Mountain Biking on Vancouver Island
In mountain biking circles BC is as well known for its mountain biking trails as it is for its ski hills. And many of the province's best rock, root and mud are found on Vancouver Island. Just ask the national cross-country mountain bike team, they train here and many hail from Island communities.
Every community on Vancouver Island has its own epic rides, just ask at the local bike shop and get pedaling.
Riding the Island
By Ryan Stuart
From Vancouver's North Shore to the big drops of Kamloops, from Squamish's trestle rides to the climbs of Fernie BC has some of the greatest mountain biking in the world. It is the home of the new school discipline of free riding, big bikes, big suspension, big features and lots of air, and it is home to some of Canada's best riders. But some of the provinces best rides aren't on the Mainland.
No, right across Strait of Georgia from Vancouver's North Shore is tons of mostly unknown and unexplored riding that only the locals know about.
Vancouver Island's rolling topography, forest covered slopes, logging road criss-crossed mountain sides and adventurous people have all come together to create an incredible abundance and variety of quality mountain biking trails.
From deadly steep single track, to long mellow logging roads, from mountain bike parks to cross-country trails almost every community on Vancouver Island has enough riding to satisfy the pickiest of fat tire freaks.
And with a little local advice all those empty trails await the tread from anyone's tires.
The Port Hardy area was a little late on the development scene, but is catching up fast. With logging a little slow these days some forest industry employees keep their skills up by expanding the mountain bike trails. Shane Nicolson has cut 40 plus kilometres of trail near town on old logging roads. "We have everything from 10 foot drops to teeter totters to 'take granny in her wheel chair' type stuff," he said. The best place to go for all levels is the Echo Lake system of trails near the old garbage dump. Anyone in town should be able to give directions. For parts, repairs and more info head to North Star Cycle and Sports in Port Hardy, 250-949-7221.
In the early 1900s loggers came to Quadra Island to plunder its huge Douglas Fir and left behind a legacy of old rail beds and roads. The forest has regenerated, several parks created and a maze of awesome single-track mountain biking given these old routes new life.
The Quadra riding experience is unique and has a wide variety of trails and difficulty. Easy cruisers are found at the Community Centre trails with the Morte Lake circuit gaining local classic status. For some downhill drops look for 'Back Seat Driver' and 'Shotgun'. If an epic forest ride is more your style head out to Main Lake Park and the Vic's Marsh - Stramberg Lake circuit, a work in progress with huge potential.
For more info and updates check the Quadra Island mountain bike trails map.
For some of the smoothest cross country riding around check out the Snowden Demonstration Forest, just west of Campbell River off Highway 28. The mature second growth forest has sprawling loop trails that link together. The riding is intermediate to expert, with lots of roots, short steep drops and rolling terrain.
Beginners should check out the Beaver Lodge Lands near the North Island College campus. Old rail grades, logging roads and hiking tracks make for an enjoyable tour through tall trees.
But if you are feeling burley head for McIvor Lake further up highway 28 from Snowden. This collection of trails, known as Area 51, is full of free riding features. Bring the armor and the big travel suspension. One of the sickest stunts around is a four foot gap jump from one set of trestles, eight feet of f the ground, to another set of trestles.
With two ski hill access roads, tons of logging roads and many parks covered in trails access to the riding doesn't get much easier than in the Comox Valley.
The best spot to check out are around the Comox Lake Reservoir parking lot. Here all manner of trails can be accessed. Continue up the Comox Lake Logging Road for nice climbs and steep descents. Pedal along the Puntledge River for intermediate and beginner cross-country trails.
Run a car shuttle on the Forbidden Plateau access road to ride local favourite Two Sheiks and a Dog. This long expert single-track downhill will test any rider and melt every brake.
Check out Dodge City Cycles in Cumberland for the latest on trail information, 250-336-2200
Above the Comox Valley Mt. Washington offers the only lift-serviced mountain biking on the Island. For $10.50 enjoy a full day of riding the lifts and racing down nine separate trails to the base. For roller coaster lovers check out the Discovery Lake Trail which climbs lightly before rolling down to the old cross-country lodge.
And for the single-track demons try and survive Monster Mile without stopping.
For the latest conditions and upcoming events check out Mt. Washington online at www.mtwashington.ca or call 250-338-1386.
Free ride is all the rage in Parksville and Qualicum. The local mountain bike club maintains Top Ridge, a nearby mountain bike park. It has lots of free ride, a dual slalom course, 40 acres of trails and a huge sandpit to play in. To test ride a BC Cup course head to Hammerfest Race Course near Englishman River park. This area has multiple cross-country routes and insane downhills. Arrowsmith mountain cycles has weekly rides out of its store, and the store has all the local trail information. Check their website at www.arrowsmithbikes.com for more information, or call 1-877-MTB-BIKE
Port Alberni riding isn't as varied as other communities on the Island. While there is some nice cruising on old logging roads and the odd section of cross-country riding, what Port A is known for is super steep and long downhills. From the Beaufort Mountain Lookout near Coombs riders can access an old rail grade. Logging roads climb up and gnarly, jump and ramp filled single track brings riders back down. A more mellow experience can be found at the Ward Lake Trail near the Robertson Creek Fish Hatchery. Rolling single-track trails is the attraction here.
For more info stop in at Ozzie's Sport and Cycle near the water in Port Alberni, 250-724-6556.
"There's a week and a half of riding," said Bob Simpson of Pacific Rim Bicycles in Nanaimo. He is talking about the Dumont mountain bike trails: 90 kilometres of single track, logging roads and "hard core North Shore." Simpson also recommends Mt. Benson's West Ridge Trails. The mountain is laced with trails that rise from 600 feet to 3200 feet. "But you have to get up there to ride down," he warns.
Head to Pacific Rim Bicycles for more information and maps, 250-390-2077.
Vancouver Island's own mini North Shore can be found just 10 minutes out of Duncan at Mt. Tzouhalem. Drive a car to the top or work the lungs for an hour to get there by bike. Either way at the top endless riding possibilities exists. There is a great mix of everything including technical single track, logging roads, dirt jumps and trestle bridges. It is the best place to go for moderate to hard core riding, says Dee Jay Shepard owner/operator of Iguana Cycles in Duncan. Contact the store for more info 250-748-6803
When it comes to riding in the communities of Duncan south the best source for info is the South Island Mountain Bike Society or SIMBS. Their interactive website, www.simbs.com has upcoming events, news and enough trail information to keep even the most tireless rider happy.
Victoria's riding jewel is Hartland. Extensive amounts of work have gone into proper trail building here and the riding is awesome. Variety is the key word. There is everything for every rider, including club activites and theme rides.
If a more wild ride is in order check out the Bamberton area north of Victoria. The riding here features a long, hard climb to a viewpoint that makes the effort worthwhile. As does the lake nearby, which cools off even the most overheated mountainbiker. From here trails circumnavigate the lake. To return home drop down any of the numerous intermediate descents along the climb.
Another area in the Capital area worth riding around is Millstream near Thetis Lake. This area features tons of short single track that can be linked by an extensive network of logging roads. Pedal away and explore.
For directions and trail maps to Hartlands, Bamberton and a few other South Island hot spots log on to www.simbs.com. For parts, repairs, retail and service check out Straight up Cycles in Victoria at 250-480-1944.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Any town with forest near by will have plenty of trails to explore. Most local mountain bikers are only too happy to show visitors their favourite spots. Just ask.