A Canadian Rockies Ride

Spinning from Banff to Jasper, Alberta
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There's a certain thrill to pedaling in a foreign country. We look more closely at our surroundings when we're away from home. Awakened from the doldrums of what is common to us, we notice all that's different. The money is a funny color, the local dress or speech or customs throw us off and, being off balance, we watch the world around us with more care.

Fortunately, we Yanks can have a taste of foreign-country cycling without having to pop for flights across the seas. And if we head north, to the civilized and cool climes of non-Quebec Canada, we don't even have to learn another language. Which means we can read the newspapers and eavesdrop on the locals. And not embarrass ourselves when attempting to ask directions or order a meal using high-school French or Spanish.

But where does one go in Canada, the second-largest country on earth, a nation that, like ours, spans an entire continent, but also stretches from its border with Montana to within only 500 miles of the North Pole?

Well, if you've got the time, there's always the best road ride in North America: the 5,000-thousand-mile Trans-Canada Highway. You dip your rear tire in the Pacific near Vancouver, and three months and nine provinces later you're staring at the wide Atlantic from the rocky coast of Newfoundland. Neat.

The Best Ride

If you've only got a week or two, however, fix your sights on the comparatively brief 181 miles (293 kilometers) between Banff and Jasper in the western province of Alberta. The mountains are high, the highway shoulders wide, the skies are blue almost every day, and the natives are friendly. What more could one want?

This distance might at first seem disappointing. "Ha!" you might be saying, "that's only two days in the saddle!" However, before you decide to spend your vacation pedaling from Moscow to Vladivostok, read on.

First, there are many great spurs off the main north-south Banff-to-Jasper route. Second, if you spend every day in the saddle up here, you'll miss some of the best one-day and half-day hiking on the continent, and some of the best views of this beautiful country. Third, what's the rush? You can always have the gerbil-on-an-exercise-wheel rollers experience in your basement. And fourth, if you are willing to forgo the end-to-end touring experience for the best of one-day pavement and trail rides, you could be up here forever.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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