A Typical Day on a Self-Guided Cycling Trip

Artifacts can be found along the trail | Nathalie Gauthier
Artifacts can be found along the trail | Nathalie Gauthier

I’d invite you to close your eyes and imagine this story, but you need your eyes to read, so please keep them open and try to imagine anyway.

Good Morning

Quality hybrid fully-equipped bicycles are perfect for rail trail cycling

You wake up in a comfortable bed under a thick duvet, sniffing an unfamiliar aroma of rural comfort: one part lavender, one part freshly baked bread, and one part forest or ocean breeze. You don’t have much with you, so you slip on your clothes, freshen up, pack your bags, and head downstairs for breakfast. Fresh pastries are on the table, and the coffee is particularly good. It’s a light but hearty breakfast, partly because you’re going to be exercising shortly and partly because you’re still full from last night (see: Good Evening). You leave your bags at the door, replenish your water bottle, rub on a bit of sunscreen, make sure your phone and/or camera have a full charge and throw a couple of snacks in your saddlebag. Tire pressure is good. Wishing the inn/B&B/hotel staff au revoir, hop on your bicycle and hit the road. Yesterday, the trail ended right outside the inn’s door. Today it’s a block away. It doesn’t take long before you’re on your way, peddling on a bike path through trees and farmland. The sun is up, the wind is cool, and congratulations: it feels very, very good to be you.

Late Morning

Child enjoying the path in Parc Pointe-Taillon |  <i>Nathalie Gauthier</i>

Today’s route takes you alongside creeks, wetlands and forests. Or perhaps through vineyards and villages, where restored railway stations recall the decommissioned railway track’s history. Maybe your morning’s ride has you tracing a scenic coastline or rolling over the lush countryside. You take brief stops for photos or to read interpretative boards, pick blueberries, let deer cross the path ahead, or simply admire the view. The route is pretty straightforward, but occasionally you consult your Trip Notes to learn more about landmarks and ensure you’re on the right track. You might roll through a small town or village, waving to locals along the way. Life moves differently when you’re on a bicycle. You’re travelling far yet remain fully immersed within the environment, capturing the sights, smells, and feelings of discovery. Sometimes, you can taste the breeze too.

Richard's Fish and Chips at Covehead PEI |  <i>Keri May</i>

Your legs need a break, and your muscles need some juice. It’s a gorgeous day, just screaming for a picnic at one of the wooden rest tables along the route. You pop into a local sandwich store, fully appreciating the artisan cheese, bread, spreads, and organic produce. Consulting your notes, it’s a solid three hours of riding ahead of you, but the days are very long at this time of year, there’s really no rush.

Good Afternoon

Rum Runners Trail, South Shore |  <i>Tourism Nova Scotia</i>

Back on the trail, the gradient picks up a little, but your muscles are strengthening. If you’re on an e-bike, there’s no need to feel any strain whatsoever. As you ride along, you pass cyclists heading in the opposite direction. Some wave, some don’t. Some say hello, some don’t, but most people are smiling, because this isn’t a hardcore road route for hardcore cyclists in their streamlined race gear. At rest stops, you meet people from around the country and of every age. Sometimes a trail volunteer pedals up to say hello and ask if you need anything. If you’re travelling with a group, you get to know everyone a little better, sharing camera duties along with stories and tall tales from previous adventures. All agree it’s a great day to be on a bicycle in Canada.

Cycling on the Rum Runners Trail to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia |  <i>Caroline Mongrain</i>

Chipmunks dart across the sign-posted trail, which has numbers counting down the kilometres. You worked off lunch hours ago, and after a small hill, you can spot your final destination in the distance. Turning off the trail, you ride along for a bit, following Google Maps to the address of tonight’s B&B. It’s late afternoon, and it does feel good to get off the saddle. You lock up your bike, remove some small souvenirs from your saddlebag, and check into your room where your bag is already waiting for you. How many kilometres did you pedal today? Forty? Sixty? Some members of your group are pretty hardcore, so they take an optional route to add more mileage this afternoon. You’re happy to kick off your clothes, hop in a shower, and take it easy for a couple of hours. You might want to take a stroll through the village, check out a summer festival, or pop into interesting local cafes and galleries. You might call the kids to catch up or take a well-earned nap.

Good Evening

Fuel your ride with delicious fresh seafood |  <i>Tourism PEI / Stephen Harris</i>

Refreshed, you meet your fellow riders at a local bistro for dinner. Sometimes you find a great restaurant together, and sometimes a memorable feast at a notable eatery is included with your itinerary. The upside of knowing you’re working off calories every day is that you don’t mind ordering another sumptuous plate of local oysters, blueberry pie, or whatever delicacy the region is famous for. Stories and laughter flow with the wine and craft beer, but it’s not going to be a late one. Your body has been busy, and fresh air has a soothing, soporific effect. You return to your room, climb under the covers, take out your book, and don’t make it to the end of the page. You sleep like a baby.

DAY 2-7: Repeat.

This is a typical day on a multi-day supported self-guided cycling trip. Whether you’re riding the Blueberry Bicycle Route, P’tit Train du Nord or the King's Road in Quebec, the Kettle Valley Heritage Trail in BC, or Niagara in Ontario - it’s a day well worth repeating.

Cycling the lovely Confederation Trail on PEI |  <i>Tourism PEI/Paul Baglole</i>

Join me this summer on Can Geo Adventures Prince Edward Island for a special itinerary that combines the very best cycling, community and culinary experiences on the island. You won’t have to imagine anything: this memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experience will be there to see for yourself.

Robin Esrock is a renowned travel journalist and the bestselling author of The Great Canadian Bucket List.

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