stories • happenings • adventures

Bekka Mongeau
September 15, 2023

Bikepacking the Cabot Trail with Mahshid Hadi

Posted by in Adventures Ambassadors

Today’s story comes to us from Mahshid Hadi. Mahshid and her partner Sam are a dynamic bikepacking duo, fueled by their shared passion for pedal-powered adventures. Mahshid, an Iranian cyclist and proud Liv ambassador, has found her haven in Canada. From being denied the simple joy of biking in her homeland, Iran, she’s transformed into an avid bikepacker, weaving stories and skills within her cycling community. She’s discovered a way to continue advocating for Iranian freedom and women’s rights, empowering others on two wheels — learn more about her journey here.

Sam and Mahshid are currently training for a winter expedition in the Yukon (we’re excited to be outfitting them in Revelate gear for their journey!). Their expedition will be to bike 500 km along the astonishing and remote Dempster Highway from the Article Circle Sign to Tuktoyaktuk. In the meantime, they’ve been on their bikes a lot and shared with us one trip they took on the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia. Enjoy!

Cycling Adventure on the Cabot Trail: A Journey of Scenic Beauty and Unforgettable Challenges

Words by Mashid Hadi

“Unravel the enchanting tapestry of two worlds in one as you journey through the heart of Canada, where the allure of Irish lands and Scottish highlands seamlessly merge. No need to voyage to the other side of the world.”

Here is our journey to the stunning Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, where we embarked on an unforgettable biking expedition. We set off on adventure to conquer 500 km of beautiful landscapes, challenging elevations, and captivating cultural experiences in Cape Brenton. If weather allows, people could extend their kilometres all the way back to Halifax.

A Rocky Start – From Airport to the Coastal Beauty

Our journey started with packing our bikes with care, saying farewell to our cat, Leo and comfort of home, and heading to the airport on a Saturday evening. Watching our bikes being delicately loaded onto the aeroplane left me with ease of mind. Upon arrival in Halifax, we couldn’t resist the charming waterfront, and the festive music, food and indigenous stores along the water. So, we stretched our legs a little bit before our shuttle arrived. Though we could not wait to get to Cape Brenton, the four-hour bus journey after a long flight left us wishing we had planned for a shorter two-hour shuttle. Challenge was, only a couple of shuttle companies would accept bikes and that would have cost us $500-one way. Not ideal but we chose the cheapest way.

Cabot Trail – A Cyclist’s Paradise with Nature’s Surprises

The Cabot Trail loop encompasses the northern part of Cape Breton Island, meandering through the breathtaking Cape Breton Highlands National Park. This trail is known as one of the premier cycling destinations in North America and is a must-ride for any avid biker.

Our Cabot Trail adventure presented us with diverse challenges. We travelled through heat records, climbed kilometres through dense fog, and endured humidity levels soaring to 80 percent and above. As if that weren’t enough, we ended our ride by facing a raging rain. Thankfully though, our gear and food stayed dry which was a big deal.

A Tapestry of Culture and Music

Cycling through the Cabot Trail, we had the opportunity to explore the blend of Acadian and Gaelic towns. If you can budget some city exploring days, then you will enjoy folk music and songs. If you are a fishing rod must-go-on bike trip person then, the Margaree Valley, famous for its salmon fishing is your place.

As we ventured northwards, the stunning coastlines greeted us, each wave crashing upon the cliffs like a melodious symphony. I come from a poetic culture, Iran, so don’t be surprised if I describe the picture as poetic but that really was breathtaking. We encountered charming French-speaking Cheticamp, famous for its intricate hooked rug artistry, a true work of art that left us in awe. We could not budget time to explore the cultural aspect of the Cheticamp, which is a shame but you should.

A Scottish Dream Amidst Canadian Beauty

The Gaelic towns and their enchanting haze evoked memories of cycling through Glasgow and Inverness in Scotland. The beauty of the Cabot Trail and its surroundings transported us to a different world, combining the charm of Canadian landscapes with a touch of Scottish allure.

Physical Challenges and Weather Woes

Undoubtedly, the Cabot Trail tested our endurance. With countless hills and a gruelling 17% gradient for 3 km within the national park, our conditioning was put to the ultimate test. Though, that is worth it when you look back at the view point and see beautiful coastal beaches.That’s what made the journey even more rewarding. Conquering such challenges brings an unparalleled sense of achievement to me, especially since I grew up doubting my abilities.

Weather played a significant role in shaping our experience. Storms in Halifax and heavy rains in Cape Breton compelled us to alter our original plan and cut the trip short. Some roads and trails were washed away, making it unsafe to ride back to Halifax. Weather conditions are crucially important to monitor, and having a well-thought-out Plan B is imperative.

A Counter-Clockwise Adventure

Since the trail is a loop, it really does not matter where to start but we chose to embark on our Cabot Trail adventure in a counter-clockwise direction, starting from Whycocomagh on the east side of the trail. That was the only bus stop before Sydney, so we decided to start the ride from there. Along the way, we encountered notable landmarks like the famous Highland Links Golf Course in Ingonish, the captivating Cape Smokey Provincial Park, and the breathtaking beauty of Dingwall to the west, Chéticamp. Highly recommend gravel Trans Canada Trail-Ceilidh Trail, though avoid the Shores Coastal gravel trail if it’s heavily raining.

Travel fosters a unique and profound sense of connection between individuals from diverse backgrounds. And that’s my favourite part of travelling. Connecting with other travellers and sharing stories, vulnerabilities, common experiences, and recommendations in accommodation and sheltering, food and events and so on are truly therapeutic and emotionally fulfilling too. Also, it feels great when people are cheering for you as you are climbing and filling you with their encouraging messages.

Along the way, we discovered amazing local restaurants and markets, some of which were conveniently close to our campsites. We did not miss our chance to eat lobster rolls during our breaks. This saved us from carrying excessive food supplies and allowed us to relish the local flavours.

Highly recommend adding the Cabot Trail to your list of must-visit cycling destinations. Keep pedalling, keep exploring, and keep embracing the beauty of our vast world! Happy cycling!