By Ambassador Matt Harris
As the summer months come into full force the call of the long ride begins to present itself. Starting as innocent banter between friends, quickly gathering momentum into another wild idea with success uncertain…. These days often lead to dead legs and big grins. It turns biking into a team sport, where you know there will be moments of weakness. The folks that pedal beside you will help you dig deep and keep the diesel engine turning.
I don’t know why I look forward to these big dumb loops as much as I do. Maybe it’s the mental and physical challenge or the idea of possible failure. Then again it could just be getting to shop for all the tasty snacks. I love snacks, they can make or break a big day for me.
This season is off to a good start. With plenty of ideas on the horizon and a few in the bag already the ideas are working out well. The folks who are the best fit for these kinds of days are ones with big ambitions and a poor memory. I set out to attempt these loops on my freshly built Honzo ESD, no moment like the present to get acquainted with the new set up right?
The first one out of the gate was a loop up in Pemberton, set as a fundraising effort by PORCA for Pemby SAR and IWO (Indigenous Women Outdoors). We planned to follow the set course loosely, adding some bonus trails to keep it spicy. Memories that stand out from this loop was that of dried mangos and tamari almonds. Not having quite enough water. Re-realizing there is less squish on the hardtail and to pay attention to good line choice, avoid trail sharks at all costs. The smell of a dry, hot forest and how much fresh granite can wear a tire down in one day.
Rough stats for that day were : 56km / 2711m / 7.5hrs / 30 degrees.
Second loop was brewing for a wee while, The brainchild from a pal Chirs Johnston. The pitch was to ride on and off the Ferry to Vancouver island. Ride a bunch of front country areas over the day with a boat shuttle between riding areas. Setting off at Dawn, Aiming to finish by dusk and catch the last ferry back to Vancouver. This was extra exciting as I had never ridden any of these areas, It was all going to be ‘new to me’ trails. Those are always special moments. The one curve ball was this heat dome showing up over BC. This was a mega concern as it was going to be hot AF. Hot enough to opt out from the hip pack and carry more water with a backpack. This decision I laboured over but was 10/10 the right call. This was not a two bottle ride. With time between family and work being hard to find for all of us we went for it anyway with some added precautions. Happy to pull the pin or adjust as needed. Redirecting the focus to self preservation over completion, After all the forecast was calling for 44 degrees.
Stand out memories for me this day was that of never appreciating water so much in my life. Looking forward to the chilly bin on the boat. Fully loaded with all the cold treats. Chris is a sandwich master ! Mentally battling on the climbs, followed by nice long descents to a much anticipated swim. Soaking ourselves (kit on) with garden hoses from anyone who would let us. Anything cold was a very welcomed addition.
We succumbed to some mechanicals which I believe we were all kinda happy about, ultimately shortening up our first planned route to suit the heat and condition of the bikes and the state of our bodies.
Stats for this day were : 140km / 2367m / 8.5 hrs / 40 degrees. (This included the boat bumps between locations)
The third one up to bat was to ride a big circumnavigation in the Whistler valley trails. Something that had also been sitting on the ‘to do at some point’ list. Starting in the dark and with a possibility of finishing in the dark, it felt like the tone had been set. Hitting four corners and descending some classics in the valley. WOW I can tell you that 15 degrees makes a huge difference in every aspect of a ride. After the heat of the Island loop this felt much more familiar. The hip pack was back in action, ready to be restocked after each alpine to valley bottom descent. Setting off in the dark was soon to be short lived after breaking some spokes on the climb, with some quick trail side repairs we managed to make it work for the first lap. Nothing sticky tape and sealant can’t fix right !
This was the first time eating pickles on a big ride and wholly moley did it hit the spot. I remember thinking three corners will do just fine.. We may not make the fourth climb and that’s okay with me ! As it turned out we managed to find it in us to get up for a darkish dark crystal. Thanks to a very well placed bag of salty chips.
Rough stats for this day were : 104km / 5704m / 13.5hrs / 24 degrees
Thanks for following along folks, Hopefully you draw some inspiration to make some big loops of your own.