Local Tourist Fiona Tapp takes her first tour of the NCC bike paths
Fiona Tapp is a British Elementary School Teacher, who has called Ottawa home for the past five years. As a native Londoner, she tries to explore and enjoy Ottawa as a tourist, and so far is pretty impressed with this “tiny but brilliant” city!
I am not exactly what you would call a born cyclist, in fact I haven’t owned a bike in years, and unless you count one hour’s rental a year, usually because its included in a resorts activities, I don’t bicycle at all, and am ashamed to admit I have never used the NCC bike paths.
So with the day stretched out in front of me, and glorious weather to boot, I thought I would go ride a bike, and spent the morning looking into rental choices. There are numerous bike shops in Ottawa, but after a few quick calls, I was informed that there are basically two options available, to those who do not own their own bike. Rent a Bixi from various locations or take a trip under the bridge at Colonel by Drive and Rideau to “Rent-a-Bike”.
Safety conscious as always, I wanted to be able to rent a helmet, lock and map-the availability of these items at Rent-a Bike helped to sway my decision. I was met by a very friendly and helpful young man who got me all set up and put my seat down to the lowest possible setting, without laughing- pesky short legs!
I started out along the Canal in a convenient straight line from the tunnel bike shop-it amazed me how natural bike riding felt even though we have been absent friends; it’s a true adage that you really never forget how to ride a bike. After a little while I noticed I was smiling, and realised the girlish thrill of my hair blowing in the wind and the straps of my backpack flying out behind me was quite intoxicating.
Soon I reached Dow’s Lake and marvelled at how much quicker cycling was than my other pastime, running, in terms of actually getting somewhere promptly- there is no contest!
After passing some locks I arrived at Hog’s Back Falls and Park and stopped for my picnic lunch. I absolutely adore picnics, other picnic spots I have visited this summer and would recommend are Pink Lake in Gatineau Park, Lake on the Mountain near Picton and The pick of the bunch; the NCC Arboretum, where my husband and I enjoyed a champagne picnic to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary.
I sat by the lookout enjoying the view of Ottawa, while I ate my lunch and happened upon a group of very friendly squirrels, chipmunks and a big fat groundhog-I find groundhogs very comical and I really enjoyed watching him busy himself unconcerned with my presence.
After lunch I felt like challenging myself more than the 8km return trip along the canal, so I decided, upon studying the map, to cycle along the paths past Vincent Massey Park and on the route towards Rideau Falls. I have run part of this route before so felt confident I wouldn’t get lost, and as long as you keep to the paths which are well sign posted, you shouldn’t either.
The bike that I was loaned was a Giant Pathway Comfort, and was great fun to ride, the gears were easy to operate even for a novice and the seat was about as comfortable as a bike seat gets. I had the bike for four hours at a cost of $25, including helmet, lock and map. An hours ride will cost you just $9.
I arrived at Rideau Falls, and enjoyed the beautiful view until I realized the bike path had finished and I still had to get back to the bike shop-being somewhat directionally challenged I chose to head in the wrong direction down Sussex and ended up at Rideau Hall- where very friendly staff pointed me down the road to my destination.
I must admit I was slightly nervous to now be riding on the street, all be it in an assigned bike lane, but felt rather proud of myself when I managed to arrive around the back of the art gallery and suddenly without warning knew exactly where I was.
When returning the bike I had to descend into the tunnel down a flight of stairs but there is a nifty little channel running down the middle of the stairs that allows you to guide your bike down without any trouble at all.
I really wasn’t sure I wanted to return the bike, I had enjoyed riding it so much, and was informed that for $260 it could be mine- Mmm, I’ll have to think about that….
All in all, I cycled 24km travelling alongside the Rideau Canal, the Ottawa River, through parks, forested areas, some streets and urban areas, all on bike paths, and as Rent-a-Bike’s website explains: “Canada’s capital has been good to cyclists. We have over 250km of paved pathways, with more to come.”
Another reason to love Ottawa!
Thanks for sharing your adventure Fiona!