Canada Debrief: Vancouver to Montreal

Three months of cycling across Canada was pretty epic and exhausting. I underestimated the sheer size and remoteness of the country, but it definitely made me a stronger and more determined person. It’s hard to explain the whole experience in a few paragraphs, so I’ve split it into three sections: photos of my highlights, cycling notes and budget notes.

Highlights

There’s definitely no shortage of ridiculously beautiful scenery across Canada. I was lucky to avoid the bushfires in BC, tornadoes and storms in Saskatchewan and not have any accidents along the way.

I met lots of cyclists and friends along the way, which made the tour much more enjoyable.

My appetite was insane, my favourite foods were probably the big breakfasts and anything with bacon.

The major cities were so far apart, so it was a relief to arrive in new places to rest and explore.

Cycling notes

The final figures for my Canada tour from Vancouver to Montreal:

  • 50 rides and 27 days for resting and exploring
  • 299 hours of cycling, ~ 6 hours per ride
  • 5,255km distance, ~ 105km per ride
  • 22,646m elevation, ~ 453m per ride

This has been the longest tour so far and the cumulative fatigue took its toll on me physically and emotionally. The distance and remoteness tested me and towards the end I really struggled to stay motivated.

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The tour can be split up into four distinct parts:

  1. The Canadian Rockies (Vancouver to Calgary): lots of peaks and rest stops, the scenery made the climbing worthwhile.
  2. The Prairies (Calgary to Winnipeg): super flat, but wind direction made the difference between an easy day and an excruciating day.
  3. Northern Ontario (Winnipeg to Toronto): Highway 17 is the only route through the small towns, it’s a bit rough with endless rolling hills, lots of trucks and hardly any road shoulder.
  4. The rest of Ontario (Toronto to Montreal): Very scenic and peaceful, the backroads are ideal for cycling.

Canada distance and elevation

Navigation was easy, since I mostly used highways, because the trails unexpectedly ended or turned to gravel. Google maps was quite reliable for route planning and there were pockets of nice bike paths. Luckily I didn’t have any major mechanical failures, but there were so many friendly drivers who were happy to stop and chat or ask if I needed help.

The terrain varied quite a lot, I had to walk up some of the big hills in the Rocky Mountains, but the road shoulders were quite generous and drivers were polite enough to give you lots of space. Throughout the prairies in the middle, I downloaded a ton of podcasts to pass the time, and stay focused on the super flat and straight roads. Ontario was the longest part of the journey and riding around Lake Superior was the most mentally challenging part.

Weather-wise, the summer heat was brutal in the beginning, until I started riding early in the morning and applying more suncream. I also used different apps to look at weather and wind forecasts, which helped plan out my rides a lot better.

Budget notes

My tour across Canada was a bit more expensive than expected, partly because I was travelling during the peak season in summer and I spent a lot of time in remote areas.

Canada tour budget

  • Accommodation: out of 77 nights, I had 33 nights for free (using Couchsurfing, Warmshowers and staying with friends), 22 nights in hostels and 22 nights in motels. Plenty of other cyclists camped instead and used a range of paid campsites, wild camping or had strangers let them camp in their yards.
  • Airfares: flying from Tokyo to Vancouver was quite pricey and I got stung by a $200 fee to check in my bike.
  • Eating out: I was surprised that eating out in Canada was much more expensive than Japan, especially with the tipping culture.
  • Groceries: the portion sizes in Canada are huge, so groceries lasted a long time, although I’ve eaten enough peanut butter sandwiches for the year.
  • Tours and accommodation: most of my activities were really cheap, I did plenty of hiking and found free admission nights for galleries and museums.

 

2 thoughts on “Canada Debrief: Vancouver to Montreal

  1. Fantastic! Was there anything that you felt like you should have brought/prepared and anything that you really shouldn’t have brought along?

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    • I think I could have reduced the weight of my bags even further by leaving behind my tablet, dropping a few items of clothing and getting more compact versions of things (first aid kit, travel journal etc). It’s really surprising how you can get by with hardly any possessions.

      I wish I had brought my mini spiky ball, which is the travel version of the foam roller to loosen up knots in your muscles. When cumulative fatigue sets in, it would’ve been good to have more motivation to keep up with personal maintenance, like stretching each day.

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