Photography by Matt Miles
This season is building momentum quickly, there is no doubt about that. Little black scribbles all over my calendar and an increasingly long list of to-do's and ta-da's assure me that this year is going to be a stellar one. My bikes are kitted out and projects are looking dialed, but it isn't quite go time just yet. Riding locations are slowly opening and I'm squeaking in quick rides here and there, but the trails aren't ready to shred and that leaves me stuck, living off vivid daydreams from rides of seasons past. Recounting the days I had dubbed as being the "sickest ride ever!" I am guilty of claiming that title far too often and I never have any proof or supporting evidence beyond my wildly flailing arms and the shouting of words that hardly make sense. I had one of my actual greatest rides of all time on opening day at Sun Peaks Resort last summer and fortunately for me, I actually have a bunch of photos from that very day.
This ride came along at the beginning of the summer season. Even though we had heavy amounts of rain in Kamloops last spring, the dry and dusty days of summer came rolling in as quick as tumbleweeds caught in the evening wind. Regardless of the rainfall, by that point in the season the trails had seen heavy traffic. They were getting tracked out and feeling gross. As a slightly spoiled rider, it's hard to find anything enjoyable about choking on dust or slipping out in corners. It was beginnng to feel as though the trails had given all that they had. Luckily for those of us who were still keen to ride every day, that was precisely the same time that the Sun Peaks Bike Park was opening for the summer.
I gathered a group of friends and traveled up the hill to a place where the earth would still stick to my tires. Arriving at Sun Peaks with Matty Miles, Branden, and Clinton Ostoforoff, we found no surprises. Everything was soaking wet, just like we had hoped for. The dirt was stained a deep dark brown, the sky was a thick washed gray. The trees were soaking wet and the air was just warm enough to breath a small steam from each of their heavy green branches. Every breath filled my lungs with a cold and soggy mountain scent. In every direction a thin fog waltzed through the valley and followed us from the parking lot to the chairlift. Sitting down on sloppy wet chairlift cushions everyone mustered some sort of complaint, but I was feeling excitement. The trails were going to be greasy and that was exactly what I was hoping for.
Hopping from the chair I noticed that the dirt had a slight shine and I realized just how much of a treat we were in for. Matty wanted to drop in on a trail called DH, and he told me that he had a surprise line for me near the top. Two turns into the trail he darted sharply to the right and skipped off a rock, over a bank and back onto the trail a solid twenty feet below. A line that size hit by surprise is just about enough to make me urinate in my pants and I'm not sure if it was an attempt to bring about my demise, but it sure woke me up from the misty mountain haze. Dropping over the rock face rather than skidding down its length meant we were flying into the next section of trail at what felt like ten times the usual pace. The following three turns usually come across as effortlessly floating through the alpine flora, however, this time I was surprised that I held on. Through three corners in a row it felt like my bike was going to explode, and then we rallied over some steep and soggy roots before pulling out onto the access road.
This is about the time when I'll start exclaiming, "sickest ride ever!" Halfway through the ride, always jumping the gun. I was feeling some serious stoke shivers after hardly holding myself together through all that chunder and gnar and thought it was the right time for someone else to get out ahead of me on the trail. So I snuck off the back of the train and decided to chase Branden down Smitties Steeps. Riding Smitties when conditions are tacky is tricky enough. It's steep and loose and pretty much a straightaway. Although I've never had a hard time holding a line on that run, the rainstorm had smothered the trails the night before and that made me nervous. I imagined that lap was going to be nothing short of wild. Branden was already rolling away down the trail before I could give it much more thought, so off I went down the mud chute.
Sometimes it drives me crazy chasing Branden down the trail. For a sixteen year old kid who hasn't even been riding for many years, he sure knows how to destroy a line. Ripping down Smitties when it's got an inch of slop all over it is tricky enough with clear vision. Introduce a goggle pane covered in Branden's mucky roost and things were nearing the point of unmanageable. My vision would have been spotless if it weren't for him cracking sideways off every root and smashing his back wheel into every fluffy pocket of dirt on the trail. I always get distracted following riders who shred like him. Totally entranced while watching their tires slide around and losing track of my own. This mud party was no exception. There's a big rock on the right hand side of Smitties about halfway down that everyone tries to make a fast turn around. It's easy to scrub some speed and get yourself back in control before the last straight shoot into three treacherous turns. Branden slashed into the side of that rock so hard he bounced off it and landed back on the trail, tacking full speed. I belted out something like, "Ya Dude!" and before I realized it, accidentally used the rock as a jump instead of a turn. No speed lost there. Once again I was in the same boat as when I was chasing Matty earlier on this ride. And again I barely held the edge of control. Time to cool it for another minute or two.
Smack some mud from our tires and shoes, wipe our goggles off and we were ready for the home stretch of the ride, a trail coincidentally named Home Run. Long flat drifty turns, small roll over drops and stupid low to the ground table tops are the rules of the road for a solid couple minutes of full tilt blasting before you arrive back in the parking lot. Feeling pretty over it with the accumulation of mud freckles on my face, I darted off ahead of the crowd in full embrace of that terrifying two or three seconds of sliding before the tires grab the trail again. Even with clear sight, landing flat on every jump to be almost consumed alive by man sized mud puddles is shocking to say the least. The trees along that trail echoed with Matty's high pitched screams and the audio of bikes chattering with a dampened crunch. Pumping over the last few long and lows and sliding sideways down the last drop in the trail, things were finally feeling a little less sketchy. Then everything came to a chill point when I whipped out to my truck and turned around to be greeted by the smiling and muddy faces of my friends. Finally I wasn't the only guy in the crowd exclaiming, "sickest ride ever!"
I think they were all just as fired up as I was. That ride was sketchy. I scared myself several times and I know everyone else did too. We got rowdy on the trails and managed to monster truck through conditions that normally would have knocked us to the ground. I guess those are the necessary components of the "sickest ride ever." Matt was actually on assignment to shoot photos that day and that was just his warm up lap before it was time to get to work. Usually on the opening day of my favorite resort I would hate to spend it shooting photos, but after that relentless lap easily reaching the ranks of best rides I've ever been on, I was feeling pretty content with devoting the rest of the day to a mellow session of soggy turns and fresh jumps. Besides, there was no way we could have another "sickest ride ever!" on the same day.If you are a young rider in the Kamloops area and looking for some fun this spring break then check out the Kamloops Bike Ranch Freeride Camp. You could spend a couple days shredding bikes with Dylan and his friends at one of the most progressive bike parks in B.C.
Maybe by next month's column spring will have hit Kamloops and Dylan will have some fresh goods for us. Until then, keep up to speed with him on Twitter
and on the Kona Cog