The roads and trails of New Brunswick’s capital offer cycling challenges and stately scenery
The rolling hills of Fredericton
Ihadn’t ridden a bike in Fredericton since I was 14 years old, when I had spent an entire day struggling to ride a 70-km loop along the Saint John River. Nearly two decades later, I returned to my hometown and decided to retrace that same route. To my surprise, I discovered it was still a challenging ride, complete with stunning scenery and deserted roads.
“We have a pretty healthy crew of road cyclists,” says Mike Davis, owner of The Radical Edge shop. “We’re blessed with paved roads and most of them have wide shoulders. There is no direction from the city we cannot ride.”
From downtown Fredericton, I cycled up the north shore of the Saint John River, quickly passing through the suburbs and rolling towards the small community of Keswick. The tamarack trees – known as larch in western Canada – had already turned a fantastic yellow, but my visit was a few weeks before the maple, birch and beech trees would turn spectacular reds, oranges and yellows that might just be the best autumn colours in Canada. The gradual up-river climb transitioned into a series of rolling hills before crossing the Mactaquac Dam and continuing along the old highway and turning back towards Fredericton along the Mazerolle Settlement and Hanwell Roads.
“Ever since the province put i n the new four-lane highway,” says Davis, “the old highway is an artery that feeds all these excellent road rides and it’s maintained better than your average rural route. It’s why that Mazerolle Settlement ride, which begins and ends right in the city, can be a go-to of ours.”
Fredericton is just the third largest city i n New Brunswick, behind Moncton and Saint John. As the provincial capital, its economy is tied to public service and it does have that distinctive government-town atmosphere. The thriving student populations from the neighbouring campuses of the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University, however, provide a nice contrast.
Fredericton has always been called the city of stately elms and an 85-km multi-use trail network connects the many green spaces around the city. The Saint John River flows through downtown and splits the city into equal halves known as the Southside and Northside. The Southside is home to downtown Fredericton, so it’s where
most attractions, such as the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and The Playhouse are found. The Northside is decidedly more residential and it’s still loosely divided into several smaller communities that used to be the independent towns of Devon, Nashwaaksis, Marysville and Barker’s Point.
The entire city seems to gravitate towards the Boyce Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. Two hundred and fifty vendors bring regional foods, art and crafts to the Market each week, while the locals bring the neighbourly conversations the Maritimes are known for, to make the market a weekly tradition rather than a traditional market.
From the Market, it’s just a short ride across an old train bridge that leads to the Fredericton Trails Visitor Centre in Devon, where the Folks on Spokes Fredericton gather at 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Tuesdays. This group of more than 140 cycling retirees manages to draw nearly 40 riders to their twice-weekly rides.
“We’re a group of cyclists who utilize Fredericton’s trail system to the maximum extent,” says Folks on Spokes advocate Stephen Marr. “Some would say we are a social club which bicycles. We start our rides together, but we quickly divide into three groups: those in the front who want to cycle and maybe socialize, the middle group, which cycles and socializes equally, and the end group, which does not let cycling get in the way of their socializing.”
Despite the modest description, Folks on Spokes cycled a cumulative 30,000 km throughout the 2016 summer, focusing on four main routes that use the paved and crushed-gravel trails around the city. Marr’s favourite ride forms a 50-km loop down the Southside from downtown Fredericton to Oromocto, across the Burton Bridge and back to Fredericton on the Northside.
“The Lincoln Trail passes some of the best maintained and picturesque backyard acreages,” says Marr, “and the return to Fredericton on the Northside offers spectacular views of the Saint John River. The trails are terrific and most of the roads have wide, smooth shoulders. Even on the narrow Burton Bridge, it’s obvious that motorists are very polite and share the roadway in a friendly manner.”
After my mid-morning brunch at the market, I opted to leave the valley behind to cycle north along the Nashwaak River in search of some vertical. Both Davis and Marr described the terrain as hilly and I wanted to experience it for myself. Rather than the sustained climbs I am used to in the mountains, I found that these hills were punchy. I rode north on River Street to Durham Bridge, crossed the Nashwaak and returned on Canada Street. Both directions felt like a never-ending series of hill intervals that left me gasping despite my mountain-trained lungs. Despite 20 years riding mountainous terrain in Western Canada and 20 years since I’d last challenged myself on an East Coast ride, I still found myself climbing out of the saddle to endure the hilly terrain that winds its way through rural New Brunswick.
How to get there The province’s two other major cities are a short drive away. Moncton is 177 km east on the Trans-canada Highway, while Saint John lies 113 km south on NB Route 7. The Fredericton airport has regular flights with Air Canada and Westjet to Montreal, Toronto, Halifax and Ottawa. Where to stay The Crowne Plaza–lord Beaverbrook hotel (659 Queen St.) is the only hotel in downtown Fredericton, so its location is hard to beat. It’s within walking distance of most city attractions. The Quartermain House bed and breakfast ( quartermainhouse.com) has twice been named the best B&B in North America by Booking.com. Where to eat No visit to Fredericton is complete without a Saturday morning visit to the Boyce Farmers Market ( fredericton farmersmarket.ca) for breakfast or brunch. Isaac’s Way ( isaacsway.ca), Brewbakers ( brewbakers.ca) and Vault 29 ( vault29.ca) are all popular for lunch and dinner. There is also a budding food-truck scene in the city, so keep an eye out for inexpensive yet delicious options for a quick bite. Where to shop The Radical Edge ( radicaledge.ca) has two stores in downtown Fredericton. Its bike shop (129 Westmorland St.) is the biggest showroom in the city, while its adventure store (386 Queen St.) is primarily a softgoods retail space. Savage’s Bicycle Center (sbcoutlet.com) is the longest established shop i n Canada, first opening its doors to Fredericton cyclists in 1897.
“Despite 20 years riding mountainous terrain in Western Canada and 20 years since I’d last challenged myself on an East Coast ride, I still found myself climbing out of the saddle to endure the hilly terrain that winds its way through rural New Brunswick.”