Winter can be depressing for mountain bikers. Luckily, living in Vancouver, we have the luxury of riding most of the year, even if the trails more resemble a well-trotted pigpen than singletrack.
So, come Spring, riders, especially the ones who make their living on a bike, get a burning itch to go somewhere dry and wear off the winter rust. The closest place for lower mainlanders to go is Kamloops. This semi-arid desert is probably one of the first places to be rideable in the early season. And, given the aforementioned semi-arid desert distinction, this is absolutely the best time to ride here. Imagine dark brown clay-based dirt resembling a ganache cake providing velcro traction: dry enough in spots to drift, and wet enough to rail…perfect!
Kamloops - a bit dryer than North Vancouer.
Spring is also the time sponsored riders get their new rigs! For Thomas Vanderham, Geoff Gulevich and myself, that meant getting fresh Rocky Mountain Flatlines kitted out with Pro components, Shimano Saint gruppos and a new Maxxis DH tire to test. We had now the perfect ingredients for a team trip to break the rigs in. We were lucky too, with photographer Sterling Lorence having a hole in his hectic two-kid life to partake in the antics, as well as videographers Ambrose Weingart, Tam Forde and Matt Dennison documenting the action.
The boys getting ready to drop in
It’s no secret that Kamloops is a mecca of mountain bike landscapes and it’s probably been featured in every great mtb movie filmed. Now, with Thomas Vanderham welcomed back to the Rocky Mountain Freeride team from a two-year hiatus, and Gully and I just a couple of hard-working guys itching to sink Maxxis teeth into the thawed ground, this would for sure make for some history on film!
Wade still sends it. He pedaled into this wall in full sprint.
The three of us have all spent great times in the “Loops”: Thomas and Gully have both filmed here often, satisfying their latest movie offerings, and I, having grown up here, always felt at home in the sage and dust. The terrain in Kamloops is conducive to all types of riding. It has buttery smooth hard pack singletrack, multiple DH shuttle areas, a local government sponsored in-town bike park aptly named the “Ranch”, long skidder gravel/sand slopes made famous by the “Froriders”, and more recently, big wedge style booters. The latter are the remnants of what is happening now in the latest mountain biking movies. These booters are dotted everywhere in the hills; a riders battleground from past, that can be resurrected for the pleasure of whoever is willing to send it: “C’mon Gully, Thomas, you’re gonna hit that…aren’t ya?”.
Gully exudes big air style.
I must say though, that first afternoon sitting at the top of “the River”, each of us on a bike that hadn’t seen dirt…ever, on our first of 5 days in Kamloops, with two guys who I know will push my limits, and with ground so ripe with shred that we would be constantly high-fivin’ happy beyond words after the first turn was, well…. truly humbling. We are somehow doing something right. Right here, in he birth place of freeriding.