Regular Joe and the Search for Sweet Gulf Island Singletrack

Hunting for Singletrack
It all started with a vague idea, the connection of a destination with the faint promise of singletrack. Salt Spring Island offers all the elements of a great weekend get-away; ocean, funky town, amazing farmers market, and a laid-back island culture. The only thing missing from the picture was confirmed and recorded existence of sweet trails.

Knowing nothing of an existing bike scene on the island, I started in the place where all searches start these days: Google. The lack of information that popped up was surprising, but I continued to investigate. Armed with a couple phone numbers I started dialing. My phone calls led to very little, as the girl at the kayak store seemed to have never heard of mountain bikes, the tourist board had closed early, and the mountain bike association contact was the voice mail for a physiotherapist office.

Many of the best discoveries happen by chance, so I discarded my technological aids and went with the old fashioned way: show up and hope I run into a knowledgeable local. When we arrived on the island we went straight into the cozy town of Ganges to take in the amazing farmer’s market that happens every Saturday. As we perused the fresh produce and funky crafts that the market had to offer I kept my eye out for anyone wearing telltale bike clothing, or sporting chainring scars, or the more obvious clue of flashy bikes hanging off a truck tailgate. I spotted no such signs, as the predominate choice of attire at the market was long scarves, dreadlocks or “sporty” West Vancouver polo shirts.

The next obvious stop was the local bike shop. I didn’t know what to expect as I walked down the ramp lined by a fence made of old bikes, past relics of bike history. I entered the basement shop into a kaleidoscope of bike paraphernalia, most decades old. The gruff old guy truing a wheel in the corner softened as I explained my mission, and became more talkative when I told him I had ridden my road bike on the island before. He explained he was not a mountain biker, but a Campagnolo-loving roadie, so he had no idea where any bike trails were, but had heard of someone riding trails off a local mountain.

Armed with this vague information we drove up the mountain, with no idea where the aforementioned trails began or ended. The steep, washboard road ended with a beauty vista of the island, but no obvious trails, or other vehicles parked and loaded with bikes. A search of the area around the parking lot led to the discovery of a faint path meandering into the forest. With much trepidation I walked down the trail, waiting for it to become overgrown and part of the forest again. And then, there in front of me was a single, solitary skid mark; a beacon of light shining down the now much more inviting ribbon of dirt, beckoning me onward. I ran back up to the truck, grabbed my CoilAir and dove into the trail, mindless of where it would lead me, but comforted by the fact that a bike had been down here before.
The trail turned out to be a fun, playful rip down the mountain. I was accompanied only by the occasional skid mark, letting me know I was still on the right path. The trail eventually ended, dumping me out on a random dirt road. I picked the most logical direction to head (back towards the access road) and picked up some more bike tracks in the dirt. Following these, and using a little blind faith, I eventually made my way out to the road, and the waiting truck.

Sometimes it all comes together, regardless of whether there are guidebooks, knowledgeable locals , or internet chat rooms. Sometimes finding new singletrack just takes a gut feeling, a little singletrack instinct and a skid mark pointing you in the right direction.

2 thoughts on “Regular Joe and the Search for Sweet Gulf Island Singletrack

  1. Connor Budd says:

    Hey, I live on Saltspring and you probably didn’t find much because most of the trails on properties or hidden up in the mountains. It’s mainly freeride on the island and there are some privately owned parks.

  2. Jim says:

    Joe,

    Hello from Nelson,

    Well, had to comment on your visit to Saltspring Island, I lived there for 4 years or so and built tons of cross country / free-ride trails on mount Bruce, the southern most mountain on the island. They were a combination of mossy trials motorcycle trails, deer trails and hand built trails with killer views and no one around. We had 3hr loops in place, all I did was ride at that time. I have been back since and there is alot of private land to deal with now and I am not there to maintain the trails but alot remains. Mount Maxwell and Mount Erskin have some nice bike trails from the tops as well If you go back let me know and I will try and hook you up either with someone or get you a map together.

    Take care,
    Jim

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