Tracing Nova Scotia’s cycling routes
Adam Barnett takes a moment to think about his favourite cycling route in Nova Scotia. It’s not because he doesn’t have one. “I have a bunch of favourites.”
He settles on describing a route fairly close to his home in the Gaspereau Valley that takes you from Canning to Scots Bay, out toward Cape Blomidon Provincial Park, up the North Mountain, back down to Scots Bay, over to the Look Off and a quick zip down the hill back to Canning.
“Just the dynamics of that route are just so beautiful,” he explains. “You’re going through farm country and apple orchards and fishing boats and tidal beaches and elevation gains and gorgeous views. It runs the whole gamut. That’s one of my favourite routes.”
But give him a minute and he’ll also rattle off the many highlights of riding in Cape Breton or on the North Shore.
Barnett, an experienced cycling guide and employee of Bicycle Nova Scotia, already knew the province pretty well from the saddle of a bike. He knows it even better after writing Where to Cycle in Nova Scotia, recently published by Nimbus Publishing.
Barnett said the project, which took about a year, was a “perfect storm” of mingling his interests in cycling, mapping and basically putting information in some sort of order. “I’m a person who loves gathering up data and organizing it and mapping it out,” he says. “So, it was an opportunity for me to pursue my geekiness.”
As a kid, Barnett revelled in the freedom of a bike, often opting to cycle 30 minutes to school in Rothsay, N.B.
Later he got into leading cycling tours throughout Atlantic Canada for Freewheeling Adventure near Hubbards, something he still does on occasion.
Almost four years ago, he joined the small staff of Bicycle Nova Scotia to do outreach and communication.
His other passion is as a founder of the Front Street Community Bread Oven in Wolfville.
Barnett said the last book on cycling in Nova Scotia was written in 1995. About $10,000 in royalties from that book had been sitting in a bank account for an eventual update, which came in handy when a publisher came calling.
After the original publisher and a different writer dropped out, the project was a go when Nimbus and Barnett teamed up.
Proceeds from the book go to Bicycle Nova Scotia to fund their various projects, like mapping out the Blue Route for Nova Scotia, a guide to bike-friendly and through-routes for riders.
“I’ve been obsessed with guide books for years. I have photos from all of my travels of pictures of guidebooks,” Barnett says.
The 257-page guide includes detailed information on 106 routes in seven regions, 38 maps and granular data like distances, how long a route will take depending on speed and—huff, puff—elevation gains.
He also tells you where to find a good beach, a nearby hike to a waterfall, or a worthwhile museum to check out. About 75% of the routes are on roads; there is also information on the multi-use rail-to-trail system.
The Bicycle Nova Scotia website also includes links to route maps that you can download onto your phone.
What the book doesn’t include is much information on where to eat or stay.
“That’s a different book and we’re in the internet age,” Barnett said.
“To me, this is all about curation. I don’t want to list just six bed and breakfasts. I would want to know which one is awesome.”
The writer said he doesn’t gloss over some of the shortcomings on the routes, like imperfect roadways, but thinks the pros more than outweigh the cons.
“Come to Nova Scotia. This is who we are. We’re not perfect, we’re flawed, but we’re also beautiful. We just need to embrace what we have.”
This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.