After multiple bike camping forays to the BC Gulf Islands this Summer, I was growing weary of the tenting and hauling many pounds of gear required to satisfy camping needs – not to mention getting comfortable (and sleeping) in the tent seems to get more difficult as my years progress! Hence, some planning was made and a longer trip “up-island” to Comox, BC was the decision – but no tent and camping gear this time, this would be “credit-card” tour! In the past, I have ridden this route many times, but it would still be interesting and fun to revisit some areas and perhaps find some new roads or trails to experience.
With Covid travel restricions (or people simply not willing to take a risk) still inhibiting many travellers from vacations abroad, and the USA border closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic, we experienced an influx of tourists to Vancouver Island. Tourists not only from from the mainland of BC, but also the rest of Canada resulted in accommodations getting sparse and expensive!
As my planned tour would be through some tourist hot-spots, I pre-booked all my motels in advance – and just as well as I saw “no vacancy” signs on the majority of hotels, motels etc.
Above is my bike with a “credit card tour” light load. I say “light” but due to my battery range anxiety I packed a spare battery (7 lbs) into the left pannier.
The left pannier with the spare battery is an Ortlieb E-Mate pannier that incorporates a special sleeve inside for transporting the battery safely. There is ample room in that pannier for many more items, including a charger for the battery. For this trip I packed a 4 amp charger as I would be fast charging to 100% at the end of each day to gain maximum range if required.
The right pannier is actually just an Ortlieb 12.5 litre Sport Roller that I mounted on the rear rack, as that was adequate for the small amount of baggage that I had for this trip.
Ortlieb handlebar bag completed the luggage requirements. Of course Basil is happy to have a better view with no obstructions on the rack from the rear of the saddle!
Maps below are interactive and open up in full screen for details.
Day 1 – Sidney to Chemainus
Today started off in a rush. I thought that I had allowed myself enough time to get to the Brentwood Bay/Mill Bay ferry. It was a nice sunny morning but it was a bit of a rush as I should have allowed myself more time for the 14 km ride resulting in me only just getting there with 5 minutes to spare before the ferry was due to leave!
A short trip of 20 minutes across the Saanich Inlet is a wonderful way to get a head start on Highway 1 north, rather than a lengthy ride and steep climb over Malahat mountain to get to the same location.
The ferry docks at Mill Bay and it is only a short ride to the village of Mill Bay where there are numerous stores and some food outlets. Although I had not intended to stop at the village, I did, just to purchase a new hat that I normally wear after taking off my bike helmet for off bike ventures – my regular hat was mistakenly left at home. I blame Basil as he is supposed to remind me to pack my regular hat!
After leaving the village and a short ride on Highway 1 to a path that leads down to Church Way, then Kilmanu Rd. followed by a left turn north onto Telegraph Rd., I could follow the “Rotary Route” for a portion of this tour.
I turned off Telegraph onto Cowichan Bay Rd. towards my next stop for lunch in Cowichan Bay where I picked up a take-out meal of delicious fish ‘n chips from the Rock Cod Restaurant there. I sat on a bench in the sunshine at the edge of the waterfront while I filled my face – wonderful!
After lunch I followed the route on Cowichan Bay Rd, Tzouhalem Rd., Jaynes Rd., Lakes Rd. to Herd Rd. At that intersection, almost directly across Herd is a paved road called Richards Trail which would allow me to avoid riding through the town of Crofton (for a change really, as I usually do ride the Crofton route). Richards Trail is a nice quiet country road that eventually joins onto Westholme Rd. and then Chemainus Rd. at the Crofton Road junction. From the Crofton Rd. junction it is about 5.3 km north to the start of the Cowichan Valley Trail (CVT) on the west side of the road just after Crozier Rd. and before the railroad tracks. Part of The Great Trail (formerly the Trans Canada Trail), the CVT is a gravel trail adjacent to the now inoperative E&N Railway line, but well packed, relatively flat and easy to negotiate with just about any bicycle. I followed the trail a further 1 km into the town of Chemainus where I picked up my food for dinner (Subway sandwich) then rode back the short distance to Henry Rd. My booked motel was at the top of Henry Rd at the junction of Henry and Highway 1. I was really glad of the pedal assist e-drive at this point because Henry is a steep uphill of about one mile!
I checked in at the motel and plugged the battery in to charge. I was happy to see that there was actually lots of power left even after over 70 km. The voltage still showed 50.8V (full charge is 54.6V) and the bar graph was only two bars down from full charge! Only took just over an hour with the 4 amp charger to recharge. Most of ride was in the lowest assist setting with added power on some hills, so I still felt that I was putting a fair amount of effort into the ride and in fact used no assist on some flat roads.
Day 2 – Chemainus to Parksville
Contrary to tent camping, it was a real treat to wake up in soft warm bed and be able to have a coffee and a snack before setting out on the ride to Parksville. I planned to stop for a breakfast further north in Ladysmith. Once I packed up my belongings, I set off back down Henry Rd. to join up with the CVT again. Having ridden this section of the trail a few years ago, I expected to have to vacate to the road where, I thought, the trail ended at Garner St. So I rode onto Garner to the intersection of Cook St. to join onto Chemainus Rd. Looking around straight ahead across Cook, I saw a trail entrance post a little further ahead, so instead of riding onto Chemainus, I was pleasantly surprised to see that now the CVT continued further north, in fact I was to discover that it was now finished almost all the way to Ladysmith!
Tuesday Chemainus to Parksville. 85km headwind most of the way. Trail almost to Ladysmith – dusty. Cedar busy near Nanaimo. Adshead Rd very nice.
Riding the CVT was very pleasant and quiet as I only met a few other users of the trail. Although pleasant, with the dry weather it was extremely dusty and I had to brush all the dust off my bike, bags and myself at the end. But enjoyable to be off the road for a good while.
At the end of the trail at North Watts Rd., I had to ride onto Chemainus Rd which can be quite busy at times, but after a short distance there is shared bike/pedestrian path to ride on until reaching Highway 1 at Ladysmith’s shopping mall. I picked up a curb side delivery breakfast there and sat at a patio table in bright sunshine enjoying the sights and sounds… and my breakfast!
From the mall there is bike path at the north end of the parking area which takes one to the centre of the town of Ladysmith. I elected to cross over and ride the wide shoulder of Highway 1 until the Transfer Beach Blvd. right turn, then i took the first left onto Oyster Bay Drive which a quiet road paralleling the busy Highway. Oyster Bay turns into Rock Creek Rd. which took me to a highway on-ramp at Malamos Rd. From there I rode the shoulder of the highway for about 2.5 km until Brenton Page Rd. where I turned right onto a much nicer and quieter route. Brenton Page led to Code Rd. where I turned left (north) onto Code until Cedar Rd. On previous trips I have ridden Cedar directly from Highway 1 to Nanaimo, but this time I rode across Cedar onto Adshead Rd. What a good choice that was as Adshead is a very pleasant and low volume country road. A nice ride but I had a headwind now and that would be the norm for most of the day. Once again, having the e-drive helped alleviate the effects though!
Cedar Rd. is quieter than the highway, but can get busy at times and the shoulder comes and goes in many places, so to be able to avoid it for even a short time is well worth it. Adshead turns into Haslam Rd. which eventually joins onto Cedar Rd. all the way to the outskirts of Nanaimo. Cedar ends at Highway 1, but a short ride on the shoulder of the highway to Maki Rd. where there is access to a bike path across the intersection. I followed that which led to Haliburton Rd. which is the signed bike route in to the centre of Nanaimo. I found that Haliburton now has a shared bike/pedestrian path on one side of the road (wasn’t here when I was last here!) which helps because many trucks go to the large lumber mill at the waterfront of Haliburton. Once past the mill the ride is on the road, but it’s fairly quiet in that area after the mill entrance. At the end of Haliburton, I turned right heading for Front St.
Entering downtown Nanaimo on Front St., some more cycling improvements greeted me as there are now dedicated two-way bike lanes, a really helpful addition as Front can be a busy narrow area. From Front, I walked the bike along the Harbourfront Walkway where I picked up another take-out from Trollers Seafood at a floating barge at the the docks there – yet another delicious and large helping of fish ‘n chips; lots of seating to rest and eat along the walkway which is what I did and enjoyed the views of the harbour.
From the harbour, I followed the walk walkway for a while until just after the Lions Pavilion.
In that area there is a path that goes under Highway 1 to reach the trails and roads leading to the E&N Rail Trail, which heads north and avoids riding on some very busy roads and areas of Nanaimo. See map below for an outline of the route from the Harbourfront Walkway and beyond. The map does not show the complete CVT leaving Chemainus to Ladysmith – it seems that Google does not know of the existence of some sections yet!
Following the above map… Once leaving the E&N Trail at Mostar Rd., I rode on Metral Drive, then a short stint on Aulds Rd. to the Parkway Trail until Mary Ellen Drive which led me across Highway 19 N to Dover Rd., then eventually Lantzville Rd. Lantzville Rd. ends at Highway 19, so now some riding on the shoulder of 19 was necessary.
I escaped the highway at Northwest Bay Rd. to Nanoose Bay and all the way to the southern outskirts of Parksville. NW Bay Rd. ends at the highway again, but not for long as once having crossed the bridge over the Englishman River I could “escape” onto Pioneer Crescent, then cross over the highway on Shelley Rd. taking local roads through the town (see map) to my motel for the evening.
The motel was in a good location, and even though I had requested a ground floor room, unfortunately some lower floor rooms were under renovation, so I had to hump my bike up one flight of stairs to get to my room! Not too bad though, as I removed the bags and the e-drive battery first which then made the task a little more manageable. I unpacked and plugged the battery in to recharge, even after over 85 km, there was lots of power still in the battery. From my motel it was a short walk to many food outlets for my evening meal, then some sightseeing and back to the motel to relax for while.
Day 3 – Parksville to Comox
A nice sunny morning greeted me the next day for the ride to my destination of Comox, BC for a stay of two days there. I walked the short walk down to McDonalds for a take-out breakfast that I enjoyed in my room, then humped the bike down the stairs, loaded it up and staying off the highway again, I took a local route all the way to the town of Qualicum Beach. See map below…
From Qualicum Beach, it is necessary to join Highway 19A to the outskirts of Comox. However, the highway has a decent shoulder and is a very pleasant and scenic ride as much of the route is with ocean views, passing through many small towns on the way.
I stopped for lunch at the Subway in Buckley Bay where there were many tourists milling around. The ferry from Buckley Bay sails to Denman and Hornby Islands – extremely popular destinations in the summer. I sat outside munching on my sub, and enjoyed watching the constant hustle and bustle.
After lunch, I was back on the highway heading north again. Once I was nearing the town of Courtenay, the traffic on the highway gradually increased, so I took Mansfield Drive to access the Courtenay Riverway to the bridge that would take me to Comox Rd.
Once over the bridge, the ride was next to the river for the most part, then into downtown Comox where I stopped for a coffee before checking in at my motel.
After Coffee, I checked in at the motel and wheeled the bike into my ground floor room – no stairs luckily! I had a nice big room that even had a sofa to relax on. Battery was put on charge again and I unpacked for my two night stay. I checked the weather on the TV, and wouldn’t you know, on my rest day the forecast was for wind and rain – so much for playing tourist for the day! Funnily enough, that would be the only day that it was not sunny and warm on my tour, go figure!
In the morning, I had a free motel breakfast and it was very good with many choices of items that I took full advantage of! I spent my rest day walking around, filling my face and generally just taking in the sights and sounds in the pleasant town of Comox. The rain didn’t amount to much and didn’t bother me too much but it remained very windy throughout the day especially at the waterfront. Later in the evening, the winds died down and the forecast was for more nice weather for the next my return ride home.
Day 4, 5, 6 – Comox to Parksville, Chemainus, Saltspring Island
The following day I again took advantage of the free breakfast, packed up and hit the road. The return ride was a carbon copy of my ride north (albeit in the opposite direction) all the way to Chemainus where I had booked the same motel as previously. My only change was in Parksville, where I had to book a different motel (Skylite Motel) as the one that I stayed at on the way north was not available. This motel was on the south side of Parksville, still near conveniences, but highly overpriced for what was basically a two-star motel. I mentioned to the owner that he was way more expensive than other motels, he just replied that he charged what he wanted in the summer and that it didn’t matter what he charged, the place still filled up – which it did! Anyway, I won’t stay there again!
Once I reached Chemainus, I was a little early for the motel so I wandered downtown where there was a Jazz jam session in progress, so I grabbed an ice cream and watched and listened to that for a while.
On my final day of this tour, I elected to return home from Chemainus on a different route from the one previously. I decided to go to Crofton and take the ferry to Saltspring Island, ride across, then another ferry to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. Basically home for me as I live just 5 km from that ferry terminal.
I left the motel and followed my route to Crofton Rd. Normally Crofton Rd. is where there are logging and delivery trucks to contend with heading to the mill in Crofton. As it was Sunday, I figured I would be spared dodging the large vehicles on some narrow stretches of Crofton Rd. with poor to non existent shoulders. Well, imagine my surprise when I turned onto the road and saw that it had been widened and repaved all the way to the town of Crofton, amazing. What an improvement! And if I would have to have shared the road with large vehicles, which I didn’t on that day, it wouldn’t have been an issue.
I arrived in Crofton in plenty of time for the next ferry, and enjoyed the ocean view for a while and could see the mill from the ferry dock seemingly in full operation.
Normally, riding across Saltspring Island with any kind of load can be challenge, especially the long steep hill out of the village of Ganges, with the e-drive making it much easier, especially when I could add a little boost to a comfortable level of riding the grades.
My next ferry to leave Saltspring was in Fulford Harbour, where I had just missed one ferry so had to wait for a couple of hours for the next one. I grabbed a take-out lunch and coffee at the restaurant there and waited patiently admiring the scenery.
The ferry arrived and after the short thirty minute sailing to Swartz Bay, I was off to ride the last 5 km of this tour to my home in Sidney, BC
All in all, this was a short tour of about 450 km but for me, a good test of the capabilities of the e-drive and battery range. The e-drive worked without flaw and everyday I had lots of range left in the battery. Nevertheless, I did ride judiciously, mostly in the lowest “Eco” level, at times with no assist and only using the higher assist levels on hills etc. So touring with an e-bike is very do-able with the only challenge being charging the battery daily. If credit card touring, that is not an issue whereas camping would mean being at a site with a power outlet. There are power outlets at many businesses in outdoor areas (grocery stores, coffee shops), so if one is prepared to take the time, booster charges can be utilized at these types of places along your intended route.
I did carry a spare battery, which I really didn’t need but just alternated daily, but having the spare did give me peace of mind of having plenty of range.
Oh, and Basil noticed that he doesn’t have to push as much now with the e-drive! That kept him happy 😉