: Sarah LeishmanPhotos
: Reuben Krabbe
|I remember when I first met you, we were filming Kranked 3... - Joe Schwartz to Wade Simmons|
I was standing with a crew of sweaty dudes at the bottom of one of the most epic descents I had ridden in some time. Stephen Matthews, Joe Schwartz, Wade Simmons, Reuben Krabbe and I were charging – hard – on post-ride beers and pistachios outside of Wade’s ballin’ Toyota Tacoma on the side of an access road. Joe sang those words out to Wade as we reminisced about something gnarly, something crazy…something from their past and I rushed to write the quote down. It was way too good to forget and it still sums up my trip of shredding the Fraser Valley with this crew to a tee.
Spending three days with Stephen, Joe, Reuben and Wade was pretty much what I could have imagined. Sick riding from legendary riders, insane stories of the original days of freeride from Joe and Wade; Stephen and Reuben showing their youth and enthusiasm by pushing us to ride stuff over and over again all weekend. It was glorious…nearly as glorious as the trail network we were so lucky to be exploring in the Fraser Valley.
I brought both my downhill bike -26er and my trusty trail -650b bike. As a Whistler bike park rat and someone who has ridden a lot of bike parks around the world, I tend to be pretty picky about what I’ll call “good” downhilling, so I approached this trip with a tiny bit of apprehension. Everybody says their own local trail network is rad, and everybody raves about their own local trailbuilders. My friend Ian Harker from the Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association has shared more than a video or two about the epic, untold secrets lying within the trail networks of Abbotsford and Chilliwack. Turns out I should have had a little more faith.
Reuben and I were keen and pinned down to Cultus Lake a day early after an evening of Phat Wednesday party domination in the Whistler Bike Park. We hit Vedder Mountain the night we arrived at the strikingly beautiful Cultus Lake campground (and that’s coming from a girl who lives in Whistler). I was fully prepared to ride up the road, not realizing what I was getting myself into; I was also totally at peace with the idea of dragging Reuben and his camera bag up the climb with me. As I awkwardly negotiated my camping kit and bag out of the back of Reuben’s truck and into the cab at the bottom of the road, a crew of rough looking guys in a company work truck approached us and offered us a ride up “to the top”. Reuben’s eyes lit up. We jumped in their vehicle and enjoyed stories of where they ride, where they work and what their favourite trails are as they lurched up the road. I was glad my name wasn’t on the lease of that vehicle, but I appreciated sitting in with a crew of fresh, untarnished mountain bikers. These guys didn’t give a shit about the mountain bike costume they were wearing, whether or not they had a visor on their full face helmet, nor were they interested in who we were or where we came from. I felt as though I’d returned, momentarily, to the roots of the sport in a very big way.
These guys were sweet, and as we were about to drop in, I heard the crew call out so many sandbaggery phrases - familiar from the fired boyfriends of my past - to the other less experienced riders in the group: “Don’t worry, it’s not that gnarly” and my personal favorite, “you’ll be fine, just ride it!” I watched two of the guys deek out from the entrance of the trail we were about to ride as quickly and quietly as they could. Was this an omen?
Reuben and I dropped into our first taste of Fraser Valley dirt, Mongoloyd, then flowing through a myriad of other trails. At the top of it I felt as though my little 650 trail bike might not be enough, even though it was managing the terrain – and my fumbling – with more confidence than I. The trail was fairly steep and gnarly in spots and was riddled with old features and gap jumps – we joked about how much Wade would love the old stunts we found as we scouted. However, once we hit the trail Electric Lettuce, the trail formed some serious flow and I knew this place was pretty rad. We carried on to an intersection that was marked with a black diamond and labeled “Femur” and, at that point, I almost walked away.
Let’s get this straight. I ride bikes all the time and in a lot of places. I’ve also worked on the Whistler Bike Park patrol and I’ve been to more than a few bike races, so I have an idea of what consequence means. What is the deal with naming a trail Femur? We rode it anyway. And it was effing MAGICAL. I could hear the treads of my tires hook up in the perfectly tacky corners; I could pump and air my bike through the rollers and turns throughout the trail and when it was over (it felt like way too soon), Reuben and I agreed we had just ridden one of the best trails in the universe. Maybe if it were named “the best effing trail in the universe” it’d make it less so…so they called it…Femur.
Femur is a tough act to follow, but Sumas Mountain did not disappoint. You’ve seen the misty gnarliness that was our ride down Devil’s Throat in the rain (seriously – wow) and you’ve heard some of the magic from our trip shred down Squid Line. Not enough can be said about the love and the time that went into the construction of the trails in this zone. Ewan Fafard was exactly the man for the job of Squidline. It’s amazing to see trails that cater to riders like us that I would be just as happy taking groups of novice-intermediate riders down for their first shred. If there were ever a way to grow the sport of mountain biking, it’d be by building Squidlines in every town with some vertical drop.
We carried on from our first day on scene to ride more amazing trails throughout with the mega descent on Thurston that went until sundown. When we awoke on the final morning, we were more than keen to sit around the campfire and follow Joe’s Twitter feed to get the most up-to-date race results from the Val Di Sole, Italy World Cup. Stevie Smith ended up second, and the menace Casey Brown was 6th, which did not hurt our enthusiasm at all.
Our final day started at Bear Mountain, where we first sampled the beauty of Lorax. I had heard of this trail a ton in the past from other riders I’ve spent time with and whom I respect. This trail is SICK. I can basically equate it to the Whistler Bike Park’s Ninja Cougar meets Karate Monkey meets Squamish’s Hoods In the Woods…but buff as hell and faster than you can imagine. So amazing.
The final stage of the trip ended on Arduum; with Joe on his way back home for another engagement and with me seeing triple thanks to a complete 4 day riding/ sleeping-on-the-ground exhaustion, I shuttled the boys up to their final trail of our trip with our friend Steve Wilson of Summer Gravity Camps and the locally founded coaching program, Trail Dynamics. At the time, I was happy to leave the guys behind in their full DH setups to send it down the infamously gnarly Arduum, but in hindsight I feel a bit like I missed out. I’ll definitely have to get back down there with the big rig to send that trail.
I’m nothing but appreciative of the chance I got to visit the trails of the Fraser Valley. I think each of us can agree that we got lucky with the weather, trail conditions, and the company on this trip. But, at the end of the day, what we need to really be thankful for are the folks who made this riding zone exist in the first place. Ewan Fafard, Gary Harder, Greg Burbine, Kerry Fraine, Ernie Kliever, Fish, Jon B, Gerald, Todd, Andrew, Ben, Steven, Mark S, Eugene Sepke, Todd Kaulback, Brian O, Rich V, Mike R and Bob are just some of the builders who have had a hand in making the Fraser Valley the riding gem that it is today. People who ride bikes and care about doing it for years to come are the future of mountain biking. I got to jump on my bike and experience a trail network that will help grow the sport of mountain biking with two people -Joe and Wade- who are responsible for being in it in the first place and two of my great friends. Lucky me.Rule of Thirds Part 1 -Welcome to the Fraser ValleyRule of Thirds Part 2 -Trifectas on Trailswww.fvmba.com