Biking Gaspe - CycleBlaze

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Biking Gaspe

Scott Anderson

We’re brainstorming a possible tour from Quebec City to the Gaspe Peninsula.  Also, I’m intrigued by the idea of riding to and from Quebec City on opposite banks of the Saint Lawrence - bike one way on the south bank, circle Gaspe, and then catch the ferry to the north bank on the way back.  Has anyone had experience with this or have suggestions to offer?  

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2 weeks ago
John SaxbyTo Scott Anderson

Hi Scott,
A quick reply/recommendation:  do it!  The scenery is fabulous, the riding demanding (sometimes in the extreme) but the route well-sorted by Vélo Québec, the food is excellent, the craft beer ditto, the welcome delightful.  The weather can be, uh, challenging. (More on that below)

Now, some disclosures & disclaimers:  I live in Ottawa next door to the French fact of Canada, and I've hugely enjoyed my times in Québec, starting from my arrival in Canada more than 60 years ago:  in May 1956, we sailed up the St Lawrence, and disembarked at Lévis, the modest town across the river from la ville de Québec.  The Gaspé was my first sight of Canada, and I've had a soft spot for it ever since.

In 2010, I made a circuit of the Gaspé, clockwise from Matapédia in the SW corner.  I rode with my friend Jim, from Manhattan, and he was over the moon about it all. The north coast (of the Gaspé, that is -- S shore of the St Lawrence) especially, eastwards from Matane. That part is very rustic and very French; Jim, who's travelled a lot, said it was like nowhere he'd ever been. The south coast of the Gaspé, he said was similar to the coast of Maine, and pleasant enough, but the north coast was a revelation.

A disclaimer:  I have not cycled east from Québec, on either the northern or the shore of the St Lawrence.  I have driven both routes, on four wheels and two.  I also have an e-contact in Montréal who has cycled both routes, and I'm sure they could give you good cycling advice.  If you'd like to follow up, send me a PM on jsaxbyatbelldotnet and I'll do a mutual e-intro.

That said, I once drove the N shore from Québec city to Tadoussac, and I recall thinking at the time, "What a wonderful ride this would be on my bike--and how bloody hard it would be!"

An invaluable resource, which you may already know about, is the guide to la Route Verte, QC's province-wide cycling network.  Here's the home page: https://www.routeverte.com/en/   And, here's the guide: https://www.routeverte.com/en/...   The guide is available in hard copy & electronically.

For a circuit of the Gaspé, you shd note that the updated guide still does not include all of the route along the N shore.  When we rode the circuit in 2010, the entire N shore beyond Matane was not included.  No matter--there are plenty of places to camp or to stay in hard accommodation.  The route did have a fair number of logging trucks on it, but the highway has wide shoulders (Vélo Qué works assiduously with municipal authorities to improve both width and quality of the tarmac), and we found the drivers very considerate.

Why do the route clockwise?  'Cos there are some very serious hills on the Gaspé, and clockwise, you go down most of them. Examples include a 17% switchbacked descent on the extreme NW corner of the peninsula, where the Appalachian Ridge disappears into the sea.  Others are the 14% descent from Forillon Ntl Park towards Gaspé village, and the 24% hill into Percé on the S coast.

I mentioned the weather in my summary recommendation above.  We rode 9 days in early August, and had only one serious rainstorm--happily, that was an overnight affair.  OTOH, I spoke with a motorcyclist later that same year, and on his trip in late August/early Sept, he said he had nothing but rain.  My suggestion would be, say, early July to early August. 

We were lucky with rain, and had reasonable luck with the winds.  These can be both very capricious and very strong.  On our second day along the N shore, we had a lovely westerly tailwind all morning, and fairly sped along.  The wind helped us immensely in the many ups and downs -- each settlement is at the mouth of a river, and thus each entails a down and a corresponding up.  We stopped for lunch and during our 45 mins, the wind flipped 180°.  On the south coast, we covered 140 kms with a similar tailwind. A day later, on our penultimate day, we had a SW headwind, and it took us 6 1/2 hours to cover 60 kms.  Take reliable rain gear, and anticipate being both cool and wet--happily, the latter condition never affected us.

We were cycling in warm-to-hot weather (sunny, with temps in the mid-to-high 20's), and we welcomed stops where we could cool our feet.  (There are delightful "Haltes Municipales" along the way--gazebos and picnic tables beside the water.)  Swimming?  Er, no. Not even in the Baie des Châleurs--the bay of warm breezes--off the S shore, betw the Gaspé & New Brunswick.  I managed only a very brief immersion in waist-deep water. It's the bay of warm breezes, eh, not warm waters--it's still the North Atlantic.

Visitors often ask/worry about language--how do we handle "Ici on parle français"?  There's a lot of Stuff in Canada about the politics of language and the language of politics, as you may know.  My own experience has never been less than welcoming; that may be partly because my French is reasonably fluent, and Québecois/es are often pleasantly surprised to meet an OWAF who can manage more than a bonjour and merci.  If you and Rachael can offer a few phrases or even more, I'm sure people will appreciate that. It's probably worth remembering that the intensity of la question linguistique is mainly reserved for intra-Canajan conversations (or between Québecois/es and people from the rest of Canada, and that as always, courtesy and a smile help immensely.

And what might you expect to see?  Here are a couple of examples:

04h17, Gaspé view eastwards
About to descend into Grande Vallée, NE tip of Gaspé
Percé Rock & windswept sea -- shameless tourist foto


Of course there's more that could be said, not least about "side trips" on the N shore of the St Lawrence, into places like the Charlevoix and the Saguenay River/Lac St-Jean loop running W and N from Tadoussac.  I didn't do a journal on our circuit of the Gaspé, but I do have a few detail notes which may be of interest.

Hope this is helpful, in any case, and enjoy your planning! 

Cheers,  John

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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo John Saxby

If that’s a quick reply, I’m curious what a long one would look like, John.  Thanks so much for taking the time and sharing so much information.  Gaspé is a destination that’s been in the back of our minds forever, it seems like.  Our first long tour together was 30 years ago this spring, on our first anniversary.  We began and ended in Montreal on a month-long loop through northern New England, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.  At the end we cut the trip short by catching the train from Newcastle (now Miramichi) to Quebec City because we ran out of time and both had bad colds.  Gaspé was always in the back of our minds though.

We’re still in the brainstorming phase, but I’m pretty confident we’ll come up with something in the 4-5 week window we’ll have to work with next summer.  I’ve dropped the idea of doubling back along the north shore, but we’re looking at a one-directional trip - maybe from Quebec City to Charlottetown.  

And thank you for offering to introduce us to your friends.  I might take you up on that, but probably not until after we get back from Spain this winter and we’ve got free time in our hands again.  For now, this is perfect.

Scott

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2 weeks ago
John SaxbyTo Scott Anderson

Thanks, Scott.  Glad that's helpful.  Note, tho', that I replied quickly -- no claims to brevity about either QC or the Gaspé  ;)

One side trip you might consider, if your time allows, is to the Magdalen Islands/Îles de la madeleine in the gulf.  There's a ferry from Prince Edward Island, and there's a supply boat from Montréal, which takes passengers.  That's on our list to visit, not least 'cos Québecois friends here rave about the place.

Enjoy Spain!

Cheers,  John

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2 weeks ago
Michael HendrichTo Scott Anderson

Hi, new to this site. In Summer of 2017 we (tandem) toured from Trois-Rivieres around the Gaspe point to nearly Nova Scotia (toured perimeter of NS this summer). We were very much encouraged by John’s excellent descriptions of the area as he has recently given. The views, camping, food and wine were amazing in all of Quebec. The Route Verte system and camping policy are outstanding, any place will have a camp spot for touring bicyclists without a call ahead (Bienvenue cyclistes!, I later spoke with the head of planning for the new Empire State trail system, she said they will model their camping policies after Quebec.) The prevailing winds are very strong from west along St. Lawrence, and also on south side of Gaspe. If you go around the Gaspe point the wind gods giveth and taketh. The attached pic is a very fond memory of the view for many miles before entering the mountains. Sorry, cannot address your specific question about touring north side of St. Lawrence using ferry. We considered it, but thought we would have enough climbing (and we did) through Gaspe.

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5 hours ago