Discovering the gravel bike on the roads of the Laurentians with Maghalie Rochette
Have you heard about gravel bikes lately? Although still relatively unknown, they’re gaining in popularity, and rightfully so!
It's a type of cycling that I like for several reasons. To avoid having to constantly worry about cars, I prefer to train on gravel and dirt roads instead of on paved roads. And for that, the gravel bike is an ally! Although it looks like a road bike, its tires are wider, which makes it more comfortable. It also allows you to explore new routes near you, getting out your usual itineraries and seeking exciting trails. Something to satisfy your taste for adventure!
Three itineraries to explore in the Laurentians
In the Laurentians, we’re very fortunate to have several options for gravel bike rides. Here are three routes that will allow you to explore safely and at your own pace this new type of biking.
1. Parc du Domaine Vert: start off smoothly
Starting at Relais Boréale, treat yourself to a nice quiet outing on rock dust trails. The Parc du Domaine Vert is the perfect site to introduce yourself to gravel. This short 22 km loop crosses the park on winding paths that make for a fun ride. For the more adventurous, there are mountain bike trails in the park to enjoy!
When returning to Relais Boréale, treat yourself to your favourite beer!
→ Find directions here.
Bear Pass Tip: When riding on gravel, avoid over-braking while turning. Traction isn't as good as on the road, so it's best to slightly slow down before curves, then let yourself coast while turning.
2. Le P’tit Train du Nord: a laurentian gem
Leaving the Prévost train station, head south on a quiet dirt road through the Parc régional de la Rivière-du-Nord. Then head back north on the P'tit Train du Nord, a true gem of the Laurentides. For the more adventurous, I've routed the return through some rougher trails, but if you prefer the calm of the bike path, you can stay on it until you reach Sainte-Adèle, then head back to Prévost to finish the ride. On your way back, be sure to stop by the Merci La Vie Bakery, to treat yourself to a good meal, coffee, pastry or even a beer!
→ Find the route here.
Bear Pass Tip: If you decide to tackle the rougher trails, the key to navigating them well is to look far ahead and keep your weight in your feet. Looking far ahead allows you to see the path in advance, while keeping your weight in your feet allows you to stay centred and ready for any obstacles. These tips apply to any gravel run as well.
3. The Corridor aérobique: 58 km of gravel
Starting in Morin-Heights, the Corridor aérobique is a 58 km long gravel road. Since gravel is a bit more challenging for the bike than the rock dust found on the P'tit Train du Nord and at the Parc du Domaine Vert, I recommend that you have a gravel bike for this ride.
Here, I suggest two routes. The first is a 40 km round trip on the Corridor aérobique with a refreshment point halfway through.
The second includes a slightly different return, with a bit more elevation gain and an "off-road" portion at the end of the route for the more adventurous!
After this one, stop by the Marché Vaillancourt for a cold beer!
Bear Pass Tip: In your gravel tires, you don't need as much air pressure as in your street tires. Less pressure allows for greater comfort, better shock absorption and improved traction on the ground. As a reference, in my street tires, I often ride with 80–90 psi, while in my gravel tires, I put between 30 and 40 psi. You can adjust according to your weight, but don't hesitate to reduce the pressure in your tires to enjoy your experience even more!
You enjoyed these rides and are thirsty for more?
For two years now, in collaboration with Boréale, I have been organizing free gravel bike rides called the Brevets CX Fever. These outings represent good challenges in terms of distance and terrain, and if you feel up to it, it will be a pleasure to welcome you and pour you a nice cold beer at the finish line!
Check out the routes from previous years and see if this sounds good to you!
Canadian and Pan-American champion, Maghalie Rochette is a racing cyclist who specializes in cyclocross.
*Photo credit: @christianmartinphoto