2 Days on 2 Wheels: Vancouver, B.C.

Vancouver is one crazy bicycle riding town (weather permitting). It is also a foodie’s paradise, rain or shine, surf or turf. When traveling it is our standard procedure to book the longest city bike tour available in whatever city we happen to be in for whatever reason we happen to be there. We like bikes, we like to ride bikes, and this helps us get the lay of the land. Ride a good city tour and you usually end up with more local knowledge than most natives have.

We found the local tour provider through the bicycle rental shop, Spokes, which we found using man's best friend -- the Internet. (Many times it is the other way around, where the tour company can provide a multi-day rental.) They are the gatekeepers of Vancouver's Stanley Park, with a stable of 800 bikes: cruisers, mountain bikes, city hybrids, and some high quality road bikes. Maybe in 1938 they rented penny farthings, but today it’s all business. This is a very busy store. The one day rental is a little steep at $33 to $40 per, but the additional days are a real bargain at $13 per and that’s for a really good quality hybrid bike with lock and handlebar bag included.

We found the tour operator in a brochure rack on the rental shop counter. Called Cyclecity Tours, they offer several three-hour and one five-hour “Grand Tour” for $60 (bike not included). Yes, the tour was worth the money and we came away with an understanding of the city you won’t get on foot or on the hop-on, hop-off bus. Better yet, we worked up a bit of a sweat.

Stanley Park may be the largest and most dramatic city park in North America. Preserved ancient rain forest surrounded by endless seawalls and a one-way, counterclockwise path that is a must-do ride for anyone who can ride a bike and is in the city. If you like massive suspension bridges, historic totem poles, seals sitting on rocks, ships steaming out to lands afar, fresh air, and fjord-type scenery, this is for you. Oh, add to that the Public Market on Granville Island, the Olympic Village, Chinatown, the Historic Gaslight District, and everyplace in between.

This is a pretty good ride, but you don’t have to be a pro to enjoy it.

On day two, armed with the official city bike map and a little bit of knowledge gained on the previous day, we stretched out and rode one of several longer destination day rides. I really wanted to go to Wreck Beach for some reason, so we rode up and over the Burrard Bridge and had breakfast near the Public Market on Granville Island. In retrospect, we should have bought a picnic lunch inside the bustling Public Market, but we didn’t and instead we pedaled on. This is a pretty good intermediate ride, 30-plus miles total, mostly bike lanes. And then there is the long, gradual hill up to the University of British Columbia campus, with rain forest on one side and English Bay on the other.

Once you ride up here you are still not at the famous Wreck Beach; you have to walk down 500 stairs to put the sand between your toes. This is Vancouver’s clothing-optional beach, with a wide expanse of sand and massive driftwood-log windbreaks placed strategically here and there. Warning: There are naked people walking around everywhere. Valerie, my significant other, opted out and sat and watched from a distance under the cover of the rain forest. But what the heck, I pedaled my butt up here; so, as Valerie said, “It took you 64.9 years to let it all hang out!”

Enough said. We went back up the 500 stairs, hopped on the bikes, and had an enjoyable ride back to the hotel in downtown’s Coal Harbour district.

Well, that’s the beauty of riding a bike while visiting a new city. Besides the exercise there is the freedom of movement and the ability to explore, see, hear, smell, taste, and just be a part of it all.

Get more information about bike overnights.

Favorite Local Bike Shop: Spokes Bicycle Rentals

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