We brought one of our contributors, Zac Heiliger (@zac_heiliger), up to Canada to cycle one of the most beautiful mountain roads on earth: from Jasper to Banff via Lake Louise. We teamed up with a friend of 10Adventures, Mountain Madness Tours in Edmonton, to make this bucket-list bike trip a breeze!
Riding a bike from Jasper to Banff is on a lot of people’s bucket list, including mine. This incredible route takes a rider through some incredible mountains, overlooking stunning blue lakes and over some challenging passes. It’s also a really hard trip to do on your own. The road goes through almost untouched wilderness. There’s not even cell phone service for most of the trip, and there are stretches of over 100km without even a gas station to help you out if you need a snack or you have a mechanical. This is truly a route you need to do with a support vehicle, and Mountain Madness Tours are the leaders in taking guests on this stunning road.
Getting to jasper
With my bags packed and my bike loaded up in the back of the truck, I drove out of the Colorado Rockies making my way towards the Canadian Rockies. I live just outside of Boulder Colorado, not far from Rocky Mountain National Park. My friends joke “are you ever going to come down out of the mountains?” This time, I have a really good reason for leaving my little mountain paradise. As a writer and contributor for 10Adventures and I was given the assignment to team up with Mountain Madness Tours to experience a 4-day bike tour from Jasper to Banff along the Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies!
I was excited to spend 4-days biking along the Icefields Parkway, enjoying and experiencing the mountains from morning to night at a pace that allows the spectacular views time to sink in. There is something about the Canadian Rockies that is hard to describe in words, the sheer size of the mountains, massive glaciers, jaw-dropping lakes and powerful waterfalls are in a league of their own. I knew this would be a different experience all together and an opportunity I could not pass up!
About mountain madness tour
Mountain Madness Tours is the only tour company dedicated to the route between Jasper and Banff. It’s run by a friendly Aussie called Ben, who runs road bike tours along this road all summer long, year after year. I think it’s fair to say Ben probably knows this route better than anybody else on earth.
Even more important for us guests, he is also an amazing guy! Ben is knowledgeable and extremely friendly, managing the 4-day tour flawlessly. Every detail of the tour was well-planned and it sure makes this trip a lot easier when everything you could imagine needing is already done for you. Every time you stop your bike everything is ready for you: accommodations, rest stops, meals. It’s a pretty great way to travel.
Could you do this trip solo or self-supported? Sure, it can be done, but there are lots of downsides to doing it yourself. First of all, this is a popular destination, with limited places to stay along the way, and with rooms and/or campsites booking up early and fast. Just to put a little perspective on this, Ben pre-books each room 1-to-2 years out for each tour!
Another benefit of a supported tour is that you have somebody there ready to help if something goes wrong. And being so remote, having something go wrong can really ruin a trip. If your bike is not riding like it should or you suffer a mechanical, get on the walkie-talkie and Ben will come and meet you and get your bike running again with his mobile tuning station.
A supported tour also means you don’t have to carry all the gear you’d need if you do it yourself. There is cold-weather and wet-weather gear in the van for when the weather goes bad. There is also sunscreen for the bluebird days that are more common in summer. You can ride with a nice light bike, and all the gear you might need in the van.
Finally, there are regular breaks where the van is waiting at a scenic overlook, so you can enjoy a break with a view. There are snacks and drinks waiting, and we also used the breaks to add/shed a layer, tinker with our bike or just enjoy some downtime and reflect on the stunning views we just had.
Can I do this?
I must admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect on Day 1. On a personal level, I had my doubts about my physical ability to ride the whole way. I’m not an expert or seasoned road biker, I occasionally ride, but up to this point, my biggest ride ever in a single day was 31 miles, on a mountain bike! If I ride my road bike, I think getting 20 miles in on the saddle is a big day! Also, what if I am the slowest person in the group? What if I hold everyone back?
When Ben arrived to pick me up and load my bags into the van, I noticed that everyone had the same look on their face. An eager look of fear and excitement. As each person joins the group, the same questions are asked, “you bike a lot?”, “did you train for this?”
Eventually, the group dynamics helps smooth over the worries. Conversations transition from the task ahead, to more personal storytelling of each person’s life story bringing them to this adventure. In the van ride from Edmonton to Jasper, you discover the common thread that brought everyone together on this tour and just how small the world is at times.
Ben reassured the group that anyone that is somewhat active and has a good mindset about the ride will be able to complete this ride with no issues. And if for whatever reason, you don’t think you can do a section, there is always the option of loading up your bike in the trailer and hopping into the support van. But he was confident we wouldn’t need it!
Check out each day’s ride in the links below