I am always fascinated by those who choose biking over comfort – and with the words of Alastair Humphrey echo in my mind – A diet of bread and bananas, sleeping rough, and focused, disciplined ascetism mean you can travel most of the world very cheaply – I am heartened to find that staying in Quebec City is both affordable and rewarding without forcing you to choose too much between budget and comfort.
I live in Montreal, QC – I often say to people that it’s the best place to be in North America if you don’t have much money – there is so much value in everyday life; be it the food, the accommodation, the vibe in the city or the weather. Well, ok everything except the weather.
The weather can be challenging! It’s important to recognize this fact. The best time for Quebec riding is summer months and even then chances of getting soaked in the late afternoon are pretty high.
However, now it’s fall, and that means very changeable weather indeed. One minute you’re in control, then the next you’re being battered by winds, torrential rain, and maybe snow ! It’s a great time to load up on your winter layers and figure out what riding in the cold is like all over again. But let’s not go on like a grumpy weatherman.
I’m on a business trip for a few days through the region – starting in Beauceville, then Quebec City, Levis and finally Montmagny. I see potential all over for long summer rides across long stretches of open road, both gravel and tarmac. I see the hills on the northern shore of the city, to the south along the Beauce and the west calls with hills on the southwestern horizon of Montmagny.
To say there is great cycling here is a lumpy understatement. There’s so many new bike paths and so many small cafes and bike shops and rental outlets. Many of the more remote paths have wind break shelters and tools to use.
The best thing about Levis is that my hotel is new (brand) and modern (duh) and it has an easy aspect to Highway 20. No farting around over the often times very slow bridge to town. It’s also accessible for about 3 kilometers to the main river front bike path. There’s also great views of the old city to be had, particularly Chateau Frontenac.
The first time I stayed there it was a pain to figure out how to access the trail head, but in retrospect it’s not really very hard. The most important thing to note is that the banks of the river have heavily eroded over time and you have to drop down a steep short hill. This is cool, but you’ll suffer on the way back up. Slopes pushing 20% and above. Be warned. There is however, some very interesting 150 year old concrete ramparts to take your mind off the pain – if you have enough oxygen left to focus that is. The streets have more history than most other places in North America.
Once you’re on it, the bike path is constructed in a way to give you wide views of the city from the south Shore and when (if) you cross over the bridge you gain the morning sun, which is welcome since the cockpit temperature is about -10 degrees.
This would be a great path to use in the summer to access the charms of the old city (officially designated a World Heritage treasure) – it’s probably a good 30km each way from my hotel in Levis to the old city, but you could easily cheat on the way back and take the ferry, which runs pretty frequently. It’s inexpensive and the bike is no additional cost to the passenger fare.
If you choose to go east along the river trail in Levis it eventually hooks to the south, crossing the highway 20 on a cool new bridge. Once out of the city (surprisingly fast) you’re in pristine farm land and countryside. Wind is your enemy here – expect prevailing NW winds to batter you. But the air is crisp and super clean, and trail users polite. Expect to cross country roads every 10 minutes or so. Be warned – traffic moves fast – don’t play frogger.
One thing’s for sure it’s easy and fun riding here – the infrastructure is great. The fall riding is made tough with very changeable conditions. Not for the faint of heart.
I’ve added a couple of links below to bike path maps and the ferry schedule. This should take the stress out of planning a route in QC.