Way back in 2019 we vowed to see more of the world by bike and this year we started to make good on that promise, hiring Motorcycles out of Vancouver, Canada for a 6 day loop of British Columbia. We had a ball – as you’d expect when we get to ride bikes for 6 days back to back. Rather than give you the blow by blow account, we thought you’d enjoy some highlights and a bit of insight into how we plan a trip like this.
In 6 days, we covered 2,200kms, rode in temperatures of 33oC and worked our AirBnB account pretty hard. Biking holidays are the best!
Choosing a destination
This was pretty easy in the end. I (Corinne) had to go to Canada for work, so my flights were already covered. Vancouver was on my route, is a direct flight from Auckland and we’d been hearing for a few years that Canada has some amazing riding – so it was an easy decision to book Andrew’s flights and start planning the trip.
Being a main centre, Vancouver has a motorcycle rental shop in the city. We could get accommodation the night we landed from our international flight, have time for a quick look at the city that evening, grab breakfast around the corner and be at the rental place when it opened at 9am – all boxes for an easy start lined up nicely!
Allowing 90 mins for collecting the bikes, doing the final paperwork and packing our gear into the (supplied) hard luggage, we wanted an easy first day acclimatizing to the warmer temps than the 2oC we’d left at home, and also getting back into the swing of riding on the right side of the road.
On the last day, we needed to have the bikes dropped off by 4pm to get back to the airport in time.
Those basic timing points led us to switch our planned direction of travel after an hour or so of initial route planning. Initially planning to start via Whistler, we worked out that it was too close to Vancouver for our first day riding, but just perfect distance to allow us to play on the mountain in the morning, and still make our deadline return time in the afternoon at the end of our trip.
Our goal is 4-6 hours riding per day – the actual distance obviously depends on the roads, so we’re governed by time rather than kms. But to get started, we worked on around 350kms and see what that translated to in terms of riding time (thanks Google maps) and where we could get to. We also know that we want cheap, clean accommodation with a good parking for the bikes – i.e. we want them to be there the next morning. Whilst we don’t want to stay in major cities, we do want to be able to walk to find a pub / restaurant for evening dinner, and a café for coffee and breakfast within 30 mins ride the next morning. Yes, we eat out every day on a week’s trip like this – we hate cooking and don’t go on holiday to shop, pack, cook and washup.
A bit like the West Coast of NZ’s South Island, BC is very scenic, but the towns are quite spread out. Because we are looking for amenities, we need more than a camping paddock. On the first day, we ended up planning a 6 hour day over 450 kms. It was further than we wanted for our first day, but it got us out of Vancouver, heading in the right direction and staying at an AirBnB which looked lovely, on the outskirts of a town which had everything we needed. On the day, it was a scorcher! We had to stop for drinks, fruit (roadside fruit stall) ice cream… anything to stay hydrated.
From there, each day had some kind of feature in it. We had a brilliant vehicle ferry trip, a day on Revelstoke mountain riding the “mountain coaster” (we call it a luge) and trying axe throwing (Andrew was excellent, I was rubbish), a ride through a wild fire, then flood ravaged valley, and the pinnacle (for me) riding the bobsleigh down the Whistler Winter Olympic course.
We book our accommodation in advance. Stopping mid / late afternoon and starting the hunt for accommodation that fits our budget and proximity to food isn’t our idea of fun. We tend to look for “accommodation” in Google maps, read some reviews to get a feel for the town as well as the specific lodgings and cross reference with AirBnB until we find somewhere that looks about right for us.
Things we learned
- Spark has a much cheaper overseas roaming mobile phone plan than One (Vodafone)
- Cafés are few and far between on the roads in BC (so are the towns) but the food is good when you stop (have you ever tried poutine..?)
- Fuel is far more frequent than we were led to believe, but it pays to have a plan anyway
- The roads in southern BC are long, winding (rather than “twisty”) and therefore boring at times. The forestry can be right up against road, blocking any views that might otherwise be there to admire along the way.
- Speed limits aren’t really enforced, which gave us some latitude whilst fitting in with an acceptable margin that other road users seemed to be adopting. No, this didn’t compensate for the long straight roads, we would have traded quite a lot for some more corners most days! Strangely, the NZ approach of the higher the highway number, the more interesting the road, didn’t necessarily apply – the first corners we found were on BC1 – the Trans Canada Highway! The best road for corners and views was actually through a valley which had burned out, then flooded – the locals had endured a lot! The road turned into a road of hard packed gravel across temporary bridges and ended at a little town with food and ice cream. Nice!
- The people are lovely, and tipping at cafes and restaurants became second nature within a few days
- Go to the ski towns in summer – fewer crowds but still lots of fun – we went luging, and also went on the bobsleigh run in Whistler
- Check the mileage allowance on the rentals – sometimes it might be cheaper to pay for more days than to pay the extra mileage fee
Even though BC is not significantly different to NZ, it is still nice to ride some new roads, see some new scenery, meet some new people and eat some new types of food – a summer holiday in mid winter was a bonus!
Personally, I really like finding my way around the roads without the familiar landmarks of home, and I’m always really happy to know we’re on the best roads I could find on the map to arrive at our planned destination.
Next year – we’re pondering a trip to Wales and Ireland…