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Go West Young Man

September 27, 2016
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I’m not saying I don’t like riding here in Ontario. Because I really do. The technical rock gardens and interval-training of the Niagara escarpment, the accessibility of the Don Valley, and even the simplicity of being able to commute to work with relatively flat elevation are all near and dear to my heart. But, as anyone who’s ridden a mountain bike can attest to, there’s no substitute for biking on actual mountains.

And woe, in Ontario we lack such things. We are residents of a have-not province that must rely on handouts from more mountainous regions in the form of fleeting trips and vacations. Fortunately, the perfect mountain bike trips are never more than a flight, a car rental, and a whole heap of complex logistics away.

This summer myself and five other Greater-Torontonians hopped on a plane, bikes in tow, to meet some locals and ride trails in the North Shore, Squamish, Revelstoke and Kelowna. While riding there we realized that BC didn’t’ stand for British Columbia afterall – but for Better Canada.

At least when it comes to riding.

We learned a few things on this trip. Dodge Durangos aren’t quite as big as you think they are. Palm Bay coolers are some of the finest apres ride beverages available. The best place to see Bald Eagles is at the Squamish dump (where they are presumably on an international fact finding mission while figuring out how to make America Great Again).

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Good advice. Photo: Kris Somers

 

Without getting too bogged down in the details, suffice to say that implicit in the success of a trip like this are characteristics of flexibility, improvisation, resourcefulness and relationships. Lucky for me I’ve got friends with all these traits in spades. And I managed to stay out of their way long enough for them to put this epic trip together.

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Mid packing photo pose. Photo: Kris Somers

 

After nearly clearing Cycle Solutions out of their rental stock of EVOC bike travel bags we all independently packed and headed out. A quick note on this style of bag – I’ve previously used several different types of bags in the past, and these ones have been my favorite for transporting mountain bikes. Some of the heavier bags, which admittedly offer more protection, do make it a bit more difficult to sneak other gear in that won’t quite fit in your suitcase. Bike bags get heavy, and we’ve all got better things to do than repack our chamois in front of a line of other passengers at the airport check in.

And as an additional plus, the EVOC bags all have removable skeletons which allow them to compress down a bit. In case you need to strap them to a roof of your rental Durango to drive from Squamish to Revelstoke.

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EVOC bags strapped to the roof. And us doing…something. Photo: Dan Steiner

 

In terms of gear…to a man (and woman) we were nearly fully saturated with Norco Sights and Ranges. These bikes proved to be outta sight tools for the range of terrain that we hit while we were out there (See what I did there? I’m a dad so I get to make puns). Personally I’ve been pretty stoked overall with my bright orange 2015 Norco Sight, modded with a slightly bigger fork to give it a slacker head angle. For tires, most of us were using 2.3 magic mary’s on the front and WTB trail bosses on the rear.

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Norcos as far as the eye can see…

 

Back home, a day with a lot of climbing in it gets strava’d at around 400 metres. As any of my friends in BC are quick to point out when I call a day like this “big climb day”, this is about what it takes to get to the start of the trailheads in BC. We quickly learned the value of keeping our heart rates steady and going anaerobic sparingly for no more than short bursts.

I’m not going to espouse any further the amazingness of riding in BC. Because, lets face it, if you’re reading this website then you already know. But it was awesome.

Happiest crew ever. Photo: David G. Tran

Happiest crew ever. Photo: David G. Tran

 

While riding in Squamish we were fortunate enough to run into the man himself, Big Red Ted Tempany, who was sitting in his element amidst various pieces of heavy equipment. This amiable forest creature gave us a smile and a wave before encouraging us to test a section of Full Nelson he was buffing out. This guy’s a legend out there and, along with his team, is responsible for building many of the trails Squamish has an offer.

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Squamish might be my favorite place. Photo: David G. Tran

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Matt Husson stopping to close some private equity deals…or see where our friends went. Photo: Kris Somers

 

Of course this story wouldn’t be complete without a bit of an explanation about the indulgence we allowed ourselves in Revelstoke. Given that we were staying at a pretty cool location with a giant backyard we managed to get set up with a helicopter pickup directly from our lodge for a day’s descent down mount Cartier.

It is quite a feeling to sit in a bathrobe, drinking fresh coffee and eating pop tart, and watching a helicopter land in your back yard. And it’s one that I could get used to quickly.

Our digs for our stay in Revelstoke. Photo: David G. Tran

Our digs for our stay in Revelstoke. Photo: David G. Tran

Get to tha choppa! Photo: Heli Pilot

Get to tha choppa! Photo: Heli Pilot

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All bike trips should involve a baby grand. Photo: Kris Somers

 

The heli drop was sick. We had some experienced mountain men and women with us and we were able to navigate the trip without guides. Ater 2 hours of descending (including a quick stop for a sandwich) we made it down to the base with minimal issue, and were able to ride back to our lodge. The trails were filled with alpine meadows, steep rooty chutes, flowing hardpack trails through the woods and of course lots of hootin’ and hollerin’.

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Taking a break in the Alpine. Photo: Kris Somers

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Mid-ride carb load. Photo: David G. Tran

 

With a crew of people in the double digits there is bound to be a mechanical issue after a few days hard riding on the North Shore and in Squamish. Fortunately Skookum Cycle in Salmon Arm had helped us out with some last minute suspension repair to get us fully dialed for the day. As the reps in the shop told us, BC trails can EAT mountain bike parts. It’s not a bad idea to scout out where the core shops are before taking a trip out there for the inevitable last minute repair job. Remember to be courteous and bring beer – last minute jobs make shops thirsty!

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Fresh fork internals, and fresh kit. Photo: David G. Tran

 

This trip was a couple of weeks ago. As I write this, fresh off a local-cross ride through the Etobicoke Creek trails, I miss those trails. But I miss all trails I haven’t been on for a while. Until the next time I can make it to the mountains for a ride I’ll continue to enjoy all the choice spots we have here near home and get ready for the next big adventure.

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BC Bike trip = home run! Photo: Kris Somers

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Kris is a lifelong mountain biker who has been involved in the scene for well over a decade in various capacities including as an event organizer/announcer, writer, and now as an RFG Team member. Born and bred in Burlington/Hamilton, Kris works in downtown Toronto and lives in Mississauga with his wife and two children. Find him on Instagram (@somerskp).

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3 Comments

  1. Looks like you guys had an amazing trip. I would love to go back to Revvy and add a few more stops like your crew did. Next summer!

  2. Profile photo of fietser

    @somers thanks for this reminder of how awesome the riding is out West, specifically BC. It is amazing to see what can happen when you get the hard working riders, forwards thinking politicians at both the local and provincial levels as well as the tourism boards behind your trails.

    Having heard about your trip first hand it was great to see it in pictures.
    +1 on the EVOC bags from Solutions – funny how I literally picked up the bags you guys returned. I was able to build my bike in YVR this Summer, pull the guts out of the bag and stash it in the trunk and hit the road to Whistler in a matter of minutes, amazing.

    After 5 years of bike trips to the US and with the dollar not doing so hot we decided to stay North of the border and ride some areas I hadn’t ridden in several years as well as some new ones too. I honestly can’t stress enough how everyone should make a trip to ride these zones – it makes you a better rider and is just so friggin’ fun! The Sea to Sky Corridor has some absolutely bonkers riding (and stunning scenery) all within approx. 2 hrs of Vancouver. You can easily ride here for a week and barely scratch the surface.

    I too was lucky enough to hook up with local riders which really helps when it comes to seeking out some of the real gems- not that they are hidden, but we were able to make the most of our time. We were kinda seat of our pants and worked around weather and the Pemberton Music Festival – with no real time line other than my flight home from Victoria we hit the following: Whistler (trails and a day in the Park), Pemberton, Squamish (sooooo good, also ran into Big Red Ted), Bellingham (Washington – GO!), Cumberland, Parksville, Duncan and Victoria.

    Already planning our next trip.

  3. Nice one Kris, well written!

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