Cycling in the city is great. But cycling in cottage country is “most definitely better,” says Fraser Chapman, the president of Toronto’s Morning Glory Cycling Club and a cottager on Lake Rosseau, Ont. “The vistas, the nature … and then getting back to that dock after a ride and going right for a swim — it’s just phenomenal.” Wanna try it yourself? We asked Chapman for his top tips:
1. Match your ride to your riding conditions. If you’re buying a bike, ask a local shop for help. “Describe the type of riding you plan to do, and the terrain,” says Chapman. Wipeout alert: the skinny tires of a dedicated road bike aren’t ideal for gravel roads.
2. Choose your routes carefully. Avoid long, isolated stretches where you won’t have a place to refill your water bottle or can’t get help in a pinch. “In the city, support is much more accessible,” says Chapman. “There’s a big difference between calling an Uber and calling the cottage, where everyone is down at the dock.”
3. Bring supplies. Chapman recommends at least 800 ml of water for every hour you plan to be out, $20 cash—some stores in cottage country don’t have debit—and your phone. Also handy: a tire repair kit and pump. “Out here, you need to be more self sufficient.”
4. Have a (backup) safety plan. Give someone at the cottage your route before you leave. This way they can retrace your steps and find you in an emergency.
5. Watch out for wildlife. “Your spidey senses have to be on alert,” says Chapman. Particularly on hilly routes where the forest is close to the road. Bikes are quiet: animals can’t hear you coming, he says. “They do sometimes jump out unexpectedly.”
6. Watch out for traffic. Because there’s still traffic in cottage country. “And it’s faster,” says Chapman. “You can have cars going 80 km/h.” Summer weekends mean more cars everywhere; on weekdays, meanwhile, areas with construction—near new cottage builds, for example—are more likely to have large trucks passing through.
7. Watch out for the weather. In particular, the wind—and factor it into your ride distance. “The further you ride away from the cottage, the further you ride back,” says Chapman. “If you’re riding out in a tailwind, it can feel great. But you’ll be going back in a headwind. And that’s considerably harder.”
8. Don’t forget your helmet. You’d wear it in the city, wouldn’t you? Replace it automatically after you fall and hit your head; also replace any helmet that’s five years or older. “The safety features can expire,” says Chapman. “And there’s no sense in wearing a helmet with no safety features.”