10 Questions: Cycling Quebec’s Gaspe
Quebec’s Gaspé Penninsula, in the far east of the province, is renowned as one of the most beautiful places to ride your bike in the whole of Canada.
Think plenty of fishing villages and lighthouses, stunning views and more than a few stunning hills as well!
Paul Stockton toured the area on a recumbent bicycle in 2006 and here he answers 10 Questions about a loop he did through the Gaspé. He started in Matane, went clockwise around the north and south shores and then cut back across the peninsula to Matane. You can also read Paul’s journal from the trip and see a map of the Gaspésie.
1. What attracted you to the Gaspé as an area for cycling?
I cycled the Oregon Coast in 1996 with some people from my bike club. On the trip Petra raved about her tour of the Gaspe, and highly recommended it. She really liked the scenery. So it was sitting in the back of my mind to do it for ten years before I finally had the chance.
2. It seems from your journal that you had some rough weather for August: lots of wind and rain. Do you think that’s typical or were you just unlucky?
Actually, I think I had a lot less rain than is typical for the Gaspe. I only got spit on a couple of days while cycling. I got poured on while kayaking, and one evening while cooking dinner. Friends who had done it before me seemed to get a lot more rain. As for the wind, I think it was fairly typical.
3. The area is notorious for hills. How did you deal with those tough climbs and how would you rate the terrain overall? Was it hill after hill or just the occasional killer climb?
The hills were tough. They were probably some of the steepest hills that I’ve done. But the killer climbs were all clumped together. The day where I went from Riviere-la-Madeleine to L’Anse-au-Valleau had killer hill after killer hill. And just before Perce there are four killer hills. The rest of the days the hills were reasonable.
This was my first tour on my recumbent. It’s not easy to start on an uphill on a recumbent, so I didn’t want to stop and rest part way up. I just put it into my smallest gear and kept cranking until I got to the top.
4. You mention the traffic occasionally in your journal. Was it something you always had to pay attention to you or were there enough shoulders and quiet roads?
There was a lot more traffic than I expected. I was expecting there to be logging trucks, but I didn’t expect so many semis, especially on the north side. I thought semis would stick to the south side. The roads would be pretty quiet when I set out at 8:00 am, but that didn’t last long. There was a good wide should for a lot of the way. And on the uphills there was always a passing lane, so there was room for the cars to get around you. Where you had to watch out was when there was no shoulder, and there were semis coming from both directions.
5. This area of Quebec is strongly French-speaking. How easy was it to communicate?
It wasn’t too bad to communicate. Most people spoke at least a little English. I couldn’t have long conversations, but for the essentials you just need the numbers to pay for things. I tried to dredge up what little I could remember of my high school French, which wasn’t much. I still managed to have a five minute conversation with a guy who spoke no English, with me speaking no French.
6. Do you think it matters if you do this trip clockwise or anti-clockwise?
It’s definitely better to do this trip clockwise. The wind is from the west, and it’s much stronger on the north side, so that’s where you want it at your back. I was flying on the north side. On the south side I only had one day of bad headwinds.
7. You stayed in a mixture of B&Bs and campgrounds. How would you rate the quality of the accommodations and did you have to book ahead or was there plenty of space? Was there always accommodation nearby?
There is tons of accommodations on the Gaspe. I only booked the B&B for the first and last night. I contacted them ahead of time so that I could arrange to leave my car there while I did the trip. All around the peninsula there are plenty of campgrounds, cheap hotels, and cabins for rent. I planned my trip by getting the Quebec camping guide, and finding the campground closest to the distance I wanted to ride each day.
The accommodations were never full. The day that the campground turned out to be several kilometres uphill, north of town, I just got a cheap motel room. When I stayed at the castle hostel I got the second last room, so that one could be worth reserving, if you really want to stay in the castle. There was plenty of room in the dorms.
8. What was the best part of the trip?
The scenery on the north coast. There are cliffs coming down to the sea, and the road hugs the coast. The coast is pocked with little bays, and in each bay is a quaint little village.
9. What was the toughest moment?
The day where I went from Riviere-la-Madeleine to L’Anse-au-Valleau. The hills were up to 15%, and they were relentless all day long.
10. What’s one thing you think cyclists should take with them?
Thanks to Paul Stockton for answering 10 Questions.
Need more information? Check out these helpful resources for cycling around the Gaspé:
- La Route Verte – Information on Quebec’s cycle routes and scenic roads for cyclists.
- Destination Canada – The Gaspé is number 4 on a list of the top places to bike in Canada.
- Canada Trails – Two brief descriptions of routes in the Gaspé.
- Bike Forums – A nice thread with lots of tips for bike touring in the Gaspé region.