Cycling from Toronto to Montreal
For me, cycling has always been the promise of an adventure. Even as a kid, pedalling to the corner store, or meeting up for a D&D campaign, my bike gave me a feeling of freedom. During the week, I use my bike for commuting to my job, 25-minutes, twice a day. But cycling a handful of long-distance rides evoked the sense of freedom and independence I grew up with and presented a compelling challenge.
So, when I was wondering what to do during some well-deserved time off this fall, riding from Toronto to Montreal seemed like the right thing to do: it would include adventure, photography and seeing friends. The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail comprises over 3600km of combined on-road, off-road paved dedicated pathways and gravel trails, and connects many communities. Over 6 days and 634 kilometers – plus one rest day in Kingston – I would arrive in Montreal.
Do I recommend this trip? Yes. Do I recommend you do it the way that I did it? Read on.
Day 1 – Toronto to Bowmanville – 84km
Ride Details: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/44859947
Rating: 4 / 5. Navigating out of the city can be a slog, but the dedicated paths are aplenty.
Lunch: Sandwiches with family in Scarborough, but Scarborough has many options for restaurants.
Accommodation: Best Western Plus Bowmanville
For the first day, riding to Bowmanville from my home in Toronto seemed most manageable: there are few accommodation options in Newcastle, but more in Bowmanville and Oshawa. At 127 km, Port Hope was too far, and breaking the trip up in such a way didn’t appear to provide much benefit.
Getting out of the city is going to be different for everyone, depending on where you live. I rode from East York in Toronto, up the Gatineau Hydro Corridor and then down into Scarborough and the Waterfront Trail. From there you weave through Rouge National Urban Park, Petticoat Creek Conservation Area in Pickering and continue through Ajax and Whitby. The trails are well developed, with most of it off main roads, and when it does converge with a road, it’s not for long. I was travelling during the week, and paths were significantly less busy than on the weekends.
There are several uncanny moments on the trail. One of The Simpsons-like moments is that you cycle past not one, but two nuclear power plants: Pickering and Darlington. The sheer scale of these structures, which I am normally never close to, is impressive. There are large communities and playing fields right around the corner, and then – hello – there are megawatts of electricity travelling across transmission towers.
In Oshawa, there is a Garden of Human Rights which was unveiled in 2023 and later I learned the park is named after previous NDP leader Ed Broadbent. It was quiet and empty when I rode past, and gave me pause to think about the current state of things in the world. Further along, part of the Waterfront trail is sponsored by a major corporation which has a wonderful view of Lake Ontario, but presents a distinctive nose: gentle overtones of an implacable chemical odour. Just behind a large berm lurks a large industrial area. There are a few of these gems along the trail reminding you of one’s dependence on and interrelationship with such things.
My biggest mistake on Day 1 was leaving late. A deadline cropped up at work, and I decided on my vacation day to attend to those responsibilities before setting out. Don’t do this. What I didn’t consider was how early the sun sets in October. Somewhere between Oshawa and Bowmanville, the sun started going down. With more than a few kilometers left to go, and I was in an unfamiliar area with poor lighting. I brought plenty of lights: two front lights, and two rear lights, with two spares for each, but this is sort of weak reassurance when it’s there are few streetlights. Luckily, most of it was on the off-road paved trail, but there was one section where I had to navigate up a service road that ran adjacent to the 401, turn right and then left back onto the trail. Luckily, the Waterfront Trail diverts under the 401 and I was easily able to access the Best Western Bowmanville, with the only caveat that it is a busy place, surrounded by on-ramps and off-ramps to the 401.
If you’re satisfied with the one of three fast food options nearby to the Best Western Bowmanville, it’s just fine. I immediately searched for the most robust calorie-filled option on the menu at the nearby Harvey’s (riding several kilometres up the road to the downtown area simply wasn’t worth it). I was just happy to be there. Pack your earplugs and enjoy the sights and sounds of the cloverleaf roadways. The hotel offered free breakfast – which was excellent – with a delightful person who magically appeared and made me a fresh omelet, and an automated coffee machine that created a Cortado. Bliss.
Day 2 – Bowmanville to Brighton – 107km
Ride Details: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/44965811
Rating: 4.5 / 5. Mixture of quiet roads and paths, beautiful scenery.
Lunch: Dreamers Café or Olympus Burger (Port Hope)
Dinner: The Smokehouse Eatery and Pub
Accommodation: Timber House Resort
Heading out of Bowmanville, the Waterfront Trail runs through a hydro field of tall corn stalks and then along service roads. Finally it reaches Lakeshore Road, and a mixture of farms and country houses. It was a beautiful day and this part of the trail was great. The road is either very quiet or has a large shoulder that you can travel on. The trip out to Port Hope is equally wonderful, with beautiful farmland and quiet roads.
After cycling for a couple of hours, I ended up grabbing a panini at the Dreamers Café in Port Hope, though the internet strongly recommended I check out Olympus Burger. I planned to stop for actual lunch in Coburg, but when I arrived in Coburg a short while later, I wasn’t hungry: I pushed on instead.
Parts of County Road 2 are quite busy through Coburg and I was happy to get back on Lakeshore Road. When I was ready for my next break, Wicklow Beach was a decent place to stop and rest. Nearby Colborne also had an easily-located convenience store, where I grabbed a soda.
This leg of the trip was so great that I installed my Tribit Stormbox Micro speaker on my handlebars and fired up “A Place to Stand,” the tune every Gen X kid from Ontario knows by heart. The song is a banger, so long as you keep in mind that Indigenous people of Ontario were the original owners and custodians, and that wasn’t top of mind when it was created.
Brighton is not far from Presqu’ile Point Provincial Park, but the town itself is several kilometers north of the trail and my B&B was nowhere near town. It only made sense to get dinner before it got dark and then head to my B&B: I was not making that mistake again. I headed into town to The Smokehouse Eatery and Pub where the food and service were excellent: it was busy when I pulled up, full of locals and families, and the food and service was great. I stayed at the Timber House Resort, a B&B located just off the Trail, with fantastic hospitality and of course, a delicious home-cooked breakfast with some decadent preserves.
On my way to the B&B, I spotted my first bike packer: he was headed in the opposite direction, so I swung my bike around and crossed the road to chat to him, as I was so excited to see someone on a longer journey. Hailing from Japan, Fuji travelled from Alaska, across Canada, and now was heading to Niagara Falls to hopefully make his way to Los Angeles before winter impeded his travel.
Day 3 – Brighton to Kingston – 118km
Ride Details: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/44965811
Rating: 4 / 5. The trip through Prince Edward County on the Millennium Trail is excellent, the ferry and cycle to Bath are great. Bath to Kingston is less rad.
Lunch: The County Canteen (Picton)
Dinner: With friends, but recommend Wooden Heads, Chez Piggy, Atomica or any of the Thai or Cambodian restaurants in Kingston. Pan Chancho for breakfast.
Accommodation: Stayed with friends, but there are many downtown options.
Determined not to repeat my mistake of leaving too late, I got all my kit together ready to go before having a very early breakfast. With 118 kilometres to cover, I knew I didn’t want to waste too much time. As it turned out, day 3 was one of the best rides of the trip. I rode through Prince Edward County on the Millennium Trail, which intersects with Brighton Road about 6 kilometers down the road.
The Millennium Trail is a crushed gravel trail that runs the width of Prince Edward County through farmland and wildlife reserves with the occasional road crossing or rest stop. At nearly the halfway point to my destination (the 50 km mark from Brighton), Picton served as the perfect place for a lunch break. The lunch options in Picton are plentiful, and I was glad I stopped at the highly recommended County Canteen, where the food and service was wonderful.
From there, I headed towards the Glenora Ferry. It runs only at the top and bottom of the hour and I did not want to lose any time, so I gave myself a full 30 minutes to get there and arrived early. After I disembarked from the short 15 minute ferry ride, the road from Adolphustown is dotted with apple orchards and other farms, and it’s well maintained with a large shoulder: it’s incredibly pretty and quiet and drivers are very respectful.
As you get closer to Bath, though, there are some industrial sites that generate a bit more traffic. There aren’t very many places to stop along this stretch and I was very concerned about making the distance before dark. The local coffee shop in Bath was closed, so I opted for the Country Style Donuts which also happens to serve as a combination gas station and LCBO: as you can imagine, it was a popular place, but an absolutely necessary stop for a quick bio break, coffee and a donut.
Unfortunately, the rest of the ride was not quite so pastoral. As Bath is a bedroom community, there was an increasing amount of traffic as I was heading into Kingston, but thankfully most going in the other direction. Some of the cycling infrastructure coming into Kingston is separated lanes with both directions, some shared pathways and a bit of a mishmash of bumpy asphalt next to the sidewalk: not great overall. You can opt to hop on the shared path along the water in Kingston but portions of that are not great, so at this point I was just trying to get to my destination at speed, which didn’t involve tangling with pedestrians who deserve a bit of peace. As I pedalled towards my friends’ house, I ran into them on the street and was delighted to be reunited with friendly faces.
Day 4 – Kingston – Rest ye legs
I was very grateful for the rest day and the friends who put me up for the two nights. At a certain point, if it isn’t your legs that malfunction, it’s your brain. I just found myself not thinking straight and with all the calories you need to consume, your body is just trying to keep up: calorie data from the Apple Watch is instructive. So, having a day where I did very little except eat and sleep was wonderful. I’m a Queen’s alumni, and wandering around campus was a treat, and I managed to check out the new Indigenous gathering place at Mackintosh-Corry Hall, and reconnect with Professor Tim Smith of the Queen’s History Department, who was a bright light in my undergraduate studies. I also checked out the Emergence and Mmaandaawaabi exhibitions of Indigenous art at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. I napped. Again, it was wonderful to have the support of friends.
Day 5 – Kingston to Brockville – 84km
Ride Details: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/44635869
Rating: 3.5 / 5. 1000 Islands Parkway is great. Riding on County Road 2 is less great.
Lunch: Cornwall’s Pub, Rockport
Dinner: 1000 Islands Brewing, Brockville
Accommodation: Super 8 by Wyndham Brockville
Ahh, a nice easy day of 84km right? Well, sort of. The first part was a cycle past Fort Henry and CFB Kingston on County Road 2, so it was more shoulder riding on a sometimes busy road. Once I got slightly further along, the quality of the road shoulder deteriorated. There are not a lot of places to stop, and I really just wanted to get off Highway 2 as quickly as possible and in to Gananoque. I soothed my nerves by stopping at the Pistachio Café for a coffee and homemade butter tart and had a chat with some of the locals.
I was looking forward to pedaling the 1000 Islands Parkway which I had cycled with my wife Sabina earlier in the summer when we enjoyed a few days in Gananoque. The 1000 Islands Parkway is an off-road paved pathway that runs from outside Gananoque up to about 12 kilometers outside of Brockville. The Parkway riding was great. I ran into another local cyclist named Victor who I ended up having lunch with in Rockport at Cornwall’s Pub, which is the natural halfway point. Victor gave me all the local history as we pedaled down the Parkway, including its inception and the Bell fibre optic cabling that runs beneath the bike path itself.
I made good time on this day, arriving in Brockville too early to eat dinner. So I headed to my hotel along Highway 2, and settled in. Later, I took a cab back into town to eat at 1000 Islands Brewing, which was busy and had excellent food and pints. The Butcher’s sandwich with the coleslaw was almost the best sandwich I had on the trip. The beer is excellent as well.
Day 6 – Brockville to Cornwall – 100km
Ride Details: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/44753972
Rating: 3.5 / 5. Lots of County Road 2 riding and busy around border crossing to US. Trail radically improves at Upper Canada Village and includes a ride along Long Sault Parkway.
Lunch: Mac’s Tavern at the Mcintosh Conference Centre, Morrisburg
Dinner: Schnitzel’s, Cornwall
Accommodation: Best Western Parkway Inn & Conference Centre, Cornwall
One of the benefits of staying at a hotel that serves truckers is that they start breakfast at some ungodly hour of the morning, which suited me fine. Again, concerned about arriving at my destination in the dark, I was on the road by 8:20 in the morning. The deteriorating weather was also a concern. Up until now, I’d been blessed with mostly sunny skies that balanced out some of the colder mornings. But on this day, there were weather warnings for heavy rainfall and dropping temperatures with rainfall warnings in Cornwall of up to 50mm. The cold and wet is a very bad combination for me. So I geared up: helmet cover, rain pants, shoe covers and everything. I figured if I didn’t need it, I was prepared.
As it turned out, I needed it. It rained lightly all morning with some more moderate moments. Because of the rain and the distance I was trying to put in, I couldn’t really stop to take in the views. It’s an unusual landscape, with the United States just across the river: America is just over there. The ride includes many sites that saw action during the War of 1812. I couldn’t absorb much about the history and decided to follow this up later. Sections near the bridge to the US were busy either with traffic heading to the US or up to the 401.
By the time I arrived in Morrisburg for lunch, I was pretty wet and I hoped they wouldn’t mind a soaking wet cyclist coming in. The Mcintosh Country Inn & Conference Centre was a hotbed of activity, with a sewing group in one conference room, other well-dressed folks celebrating events, and inside was Mac’s Tavern which had women’s curling on the TVs, and local folks just enjoying a bit of brunch. The server handed me an old school multi-page laminated menu with homemade this and that on every page. Again, I scanned the menu for the most fabulously calorie-loaded food payload, and found the bacon cheeseburger, which had bacon and cheese in the burger, and then more bacon and cheese on top of the burger. These people are not messing around: it was exactly what I needed.
The biggest mistake I made at lunch was not charging my phone with my portable power bank or a wall socket. Later on, I would discover the purpose behind the Quadlock rain poncho I had purchased for my phone: it’s to keep water out of your Lightning Port. If your Lightning Port gets wet, you can’t charge your phone without a magsafe charger. I received an error that I had never seen before in my life that indicated that I might need to wait several HOURS before charging my phone. This is one of the major drawbacks of using your phone for navigation.
Coming out of Morrisburg, I was on a very busy County Road 2. With it raining steadily, my overriding sentiment was to get off the main road as quickly as possible: getting covered in brown truck spray was no fun. Once the road turns off into the old Aultsville Train Station, you’re heading towards Upper Canada Village and the Trail winds around the outside of the Village and towards the Long Sault Parkway.
This part of the trail is a dedicated leafy pathway away from the road. It was unexpectedly beautiful. Thankfully, I was familiar with this route, having cycled it that summer, so I became less concerned about getting lost. However, I was very wet, and just wanted to get to my hotel (yes, another Best Western that provides breakfast) in Cornwall. Thankfully the cycling infrastructure in Cornwall is far better developed than in Kingston, and I was able to navigate there mostly on dedicated bike paths. After a quick shower and taxi into downtown Cornwall, I was able to enjoy the German delights of Schnitzel’s.
Day 7 – Cornwall to Montreal – 140km
Ride Details: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/44635865
Rating: 4 / 5. Riding out of Cornwall is good, as well as ride to South Lancaster. Route Verte after Les Coteaux is wonderful almost all the way into Montreal. Some sections are a slog.
Lunch: Restaurant La Basse Cour, Les Coteaux
Dinner: I’ll explain below.
Accommodation: Residence Inn by Marriott Montreal Downtown
This was the ride I was most concerned about given the distance: it was the longest ride of the journey, and would be the furthest I had ever ridden in a single day. I had considered breaking it up into two days, but given the absolutely dreadful weather I was experiencing, I didn’t relish the idea of stretching one water-soaked ride into two separate soakings. As well, there didn’t appear to be great options for breaking up the ride into smaller segments: there were only small motels along the Route Verte and it didn’t feel right to stop when I would be so close to Montreal. So, I was just going to go for it. I was able to leave Cornwall by 8:00am. If the app was correct, and based on my previous breaks and pace, I was slated to arrive in Montreal by 5:00pm.
Much of the route east of Cornwall takes you along County Road 2. It’s fairly quiet and pretty along to South Lancaster, where the road turns north to connect with a South Service Road that runs alongside the 401, which then turns into Highway 338 in Quebec. At this point, my glutes already felt tired. This was somewhat worrisome as I was only 30km into a 140km day. I stood up on my pedals on the downhills and briefly paused when I could. What if I overdid it and really caused myself an embarrassing injury? As I contemplated this potential outcome, there appeared – like a beacon of light in the darkness – a Tim Hortons. I stopped for a coffee and a donut and stayed standing the entire time due to my concerns of arse fatigue, and because I was absolutely soaking wet. No one wants to sit down in a puddle so I stood in the Tim Horton’s for my rest stop. Somehow, miraculously, this brief rest made a ton of difference, and I don’t recall having another concern about fatigue that day.
Once I arrived at the Quebec border, of course I took the obligatory photo next to the QUEBEC sign. There are some portions of Route Verte that trailed up into the suburbs of Les Coteaux, but there are large shoulders on the road and taking a more direct route made more sense. Some of the roadway shoulder in Quebec is crumbling, but thankfully, it was also the halfway point. I stopped for lunch at Restaurant La Basse Cour which was packed. I was lucky to get a spot at the bar and received a plate of LES COCOS BÉNÉDICTINES that had veritable torrent of Hollandaise Sauce (as it should be). Ce n’est pas bon: c’est fantastique.
The best part of the Route Verte starts on the other side of Les Coteaux, and travels along the canal on an off-road paved trail. It was a Sunday, and I saw very few other people on this part of the route. It was wonderful. Due to the weather, I had the benefit of winds coming from the west with up to 46km/h gusts, but as the route took a northerly turn at Pointe-des-Cascades, I found myself on a busy roadway with a punishing cross-wind that led up to Route 20.
There are some diversions off this road that I missed which would have improved the journey. The consolation was that this is where I crossed over into the Ile Perrot suburbs, taking Cinqieme Avenue. I’m glad I did, because I needed to break, refuel and to charge my phone and Apple Watch, which were both verging on empty. I stopped at a McDonald’s and was very grateful to find an abundance of wall plugs. Thankfully, my phone made the distance. However, my Apple Watch Series 6 did not, and failed 20km short of the finish line. The suburban cycling slowed things down somewhat with traffic lights and stop signs, but once I passed over the Ottawa River via the Galipeault Bridge, things changed again.
Arriving on the Island on Montreal takes you onto Lakeshore Road, the scenic route into the city, until it meets up with a dedicated multipurpose path that then leads to the Lachine Canal and Rue Peel. There is a longer way around that skirts La Salle, but I didn’t have time for that. The cycling infrastructure in Montreal at first glance seems far better developed than Toronto, and I was grateful to have safe passage right up to my hotel. Arriving at 5:18pm, I was able to feel some sense of relief. Success! I managed to get settled, hanging up every soaking garment I had throughout my hotel room, and cranking up the heat. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not planning where to eat dinner that night, and ended up wandering around hungry and indecisive, and ended up eating an overpriced, mediocre meal. Not very celebratory.
I ended up taking two rest days in Montreal. On the first day, I slept in, grabbed some free breakfast (which was excellent), and then realized I should head back to bed for another two hours of sleep. I spent the afternoon sheltered in a cinema, watching the new Martin Scorsese film, and later met up with a good friend for dinner at Bar George. I was able to hit the Musèe des Beaux-Arts the next day and catch up with another friend for lunch. The time allowed me to rest before driving back to Toronto. My original plan was to take the train back, but at the time Via Rail did not transport bicycles on the Montreal-Toronto route. The solution? Renting a small SUV in Montreal and dead-ending it in Toronto.
How I Did It
- The general idea for the trip came from Canadian Cycling Magazine and Cycle Canada. Then I found Sheelagh Daly’s blog and YouTube videos which were very helpful.
- Great Lakes Waterfront Trail site is sort of useful. None of the maps have downloadable GPS files: just PDFs.
- YouTube is a great resource, so I’ve compiled a few here: YouTube Bike Touring Playlist
- Planned my journeys using the Ride with GPS app based on the recommendations of a co-worker who volunteers at Bike Sauce. For $99 annually, it’s excellent, and only failed me once where there was construction work on the Route Verte. If you use it, I would encourage you to make copies of my routes, and change them to improve them.
- I chose distances that seemed manageable based on my previous long ride experience: 84km to 115km, however the last day from Cornwall to Montreal was 139km which was a concern.
- Each ride I planned a specific morning break (usually after 35km), and then lunch spot usually at the halfway point, and dinner. I knew exactly where I was going to eat to eliminate decision fatigue.
- Booked my hotels and return transportation the day before I left Toronto. I honestly didn’t know if I was ready until then, and it gave me time to review my plans and let my loved ones know exactly where I was going. I used CAA to book my hotels to get discounts but most importantly to compare hotel locations.
- I wanted to be on the road as early as possible given the distances, so I only booked hotels that included breakfast.
- I chose hotels as close to the Trail as possible, and avoid routes through towns or areas that were very close to major highways (if possible).
- Numerous people have shared their packing lists online, and I used Sheelagh Daly’s list to determine what to take with me.
- Performed test pack on my bike to see how much storage I needed. Would it all fit? Yes, yes it did.
- The staff at Urbane Cyclist | Toronto’s Only Worker Owned Co-Operative Bike Store were very helpful. I also direct purchased some gear at Arkell. Though they have fallen from grace, there were a few things I grabbed at MEC.
I used my daily commuter bike which happens to be a 2018 KHS Grit 110: it’s an aluminum gravel bike with drop handlebars and a carbon fork, so it’s light and nimble, but it lacks eyelets in many convenient locations that touring bikes would include, like the fork or top tube. For what I was doing, this didn’t end up presenting a problem. It does accommodate large tires and I ran Schwalbe Marathon GT (now discontinued) 38c tires that actually measure at 40mm: they are mostly slick with a very minimal tread, but with all Schwalbe tires provide excellent puncture resistance. With the path being more than 90% paved, comfort and low rolling resistance was key. The bike has interrupter levers so you can sit more upright when you want, and it reminds me of my Raleigh 10-speed from the 80s. Overall, it was very capable but I could feel the frame straining under the load.
Mountain bike (MTB) clipless pedals and shoes like the Shimano PD-EH500 pedals and the Shimano SH-EX500 shoes are brilliant once you get used to them. You feel secure and in control, especially in the wet when you don’t need to fear slipping off your pedals. Do you need them? No. Regardless, you need two pairs of shoes, so one of them might as well be bike shoes.
Ortlieb Backroller Classic
I already owned these two panniers. I believe Ortlieb guarantees that these panniers are waterproof so long as you get three folds at the top of the bag, however, I could not, which suggests I was over the load capacity of these panniers.
Arkel Waterproof Frame bag
I used this for storing snacks and my Fujifilm X-T3. I wanted a convenient place to store my camera so I could pull it out quickly without getting off the bike or turning around. The X-T3 just fits with the XF 23mm F2 lens. The bag also accommodates for two water bottles.
Revelate Designs Mag Tank 2000 Stem Bag
Wallet, keys, one snack, chewing gum, Bluetooth speaker, Phone Rain Poncho, Lightning cable and power bank.
Topeak Aero Wedge Pack and Tools
This under seat bag stored tubes, tools and spare lights. I took two tubes with me, as I’ve run into situations where you get a flat, and then neglect to isolate all of foreign material that caused the puncture in the first place: where there is one shard of glass, there is sometimes a second shard that caused the puncture. I would have purchased the Revelate Designs one, but it doesn’t accommodate a light, and at the time I felt this was more important (it wasn’t). I took a bike multitool, CO2, tire levers, but I chose not to take a chain braker and missing links: I’ve never broken a chain, and my bike is 8-speed so the chain is considerably less fragile than a 9, 10 or 11 speed chain. Next time, maybe: I’ve discovered that if you crash your bike or ruin the derailleur and need to convert it to a single speed, you need a chain breaker and quick links to shorten the chain. Luckily, I did not get a single puncture in 600km and the only maintenance I needed to do was to tighten the rear rack screws which came loose.
iPhone 13 mini
I love the size of the iPhone mini and compromise with the reduced battery life: in normal usage, this is never a problem. On this trip, I found it challenging in cases where I needed navigation details and to have the phone always active. Put it in low power mode? But then I can’t see the map. The benefit of dedicated bike computers is that they have ridiculously long battery life.
Ride with GPS
Trying to perform this trip without Ride with GPS would have been significantly harder. Being able to plan the trips was extremely helpful. Some folks use Google Maps. Having said that, the app has some areas for improvement. I never found the watch notifications worked well.
Quadlock Outfront Mount with Action Cam Bracket
A co-worker of mine showed me their Quadlock case, and I was convinced: a perfectly secure mounting system. Make sure you buy the $10 action cam mount that goes underneath the bracket, and maybe the rain poncho.
Apple Watch Series 6
I really love my Apple Watch, because tracking my fitness, sleep and all those goodies often provides useful feedback for gauging one’s energy levels. However, this was the first time I ran into significant battery life issues. Turning off the always on display does help, but not on the longest days. If I had not tracked my progress as a fitness activity, it wouldn’t have been a problem. If you can charge your device in the middle of the day for long enough, you can get by. If you anticipate being out on an all-day activity and don’t have the presence of mind or ability to do this, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is the only way to go.
Cateye Velo 9
This is just a simple bike computer that I often don’t even remove because it’s so cheap. Speed and time. What else do you need? A map. Ok, maybe a map.
Tribit Stormbox Micro 2
Just before I left, I got the idea to buy a Bluetooth speaker to listen to audiobooks or music if I needed additional motivation. Of course, I was conscious of blaring music around others and being that guy. The speaker was particularly useful in two scenarios. First, when the rain was coming down, I needed voice activated navigation directions from Ride with GPS. Trying to use the iPhone screen in the rain was terrible and the prompts did not come up on the watch when I needed them. Second, there were longer days where I needed additional motivation to keep going in the last 20 to 30 kilometers and blast out Alvvays “Easy On Your Own” or the entire Stereolab catalogue. The Stormbox Micro 2 is also IP67 rated, so rain was no problem.
Anker Powercore 10000mah
Small, perfect, never ran out, and fits in your cockpit bag. The 20000mah is the same price but twice the size.
DJI Osmo Action 4 with the Osmo Action GPS Bluetooth Remote Controller
I was originally thinking of getting an Insta360 camera for documenting parts of my trip, when I discovered the Action 4. Better low light performance, better image and colour quality, and clever magnetic mounting system. Absolutely solid. The GPS Bluetooth Remote Controller allows you to start and stop the camera using the remote, and also captures GPS data to overlay speed or direction heads up data on your video footage. Overall, useful.
Fujifilm X-T3 with XF 23mm f2 WR
The Fujifilm X-T3 is weather resistant as is the XF 23mm lens, and it’s just an incredibly well-built, pleasurable camera to use.
I wish I had brought two powerful 18w USB wall warts to get some devices charged faster when I needed it. I had a 4-port USB charge device but it was limited to 12.5w, and two extra 5 watt adapters, but they were all just too slow.
Safety & Comfort
Lights draw attention to you. Ideally, a driver will take notice before an accident happens. I run with front and rear lights during the daytime, even in good weather. In bad weather, I run with two front lights and two rear lights. All of the lights have a run time in excess of 6 hours on the intermittent mode (some up to 9 hours), so you should be able to run with the lights for the entire day. In the event that a light fails, I carried two small spares of each. All of them were USB rechargeable and I ensured they were charged every single day. With this setup, it was my experience that most people pulled out a few feet from the shoulder or some would even give over the entire lane. I only had a few large vehicles not pull over to the other lane.
Two of everything
Two pairs of bike shorts, two long sleeve jerseys, two pairs of socks, two pairs of gloves. Mostly two of everything except for the things that take up loads of space.
There are folks who believe in Buffs like a religion, and they are right: it’s a comfortable Merino wool garment that is versatile, which signals to other people that you’re ready for anything. Sun? No problem. Cold? Absolutely.
I picked up some lined cycling leg warmers which were a lifesaver, and meant that I could manage with two pairs of bike shorts. I don’t care what I looked like, my legs were warm, and my calves don’t really perspire so one pair is just fine.
I used a reflective jacket, and other clothing with reflective patches, including rain pants, helmet and shoe covers that included reflective stripes. Ortlieb panniers include reflective markers, and Schwalbe Marathon tires all include reflective sidewalls.
I’ve never used the more common chamois cream brands: only the Body Glide Body product, which is not sticky or weird. It seems to do the job, and it’s stocked in the largest Canadian drug store. Halfway through my trip, though, I needed to resupply. But when I stopped in at a location in small town Ontario, several staff had no idea what it was and immediately told me they didn’t stock it. I had to point out that their website indicated they had 7 in stock (we found it in the aisle with First Aid). Thank goodness!
I did bring a small U-lock to prevent crimes of opportunity when I was in a store or restaurant, and always removed my valuables from the bike before walking away from it. I also stored my bike in my hotel room and I never had a concern from the hotel about doing this.
Do I recommend this trip? Yes. Do I recommend you do it the way that I did it? Not necessarily. I had some very long days of cycling, day after day, and that would not be to everyone’s liking. I would invite you to figure out your preferred method and try it out.
Bike Touring with Hotels
When you have a prescribed accommodation that you can only cancel 24 hours in advance, it creates a structure that some might find constraining. Don’t want to cycle 115km today? You’ll lose hundreds of dollars for your reservation and have to rebook. Some folks report good experiences with Warm Showers if you are camping. However, I had no interest in camping. I wanted breakfast, comfort, electricity and sleeping on a soft bed.
Sunrise and Sunset
Even though Fall is my favourite season, mid-October was a bit late for this ride. The shorter days and the unpredictable weather was a challenge. I would consider other times for this ride.
You can Bike Tour with Any Bike
While Francis Cade says that you can tour with any bike, I would say there are benefits to bikes that have mounts on the front fork for small bags or on the top tube so that your cockpit bag stays where it should: I had trouble with my cockpit bag sliding around. My gravel bike has substantial frame clearance for large tires which is great, but it has a carbon fork with no eyelets. I have interrupter levers which I love, but it also prevents you from deploying a handlebar bag which is a nuisance because Ortlieb makes a nice one which you can get a padded camera insert for.
I did not have a rear view mirror, and I would consider including this in future setups. I hear it can cause you to focus too much on what’s behind you rather than what is in front of you.
Equipment I could have left at home
Luckily, there were only a few things I didn’t need.
- Manfrotto tabletop tripod and smartphone mount: I used it once. Not worth it unless you’re making a video where you are shooting 3rd person video.
- Selfie stick for the Osmo Action 4: I did not feel compelled to make a Vlog video about my trip and so I didn’t use it. Otherwise, I would recommend it.
- Helmet and chest mounts for the action cam: the chest mount provided a very strange field of view which is not likely the fault of the chest mount, but how I set the Osmo Action settings. The helmet cam was nice, but sort of a heavy nuisance I couldn’t get used to, and can’t be used when it’s raining.
- Short 3/4 length pants: I never ended up needing a lightweight pair of quick dry 3/4 length pants
Why you could do it
Long Distance Cycling Feels Great
There is nothing so satisfying as pushing those pedals to your next destination, and knowing that you have a fairly simple job to do, you’re going to be doing it for most of the day, and all you need to do is bring your sense of adventure, proactively manage your aches and pains appropriately, stay safe, fed and hydrated.
If you’re travelling from Toronto to Montreal, the wind typically blows from west to east up the St. Lawrence – I don’t know where I read this, but this was my experience. If you have panniers, under most circumstances, they offer an aerodynamic penalty due to them not being in-line with your bicycle. However, if you have a tailwind, that penalty is now an advantage.
Your Body Adapts
Ever have trouble sleeping? This will not be a problem for you. You will be snuggled up in bed by 8:00pm and asleep early as your body powers down. Worried about your backside? There are coping strategies. Hungry? Eat. Thirsty? Drink. Life become much simpler.
The Waterfront Trail is a Gateway
With some exceptions, the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail and Route Verte are excellent and afford viewing landscapes from perspectives not available to you in a car. Once you gain the confidence of doing a bit of bike touring, it opens up a vast number of other possibilities in Canada, the US and elsewhere. Shorter options exist in Ontario, such as the Simcoe County Loop Trail that require less time and are good starting options. But I was impatient, and once I got the idea into my head, I couldn’t stop.
Sometimes change is as good as a rest.
Thanks for reading! If you thought that this could be improved in any way, get in touch. Good luck on your next cycling adventure. 🚴