While many riders have hung their wheels for planks, we are lucky to have a mostly snow-free winter here on the coast of BC. The NSMB Team riders are among the die-hards who get out on two wheels no matter what the weather or time of year. We’ll have a closer look at each rider’s plans for 2013 in the coming weeks; Stephen Matthews’ recap of their annual winter trip to the Sunshine Coast sets the stage for these introductions…
Everyone loves an annual road trip. The excitement and anticipation of departing is only fueled further by the reminiscing of past year’s hilarious antics and close calls. There’s always a push of encouragement to get the same crew together to re-create what’s already happened, and to raise the bar further by stoking everyone’s imaginations. This year we couldn’t get the usual group in its entirety, as unfortunately schedules weren’t aligning, but there is always room for change.
My first trip to the Sunshine Coast was in April of 2011 with my brother Peter, Joe Schwartz, and Calgary friend Kurt DeFreitas. The plan was for a few days of exploring The Coast while camping out of Wilson Creek, and it couldn’t have gone better. To this day it was one of the more memorable trips I’ve ever been on. Meeting up with some of our local friends, we were taken on a few of the true gems in the area and shown how to enjoy your time in Roberts Creek.
The next trip was in February of 2012 (clearly we were all finished with winter a few months earlier that year), and it only improved upon the previous year’s adventure, especially having added a few more members to the dynamic. There’s something special about the Sunshine Coast, and I think the secret is in a genuinely shared feeling of enjoyment both in company and in activity.
Don’t be afraid to pedal your downhill bike a bit, descents are usually worth it.
It can be hard to find the perfect recipe of individuals to ride with. Not necessarily because of the varying scale of people’s skill and abilities on a bike, but rather one’s personality. I’ve always found it to be the varying outlooks and approach people take on a ride that can flaw a group’s overall ride impression. I like to travel with people who are willing to explore and find the unknown. Following the same trail down the mountain is a fantastic way to learn that single line, but the experience is often much more meaningful if you’re willing to take a turn away from repetition.
Peter Matthews railing a corner in perfect tacky dirt.
The trails out of Roberts Creek were hit hard with severe weather this winter, and the resulting deadfall has definitely left its mark. The locals who have helped clear the trails have done an incredible job – it’s an absolute jungle in there – so Thank You! With the amount of downed trees, the group was opportunistic and decided to dabble into a few unknown trails, finding further coastal riding success.
Trails I’ve never ridden before? Twist my rubber arm… Conditions were absolutely stunning.
The group was split half and half on scheduling this trip, and some were forced into only a day trip. I was part of the lucky crew to book a night at the Up the Creek Hostel in Roberts Creek. The hostel was familiarly fantastic and accommodating, and has seen new improvements for mountain bikers. Martin has set up a very functional bike wash to keep the rigs running clean and proper. Just minutes from the main trail network access, and up the street from the coffee house, this is one conveniently situated rider’s oasis.
“Topographically speaking, this trail should work out perfectly.” says Stephen Matthews. Photo – Dan Graham
Out of the dark trees, and into the flow.
As another mid-winter mountain bike trip has come and gone, it’s pretty amazing how lucky we are to be on the West Coast of Canada. The Roberts Creek trails that I’ve been familiarized with have grown in clarity as I’ve put more time into the trails and understanding the logging road networks. The opportunities for riding in Roberts Creek are seemingly endless, and for our group, we’ve found a place that every time we’re there to repeat the past, we’re left with more fuel for future.
NSMB Team rider Paul Stevens cruising down one of the more popular trails in Roberts Creek. Mach Chicken is running perfect right now!
This is the first winter that Stephen’s escaped the icy confines east of the Rockies, and he’s taking full advantage. What are your road trip traditions?
Bike Co‘s Pemberton shop has made a lot of dreams come true this winter, lending their fleet of balloon-tired two wheelers out to the Sea to Sky’s adrenaline junkies for weekend blasts without traditional gear. NSMB Team rider Paul Stevens recently had the chance to swing a leg over some heavy steel. We’ve just about got the 2013 NSMB Team riders and sponsors finalized; keep an eye out for that article soon, but for now enjoy Paulo’s visit to Fatcountry…
Somewhere on the Duffy Lake road, I unloaded a bike from my car with tires so fat that the chainstays taper inwards from front to back. I shone my headlight over this weird machine, wondering what kind of eccentric mind dreams up an idea such as this. Then I realized that it is probably the same kind of person who thinks that riding bikes through the snow to a backcountry ski cabin, in the dark, mid winter, seems like a rational and normal way to have fun. When you put it like that, I guess that makes us just as weird as the bikes we were riding.
Pete gets to grips with the monster 4.7″ tires of the Moonlander.
We had picked up three fat bikes from Bike Co for our overnight adventure. Throwing a leg over and pedalling around the parking lot, our grins were as wide as the tires we looked down on. These were like circus bikes, or a child’s drawing of a bike, surely not something you could actually ride! But as soon as we rolled the tires off the road and onto the snow, it all began to make sense. The mammoth treads float on top of the soft stuff, and suddenly open up a whole new world of opportunity for winter riding.
Big tires and big packs, ready for a night in the backcountry!
The access road was pretty well packed in by ski and snowmobile traffic, but there was some soft snow at the end on the way down to the cabin. Feeling confident, we decided to test the limits of the fat bikes. In a foot of powder, we found them pretty quickly Front wheels disappeared, and heavy packs cantilevered us over the bars. We dug ourselves out, and dusted ourselves off in fits of laughter, before rolling down to the cabin to warm up.
Not a place you would usually find yourself on a bike, mid winter.
We woke as it began to get light outside, and peering out the window, we quickly realized that it was snowing pretty hard.”We should probably get moving, eh?””yup”So, knowing the fat bikes’ powder capabilities, or lack thereof, we hastily packed up, dusted the snow off the ridiculous sized rubber donuts, and began the descent to the road. With a bit of momentum, the bikes floated surprisingly well, but with a few centimetres of fresh powder, there was definitely no lack of bails on the way down!
Waking up to find fresh snow covering the bikes. This would make things interesting.
Finding the limits of the fat tires once again.
Fat bikes are a lot of fun, and for the conditions we have had here recently – a significant lack of fresh snow, but an abundance of stubborn, stale snow that will not melt – they are a hilarious alternative to your every day winter activities.
Picking up the fat tires off the ground was not easy, but we had to give it a go!
Pete Fowler, Fat tire shredder.
If you rode a fat bike, would you tell your friends about it?
The mild winters we experience here on Vancouver Island are amazing: significantly less rain than just across the Georgia Strait in Vancouver, and the past month has been pleasantly drier than usual. The lack of rain has allowed me to ride almost every day and spend most of my time on the hardtail riding dirt jumps; getting out on downhill rides in Victoria can be tough sometimes.
People are products of their environment and the mild weather and lack of quick access to good downhill riding creates an awesome scene of dirt jump shredders in town, but finding the time during the week to go for a quick downhill ride is more challenging. I had taken a break from the downhill bike and was greatly anticipating my next chance to get out for some fast trail riding.
When Matt Dennison told me he wanted to come over to shoot for the weekend I was 100% in! This is what we came up with in a few days… good times!
Nothing like a little Island vibe to start the week right. Great work from Mark and Matt on this one – and thanks to Scott Secco and Jason Lucas for providing production support.
Spontaneous trips are my favourite, and 10 days before Christmas California was calling my name! I couldn’t find anyone able to join me on such short notice so I went down solo and don’t regret a second of it. Right before my week-long adventure down south, I had one more exam to write. The sky was full of colour that morning during the drive to school.
Island View Sunrise
Like many people who grew up on Vancouver Island, I hold a bit of a grudge against BC Ferries. As awesome as living on the Island is, traveling by car gets expensive. So I tried giving the Washington state Ferry a chance for the first time. This is a cheaper and more direct route down south from Sidney BC to Anacortes WA. I highly recommend this ferry and it’s also a great way to avoid border lines ups!
18 hours later I arrived in Scott’s Valley, CA at the Fogelquist residence. Despite the long drive down south I hadn’t escaped the rain yet. So Jack Fogelquist and I braved the wet conditions and headed for the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Foggy Downhill Laps
The conditions were foggy, slippery, and very wet. Riding Santa Cruz in the rain is way different than riding on the North Shore in the wet. The high clay content turns the forest floor into a mud pit, it’s like surfing on slick muddy singletrack. We kept trail conditions in mind and stuck to a rockier trail called “Crack Shack”.
Fogel hitting a little hip on the side of Crack Shack
Weather cleared up the next day and it was looking promising throughout the week. All the dirt jump spots were too wet still so we sessioned the Scott’s Valley sand step-up.This jump was awesome for getting tricks dialed in.
Flat spin 360 on the Step Up – Jack Fogelquist
Day 3 was perfect. We woke up to sunshine and dry conditions.
What mountain biker wouldn’t be excited to wake up to this in December?
Santa Cruz local and shredder Ray George invited us to his jumps. These are in such a unique spot! The line consists of a single row of jumps running alongside a river behind some housing development and the dirt was amazing- zero rocks or roots. It was a treat riding here.
Ray George has style for days
Ray leading me through the set. Photo Jack Fogelquist
Part way through the session Jack noticed a hair line crack in his frame, so he ended up filming us ride instead. Later that night Ray called up Jesse Nickel to fix up Jack’s bike. Jesse is the man! He welded up my frame 3 years ago when Justin Wyper, Mitch Chubey, and I went down to Santa Cruz. He’s also a local land developer and one of the people responsible for keeping the legendary Post Office jumps alive.
Jesse welding the head tube- a nice mig weld should do the trick!
The next couple days consisted of all-time sessions at the Post Office riding with all the local Aptos shredders like R-dog, Cam McCaul, Greg Watts, etc. This quickly got me back in shape on my hardtail.
Post Office Jumps: riding here more than a few days out of the year would be a dream
Once 4pm comes around everyone knows to show up and session for the final hour of daylight. This is when the best sessions go down.
Fogel tailwhipping through the set
My final day down in Santa Cruz was a rainy one. Jack and I finished up some Christmas shopping and I headed back North early the next morning. The conditions were looking pretty snowy on the I-5 near the California/ Oregon border so I decided to take my time and drive up along the California coast.
The Redwood Highway provides amazing views
Winter welcomes me in Grants Pass, Oregon
My short but awesome time down in Santa Cruz was 100% worth it, I cant wait to visit again!
It’s every Canadian dirt jumper’s dream to do a pilgrimage to Aptos in the winter. Mark got after it with this quickie between semesters… what’d you get up to over the holidays?
Going way way back, 2012 AIRprentice Mark Matthews shot and edited this video in 2007. He’d hurt himself and decided to pick up his camera and get bromantic on the Coast. It stands quite nicely next to his recent Super 8 Saturdays project.
Riders are: Andrew Sherry, Jarrett Moore, Curtis Robinson, Dylan Dunkerton, Brendan Howey, Jon Fitzsimmons, Strahan Loken, Luke Fulton, and Ken Perras.
Curtis rocking the old red NSMB jersey with a sick boost to roost at 1:20… don’t miss it.
How ’bout that for a trip back in time on the Coast?