Monday, July 29, 2019

Biking in Canada: Part Trois

At this point, our family trip into Canada is done and we're back home. But our last visit was to the City of Quebec, several hours drive northeast of Montreal. I had mentioned in the previous post that the older parts of Montreal give a person the impression of a European city - and Quebec is a lot like that, but even more so. The "Old City" is reportedly the only fortified or "walled" city in North America (at least north of Mexico), and some parts of it date back to the 1600s. Our lodging was in rented house in the borough of Beauport, a short drive away from downtown. We spent about three days there - a lot of it exploring the "Old City" as a family, though I did get to do some riding on my own.

I had been warned that Quebec was not as "bike friendly" of a city as Montreal, but I wouldn't totally agree with that. There were numerous bike lanes, both on-street and separated, and there is a very nice bike path along the riverside. But the "Old City" is very compact -- conjested with cars and huge tour buses,  the streets are narrow (which apparently is not a deterrent to the buses), and crowded with tourists, and overall it seems really better suited to exploring on foot. However, having said that, because it is such a fight to find parking around the "Old City," I would at least suggest getting there by bike if at all possible, bring (or wear) walking shoes, find a good place to lock your bike, and then go walking.

This was on the steps leading from the "Upper Town" (or Haut-Ville) to the "Lower Town" (or  Basse-Ville). You can get a sense here of why getting around on a bike would be a bit tricky.
It's easy to forget you're not actually in Paris.
As I said - lots of narrow streets and alleyways - bustling with people. This alley was brimming with artists selling their work to tourists.
There are so many little cafes with tables on the sidewalk or on the street - and tons of interesting shops.
So, all of that was fantastic to see, but trying to get through much of it with a bike would be a pain. So for a much more peaceful ride, I decided to head over to the Ile d'Orleans, which sits right in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River, just to the east of the city.

The bridge to the isle was only about a 15-20 minute ride from the house where we were staying.
But first I rode over to Montmorency Falls, which was just a short detour from my route to the bridge. It was early so I got to enjoy seeing the falls pretty much by myself. The falls are reportedly 272 feet high, which is actually 99 feet higher than Niagara Falls.

Those cables going across the falls are a zipline. Not for me. Merci, NO!

From up on the observation deck by the falls, I could get a good view of the bridge and the Ile d'Orleans. I'd have a nice, fast downhill ride to the bridge.
(Gratuitous bicycle shot)
Approaching the bridge, which is a fairly delicate-looking suspension bridge.

I was up early so there was very little traffic on the bridge. But it's a very narrow roadway, and the walking/biking "lane" on the side is also very narrow. You wouldn't want to encounter someone coming the opposite direction.
At the mid-way part of the span. Did I mention that I really do not like high places? What's worse is that a truck would drive by and I could feel the whole roadway bounce. Oh, my stomach.
Nice view, though.
Once onto the Ile d'Orleans, there is one main road, Route 368, which encircles the perimeter of the whole island. It's about 42 miles all the way around. Orleans is sparsely populated, and primarily agricultural. There is not much in the way of development - and it's really peaceful as a result.

(Shadow "selfie")
I'm told that the island can get pretty busy with tourists this time of year, but again, I was out there pretty early. One of the big draws of the island is the produce. I saw farms of all kinds - fruits and vegetables, poultry and eggs, dairy, and there are produce markets and lots of little roadside fruit stands all along the 368. There are also vineyards and some small wineries, little cafes here and there, and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns.

I spotted this beautiful little cottage overlooking the river. There were lots of others like it.
One of many strawberry farms. OK, just for a frame of reference, try to imagine the powerful perfume of strawberries filling your nostrils. It was so strong I just had to stop. The downside of being out so early was that the markets and roadside stands weren't open yet. I was sorely tempted to run down there and pick a handful, but couldn't bring myself to do it.
Another farm with a great view.
After a great ride around the island, it was time to make my way back to the bridge.
There's Montmorency Falls, as seen from the bridge. The house where we were staying was at a similar elevation as at the top of the falls, so you can see I'd have some climbing ahead of me.
Before making the climb back up to the house (and the climb was a doozy) I enjoyed a leisurely ride for a few miles on the bike path that follows the Saint Lawrence, then started climbing. Did I mention that before leaving for Canada, I had put a different freewheel on the Mercian? I found an Ultra (narrow) 6-speed to replace my 5-speed. My low gear went from 24 to 28 teeth, with a 42-tooth chainring. That was helpful. And my smallest cog went from 14 to 13 - while picking up an extra gear ratio in the middle. Nice.

The following morning, we got the car packed up and started making the drive back home. All told, we had an excellent week in Canada, and it was nice to be able to experience at least some of it on two wheels. I hope the readers enjoyed it too.


  1. I enjoyed reading about your trip to Canada. I'm planning a trip to the Toronto area in early fall, and hope to do some biking while there. Also I'm fond of old Suntour Ultra 6 freewheels, a 28 / 42 combo will get me up almost any hill.

    1. Thanks - yes, the 42/28 combo was a big improvement, and the SunTour Cyclone still handles it just fine

  2. Excellent trip summary and accurate as we were there for two weeks in June/July! I'm a native Montrealer but have lived in Denver for a long time. Your site is always worth the diversion - thx

  3. Much appreciated. Enjoyed the read.

  4. I was there in Quebec City right after you-- Went up to Quebec to do the 7-day Le Grand Tour Desjardins bike tour at the beginning of August, which was around the Saguenay-Lac Saint Jean area for the 2019 edition. Wonderful bike trip, and on my way home back to the States me and my girlfriend spent 2 days in Quebec City seeing those same sights on bike like Montmorency Falls. Your account brought back awesome memories for me.

    What an amazing and utterly different world right next door to the U.S.!