All manner of cycling has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. From bearded hipsters on fixies out for craft beer tours to the continued growth of mountain biking and road cycling, it’s all about the spokes and sports these days. So great is the appreciation for all things velo, that incorporating bikes into travel plans from road trips to tooling about town on a bike share, is all the rage. To that end, here are our choices for two-wheeled destinations this fall.
Let’s be honest, cycling was a thing in Montreal long before it became super cool, and long have they reigned supreme when it comes to city biking. They had the first bike share in the country, they’ve long led the way in cycling infrastructure and they have drop dead gorgeous scenery. In addition, from Montreal one has the opportunity to set out on the Route Vert, Quebec’s massive off-road trail system in all directions on one-day jaunts and multi-day extravaganzas.
Best bets: Do not leave town without a tour through Mount Royal Park. Also, try Lachine Canal that leaves from the city’s Old Port area. World class mountain biking can be found in the Laurentian Mountains at Mont Tremblant Park and to the south in the Eastern Townships, especially at Mont Bromont. And, the Criterium National, part of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal, one of the biggest road cycling races in the country, is slated for Sept. 12 in the city.
Get Stuff: Montreal has a great bike share program called Bixi (www.montreal.bixi.com) with 5,000 city bikes available to tour the town. Big Wheel Bikes (www.bikewheelbikes.com) offers primo rentals including full carbon road bikes and carbon 29-inch mountain bikes.
Although Montreal scores high on style, Quebec City might be considered undiscovered territory when it comes to bike tourism for travellers from all points west of the Laurentians and this shall not stand. This wonderful town is sophisticated and European in the best possible way, but also the perfect size for tooling around on a bike. It is located on the shores of the St. Lawrence River and it’s the only walled city left in North America north of Mexico. So, scenery is covered. And the riding is exceptional, whether strictly city touring or something more substantial.
Best bets: Come late July, early August, the area also hosts a massive mountain bike festivals called Velirium surrounding the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup event at Mont Sainte-Anne. Whether you make it to the festival or not, the riding is that good. Explore the walled city and go further afield to get and up close look at the cool neighbourhoods just off the beaten path on the city’s 400+ kilometres of bike paths. The Chemin du Roy route outside the city is a signalized system that will take road cyclists past the region’s most beautiful and historic villages and is not to be missed.
Get stuff: Ecolocyclo (www.ecolocyclo.net) is one of many fully equipped bike and rental shops in town with hybrid, tandem and electric bikes available. Mont Saint Anne (www.mont-saint-anne.com) is of course fully stocked with high quality downhill and cross-country bikes for rent.
Prince Edward Island
It’s pretty much flat, perfect cycling terrain. It’s picture perfect, there is red sand, and there is enough fresh fish, and lobster and oysters to fuel an epic trip around the island at least once. And you don’t even have to love Anne of Green Gables. Although, really, who doesn’t?
Best bets: When people cycle on Prince Edward Island, the vast majority flock to the Confederation Trail that sprawls out over 400 kilometres straight across the island. The Trail has some gorgeous sections flecked with bits of heavy going through gravel that are decidedly less gorgeous. The length of it is well-maintained and made from a converted rail line. But, there also exists a hotbed of mountain biking at the Brookvale Nordic Mountain Bike Park with some sweet single track.
Get stuff: Outer Limit Sports (www.ols.ca) offers up a range of rides including touring, road, mountain and tandem bikes as well as a slew of baggage for those looking for a multi-day tour.
Ottawa is a special place for cyclists for many reasons. It’s a city of neighbourhoods ideal of exploring on two wheels via a massive network of multi-use pathways. It’s surrounded by a greenbelt of protect green space that offers up a perfect network of roads for touring and then there’s the parks such as Gatineau that are just absolute wonderlands. Oh, and the Parliament Buildings are there and accessible via the city’s 600+ kilometres of bike paths. And a Mill Street Brew Pub that is really quite fetching.
Best bets: Gatineau Park (www.ncc-ccn.gc.ca/places-to-visit/gatineau-park) is a fine destination especially for road cyclists with an appreciation for good hill climbs. The park also has an extensive network of mountain biking trails, as does nearby Camp Fortune (www.campfortune.com), which opens up its ski hills to dirt merchants in the summer and boasts some more extreme, and technical lift-serviced terrain.
Get stuff: Ottawa is home to a bike share program called VeloGo (www.velogo.ca), ideal for tooting about town without any particular need for speed. Cyco Sport (www.cycosport.ca) offers a range of bikes including high performance mountain and road bikes per day or week.
One could quite possibly throw a dart at the province of British Columbia to decide the best areas for cycling, but this little gem is at least not completely overrun with tourists and the valley shines when August rolls around thanks to one of the coolest two-wheeled festivals going. Located just the other side of Whistler, the area is a haven for both road cyclists and dirt merchants.
Best bets: Aug. 16 marks the 11th running of Slow Food Cycle Sunday, an incredible event where thousands of cyclists tour the valley on the Pemberton Meadows Road going from farm to farm, tasting delicious food, listening to live music and generally having a glorious time of it. Although this is indeed enough reason to visit this wonderful place, one could certainly stay to explore the world-class adventures. For instance, simply get on your bike and cycle between Pemberton and Whistler. Doesn’t get any easier, and likely not much better. And then, thanks to Pemberton’s unique position nestled lovingly between the coastal rainforest and the dry interior, the mountain biking trails are just killer and accessible right from town.
Get stuff: For the full scoop on local riding head to the venerable Pemberton Bike Co. (www.bikeco.ca), where downhill and cross-country rentals are available along with cruisers and kids bikes.
The Big Soak on the West Coast is unique in its ability to provide pretty much anything for cyclists of all shapes, sizes and interests. Craft beer tours? Check. Best mountain biking on the planet? Well, they do have an entire style of riding (North Shore style) named after the region. And road? Well, if you can beat the Sea to Sky highway for a combination of challenge and scenery, just let us know. As the unofficial capital of cycling in the country, the city is also home to one heck of a two-wheeled infrastructure from hotels catering to cyclists, to bike shares to beyond.
Best bets: The Whistler GranFondo brought the European idea of the “big ride” to Canada in 2010, and it hasn’t looked back since. Easily one of the top events of its kind in the country, thousands of cyclists flock to the area to take part each September. This year’s event is set for Sept. 12 (www.granfondowhistler.com). And, obviously, mountain bikers flock to the mountains of North Vancouver, the Mecca of the sport. This is the area that changed everything and one could easily spend a week exploring the trails. But sometimes you just gotta hit the Stanley Park Seawall, and then land at one of more than a dozen craft breweries in the area including one of the new kids on the block, Strange Fellows Brewing Co. (www.strangefellowsbrewing.com).
Get stuff: There are a number of places to rent bikes in Vancouver, but English Bay Bike Rentals (www.englishbaybikerentals.com) has a great selection including road bikes as well as full-suspension mountain bikes and city bikes. Sadly, the only thing Vancouver lacks is a public bike sharing system, but one is in the works and it can’t come soon enough.