Biking Across Canada

A Long-Distance Cycling Community

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to bike across Canada?

As every rides at different speeds, better to ask what months Canada is passable by bicycle. Generally there is a five month window-of-opportunity when the risk of snow is limited along southern routes. This is between May to September. Really quick riders can tour across in two months. But if you take in scenery, visit family and friends along the way and stop at all the tourist spots, plan for 3-4 months.

How much does it cost?

This depends on what type of traveller you are. Hotels or wild-camping? A mix of both is best as you and your gear begin to smell. Consider also budgeting for airfare and bike shipment at the end. To get an idea of how to create a budget, have a look at this post, Cycling Canada Excel Budget.

How detailed should my plan be?

There are too many variables for a detailed day-to-day itinerary: weather, getting lost, gear break-down, tourist stops, bear attack/photo-op, illness, rest-days, tail-wind, etc. Plan to hit major population centres for a day off - where it's easy to re-supply food, gear, do any bike repairs, rest legs.

Do I have to worry about wildlife?

Fear comes from not knowing what to expect and not feeling you have any control over what's about to happen.
- Chris Hadfield
Fear of wild animals (and of space-flight) is healthy. Knowing how to react in their habitat and in different situations is important. Familiarise yourself by reading up on Canadian wildlife. Purchase and practise using a bear-spray canister, bear-bangers and air-horns. Trekking across Canada, you will inevitably see some of these animals: black/grizzly/polar/spirit bears, cougars, gray wolves, mating moose, snakes, rabid raccoons, wolf spiders, yodelling loons

What type of bike should I buy?

This varies for everyone, depending on budget and comfort-level. A touring specific bike will be the most comfortable over the long-haul and there are several different models available out there.

Sizing

Spending hours/days/weeks/months in the saddle means it's important the bike frame fits you well. To get fitted/sized try using this Fit Calculator first. Then head to a local bike shop and ask to be fitted there. See if the numbers line up. Test ride a million different bikes and get opinions from bike shop staff who you trust (and when you ride back through your town, ask for a free tune up!).

Handlebars

It is really, really nice to have several options for the placement of your hands. Hours spent in the same position and your hands will go numb. With drop or butterfly style, you've got options - whether you are sitting upright or hunched forward.

Saddle

The best touring saddle is a Brooks Saddle. Simple, all-leather seat that molds to your ass. Plan a couple months to break it in. No need for padded shorts afterwards.

Panniers

The best is Ortlieb. Tough, durable, simple and strong attachments. Good longevity.

Panniers

The best is Ortlieb. Tough, durable, simple and strong attachments. Good longevity.

Tires

Had zero flats on our tour while using Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. A five millimetre thick rubber lining stops small nails, branches or broken glass from pentrating to the tube.

It's Your Call

While I have seen people touring on roadies and mountain bikes, a unicycle or a fixie wouldn't do well over the Rockies. Budgets, body size and fitness is different for everyone. For further reading, check out Tom's page, What's The Best Touring Bike?

How do I pack my bike?

Lighter is always better. Break your bike and gear down by systems that work together (kitchen system / bike tools system / rain-gear system / clothes system). See how each system can work together, such as eliminating doubles. For example, Keen's Commuter Sandal paired with wool socks and MEC booties is a perfect footwear system for all weather types. For gear inspiration:

What route should I take?

Between urban areas, you will most likely be travelling along the Trans-Canada Highway, #1 from Vancouver into the mountains. Or the #16 highway from Prince Rupert to Winnipeg (also called the Yellowhead Highway)

Suggested routes are broken down by province on the Province by Province page.

East or West, which direction is best?

It does not matter, either way is possible. But the majority of tourers start "out" West and head "back" East. Psychologically, you get the Rockies out of the way first. Tail-wind is a bit better heading East. Whichever way, check the previous winter's snowpack, which can linger in the mountains well into summer - though the mountain roads should be cleared.

How do I know if I am ready?

Attach all your gear to your bike and go on a few overnight or multi-day weekend tours first. Make a list of what went wrong, what could make the trip more comfortable or how you could lighten your load further. These practise "dry-runs" are the best preparation for a fully-loaded long tour.

Can you recommend any books to read?

Besides the Journal Directory, here is a list of cycling-touring books:

Where can I get more information?

Post questions to the Biking Across Canada Facebook Community or send a message directy.

Some links:

I have never been to Canada and am terrified of Canadians.

Then check out the below for a cross-country cultural tour: