A Weekend Cycling in Sooke

A Weekend Cycling in Sooke

By Joe Wiebe

The first time I rode my bicycle all the way to Sooke was back in the early 1990s when I was in my 20s. A couple of friends suggested we ride out there and back in a day. I was just a casual cyclist then, but youthful energy and fitness carried me through the ride. All I really remember about that day was how sore my bottom was on the way back — I don’t remember being especially tired, but I basically pedalled standing up almost all the way home to avoid sitting on my seat. 

The next time I rode to Sooke was in 2018. Another newer group of friends had been planning an overnight ride there, and invited me along. I was just getting into longer rides — I’d completed the Tour de Victoria’s 45km ride a couple of times, but it was always the biggest ride of the year for me — so the idea of riding all the way out to Sooke and then back again the next day was very daunting to me. It turned out to be a lot of fun, and inspired me to go on longer and longer rides. I talk about it in this blog I wrote back then.

Since then, the ride to Sooke has become a summer tradition. In 2019, it turned into a three-day ride, including a middle day spent tooling around Sooke. In 2020, when COVID did not allow us to stay overnight, my buddy Mike and I decided to do it all in one day instead. I remember how we were a few kilometres short of 100 when we got back into the city so we ended up circling my neighbourhood a couple of times to get Strava to the century mark!

This summer, the ride to Sooke was scheduled for mid-July. Luckily, it was after the oppressively hot heat wave we experienced at the end of June. In fact, the first day of the ride was cool and overcast with rain a possibility in the forecast. We never did get wet, but the cooler temperature made for great cycling weather.

We kicked things off with brunch and a beer at Spinnakers Brewpub. I was joined by my regular cycling pal, Tom, along with my friend Mike from Nanaimo who accompanied me on the single-day ride to Sooke last year. After lunch, another friend, Jaime, joined us and we started out by taking the E&N Rail Trail. If we had wanted to stop for another beer, it would have been incredibly easy to do so. Within 10 minutes of leaving Spinnakers we had already passed very close to both Lighthouse Brewing and Driftwood Brewery’s new location. And not too much farther along we rode within sight of the Four Mile Brewpub. But our plan was to ride all the way to Sooke without stopping. 

We cruised along the E&N to the Galloping Goose Trail and navigated through Langford. Before long we were riding past Royal Roads University in Colwood, which necessitated a photo stop since Mike has been completing a certificate program there remotely for the past year. Soon we found ourselves cruising through the farms and forests of Metchosin. This part of the Galloping Goose is so beautiful — riding through peaceful stretches of countryside with no cars to worry about has a restful, meditative quality for me. 

Back during the heatwave, Tom and I had enjoyed a morning ride to Matheson Lake, which is about 30 km from Victoria along the Galloping Goose, for a refreshing swim. This time, we rode past the turn-off to the lake, which felt like a sign saying “No Turning Back” since every kilometre now took us closer to Sooke and farther from home. 

After Matheson Lake we encountered the only two steep sections of the ride — two small but extremely steep gullies that must have been spanned by bridges when the train was still running. In both cases we all had to dismount halfway up the other side, partially because we were heavily laden with saddlebags. But after from those two valleys, it was smooth sailing the rest of the way.

Next, a gorgeous vista opened up on our left side — here, the Galloping Goose extends along a high bluff overlooking the Sooke Basin. It’s a beautiful stretch of the ride, and as soon as it was done we found ourselves on the outskirts of Sooke. At this point, you have the choice of following the bike trail as it runs parallel to the main road or riding along Sooke Road itself. We took the road for the short distance to Sooke Oceanside Brewery, located next to a gas station nearby, but unfortunately its tiny tasting room was at capacity so we decided to keep on riding.

Soon enough, we were sitting on the back patio at Sooke Brewing in the heart of “downtown Sooke,” rewarding ourselves for our long ride with a flight of tasters. My favourite was the Belgian Blond Ale, a light, effervescent ale with a spicy finish. After filling some growlers to take with us we continued on to our AirBnB, located in a townhouse complex right down on Sooke Harbour. We enjoyed the evening barbecuing, hot tubbing, and playing board games. 

On Saturday, we headed out on our bikes with a plan to visit a brewery, a meadery and a distillery! The first destination was Bad Dog Brewing, which is located above central Sooke just off Otter Point Road. Although this ride was only about 8 km long, it was mostly uphill, so by the time we got there, we were definitely looking forward to our reward.

Bad Dog Brewing had expanded its tasting room since my last visit in 2019, but it was still closed because of COVID rules. Nop worries. We were happy to sit outside at a picnic table in the warm sunshine where we sampled the beers while we played a round of Codenames

After a pleasant hour or so, we got back on our bikes to head for our next destination. At this point, we said farewell to Jaime, who had to head back to Victoria a bit early. Mike, Tom and I continued on our way, heading west along Otter Point Road. Although there were a couple of short, steep climbs on this road, there were also two long, winding downhill stretches to enjoy. Unfortunately, the second one ended abruptly at the highway, which necessitated some rather heavy braking! 

From there, it was only a short ride to our second stop of the afternoon, Tugwell Creek Meadery. Based on a beautiful property with sheep and pastures, as well as lots of wildflowers with bees buzzing around them, Tugwell Creek is a popular stop for tourists driving west from Sooke. In fact, we had to wait in line for about 15 minutes before we got a chance to taste the mead. Because of COVID rules, the tasting room was closed, but the mead-maker was offering samples through a serving window. 

Mead is made from fermenting honey along with additional ingredients like berries, spices and other additives like ginger. The meads produced at Tugwell Creek are similar to wines in terms of their strength and flavour profile. After taking numerous photos of wildflowers and buzzing bees, we got back on our bikes to ride back into Sooke. This part of the day’s ride was definitely the least enjoyable since it was on the main road, which does not have bike lanes or even rideable shoulders at points. I definitely would like to see the road improved to make it safer for cyclists, especially since it is within cycling range of riders from Victoria.

Our third stop was the Sheringham Distillery in central Sooke. Sheringam produces a variety of different styles of gin, as well as vodka, aquavit and some liqueurs. We sampled a few of them before stocking up on groceries and heading back to our townhouse for another evening of hot tubbing, delicious food and board games. 

On Sunday morning, we enjoyed a healthy breakfast of steel cut oats and then loaded up our bikes for the return ride back to Victoria. All in all, it turned out to be a wonderful weekend cycling excursion to Sooke, one I’d highly recommend to fellow cyclists. Total distance travelled: 132.2 km.

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