Start Small

Using my brilliant powers of deduction, I’ve figured out that you’re probably not going to go on a weeks-long tour out of country for your very first tour.  Great thinking!  Best to start with a 2-3 day trip to try out the activity, make sure you like it, and prove to yourself that you CAN do it (even if you’re not "Spandex Joe").

Generally speaking, traffic is more patient and accommodating where people are at their summer cottage or on holiday themselves.  Traffic is less patient and more deadly along truck routes or where people are late, they’re late, for a very important date.

Here are some short tours that you can consider if they’re in your vicinity:

Trans Canada Trail between Banff and Canmore
Banff to Canmore, Return: Some of the best scenery in the world is in the Canadian Rockies.

There is a section of the Trans Canada Trail that parallels the highway between Banff and Canmore so you don’t have to ride on the highway.

At Banff, it’s easiest to access the trail from Cascade Ponds (across the highway to the north of Banff townsite).  17km one-way makes for a very easy introduction to cycle touring.  Stay in Canmore (or Banff) to make it your first overnighter.

Strathcona Wilderness Area Campsite
Collingwood Cove and Strathcona Wilderness Area:  One of our mainstays since we live in Edmonton is to start at Ardrossan, ride the little country roads down to Collingwood Cove to have a picnic at the little park out there, then circle up past Antler Lake then end up at Strathcona Wilderness Area for the night.

Day 2 is a short ride back to Ardrossan.  The campsites at Strathcona have to be reserved ahead of time, so be sure to do that.

Drumheller: You can do some great rides in this area, between Drumheller town and the Bleriot Ferry (that’s fun!), between Drumheller and the Atlas Coal Mine (a National Historic Site), and between Drumheller and Wayne: 11 single-lane bridges to the “Last Chance Saloon” – also fun! 

Camp and carry your gear daily for a true self-supported tour experience, or give yourself a gentle introduction by staying at a hotel or BnB in Drumheller town.

Gull Lake
Gull Lake: There are campgrounds on the west bank and the east bank of Gull Lake.  Ride through Bentley each day to simulate touring in Europe where you have a great little town every 10 or 20 kilometers.

Don’t make the mistake I made, though, by extending your tour to include Sylvan Lake.  Highway 20 may seem like ok riding, depending on when you look at it, but it’s a truck route and you’ll be guaranteed to have some scary and potentially dangerous encounters.

If you stay at Sunset Legion on the west bank, be careful on the gravel hill that takes you down into the campground.

Pigeon Lake
Pigeon Lake: Use the shoreline-hugging roads through the summer villages, plus a gravel and dirt section of the Trans Canada Trail to make a lovely 55km trip around Pigeon Lake.

Take two days to do the tour by leaving a vehicle at the Village (or somewhere else), riding clockwise and camping at the Pigeon Lake Provincial Park or Zeiner, then finish the trip on Day 2.

Always ride clockwise around Pigeon Lake, otherwise you’re crossing highway traffic several times completely unnecessarily.

Kettle Valley Rail Trail, just north of Penticton
Kettle Valley Rail Trail: The Kettle Valley Rail Trail in BC offers great promise of some amazing cycle touring.  Unfortunately, a lot of it is more promise than great cycle touring.  Stick to the popular routes.

We stayed in Penticton and ventured north from there as far as Myra Canyon (this one is not to be missed), and then took the trail south as well, although that section was harder to follow.

Now, if you happen to be from England instead of Western Canada, a great little tour option is the:

Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight: Book yourself some AirBnBs for a three- or four-day zip around this beautiful little island.

Just remember to ride on the LEFT side of the road!  Although, I guess if you're from England you already know that.

The world is full of options for beginner cycle tours.  If none of these is within your reach, just start researching and see what other people do in your area.  Look for campgrounds approximately 30 kilometers apart… and even better if there’s a little town in between for provisions.  If possible, drive your chosen route once, paying attention to the quality of the shoulders and the traffic.

Have fun and let me know how it goes!


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