Photos: Robin Fontaine
A few months back, we told you the story of the first motorcycle expedition to ride the Trans Canada Adventure Trail coast-to-coast.
(If you’re not familiar with the Trans Canada Adventure Trail, it’s a 15,000-km route across Canada, routed along gravel roads, trails, and back roads where required. It takes riders through everything from mountains to muskeg; find more about it here).
Here’s a second perspective on the TCAT, from Robin Fontaine. Robin rode the route west-east in the summer of 2016, after finishing the Trans America Trail. You can read his full ride report over at ADVRider; there’s a video of the whole US-Canada trip below. We contacted him for some tips for any adventure riders thinking about tackling the trans-Canada ride for themselves.
Choose your bike carefully; prep it more carefully
Aside from his KTM’s EFI woes due to bad gas, Robin’s bike held up well. It offered him the chance to lay down miles in a hurry when compared to a lighter trail-friendly dual sport with a smaller motor.
Whatever you pick, Robin says you need to know how to fix it, since any bike, new or not, will have a failure at some point.
It also pays to plan your maintenance carefully. If you break down in a place where you can’t order simple consumable bits. If he was running west-east again, Robin says he’d change his chain in Ottawa, before challenging the rigours of northern Quebec and Labrador. On his trip, he ended up having to get a lift to St. John’s after his chain and sprocket broke down in Labrador, where he couldn’t get parts.
As for tires, Robin said he started the trip on aggressive knobbies, to best suit a fast off-road riding style, but later changed to more street-friendly tires to save money. He says the less aggressive tires were fine, especially considering he was carrying luggage.
You’ll survive just fine if you pack light, but try to pack quality gear.
Robin kept his load light, and said a better air pump would have been nice, but he figures a better air pump would have been nice to have. However, he says it’s important to learn to work with what you’ve got. After all, you can always think of something else you wished you’d brought, but that doesn’t help.
You need to be prepared for wet, cold weather.
On some nights during Robin’s TCAT trip, temperatures reached 5 C at night. At one point, he rode for almost two weeks in the rain without having a chance to dry his tent and clothes. Make sure your equipment and gear will do the job in adverse climate conditions.
The people and the scenery of the TCAT will amaze you.
Robin enjoyed seeing new country during his west-east ride; his favourite stops were in the Rockies (Canmore is a must-stop, he says, and he liked the pass through Quesnel along the river). He says the scenery is amazing whichever direction you run the route. However, there were some loops that he’d skip if he rode it again, as the optional side trips only added mileage without any spectacular scenery, he felt.
Robin was also amazed by the people he met, who helped him out along the way and wanted to know about his trip. He was in trouble many times during his cross-Canada route, but he always found someone to help him out.
Soft luggage is the way to go
Robin used Wolfman bags during his trip, and said they were perfectly suited for his journey, since they were compact and forced him to pack carefully. They also were tough enough to handle the bumps and bashes along the way; Robin says he can’t imagine hard panniers surviving the crashes he suffered. Do not buy big luggage, buy small and pack it small, if you are really doing the TCAT you’ll be on the trail and sleep on the trail so you do not need 20 t-shirt… bring only wath you cannot live without.
Prepare for fuel troubles
Along with the bike’s gas tank, Robin hauled two one-gallon Rotopax fuel containers. He still had to scrounge extra fuel containers in a pinch a couple times, to make sure he had enough gas. But just as importantly, the quality of gas found along the way was as troublesome as the quantity. Robin’s KTM 690 had a lot of difficulty with his fuel injection system along the route, thanks to bad gas.
You don’t have to be a ripped racer to ride the TCAT
No question, the TCAT will be easier if you’re in good shape and a good rider. But if you take it slowly, Robin says you’ll make it just fine.
Even solo riders will enjoy company
The last TCAT expedition CMG profiled was a three-rider endeavour; Robin ran the route alone. He says he liked riding solo at his own pace and doing whatever he wanted to do. Still, he says he was glad to meet other riders to chat with and camp with at night. But as he says, group rides require more preparation and tend to end in dreams; if you want to do the TCAT, you should plan to do it yourself, no matter who else comes with you.