8 Lessons I Learned Cycling (With Kayaks!) Across The Canadian Rockies

When cycle touring just isn't enough...bring your kayaks!

By: Rachel B + Save to a List

When we decided to cycle from Vancouver to the Rockies and back, a journey that would take close to 2500km to complete, we did it with no cycle touring experience behind us.

Naturally as first timers, we wanted to up the ante and bring our kayaks with us.

Over six weeks on the road taught us a lot, here are the top eight lessons learned to apply to your next adventure.

1. British Columbia is not flat.

If you think that BC only has two mountain ranges, the Coastals and the Rockies, you are wrong. From sea level Vancouver to the over 2000m high passes in the Rockies, one must cross over seven mountain ranges.

Before we set off, we thought of the two main passes and completely underestimated the continual hills we’d encounter on our way.

Following historic gold rush trails down into river valleys and climbing alpine routes over Canada’s highest highways means not a day passes on a cycle tour across BC without an ascent.

In our six weeks, we climbed nearly 20,000m of elevation.

2. Towing kayaks is not easy.

There is a reason you haven’t heard of someone doing this before.

After packing 25kg of camping equipment, food, water, clothing and miscellaneous gear, each kayak will add a further 15kg each to your weight in addition to the 10kg trailer.

Every person will think you are crazy for bringing kayaks.

And every grade over 5% will make you feel certain you are.

3. Cycle touring is incredibly social.

A strange fact that we never knew before starting the trip, considering most of the day is spent solitarily on a bike pedalling.

Any time we stopped, a crowd or a gathering would develop.

Within seconds people of meeting us, people offered up their homes for us to have a shower to use or a bed for the night. Campers nearby made us breakfast, dropped off fruit, and greeted us with beers.

Conversations with strangers were always easy and interesting.

The cycling community is a friendly one.

4. Golden hour is the ultimate time for an adventure.

While cycle touring most of your day is dedicated to the road and getting in your miles. When you add on kayaks, this means that your pace is considerably slower and if you want to make any long distance, you’ll almost always show up to camp just before sunset.

This is in your favour.

Each and every time we’d set up camp next to a gorgeous lake it would likely be overrun in the daytime.

Cooler evening temperatures and frigid alpine breezes sent people escaping to the campfire, leaving the lakes buttery smooth and completely peaceful.

5. Plan your detours wisely.

Unlike a road trip, detours are difficult. There are many factors to be weighed on if that extra trip just a few miles down the road from the campsite is possible.

Is the road paved? How much extra elevation? Is there a headwind? Is there a place to camp? Get water? Get food? Ditch the bike somewhere? Where does it fit in your timeline?

Cycle tourists on roads tend to stick to the path known.

Gravel roads, headwinds, and elevation gains double your ride time. Finding enough food and getting water to rehydrate can be a real concern. And ditching your bike for hours on end require faith that nothing will happen to it.

If you plan your detours wisely by getting food and water in advance, knowing what the road conditions are, it makes that detour all the better.

6. You will eat like never before.

Whatever food budget you set before you go on a cycle tour, double it.

Whether riding 50km or 150km a day, the amount of calories you will burn is astonishing.

Some riders stock up on Mr Noodles for days on end, practically starving themselves between towns and carb loading on absolutely anything once they arrive in a place selling food. Probably not a good idea.

Have a mix of backpacker meals, protein and carb rich snacks, rehydration powders, sugary sweets, fruits and veggies, beef jerky and anything else you can get your hands on.

We broke our budget of $50 per day for food and found ourselves eating nearly $150 some days. Every restaurant we would order two mains each, plus appies and desserts. Grocery runs were usually $100 and would typically last 48 hours.

Maybe we were excessive, but neither of us got hangry.

7. Know your route.

Get a map. Find out the elevation. Figure out where construction is. Pinpoint where you can camp.

Canada has two seasons: winter and construction. Luckily, we hit very little of either.

Roads with smooth, wide shoulders will make your day fly by. On the reverse, narrow shoulders with faults, cracks or terribly placed rumble strips will make your day hell.

Ask around and find out in advance.

8. Prepare for some cold showers.

In the alpine, you take what you can get. Cold creeks, glacially fed lakes or baby wipes are often the only options for showers when camping in the wilderness.

But on the plus, you’ll never such a sweet view from your bath, regardless of how quick it is.

For more photos of this adventure across BC, check out our Instagram, @meandertheworld.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Do you love the outdoors?

Yep, us too. That's why we send you the best local adventures, stories, and expert advice, right to your inbox.


Overnighter on the Sonoma Coast

Benjamin Canevari

10 Things you need to do in Baja

wyld honeys

Journey to Wyoming’s premier snowmobiling destination: Togwotee Mountain Lodge

Samuel Brockway

Hiking in comfort: a review of Danner Mountain 600 Evo boots

Meghan White