For some, Canada’s spectacular vistas and wildly varied landscapes are a once-in-a-lifetime experience from the seat of a bicycle. Watching the towering mountains of British Columbia and Alberta or the quaint fishing towns of Nova Scotia zip by at the speed you can pedal is a cyclist’s dream.
“There’s no better way to see the world than by bike,” says David Scuka, 62, of Moose Jaw, Sask.
This summer, he and several friends will set off on Cycle Canada’s Atlantic Tour, a 1,275-kilometre, 15-day bike ride starting in Halifax and ending on the famous Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, passing iconic sites in the East Coast such as Lunenburg, the Annapolis Valley, along the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick and over the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island.
In 13 days of riding (they will have a rest day in Charlottetown), they will cover an average of 91 kilometers per day, but the longest will be 140 kilometers. For the trip, they will climb 6,027 meters, including 1,584 in a single day, along the Cabot Trail.
It will be glorious, expects Scuka. He’s never been to Atlantic Canada before, but even on the Tour Pacific, seeing places he’s biked before was a whole new experience, he says.
“You always get a different perspective when you’re on a bike,” he says. “They plan routes to get the most scenery with the least amount of traffic.”
This will be his third expedition tour with Cycle Canada. In 2018, he rode the Tour Pacific, which takes cyclists 1,350 kilometers from Vancouver to Calgary via the Icefields Parkway. Last year, he did the Tour Gaspe, a 1,000 kilometer journey along the peninsula that juts out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence in southeastern Quebec.
Scuka and his traveling companions are avid cyclists, covering thousands of miles on Saskatchewan roads each year. Cycle Canada’s expedition tours are some of their longest and toughest offerings, and riders need to be prepared, he says.
“Absolutely, you have to prepare for it, but if you love cycling as much as we do, it doesn’t matter. We’re going to ride the bikes anyway,” he says of the group of friends who joined the tour this summer.
Cycle Canada provides a sample workout schedule and detailed itinerary for each trip so guests know what they’re getting into.
“We try to provide them with as much travel information as possible because we want them to be successful,” says Margot Jorgensen, who owns the business with her husband, Bud.
Bud Jorgensen organized the first Tour of Canada in 1988, an affordable, cost-shared, effort-shared trip for cycling club members. From there, there were requests for similar circuits in shorter segments, says Margot Jorgensen, and from there, Cycle Canada was born.
The company rotates its roster of longer rides, alternating most of them every two years.
The Walk of the Century, Cycle Canada’s season opener, is an annual trip that took place May 28-29 this year. Participants chose a 100 kilometer or 100 mile course from Toronto to Barrie and back. It’s one of the company’s most leisurely offerings, traveling quiet rural roads with an overnight stay in Barrie on Lake Simcoe, and has had drivers as young as eight and as experienced as 80.
Travel is supported, but not to the degree of some bike rides. They carry bags from stop to stop, provide breakfasts and some meals, and set up at rest areas with snacks and drinks. They’re there to pick up runners if they have a problem, but they don’t provide a “slump cart” to help late runners, Jorgensen says.
And while some of the dining and accommodations, both hotel and campground, are quite spectacular, gourmet dining and five-star stays aren’t the focus of Cycle Canada tours, she says.
“That’s not our selling point. It’s about cycling,” she adds.
On average there are 12-14 riders in a group and no more than 20. Routes are chosen along quiet back roads which provide good cycling.
“We welcome people from all over the world who come on our tours,” she says. “Canada is a beautiful country with wide open spaces, but also an incredible history that I find quite unique…. And there are a variety of types of cycling.
The Atlantic Tour, taking place August 13-27, will pass through Peggy’s Cove, NS, with its famous lighthouse and through Fundy National Park. The group will stay in the quaint town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and pass by the Big Lobster of Shediac.
“People are incredibly friendly and courteous, which makes cycling very enjoyable,” she says. “These are the communities that we have been discovering for decades. This is where the bike rides take you as we are on the old roads, the quiet roads…through small historic villages and towns and it is lovely.
And they’ll eat well, says Ms. Jorgensen.
“The other nice thing about Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, of course, is seafood and fish, and we’ll enjoy that a lot,” she says. “(Cyclists) need about 6,000 calories a day… Lobster is good.”
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The Montevelo is a three-day, four-night trek at a gentle pace from Ottawa to Montreal with plenty of time for sightseeing and excursions.
The company also offers one-week vacation tours such as the Tour Vert, a 455-kilometre route from Montreal to Quebec, or the Bike ridea seven-day, 675-kilometre tour from Toronto to Montreal.
In addition to the Tour Atlantique, Tour Gaspé and Tour Pacifique, Cycle Canada’s expedition trips include the Arctic Tower, a 36-day, 3,290-kilometre trip beginning in Vancouver and traveling by ferry to Nanaimo and up the island to another ferry to Prince Rupert, from where participants cycle to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories; and the 72 days, 7,635 kilometers Tour of Canada from Vancouver to St. John’s, or vice versa. This trip is organized as a club trip offered by a non-profit company.