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EDITORIAL

Dreaming Up Mountain Bike Lines

Words Cam McRae
Date Apr 6, 2021
Reading time

I dream of perfect mountain biking lines. These come in many shapes and sizes but the most persistent ones are those I hope I’d be able to eventually attempt. There are no fifty foot canyon gaps in my future, and while I may spend time imagining what it must feel like to experience extended flight on my mountain bike, that’s not what I’m talking about here.

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Jono Lo demonstrates a scarier version of my number one dream line, without the forgiveness of dirt. I can't speak for the runout either. Photo @travis_the_tailor

The line that has most dominated my imagination probably exists somewhere, but I’ve yet to see it in person or in photos. There was a moment last year however when I thought I’d stumbled upon it. I was driving through Kamloops and from the passenger seat I was taking advantage of the rare opportunity to look up at the hills and daydream about riding down the hoodoos, cliffs and chutes that loom above the south of highway 1. There are few roads in the world with such fertile views for a mountain biker’s imagination, and it’s easy to see actually mountain bike tracks down the steep grassy slopes. Many of these lines are exactly that, a single tire-width track rail down impossibly steep inclines, but some are more wide open in the classic Kamloops style.

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Looking across the highway, this certainly appears to be the work of shovels.

Looking up one of the dry gulches that punctuate the ridge, I noticed a spot with freshly distrubed dirt. We stopped the car to get a photo but we were on the wrong side of the divided highway and I couldn’t determine if this was indeed my dream line.

What I was hoping to find was what I call the infinite roll. Imagine you are rolling towards a cliff as the terrain gets steeper and steeper, until eventually it’s vertical. What I’m imagining isn’t a drop however and in my dream that vertical face should just as gradually come back to earth so there is no hard slam or even the need to get hard on the brakes. A nice long runout is essential to my fantasy move.

The key to this experience is really the feeling; the ultimate destination for those of us who crave steep terrain and near vertical rock slabs. Basically I want the sensation of freefalling without the risk of blowing up wheels or femurs, and I thought I might have found it.

It was a month or so before I could properly scout the location I’d spotted from the highway, and in the meantime I’d contacted some Kamloops friends but they weren’t aware of any digging in that area. They were curious however.

As luck would have it, I was driving through in the wee hours of a sunny morning because it turned out access was not easy. I had to negotiate my way through a long-established mobile home park that may one day be the setting for the Canadian adaptation of Deliverance. I assumed I’d be able to find a trail and just walk to the bottom but there was no trail and I was wearing flip flops. I climbed over rusty fences with aging signs warning me to keep out, and clambered awkwardly, scratching the shit out of my feet and ankles before finally finding some level ground. Eventually I got to a point where I had a clear view of the recently moved earth but it wasn’t until I got even closer that I realized what I was looking at.

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At this point I was still thinking this was dirt was manipulated by man, but closer inspection made it clear this was merely a small landslide. As you can see, this wasn't a great infinite roll candidate anyway.

This wasn’t my dream move at all, it was a small slide where the land had given way. What looked like a runout was in fact the debris field from the sluffed cliff. Part of me was relieved because the runout would have required a turn and because I didn’t have to return with my bike, but in the end it intensified my hunger and curiosity. And when I look back at my first photo now, it’s clear that there is no delayed gratification as the line slowly approaches vertical; it drops from the top abruptly.

Thankfully I have back up moves in my imagination and some of them resemble those I’ve seen on video or out in the wild. I was visiting friends on an island not far from Vancouver last summer and I spotted a perfect half size example of another move I’d like find. This one is entirely made of rock and it involves approaching a slab from the side. In order to get in position to point your bike down the slab, you first have to wall ride over a bench of rock. You need to go up before you go down and for a moment you are suspended over a vertical drop with your bike parallel to the ground. I’ve called on Wade Simmons to demonstrate this from his part in Ride To The Hills, using Vancouver’s Aquatic Centre rather than granite.

There is one dream line I’ve ridden, but I didn’t even know it until after I’d ridden it a couple of times. This one is also on an island near Vancouver and it’s blessed with plentiful perfect dirt and some steep terrain. Rather than a single move, this is one incredible move repeated on the left and right, ten times each side. I'm talking about the steepest berms I’ve ever ridden, with five foot faces and perfect arcs. At the entrance of each turn you dip your shoulder and fall until the arc gracefully brings you back to level, henceforth allowing you to fall into the next catcher’s mitt. The entrances aren’t identical of course and a few allow you to traverse long after the golden trail has fallen away, delaying the shoulder drop as long as possible for maximum effect.

Below is a video clip of Wade's Aquatic Centre move. Note - this is only a 10 second clip and you may be served s short ad before watching.

I’ve returned whenever possible and before long I realized that the rear brake was not only unnecessary, it was counterproductive. This front-brake-only discovery elevated the sensory pleasure conjured from the rhythmic alternation of hurtling weightless and the heavy rush of Gs. The builders involved in this one put hundreds of hours into the trail and I tip my hat to their dedication, skill, and imagination. Hopefully you know who you are, and that there are more amazing trails in your future.

Once vaccinations ramp up in Canada, I'd be pretty pleased if this becomes a summer of finding some of my dream lines and stumbling upon more my imagination hasn’t yet brewed up.

I'd love to hear about your dream lines, those you've seen or actually ridden, and those that exist only in your noggin'.

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Comments

4Runner1
+2 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman
4Runner1  - April 6, 2021, 7 a.m.

Wade's wall ride was the move that made me crazy.  I lived in the area at that time and it always freaked me out imagining myself executing that move. 

Now that spring has sprung, me and my buddies will be hitting up the rock lines in Nanaimo this weekend. (They tend to be higher up and the snow has been stubborn on Mt. Benson).

Reply

mrbrett
+1 Pete Roggeman
mrbrett  - April 6, 2021, 7:55 a.m.

Ride to The Hills was such a great movie. I've been hanging on to VHS copies of old movies (Shift, etc.) for years. Has anyone else tried watching one? On a modern larger TV?

The movies hold up but the technology doesn't!

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+4 mrbrett Mammal Pete Roggeman 4Runner1
Cam McRae  - April 6, 2021, 8:53 a.m.

I still have a copy and I tried to watch it a few years ago. It wasn’t much better than the copies you can find online. I had one still bubble wrapped copy of RTTH that I eventually gave to an industry friend who has a huge collection of movies in both formats. it sat on a shelf with a similarly sealed copy of the Penthouse magazine that printed photos of Anna Kournikova - that were actually photos of some other woman. I bought the magazine because PH sent a writer up to do a story on the North Shore that we were involved in and it happened to be in that issue which was eventually taken off shelves. I’ll start the bidding at $100...

Reply

velocipedestrian
+1 Cam McRae
Velocipedestrian  - April 6, 2021, 2:23 p.m.

That berm sequence you describe - "the steepest berms I’ve ever ridden, with five foot faces and perfect arcs." sounds like the dream I had when living in Wanaka. I really wanted to replicate the chutes on Treble Cone skifield with dirt... Maybe one day.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - April 6, 2021, 7:33 p.m.

It'll be worth the effort. The one I've ridden a few times is apparently doomed, and I'm gutted about it. And the skiing comparison is a good one; it's like a good powder day every day.

Reply

psyguy
+2 Mammal Pete Roggeman
psyguy  - April 7, 2021, 1:04 a.m.

Every time I drive through Coquihalla Pass I fantasize about riding down that massive rock face. If it had an equally massive run out it might even be possible.

Reply

brian
0
Brian Goldstone  - April 7, 2021, 10:17 a.m.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - April 7, 2021, 12:04 p.m.

That's Yak peak - if you google Tippie and Yak peak you should find some coverage of the time he rode down it along with Jonny Smoke and photographer Margus Riga. It made the cover of bike mag in 2011.

Reply

thaaad
0
thaaad  - April 7, 2021, 12:20 p.m.

I used to live about 10 blocks away from the aquatic center and I used to think about riding down it in some way every single time I would go by it. I've never seen Wades clip before, so awesome.

Reply

cheapondirt
0
cheapondirt  - April 7, 2021, 2 p.m.

The double-black optional section on Afternoon Delight is my carrot right now. I've ridden it a couple times, once reasonably clean, but on a chicken line that bypasses the biggest rock. I have to ride it properly, on my own (trail) bike, before I'll be satisfied.

That's more of a project than a dream though. The dream line is arguably unattainable. Once it's been mastered won't another dream line quickly take its place?

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