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Handcycling is a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the scenery. SCI BC Peer Program Coordinator, Paralympic champion and lifelong athlete Richard Peter shares his handcycling experience on the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail.

Richard takes in a little break and a massive view of Alberta Rockies.

I’ve been handcycling for about 15 years now and I really enjoy the workout I get from riding. Throw in some great scenery and you really can’t beat a spin out on the handcycle. So when a friend was getting married in Banff, I knew that I had to seize the opportunity to bring out the handcycles, check out the bike paths, and enjoy my stay to the fullest.

Surprisingly, I had never been to Banff before, let alone explored the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail, a scenic paved path that connects Canmore and Banff. My wife Marni and I chatted with a few of our Albertan friends that have done the ride before and inquired about the trail—they said it was a great idea. So, along with our wedding attire, the bikes went right into the van.

Which brings me to our our first issue: when you’re travelling with your handcycles, where do you store them when you arrive at your destination? Luckily, we were able to lock our bikes up just outside of our Canmore hotel. Problem solved.

We decided to start out ride from the Canmore Tourist info center, which has parking specifically for riders of the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail. We were able to unload our gear and start biking on the trail right from the parking lot— me on my Free Ryder Handcycle and Marni on her new XCR Cross Country handcycle with power-assist.

The route from Canmore to Banff is 22 kilometres (one way) along a fully-pathed bike path. Scenic lookouts and stops on the way provide great spots to rest, snap a photo, grab a snack, and have a drink. (I need to remember to bring a small cooler with more cold drinks and snacks next time!)

Now, my Free Ryder is great for road riding so the paved pathway was awesome for me. But it still required a little more work on the uphill areas. Marni, on the other hand, loved her new bike and was kicking my butt uphill. Luckily, I survived the steep parts by shifting into the rights gears and powering thru a few hard hills. And I still caught her on the downhills!

Richard and Marni celebrate with an ice cold drink.

Once we arrived into Banff, we cruised into town and found a nice spot by the water to rest and enjoy the day. All in all, the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail was very accessible and easy to ride, but it still might be tough if you were a beginner rider. You do end up riding on the road once you’re in the town of Banff, so it’s always good to be visible or in a group (I had a flag on my bike and some lights).

The mountain ride was a beautiful (but tiring) adventure that had me desperate for a cold, icy drink. (Maybe I’m getting old…) So take my advice: be sure to bring lots of snacks and drinks—the last thing that you want is to become dehydrated. And be prepared for both hot and cold weather.

Another big reminder is that you are up in the mountains. Although it’s a paved path, there will be a few hills that you’ll encounter on the ride. I had to stop and rest a few times along the route, but this helped me enjoy some great views of the Rocky Mountains. Both Marni and I are accustomed to our beautiful mountains here in Vancouver, so we loved that the Rockies offered great trails and completely new mountain surroundings.

If you’re Alberta-bound or looking for a new cycling adventure, the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail is a great bike route to go and try. (Though maybe not for the first ride of the year. Ha!) Some training beforehand would have helped me with the hills, but the trail was still very manageable with or without a power-assist handbike. And the scenic stops were well worth the workout.

Cheers, and hopefully we see you on the bike trails…

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