St. Andrews-by-the Sea, NB – I am not an extreme sports person. Heck, I’m barely a sports person. So off-road biking has never been high on my list of must-do activities, especially since I have a history of toppling off bikes that dates back to the 1970s.
But then I heard about Off Kilter Bike. Riders with this company, based in St. Andrews by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, wear cute little kilts as they explore roads and trails around the pretty Maritime village. Kilts! How hard could it be?
Hard enough. Remember Mel Gibson in Braveheart? Kilts aren’t for sissies, and neither are these tours. Off Kilter Bike owner Kurt Gumushel is a personal trainer, so he can make the ride as exciting as you dare. Fortunately, most of the cyclists on my two-hour ride were city slickers, so he was gentle on us—at least at first.
We started off with an easy ride through St. Andrews and on a peaceful road along Passamaquoddy Bay.
Then Gumushel asked us if we were ready to try something a bit more challenging, and when we said we were, he veered off onto a bumpy trail through a pine and birch forest. While it was probably pretty ordinary for any experienced off-road rider, I was clinging to the handlebars as though they were a ship’s railing and I was the last passenger on the Titanic. I quickly learned the first rule of off-road biking: don’t let your butt touch the seat if you plan on sitting down again anytime in the next week.
Honestly, though, I quickly got the hang of it and felt a bit sorry that I’d been avoiding it for so many years. Not only do you get to see more untamed places than you can spot from the street, but it’s also a great workout.
Gumushel is a cheerful guide who knows the Bay of Fundy area inside out. At low tide, when the shallow channel between Ministers Island and the mainland turns into a rocky path, he often takes cyclists out to the former summer home of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s first president. For generations, bigwigs have come to this area to cool off: near St. Andrews as the crow flies—but 90 minutes away by car—is Campobello Island, where FDR liked to escape the demands of the White House.
Gumushel’s dad, a master tailor, makes Off Kilter’s kilts. They’re fun but they’re not very, um, demure. Or warm. We biked on a cool spring day, when leggings came in very handy. In summer, you’ll probably want to add cycling shorts to your ensemble. And unless you persuade your fellow riders to stow their cameras, you’ll probably end up with an attractive picture of yourself (not). Hey—it’s a small price to pay for a fun day outdoors.
More information: Off Kilter Bike
Laura Byrne Paquet’s first encounter with the written word was not promising: her birth announcement appeared in the newspaper classifieds under the heading “Livestock for Sale.” Despite that, she became a writer. She’s covered destinations around the world for more than 80 magazines and newspapers, and has written or co-authored 12 books. A member of the Travel Media Association of Canada and the Society of American Travel Writers, she edits two blogs: OttawaRoadTrips.com, focusing on day trips, weekend getaways and longer escapes from Canada’s capital; and FacingTheStreet.com, looking at ways travellers can live like locals.
Disclosure: The author was a guest of Tourism New Brunswick and Off Kilter Bike.