26 April 2001 to 30 April 2001

by Kevin Rodger

Normally, I try to go on one reasonably long cycling vacation each year.  In previous years, I have managed to cycle in Mexico (Cancun to Chetumal 1998), Germany (The Romantic Road 1999), and England ( London to Salisbury 2000).  In 2001 I had nothing planned until my wife told me to get out of the house and go and do some cycling.  I e-mailed my friend, Lea in Bermuda suggesting I might “pop” in for a vacation; she suggested I bring my bike!!!  My plans were made.  Who was I to argue?  Bermuda was a natural selection for me, because it was reasonably warm in April , and because I could visit friends there at the same time.  Anyway, here is my "article" on Cycling in Bermuda.  If I've forgotten anything, or made anything up (I am trying to reconstruct this trip mostly from memory and a few records of mileage), I guess nobody will know, anyway.

Initially, I was going to bring my Cannondale Hybrid bike, but Lea talked me into taking my Mikado.  The Mikado d'Iberville is a touring bike based on the Peugeot style, and assembled by Canada ’s largest bicycle manufacturer, ProCycle of Quebec Province.  It was the first time my “baby” would be accompanying my on an airline flight. I should mention that Lea keeps in great shape by actively participating in triathlons, and has even run a few marathons, and half-marathons.  I was praying she would be kind to me.

Bermuda is located 920 km SE of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Bermuda is not a Caribbean island as many people assume.  It enjoys the relatively warm conditions brought in by the gulf stream.  Bermuda is a rocky island with beautiful sandy beaches on the south shore characterized by their pinkish hues.  As far as cycling is concerned, the island is not flat, but it does not have any large hills, either.  I would characterize it as gently undulating.  This makes for some interesting cycling, with incessantly beautiful scenery.

Hundreds of millions of years ago, a great undersea volcano started erupting on the floor of what is now the Atlantic Ocean and created a 3-mile high mountain. The top of the volcano never broke through the 15,000 feet of water and eventually became extinct. As time passed, coral polyps began to attach themselves to the summit of the undersea mountain and a system of Coral Reefs was born, covering the 330 square mile undersea summit.  As the sea levels rose and fell over numerous ice ages, the 21 square miles of land (comprised of 180 named islands) that is now Bermuda turned from Coral reefs to limestone. The temperature in Bermuda ranges from 19 degrees Celsius (65 Fahrenheit) in the Winter to 30 degrees Celsius (85 Fahrenheit) in the summer.

Bermuda is the oldest self-governing British Colony. It was discovered in 1503 by Juan de Bermudez, but the islands lay unsettled for a further 107 years until a ship of English Colonists, led by Sir George Sommers, were shipwrecked on the reefs. The survivors did finally complete their journey to Virginia , but were so enchanted by Bermuda that the Virginia Company, London established the New Worlds' second colony. By the end of the century, administration had ceded to the British Crown.

The atmosphere of Bermuda is one of British reserve and dignified informality. Therefore, there are certain “customs of dress” which you will want to know. As a rule of thumb, dress conservatively. Bathing suits, abbreviated tops, and short shorts are not acceptable except at beaches and pools. There are no nude or semi-nude beaches. In public (including public areas of hotels) beach wear must be covered. Bare feet and hair curlers are not acceptable anywhere in public. It is an offence to ride cycles or appear in public without a shirt or just wearing a bathing suit top.  Joggers may wear standard running shorts and shirts. Casual sportswear is acceptable in restaurants at lunchtime, but many restaurants and nightclubs in and out of hotels require gentlemen to wear a jacket and tie in the evenings. It is best to check on dress requirements when making dinner/nightclub reservations as some places do have casual evenings periodically.

When cycling in Bermuda , don’t worry about getting lost.  The island is only 36 kilometres long, and only about eight kilometres wide.  Eventually you are going to hit water somewhere, and a road that will lead you back home.  While the roads are quite narrow by North American standards, with no shoulders, the traffic did not present much of a problem.  The speed limit in Bermuda is only 40 kph, and the traffic was generally quite friendly.  Remember, Bermuda is a colony of England , and you will be riding on the “wrong” side, or left hand of the road.  One gets used to this very quickly.  Remember when approaching traffic circles, give way to the traffic on your right.

I arrived at the airport, and the lady at Customs, although quite polite, was quite surprised to see someone actually bring in a "push bike" to get around on the island.  She asked if I was familiar with riding on the left, and when I mentioned that "Yes, I was," (having actually driven cars in Trinidad and Tobago, and Ireland, as well as riding my bike around eastern England the previous year), she wished me luck and bade me on my way. 

Lea had e-mailed me with directions to her house, and assured me it would be quite easy to find.  This was actually my third visit to the island.  But when you aren't doing the driving, you tend not to watch where you are going.  Remember what I said up above about not being able to get lost?  I lied.  There are quite a few roads in a small area, and it is entirely possible to get lost ... well, OK - displaced temporarily. But even so - the island is so beautiful, who really cares.  And the people are quite friendly, an easy chat will set you on your way in the right direction.  After bringing my belongings outside, lo and behold, but who did I bump into but Lea herself with her road racing bike.  It appears she gave me some wrong directions when she e-mailed me, and was a bit concerned I might end up on the wrong side of the island.  In any case, it would be good riding with someone who was on "familiar turf."


Lea put me through the paces, as I tried to keep up with her for the short ride back to her house.  With my rear panniers attached, the bike tended to flex a fair bit, and often times I would get a large amount of chain rub as the frame twisted under strain. After stopping at the house, we off loaded my panniers, and we had a bit of lunch. This trip was only 14 kilometres long, but with the panniers, I managed a respectable 24 kph drafting behind Lea over gently rolling hills most of the way.

Over the next couple of days, Lea and I got to ride several loops around the central part of the island, putting in about 150 km. On April 27th, I rode with Lea in a circular route from her house in Paget to Gibb's Hill Lighthouse, then over to the Clearwater area and back. We got to do a bit of sightseeing on this trip - including climbing to the top of the lighthouse itself, a 117 foot high structure built in the mid 1800's.  From here we got a terrific view of Bermuda Island.  While on the ride to Clearwater Lea pointed out part of a racing route, and invited me to join.  I politely declined (more to save myself the embarrassment of being "blown away" by a 12 year old kid on a 60 pound CCM mountain bike).  This day's circuitous path added up to 72 km, at an average speed of 24.3 kph.  We spent almost three hours cycling this day.

I managed to get out on two rides by myself, as well.  On the 28th April, I cycled to the western end of the island where the Royal Naval Dockyard is located. These dockyards were built by slave and convict labour. The Dockyard became a strategic outpost for the Royal Navy, incorporating, in 1869, the world’s largest floating dry dock.  Most of the dockyards now are very touristy, and encompass mostly shops and restaurants. The “flagships” are undoubtedly the Clocktower Centre, and the Bermuda Maritime Museum, set in the body of the fort. It is easy to explore all the Dockyard attractions on foot.  While I was there, there was a large boat show taking place.  It was on this trip that I encountered two of my three flats while cycling in Bermuda - the first before I even left the house (I think it was a result of the previous day's ride).  I was beginning to think I was jinxed, as the tire that was getting all of the flats was a brand new (and rather expensive) Michelin touring tire - with a new tube.  Of course, this tire had to be on the rear of the bike, necessitating getting the hands a bit greasy.  Today's ride only added up to 46.8 kilometres at the leisurely pace of 21 kph.  After all, I had to get some sightseeing in.  And the day was hot and humid, at 25 Celsius.

I always find it kind of neat to tour other countries cemeteries.  Bermuda's were quite unique, with the tombstones in pure white placed above ground.

Kevin at the top of Gibb's Lighthouse
Audrey (Lea's Mum from England) and Lea at the Gibb's Hill Lighthouse    
View from Gibb's Hill Lighthouse
Another well kept cemetary
View of the Southhampton Princess Hotel from the lighthouse

On the 29th, my last day before my trip home, I managed to put in another 41 KM of cycling.  This time, I went up to the St. George area.  Once again it was sunny and 25C out, a great day for riding.  My average speed on this trip was 23.2 kph, helped out by the winds, no doubt.

Scenery on the way to the Docklands
Me - chickening out from a cold swim - notice the nice "biker" tan

On the 30th, prior to my flight out I managed another short ride towards St. George once again.  It added another 20 KM, once again averaging 23 kph.



Elevation extremes:  lowest point:  Atlantic Ocean 0 m  highest point:  Town Hill 76 m

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