Squamish tends to offer very mild winters with plenty of riding. But December brought us tons of snow and storm warnings with temperatures hitting the -20°C mark.
The arctic weather has now left, but the snow isn't going anywhere soon.
The Sunshine Coast, a 40-minute ferry-trip away from Vancouver, also saw snowy conditions over Christmas, but to a lesser extent, and now slowly wakes up from the short winter break. A trip from Squamish to Robert Creek is our plan for the day.
A short drive along the Sea-to-sky Highway to Horseshoe Bay leads us to the ferry. It's a beautiful day and only when we get out of the car do we realise it’s still January. Ferries to Vancouver Island, Bowen Island and the Sunshine Coast leave here and in summer it’s wise to reserve your spot. But not today. A couple more bikes sighted on trucks and bike racks show us that we’re on the right path towards riding though.
The ferry trip alone is well worth the early start. There is something very peaceful about the low hanging clouds moving over the shore and all the islands appearing while we get closer to Langdale. It’s cold and a bit windy, but the sun and the clouds make for a beautiful start to our trip.
If places had a heartbeat, the Sunshine Coast would be chillin’ at 45 bpm.
We drive on the only major road along the coast, through Gibsons, and make our way to Roberts Creek.
The winding road, dense forest and slow pace of the traffic make us really enjoy the moment. There is something about the vibe on the coast that just grabs me. It silences the thoughts usually running through my head, the troubles and challenges of daily life and makes me feel in harmony with the there and now.
Roberts Creek has a small little center to it, with shops and restaurants right next to the ocean, where we park our car to get some food at the Gumboot Cafe. The delicious lentil patty with avocado and a creative mix of greens should provide some lasting energy for our day in the woods.
Just as we want to head to the trails, we spot a small store hidden behind the cafe that catches our attention. The Melomania store turns out to be a little hidden gem on the Sunshine Coast, with drums, guitars and vinyl!
I do have a weak spot for vinyl and believe nothing will ever replace the ritual of listening to a pressed copy of music. No matter how on-demand your Spotify playlist can be activated with Alexa, there would be a big void for me without vinyl. So I dive into the boxes with used 70’s and 80’s records and stumble across a Supertramp album from 1977 that reminds me of my childhood, with my Dad playing those songs. Taking it home and having it as a memory of this trip is another thing a digital copy can’t replace.
We end up chatting with Paul the store owner for a while and discover we happen to share a passion for bikes. His stories of the Cranked videos from back in the day and trials sections with Ryan Leech filmed in Roberts Creek make us aware how long mountain biking has been around in this place.
So far the day was well-spent, but no bikes were involved yet. We drive up a fire road for a few kilometers from Roberts Creek, unload the bikes and get changed.
First up is a little pedal towards a trail named Twisted Sista’s and the conditions in the woods appear to be prime. While the mist is still hanging in the lower part of the woods, we can also see the sun peek out as we get a bit higher. Twisted Sista’s turns out to be a great trail to start with, nothing too crazy, but a good flow and perfect soil.
We soon bump into relics from back in the day, in the process of slowly being taken back by nature. It feels like a little museum of mountain biking history. The wooden constructions were once ridden by pioneering riders who were responsible for the foundations of mountain biking. It’s just so cool to look at these relics and think about what they were up to back in the day. No 29ers, no dropper posts, no modern geos, but probably loads of suspension travel and skills to make up for a lack in any of the technical advancements that are now the norm.
From the exit of Twister we start pedaling up to a Roberts Creek classic, Mach Chicken. Next to the start of the trail is a picture-perfect campfire spot that works well for a little break with an ocean view through the trees.
Mach Chicken starts with a wooden ramp that feels like a start gate and the trail instantly delivers. It’s fast!
With speedy turns and little gaps, the trail works its way through the forest and leaves no options for looking far ahead. Riding it for the first time or following someone can be a bit scary at first, but the combination of corners works very well and gives you the confidence to trust what’s coming and let off the brakes as much as possible.
After the first section of fast and tight corners, Mach Chicken becomes a bit more natural with more roots, loose soil and open corners. We inadvertently turn back onto Twister, which leads us back to Twister Sista’s, where we started our ride.
The mountains of Vancouver Island keep showing themselves through the forest making the views and atmosphere fantastic. I had ridden this place years back in summer when everything was bone dry and dusty, but I think I prefer this. The green forest is so dense, moist and well, green. It’s simply breathtaking.
Next up is a trail we walk up first, as it’s marked double black on Trailforks and promises jumps, drops and other features. Good to look before you leap.
We ride Hand Solo, followed by Jumps. Except for some massive dirt jumps at the end of the trail, everything turns out to be somewhat manageable and good fun with the little Jibb!
And that’s a wrap! Not bad for a ride in January with most of BC covered in a thick layer of snow.
Before we take the ferry back, we go for a little detour through Gibsons and grab some food at Tapworks, one of the local breweries that aptly finishes off the Sunshine Coast vibe that I have fallen in love with. Good food, vinyl, amazing riding, friendly people and beers. What more could you wish for?
Photos by Rob Perry
.RAAW Mountain Bikes