - ★★★★★

Innovation - ★★★★

Versatility - ★★★★★

Value - ★★

Power - ★★★★

Fun Factor - ★★★★★

This was an easy choice for # 1. Ever since UTV’s were introduced to the powersports market, the idea has appealed to me. Something I can strap down all my gear to and still have a blast ripping through the trails with the safety of a roll cage and seat belt is my kind of machine. Though the Commander might seem dated today, it was they hot shot ‘side-by-side’ in 2013.

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