photography by Eric Mickelson // video by Logan Nelson // words by Jeff Kendall-Weed
Almost without argument, modern day freeriding can be traced back to the original Kranked film, produced by Bjorn Enga and filmed by Christian Begin in 1997. Iconic shots of the breakout film featured large jumps, drops, and fast, loose scree line descents in Kamloops, Canada. For the next 20 years, Kamloops served as the dusty set for many quintessential pieces of mountain bike media.
In the late 1990s, this style of simply “sending it” was just hitting mainstream for the first time. It was neither legal nor illegal. The sport’s expansion saw many of us enjoying the things that come along with growth: better bikes, more opportunity to ride developed trail networks, and a much bigger scene. Along the way, many of us have also enjoyed watching the progress of the best athletes in the world doing this sport. But back when the movement began, mountain biking didn’t have a great reputation.
Mountain biking has always been a bit of a “Do it yourself” sport--and that’s exactly what I love about it. The sport will always continue to have that aspect to it. A mountain bike rider literally can’t get into the woods if he or she isn’t taking the initiative to pedal. I don’t mean to portray the founders of the sport in a negative light by any means. Heck, I might not have found mountain biking at all if it wasn’t for Kranked! But as the sport grew, the pressures on trail access began to mount. And as we all know can happen, there was a certain segment of the population that was adamantly opposed to a non-motorized, two-wheeled enjoyment of the outdoor world.
This creates a cycle we’ve seen in many other places as well: mountain biking grows and other user groups feel threatened as a result. Then, mountain biking feels the wrath of litigation or governmental rules. The story of Kamloops is no different.
For the sport to continue in its current capacity, it has to be growing. It simply cannot exist without legal, public trails.
Dustin Adams, born and raised in Kamloops, experienced the lack of legal riding opportunities first hand, even being sued by the city after building some jumps. He has since spent time on the UCI World Cup circuit, owns a local mountain bike component company, and is a proud father. Dustin is a big advocate for the growth of the KBRA.
As a professional rider, I understand the need for progressive terrain that pushes the limits of what is possible on a mountain bike--even though riding that stuff clearly isn’t an option for the majority of riders. However, it’s amazing when the legal, public stuff is good enough to entertain top level riders plus provide a challenge for the rest of the riding public.
Kamloops has always had plenty of “off piste” gnarl, from the infamous “Jaws” drop Josh Bender attempted time and time again to the larger senders found in much of the late 2000s freeride media. But the riding mecca was not really known for trail access that the average rider would be able to enjoy. There was a definite need to grow riding opportunities, and the formation of both the KBRA and the Kamloops Performance Cycling Center (KPCC) have helped immensely in growing the local scene. The KPCC has built, and currently manages, several of the riding areas in town. The KPCC and the KBRA provide two very different approaches to growing the sport, which is a unique and strong set up.
John only recently became the KBRA president, and in addition to owning a non-bike industry business, he also owns a local bike shop.
Glenn Buchanan is a recent hire by the KBRA. He has a part time role that allows him to perform trail maintenance duties. He also volunteers with the KBRA kids league.
The KBRA has taken the role of becoming the voice of the general community. I first noticed the group while I was searching for mountain biking trail grants in the area. The KBRA was recently awarded over $17,000 as a part of the Kamloops Sports Legacy fund program, much of which they set aside for their growing kids’ league.
Looking at the map, Kamloops
has tons of public riding opportunities. From the high speed, dry and dusty trails of Pineview, to the endless jump lines of the Kamloops Bike Ranch, to the amazingly well sculpted network of shuttle trails at Harper Mountain, it’s clear that mountain biking is a key activity in the interior BC town. With the status quo as strong as it is, I was thrilled to see that the KBRA had won this grant.
The kid's league is available for boys and girls ages 7-12, and while it is currently capped at 40 riders, it has goals to expand. The program is designed to take place at the end of spring and beginning of summer, so that aspiring riders can bring a tool box of new skills to the playground of summer. As an added bonus, the social connections that the kids make within the league will provide them with a network of fellow riders.
This recent success hasn’t all come easily. The KBRA had humble beginnings, as Scott Baker, who’s been with the group for 9 of its 10 years of existence, explains.
“I remember some of our early days, having our AGM [annual general meeting], putting it on the internet, expecting 100 people to show up, and instead having eight people sitting in the room, five of whom were board members,” Scott said.
“The hardest thing is building trust with the local community. Larger numbers give us a louder voice, more of a say if we want to increase our trail systems, or build bike lanes, or have a management team and process and manage our trails. We have a voice to go to whomever we need to talk to,” John Osborne said.
Taylor Munden, left, and younger brother Jesse Munden, sailed effortlessly through the jump lines at the Bike Ranch.
Catharine got involved with the club a few years back and took her role very seriously. She was the club president for quite some time, and now assists as much as her race schedule will allow.
A second local group, the KPCC, has taken a different approach. KPCC is focusing more on managing Harper, Kamloops Bike Ranch, and the Pineview Trail Network. This group has moved immense amounts of dirt, and has worked hard for these areas. In fact, every single member of the KBRA that I spoke with on this project gave a huge shout out to the KPCC.
I found it refreshing to see the growth of mountain biking in Kamloops, painting the sport not as a renegade activity but instead as one that any local citizen could envision themselves in, crafting the semi-arid canvas with their two-wheeled brush. Kamloops mountain biking trails Produced and written by: Jeff Kendall-Weed @jeffweed. Video: Logan Nelson @loganpatricknelson. Photography: Erick Mickelson @erickmickelson. @jeffkendallweedYouTube