Quebec is shouting to the world that they are a destination bike location and we’re listening. I mean, why not? Quebec has beautiful rolling scenery, old world charm in a new world destination, and fantastic food. What I didn’t know was that Quebec has the longest system of trails in North America with a total length of over 5,300 kilometers. The Route Verte links Quebec to Ontario, New Brunswick, and the U.S. Quebec tours and trails are bicycle-friendly, comfortable, safe, and feature carefully designed facilities and clear signage throughout. Armed with our eight tips, you’re ready for the ride of your life or at least a romantic weekend in Quebec.
1 – Pick the Right Route
We believe everyone should enjoy cycling, not just the lycra (spandex) – clad members of the cycling community, but anyone who appreciates the pure pleasure of riding a bike. Since we’re all in it to have fun, be honest about your mileage and goals. I would love to bike from Quebec City to Ontario, but my butt might disagree. We aren’t ironman triathletes, and we don’t have to be. We are average people who enjoy extraordinary adventures.
Research the mileage and elevation changes before you go. Jenn’s max distance ridden recently is about 50 miles. Are we going to train enough to extend that? Also after about day four on your bike, you have to deal with accumulated fatigue. If you are riding about 80% of your max daily distance, this fatigue has almost no cumulative impact. Another quick rule of thumb is to find out what type of bikes your tour company is planning on using. If the group is on road bikes, there will probably be some racing going on.
2 – Prepare For Your Ride
Half the fun of bike tours is the training, or so they say. I don’t know about that math, but you will still want some saddle time before the big day. Not only will you have more fun on your dream vacation if you do some training, but it’s a great excuse to work out. At a minimum, try to get up to the daily max distance, but aim for the 20% margin above and beyond.
Distance isn’t the only factor. You should prepare for the weather. Have you seen how green Quebec is in the pictures? It’s even in the name “Route Verte“. All this greenery is an indication that it might rain so do at least one practice ride in the rain to check out your gear. How about the Frontenac Castle on the bluffs? There are miles and miles of lovely flat trail trails along the rivers and lakes, but you might run into a hill or two. Hill climbing takes muscle, which comes with training. Don’t forget to train for hydration too. You need to end your training rides fully hydrated and not use the crutch of recovering on the couch.
3 – Set up Your Personal Space
Pay extra attention to your ergonomics (body alignment) during your training rides. If you have any questions, go into a local shop, and they will help you fine-tune these adjustments. Then, write down the specifications, so you have them for the future. There’s a good chance that a Quebec bike shop could have your bike tuned to your specifications if you know what they are (and ask).
The most common adjustments revolve around the seat height, angle and distance to the pedals. However, you can adjust more than just that on a bike. A quality bike rental shop will have additional headsets available to extend (or contract) the torso spacing or raise the handlebar height. Your seat saves your knees; your handlebars saves your core (or your wrists if you need to compensate for misalignment by overweighting your handlebars).
Don’t forget the specialized extras for your bike like shoes, saddles, or gloves but above all else remember your bike shorts. Pad your shorts, not your seat for optimal comfort.
Besides customizing the ride, there is a wide assortment of ointments and creams for your body that you should consider. Sunscreen is an obvious one, but there are more. Chamois cream will improve your riding comfort by preventing the chafing that leads to saddle sores. Bengay or some other muscle rub can help with sore muscles and recovery on multi-day rides. Quebec has a modern and well-equipped bike community so you should be able to buy these once you arrive.
4 – Learn About the History of Quebec
Quebec’s link to France gives it a unique history apart from the English ancestry of the rest of Canada and America. You’ll hear French spoken around you, so learn a phrase or two. It’s the perfect homage to a bike tour – oui ou non?
If you have the opportunity, look for a guided tour. We’ve found quality guides help us learn more about a country than a history book ever has. It’s one thing to learn words on a page. It’s another to see a culture unfold before your handlebars.
5 – Enjoy the Scenery Around You
Biking connects you to the land in a most fantastic way. Scenery rolls by with a full view from the pavement to the sky. You can hear the sounds of the cows mooing in the fields or the wind whistling through the trees. Most of all are the smells. From fragrant flowers to freshly baked bread, you are a part of the Quebec and Quebec is a part of you.
Another beauty of bikes is that you can get off them quickly. Look for a route with eye candy along the way or even just candy. Charming route-side communities dot the countryside filled with delightful stops. In between sits rolling farm country and natural beauty. You’ll have as much fun off your bike as you will on it. For example, we loved our bike tour to Montmorency Falls.
6 -Savour the Food
We’ve established Quebec’s French roots and abundant farms. It shouldn’t surprise you that they have a farm to table scene based on classic French cooking. Game meat, provincial herbs, and, of course, poutine wait to delight your palate. Quebec is renowned as a foodie mecca, but it exceeded all of our expectations. Go ahead and indulge; you can bike off those calories in the morning.
7 – Use the SAG Wagon (or Stops)
If you have booked a multi-day tour, the company should be following along in a support van filled with drinks, snacks, and repair kits if needed. I can’t tell you how much we enjoy stepping off our bikes anywhere along the road and having a fully stocked snack bar roll up behind us. It’s biking made easy.
If you’re planning a self-guided tour, look for those charming towns to be SAG stations. Quebec has a beautiful combination of safe bike routes and urban communities so, with the right planning, you will be well supported all along your way.
8 – Approach Each Mile With an Attitude of Gratitude
You have no reason to be riding if you’re not having fun. You could have just flown into Quebec City and be eating yourself into a food coma. Instead, you’re on your bike. Every pedal is for you. Every breath is a chance to smell something new. Every turn reveals an exciting view. Every stop is earned. Besides, if you weren’t riding, you couldn’t eat all that rich food guilt free. In fact, like so many adventures, the ultimate success or failure comes down to you and your attitude.
Another great Canadian destination for biking is Stanley Park, in Vancouver.
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Images copyright Jenn and Ed at Coleman Concierge. Used with permission.