Endless trails and memories to last a lifetime. Rachel Sokal takes on a blissful BC Bike Race in Canada
The BC Bike Race is renowned across the mountain biking world for having the best singletrack riding in a stage race. British Colombia has always been one of my ‘one day’ places and the race provided me with the perfect excuse to go. So this year I headed across the Atlantic to take it all in.
But yet it wasn’t just a race that I arrived at – think of it more of a tour around the south of BC taking in some of the most amazing trails, brilliant hospitality and multiple modes of transport that BC has to offer. Each stage offered something slightly different, but equally brilliant.
Stage One was back on the infamous trails of Vancouver’s North Shore after a couple of years away from the location. The North Shore is credited for much of what is known now in the world of mtb trails – many a rider and trail builder alike have cut their teeth here. And it didn’t disappoint. Although the stage was only short, it was absolutely epic. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so mentally tired after a few hours on the bike. The steep, loamy, rocky and rooty trails just kept going and going. The final trail of the day was the re-vamped Expresso trail [sic] – the team had worked on it for 18 months to get it ready for the race. It could have all ended here and I’d have been happy.
But it didn’t. We spent the next six days traveling from place to place. And it’s not just the 600 racers that were on the move, the whole race does – that’s the entire field of tents, all the facilities and the countless staff and volunteers who tend to your every need.
The organisation of the race is absolutely seamless. Each day’s course is meticulously planned and the trails are really well marked with many a marshal to wave you on your way. Each day our tents were pitched, our bags transported, even the showers were clean and hot. Each town welcomed us with an incredible amount of hospitality and every single person is incredibly friendly.
Describing the riding becomes difficult after a while. There are only so many superlatives you can use without starting to sound sycophantic and unconvincing. But safe to say, it’s easily the best trail riding I’ve ever done. It’s not just because individual bits of the trails are so good, it’s because it never seems to end. A single trail has more features than I’d thought possible, any single trail is followed by another and yet another and each day’s riding is followed by another too. It’s mind blowing.
After Stage One we headed over to Cumberland on Vancouver Island for day two before boarding another ferry over the Strait of Georgia to Powell River. We had been pretty amazed by the site of orca whales whilst on the ferry but the site at the terminal was even more impressive. The whole town had turned out to welcome us with choirs, bands, dancing and cheering. It was all a bit humbling. Highlights of Stage Three at Powell River included the Aloha trail complete with dancing girls (and men) and camping on the beach.
After a second night camping on the beach at Powell River, day four started with a trip across the bay to Earl’s Cove where the stage would start. Most of the racers traveled on the ferry whereas we were lucky enough to head across in the taxi boat which afforded us some amazing views of the bay. A few racers had Willy Wonka-style golden tickets in their race packs and they enjoyed the trip aboard a sea plane. There aren’t many MTB races that offer you that.
The riding on Stage Four took us from Earl’s Cove along the Sunshine Coast to the town of Sechelt where we spent the night. By day five I was getting used to the ubiquitous outstanding riding – until the end of the stage that is. For nearly five miles we descended via the Highway 102 and Sidewinder trails which popped us out into a bike park in the woods with jumps, table tops and bridges. I finished that day with a very big smile on my face.
Another ferry and bus trip took us to Squamish for day six before heading up to Whistler for the final stage. The Squamish stage had yet another brand new, specially constructed trail with bridges, drops, roots, rocks and every feature you have dreamt about. Taking in part of the Whistler Bike Park on the last day was almost tame in comparison.
We all finished the race with our finisher’s t-shirts, belt buckles hung round our necks and a pint of beer in hand having enjoyed the best riding we’ve ever done. The fact that it was a race had somehow been rather lost. Racing can’t possibly be this much fun.
BC Bike Race – The Details
At $2,400 (Canadian) the BC Bike Race isn’t cheap – but you get what you pay for. Next year’s race is already 80% full so get saving quickly. Camping is included but not meals.
You can ride as a solo entry or pairs. I rode in a mixed pair but everyone is so friendly I’d happily go out again on my own.
The event is 7 days long, but don’t forget to factor in time to get out there and get over the jet lag. It’s worth sticking around and sampling the other MTB delights the area has to offer if you can.
Thanks to A Quick Release and Leisure Lakes Nottingham for all their support in getting me and my bike there and home in one piece.