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Bike adventures

Home | Un petit détour-somewhat beyond the trail | A comment on myself-Un petit commentaire sur moi | le long de la voie ferrée | Beyond the mainstream

Link to road circuit...Le lien vers le réseau routier

Pour un compte rendu en français clickez ici. For additional pictures with an account in FRENCH of additional escapades in this province press on this link

Pour un autre descriptif cliquez içi...

Un peu passé la route... Just past the trail... Cliquez ici... click here...

For some out of season fun click here ! Pour des aventures hors saison clickez ici !


For a brief comment on environmental issues click here. Pour un court commentaire sur les questions environnementales clickez ici

Link to the all bike WEB site and some additional pictures

Bike travel pictures and such click here

With the advent of summer you have to again admit to yourself that ruining your existence sitting on the front porch or the back yard at home isn't the proper definition of enjoyment mostly when the weather begs you to do something worthwhile with yourself which is a change from your typical recursive activities synonymous with redundancy and the typical boredom which you ritualistically accomplish without the slightest glimmer of hope for an improvement to your dismal state of existence..


While you can find enjoyment perpetually rediscovering the local zoo and its usual assortment of urban animals, you may also seek a change of pace with thrilling adventures that are a welcome change from spending a fortune staying in relative immobility undertaking the same ritual of running around in circles without actually accomplishing anything. If such is the case then discovering the city and the country using the available bicycling trails is an activity you shouldn't overlook  !


While cycling is often deemed as an activity without much in terms of a rewarding experience in the classic sense of the term , it is interesting to note that is the result of the fitness craze which has overtook the nation which has also lead to the establishment of a whole new industry, a rapidly growing infrastructure of bike trails is to be found not only within the urban core but beyond the reach of civilisation ultimately culminating with a road network which will permit extensive and unimpeded travel not only across Quebec but also across Canada and ultimately the U.S


The proliferation of trails has created so many possibilities with regards to the available destinations attainable from home using such road network that the explorer in you most probably will be so tempted by the thrill of it considering not only the invigoration results but also the little treats to uncover along the way ( from the little fast food stand with fabulous fries nestled somewhere beyond the typical or that little café on the offbeat track to the hideaway that a distant park represents or the lesser known places with the overlooked architectural delights of another era ) that the escapement is certain to lead to some revitalising benefits ! Thus the occasion can't be missed to embark on such a quest with the hopes of uncovering that hideaway you previously missed with further consideration for the relative security cyclists are now assured of once travelling within and outside of town on pathways that often are off the major road circuits....


Once considering the available roadway to uncover, it is certainly thrilling to know that now it is not only possible to use the extensive network of trails to travel towards parkland and other select sites within town but also to experience the countryside like you rarely experience it in the sense that many trails pass outside major arteries and thus permit the discovery of known regions under a different perspective mostly if the trails themselves take a course within the wilderness avoiding civilisation and thus giving closer contact with nature.


Despite the assumption that use of a bike for long distances isn't exciting , don't underestimate the surprises to uncover mostly once considering what there is to find travelling within scenic environments which may also reveal the imprint of history best remarked in towns that have a well preserved historical heritage including those with architecturally distinct buildings which are so exciting to contemplate if not to visit once the proper accomodations exist. Furthermore the photographer in you is certain to find the rare gem that will draw rave reviews !



With regards to accomodations, it is definitely noteworthy to mention that the discovery of a region, its charm and its people is best enjoyed ending up somewhere best associated with the region in the sense that while you definitely may enjoy the sight of very impersonal motels just barely glimpsing what there is outside, you may definitely find it more appealing staying in the little inns to be found whose folks may be of better advice if ever you expect to further discover the area and its history. While this is a matter of opinion , I really don't know why some people favour something typically associated with urban congestion to more quintessential places which not only are more faithfully representative of what a region is renown for but definitely offer a more tantalising experience for those in search of a sense of immersion...

Now to get back to basics; despite the fact that your adventure taking you to the far reaches of this land will most often not leave you in a state of total isolation (unless you decide to go far from the reach of civilisation), it is always better to be prepared instead of cursing yourself for forgetting to bring along the extra necessities (including the all too essential spare tube and bike pump !) and that extra snack (such as raisins) which definately have a tangible effect once seeking a little more vitality if ever you seem stuck in the middle of nowhere and have 20 miles to go to get there !...


Once you are ready to boldly go where no couch potato has gone before and explore the far reaches beyond your back yard , you must definitely take the time to first explore on map where you are going in order to avoid looking like the lost wimp I look like after taking the wrong road leading towards some dead end half a world away ! Despite the fact that such a statement seems obvious enough , so many times it has occured to me to follow that shortcut which just leads nowhere being bored sticking to the main road !  In personally  lacking those million dollar legs (nothing to do with the movie by that name ) losing half a day's effort,  getting back on track isn't my thrill considering what may look like mission impossible if out of food...


But anyways, I surmise that if you follow the bike trails, the adventure will be exhilarating enough mostly considering the fact that some of these trails are in relatively secluded woodland such as those which are on the dismantled rail lines which being on level ground make the adventure all the more pleasent in hilly terrain since trains themselves couldn't climb steep slopes ! The "petit train du nord" linear park is the excellent example in that regard being an excellent quality trail running through the laurentians without even the hint of major slopes to climb despite ending up high within the hills somewhere along the path (the incredulous should follow the stream at Km34 of this trail and behold the scenery once at the falls)...


Now, if you need additonal assurances that you'll find your way home after the ordeal and not die from exhaustion, it is apparent that apart from the typical words of encouragement , I'll have to admit to you that once you get on one of those trails, your foolish pride will beg you to show that you are more than the wimp left out in the dirt by people four times your age ! Then you definitely start realising that you have to show to yourself that you aren't some relic that will imminently expire for some obscure reason which only a dismal lifestyle can explain . Even if it's for your own foolish pride, you'll have to take up the challenge to definately prove that at your age you still can enjoy life even if you're doing a minimum of effort pedalling at an average speed is not at all extraordinairy being a little faster than what you would be doing walking, accomplished while sitting down comfortably enjoying the scenery if you have the proper seat for it ! ...


The government sponsored route verte itself is the formal road network which travels between the major urban centers occasionally blatently avoiding the motor vehicule road network with excellent quality trails including some passageways passing along the ex rail line thus being extremely level when they do...The excellent system of trails and roadways in ultimately becoming provincial wide will not only connect most major urban centers but also serve as a means of discovering nature under a different aspect thus giving the occasion for in depth contemplation of a wilderness which may occasionally seem enveloping to the point of generating enough eerie wonderment to occasionally really spook you ! . In that regard the Route verte number 2 is the excellent example of a trail passing within the seclusion of the wilderness thus avoiding the motor traffic people are so accustomed to... A portion of the roadwork is an excellent quality trail that spans 200 Km from St Jerome to Mt Laurier (half of the length is paved) travelling within the heartland of the Laurentians mountains without even the whisper of a heartache that a difficult climb represents in the sense that since the trail is on the ex rail line there are no difficult slopes to climb despite attaining an altitude in the vicinity of 600 meters along the way...


What is furthermore definitely so exciting about many of the trails such as the one spanning the upper Laurentians lies with the fact that despite the relative isolation often a host of services including accomodations are to be found along the way some of which are specially tailored for the cyclist including the mandatory cycle repair shops . Furthermore the atmosphere in some of the small towns can be quite astounding with due consideration for the fact that in certain towns the buildings dating from another era may host bars, restaurants and shops which in being nestled in a unique environment helps creat the magic most people associate with the region and its history . As for the accomodations, it is always a welcome surprise to end up somewhere which reminds you of something nostalgic thus giving you pleasant memories...


The immediate vicinity



Here in Montreal access along the road network within and on the perimeter of the island including the reserved passage along the streets is sufficient to give full access to most of the island which considering the size of the island leads to the understanding that just travelling by the paths on the perimeter is a very lengthy ride. The many noteworthy stops include the public beach on the north western fringe of the island and the golf course and nature park on the eastern fringe which harbors wildlife (the sign on Notre Dame east in immediate proximity to the trail definitely is an indication of this) . There are obviously many other areas of interest which are to be discovered in the course of such travels with a typical starting point being downtown and its noteworthy sites including the mountain, old Montreal and the pier area without forgetting St Helen's and Notre Dame islands attainable from the Jacques Cartier bridge and the pier bridge adjacent to the Bonaventure freeway. Once further out of the downtown core there are the typical historic sites , parkland and adjacent sites of interest to be discovered going towards the eastern and western ends of the island such as the Morgan arboretum on the west island also attainable by bike path.

Despite what is expected once considering what the reality of urban sprawl implies in terms of escapement (after all apart from the bars, restaurants and other tyupical spots ,people in an urban area normally aren't blessed with the green spaces found out of town) , it is still noteworthy to mention that Montreal has some relatively secluded spots in the immediate vicinity of the urban core . Such areas may definitely be appealing for those in search of peace of mind which consequentially don't have to travel far to obtain the needed withdrawal from the hectic pace of civilisation. In that regard apart from the previously mentioned areas on the eastern and western fringe of the island and St Helen's and Notre Dame islands (which are really tantalising to visit) there is obviously the mountain itself which to be honest can be a thrilling adventure of its own without mention of the peace of mind experienced right in the middle of town with a network of woodland trails leading up towards the summit ! While some of the trails aren't for bicycles , it s still possible to gain first hand experience of the peace and quiet using the bike trails . With regards to the immediate vicinity of downtown , it is also noteworthy to mention that between the south shore and the island is a bicycle trail which spans a good 15 Kms such a path being on the summit of a speck of land that is no more than 100 or so feet across, the path running from a little east of the Native reserve (being Kanawake) towards Notre Dame island. Such a trail is definitely a delight to discover with further consideration for the breathtaking sight of the city. And if this isn't enough, those adventurous enough may certainly contemplate discovering Laval and the north shore which is sublime mostly of you take the time to discover those little specks of wilderness here and there.


Actually the network of trails in the immediate vicinity of the urban core is sufficiently intergrated to make it possible to travel exclusively on such paths from the Eastern townships and the proximity of the U.S border on towards the Laurentians without fear of getting lost once the proper road is found. Most of the roadwork is suffciently well indicated to makes things simple if you are on one of the major arteries (identified with the sign visible on the first picture). Although it is also clear that more local roadways exist which the relevent informational booklets will depict (including the tourist brochures) . So it is best being prepared in advance...


The lengthier treks


Some personal anecdotes

Since it is apparent that despite the thrill of a ride, the possibility that something may go wrong is a true possibility, it is apparent that a little preperation is of the order which starts with the typical fisrt aid kit for person..and bike (obviously). Furthermore some extra clothing and a sleeping bag and a tent can be of help for those which not only like the appealing B&B's but also are prepared to sleep outside in the eventuality of misjudgement (which happened to me on more than one occasion resaulting from an overoptimistic calculation of the number of Km's I'd accomplish between a given time and sunset...). And if you ever are stuck in the dark, don't panick ! Just take up the usual chores that impose themselves most notable getting the tent up in order to have that all important psychological sanctuairy which makes a big differences between sleeping comfortably and having a terrifying time coming to grips with the unknown.

In terms of giving a first hand description of some escapades I undertook ; my most recent trek first started with a late spring journey which took me from Montreal by way of the Laurentians on towards the Abitibi region by Ontario. Such an adventure had me pass through such bucolic towns such as Kazabazua, Otter lake, Campbell bay and Fort Coulongue. The arrival in the Abitibi region was but a short respite before undertaking a return by the roadside bike path along the 117 in Quebec. The adventure was typical of what there is to expect once travelling in sleepy little towns with their subtil and almost timeless appeal (Kazabazua being an example) and was accomplished in mostly pleasant weather and for a large part on roadway with light to moderate vehicule traffic...

As for the typical habit I have of avoiding urban congestion and the dreaded bridges (since I tend to suffer from vertigo) by taking public transit to attain the perimeter of the city (Montreal) , I can admit that while I'm not too proud of myself , I feel that I just don't have the choice ! But once I end up out of town I muster all the courage I can to cross the occasional high bridges. (Thank God I can take the subway to avoid crossing Jacques Cartier bridge once going to the south shore even if the fence work on the bridge was put there for people that just find a high drop irresistable ! )

Thus the adventure starts with a stop in Two Mountains which is a great place to start a treck considering the immediate vicinity of the bike path running from St Eustache towards Oka and the nature park. Since this is suburbia, a proliferation of bungalows is expected . But mind you that despite the relative monotony of suburbia, the object of my contemplation wasn't lost namely Oka and its hill which gives a great view of the immediate vicinity from the north shore . Since this is mid spring, going to the nature park and its beach is out of the question !

By the way; For those which do have an interest in geology and nature but don't want to risk going far out of the urban core, the OKA hill is a great place to experience the woodlands and discover an unusual geological environment being an intrusion of lava which is as geologically recent as the rockies . It is part of the "montérégiennes" group of hills which includes Mount royal (in Montreal) . Such hills continue on an east-west trend from Oka and thus are to observe on the south shore of the St Lawrence river with such noteworthy hills as St Hilaire, Rougement , Yamaska and Shefford which each represent an oasis of woodlands on the urban fringe. The adventurous can experience truely delightful moments with a visit  (on foot) of the sites in question most of which give sensational views of the surroundings...The hills themselves aren't far from a trail of the bike network. My personal favorite is St Hilaire but the others may be even more thrilling if in search of deep woodlands with an eerie appeal of mystery and sensational views !

Link to a 3D view (seen once clicking the camera on the relevent images). The description is in French

A less graphic description in english

Link to the formal WEB page for St Hilaire hill

Link in English to the university WEB site for St Hilaire hill

Once there and despite all the thrill of a hill , there is some fun to doing a little sightseeing within the little towns in the imediate vicinity, some of which also have some historic sites of interest and a historic heritage which goes back beyond the 19th century ..And as is the case in this predominantly agricultural region , some pleasant surprises are to be found in the form of produce which can be bought on premise including wine. As for accomodations once going out of the city, small inns that aren't excessively commercial in scope may be found beyond the mainstream. I personally tend to sleep in a tent lacking the means to pay 20 or so dollars in a B&B which mind you is quite often nestled in a pleasent setting (that night I slept in an apple orchard and let me tell you that the mush of apples in the dark is eerie !...)

The immediate vicinity of the Ottawa valley is a place with a historical heritage going back to the 18th century . Despite the fact that modernity is omnipesent everywhere , it is still possible to uncover some well preserved gems of another era. For those in search of some special pictures to add to their collection, the occasion presents itself sufficiently often to make the adventure worthwhile. Although I personally was more thrilled by the St Lawrence river valley with its many roads beyond the major ateries that each hold their little treasures.


For those enjoying traffic congestion , I won't argue with them about the drawbacks there are to travelling on a main artery without the mandatory asphalt embankment ! Although for most people it is apparent that one of the priorities for a cyclist is finding a quiet offbeat road if there isn't any trail . As for the trails themselves , it only happened to me on one occasion to end up on a bad trail. Thus most often the quality is acceptrable enough to make the ride enjoyable.

Notwithstanding the appearance, the gravel to find on most of the bicycling network isn't as forbidding as what we are lead to believe from an initial supervicial look . Thus it is possible to accomplish with relative ease a number of Km's which considering the fact that many of the trails are in the isolation of the woodlands makes the trip even more thrilling . Once in the Ottawa river valley, apart from the urban center of Ottawa-Hull with a proliferation of trails, the trail system abruptly stops a little on the outskirts of the capital region once going east (which isn't fully the case going west) . Thus the earlier described main trail leading towards Oka basically stops there, resuming at Carillon on towards Grenville and abruptly stopping again there. If someone would want to go further west from Montreal with the hopes of attaining Ottawa, they would have to use the roadway or may be tempted to try some unusual alternatives including the “aerobic” (which is the name) trail running from St Sauveur. While this trail is exciting to travel upon, it abruptly stops at Weir ...Thus the situation isn't improved unless you decide to just forget about the vicinity of the Ottawa valley while wanting to go down to Ottawa... Now how is this possible ? If you have taken knowledge of the trail network, you will remark that that 200Km “Petit train du nord” trail going towards Mont Laurier from St Jerome almost intersects the trail going from Ottawa to Maniwaki (which is something like 40 miles away from Mont Laurier). Thus someone not too pressed for time may contemplate going to Ottawa by Mont Laurier via Maniwaki. This is what I did on more than one occasion and as recently as this year.


Actually on my most recent trek, my time along the Ottawa valley abruptly ended in Grenville . Since I had some recurring problems with vertigo furthermore finding the hills that border the river as thrilling (mostly once considering the reputation of the Rouge river for white river enthusiasts ) , I decided to take the road towards Kilmar such a road being a typical offbeat country road that climbs up quite some distance into those hills before the climb tapers off . Once in Kilmar, the restaurant-corner store becomes the perfect stopover before resuming the trek which is best accomplished following the road intersecting the road leading towards St Jovite as opposed to ending up lost on one of those unconspicous gravel roads which nobody seems to know where they actually lead towards even if the ride may be a treat for the more daring folks !


The Laurentians

While the Laurentians are the pride of the locals , they are also deemed as the world's oldest mountain chain. Thus apart from the occasional mound towering 1000 feet above, what there is to observe despite their claim for fame are mostly low hills which notwithstanding how boring hills may appear for those seeking scenic exhilaration (without mention of the challenge there is climbing a high hill), do despite the criticism have a certain appeal making them great mounds to escalate without forgetting that they represent great postcard portraits ! Actually if you need to do more in depth discovery of more breathtaking scenic places once in the vicinity , apart from mont Tremblant attainable from St Jovite (which looks like an actual mountain comparatively to the other hills without forgetting an alluring town below ) , those willing to take the time and risk some sweat may be tempted to go down towards St Donat from St Agathe (which is immediately south of St Jovite ) despite the lack of a bicycling network to go there from St Agathe.


As earlier mentioned , a good way of discovering the Laurentians is by using the “Petit train du Nord” trail that is a 200Km path from St Jerome (attainable by bike path from Montreal) on towards Mont Laurier. Such amazing wilderness trail is paved for half the distance from Labelle to Mont Laurier and unusually enough hosts a sufficient assortement of essential services along the way that feeling alone and abandoned is almost an illusion since apart from the services the path is also the most frequently travelled despite being in dense woodland for much of the distance. I will typically use this trail if I need to travel further north (such as towards the Abitibi region or returning from there ), and have done so approximately half a dozen times. What is furthermore so amazing about the trail in question lies with the fact that apart from being very scenic, this trail is an interpretation trail in the sense that along the trail are informational billboards describing the development of the region and its history without forgetting the billboards whose purpose is describing nature...

While 200 Km's (approximately 120 miles) may seem forbidding for some , it is apparent after taking superficial knowledge of the map that despite the distance, the numerous towns along the way which each offer their own host of services and accomodations provide sufficient assurance that no matter how frail of health someone may be , there is little risk of being totally stranded with further consideration for the fact that there are patrols by accredited personnel without mention of the numerous bike enthiusiasts to encounter which each can give a helping hand... I in personally suffering from an anemic capacity to stay active would often stop at one of the many trail side rest areas to take a short break. The occasion also marvelously presented itself to undertake further contemplation of the immediate area since most often billboards were in the rest areas describing what the area in question represented historically and-or ecologically...

The path in passing through dense woodland becomes a fabulous adventure into a wild and obscure wilderness culminating with the numerous possible stopovers along trailside and in the many towns many of which have a certain historic appeal with a diversity of accomodations which quite often may in part parallel in terms of charm the pastoral charm to be found in the immediate vicinity.


(The trailside B&B in the town of Labelle)


Once starting in St Jerome , despite the initial expectations, someone is rapidly overwhelmed by the marked change an enveloping wilderness represents comparatively to what is typically expected using bike paths. Once on the outskirts of town, denser tree cover and a series of rapids on the river at trail side suddenly reminds us that suburbia is lost behind. The moment also is a chosen occasion for a stopover to contemplate the area which also is the haven of sunbathers (there are also the typical basic amenities) . Once further out, the gradual climb into the hills while barely noticed becomes apparent once travelling in proximity of a deep valley that a rushing stream farther below announces... Then once the vicinity of another town arrives, the woodlands dissipate . Apart from the trail side ice cream vendor to encounter along the trail at soem point before Val David there are few such places that actually cater to cyclists out of the town. But then despite the feeling of isolation the access roads to encounter with regularity have us realise that civilisation isn't far away which further presses the perceived obligation to take a short access road to get into town if ever in need of food and drink. And then once again with the town left behind, the wilderness again gains prominence...

As indicated by the road map, there are several towns to encounter along the way . What is most notable about the many possible stops (apart from the many towns with an appealing historical heritage which in itself makes them worthy of a visit ) lies with the train stations which have been reconverted into rest stops with a host of services including bicycle repair facilities. If you take the time to remark, many of the ex train stations are of an appealing archetectural style. Furthermore the interior is often well preserved.

As remarked, despite no major climbs, the scenery gradually changes into typically mountainous terrain with the occasional rushing streams further below. Despite the occasional road to cross, the path mostly passes in what appears as secluded woodland, attaining civilisation and sometimes precipitously with a certain regularity. Such periodicity tapers off later on when the milage between towns dramatically increases although attaining at most the vicinity of 20 miles (which to be honest is nominal but may be cause of a certain over-optimism mostly at nightfall ) .. The most noteworthy stops before attaining Labelle are mostly for the adventurous folks which don't mind going beyond the immediate vicinity of the trail to discover such places as St Sauveur , Morin Heights (attained from St Sauveur itself attained after a slight detour ) , St Agathe (whose nice historic district is immediately attainable) and Mont Tremblant village whose immediate vicinity gives a vivid impression ... Once in Labelle the rough road is gone since the trail is all asphalt for the next 100 Km's (60 or so miles...) !

The trek north of Labelle is somewhat of a marked changed (not solely because of the pavement) most notably because the path at this point often blatently avoids civilisation with the distance between towns on average increasing thus giving the impression of greater seclusion. Although the distance between town isn't sufficient to be an actual preoccupation, the definite impression is of isolation most notably Between Nominingue and Lac Saguay and Lac Saguay and Val Barrette . Thus greater preparation is of the order just in case the unexpected occurs. Apart from that the scenery still remains hilly with the hills tapering off on the final leg of the journey. I personally find such a segment the most invigorating . Also, the picture perfect lakeside vistas towards the end are a certain treat around sunset. The final sprint is accomplished through fields with the town of Mont Laurier itself arriving after a bridge crossing swampland leading towards the vicinity of a supermarket before ending relatively close to the commercial district with all its shops. Once there, why not reward yourself by taking the time to visit before undertaking the return trip !

Next page... Beyond the mainstream...