Words, photos, & video by Brice Shirbach
I'm going to be interested in revisiting this look back a few months from now. Looking back at a retrospective might be a bit redundant, but these are strange and tense times, and I'm certainly hoping for the best for all of us and that when we do ultimately look back at this moment in history it'll be with clarity and a fresh perspective (see: appreciation for) on life. It's late March as I write this, and right now I should be wrapping up the first Local Flavours of 2020 and preparing to depart for an 11 day trip to BC to film an edit for my sponsor, Pearl Izumi. Instead, I am working from home alongside my wife and our two new hires, Logan (4) and Henry (18 mos.). I am fortunate to have work to do, and of course there are plenty of phone calls and emails to get to as the mountain bike industry scrambles to make sense of a confusing and chaotic Spring and Summer. This time has also allowed for me to complete something I had wanted to do after we published the final Local Flavours for 2019, and that is to provide a look back at the amazing places I had the distinct privilege and pleasure to explore, and to thank you guys for always being such willing adventure partners throughout the series.
There is not one particular place that stands out above the rest. Of course, there are some places offer more riding opportunities that might align with my own sensibilities and style as a rider, but I've always found that variety is everything, and it's important to me that I work to better emphasize how much fun you can have outside of your comfort zone. More than anything, the connections I've been so fortunate to make with everyone have been the
most important element to this series. I've always said to the people who end up involved in this series that I could probably write a book about each location centered on the challenges of growing the mountain bike community and building trails that are specific to their corner of the globe, as well as all the people involved and the stories that come with each of them. Instead, they get about 3,500 words, a bunch of photos, and a POV video. To everyone involved in the series up until this point, I can only say thank you from the very bottom of my heart. It has been one hell of a ride, and while COVID-19 has muddied the waters in the short term, we still have a rad ride in store for 2020. Local Flavours is coming, and while we wait to see where we'll be going and when, let's take a moment or two to reflect on where we've been.From the story
: This was my first time in British Columbia, which might come as a surprise to a few, as I've been producing content for BC-based Pinkbike for half a dozen years now, and somehow managed to snag some goods overseas before I was even able to pay my west coast neighbors to the north a visit. A quick drive from downtown to West Vancouver's Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal provided me with my first glimpse of what lies ahead of me, and it was staggeringly beautiful. This might've been my first trip to BC, but I've long been inspired by still and moving imagery alike, and through vicarious means as I followed along through social media my friends and their many adventures here. It's one thing to see it from a distance, though still very easy to appreciate, and it's also just as easy to pretend that maybe there's some hyperbole at play here. But once you're in the thick of it; once you're surrounded by so much beauty that it hurts as much as it charms, the gravity of this place changes you.From the story
: Between the alpine adventures along Wolverton Mountain, or the beautiful and challenging landscape throughout the Granite Dells, or bombing down dusty and loose singletrack in the shadow of Thumb Butte, Prescott opened my eyes a bit. My final ride in town could have been over in less than an hour. I only need to record a trail for the video guide embedded above this very introduction and then head out. 3 hours later, fully exhausted and with a smile on my face, I packed my gear and finally began my journey east. What's a couple of hours' delay when you've got The Dells as an excuse?From the story
: "Of course, the scooters and massive festival complex that had been erected in just a few short days were truly captivating, and proved to be the source of many amazing memories from my week in town. You'd think that I would have had a hard time staying focused on the task at hand, which of course was to learn as much about the people and trails as I could in a week, and share these experiences and this knowledge with the rest of the world. You'd think. Not here though. Not in the Ötzal Alps, a place straight out of Bob Ross' wildest dreams.
Despite the best efforts of the Ötztaler Moped Marathon, and to be quite honest it was actually pretty close; my week in Sölden would ultimately be defined by the mountains that surround this community and the people and trails who call them home. The moped shenanigans proved to be quite the sight and sound, but as far as spectacles go, these mountains were in a league all their own."From the story
: "As far as I can tell, it's always a hell of a time to be in this place. As far as cities go, it's not especially large, but the energy, diversity, and feel of this place is kind of always just right. The warmth and hospitality are to be expected; you are in Canada after all. But the European influence adds a distinction that I find incredibly appealing, and that may or may not have something to do with the baguettes and croissants I tend to destroy whenever I'm in town. Of course, all of this is in addition to the region's greatest appeal: the trails. Spend a day or two riding here, and it'll become abundantly clear why everyone from Québec City is so damn fast."From the story
: "A young couple 200 feet below us along the Going-to-the-Sun Road seemed to find this encounter fascinating and stopped whatever it was they were doing to watch this unfold, with phones at the ready as a video of me tumbling down the cliff and scree field would no doubt go viral as animal encounters seem to be all the rage these days.
Fortunately, we managed to squeeze by one another without incident, and the smile remained on my face throughout the rest of the evening. As profoundly affecting as my afternoon in Glacier was, it would prove to be the cherry on top of a week riding an abundance of amazing trails, and spending time with people who share an incredible passion and appreciation for this beautiful playground in the mountains. Most of the folks I spoke with seemed to come to Whitefish from various corners of the country, and now call this place home. After a week in town, I get it. The gravity of this place is undeniable, and that's before you even think about the hundreds of miles of world class trails that call Whitefish home."From the story
: "Baker City and the surrounding area isn't a place where you go to be seen. It's a place you head when you are in need of a less than purpose-built adventure. The mountains here are big and raw. The air up in the Elkhorns is a little thinner. The landscape will take your breath away, and the people who call it home aren't interested in "doing it for the boys" or "for the gram". They ride bikes up and down mountains because it's one of the most complete ways you can connect with nature and reconnect with yourself. My previous trip here might've had a bit of a dubious ending, but you can bet that I had a big smile on my face as I pulled back into town 4 years later for some more."From the story
: "My first ever trip to the heart of Transylvania County was nearly 6 years ago alongside my friend and PB compatriot Matthew Delorme, and it helped to set me on the path of which I am currently on as a professional storyteller and athlete. It opened my eyes to a scale of adventure and exploration east of the Rockies that I hadn't really seen up until that point. The terrain is beautiful and unapologetic in its ruggedness, and the opportunities for adventure are numerous and world class. Fly fishing, rock climbing, white water, hiking - it's all here and the town of Brevard is largely devoted to curating the best possible experience for locals and visitors alike in their pursuit of any of the aforementioned endeavors. Of course I'm really here for one endeavor in particular: riding my bicycle in these woods."