Road Cycling in Pemberton
Photo by Dave Steers
Pemberton road cyclists want you to know that Pemberton is on the map. Since IRONMAN Canada came to town in 2013 and the Slow Food Cycle Sunday started back in 2005, people have begun to make the extra 20-minute trek from Whistler to Pemberton, either as individual riders or as groups. Whistler is still a more popular destination for the road cyclist; you’ll definitely see more cyclists on the road there, and there are more stores that cater to the cyclist. Still, we’re on the map.
What makes Pemberton a special place for road cycling is that it is a hub of sorts: Whereas Whistler can be a great place to train, you are limited to going up and down the valley. In Pemberton, you can head out in any direction for a solid ride.
Some Recommended Rides
Whistler to Pemberton
The ride from Whistler to Pemberton gives riders a net 300 meter / 328 yard descent, for example, and on either end of the ride is a Village with ample opportunities for food and drink. A popular stop on the Whistler end is McIvor’s in Alpine Meadows. In Pemberton, cafes such as the Mount Currie Coffee Company or The Pony offer a great stop for cyclists. On the way to and from Whistler, however, it is important to know that there is nowhere to stop for water or snacks. The 32 kilometre / 19.9 mile ride can get fairly hot in the summer months, so be prepared. If you’re serious, you can of course head all the way to Squamish and back.
Pemberton to Lillooet
Another ride from Pemberton heads through the Lil’wat Nation on Highway 99 north to Lillooet on the Duffy Road. This is a 100 kilometre / 62.1 mile ride, with fairly tough switchbacks. On this ride, however, you need to be prepared with food and enough water, as there are not as many options for rest stops. The positive side to this is that this ride is intensely quiet. Traffic is rare, as are fellow cyclists. You may be surprised by the occasional wild horse or cow, but what will perhaps surprise you the most is the quiet you will experience along the way.
Heading out to the Pemberton Meadows gives you a third ride from Pemberton. On this ride, you can continue out along pristine farmland for kilometre after kilometre, only needing to watch out for the occasional tractor or perhaps a fellow cyclist. This ride is quiet, long and straight; an easy ride without the hills of the other two options. However, there is no option for a rest stop along the way, so you do need to be prepared with enough food and water. You may find a roadside fruit stand at the Van Loons, at the turn off-road to the Hurley on your way to Meager Creek. They’ve even begun to keep a small refrigerator with water and snacks for cyclists. But it’s not smart to count on this: bring your own snacks and water, and top up with what you find at the Van Loons fruit stand.
Road Cycling: The New Golf
Since road cyclists want long rides to choose from, Pemberton makes a great place to start and stop from. On long summer days, you can leave in the early morning and be back to Pemberton before it gets too hot.
In many ways, road cycling is the perfect sport for the semi-retired: some have even called it “the new golf” since cyclists need to carve out a similar amount of time from their day. Of course, the physical outlay is considerably more for the road cyclist. Also similar to golf is the outlay of cash: you can spend a few thousand dollars on your bike as you move up from an aluminum frame to a carbon fibre frame and components.
Whereas on a mountain bike, the bike itself is very technical, with components costing quite a bit of money as you move up to more and more expert bikes. With road cycling, the bikes themselves are quite simple: it’s the weight of the bike that’s key. Or lack of weight.
On long rides, especially on hills, you’ll want a carbon fibre frame to get you where you want to go. And just like in any sport, get the best you can afford. It will last, and you will be a lot happier. Carbon fibre is five times as strong as steel and can also absorb a lot more. This comes in handy when you’re riding on anything that is less than perfect asphalt, which you will encounter on country roads outside of Pemberton.
In part because of the combined efforts made by the IRONMAN Canada race and Slow Food Cycle Sunday, road cycling in Pemberton is quickly maturing, and Pemberton’s benefits as a place to train for serious cycling or to spend the day with family and friends are being noticed:
- Roads accommodate bicycles with 14 to 16 foot lane widths
- Encourages safe cycling
- Stores provide safe convenient bicycle parking
- Accommodation welcomes cyclists and provides storage
- Basic bike tools are readily available
- Cafes and restaurants are cyclist-friendly
Header image by Dave Steers