Cycle Touring is the one activity that needs little advance preparation or training and can be done just about anywhere in the province where there are roads. If you can ride a bicycle you can hit the road. And, while British Columbia is a mountainous province, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands all offer excellent touring opportunities that are not too physically challenging.
Given the popularity of mountain bikes in BC it's hardly a wonder that most touring is done on these slow but sturdy, low-geared conveyances. The truth of the matter is, however, that the mountain bike is really the wrong equipment for road-based touring. A touring bike will get you farther faster and in more comfort.
If you decide to rent, keep in mind that rental shops almost exclusively stock mountain bikes. There are numerous rental shops on Denman Street between Robson and Georgia. Consider renting at your destination instead where possible and avoid some of the headaches of transporting the bike past barriers engineered primarily for cars. Rentals, where available, are detailed following the description of each outing.
Our Community Bikes is a unique organization which refurbishes used bikes and offers them for resale, rent or even giveaway if you qualify. Located at 3283 Main Street in Vancouver, Our Community Bikes also operates a fully-equipped repair shop for do-it-yourselfers.
Because of their tarnished image - once popular but supplanted but the far cooler-looking mountain bike - touring-style bikes can be picked up quite cheaply second hand. If you are planning to buy a used bike be sure to check out the used and consignment racks of many bike shops.
Helmets are mandatory for all cyclists in BC.
A bike rack and a set of good rear panniers is essential. Carrying your belongings in a pack on your back is not an option. Not only will your bike be top heavy and off balance, but back strain and heat exhaustion can result. Cycling, which involves the continuous movement of the body's largest muscle groups, generates a lot of heat. Your exposed back acts like the radiator of a car, channelling heat away from the body. During hot summer weather interfering with this function could have disastrous results. A few shops rent panniers but most do not. Since a good set of panniers can be had for as little as $100 it's best to make the purchase yourself. Check out the Mountain Equipment Co-op for the best prices in town.
Don't be beguiled by fat bike seats with lots of cushioning. These will only cause chaffing and a great deal of pain over the long haul. A slimline touring seat with very little padding will cause far fewer problems once your rear end has become acclimatized. Obviously, jumping on a new bike and heading off into the sunset is not a great way to break your butt in. Prior to attempting any multi-day excursions it is wise to spend some time day tripping around Vancouver and beyond to beef up the bottom as well as other muscles that will come in handy when slogging up hills with a fully loaded bike.
Those who plan to camp out will of course need the usual camping equipment: tent, sleeping bag, Ensolite pad, cooking utensils. Equipment weight is a much more important consideration with cycling than with backpacking. One way to sidestep this whole issue would be to plan on staying at inexpensive lodges, hostels and bed and breakfasts during your trip. It goes without saying that advance reservations are a must.