Roadside Reports

It seems like a lot of work to write a report on my rest day...

Highlights have included:

  • cycling to Hope along Highway 7 in the Fraser Delta
  • reaching the Coquihalla Summit and then coasting downhill for 30 kilometres
  • cycling along the lakes, valleys, and farmland in the Nicola Valley from Merritt to Kamloops
  • spending the day at the cozy cabin with James and Vern in Revelstoke
  • cycling along the flat valleys between the peaks of Yoho for 30 km just east of Field
  • climbing Kicking Horse pass and crossing into Alberta over the continental divide
  • having a beer with Reid on the morning I arrived in Calgary
  • a rough day out of Calgary: strong headwinds, a bee sting, and one broken spoke
  • crazy storm in Oyen: the wind launched a piece of wood through a car window and picked up the roof of the gas station in Alsask and carried it onto highway 7.
  • the prairies: amazing skies, colourful fields, grain elevators, and friendly folks living in tiny scattered towns
  • meeting Ian Bown from the UK and cycling together for two days between Youngstown and Rosetown
  • tasty barbecue and beer two nights in a row with Rick, Gail, John, and Arel in Saskatoon

Post-ride Comments

If you're considering cycling across all or parts of Canada along this route, here are a few comments I have:
  • Eight weeks is very tight. I would recommend taking twelve weeks to allow for slightly shorter days, more rest days, and the option of staying put on windy days. While the fast pace provided me just the right degree of physical challenge, it did not permit me to spend much time visiting towns and cities along the way. I felt rushed, particularly towards the end of the trip.
  • Go light. I was happy with my choice of gear and I never felt I was missing any items. Having only rear paniers, no front paniers, and no trailer allowed me to cycle faster and to spend less time packing and unpacking gear. A light sleeping bag and tent were key. As well, I only brought a light plastic rain shell and shoe rain covers for the rain.
  • Cycling alone was great. I found that cycling solo allowed me to maintain my own pace both in terms of velocity and number of hours cycling. I could stop or keep cycling as I pleased and never had to worry about keeping up with someone or cycling ahead. I still had ample opportunity to meet several dozen cyclists, some of whom I met regularly at campgrounds and on rest days for weeks at a time.
  • Road conditions were mostly decent everywhere except for the majority of Highway 17 in Ontario and parts of Highway 1 near Winnipeg. By decent, I mean a paved shoulder of good quality ashphalt that permits cycling at a safe distance from traffic on a smooth road surface without excessive gravel or cracks.
  • I had two 600 ml water bottles plus one 1.5 litre bottle. When I was in populated parts of the country I only used the two small bottles and filled them a few times during the day at gas stations or rest stops. I filled the third bottle when I cycled through less populated stretches of road (parts of the Rockies, the prairies, and northern Ontario). A surprisingly large number of towns had health advisories on their drinking water, advising that all water be boiled. The advisories were typically very local, and usually it was the case that water from the next town would be fine.
  • I mostly stayed in campgrounds. Note that the majority of campgrounds are not indicated on road maps or in regional travel information brochures. Seeking directions from a local at a gas station often proved to be the best source of information for campground locations. In some urban areas or on particularly nasty rainy evenings I stayed in motels. There are of course many more motels than campgrounds, making these a good backup plan in case you find yourself too far from a campground at the end of the day. The choice of staying at a campground versus camping in the rough was mostly a factor of having access to a daily shower to help prevent saddle rash. In total I spent 29 nights at campgrounds (26 of which had showers), 7 nights camping in the rough, 12 nights in the homes of friends or relatives, 7 nights in motels, and one night on a ferry.
  • The trip cost me $2617 (CAD). This includes everything I spent during the eight weeks: food, accomodation, bicycle parts, clothes, maintenance paid for while on the road, etc. In addition I spent $564 on bicycle parts, cycling clothing, cycling shoes, and a tent before departing and $595 for a one-way flight from St. John's to Montréal (including the airline bicycle fee).
  • I lost 9 lbs (4 kg) over the eight weeks.

Advice to Those Considering Cycling Across Canada


  • Changes I recommend to my route:
    1. From Canmore to Calgary, AB, I recommend taking Highway 1A. This stretch of Highway 1 is a busy divided highway that does not pass through any towns. Through Banff National Park, however, Highway 1 is fine.
    2. From Portage La Prairie to Winnipeg, MB, I recommend taking route 26, which runs north of Highway 1 and ends 7 km east of Headingley. From this intersection a paved service road runs parallel to Highway 1 on its north side and can be followed to Headingley. From there, follow Route 334 south across a bridge over the Assiniboine River, and east into Winnipeg. Route 334 becomes 241 and then 105, also known as Roblin Blvd. For a pleasant ride into town, go to the intersection of routes 95 (Roblin) and 96 (Clement Pkwy) and follow the bike path northeast onto Vialoux Dr., through Assiniboine Park, and along Wellington Cres.
    3. In Ottawa, ON, I recommend crossing over to Hull, QC, and taking Highway 148 along the north shore of the Ottawa River. Highway 148 is better for cycling than Highway 17 to Hawkesbury on the Ontario side.
    4. Between Moncton and Shediac, NB, I don't recommend Highway 15. My experience was likely made worse by the 30 km of construction. Highway 134 may provide an alternative, although I can't recommend it with certainty.
  • With additional time, I would have considered cycling along the following routes:
    1. In Ontario, Highway 6 branches south from Highway 17 in Espanola and heads across Manitoulin Island from which a ferry travels to Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula and rejoins Highway 6 southbound. From here, there are many options across southern Ontario.
    2. In Québec, Highway 132 continues along the St. Lawrence and around the Gaspé Peninsula.
    3. In Nova Scotia, the Cabot Trail (Highway 19) is popular, although hilly, with cyclists as it follows the rocky coastline of the Cape Breton Highlands. This typically only requires one additional day of cycling.
    4. To reach Newfoundland, a shorter ferry may be taken from North Sydney, NS, to Port-aux-Basques, NL. From here, Highway 1 runs 899 km to St. John's.
  • Plan your route before travelling into the big city. The websites for cycling routes in Vancouver, Calgary, and Montreal were especially useful for me (see links). I didn't take time to carefully plan my route through Québec city and, as a result, I spent over two hours trying to locate the entrance to the bike path across the Pont de Québec by using the small blow-up on my provincial roadmap and asking for directions.

Essential Gear

  • Aerobars Having aerobars allowed me to cycle longer without having my wrists become numb. The aerobars also allowed me to relax my lower back since some of my upper body weight rested directly on my elbows. Having multiple positions for the wrists, arms, and back is essential to cycling long hours. Cycling in a tuck is faster: for me, I estimated the difference averaged about 1.5 km/h. Given that I cycled 347 hours in total and spent over 50% of my time on the aerobars, that's a difference of at least 260 km (or two days of cycling at my average daily mileage). Finally, inexpensive aerobars exist; I paid only $30 for a new set in the store.
  • Lightweight Solo Tent A small tent is great. Mine weighs 1 kg, was perfectly waterproof through intense thunderstorms, and provided ample living room and comfortable sleeping for eight weeks. Last summer I spent 10 nights under a tarp in a bivy sack; on a longer trip you need a refuge from the bugs and the rain where you can relax, read, etc. You need to be comfortable in the evening to maximize your body's ability to rest and repair before the next day's cycling.
  • Reliable Bike This one is obvious. A cheap bike with shifters that constantly need adjusting, a chain that snaps every 200 km, or dozens of broken spokes will require you to spend far too much time on maintenance. Be familiar with your bike and its maintenance before leaving. If I'd had more money I would have considered buying a touring bike (something like the Trek 520). This would likely have increased my daily mileage. However, robust mountain bike rims definitely do well at surviving the inevitable pot holes, cracks, long stretches of unpaved construction, and the occasional gravel road to a campsite.
  • Paniers Again, on the lightweight theme, I felt I had plenty of space with only two rear paniers. Most cyclists I met had either four paniers or some combination of paniers and trailer. It seems that many cyclists going across Canada are on their first long cycling expedition (as I was). Many of the ultralight techniques of backpacking apply equally well to cycle touring; these haven't really caught on with cyclists, however, perhaps since one can always clip another panier to the bicycle or add a trailer to the rear. I met one guy whose trailer weighed well over 100 lbs (45 kg). This guy was having a rough time and his average daily distance was about 60 km. In any case, going light is of course faster when cycling long distances and it's faster to pack and unpack at camp.
  • Clothes I brought two sets of cyclings clothes (cycling shorts, tee, socks), one set of evening clothes (sandals, long underwear, underwear, pants, softshell, tuque, warm socks), one set of city clothes (shorts, tee, boxers), and light rain gear (light plastic shell, bootie covers). My city clothes were cotton for comfort and my cycling and evening clothes were typical synthetic quick-dry, breathable materials. Never did I feel I lacked any clothing. In particular, not once did I wish I had brought lycra pants or waterproof pants, nor did I require heavier rain gear such as a gore-tex shell.
  • Saddle Get yourself a quality saddle. You'll be sitting on it for much of the next few months. Spend the extra few dollars and get cycling shorts you find very comfortable. Consider using lube preventatively.