A Guide to Biking in Vancouver, BC

Vancouver, BC is best known for its natural beauty. The Coast Mountain range rises dramatically out of the Pacific Ocean, framing the glass-walled city, which itself is built around a series of bays and inlets. A relatively young city, Vancouver has recently been making its mark as a global tourist destination, a reputation which was cemented after the 2010 Winter Olympics. By the efforts of engaged and active citizens and progressive leadership, Vancouver has also been working hard to earn the title of a global cycling destination, efforts which are obvious in the city’s growing networks of protected bike lanes and scenic bike routes.

Where to Go

Your best bet for a great experience in Vancouver is to bike along the seawall and along the trails in Stanley Park and Pacific Spirit Park. The Central Valley Greenway is a fantastic day ride that runs some 15 miles (24 kilometers) from Science World to New Westminster. The beaches are particularly welcoming in the summer, and are beautiful places to contemplate the scenery year-round – check out Kitsilano, Third Beach and Spanish Banks – all of which are connected by waterfront bike routes.

Biking in Vancouver

Cycling to the beach is a standard pastime in the waterfront city. Photo by Craig Paterson

Where to Stay

There are free bikes for guests as the West End Guesthouse, a cute bed and breakfast located in a quiet, scenic downtown neighborhood. The Sylvia Hotel, a heritage building on Vancouver’s scenic English Bay, is close to bike trails along the seawall and offers secure indoor bike storage. The Gastown Cambie Hostel, a downtown favorite among young people and backpackers, has teamed up with Spokes Rentals & Tours to offer tour discounts to guests. And on the upscale end of the spectrum, the Fairmont Pacific Rim offers secure bike storage, complimentary bikes for guests and even a bike butler in the summer months.

Biking in Vancouver

The Osgemeos Giants, public art claiming industry at Granville Island. Photo by Francis Mariani

What to Do

There are any number of events keeping locals outdoors in the summer months. Cruise into Stanley Park to catch an outdoor movie during the Evo Summer Series, or check out any one of Vancouver’s growing list of festivals such as the Vancouver Folk Fest, the Red Truck Summer Series, the Vancouver International Jazz Fest, or Vancouver Craft Beer Week. Stop by a farmer’s market to pick up some fresh, local produce and take your picnic to the park before catching a Shakespeare Show at Bard on the Beach. And be sure to check out different the city’s different neighborhoods during Car Free Day.

The Bike the Blossoms ride in the spring takes you on a scenic tour of the city to marvel at the blooming cherry blossoms, while Vancruisers organizes regular social rides year round. Events such as the Vancouver International Film Festival and Dine Out Vancouver Festival keep locals and visitors entertained through the year.

Biking in Vancouver - the Birds and the Beets

Tasty treats at The Birds & The Beets. Photo by Jacky Chui

Where to eat

Bandidas Taqueria on Vancouver’s artsy Commercial Drive is a staple hangout for hungry riders, a Veg-mex restaurant run by a dynamic duo of fixie-riding women. The Birds & The Beets in historic Gastown is a foodie’s dream café run by two cycling enthusiasts, serving up local, artisanal sandwiches and salads, housemade pickles, preserves and fermented goodies, not to mention delicious coffees, ciders or beer to start your day or wind it down. Head up to Tandem Bike Cafe, Vancouver’s first bike shop/ café, for a coffee and a tune-up and to chat bikes with the owners, lovers of all things two-wheeled and all things delicious. Or get your craft beer fix at any one of Vancouver’s rapidly-expanding selection of microbreweries such as Brassneck or 33 Acres in trendy Mount Pleasant, Postmark Bewing in Strathcona, and the dog-friendly Deep Cove Brewers & Distillers on the north shore. And absolutely make sure to try any one of the city’s abundant, delicious and affordable sushi restaurants, you won’t have to look far to find one.

Where to get a bike

Spokes Bicycles & Rentals offers city bikes, trail bikes and cruisers at the entrance to Stanley Park. Check out Dream Cycle on Commercial Drive to gawk at their selection of custom-build city bikes (they also do repairs), or take a guided tour of the city with Cycle City Tours, including a public art tour and a craft beer tour.

Title photo by Gord McKenna