If you live in Edmonton (or have visited enough times) and figure you've seen all there is to see, the question is: have you seen it on a bicycle? It's a whole other experience from atop the seat of a two-wheeler and though I'm not a regular cyclist, it's how I enjoyed a five-hour excursion through the city on a sunny summer's day.
On rambling paths and trails through the Mill Creek Ravine, to and fro on the High Level Bridge, under the Walterdale Bridge, around the Muttart, the list goes on, for some 30 kilometers, in fact, and did I mention there are food stops along the way?
The Edmonton Food Bike Tour isn't new, and has been operating this and several shorter, smaller versions of tours by foot and bike, but this year marks the first time using electric bikes as the main mode of operation. Which is perfect for age 50-plus, not-especially-active folk like me, and why I wasn't intimidated by the length of the tour or the distance we'd cover. I'd have help from an electric bike after all, right? So hills are no worries! And there are regular stops for rest and refuelling with appetizer-type bites, beverages, desserts--that'd keep me in good stead, true?
In fact, the tour this day had close to 20 participants, and at least half were in the 50-plus age group: active, enthusiastic Albertans like Mike Tomiuk, 60, and 58-year-old Joanne Mikula, Sherwood Park residents who a mere 24 hours before had done a couple of hikes in Jasper on a day trip. The pair even have their own electric bikes, but chose to take the full package this day, which includes use of an electric bike and helmets, if needed, plus all food, beverages and gratuities on the expedition.
"We already cycle, but this tour was totally different than what we'd usually do and see," said Tomiuk. "We like to discover new places, and who doesn't like to eat?" added Mikula. There are so many different trails to discover on this tour, not to mention the restaurants that we haven't tried."
"You tend to go to the same places over and again, so this is a great way to change things up," Tomiuk agreed.
There's a definite difference biking across or under bridges and amidst ravines, when you usually drive everywhere in the city. Not to mention the inside information found at the food stops along the way. This day we sampled battered mushrooms and broccolini salad at Biera in Ritchie, a huevos rancheros at Juniper Cafe and Bistro in Strathearn and a fill-your-own doughnut and dress-your-own waffle downtown and in Old Strathcona at Ayco Cafe and Under the High Wheel, respectively. All were delicious and appreciated stops along the way.
Though it's a great help to have an electric bike for the odd hills and to keep the pace, riders still have to pedal along the journey. Anyone taking the e-bike food tour should be at least moderately active, with good mobility to best enjoy all there is to offer.
Food Electric Bike Tours continue through September, every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It's usually about a 30-minute ride between food stops, and the tour goes at a casual pace, with staff stopping traffic as you go--it's a safe, fun and well-organized operation. Restaurants visited change each month too, so there's something new if you want to repeat the experience. The price is about $159 per person for this, the longest tour in the company's lineup.
Besides the regular and e-bike tours in Edmonton (now in Calgary too), there are pop up themed tours on Friday evenings, such as a Donut Bike Tour, Ice Cream Bike Tour or a Brewery & Distillery Bike Tour. A Food Walk Tour is also an option.