James Bay Trip, Radisson – Ottawa

I’ll describe the return leg of my trip in less detail, as I’m going back over old ground.

Rising at 6:00, the first thing I do is remove the outer fly from the tent and hang it over a rope. It’s soaked from the fog and dew and I can see it will be a while before I can pack it. Then do breakfast, dishes, and the other packing. By 7:45 everything except the tent is packed, and by 8:20 it’s away too. The bike is reloaded, and I head off, first stopping at the gas station in town.

My odometer, now including the trip out to the Bay, is at 1598 from Ottawa.

For the return trip, I try to time my rest stops differently, so I’ll be stopping at places not stopped at on the way up. That’s not always practical, especially on the JBH, where the rest stops are spaced at about the distance where I need breaks, so there aren’t really any options.

At 9:45, rest stop at Lake Yakinski. The sky is crystal clear and it’s warm. I chat with a gentleman on his way from Wemindji to Chisasibi for a 1st-nation meeting. Friendly & warm, and very interested in the bike.

At about 11:30 I reach Km 381 and, again, fill the tank right to the brim. I also take this opportunity to refresh my sunscreen, since the sun is really strong and I’m riding south, right into it. This time I know I can make Matagami with no fuel troubles, so I allow myself a little more speed as I pull away.

Next rest break, about 1:00, I’m starting to get sore. When I ride distances, it’s my thighs that hurt, from the effort of supporting me, and from the long hours in the tucked position. I take a tylenol and move on. It’s still warm, but I’m riding into cloud, and it looks like I might get into rain ahead.

Now that I’m comfortable with my fuel range, and I’m alone on this twisty highway, I start to think, “why waste this private track day?”, and work on some riding technique. I’ve noticed my posture while cornering is a little awkward — I’m tending to lean with the bike only from the hips down, not whole body. Through the next bunch of curves I consciously use various muscle groups to put my body in differing positions, until I find something that seems to work better and puts less stress on my joints and muscles; then I consciously use this technique for dozens more curves until it starts to feel automatic. Then I pick another point of my riding technique and work it through in the same way.

I wouldn’t have thought I could have more fun riding — but I am now. I’m smoother, more comfortable, taking better lines. This is the difference between actually practicing and just riding.

I realize I’m going to get to Matagami at or before 4:00, so I’m starting to think about going past it, maybe to Amos or Val-d’Or, or to one of the roadside campgrounds in that area. We’ll see how energetic or sore I am when I get there.

At 1:15 I pull into Rupert rest stop. I passed this on the way up and noticed, too late, that there is a lookout over a river, so I wanted to stop on the way down. It’s a very rough river with violent rapids. Very impressive, and a refreshing mist is being thrown into the air. Rest, and back on the road again.

I get to Matagami at 4:15, 2234 Km into this trip, and stop for gas at the same Shell station. As I climb off the bike for gas, any interest I had in going on vanishes. I’m sore, I’m tired, and I can see that nice comfy hotel over there, inviting me in. Who needs to rough it? I have a fine meal, wine, a hot bath, and enjoy the evening.

Next day (Monday) I’m up at 7:00, pack, and on the road at 7:45.

8:30 I stop at a rest area to stretch and change to lighter gloves. As I leave, I see my first wildlife (other than the rabbit). A black bear runs across the road some distance in front of me. A little while later, something small and long — weasel? badger? — runs across in the other direction.

I’m back in Amos at 10:00 AM. It’s raining hard, and I’m wearing my full rain gear and have the electric vest on. Breakfast and coffee at A&W. There’s been moderately heavy traffic for the last while, mainly trucks.

I gas up at Sullivan (Val-d’Or) now that I know where all the gas stations are. 2487 Km on the trip now.

About 12:30, I stop at “Riviere Outaouais” rest area. There are a lot of parked vehicles here. It turns out there is a waterfall just off the road, but there’s an admission fee to walk back and see it and I’ve just seen some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable, for free, so I decline to enter. A couple of bikes here too, although from the way they’re (not) packed, I assume they’re local. From this point on there is quite a lot of tourist and truck traffic, but it’s flowing well and passing is certainly no problem on these roads.

I’m back in Maniwaki for gas at 2:30, and back in Ottawa at 5:00. My total mileage on this trip has been 2947 Km, and it’s a memory that will be with me a long time. I hope to do it again some day — we’ll see. Thanks for riding along with me.


  1. Hey Richard, thank you for your James Bay adventure story! I am planning to go either this June or September. Any thoughts on which is a better time to travel? I don’t have someone to ride with (I ride a BMW 1200RT) so will be doing it alone which after reading your story seems safe enough! mike

  2. Awesome story. I enjoyed that very much.
    I’m planning on doing this trip from Niagara this summer 2021.

  3. Nice report! I’ve been thinking this is a trip for me and you’ve pushed me over the edge! How many days return to Ottawa?

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your trip. It was refreshing to know that the road is paved. This is another ride for the list

  5. I realy enjoyed your article and of course your trip. Me and two friends are planing to do the baie james trip ( up to radisson) but we all own cruisers/ choppers, so i was wondering if the trip is doable on this kind of bikes? Is there ashphalt all the way to radisson? Basically this is our gratest fear, the bikes really do not get well with gravel……

    1. Yes, it’s paved all the way to Radisson. It is *not* paved all the way to the water, though – the last 10 km to the actual shore of James Bay are sand, so you won’t be taking your bikes to the water (but you can hire a local guide to drive you there if you want to stick your toe in the arctic ocean).

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