Over the summer of 2016 I planned a bike trip that due to unforeseen circumstances didn’t go quite to plan, but do they ever?
I had 38 days in front of me when I was turned away by the USA border guard at 3.40am in the rain for reasons of a misspent youth (even President Clinton admitted “inhaling it”), I had to hatch a new plan and find a way to fill my time in Canada!
My original plan of riding from Halifax in Canada and down the eastern seaboard of the USA, then across to the west coast and up into Vancouver, along the coast up to Whistler and then crossing Canada to ride to New York where I was going to ship my bike home from collapsed in front of my eyes like a man with no bones when the border guard took great delight in telling me, “You’re not coming into the USA”. After three hours or so of being treated like a criminal, finger printed and interviewed under oath the Americans released me back to Canada.
I was faced with only having access to ride in Canada for the next 38 days.
This put me in a bit of a pickle.
Not being a rich man before my trip I wrote a letter to BMW Motorrad Long beach, California and asked them if they would like to sponsor my trip by means of a free service in return for posting picture on social media and tagging them in etc etc.
They amazingly said yes. So now I had to have the embarrassment of writing an email telling them I wouldn’t be coming and the reason why. There were very nice and understanding about it and we continue to share photos on Instagram!
That also left me with now having to pay for my 24000 service, which I would hit half way through the trip!
This was not in my budget at all, and the emergency credit card was going to have to take a heavy hit if I was to continue and still carry on with the journey. It was either that or pack up straight away and fly back home. That was never going to be an option!
I decided on doing a coast to coast journey and then back again to ship the bike home! It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The fun I had and people an friends I made would not have happened had I gained access to the USA. So for that I thank the USA and it’s backward thinking Federal Laws and am happy to be in debt for it!
You can read about all my travels on the road in Canada in my previous posts on this blog!
But for now, here is my post Canada ride article……………………..
I’ve been back a few days now and have had time to reflect on my trip and have a few more things to say about Canada that might help others make a informed choice about there ride.
It’s a BIG country!
You need to be prepared and have time on your hands to see it properly.
I barley skimmed the surface in my 38 days.
Sure I could have gone a few more days with out resting but really I didn’t have the budget for two services and more tyres and all that it entails cost wise, and time wise waiting for parts to arrive from Germany for my bike if needed.
You would need to be on a much bigger budget than I had and have at least a year to see it properly!!
The country can be covered from coast to coast and back again as I’ve proved in the time frame or possibly even less depending on what route you take and how many miles you wish to ride every day.
It’s a ribbon country because it’s roads go from east to west and it’s arteries roads run up and down from it feeding the smaller city’s and towns.
It’s a young country. Most of the paved roads follow the rail road. The rail road came first, the gravel tracks that ran along side them became the roads, then they built the new Trans Canada highways parallel but a few km apart from the old roads.
If you wanted to go to the northern regions of each province there is only one road up and one road back. There are no northern ribbon roads. Just single roads up and back. The same path, the same scenery.
And that’s what takes time. Even to go to the Yukon Territory would take a week up and a week back riding along the same scenery. Fine if you have time On your hands, but I did not so I made the best of what I could.
I took a different route back from Vancouver all the way to Calgary, then the the same from Saskatoon back to Thunder Bay due to time, but a different one from Thunder Bay back to Montreal as I wanted to ride past Lake Superior and Lake Huron & pop into Toronto!
Filtering through traffic / Lane Splitting
Filtering or Lane splitting is illegal in every province. Canadian drivers don’t like it, don’t understand why we do it, and most of all, don’t tolerate it. In western British Columbia (BC) especially in the Vancouver area, the Canadian drivers tolerate it a lot more. Some bikers will use the hard shoulder if the traffic is built up and filter on certain roads, but as a general rule of thumb, it’s best to be avoided all together.
Canada has limited curvy roads. This is all due to the way the roads were built in the first place. 98% of the roads are straight and long. The most direct path to where you are going. They must have had some Romans helping them in the planning stages!
After riding across 60% of the country you build your hopes up for the curves and mountain passes that you would expect to find in the Rockies, however the roads through the Rockies are relatively straight with limited mountain passes and climbs as we know them in Europe.
I missed being able to throw my bike into the corners and hairpins of other mountain roads. Maybe this because it’s such a young country. Perhaps over the years and centuries the Canadian people might start to develop the hills live in the mountains and that will create mountain passes like in Austria and Italy, but I very much doubt it as there is enough land elsewhere that’s not in an area of outstanding beauty.
Canada is full of surprises and stunning vistas and sights to see.
Everyday there is something new to behold, be it wildlife, such as bears, Eagles, moose, elk, raccoons, deer, coyotes or wolves, or a skyline or a sunset that melts your heart.
From Thunder Bay through to Saskatchewan, the sky is wide as the road is long, from Alberta to all out west, the mountains and Pacific Ocean, you take your rest and the vista is best!
Camping & Campsites
Most National Parks of Canada require booking in advance in the busy seasons. They sometimes have vacancies for tents, however it is first come, first served as Tim and I found out when we arrived at Riding Mountain National Park and were informed that out of 4 campsites only one had space left and it was a 15 mile ride to get to it!
I camped a few times at sites where It’s based on an honesty system, where you register and deposit the fee into the money box. If you’re caught camping without registering you could get fined. You also have to pay to ride into the provincial parks, only a small fee around $8-10 for the day.
There are many many gravel track roads across Canada. I rode the forestry trunk road from Calgary up to Banff, 150 miles of variable gravel track roads through some beautiful forest and countryside. It felt amazing to me that I could ride in the forests for days and not see another person!
It is wise to do this with another person as if you have an accident you’re on your own and most likely will be in a place with no mobile phone coverage.
That being said, I did it! You just gotta be extra careful about how you ride and remind yourself when you are riding there are no hospitals around here for miles!!!
Most garages have three grades
87, 89 & 91 octane and sometimes 94 Ultra! Depending on your budget or how much you love your engine, you can use any. On the long straight roads I used 88 octane. And on the faster ones I pushed the boat out and went for the super 94 if It was available.
99% of the petrol stations I visited in Canada had Automated Card Payment Systems at the Pump 24/7.
Throughout the prairie provinces, the speed limit varies from 90 km/h (56 mph) to 110 km/h (68 mph). As is the case with all highways passing through national parks in Canada, the speed limit is 90 km/h (55 mph) through Banff National Park. East of Banff, most of Highway 1 through Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba is 110 km/h (68 mph), but is 100 km/h east of Winnipeg. Speed limits on the British Columbia mainland segment of the Trans-Canada range from 80 km/h (50 mph) to 110 km/h (68 mph). A combination of difficult terrain and growing urbanization limits posted speeds on the Vancouver Island section to 50 km/h (31 mph) in urban areas, 80 km/h (50 mph) across the Malahat and through suburban areas, and a maximum of 90 km/h (55 mph) in rural areas.
WIFI on the road
I bought myself a Koodo pay as you go sim card for my iPhone and topped it up along the way for having data on the move.
You can always keep your UK sim card in and use the free WIFI at such places as Tim Horton’s, McDonald’s & A&W’s & Wendy’s & Husky Garages!
For the size of the country Canada is pretty well connected and you get reception in the most strangest of places! There are times where you might dip in and out now and again depending how far you north you go!
Motorbike Servicing and parts
The cost of servicing your bike is on average 20% higher than you would find in Europe.
Parts & Tyre’s are also expensive compared to what we pay over here, due no doubt, to taxes and shipping import fees from Europe.
If you are planning a trip around Canada on your own European or Japanese motorbike and will have the need for a service on your bike during your tour, it would be best to work out in advance your location as to where and when you will reach the service mileage, and find a dealership or local mechanic in that area that:
- Has the time to do the work.
- Can get the parts you will require in advance (so that you are not delayed in waiting for them to arrive from Europe as was the case with my bike and Tim’s Triumph, he needed a chain & sprocket kit and had to wait two weeks for parts to arrive!)
- Is authorised to carry out warranty work and understands your bike.
All the motorbike service shops and dealerships I met along the way in Canada were very accommodating and tried their very best to help out travelers with last minute parts and labour.
The most friendly I found was Anderwerks BMW Motorrad specialists in Calgary.
Others I used were:
How to ship your bike to Canada and back
For information on how to ship your bike to Canada or the USA please look at this page on my blogs home page. You will find all the information!
Thanks for reading my blog over the past few weeks!
I’ve enjoyed being on the road in Canada and writing about my travels.
I’m not sure what the next adventure will be, but I’ll be sure to post about it!
10 thoughts on “Canada – What you need to know…!”
Very interesting report to read Julian. You have made Canada sound interesting and friendly and picturesque. All of your blogs have been interesting and informative for prospective bikers going to Canada. You obviously enjoyed your trip even though you had to think on your feet after the border refusal. Hope it does not take too long to pay off the expenditure of the trip.
Looking forward to your next foray. Love Dad xxx
What is that ghost town? Iam going to drive across Canada in a car in one week, wouldlove to seeit! 🙂
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The ghost town of Wayne you mean? With the last chance saloon? That is in the badlands of Alberta just before Drumheller. Look for the road of 11 bridges.
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If you mean the made up mock ghost town, well that is on the road just a few miles out of Kamloops heading towards Cache Creek.
Let me know which one and I can give you a more detailed location if required!
Sorry for omitting the details. I was talking about ghost town picture on this page.
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This is the one out of Kamloops.
It’s about 5-10 miles east of Kamloops lake on the trans Canada 1.
It’s a funny little place. I think it is a novelty ghost town still under construction. There was a sign up saying strictly no photographs without permission, but I could see no one around so took some photos!
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It’s on your right hand side when driving westbound at the top of a hill climb.