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Forget the plane, train or automobile. Some people are chosen to travel by bike instead


Evan Hogarth was only half joking. “I’m going to ride one of our e-bikes from Toronto to Montreal to have poutine,” he said at the cycle shop where he works.

He was thinking of doing something along the lines of the “Top Gear” television specials or the Ewan McGregor-led series “Long Way Round.” In both cases, vehicles are used in nontraditional ways by the show’s cast. Think 4x4s crossing South America or a motorcycle ride heading east from London to New York City.

To Hogarth’s surprise, his bosses at Beachman Bikes on Dundas Street, Ben Taylor and Steve Payne, said, “Let’s do it.”

The plan: Hogarth would make a roughly 600-kilometre trek from Toronto to Montreal using one of e-bikes that Beachman makes, unassisted other than a cache of a dozen extra batteries. Those would be brought by Taylor, who would follow along in a vehicle as Hogarth navigated secondary roads and avoided the main highways. Around every 70 to 100 kilometres, they would stop to swap the bike’s batteries.

“This is a bike that doesn’t go any more than 90 kilometres a day at most,” said Hogarth, who added they spent time getting the e-bike into tip-top shape before starting the two-day ride to Montreal. They planed to camp overnight along their route.

On a Monday in late July – during a week when summer temperatures weren’t too high – Hogarth set out at 8 a.m. He would complete up to 100 kilometres before stopping for five minutes to swap the battery and eat one of the sandwiches he carried in his backpack.

By 8 p.m., he had arrived in Gananoque, where, instead of camping, Hogarth found an alternative. “I was exhausted and didn’t want to pitch a tent on the side of a road,” said Hogarth, who decided to sleep at a friend’s house.

While the Beachman e-bike requires no pedaling – it runs fully on an electric motor – Hogarth said it was still challenging to ride over long distances. “The majority of the ride was fun, but at around the 250-kilometre mark of the first day, my back was hurting and my arms and legs – I was pretty much done at that point,” he said.

He also got a sunburn on his arms after starting out in the morning in only a t-shirt.

Biking along a multi-day route or tour is not new – think cycling the Loire Valley in France or the P’tit Train du Nord linear park in Quebec – but e-bikes do permit riders to travel further and faster in a day.

“Diving into 600 kilometres is a long time to sit on an e-bike,” said Bud Jorgensen of Cycle Canada. “If you push too hard, you may damage your muscles or a part of your body by overstressing it.”

Cycle Canada offers a program to help people interested in biking longer distances to train their bodies for the experience. It sees cyclists increase how far they travel over the course of months, usually accumulating 1,000 kilometres after half a year.

While Hogarth set out on his own for his first long-distance ride, Jorgensen recommends joining a cycling club as you’ll learn essential safety skills, including group-riding skills, which is something you need to work at.

“If you’re too close to someone in front of you and your front wheel touches their back wheel, you will fall, it’s almost guaranteed,” Jorgensen said.

While physical fitness is a key part of biking long distances, he said you also should not overlook the other benefits of being in a cycling club where there is a broad range of interests, knowledge and experiences. “When you come together as a group, it’s not usually about what your physical strengths are,” he said.

At 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Hogarth was back on the e-bike, arriving in Montreal at 6 p.m. As planned, he and Taylor went straight to a couple of the city’s most popular poutine spots, La Banquise and Patati Patata.

Once they had their fill of fries, cheese curds and gravy, they packed the e-bike into Taylor’s vehicle and began their journey back to Toronto – Hogarth sleeping through the drive.

Having time to rest since his July poutine trek, Hogarth is already planning his next long-distance ride. “I don’t know what it’ll be yet, but we’ll be doing something bigger and better – either a longer distance or a different type of terrain,” he said.

Getting bike-travel ready

Whether you plan to pedal a regular bike or ride an e-bike, Cycle Canada’s Bud Jorgensen has some tips to make sure you are ready for your two-wheeled journey.

What to wear: Plan your cycling wardrobe to include layers. “Cross-country ski people know how to layer well and the clothing requirements for cyclists and cross-country skiers is similar,” said Jorgensen. He advises paying attention to the weather forecast so you know what conditions to expect. And don’t forget your high-visibility gear for safety purposes, he said.

Where to go: Riding on your own will help you understand what traffic conditions you’re comfortable with so you can plan your route (remember, biking is not permitted on some Ontario highways). To take that responsibility of your plate, cycling tour groups, such as Cycle Canada and those listed on ontariobybike.ca, develop group rides of varying skill levels with carefully assessed routes.

What to know: At a minimum, you need to know how to change a flat tire, said Jorgensen. “Typically, cyclists carry a spare tube, but with bike technology changing rapidly, there are tubeless tires, too,” he said. He advises you practice changing your tire at home, so you know how to do it on the road. And like with your car, take your bike into the shop regularly to have it checked out. “You want to be confident the bike is not going to have any problems to deal with on the road.”



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