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Updated: Jun 1, 2022

I’ve done a few shorter bicycle tours since moving to Montréal: Ottawa; Québec City; as far as Mont-Laurier through les Laurentides along le P’tit Train du Nord. Twice. These routes take you through many smaller communities, so finding food and water is not really a concern.

In those circumstances, I normally pack up my tent and cycle a few kilometres until I find a pleasant place to stop. I make a cup of coffee and wash up. Ride a while longer until I find someplace open where I might buy an orange, maybe some milk. If I’m lucky, one of those yummy wraps with chicken, lettuce and a creamy sauce.

Typically, I’ll carry snacks with me. A big bag of mixed nuts and raisins. Peanut butter and flat bread. Then, late in the afternoon, I might stop somewhere and forage another meal before beginning to scope out a possible place to sleep for the evening.

But Montréal to Victoria? I am going to encounter a few days where I’m may not pass through a community. That makes water harder to find. I have a filter water purifier. You can see it among the other cooking gear in the photo. So in a pinch I can source water from streams. I have extra water bottles and soft plastic water sacks in case I hit a really hot spell between water sources.

I don’t like to pack too many provisions. Water alone is a kilo per litre. But for those times I need to cook rather than just forage grocery stores, I carry flour and baking powder to make bannock. Throw in a few walnuts and raisins. A bit of peanut butter. Breakfast.

For dinner, instant rice is handy. Five minutes boiling in the pot. Transfer it to the frying pan with a little broccoli and some canned meat or tuna. Or some slices of summer sausage. Anything really. Dinner.

If you’re wondering about my stove in the photo, it’s called a Solo Stove. An alcohol burner, but in a pinch you can burn twigs. I prefer denatured alcohol as fuel. Or methanol, as that’s easy to find. Even isopropyl alcohol will work, though it burns pretty dirty.

One of the profound pleasures of bicycle touring is reducing your day to the essentials. Little chores such as preparing a meal - even a cup of coffee - become interesting activities in themselves. Washing clothes. Attending to personal hygiene. These require... strategies. You seldom have a handy sink and toilet. You expect nothing to be convenient so, really, nothing can feel inconvenient. Everthing feels like an accomplishment. Does that make sense?

If you are still reading this and maybe considering a bicycling tour - it doesn’t have to be all about “the gear” or completing hundreds or thousands of kilometres along highway routes. On Le P’tit Train du Nord I saw lots of cyclists doing short hops - sometimes on bikes with electric assist - and staying at une auberge (bed&breakfast) at night. A lot of extensive bike routes are built on the paths of now abandoned railway tracks. Well away from traffic and the gradient never exceeds 2%. No need for a fancy bike. Just one in safe condition. You don’t need to be athletic. Just enthusiastic.

Self-supported; riding with a support vehicle; alone; in a group; rustic or all the comforts of home - cycling gets you where you want to go. Or just gets you out and about. But it takes you there at the speed of feeling the land. Scenic vistas, the wind, changes in temperature, the scent of foliage - you’re somehow more connected. Grounded. Like when you were a little kid and just discovering everything for the first time. On a good day, you get to do that all over again.

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