DISCOVERING NEW BRUNSWICK BY BICYCLE

That sums up discovering new brunswick by bicycle!

Michael’s write up of discovering New Brunswick by bicycle during out coast to coast Canada cycle trip in Autumn 2016. Click here to read Kelly’s write up about cycling in New Brunswick.

NEW BRUNSWICK.…WAY BETTER THAN THE OLD ONE.

Waking up at the border sign between Quebec and New Brunswick we knew our seventh province was going to be a frosty one!

The temperature had taken a sudden dip and frozen our tent solid overnight. We were now faced with the coldest cycling of the trip so far, but we were still happy because the amazing cycle path rolled on!

On our first day discovering New Brunswick by bicycle we managed to smash out 105 km in less than 5 hours, which I’m pretty sure is a record for us. We had decided to stay indoors and treat ourselves to an airbnb in Perth (not our home town in western Australia, a different colder one) and thought we’d make it in plenty of time to meet the owner and pick up the key to the place. That’s before the wind decided to be a huge chilly prick and change directions and the cycle path abruptly ended with a ‘closed for construction’ sign forcing us to detour several kilometers up a bullshit steep hill and onto the highway.

Screw you New-Brunswick-bike-path-dudes. A diversion sign BEFORE the construction would have been handy!

We did eventually make it the last 20km to the AirBnB where we spent the next day defrosting our weary bones and ingesting some local hoppy malt health beverages called ‘beer’ and cleaning all our clothes ready to layer up for the next day of icey biking.

New Brunswick in Fall, discovering new brunswick by bicycle
Discovering new brunswick by bicycle – New Brunswick in Fall

Trans-Canadian Bike Trail

The bike path did pick up again and although it wasn’t quite as well maintained as the Quebec side with some sections too rocky to ride fully loaded, it was still nicer than riding the highway!

We had a pretty great day of discovering New Brunswick by bicycle. Riding on the cycle paths, winding through the forest and alongside rivers and lakes where we eventually found an ideal spot to pitch the tent next to a pedestrian suspension bridge over a stream complete with picnic table and amazing sunset views. This one was definitely up there with the best wild camping spots of the trip.

The only bonus of camping when the temperature drops is the mosquitoes pussy out and disappear! Finally some peace!

Bike Troubles

We ploughed on keen to reach Fundy national Park and see one of Canada’s main attractions, the Bay of Fundy. We rode the cycle path where possible, and took quieter roads when the rocks got too chunky. Near Fredericton, we stayed with great Warmshowers hosts, Tracey and Paula on their veggie farm. And, cycled passed the worlds’ biggest axe in Nackawic (and a brewery named after it that was closed causing me to weep uncontrollably). Then, my chain decided to start slipping whenever faced with a hill nearly causing me to fall off and break my luscious face several times.

Fundy national park is an extremely hilly place, so luckily for me the chain problems occurred before the town of Sussex so I could get the problem fixed at the local bike shop before starting the serious hill climbs into Fundy. The legends at Outdoor Elements bike shop helped me get back on the road again and even called up one of their friends outside Sussex who owned an awesome motel and let us stay for $20! Unfortunately on the way to the motel I discovered the new chain hadn’t fixed the issue and I was forced to ride back to Sussex the next morning where the amazing staff changed my cassette and solved the issue just in time to tackle the beastly hills of Fundy!

As well as fixing up my sexy steed, the guys at the bike shop also informed me we were only one day behind a group of German cycle tourists who had been in the shop the day before. Our friends Jacque and Luisa again with some of Luisa’s’ friends who had flown out to ride with them for a week or two. We were hunting ze Germans!

Bay of Fundy

As we had heard, the hills into Fundy were a total bitch! It was all worth it though with the views at the top ranking as some of those most spectacular of the whole trip. The ride down the other side of the hills was an intense experience and made me glad our bikes had disc brakes! We absolutely hammered down the hills and into the picture perfect campgrounds just outside the town of Alma. Unfortunately it wasn’t until we picked up on Wi-Fi at the camp grounds that we realized our German buddies were staying at the other campsite. The one that was several kilometers back up the steep as shit hill we had just hurtled down at 300km an hour. Sorry guys, you’re on you own!

We managed to meet up with our friends though for beers and cinnamon buns from the famous ‘Kelly’s Bakery’ in Alma. If you are in Alma and don’t fill your body with as many of these hot gooey delicious cinnamony chunks of pure joy then you my friend are a fool! The date slices and brownies were also pretty sextacular, but the cinnamon buns were like a baked orgasm.

We enjoyed a couple nights off the bikes relaxing at the Headquarters campground that was complete with Wi-Fi and cooking hut – pure luxury! We hiked a few trails around the bay, checked out some waterfalls and rehydrated with beer and fireball liqueur. I was on a bit of a cinnamon high around this period.

Fundy National Park and a Kelly, discovering new brunswick by bicycle
Fundy National Park and a Kelly

Hopewell Rocks and more beer!

When it was time to leave Alma the wind kicked into overdrive and we were smashed in the face by the breeze the whole way to Hopewell rocks where we were living it up in another motel. We decided to be rebels and sneak into Hopewell rocks after the gates were closed for the day after several people told us it was generally accepted as fine as long as you weren’t an idiot climbing the rocks. We had an amazing sunset stroll along the beach checking out the crazy rock formations and stunning beach views. I can definitely see why this is such a hotbed for tourists in the summer.

We rolled through the freezing wind and drizzle into Moncton where we decided to spend the night in a hostel. It just so happens that Moncton has a kick ass brewery too…coincidence? No, no it wasn’t.

We checked out Pump house brewery and sampled some fine beverages including the local specialty a blueberry ale complete with floating blueberries in the glass. Saucy!

More friendly people

Our last night discovering New Brunswick by bicycle – Province number 7, was spent with an lovely older couple Bill and Marilyn in Shemogue, There we ate like royalty and I fit at least a kilo of kick ass spinach and mushroom lasagna inside me and exchanged cycle tales over beers and discussed our plans for spending winter in Halifax.

Bill had been a lobster fisherman for over forty years. Marilyn was an artist and showed us her beautiful art in her workshop out the back of the house. Eventually we hopped on our bikes and began the short pedal to the bridge between New Brunswick and, the smallest province in Canada – Prince Edward Island!

Goodbye New Brunswick you tasty minx. You chilled us to the bones, but your stunning parks and coastline made us keen to explore more of the Maritimes by bicycle!

That sums up discovering new brunswick by bicycle! Bring on Prince Edward Island! If you’re a stats nerd like Kelly, you can check out our states here.

Random Shoe Tree, discovering new brunswick by bicycle
Random Shoe Tree in New Brunswick somewhere

Ontario by bicycle: “I WAS BORN IN ONTARIO”

Ontario by bicycle. about us

Michael’s write up of crossing Ontario by bicycle during our 7000km cycle trip across Canada in Sept 2016.  Click here to read Kelly’s write up of cycling Ontario to Thunder Bay, cycling Lake Superior and cycling to Ottawa.

No I in fact was not born in Ontario, but as soon we entered this freaking huge province Neil Young’s ‘born in Ontario’ was playing on repeat in my head. This became our theme song for our epic 32 day stint crossing this huge beautiful beast! I spent the next month exploring Ontario by bicycle, annoying Kelly by constantly singing, humming and playing this song on my speakers. Sorry about that!

To get from Manitoba to Ontario we had to dip into the good ‘ol U.S.A (just the way the road was) for a quick 60km detour through Minnesota and directly into the path of a huge storm that apparently blew some trucks off the road into a ditch. As we were on bikes, and not quiet as heavy and stable as trucks, we took shelter in a bar to dry ourselves off. This is where I ordered the most disappointing snack of my life! Never order cheesy chips in the states. It will crush your soul. Not an actual potato in sight, merely some weird shitty circular corn chips with poisonous orange cheese whizz spunked on top. Saddest day of my life.

I recovered from my shit chip experience and we hopped the border back into Canada to begin penetrating the moist mass that is Ontario!

Emo, Ontario by bicycle

We passed through friendly little towns including the hilariously named (I thought so at the time) ‘Emo’ in which I took a picture of pretty every street sign and advertisement with ‘Emo’ written on it.

We managed to bump into our German friends Jacque and Luisa again! Had fun camping in Fort Francis at a weird massive public park that also doubled up as a campsite next to the train tracks and river. We had a few beers to relax and catch up with our friends in the third province we’d seen them in!

Fort Francis was the point we had to decide if we wanted to cycle the southern side of lake superior in the U.S.A or stick to Canada and take the northern route. After much debate we finally settled on sticking to the Canadian side seeing as the whole trip was supposed to be about cycling the whole way across Canada! It meant we wouldn’t get to visit my friend in Minneapolis, but that was going to be a pretty massive detour and eat up a fair amount of our time, so it was back to cycling as a group again! Jacque and Luisa were heading the same direction so we had some travel buddies for a few days.

On to Thunder Bay

Over the next few days we rode some beautiful but isolated stretches of road together. We slept by lakes, in parks, outside a friendly ice cream van, saw the amazing Kakabeka waterfalls and swam in the freezing water at the end of the day and continued our constant battle with the asshole mosquitoes.

One night we decided to try riding down a long dirt path to see if we could camp near the water on the Seine River First Nations reserve. The super kind people welcomed us is in and let us set up camp at the Pow Wow grounds. They even unlocked the community centre for us so we could have a shower! Cool experience and one of the most scenic spots we camped at in the province.

Finally rolled into Thunder Bay for a few days off the bikes and stayed with the amazing Frank from Warmshowers. Despite being busy organizing a group cycle trip and dealing with a leaky basement and renovations, this champion not only let the four of us stay in his place but also another German cyclist called Mike. 5 people at once in the one house is a pretty generous move!

Camping at the First Nations reserve
Camping at the First Nations reserve

Rest days when on tour

We had a great time together though and spent a few days preparing group feasts, sipping beers and rum, exploring the town and brutally savaging a Japanese buffet to within inches of it’s life!

I had a few bike maintenance things to take care of so we ended up spending an extra night with Frank. Our German buddies left to get a bus for a section of lake superior as they had to meet some friends.

Storms, road works and Lake Superior

We were recharged and ready to rock through the rest of this beast of a province! Just outside Thunder Bay I randomly spotted a brand new IPhone on the side of the road, which started ringing as soon as I put it on charge when we stopped in a park for lunch. I managed to score a $60 reward for returning the phone to the owner! Bonus! Felt nice earning some cash instead of watching it hemorrhage out of my account for a change.

Had some rough days dealing with construction work and torrential rain around Nippigon and didn’t feel particularly safe riding some sections with the lack of hard shoulder, but the scenery definitely made up for it.

Our first glimpses of lake superior left us awestruck and glad we had chosen the mighty northern route. It was hard to believe that was a lake and not a friggin ocean! We spent night after night in spectacular camping spots on the beaches and in the woods around the lake and fell in love with the area. It is a very nice feeling knowing at the end of the day you’re going to have crystal clear fresh water to swim in and clean yourself up after a sweaty day climbing hills on the bikes.  

More friendly people

We met plenty of awesome people who helped us out. A couple from Germany with a holiday home let us set up camp in the front yard near Jackfish lake. Lloyd, a couchsurfer in Marathon who took us in and gave us a spare room for the night. The tourist information in Winnie the Pooh’s hometown of White river let us sleep outside the centre. And, probably the best of all was a legendary Hungarian Canadian guy called Zoltan and his beautiful family who we met outside a supermarket in Wawa and offered to let us camp on his front lawn.

When we followed him home he then decided to set up his camper trailer for us to sleep in! So we had a nice comfy bed, shelter from the mosquitoes and even got to wash our clothes and have a shower! Meeting kind and generous people like this make the trip so much more memorable and make me thankful we have the chance to travel like this and meet so many cool characters!

ontario by bicycle
Zoltan from Wawa

One night on Batchawana bay we were even invited in to the Wild Rose RV park and given a place to camp for free by the owner. He had noticed us eyeing up the beach for potential spots to pitch the tent as he knew the police would definitely move us on like the smelly bums we are, so he just let us come in and stay for free! Generosity runs deep in Canadians!

 Sault Ste Marie and more awesome people

We were finally pulling away from Lake superior and rolled into Sault Ste Marie where we spent two nights with awesome warmshowers hosts Jeff and Juanita. We ate excellent home cooked meals, tried many kick ass local craft beers and got to try out Jeff’s Recumbent bike. Definitely not for me but I could see the appeal of sitting back like that and cruising along with a beer in each paw.

We decided to spend a night outside the local bike shop Velorution as they have set up a free campsite specifically for cycle tourists! Cool experience and a wicked idea, they had fire pits, furniture that guests had made from old pallets and a box of free gear other cyclists had donated. We even raided the massive stack of old bike parts outside the shop to use a rim and spokes as a grill for our zucchinis! Not a sentence I ever thought I’d be writing!

Hitting the road again

From Sault St Marie we passed through Many Amish communities where we’d stop and buy fresh veg and homemade cookies. We camped outside information centres and in the old fairground at Spanish where the harbor master let us pitch a tent and take a shower in the marina office. In the morning we woke up to see a porcupine climbing a tree next to our tent! Still no moose sighting, but I was pretty happy seeing this spiky fellow doing his thing!

The roads in Ontario were generally in pretty decent condition, but hard shoulders seemed to disappear for stretches. Instead of Ontario by bicycle, it could have been Ontario by pot hole. Road works were constant with crazy fast drivers flying past us and leaving us a little rattled at times. We had a particularly rough day with the roads on one occasion when an amazing lady called Patti saw us looking fed up and broken on the side of the road. She pulled over and offered to let us stay at her place. The only catch was we were shattered and ready to find the nearest park to sleep in. Her place in Sudbury was still 30km away and would have been dark by the time we arrived.

Patti was also a cyclist and had a bike rack on her car, but it could only fit one bike. She wasn’t going to let that stop her though! This amazing person gave up the next couple of hours of her life taking Kelly and her bike back to her home. Unloading her gear then returning to pick me up and take me back to spend the night in her house!! That’s a pretty crazy generous thing to do, make a round trip of 60km just help a couple of tired aussie bike bums out!

Trying the local brews

Even though we’d left Lake Superior, other lakes were still around making the cycling still pretty scenic and enjoyable. The rain not so much. After a very wet muddy day it was nice to meet Warmshowers hosts Mike and Danielle and spend the evening getting tips about cycling in Ottawa and Quebec, having an amazing veggie curry dinner and drinking far too many of Mike’s local beers leaving me with a bit of sore head for the ride next day! I regret nothing. Beer is life.

We were finally approaching the capital of this incredible country, Ottawa! Most times approaching a capital city it can be a bit stressful dealing with the traffic and navigating through the chaos. Not in Ottawa! Mike and Danielle had given us a hot tip about a cycle route that led right into the heart of this beautiful gem of a city so we spent most of the day winding along old rail trails and through the cities’ parks and river front cycle paths before meeting our next Warmshowers host. The crazy bike man of Ottawa, Richard!

Ottawa
Ottawa!

The Crazy, bike man!

Richard had an incredible and utterly ridiculous collection of bicycles. Most of which were homemade crazy contraptions such as tall bikes and a convertible tandem recumbent that he had custom built with segments that can be added so his wife and kids can all ride together! He’d even built a custom rack to carry his full sized wooden canoe over his head for short tours!

We spent several days hanging out with Richard and met a group of local bike nuts from the ‘HPVOO’ (human powered vehicles of Ottawa) group for dinner and picnicked with another group from a local bike organization that provides a free space and tools for people to come and work on their bikes. Also did all the touristy things around town, checked out a street party festival and followed Richard around town on his ridiculous gigantic tall bike. Checked out the markets and used our mouths to investigate many local hop filled beverages.

Awesome Bike Stores and more Awesome People

After my piece of shit EVO low rider rack died way back in Manitoba it had been held together with hose clamps and zip ties, but had suffered a final fatal break several days before Ottawa so I was in desperate need of a decent front rack before we could continue. I rode around town in search of a half decent low-rider rack in vain, only finding either the same rack or something very similar and equally as crappily made.

I got talking to a guy called Rodd working at the Cyclery bike shop. This utter rock star of a human being offered to give me his old Blackburn low-rider rack for free! The shop didn’t have anything suitable, but he had exactly what I was after at his house so gave me his address and I swung by and picked it up rom him! What a cool thing to do! Helped me out so much and this rack will be coming with for the rest of the trip as a new member of the cycle trekkers team!!

ontario by bicycle
Pretty obvious… exploring Ontario by bicycle!

Chau Ontatio!

Our time exploring Ontario by bicycle was finally drawing to an end after over a month of pedal powered fun times through this monster province, but we were excited for what was to come. Quebec! Every single Canadian cycle tourist we had met was from Quebec. That has to be a sign that it’s gonna be a sweet place to ride! Thank you Ontario for being so cool and being filled with such helpful generous kind hearted people willing to help two crazy biking fools out! I hope you enjoyed Ontario by bicycle! Now bring on the cheese, wine and maple syrup in Quebec!

Choosing Travel Insurance for Cycle Touring

Cycling Kyrgyzstan, travel insurance for cycle touring

Having the appropriate travel insurance for cycle touring is essential! It gives you peace of mind in case something happens, and ensures you won’t end up forking out unnecessary dollars.

I know a lot of people take the risk and don’t buy travel insurance. Personally, I think that’s insane! I used to work as a travel consultant and I’ve heard MANY horror stories related to not being covered. The horror stories were from people that were on holiday or travelling, when something bad happened, and they either weren’t covered or weren’t covered for the activities they were doing. It always ended up costing them. So it’s important to not only have travel insurance, but to make sure you are sufficiently covered for the activities you plan on doing.

A few things to consider when choosing Travel Insurance for Cycle Touring:

Does the policy cover your bicycle?

I’ve discovered that most travel insurance policies won’t cover bicycle thief! Actually, I have not found one policy (for Australians) that does. Most policies also won’t cover damages to your bike. Most will however cover damages or thief to bicycle accessories (panniers, phone mounts etc.). It’s important to check and be aware of this. It’s better to know up front than think you’re covered just to find out later you’re not.

brodie green bicycle circuit
My new bike!

Does the insurance company cover long-term cycle touring?

This is something I always confirm directly with the insurance company, as it’s not always listed on the ‘included activities’ section of the policy. Some insurance policies may only cover cycle touring on roads or paths (ie. not mountain bike trails), or only cover cycle touring if it’s not main activity taking place (ie. it’s not more than XX% of the trip). Other insurance companies may not cover cycle touring at all or it might be considered to be an additional extra or ‘extreme activity’. Make sure you get confirmation directly from the provider before purchasing your travel insurance for cycle touring.

leaving vancouver
Cycle touring in Canada

And, what are the conditions?

You will usually find that the insurance provider will only cover you for cycle touring if you are following the country’s rules and regulations (ie. if it’s law to wear a helmet, then you must be wearing a helmet to be covered or, if you legally can’t cycle on a specific road, then you won’t be covered if you cycle on that road). It’s important to familiarise yourself with the country’s cycling rules, and if you do break some laws (face it, we all do at some point), then be mindful that you might not be covered if something was to happen.

How long do you plan to be cycling for? Will the policy cover you for the entire duration? Or will you need to renew you policy each year?

Most insurance companies only provide insurance policies for a maximum of one year. If you plan on cycling for longer than that, then it’s important to check, 1) Whether the policy can be extend, 2) Whether you can purchase or extend a new policy while travelling. A lot of policies cannot be extended, which means purchasing a new policy. Some policies have to be purchased while you are in your home country, before the start of your trip.

It’s also worth checking whether your travel insurance policy will become void if you decide to visit home during your trip. On the other extreme, make sure the policy isn’t a multi-trip policy; these policies are annual policies that only cover you for travel that is up to specific time period (ie. 60 or 90 days) at a time. After that you have to return home for the policy to still be valid.

I can almost hear some of you ask, “How will the insurance company find out if I wasn’t wearing my helmet, or that I went home for a couple of weeks?” The truth is, they might not find out unless they request specific documents that contradicts your story or if something happens to you while you are breaking one of the policy conditions. It’s whether you want to take that risk or now. If you are forking out all that money for travel insurance, then you probably want to be covered.

A few other things to consider:

Are you travelling solo, or as a group, a family or a couple? Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy a policy that covers you as a group, couple of family, instead of individually.

What countries are you visiting? Different countries usually cost different amounts to cover. Make sure you’re covered for all the countries you plan on visiting.

What’s your nationality? You nationality will affect the policy, even if it’s the same insurance provider. For example, World Nomad’s policy for British nationals covers completely different activities than World Nomad’s policy for Australians.

Arriving in China with the bikes
Arriving in China with the bikes

If you are unsure about anything, confirm in writing with the insurance provider.

When choosing my insurance provider and policy, I always email the insurance company to confirm my inclusions and anything I’m unsure about. I actually did this once, and was told I was covered for something. It turned out I wasn’t, however because I wrote the to insurance company and had in writing that I was covered; they honoured the claim and paid me out. This experience was with World Nomads Insurance Company.

However, boring it is, I also recommend reading through the policy and comparing a few different policy options before choosing your travel insurance for cycle touring. Like choosing your touring bike – picking an insurance policy is an investment.

Our Experience with Travel Insurance for Cycle Touring

We used World Nomads Travel Insurance for our France to China trip, and DUInsure (which is actually part of the Alliance group) for our cycle trip across Canada. I’ve made claims under both policies and overall had a good experience with both insurance companies. However, I did find World Nomad’s system much more user friendly and less complicated for submitting claims online. The overall process with World Nomad’s was also a lot quicker, and I got paid out within days, opposed to DUInsure where I had to wait weeks. I found DUInsure is slightly cheaper for travel in Canada and the USA, which is why I changed insurance companies this time, however I think I will be changing back to World Nomads once we get into Latin America.

 

Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about my experience with either of these insurance companies.

We would also love to hear from you if you’ve used either of these insurance companies and want to share your experience. Likewise, if you have any other tips for picking travel insurance for cycle touring.

If you enjoyed this article on choosing travel insurance for cycle touring, then you might also enjoy our article on Accommodation Options for Cycle Tourists.

Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists

Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists

So, why did I decided to put together this Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists? Last summer I was fortunate enough to land myself a summer job in Vancouver, working at Capilano Suspension Bridge. If you haven’t heard about Capilano yet, don’t worry you would have by the time you leave Vancouver. It’s hard to escape the park’s advertising! Though I loved working there, it is a tourist trap. But, what I did learn during my summer in Vancouver is the best and cheapest way to see the city. Vancouver is an expensive city, and as you probably know, most cyclist tourists are on a bit of a tight budget. So it is handy knowing how to visit this awesome city, without blowing funds you’ve saved for a rainy day.

Vancouver is also where we choose to start our World Cycle Tour, where we bought our touring bikes and where we had to prepare ourselves for the start of our trip. I wanted to share with others what we learnt.

I’ve made a couple of assumptions of people reading this Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists:

  • You’re planning a cycle tour that passes through Vancouver at some point.
  • You love the outdoors and like hiking.
  • You’re on a budget.
  • You’re visiting Vancouver during the “cycle season” (ie. May – Sept), which is also the “cruise season,” so Vancouver’s peak season.

So without further a due here is the Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists!

Some things to know about Vancouver:

  • Bike theft is huge! Keep an eye on your bike. If it gets stolen you won’t get it back.
  • If you have an expensive Saddle, then lock it to your bike. No joke! Bike seats get stolen all the time. We got some old chain from a bike store and locked our seat to the bike with that. While I was in the bike store, a girl actually came into the store looking for a new bike saddle because hers had literally just got pinched.
  • Avoid staying around East Hastings & Main St (or anywhere near the bus station). It’s not the nicest area of Vancouver.
  • There are loads of cycle paths around the city.
  • You can take bikes on buses and on trains.
  • If you are visiting during July or August, then definitely book your accommodation in advance. I’ve found Airbnb to have the best accommodation deals, otherwise I would try bookings as they tend to have the cheapest hotel prices. Hostelz is also a pretty good site to use, particularly if  you are looking for dorm room accommodation.
  • Most people stay around Kitsilano, Broadway St or Downtown. My favourite areas are North Vancouver (or the North Shore) and Kitsilano. The North Shore is a bit far from downtown, however it is a great base if you plan on cycling Hwy 99 (Sea to Sky), as you will miss all the morning traffic when leaving Vancouver (and there is A LOT of traffic in Vancouver).
  • Public transport and traffic in Vancouver generally sucks! I’ve found it’s usually quicker to cycle somewhere then to catch the bus. If you are staying on the north shore, then there are no trains, which means public transport sucks even more.

Bike & Outdoor Stores

We got our bikes from Bikes on the Drive. Personally, we didn’t have a good experience with them and I wouldn’t recommend them. I’ve heard that Ride On and Ride on Again are both good bike stores to check out. There are LOADS of bike stores in Vancouver – make sure you read the reviews and do some research before dealing with the store.

Mountain Equipment Co (MEC): It is $5 for a lifetime membership and it is definitely worth it. You will love this store. They are dotted all over Canada (in the major cities, though more so in the West), have an AWESOME return policy and sell everything from bike stuff to camping gear to outdoors clothes. There are 2 in Vancouver: one in downtown and one on the North Shore.

Sport Check: Another good outdoor store. Reasonably priced with a good selection. There are a few dotted around the city.

Touristy things to do:

Unfortunately, a lot of the tourist attractions in Vancouver are over-priced, but there are a lot of free or cheap activities to do around the city. A lot of them in my opinion are more interesting than the paid attractions. Definitely skip Capilano Suspension Bridge. It’s a tourist trap and it’s ridiculously overpriced. You are going to see way more impress things on your cycle trip anyway. But, don’t skip the North Shore – it’s awesome.

North Shore

Here’s an idea of a day itinerary that I used to recommend to family and friends visiting Vancouver:

Head to Canada Place and spend a bit of time walking around the waterfront and admiring the seaplanes, view, sails on the building etc. Then, catch the ferry from there to Lonsdale Quay (on the North Shore).

At Lonsdale Quay you have a great view of Vancouver’s cityscape. There is a lookout you can walk up to and get an even better look. There is also a small market, a craft brewery (with ‘ok’ beer) and a cheap “all you can eat” Chinese buffet – if you want to start carb-loading. Lonsdale Quay also has a farmer’s market every Saturday during the summer, and a night market every Friday night during the summer months. The ‘Japanese style burrito’ food truck at the night market is delicious!

Lonsdale Quay has the North’s Shore main bus terminal. From here you can catch buses to several different trails and attractions.

A) Capilano regional Park, the Salmon hatchery, Cleveland Dam & Grouse Mountain

Take bus #247 towards Grouse Mountain. Get off the bus at Capilano Suspension Bridge or Cleveland Dam for Capilano Regional Park* (click here to see a map of the park with trails and bus stop locations).

The regional park is free and has some amazing views of the canyon and really nice walks through the rain forest. In my opinion it’s nicer than the park. I recommend heading to the Salmon Hatchery first (it’s free and takes about 30 minutes to walk to from the Capilano suspension Bridge and about the same from Cleveland dam).

From the salmon hatchery head over the bridge to the lookout that looks up at Cleveland dam (trail #8 on the map). The Coho Loop is also a nice loop to do if you want to explore a bit more. After exploring this area you can head up to the top of Cleveland Dam. It is really beautiful and a nice place for a picnic.

Once finished at the dam, you can head to the bus stop on the road. You have a couple of options here:

  • You can catch the #247 up to Grouse Mountain. Grouse Mountain has a gondola you can take up to the top ($40+). Or, you can hike the Grouse Grind (check that it’s opened if visiting in May or earlier). It’s a steep, but short hike to the top. It’s then only $10 to catch the gondola backdown, plus you get the chance to see all the attractions at the top (grizzly bears, lumberjack show, bird of prey shows etc.) and a nice view of Vancouver. Grouse Mountain has a free shuttle back to Canada Place for anyone that rode the gondola. The bus takes you over the Lion’s Gate Bridge.
  • Catch the #247 back to downtown Vancouver. This bus also takes you over the Lion’s Gate bridge. You do have the option of getting off the bus near Stanley Park.

You can also walk up the Grouse Mountain from the dam. It’s about a 30 minute walk just along the main road.

  • If you want to skip Capilano Regional Park, the salmon hatchery and Cleveland Dam, you can always stay on bus #247 from Lonsdale until the end, which is Grouse Mountain.

B) Lynn Valley and the suspension bridge (the free suspension bridge)

Take bus #228 to Lynn Valley. Get off on Lynn Valley road near the suspension bridge and follow the signs (the bus driver can tell you when to get off). There are some nice walks around the park, including the smaller, but free suspension bridge, some pools that you can swim in, and lots of canyons and waterfalls.

Alternatively, if you want to try some longer hikes you can stay on the bus until Lynn Valley Headwaters Park. There is a hike to a waterfall, and a longer hike, which leads up to Grouse Mountain (this is quite a difficult hike, so don’t attempt unless you are prepared – it also takes at least half a day to a day).

I’ve only mentioned a couple of hikes that you can do from Vancouver, however there are loads. If you are interested in doing any other hiking then definitely check out Vancouver Trails.

Capilano Suspension Bridge - the Lynn Valley one is much nicer!
Capilano Suspension Bridge – the Lynn Valley one is much nicer!

Deep Cove

Deep cove is also a nice place to check out. It’s a small town on the Indian Arm inlet, which has some great (and reasonably priced kayak hire), a famous donut shop and a nice hike known as Quarry Rock.

To get there either take the #219 bus from Lonsdale Quay to Phibbs Exchange, then catch bus #212 or #211 to Deep Cove. Or you can catch the #211 from downtown Vancouver all the way to Deep Cove.

Kayaking at Deep Cove
Kayaking at Deep Cove

Stanley Park

You can’t really visit Vancouver without taking a stroll or cycle around Stanley Park. It’s huge and it’s busy, but it’s still definitely worth doing. Usually people will cycle around the seawall and follow the cycle path along the waterfront taking in all the sites along the way. The cycle path follows the waterfront from Canada to Place, around the seawall (under the Lion’s Gate bridge), around the stadiums and science musuem, Granville Island and Kitsilano. It’s definitely a nice cycle – but it can be extremely busy.

There are also a lot of walks around the park, but personally I think the best way to see it is to cycle.

During the summer Stanley Park also has free outdoor movies.

Craft Breweries

We decided beer is pretty important and Vancouver has some pretty great craft breweries. So we thought we had better make a whole section in this “Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists” dedicated to it. Since writing this guide we have also started a new site dedicated to cycle friendly breweries – check it out at Beercycle Touring.

Black Kettle on the North Shore is a small, but very good brewery. It’s in the industrial area, and is only a small place, but definitely a great spot – especially if you want to get off the tourist trail.

Steamworks does good beer and also good food (I highly recommend the quinoa burger). They are located in Gastown.

Granville Island brewery is super popular, and you will find it all over Canada. The brewery is pretty cool though, and they do brewery tours. The hummus plater is also really good.

I didn’t think much of the beers at the brewery in Lonsdale Quay, but they do have a pretty cool location.

Though it’s not in Vancouver, if you do make it up to Whistler, The Whistler Brewery does a very good Grapefruit beer.

If you want to try a bunch of local brews for cheap, then head to the liquor store and grab a few different ones to try. Drinking beer is carb loading – so, it’s great preparation for cycle touring wink, wink.

Enjoying craft beer at one of the breweries in Vancouver
Enjoying craft beer at one of the breweries in Vancouver

Liquor Stores

BC has 2 types of liquor stores:

  • Government owned (BC liquor): these stores are generally cheaper, but don’t always sell cold beer. When they do sell cold beer it’s usually only bud and coronas (if you’re lucky).
  • Privately owned: more expensive, but they usually have cold beers and wine for sale. They are more likely to sell a larger range of local beers and wines, however this is not always the case.

A lot of the privately owned liquor stores will have tasting nights of either local BC wines or beers. It’s worth keeping an eye out for these.

Free Events in Vancouver to watch out for:

Vancouver loves fireworks.

There are several firework displays on every summer. Celebration of Light and Canada Day (1st July) are 2 of the big ones. There will also be several smaller ones throughout the summer.

Night markets.

  • Richmond Night markets (Saturday night)
  • Lonsdale Quay (Friday night)

There are actually a whole bunch all over the city. This article (though for 2016) does a good job at describing all the different night markets in Vancouver.

Farmers markets.

These are dotted all around the city. Whatever day you are in Vancouver, if it’s summer, it’s likely you’ll be able to find one on, whatever day you’re there.

Outdoor movie nights.

Stanley park open aired movies are free and on every Summer. There are also a few smaller companies that have free outdoor movie showings at different locations through the Summer. The best place to find out about these is in the Straight free magazine or on Vancity Buzz (which I just discovered is now called Daily Hive).

Free salsa classes.

Free walking Tour. 

There are also lots of parades and festivals going on in Vancouver over Spring and Summer, such as the Vancouver’s International Jazz Festival and the Pride Parade. The free magazine called The Georgia Straight is the best place to check out events and festivals.

There is also some pretty useful information on the bicycle section of the Vancouver Tourism site, including information about bicycle events and links to cycle maps.

Sunset in Vancouver, while waiting for the fireworks to start, Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists
Sunset in Vancouver, while waiting for the fireworks to start

Getting in & out:

So I’ve already mentioned how bicycle friendly Vancouver is with all the cycle paths, and public transport that can carry bicycles, but what about getting in and out of the city.

Vancouver Island:

There are two options for getting to and from Vancouver island and both involve BC ferries.

Nanaimo – West Vancouver

Victoria (Swartz Bay) – Vancouver (Tsawwassen)

To the rest of BC:

The two most popular routes out of Vancouver (if you’re heading across Canada) are 1) the Sea to Sky highway to Whistler/ Pemberton and, 2) Highway 1 to Hope (or rather the roads that parallel highway 1 to Hope).

Personally, I would recommend the sea to sky highway, as it is a beautiful ride with stunning views, but it is a little longer and a bit more hilly than the alternative route. The highway does get a little narrow in sections, as does the hard shoulder. Something else to keep in mind is that bicycles are prohibited on sections of Highway 1 from Vancouver to Hope. This means you will have to take the quieter country roads (which I think are actually much nicer, just not as direct), for part of this route. Check out our Canada route notes or our ebook on Cycling Canada for more information about the roads out of Vancouver.

And that much pretty sums up our Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists. Vancouver is an awesome city! We absolutely loved living there, so hope you enjoy exploring the city too.

If you have any questions or suggestion on how to improve this Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists, please let us know. We’d love to hear your feedback!