Cycling

Our Véloroute Gourmande Travelogue

Four Cyclists, Three Days, Two Storms and Endless Fun

Published on May 3, 2023

By Simon Diotte

—Girls, are you ready for a challenge?

—It depends, says Romane, my eldest, 14-year-old daughter,

—Meh …, Marion, my youngest, 11-year-old daughter adds.

I hesitate a moment. Should I really be proposing this? Oh well, whatever happens, happens.

—I’d like to head out to Sherbrooke from Montréal by … bike.

At first, I thought for sure that my daughters would say no way! But then, a small miracle happened. They thought it was quite an exciting idea. Marion nevertheless had a moment of legitimate hesitation.

—Sounds like a cool idea, but how far is Sherbrooke anyway?

Indeed, an important detail. I didn’t dare mention it, so as not to discourage them. But I have to be honest.

—Only … hem…. 235 km, I said, coughing, trying to cover up this fact.

Then, a second miracle happened: My daughters took it well.

—OK, cool, when do we leave? Asked Romane.

—In a month!

With untrained legs, but our hearts ready to go, we set off with my brother Martin to take on the Véloroute Gourmande, a cycling route linking Montréal to Sherbrooke, offering a wide range of delicious addresses to fill our tummies.

Given our lack of time, we headed out from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, cutting out the first 45 kilometres of the route. For our baggage, we decided to go with one of the Véloroute Gourmande partners, Voyager à vélo. They’ll be transporting our bags from one stop to the next, and also shuttle us back to our car at the end of our cyclotourism outing.

So we’re travelling light, except for my brother Martin, who insists on carrying his bags like a true hardcore rider, with his almost 100% made in the Eastern Townships equipment! In fact, his Panorama bike is built by a Granby company, and his Arkel saddle bags, are made by a Sherbrooke company. So, Uncle Martin is quite at ease and in his element!

Day 1—From Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu to Granby

Saturday, 1 :00 p.m., we begin our adventure under a radiant sun as we cross the Gouin Bridge over the Richelieu River. The mercury exceeds 30 degrees Celsius. We quickly forget the scorching heat and our ankylosed muscles thanks to the beauty of the route. We’re on La Montérégiade, a 48 km corridor on a paved roadway, with the exception of a few kilometres of stone dust, dividing the surrounding farmland into two parts. The route is flat like Belgium and straight, a legacy of its former railway past.

In Farnham, it’s time for a refreshment break. It was still 34 degrees Celsius, but a little wind made the heat bearable. All the way to Granby, La Montérégiade dazzles us with beautiful landscapes. We loved its rural character, its remoteness from road traffic and the low volume of people on the trail. In fact, the only traffic we encountered was a cow crossing the path. It’s what we remember from this part of the route.

In Granby, with about 60 km in our thighs and the sun beating down on us, we were feeling increasingly tired. At 5:00 p.m., we were blessed with thundershowers that we welcomed like a gift from heaven. Finally, we were able to cool off! Then some ice cream at Monsieur Grizzly gave us the energy we needed to finish the last few kilometres on the Estriade that would take us to Bromont. We landed in our room at 8:00 p.m., after cycling a distance of 72 km. The girls have gone on strike. There’s no way out. We’re going for delivery.

Day 2—From Granby to Orford

At 6:00 a.m., uncle Martin is ready to hit the road. Not us! Ouch! I could hear my muscles moaning. My daughters, however, were fresh as roses and didn’t complain one bit about having to start pedalling again. After breakfast we headed back onto the Estriade bike path, another old railway track. It was quiet and we felt peaceful here. About ten kilometres on the way, our tummies already required some comforting. We stopped at Duvoquic’s, in Waterloo, to treat ourselves to a piece of their renowned cakes; Yummy!

We then left the rather flat level Estriade, to take on La Montagnarde, a trail with a lot more elevation. We sometimes simply gave up and got off our bikes to head up some of the slopes here. However, heading down, was a blast, which made this segment become our favourite part of the route. When we arrived in Eastman for lunch, our batteries were at an all-time low. In the heart of town, about 2 km from the Véloroute Gourmande, we found plenty of places to replenish ourselves. We ended up on the terrace of the restaurant O’Dac Eastman, where we ate amazingly well.

When we leave, we think that the worst is over. We were wrong! The next few kilometres of La Montagnarde put us to the test again. All the way to the entrance of the Parc National du Mont-Orford, the trail climbed almost relentlessly, through a beautiful deciduous forest. Once it was time to go back down to the Étang aux Cerises, my brother Martin added some spice to the expedition by getting a flat tire. Then Mother Nature started pouring buckets of water on our helmets. So much so that when we reached our motel, after 65 km on our odometers and an overall difference in altitude of 1,000 m, we were all soaking wet. It was now official, our expedition had reached the status of a great adventure!

Day 3—From Magog to Sherbrooke

After two days with temperatures in the 30s, the mercury dropped to 8 degrees in the morning. We started out the day shivering on our bikes. We began to tackle the last few kilometres of La Montagnarde passing through the city of Magog as we followed the river with the same name. We admired the Lake Memphremagog as we passed by and then rode deep inside a forest for several kilometres. By moving like this, we produced enough heat to feel comfortable.

In Rock Forest, we arrived at a crossroad. The Véloroute Gourmande invited us to take a side trip by way of North Hatley before heading into Sherbrooke. A detour of more than 30 km, featuring a few good hills. Feeling quite tired, we decided to decline the offer and pedalled directly to Sherbrooke’s downtown area, cutting about twenty kilometres off our itinerary.

We arrived at the Tourism Office by 1:00 p.m., our adventure’s finish line, after we had taken on another 45 km and an additional 500 m elevation. Our reward? A poutine at Chez Louis’s fast food snack bar, a true Sherbrooke institution. All this effort was really worth it! Yum, yum!

Our Expedition Summary: 182 km cycling, two thunderstorms, one flat tire, 1300 pictures and countless, unforgettable moments. On the way back, discussions were animated about the next two-wheel expedition.

A Few Tips Before Heading Out

Plan your itinerary several weeks in advance by booking your accommodations to ensure that you sleep near the route. If a 10 km ride by car is nothing; it’s quite another story after a long day riding a bicycle.

Book your restaurants in the evening to make sure you enjoy the best addresses proposed by the Véloroute Gourmande. Table bookings are filled quickly.

Contact Voyager à vélo as soon as possible if you wish to take advantage of baggage transportation and shuttle services to return to your point of departure.

Don’t forget to take a repair kit (pump, inner tube, tire wrench, etc.) with you on the road. You never know when you might get a flat tire.

Please note that the Véloroute can be completed with any type of bicycle: road bikes, hybrids, gravel bikes, etc. Voyager à vélo rents good quality bicycles if you’re not sure your bike will make it.

Simon Diotte

Freelance journalist and editor in chief of Géo Plein Air, Simon Diotte is passionate about nature and outdoor activities. His favourite sports include: Canoeing, kayaking, hiking and cross-country skiing. Although he enjoys sports challenges, he also loves spending quality family time in nature with his two daughters.
Géo Plein air

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