North 48 Bicycles is a relatively new business in Victoria, but its proprietor, David, has been in town for quite some time now and is a passionate cyclist himself. As an avid rider, David decided to create North 48: a full-service bike tour company who runs clinics, workshops and tours for road riders of all ability levels. Here's his Going Local take on the Saanich Peninsula by bike, and why he thinks you should try it for yourself.
Exploring the Saanich Peninsula by Bike with North 48 Bicycles
Cycling around the Saanich Peninsula is like your favourite food - it's satisfying, it's equally as enjoyable with a small intimate group or a large gathering of friends, you can modify it to suit everyone in your group, and it is equally as fun when enjoyed rapidly, or at a more leisurely pace.
The Saanich Peninsula loop ride is one of our most popular at North 48 Bicycles because it showcases all of the elements that cycling in southern Vancouver Island has to offer in a three to five hour ride, and can be easily modified en route to accommodate all riding abilities. It typifies the region's riding where roads are almost never flat or straight, and although there are no prolonged climbing efforts, the full 100 km loop ride will reward you with 1,000 metres of elevation gain.
Fact: If you're lucky, you may spot a pair of nesting bald eagles or crisp, clear views of Mount Baker - and this is all in the first 15 km! Image via North 48 Bicycles.
Start in Market Square
Starting in historic Market Square, the ride goes past the downtown sites (historic Bastion Square, the Inner Harbour, the Fairmont Empress, the B.C. Legislature Building), continues along the Waterfront Route with views of the Olympic Peninsula and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and perhaps your first glimpse of west coast wildlife.
The route continues to wind its way through some charming neighbourhoods before plunging into the cool northern deciduous rain forest along the flanks of Mount Douglas. Matticks Farm (32 km) is a great place to take a short break and consider the options - further north up the Peninsula or, if you have underestimated the distance, stop for a coffee before heading back to Victoria. The next 10 km winds through the wonderful farmland, typical of the Saanich Peninsula.
Image: Riding through farmland on the Saanich Peninsula, photo via North 48 Bicycles
The picturesque town of Sidney arrives after 48 km, and offers another opportunity for refueling and rerouting, if required. (Check out this recent Going Local blog post: A Day in Sidney, for more great ideas on what to do and where to eat in Sidney.) The aptly named Land's End Road marks the northern end of the Saanich Peninsula, and offers views of Salt Spring Island and Satellite Channel.
Turning back to the south, the route meanders back through Saanich farmlands, and a stop at Deep Cove Market will allow you to experience some of the produce from local farms and orchards.
Tip: Sidney is also home to two distilleries - check out this guide to Spirits on the Saanich Peninsula if you're after sample or are looking for an island-inspired gift to take home.
Image: Taking a quick break in Sidney, photo via the Sidney Business Improvement Area Society.
Drink it All In at Local Farms and Cideries
If you wish to try a local cider straight from the source, we can stop in at Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse, which is also a gem of the Saanich Peninsula and boasts incredible views over their orchard and across the Haro Straight toward James Island. Our recommendation? Try a flight of ciders paired with a selection of organic cheeses and other local delectables.
Of course, there's nothing like produce direct from the source, and many of the farms have roadside stands - one of our favourites is Anneth Farm on West Saanich Road where the proprietors turn daily-picked seasonal fruits and berries into appetizing pies and pastries - if your timing is lucky, you might enjoy something still warm from the oven. Another great lunch stop is The Roost Farm Bakery & Vineyard Bistro, where you'll have a true farm-to-table experience.
Tip: Make sure to bring some cash! The roadside stands don't always take cards.
Image: Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse
Continuing south, the town of Brentwood Bay provides another opportunity to fuel up before the final push back to Victoria. Tip: If you've got anyone in your party who isn't riding - they can always opt to spend the day at the Brentwood Bay Resort & Spa, and wave to you as you ride past!
Take it Up a Notch
Wallace Road winds through quiet meadows before joining West Saanich Road, from which, if there is still energy left in the legs, a quick detour up Observatory Hill will add an extra 140 m of climbing, but the reward is an amazing view of the area. Leaving the Observatory (or ignoring it entirely), the route gradually loses elevation as you make your way to the Galloping Goose Regional Trail to head back into Victoria. The Goose provides a great opportunity to have a nice, easy spin at the end of a long ride to keep the legs fresh for the next day.
Image: Cycling on the Galloping Goose Regional Trail, photo by North 48 Bicycles.
If you're really looking to extend your ride, take a cruisey 9.3km ride around The Flight Path, a car-free bike and walking path that meanders around the Victoria International Airport on the Saanich Peninsula.
For more information on tours and services available from North 48, check out their website.