Ed note: I think it would be interesting to hear from MMCers about where you ride when you’re not in the Phoenix area, so I’m doing a “Where I Ride” series for our newsletter. Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get them in the queue! I’ll go first…
My wife, Jennifer, is from Victoria and I started riding here about 6 years ago. For Canadians, it is a well-known spot for riding due to its temperate climate and great roads, with many pros calling it home. For Americans, I consider it a hidden gem.
Over the years, I’ve ridden here in all seasons and in all weather, including several inches of snow, which was a real learning experience. I recommend summer.
You’ve probably heard of, or been to Victoria, the city. It sits on the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island and is the provincial capitol of British Columbia and it is decidedly British. There have been zillions of pictures taken of the Inner Harbour (please note the “u”), the Parliament Buildings and the Empress Hotel. It’s a bustling and happening place with tons of events and things to do. With a solid cycling infrastructure, seeing downtown on a bike is a pleasant experience.
The backbone of cycling in Victoria, however, is formed by two multi-use paths: the Lochside and the mighty Galloping Goose Trail. The Goose was a gas-powered passenger car from the 1920’s that ran on an old CNR rail line which was converted to trail. I usually steer well clear of multi-use paths to avoid the kids and dogs and pedestrians, but the Goose is unlike most. For starters, it’s 55km long. Intersections and rules of the road are clearly marked and it runs from a downtown, urban metropolis to past the Sooke potholes, which are amazing clear pools, perfect for a summertime dip. Once out of downtown and the suburbs, I’ve gone hours without seeing a soul on the Goose.
The Lochside Trail diverges from the Goose just north of downtown and runs through forest and farm fields before reaching Sydney-by-the-Sea, a quaint village for shopping and eating. Sydney and Swartz Bay just beyond have ferry service to many islands and the mainland and provide a jumping-off point for an epic, island-hopping ride. Both of the trails are enjoyed by a diverse group of users, but you’ll see serious cyclists stitching their rides together with bits of each regularly.
To illustrate the diversity of riding in Victoria, my days can and have looked something like this:
Day One: 5 miles. Out to the Goose with the family, a picnic lunch and a bucket for picking blackberries that grow wild along the trails and roads.
Day Two: 55 miles. Hop on a zippy group ride out of Oak Bay with the nicest and fastest cyclists you can imagine, hitting bits of trail and lots of roads through farms and over forested climbs. Soothe with great coffee and a pastry.
Day Three: 20 miles. An easy spin on the Goose to downtown for a delicious seafood lunch. Maybe a local beer or three.
Day Four: 45 miles. Pender Island. Roll up the Lochside Trail and hop a ferry from Swartz Bay to take a trip around Pender and South Pender and back, checking out whales and funky craft shops. Stop at Sea Cider on the way home for a tasting and a spectacular view.
Day Five: Go long. 100 miles. Spin up to Brentwood Bay near the famous and must-see Butchart Gardens. Have a coffee and hop a ferry to Mill Bay, skipping the sketchy Malahat. Ride up and through Shawnigan Lake and hop on the Trans Canada Trail (yes, on a road bike) and ride through what can only be described as Jurassic Park. I’m serious. I’ve never seen so many waterfalls, ferns or other green forms of life, ever. I think I saw hobbit. Take that to Lake Cowichan and scarf a solid lakeside lunch. You can eat big because it’s a downhill grade mostly into Crofton for the ferry to Salt Spring Island. Once on Salt Spring, pop over to Ganges to enjoy a scoop of ice cream (You’re picking up on the theme here, right?) and the roll through wine country to Fulford Harbour for the short trip back to where you began, almost. Spin the Lochside back to your digs. Big day. Unreal day.
Day Six: Go to the beach. Duh.
I wish I had pictures from all of these adventures, but I’ve included the few I have. It’s a special place and pretty much tailor-made for cyclists, whether your finish line puts you on a podium or at a winery with great friends. Also, it’s not 114 degrees out. It’s 72.
I hope you’ve enjoyed a mini-tour of my little home-away-from-home! If you want to come to Victoria yourself, please reach out at email@example.com and I’ll be happy to help. Now send us some of your great riding spots!