So, was it actually a World Class tour? - Grampies' World Class Local Tour - CycleBlaze

October 20, 2021

So, was it actually a World Class tour?

The answer of course is yes and no. The blog subtitle mentioned the temperate rain forest and the Salish Sea. Here there is no doubt. The rain forest is a world phenomenon, and the Salish Sea - between Vancouver Island and the mainland - is a gorgeous thing filled with islands and a vast amount of wild life. This time our ride only bounced off a few points of these two huge natural features. Even the Andersons, who delved deeper in to the forest, only got a small sense of it. Look at our track in relation to the whole of the island:

Just scratching the surface
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At the very least we could have circled around by Port Renfrew and back to Lake Cowichan, and we could have kept going north, to Campbell River. And with the Salish Sea, we could have hit more than one Gulf Island, and heavens, we could have gone to the Salish Sea aquarium in Sidney, just across from our motel there.

There are really two questions in this. Is this a world class destination for its forest and sea, and did our tour do it justice? I think the answer for this is yes, and yes. There was a lot more that we did not do, but still we did see and do an awful lot in the eight days.

But there is more to it.  Was the cycling infrastructure world class? How about the food, the bakeries, and the accommodation? Were the drivers polite? How was the traffic? Was there any inspiring architecture? How about historical sites?

That's where the yes and no comes in. Quickly addressing the questions above, we'd say the cycling infrastructure was so so. They are working on it, but there are no really long well signed routes. The Cowichan Valley Trail is close, as is the Lochside Trail/Galloping Goose..

The food and bakeries? Again, there is some good stuff, but would you buy a plane ticket to come sample it? Nah.

Accommodation? Two of our motel rooms were triple the size of most things in Europe, and they featured fridge, microwave, coffee maker, stove, two queen beds, fast internet, cable TV, and so forth. But they were also costly and lacked really fluffy quilts or great breakfasts, or any breakfasts. So no gold star there. Silver star, maybe.

Drivers and traffic? Drivers were not out to kill us - probably they scarcely noticed us on average.  Traffic increased toward the mid-Island, and when the so so cycle infrastructure put us in the middle of it, it was a bug.

Architecture? No. You usually need centuries to develop a  winning mass of interesting buildings. BC has been receiving settlers of maybe 200 years, and they did not build much of note. Before that the indigenous people had 10,000 years to throw up  a cathedral or something, but, nah.

And historical sites? Actually the province is quite good at documenting historical places and events. It was a lot of fun reading the many plaques. So let's give it a tick on that.

Overall score - on our tour - not bad really. We enjoyed almost all its various points. And there were a lot of comments from readers.  On the larger question - would people from the world at large be happy with a cycle tour here, given that they have to pay airfares to get started. Yes, we think so, especially given the scope for a tour of perhaps three times the length we did, using the what there is of acceptable roads and paths to go farther north and farther west.

Comments?

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Jacquie GaudetI guess I’m jaded or spoiled by touring in Europe. Accommodation here seems way more expensive for what you get (I loved camping on actual grass in France, plus the fact that *every* campground had showers). Here, most campgrounds are well away from any town so no walking anywhere for a restaurant dinner…

Then there’s the dearth of quiet roads. I’ve ridden the Sunshine Coast twice and the only reason I might do it again is it doesn’t involve an airplane. The scenery is lovely but you can’t enjoy it because of the traffic and the inconsistent shoulder (sometimes there but mostly not).

As for going North from Nanaimo—it would be much nicer if there were an alternative route from Lantzville Road to Northwest Bay Road. But there isn’t. Or maybe if all those trucks slowed down or stayed in their lane?

Then there’s the Trans Canada Trail. If only it were continuous and if only motorized vehicles were banned! ATVs have destroyed the trail in so many stretches.

It’s sad, really, because the area has a lot to offer that’s truly “world class” but the cycling infrastructure is absent.
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1 year ago
Andrea BrownWe have friends that live in Courtenay who are very outdoorsy and athletic, and are also the most well-traveled people we've ever met. As in, they have traveled nonstop for up to 8 years at a time at different points in their lives. Now they have settled down somewhat and own more than they can carry once again. They produce a nonstop stream of photos of the world-class outdoor activities that Vancouver Island has to offer, stunning hikes, kayaking trips, skiing, mountain biking, bike touring, etc. And I mean stunning. I'm not all that outdoorsy, to be honest, and vicariously enjoy beautiful Vancouver Island on my screen, thanks to them. I think Euro-centric touring must be incredible but don't think we'll ever be able to afford it (nor Vancouver hotel prices, yikes!), but I think "world class" is in the eye of the beholder. The Grampies love their bakeries and cathedrals, others love their noodles/curries/burritos and the views from their tents/$8 guesthouses. I think if you are having the time of your life where you travel, then you are having a world-class trip.
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1 year ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Jacquie GaudetBefore this tour my thoughts were totally aligned with your comment. But out of necessity I began to ask "why do so many tourists decide to come here?". It's certainly not for cycling, but it is for reasons that cyclists also value. Then I found that there are a certain fair number of cycle routes about, such as the Cowichan Valley Trail, and I began to wonder if this area was as bad as I thought. The tour ultimately found some good and some bad stuff, so that's why I gave a partial rating. Even so, as soon as possible we'll be outta here, to the Europe that we know is so amazingly great for cycling.

But hey, you've got to acknowledge the thrill of being able to buy a Nanaimo Bar in a bakery in Nanaimo. Or do you?
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1 year ago
Suzanne GibsonScenery and location - world class for sure! I wouldn't feel comfortable with the lack of quiet roads and bicycle paths, though. Bakeries and architecture are a bonus but not a must for me. Another world class feature of your tour was meeting up with other cyclists! It would have been nice to have sunnier days, but no part of the world can guarantee that - or maybe Spain in the winter?
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1 year ago
Keith KleinHi,
Vancouver Island is one of those destinations I often thought about when I lived in the states. The natural beauty of the island is a tremendous draw for the outdoorsy types, and atone time that was me. But not anymore. Cycling has changed my outlook on things, and from your descriptions of VI infrastructure, I’m not sure I would choose it as a destination. Now if a small sailing vessel was thrown into the mix, my opinion would be different. It looks like most of the trails are accessible from port towns, and with a bike strapped to the coach roof and fair winds a sailing/biking tour might be a real delight. And the smaller islands would be accessible. But if you are not a sailor, then that’s not an option.
An interesting tour nonetheless. Wish I could taste those donuts!
Cheers,
Keith
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1 year ago
Tricia GrahamCycling in Europe spoils you especially when you come from a much younger country. This cycling in many ways reminds me of cycling in New Zealand without very long we’ll established cycle routes - yes they are growing but not there yet. Perhaps this is a little unkind because by though we are Kiwis we are now experienced European cyclist but much less experienced cycling here. They way things are going however we may have to remodel that.
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1 year ago
Bob KoreisEnjoyed following along and appreciated your observations. They'll be useful if we manage to get back up to the island for another ride.


The Mill/Brentwood Bay ferry must forever stay in service if only for cyclists so we don't have to ride HWY 1 out of Victoria to go north..
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1 year ago
Sue PriceWorld class cycling? Maybe not. It's unfortunate that most of what makes Vancouver Island truly spectacular and more than world class is away from roads that appeal to cycle tourists. I think our island is one of the most wonderful places on this planet to visit for other things - kayaking, hiking, camping. There are few places where you can spend your day so far from all things developed by simply driving for a few hours. But that's the rub. You have to drive (unless you do it in your ocean kayak - more power to those folks!). As you said before, there are so many places just begging to be connected by a good bike route. That would do so much for the tourism industry on the northern end of the island where, we found this summer, the truly amazing scenery awaits. Ah well. Maybe we don't want all this tourists showing up and demanding goodies? Looking forward to your next adventure - and a look at those Bike Fridays when they are done!
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1 year ago
Scott FenwickSteve, kudos to you and Dodi for organizing a local Vancouver Island ride – especially one in October! You are a hardy pair.

This summer, I completed rides from Nanaimo to Victoria via the Mill Bay ferry and another one from Nanaimo to Hornby Island. Of course, they cannot be compared with a European tour but none the less they are a cycling opportunity. And good on you both for making a bonafide “world class” tour in our own back yards.

Pat now has a very nice R&M ebike too, that she rides locally. We both thought that switching back to the “normal” BF may have its difficulties. But on our most recent tour everything went fine We are watching your BF conversions as a potential ebike solution for overseas touring. I must say that it is concerning that decisions about what can be carried onto an aircraft is in the hands of CATSA screeners. In the past I have had a few arguments with them over the silliest of items that they have deemed dangerous.
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1 year ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott FenwickWe are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the parts ordered for the Bike Friday conversions. Once we get in to it, we'll try to document all the various aspects.

With our bikes kind of inaccessible out in Leipzig and the other pair here in Cobble Hill, we are likely to grab the converted Fridays (if only it works) and charge off with them to somewhere warm enough to cycle in - Hawaii, Mexico, Spain.

We have heard no reports yet of LiGo conflicts with screeners. But we too have had our issues with them: plastic tent peg hammer, totally brand new unused unfueled propane camp stove, and empty liquid fuel bottle.

Did that R&M come from Citrus Cycles?
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1 year ago
Scott FenwickTo Steve Miller/GrampiesPat has the R&M Tinker. Like the BF it also has 20 inch wheels - so a smaller form factor than some ebikes. Although Citrus carries this bike - I bought it slightly used from a shop in Poland and imported it via UPS. Fortunately the shipper was not much for following rules making the transport and duties reasonable. On the downside the paint on the underside took a beating as it rubbed against the axel of the front wheel that was removed for shipping. In the end, it is a nice bike at fairly reasonable price.
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1 year ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott FenwickWow, that's a cool bike! The Canadian price for a new one is a bit over $7,000. That's 25% more than buying it in Germany. Good work finding one in Poland! Did they ship it with the battery? That would be a true feat of ignoring rules, unless on that score the shipper actually knew how to ship lithium ion legally.
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1 year ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott Fenwickp.s. Interestingly the Tinker has exactly the same price as Dodie's R-M Swing 3. But that price today is 50% more than we paid in Netherlands just 3-4 years ago.
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1 year ago
Marilyn DennisonSteve and Dodie,

I just read this blog and enjoyed seeing your area in photos. Thanks for taking the time to record you adventure. Your legacy will live on for your family.

Ed and Marilyn in Dania Beach
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1 year ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Marilyn DennisonThanks Marilyn and Ed! Stay tuned for the next one, which we are thinking to call Grampies' Spanish Inquisition - in which we will learn all about Spain and Portugal.
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1 year ago