A Guide to Canal Bikes

by Roy Leyva

Fish destined for the dinner table can be strapped over a bike’s basket with bungee cords. (photo by John Doble)
The service roads of the Cape Cod Canal are perfect for fishing bikes, and allow biking anglers to move quickly from spot to spot. (photo by John Doble)

My childhood memories growing up in Boston are filled with days spent riding my bike to my favorite fishing hole. It had always been the perfect way to get to where I needed to go without having to walk or hop on the bus with my fishing gear. So five years back when I moved closer to the Cape Cod Canal, my childhood bike fishing days came back to me, and I was 9 years old again. Except now, I could create the fishing bike I always wanted to have as a kid. My dream bike back then was something that could carry all my gear as I would work my way through Jamaica Pond, along the Emerald Necklace and to the Charles River. But before I share my dream bike with you, and the reason I made it that way, let me fill you in on why the Cape Cod Canal is the perfect place for a fishing bike.

The massive waterway that splits Cape Cod from the mainland has roughly 7 miles of service road on each side that parallel the canal. With limited parking available on the canal shoreline, being able to get on a bike and ride along the service road gives anglers the opportunity to cover lots of water and sometimes chase fish as they work bait from end to end.

With this in mind, I went to work on what I figured would be the best setup for me. One of the coolest things I see along the canal, besides the scenery and fishing, are the bikes. People come up with some pretty great ideas. Some are funny and just out of this world and others are just amazing and sharp. At times, it’s like going to a car show for bikes. Some are old, some new, and some are just out there.

Womens' bikes are popular because the low crossbar makes it easier to mount the bike in waders. (photo by John Doble)
Womens’ bikes are popular because the low crossbar makes it easier to mount the bike in waders. (photo by John Doble)

Bike Choice

Now let’s start with bikes. I went ahead and used my hybrid bike, which is a cross between a mountain bike and a road bike. One of the firs things to consider when looking into a bike is whether to get a men’s or women’s bike. Most canal bikes are women’s bikes just because they are easier to get on and off, especially if you’re wearing waders or heavy boots. I already had a bike, so I use that. I’m still in shape enough to lift my led over the crossbar, but there are times I wish it wasn’t there.

Next is picking the style of bike. I recommend a bike that has heavy enough tiers to handle the load of gear and fish if you decide to keep any. Mountain bikes are the most popular, but there are some others that are great too. There are a few anglers who ride adult-sized tricycles, and these are probably the most comfortable of all the bikes. They allow for lots of room on the back end and the three tires can carry a heavy load while remaining very stable. The downside is transporting canal bikes can be a challenge. You will need a big van or truck bed to load it onto. Plus, the trikes can be very expensive. There are some other specialty bikes with low cross bars, but they can be expensive as well.

Bike Accessories

There are many baskets and platforms on the market and a quick internet search or trip to your local bike shop can help you find one that suits you. I went with a platform over the rear wheel and added a milk crate for my main basket. I then cut another crate in half and bolted it to each side of my other basket. This allowed me to strap my Aquaskinz plug bags to the sides like saddlebags.

The author’s milk-crate tackle-storage system allows him to pack way more tackle while riding his bike.
The author’s milk-crate tackle-storage system allows him to pack way more tackle while riding his bike.

I put two rod holders on my bike, as I usually like to carry one heavy rod and one lighter rod while fishing the canal. I went with the pre-form plastic rod holders that they sell for boats, but 11⁄2-inch PVC will work fine as well, as will sand spikes They can be attached to your basket with zip ties or hose clamps or even bolts. I used all three on mine for maximum durability. If using bolts, I recommend using Loctite Threadlocker so they don’t come loose after extensive use.

One of the most important additions I made to my canal cruiser was the kick- stand. My first trip to the ditch enlightened me as to what happens when your bike is top-heavy and the wind is blowing. Luckily it wasn’t my bike that tipped over in the wind, because the unfortunate owner of the wind-blown bike had guides broken on both of his rods. I went home that day and considered how to solve that issue. What I came up with was a second kickstand that comes off of my milk crate. To create this stand, I took 5 inches of 1-inch PVC pipe and capped it on one end. I then clamped this to my crate at a 45-degree angle to the ground. Then I took a 3-foot oak, 1-inch dowel put an inexpensive rod cap on one end. Now I can set my regular kickstand and then reinforce it with by putting the dowel into the PVC. This makes my bike 100-percent wind-proof. I can lie across my bike, jump or stand on it and it’s not going to go anywhere with this second stand holding it up. I also added another section of the same PVC pipe next to my rod holder so I can store my dowel when not in use. This is probably the most important part of your canal cruiser, because broken guides can end a fishing trip real quick.

There are a number of additional items you can fasten to your bike to make it more fishing friendly from a wide, comfortable seat to a light for riding at night. Packing along a few tools for on-the-spot repairs is also a good idea.

Sometimes when there’s no fish – and that happens a lot – I take a ride along all 7 miles of the canal, snap some pictures of the local wildlife, get some cardio and enjoy the scenery all on my canal cruiser. So take some ideas and get to work this winter on your Ditch wheels and come next season, I’ll see you On The Water!

12 on “A Guide to Canal Bikes

  1. HeinekenPete

    Roy always has solid advice & is always willing to share it with others. We’re glad he’s back on Cape this summer @ The Riverview Bait & Tackle.

    1. John Vick

      Hi Pete, I just met Roy last week….we meant to exchange numbers but forgot due to talking fishing….could you forward him my email address…


  2. Robert Phillips

    great job again guys I can’t see how any fisherman can’t like your on the web thanks again philpenn

  3. JimRustyknife

    I live in NY but want to build a bike for Cape Cod Canal fishing. Have read many articles and like you milk crate design. I have one question….where do you carry a large striper on your bike? It seems to me that the high milk crate raises the center of gravity and may make it difficult to handle the bike. Placing the fish up front would make it difficult to steer.
    Thank you in advance for your response. Regards, Jim

  4. Jusrtin

    Roy doesn’t keep many fish- He’s a Catch and Release kinda guy!

    1. Chris Kline

      Hi Dave, great photos! I’m building a canal bike now and these were great reference images for me.

    2. Ruth Cranston

      Thanks for posting those canal bike pics. They really helped me put some ideas together

  5. Rob Keen

    I just reconfigured my old Boss Cruiser (1985). Added the rack and milk crate last night. Will be installing 4-6 rod holders tomorrow. Can’t wait to hit my favorite rock pit and catch some bass. Thanks for the pictures/ideas this is an excellent idea for my home state of Florida, there is a body of water with lots of fish every mile.

  6. Colleen

    We are visiting the Cape this August. Is there any place we could rent one these bikes there?

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