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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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!
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.