TCAT Commonly Asked Questions

So how difficult is the TCAT? 

This is the most common question we are asked.  It is not an easy answer to provide.  Gravel roads make up the bulk of the TCAT with some off road trails and paved roads making up the rest of the terrain.  I think the best answer would be that the TCAT is an expedition and not simply a route.  To us the difference is that expedition requires a great amount of planning.  Below are some of the reasons why we have labelled the TCAT an expedition route.

Length:  The significant length of the TCAT requires quite a long time for it to be completed.  Our estimate is 7-10 weeks.  Vehicles cannot just travel this distance without quite a bit of forethought being given to such items as how many sets of tires will be needed and where to ship tires to predetermined locations.  The same could be said for oil changes and many other maintenance items that would be required to travel a 15, 000 kilometre route.  A few other items that are impacted by the length of the route are break downs and where to get parts mailed from.  The list could go on and on, we mention these just to get your thoughts around what will be required for a trip of this magnitude.

Weather:  Cold, hot, humid, dry, snow, rain and every other possible scenario is likely to be experienced.  Packing the right equipment to deal with elements is not something to be taken lightly.

Remoteness: Many parts of the TCAT travel through very remote areas.  Cell phones likely will not work and being self sufficient is mandatory.  Help can be very far away if things go wrong, knowing how to deal with the different scenarios and having a plan is a smart idea.  What to do if your vehicle breaks down, what to do if you get lost, what to do if you or someone gets hurt.  Planning ahead for this type of scenarios will go a long way to how you deal with them if they occur. 

Animals: From insects to large carnivores, you will experience a wide variety of wildlife.  Having the right gear to deal with insects and knowing how to camp amongst bears are just two examples of things to be prepared for. 

Partners:  We don’t recommend that people travel the TCAT by themselves as they would be increasing the danger factor significantly.  Who you travel with is an important factor, not everyone will get along for a trip of this nature.  Things will go bad, how you deal with it and how your travelling partners deal with it can make or break a trip.  People behave oddly when under stress or exhaustion.  Picking the right travel partner is key to an enjoyable experience.

Terrain: A gravel road one day can be quite easy and came become difficult within a matter of hours.  Rain, freshly laid gravel or sand, darkness and many other factors can make a public road quite difficult.  Some of the route follows off road trails that may, depending on your experience, be very challenging.  Water crossings, steep ascents and or descents, rocky terrain, etc will all be encountered.

Time:  Take your estimated timeframe and add a couple of weeks to it.  The odds of not having a breakdown of some sort are very slim.  Waiting for a few days for parts to be delivered is inevitable.  Waiting out adverse weather is also a likely scenario.  Freshly graded roads can lower your average and anticipated speeds dramatically.

Health:  Getting sick or hurt is a real possibility over the course of 2+ months.  Knowing how to deal with it is critical.

Fatigue:  You will be very tired, the length and terrain dictate this.  Knowing your limits and knowing when to take a few days off to rest is important not only for your safety but also for your enjoyment.

We could go on and on with different scenarios that may or will occur.  We hope that the few we listed provide some insight to the planning that needs to be done.  This planning is what makes the TCAT an expedition (in our opinions). 

When should I leave and why should I travel east to west?

We recommend travelling east to west due to environmental concerns.  Mountain passes in BC/Alberta are not reliably open until early July.  The TLH through Labrador is notorious for getting snow and freezing temperatures by mid September.  Taking these two factors into play we recommend leaving from Newfoundland in early June.  It is possible to leave in July or in May but you would be risking bad weather or parts of the route being closed or not suitable for travel on a motorcycle.  Some years parts of Canada have an early spring or a late fall, this is unpredictable and can have a huge impact on your itinerary.

What type of bike is suitable?

Another easy question that not easy to answer.  A larger bike will be beneficial on many parts of the route due to its comfort level and ability to carry large amounts of gear.  A smaller bike will have an advantage when the terrain gets difficult.  We have seen some folks handle a 1200 cc bike like a dirt bike and on the flip side we have seen people struggle on a small bike due to a lack of experience.  In our opinion a reliable bike is the most important factor.  Remember you will be hundreds if not thousands of kilometres from a store that will sell spare parts.  Along with having a reliable bike is knowing how to fix your bike when it has issues.  The TCAT is not suitable for people without experience in building a bike to be suitable for a long off pavement expedition.  The same people that know how to build their bike into a reliable machine also likely know how to fix common problems as they might arise.  No bike is suitable off the showroom floor.  Every bike has its known issues, knowing these issues and having the knowledge and spare part to fix it is critical.

Do I have to camp?

Yes, it is highly unlikely that anyone could travel the length of the TCAT and not be forced into camping.  Weather and road conditions can play havoc with a laid out schedule.  It is predictable at some point you will be caught out in the elements after dark and will be forced to camp.  Breakdowns, getting lost, running out of fuel, etc will also force a person to camp.  The bulk of the route has motels, lodges and or other forms of accommodations.  Being prepared and self sufficient means being prepared to spend some time in the wilds camping.

What mileage between fuel stops should I plan for?

The bulk of the route requires a 300 kilometre range.  A few parts of the route require a maximum of 480 kilometres.  These longer parts are described in the route descriptions.  When we do long, remote trips we always plan for twice the distance that is required.  This is a very smart approach.  Take the scenario of travelling for 300 kilometres and a few kilometres before the next fuel location you find the road has been washed out or decommissioned and you have no choice but to return the way you came from.  No big deal for folks who anticipated this and have a backup plan but this could be a huge deal for the unprepared.  One plan for this type of scenario is to split the return distance between the bikes in your group.  3 bikes mean each bike is capable of travelling an extra 100 km’s.  This in turn means you could siphon all the remaining fuel into one bike and have him go and get fuel to bring back.  This leaves the other bikes to camp and wait a day or two for their buddy to return.  This is only one approach with how some people plan for a remote expedition.

What is a “suggested route”?

All routes provided by Gravel Travel are not guaranteed.  The variables that can make a route not feasible are many.  Weather, road closures, floods, washouts, snow and many other factors can all contribute to the routes provided not being doable.  Knowing this and being prepared for it is crticial to your safety and enjoyment.

How much does the TCAT cost to download?

Like all routes and information on the Gravel Travel website the TCAT is free.  The gps files and maps can be found in the “store” on our website.

How will the TCAT stay up to date?

We hope and encourage folks who travel the TCAT or any other route from the website to provide us with some feedback of their experience.  If you found a road or trail blocked please let us know so we can update the maps and gps files.  We also encourage you to send us some pictures we can use on the website.  Sometimes a photo says a thousand words J The TCAT has been a group effort and we hope that in the future, the user community will help to keep the route up to date.