48 Hours

The roads and trails of New Brunswick’s cap­i­tal of­fer cy­cling chal­lenges and stately scenery

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Jeff Bartlett

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.

De­tails

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.”

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