The Cabot Trail
The Cabot Trail is probably the best-known motorcycling route in north-eastern North America; you’d have to go all the way down to the Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina to find another road with similar hype.
There are a couple of reasons for this, but it’s mainly because of the stellar cliffside riding. There are other areas with curvy roads or gorgeous scenery, but you’ve got to travel a long way to find another road that puts those curves and views right on the edge of a cliff. Run off the road on one side and you’ll hit a rock wall. Run off the other side, and you’ll hit the ocean, but only after falling for a few hundred feet. It’s like riding in California, but with a lot more frost heaves, and a lot less heat.
It also helps that the Cabot Trail runs through a fairly remote corner of Nova Scotia; Cape Breton Island is proud of its heritage, and the Celtic and Acadian cultures are still strong. Here, Netflix hasn’t quite pushed out all interest in fiddle playing or bagpipes, at least not yet. In some areas, you’ll still see road signs in Gaelic.
A few finer points to note on this route: you’ll find people who say it’s best to run it clockwise because the scenery up ahead is better; others say counter-clockwise, to ride in the lane next to the ocean. Do whichever suits you best, as it’s fun either way. When Editor ‘Arris did it in 2011, he ran it both directions.
Also, remember there are a couple of worthwhile diversions en route. It’s a good idea to take the White Point Road through Neils Harbour to South Harbour, as it’s better riding than the main section of the Trail, and has better scenery. It’s also possible to go on a side leg to the interesting town of Meat Cove, but part of this road is gravel, and maybe not suited for some riders or bikes.
It’s also worthwhile doing the ride early in the morning, before the motor homes start to clog up the road. Do you want to get stuck behind an RV going 30 km/h below the speed limit in the twisties? No, so lay off the booze the night before and get up with the sun if you’re doing this ride.
If you’re left wanting more when this ride is done, you can have another excellent day of street riding on Cape Breton by going for a scoot around Bras d’Or Lake, and if you’re on an adventure bike or dual sport, there’s even more fun to be had on the island’s interior gravel roads. And when it’s time to go, make sure you head along the Northumberland Strait, taking Route 337 out of Antigonish to do what local riders call the “Mini Cape” along Cape George. It’ll take away some of the sting of having to leave the Cabot Trail behind.