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Léon Lebrun and Richard Senécal in Chambly discussing options

cross public roads and in certain places ride along the shoulder of roads. This allows for world class cycling trails that...
one in Parc de la Gatineau and is the start of La Montagnarde on the way to Sherbrooke. Day 8 landed us in Orford at a
The final leg of the journey was the well known rail-trail 'Le Petit Témis' to the New Brunswick Border, a one-day 115 km
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Cycling The TCT In Quebec


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A three week trip cycling the Trans Canada Trail in Quebec by Leon Lebrun, Trails BC Vice-President

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Cycling The TCT In Quebec

  1. 1. Léon Lebrun and Richard Senécal in Chambly discussing options Cycling the TCT in Quebec Léon Lebrun Getting there and getting prepared For this trip I decided to transport my bike on the plane with the idea of either buying or renting one for my wife, Linda, in Ottawa. The cost was about $76 one way and involved taking the pedals off, turning the handlebars, taking off the front wheel, unbolting the derailleur and fitting it in a bike packing box given to me at a local cycle shop. Other precautions such as placing a spacer between the arms of the front fork is needed to avoid bending it. Once at the airport, I found out that Air Canada provided bike bags with no guarantee that the bike would be in one piece at the other end. It still requires taking the bike apart. The weight has to be kept under 72 lbs. As for Linda we visited a bike shop in Ottawa to find her one. At the same time I had my bike tuned up. Trying to buy a used bike for her turned out to be futile. We learned that there was a place in the basement of Chateau Laurier where we could rent bikes. This was a good deal. She was able to rent a very decent bike for a monthly rate of $145. This is cheaper than transporting bikes on the plane and eliminates the hassle of getting the bikes to and from the airport. It cost $84 to ship my bike back to Vancouver by Greyhound. When we arrived in Ottawa, we were fortunate that we had friends that could transport us and the bike to our hotel. We had pre-booked a basic Ford Cargo Van from Enterprise Rent-a-car that could not be picked up at the airport. This became our support vehicle driven by Linda during the whole trip. It would also be useful for an emergency shelter if we were not able to find accommodation at some locations. We brought with us a large air mattress and our sleeping bags for this purpose. Linda did short bike trips at either end of the trail or when she met me for lunch. We ended up staying mostly at bed and breakfasts and slept in the van two times in the three weeks we travelled. This is a strategy that worked very well for this trip. The trip With our trusty 'Trans Canada Trail in Québec' guide in hand, what became a 1400 km ride started in front of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, September 11, 2008. We found this guide to be invaluable. Linda and I each carried one. I also purchased a detailed map of Parc de la Gatineau at a book shop across the street from the museum, a necessity if one chooses to do the trail inside the park. We set off with 'the change of colours' in mind. Parc de la Gatineau to Wakefield, a charming ski village, is a full one day adventure even if it is only a 50-km trip. I took the trail route rather than take the road. After the first 15 km it becomes a challenging park trail that must be done on a mountain bike. It is very hilly with several lakes, heritage sites, great views and many other features. I totally enjoyed this ride even if it taxed by cycling and route finding abilities. It was a tough start to a ride that became much easier. In fact, most of the TCT in Quebec can be done on a road bike. Continuing north along the Gatineau River the trail is a 28-km gravel road to Low. Unfortunately, the highway has infringed too much on a rail grade for it to be the trail. However, from Low to Maniwaki one cruises along on a fantastic 80 km rail-trail. Like all the rail- trails in Quebec it is a linear parkway for non-motorized trail users other than in the winter when it is used by snowmobiles. The surface is hard packed and smooth without ruts, potholes and washboard. On this section there was a 6 km stretch approaching Maniwaki that passes through a native reserve that has no motorized restrictions. This was the only section during the whole trip that I had to laboriously deal with the damage motorized vehicles do to trails as well as dodging ATV's. I gather this may soon be remedied. Motorized trail users in Quebec have their own trails and where necessary are allowed to
  2. 2. cross public roads and in certain places ride along the shoulder of roads. This allows for world class cycling trails that is part of the Route Verte cycling system in Quebec. Accommodation between Wakefield and Mont Laurier is extremely sparse. The next 68 km section from Maniwaki through Grand Remous, the furthest point north, to Mont Laurier is gravel road and highway and is the least enjoyable section of the whole trip. However, from here, one is rewarded by getting on a the well known 200-km Petit Train du Nord rail-trail to St. Jerome passing through a series of charming villages including the Mont Tremblant ski area. This is a destination for people from around the world. Most people I encountered were using road bikes. Almost half of it is paved. There were rough spots on the paved section where the pavement was rippled in places by roots and other causes I could not determine. As with all the Quebec rail-trails there were km markers along the way. The charming train stations and bed and breakfasts were an absolute joy to behold. The majority of the people staying at the auberges were cyclists. The route, up to this point, parallels rivers that have a colourful history of the logging industry involving 'les draveurs' who rode the log booms to the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers. Starting with Wakefied, I was surprised at the number of covered bridges we saw up to this point. I saw at least three long ones. The rail-trail continues for another 18 km along a live railroad on the way to Laval. The next 10 km to Laval tested my navigation skills and caused me to make my guide dog-eared. It is one of those stretches between established trails that allows the trail to be continuous and takes one out of a world of complacency. Work is being done to make this connection easier. This is where dependence on Route Verte signs truly begins. Beware, however, Route Verte is a system so you have to ensure that you are following the correct set of signs. The guide would have been more helpful if it described every inch of the way what Route Verte we were suppose to follow. Trans Canada Trail signs are very sparse throughout Quebec at this time. Most of the 15 km through Laval is rail grade. One must be vigilant about finding the start of the rail-trail about 3.5 km past the bridge into Laval. I missed a turn here and discovered more of Laval then I intended. Past Laval and over a bridge is Montreal. I was pleasantly surprised that there is a separated pathway from north to south of Montreal. In fact, there are many more such pathways in the city. It meanders as a two-way cycling pathway through parks and along streets. In some of the streets it takes the place of what I presumed was space for parked vehicles on one side of the street. On the north side one is treated the waterfront of Old Montreal and the 1967 Expo site. I was amazed at how quickly I got from one side of Montreal to the other. We stayed in a hotel in Longueuil and spent an extra day in Montreal using the Metro system. On the 7th day we headed out of Montreal through Longueuil to Chambly (36 km) that combined wonderful trails with 12 km of rail-trail. Again between the rail-trails there are a few sections where it pays off to be alert for signage. From the charming Chambly waterfront is the spectacular 14 km Chambly Canal with the trail running its full length and continues to Saint-Jean-sur Richelieu 4 km later. The next 6 km, once again, involves a connector route to an 18-km rail-trail to Farnham known as 'La Montérégiade 2", an 80 km trip from Longueuil that can easily be done in a day. I did it even after spending 2 hours having lunch in Chambly with Richard Senécal, the person responsible for the TCT in Quebec. From Farnham to Eastman via Grandby (67 km) in the Eastern Townships the rail-trails are La Montérégiade 1 and L'Estriade . Here is the start of a second mountainous park trail (20 km) to Orford similar but easier than the
  3. 3. one in Parc de la Gatineau and is the start of La Montagnarde on the way to Sherbrooke. Day 8 landed us in Orford at a wonderful bed and breakfast after cycling 87 km. The next 80 km or so, not counting little side trips into towns to Sherbrooke, is fairly challenging connecting a variety of trails that includes sections of rail- trails. I did about 100 km that day because of a detour due to highway construction in Magog. This was the day that I had the most variety on the trail with much to look at and enjoy. Normally one would spend an extra day in Sherbrooke because of its heritage value at the forks of the Magog and St. François Rivers. One could also go on an extra bike trip on a rail-trail following the Magog River. We had been in Sherbrooke a couple years before and decided to move on. Getting out of Sherbrooke for the next 50 km to Richmond La Cantonnière trail, once again, offers a variety of pathways and terrain with side roads. The challenge is to stay on course because of the different Route Verte signs leading in other directions or a different axis. Much of it followed the beautiful St. François River. I got fooled by such signage at a location where there was a trail closure and rode an extra 20 km as a result. Once, again I explored more territory than I intended. I met other people on the trail with a really good Route Verte map set. I think this would have helped me. I didn't notice whether the Route Verte maps indicate the TCT. From Richmond to Lévis the rail-trail goes for 140 km taking in the Corridors Verts de la Région Asbestos, Les Bois Francs, and La Lotbinière. What an astonishing ride it is going through this country with its array of changing colour sugar maples and other deciduous trees. Trans Canada Trail signs were more frequent here but unfortunately someone saw fit to blot out with white paint the English on a large number of TCT Discovery signs. The 'Haltes', the name for rest areas with colourful buildings and shelters along the whole Quebec trail, were frequent and some even had flush toilets. Many were former rail stations. Travellers can also pitch a tent at these sites. Upon leaving the rail grade one soon enters the beautiful Parc régional des Chutes-de-la-Chaudière with its dam, falls and a sensational pedestrian/cycling suspension bridge allowing for tremendous views. This is also the site of a TCT Pavilion. It is 20 km from the rail-trail to the Lévis ferry crossing to Québec City. Because the TCT now goes into Lévis instead of crossing the Québec Bridge the guidebook was of no help. Hence, I tried to follow the Route Verte signs only to pick the wrong one at a critical point after leaving the park and going over Highway 73. I should have taken the one that went left. That cost me an extra 20 km but I sure got to know the area. This leads to a wonderful 7 km waterfront pathway to the ferry terminal and it continues from there for another 7 km. On the 14th day we stayed in Lévis to spend a full day to visit Québec City. From Lévis/Québec City one can choose to take the north or south shore of the St. Lawrence River to Rivière-du-Loup. The north shore is the designated TCT but it is more for hiking than for cycling. Hence, I chose to follow the Route Verte on the south shore because it is quite flat with gentle inclines. It follows route 132 after leaving a greenway out of Lévis. This road is relatively quiet as a result of a new highway that replaced it. Also it enters all the small towns along the way and hugs the shoreline along many stretches. Other than a 15-km section of trail at La Pocatière the trail follows roads with about 75% of it having a cycling shoulder. It is a pleasant on-road experience especially when the wind is at your back. The first day the wind was behind me and I couldn't believe how well I was doing until the next day when the wind shifted - what a difference. On that first day I easily did 130 km from our motel to LaPocatière. The actual distance from Lévis to LaPocatière via the artisan village of St-Jean-Port-Joli (91 km) is 120 km. From LaPocatière to Rivière-du-Loup it is 70 km and felt like 140 because of the headwind. On the way back we drove the north shore and I was really glad that I hadn't attempted that on my bike - the hills were extreme.
  4. 4. The final leg of the journey was the well known rail-trail 'Le Petit Témis' to the New Brunswick Border, a one-day 115 km journey not counting getting to the rail-trail trailhead in Rivière-du-Loup - another 10 km in my case. There were a few sections of this trail that was deteriorating because of unauthorized ATV traffic. I was told that this was a recent problem on some sections. Further to this, on the way back, I cycled the whole waterfront in Québec City up from Montmonrency Falls (40 km), the new River St-Charles pathway (15 km) and le Corridor des Cheminots to Lorretteville - 44 km there and back. What a wonderful experience and a great way to view Québec City this was! In Summary • The Quebec trip from Hull to the New Brunswick Border took 18 days including one day in Montreal and one day in Québec City for a distance of about 1400 km. • 690 km was rail-trail (about 50%). About 20% of this was paved, mostly when the trail passed through a built- up area. • 285 km on the side of roads (about 20%). This would have been less had I rode the North Shore of the St. Lawrence River. • 420 km on off-road pathways (about 30%) • I sighted only one ATV attempting to get on the rail-trail but had been caught by a volunteer trail watcher. • TCT Pavilions sighted were in Gatineau Park, Old Montreal, Chambly, Sherbrooke, Bromont, Lévis, Rivière-du- Loup, and Lorretteville. • I Cycled another 200 km on side trips in Québec City and Ottawa • The Changing of colours got increasingly magnificent as the trip progressed. I highly recommend this trip on the Trans Canada Trail. In contrast to British Columbia, Québec is much further ahead at offering a quality and safe experience to cyclists. B.C. could have at least an equivalent amount of first class non-motorized trail on today's designated TCT trail while offering more variety of features and more wilderness experiences. In spite of the difficulties people are attempting the B.C. route. Imagine what would happen if it was brought up to the Quebec standard.