Because we only operate over the summer months, it frees up a lot of time to go and explore and ride in other areas to gain experience, meet new people and ride their mountain biking trails. This winter I headed north to ride Vancouver Island in BC, Canada. I started in Victoria with a van that a friend lent me and hit trails in Victoria, Duncan, Nanaimo, and Cumberland.
Starting with my friends advice to check out a network of trails called Heartland, I did some extra research on the internet before just going and hoping for the best. Heartland was great because they had a pretty good map of the trails at the bottom that I was able to take a photo of and plan a ride.
On my way up I only needed to ask directions to confirm I was headed in the right direction and I ended up meeting and chatting to the same guy at the car park as we were both loading up and so we exchanged phone numbers to potentially ride together some time. We never did get to ride together but he did give me lots of useful information and hooked me up with some other good people to ride with.
The next spot on the hit list was Mt Tzouhalem in Duncan. This spot was a lot harder to find my way around with limited beta on the internet, no map at the trail head, and not very much signage. So after a wrong turn or two I gave my buddy a call just to check if I was on the right track. We worked out where I was and how I could fix my mistakes and then I was back on track. Mt Tzouhalem had some really fun trails, lots of free ride and some good climbs to get back to the top. I did get caught out here with a jump that didn't really match the character of the rest of the trail which ended in an explosion and a week off for me. This didn't put me off though. I would be back!
On my way north to Cumberland, I thought it would be rude not to stop off in Nanaimo. I got in touch with Ted who put me in touch with another buddy of his buddies in Nanaimo and we met up for a cross country ride finished off with a swim in the lake that we ended up riding around.
The next day I checked out another trail network that was predominantly cross country with a few old free ride trails if you felt like testing the structural integrity of some of the rickety structures. This was a cool spot, really rooty, lots of bar hunting trees, but super fun to ride.
Finally I arrived up in Cumberland which was the first place that I knew about on Vancouver Island. This was by far the most expansive trail network I visited on the island with great maps and signage. I was put in touch with a local who showed me a good loop or three to start off with on a map (available from Dodge City Cycles) and then we went riding a few times which was really fun. Cumberland had it all from nice gentle trails to technical climbs, jumps, chutes, and a brewery in town to finish off at. The great thing about Cumberland is that the trail network starts from town and you can ride for days on these trails without having to repeat a trail. Needless to say, of course there were a few trails we did a couple of times just because they were so good! Thirsty beaver was a classic that I only got to ride once because they were starting logging. The riding community has a great relationship with the loggers so the trails survive the logging process which is really good.
On my way back down the island I headed straight for Duncan to ride with a mate, Vince. We did a really good ride that took us from bottom to top of the hill a couple of times and then ended at a pub for a well deserved lunch.
All and all it was a great little road trip and really easy to get around with pretty good information out there.