Canada is one of the most beautiful places in the world to go biking. With majestic mountains, picturesque small towns and an unrivaled nature experience, the whole country is a dream come true for both novice and experienced bikers alike. In fact, Quebec’s Route Verte (Green Road) has been named the best bike trail in the world by National Geographic.
If you want to be blown away by all the stunning sights, grab a complete Topographic map coverage of Canada and start exploring! But before you do that, here are a few newbie tips to get you started.
What to Wear – Safety and Comfort First
- To protect your backside and minimize pain, get yourself padded bike shorts and compression shorts. Cycling shorts have padding built in, but this type of gear is more suited for road bikes, not mountain biking. Moisture wicking fabric is also recommended so your body can thermoregulate properly. Avoid cotton, because your sweat won’t be able to evaporate and it clings to your skin when wet.
- In cold weather, don’t forget to wear thermal gear or layered clothing. For shoes, any lightweight athletic shoe with a sole hard enough to hit the pedals is fine, although you have to choose one with a narrow width so you won’t have any issues getting your feet inside the pedal straps. Wear bright colored clothing if you’re expecting to ride until nighttime.
- A helmet is important and it can prevent nasty head injuries just in case of a spill. It should fit your head just right – leveled all around and covering most of your forehead. The chin strap should be snug at all times, and don’t be afraid to tighten it if the helmet moves an inch in any direction. To avoid shredding your hands and getting blisters, get a pair of biking gloves.
Gearing Up – Basic Gear to Go the Extra Mile
- A backpack will only slow you down and wear you out. It’s also a nightmare for your back! Instead of lugging one around, pack your extra gear in a bar bag that you can strap on the handlebars. Old-school saddlebags (strapped to the back of the seat) also work. For smaller stuff or items you need to reach fast, wear a cycling bag.
- Always carry a multitool, a set of allen wrenches, a small hand pump and a tire patch kit. You don’t want to have to cut your trip short and walk home because of a flat tire. Practice using these tools, especially the patch kit. You never know when you’ll need it.
- With the majority of biking accidents happening at night (6pm – 9pm), you don’t want to be out riding when the sun goes down. But you have to be prepared for anything, so stick reflective tape on your bike and helmet. Install powerful blinking lights on the front and rear of your bike so motorists will see you from afar.
- Don’t forget to bring enough water and energy gels to keep you hydrated and fueled properly. You’ll burn a lot of calories when biking, so load up on carbs the night before, but only eat a light meal or drink coffee on the day of your ride.
Going Up and Downhill
- Steep climbs require patience and pacing. Go too fast, too soon and you’ll lose steam before you reach the top. Go too slow and you won’t have enough momentum to carry you forward. Hit it hard enough and shift your gears until you reach a sustainable speed and reach the apex.
- For downhill mountain biking, stand on the pedals with your knees slightly bent. You’re weight should be kept on the pedals and not on the handlebars. Minimize braking, because speed will help you take on obstacles and excessive braking will wear you out.
It takes a little prep to start a bike trip, such as knowing where you’re headed, who to ride with and the logistics of transporting your bike and gear to the trail. But once you get going, you’ll never want to stop moving! Look for bike clubs in your town and either join or ask for suggestions on routes and who you can ride with. Have fun, and stay safe!