Hey all – Lesley here!
Last year I wrote about cycling on Gabriola Island. This summer I wanted to share my favourite road cycling routes in Nanaimo and the surrounding region. Nanaimo’s not necessarily a destination that one thinks of for road cycling, but after 18 months living here I’ve discovered that there are fantastic rides to be had and an avid road riding community. Whether you’re a local, or an out-of-towner here for a visit, there’s a ride of some type going on pretty much every day. Check the Mid-Island Velo Association’s website &/or Facebook page for up to date information on what’s happening and where to meet for that day’s ride.
My morning favourite…if you’re looking for a quick loop to get you started for the day there’s nothing like riding around beautiful Jingle Pot Road and back home on the E&N trail. It’s roughly a 25km loop with a few light hills to get you warmed up and ready for a day of activity. (http://www.mapmyride.com/ca/nanaimo-british-columbia/24-56km-road-cycling-on-2013-07-21-route-250855027) If you’re a sucker for punishment…or just looking to test your mettle…turn onto Calder Rd and face the wall of pain. This hill starts out gently enough at about 8%, takes a little turn for the worse with a section that’s 15% or so, then bends upward to a staggering 22% for the last few hundred metres. You can catch your breath as you return downhill along College Dr and Harwell Rd back to Jingle Pot Rd to rejoin your loop. For evening fun do this loop counter-clockwise, turn right off Jingle Pot Rd onto Westwood Lake Rd and climb up to the lake for a swim in this gem of a lake. On a hot day there’s nothing better and it’s more or less all downhill back to town so you’ll be dry by the time you get home!
A weekend favourite…On weekends it’s great to extend the riding a little farther than a pre-workday baby loop. There are great rides as you head north and south of Nanaimo. Depending how energetic you’re feeling you can head out for a 50 to 100km loop to the north. For a 50km loop (https://www.strava.com/activities/315813407) pop your bike on the rack, drive in the direction of Parksville, hop off at the 19A exit heading into Parksville and park at the Serious Coffee – this way you can start &/or end your ride with great java!
If you prefer to try for the century, ride north out of Nanaimo on the E&N trail, cross the highway on Turner Rd, left onto Uplands Dr, left onto Dover Rd, right onto Dickinson Rd, and right onto Lantzville Rd. until you pop out onto the highway. There’s a short section of riding on the highway (good shoulder) until you arrive at Northwest Bay Rd where you can get off the highway again and enjoy the rural roads of Nanoose all the way to Parksville and Serious Coffee. Then follow the 50km described above.
This ride is a beauty. You make your way through Parksville and onto the country roads around Errington and Coombs. There’s a fantastic, long, straight stretch on Grafton Rd where you can test your time trialing skills to the max! And, if you haven’t seen the goats on the roof at the Coombs Country Market, or if you’re hungry en route, this is a great little place to deek off to for delicious bakery treats, sandwiches and ice cream. From Coombs you head east towards Qualicum and the ride parallels the coast with beautiful views of the beach, ocean and Coastal mountains in the distance. Keep riding and you’ll be back to Parksville where you can stop in the quaint downtown area for a bite to eat after all your hard work.
Cedar / Yellow Point Loop…This is a fantastic summer, Sunday loop, especially if you start and end at the Cedar Market! Otherwise you can ride from Nanaimo without going on the Highway – https://www.strava.com/activities/123754398. Take Haliburton Street out to the end (Rona). Duck beside the highway then up on to Cedar Road. Once you are in Cedar there are fewer cars and beautiful scenery. When you get to Yellow Point Road turn left, soon you will be cycling past the Cedar Market area and if you didn’t start here you may want to stop in for a treat or two. This is also the entrance to a popular old English pub, The Crow and Gate. It’s probably too early in your ride for a pint but you may want to come back when you are done.
Along this quiet, scenic route are many berry farms and fruit stands for you to grab a quick snack if needed. Yellow Point Road will meet up with Cedar Road where you will turn right. You are now heading back through Cedar and about to retrace your steps (or revolutions) to Nanaimo.
Finishing your ride in quaint downtown Nanaimo is a great idea. The main street, Commercial St., in downtown Nanaimo has many great restaurants and coffee shops. Don’t forget you are in Nanaimo, so be sure to order a Nanaimo bar at one of the local restaurants of cafes – the Nanaimo Bar Trail brochure will help you locate the many venues where they are available.
Nanaimo Lakes Rd. / White Rapids Rd. Loop – This is a great 30km route from downtown or a nice add on to the Cedar Loop described above. These are probably the quietest but hilliest roads just outside of Nanaimo. From downtown find Harewood Road which turns into Nanaimo Lakes Road. This is where the long hill begins. Be sure to enjoy the view and quiet as you make your way up.
It then sweeps down to Nanaimo River Road where you will turn left. A quick time trial brings you to White Rapids Road where you will turn left as well. Again you will enjoy a nice hill that will quickly be followed by a fun descent down to the highway. You may want to stop in Chase River for a bite to eat unless you are keen to get back to downtown Nanaimo and enjoy a coffee or bite to eat at the many restaurants it has to offer.
Til next time!