Spring is in the air and so is something that makes me sneeze and my eyes water. But that doesn't matter because along with my nasal nuisance comes the beginning of the best time of year, biking season. Along with riding season comes many traditions. Traditions like crashing your first day riding. Getting a flat and forgetting your pump. Trying to bleed your brakes only to drip fluid onto your rotors and destroy your pads. But along with these come perhaps the greatest traditions of them all. The post ride beer. Cool, refreshing and the perfect way to help make you forget about how much your pedal bite hurts.
The Fernie Brewing Company has realized that one of the best things after a ride is a brew and have been offering free beer to riders. The only caveat is you need proof that you rode a certain 3 Fernie classics (Project 9, Hyperventilation, Swine Flu) before they hand it over. Here are the rules as per the Fernie Brewing Company website:
The trails can be accomplished in any order, but challengers must bike or run the whole way, from start to finish – if hiking, you are allowed to drive to the trail heads.
Photos need to be timestamped - whether by camera or phone!
You may start wherever you wish, but don't forget to take a 'kick-off' photo!
You must finish at the Brewery.
All on-course photos must include all Challengers, and the Trail to Ale signs, located at the top of each trail, and on the patio railing at the Brewery.
Challengers must have 5 time stamped 'prove it' photos on their phones, to show to the Tasting Room staff upon completion:
START - wherever you like!
FINISH @ Fernie Brewing Co.
And with the trails clear of snow and an upcoming long weekend, I decided to invite a couple of friends and give it a shot.
We set out at 7:30 AM, not quite on the dot, for the first trail. Phat Bastard then Mushroom Head before traversing over to the start of the Trail to Ale. You may notice that neither of those is required to complete the Trail to Ale and be wondering "Why the extra effort of riding trails not on the list?" Well, I hadn't ridden in Fernie for a while and when planning our route I remembered I used to use those trails to get to Project 9 and thought it would be a good "warm up". Turns out my "warm up" would cost us around an hour, 5km, almost 400m extra vert, as well as even more time wasted fiddling with tire pressure and a valve core that didn't want to do its job.
The first trail that actually counted towards our route was Project 9. This was the first mountain bike trail I ever rode in British Columbia and still is a favourite. The climb up though remains one of my least favourite. Once you are past the halfway point at the powerline you are greeted by a series of 4, steep then flat then steep steps. The first one is the roughest and the last one is the steepest. I find you always lose count on the way up though and think the top is just over the next hill.
The Project 9 descent is all time. This trail has pretty much everything. Roots at the top, rocky tech in the middle with lines that branch out everywhere and some smooth flowy ribbons at the end. There is a reason that this is my must ride trail whenever I find myself in Fernie.
Next up was a new trail for my two companions but also a Fernie classic. Hyperventilation up and Hyperextension down. Hyperventilation is a sweet winding and switchbacked singletrack climb that arrives at an intersection where you can ride a few different trails like Southern Comfort, Castle Rocks and Todays Special. Hyperextension was the one we needed to hit in order to get our beer though.
Now sadly last year the descent to this climb, Hyperextension was closed and logged. Thankfully though the mountain bikers of Fernie were able to clear it from debris and have once again opened it up. It won't ever be the same but I really appreciate the effort put into saving this trail, especially with the views, you get on the way down.
After a fun time flying down Hyperextension we were all starving and headed our separate ways for a late lunch. Afterward, we all regrouped plus one more for the final trail in our quest. Swine Flu. This trail is a blast for pretty much anyone on any bike. I have had heaps of fun on it riding a rigid bike and heaps of fun on my new 150mm 29er. It's perfect to ride at night with bike lights and I've even taken people who haven't ridden in years down it. Also as a bonus, the climb ends with a great view of the Fernie valley.
After 1 flat tire, 1 overly long "warm up", a couple crashes and lots of climbing we finished it. The Trail to Ale was a success and we were now able to enjoy the fruits of our labour. The Trail to Ale turned out to be a fun challenge that got us together and out on our bikes and exploring Fernie's legendary network of trails. In the end, the free beer was just a bonus and a good way to cap off the day. Plus we got some sweet wooden medals/coasters out of it. A few grimey friends after a long ride enjoying the post-ride free beerThe totals for the day. You can probably do this ride in a lot less time if you aren't stopping for photos all the time and eliminate my "warm up".
Thanks to Fernie Brewing Company for supporting Fernie's riding scene and hosting this challenge. Thanks to Rocky Mountain for helping me do sweet trips like this with my friends.
Photos by Patrick Logan, Matt Szczepanski and Simon Pollock.