Biking Across Canada Day 12—Banff to Calgary: Goodbye Mountains, Hello E-Bikes!

Leaving Banff before everyone was awake
The Calgary Tower, now in in it’s sixth decade.

I’ve gotten lucky with the weather. My rest day was rainy, but today was beautiful and sunny with a lovely tailwind.

Left Banff shortly after 6am. Tom got up to see me off. The streets were empty, and I quickly got onto the Banff Legacy Trail that connects to Canmore, which meant I was able to ride for more than an hour without encountering a car.

After the trail ended in Canmore I switched over to the Bow Valley Trail, a two-lane highway similar to what I rode to Banff, though through more industrial areas so there were trucks. I ran into Hali and Boone, two cross-country cyclists also heading east. I’d met Hali two days ago heading into Banff. They’d spent the past two nights with a Warm Showers host in Canmore, but will be parting ways in Calgary. We rode together for an hour or so before a botched attempt to stop for coffee split us up, though not before we shared contact info.

Despite following the railroad for almost two weeks, this was the first time I was stopped by a train. That’s Hali ahead of me. I can’t believe how much gear he’s hauling.

Riding through the Bow Valley was beautiful. I’d see the mountains in my rear-view mirror, and the foothills ahead of me. I had my first (low-speed) tumble when I pulled over on to soft gravel to take a picture and my bike fell over underneath me. Both rider and bicycle were unharmed.

This photo cost me a little bit of my dignity.

I made a brief foray into Cochrane to visit a print shop to have some postcards printed, then continued on the 1A to Calgary, making great time due to the aforementioned tailwind. 

Cochrane. Like Golden, it’s a heckuva climb out of town.

I took the Bow River Pathway into downtown, getting a great view of the ‘88 Olympic facilities. My brother put on Cool Runnings as a joke last night to make sure I’d recognize them. We share a strange sense of humour.

Can you see the ski jump and bobsled run?

This trip has been a chance to visit much of the active transportation infrastructure that gets Bike Twitter excited. The Peace Bridge over the Bow River was one of those projects that I was thrilled to encounter.

I wish I could have come back after dark to see it lit up

Tonight I’m staying with my cousin Kyle (no, his name’s not Kyle Kyle, though we do share a paternal grandfather), but having dinner with my friend Evan. Originally from Nova Scotia, Evan went to the University of Waterloo with Rod & Quinn, my friends in Vancouver. Before dinner, Evan took me on a scenic bike tour of Calgary’s cycling infrastructure. He knew I like to try out bikeshare options, so we borrowed a couple Lime e-bikes and went on a 17-km ride.

Evan doing his bicycle ambassador duty. Look: separated cycle tracks!
One of Canada’s most famous bike counters. I rode by this a few times and it made me happy each time.

The e-bike was a blast. Made all the hills disappear. It wasn’t as adjustable as I’d like, but it turned out not to matter because I didn’t have to push on the cranks hard enough to care about proper mechanical advantage. The dockless bikeshare was also great. We could hop off and ditch our bikes anytime we wanted—no need to keep track of where the nearest station was. I think e-bikes and scooters are the future of mobility for urban areas. You don’t have to be fit to bike, and they’re way safer and convenient than driving.

Calgary has done incredible placemaking work done by the Bow River. So many places to linger.
The rapids courses. I’m told it’s packed with dinghies and kayaks on a warm weekend day.
A giant drinking bird statue outside the new library. It actually bobbled.

After a yummy dinner at Evan’s favourite BBQ place downtown, I headed over to Kyle & Kiera’s. They just moved into a beautiful 1931 home south of downtown. It was like staying in Wayne Manor. I hadn’t seen them in I can’t remember how long, so it was nice catching up.

Today’s Distance: 149 km (plus 17km of e-biking)
Cumulative Distance: 1229 km

John Kyle @JohnKyle