Bush Pilot Biking: Full Cycle - 2014 in Review

Feb 26, 2015 at 16:50
by Johnny Smoke  
Yeah I know, it's well into the new year. I try to leave the bike alone in the winter time and just clear my head a bit. I also had a bit of a big year last year, and it took a while to get through the image dump and pick some fun ones. These aren't all the shots I took this year, nor are they exactly the "best" ones. They do tell a bit of a story, though. Here's hoping you find them at least a bit entertaining.

A year ago, it was prime powder season in the Okanagan, and Steve Mitchell came up for a visit on a whim. Good thing he did. I usually ski pretty nice snow, but this day was a beauty. Definitely the climax of my skiing year.

Bare knuckle...

The nice thing about skiing in the Interior of BC is that when the season ends, it's 100% bike season. The sun sets on the ski hill and the trails are prime at the same time. I did a bit of early exploring in the Okanagan underground (that's a natural tunnel there that Kurt is about to ride through) and found out that too many of my friends had NOT gone skiing but instead had ridden bikes all winter. Or I'm just getting old. Either way, last spring kind of hurt a bit more. I'll be making the same mistake again this year.

Early season

The early season here is simply amazing. Everyone wants to ride BC in the height of summer, but the best time is April through June. You don't get the alpine, but you get flowers, insanely tacky dirt, and no dust. There's also lots of group rides and trail maintenance to do, which are always fun. I especially like Tuesdays, when there's a youth ride that we do through the local shop, Freedom. It's a ton of fun, and those kids get good so fast.

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images

It seems like a few more people are coming out to try riding in the Southern Okanagan. Part of this interest seems to be related to the BC Enduro Series. Looks like Megan is bringing the circus back to us again this year. I really enjoyed this one. It's funny that it took this long to find a race format that is as much fun as just going riding.

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images

As spring rolls on into summer, the higher elevations all start to open up. People don't really think of this region when it comes to the big mountain riding, but I get to play with some awfully big slopes. When your local rides are 3000' drops, and the big stuff is over double that, well..that'll put a smile on anyone's cheeks.

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images

I know when summer is really about to get rolling when I get the call from Retallack Lodge to come up and train. 2014 was their fourth year of bike operations, and they really turned the corner this year. The lodge was buzzing when I showed up, with a huge trail building program underway. They had big goals this year, and it was looking amazing already. We got training out of the way and even found some time to get out a buff a few other local gems.

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images

It was also the first heli ride of the year, and that was a major theme this summer. Although it was also the only Powerslave lap I did, and that's kind of a shame. That trail is pretty damn good. So good, the couple we took that day got engaged shortly after. Coinicidence? I think not...

First heli of the year.

Right about then, things got SERIOUSLY crazy. Giant Bikes launched the Reign up in Pemberton, and suddenly things just started to happen. For example, when I got to Pemby, some of the first people I met asked me if I was there for the Vanderham wedding. You betcha I went. It seems just yesterday that Thomas was a little grom giving Simmons a hard time in the local convenience store, and now he's all grown up. Brings a tear to the eye, it does.

Crashing the Vanderham wedding. Congratulations you two.

The next week was spent ripping around with the folds at Giant on the trails of Pemberton. Not only did I get to meet and ride with the guys that design and build Giant bikes, I got to do three heli rides with them. I came away with a solid respect and appreciation for what Giant bikes are about, I also found out that Adam Craig really is as nice in person as he comes across as in the media.

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images

Somehow in the middle of this madness, I went for ANOTHER heli. Wade Simmons called me to come do a little Crankworx/GoPro project he was involved with, so we went and jumped into a Disneyland session. As is usual with these things, nothing went to plan. Connor had no drivetrain (lost part of his hub in the heli), we stayed out too late, it got dark, there may have been some bonking. You know - adventure. It seemed to turn out in the end.

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But wait...no time to rest. Another crew of journalists was already in Pemberton to go for another round of Pemby heli madness. Meanwhile, the schedule was already taking its toll. To make it worse, there was some solid industry representation on hand. Also, it was incredibly hot out. So I'm riding all day, partying in the evenings, and it's so hot that I'm averaging about four hours of sleep a night. I never would have made it through that one without super local, Seb Wild. Nobody does Pemby better than that guy.

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images

Four heli drops in a week is a new personal best, taking the running season total to 5. It was only halfway through the season too. All I needed was a bit of a rest. Did I get one? Or did I just go to the airport and pick up a van load of Germans?

Yeah, Germans. On the Sunshine Coast. Yes, we went to Coast Gravity Park. Yes, it really is that good. And Roberts Creek is still as good as it ever was. If you look closely, you will notice that the Germans are smiling. I know, right?

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images

I actually did get a short break at some point here, because I know I went home for a couple of days in there. It was on the way to Retallack anyway. Now the results of all that good trailbuilding were coming to fruition. There was still some distance to go, but the guys from TreeLines were nearing the peak. Every day meant a new section to hit, and each section was stunning. The early groups really got a treat this year.

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images

Which set the stage for Kurt Sorge's baby, the Hoff Fest. Man, it was a good thing I went to that warmup party in Pemby with all the industry journalists. That was good training for the Hoff. Front row seating at the circus doesn't even to begin to convey the atmosphere when these guys are around.

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images

It was a challenging week though. You can see a lot of greybird in that last collection, and that really was the story. Basically the sickest talent on the planet at the lodge for a week, and it kept raining. Lots of time and effort went into working on the Fest line. Those jumps they built were SO BIG that they really needed to be perfect. Those guys worked hard on that set to get the water off, digging trenches and drains and just generally busting humps trying to get 'er done. Between all the digging and partying, it was surprising that we got any riding done, but some big lines definitely went down.

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images

Since the weather wasn't working, the Fest crew went back to Nelson for a change of scenery. Wouldn't you know it? The weather broke.

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images

Gully stayed around this week. He and Jesse Melamed were here to do a little shoot on the completion of the new trail, which was part of a whole series Freehub Mag was doing on the build (see the whole series HERE). This led directly to what may have been the best day of my summer. We tried to get some early light the first day, but it was pretty obvious that at this latitude, and elevation, and at this time of year, that we would need to get up much earlier. So we busted out an alpine start and hit the summit of Reco Pk (elev. 8530' asl) at sunrise.

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images
  Pure magic.

Sendin it...
  Now that the jumps were dry, it was time to go HOFF. Here's Nico Vink doing just that.

If you haven't seen any Fest footage, do yourself a favour and head on over to the Fest Series page. Actually, just go there anyway, because it is the most impressive display of riding I've ever seen. That shit does not get old.

After all the stress of waiting for the weather, to finally see the boys hit these monsters was kind of surreal. It was like a storm breaking. The electricity of those first few runs, and then seeing everyone just letting 'er rip...it was absolutely mind blowing. I can only wonder what it would have been like if they'd been able to have a couple more days on them, and to have seen the full crew in action (a few of the boys had to leave early). Here's hoping it comes together again this summer.

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images

That was a fairly intense run of big days, but it wasn't over. Nope. About this time I got a call from another maniac by the name of aMac. It was his birthday, and short notice crew was throwing down to get a chopper ride to the peak above Della Creek. Askom Mtn. is the biggest rideable vertical known in BC, and aMac, Brant, Kevin, and a few others have been working on revamping the upper trail for a while. Another perfect day, and heli drop #7 was in the bag.

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images
Andrew s birthday heli drop.

Summer was now drawing to a close. Were we almost done? Not by a long shot! Now things at Retallack were getting really busy. We had the new trail down to a science, and groups were now coming in and getting multiple heli laps. The Legends trip was a hot mess as a sold out crew went big with Tippie and Schley. A few other groups came in to enjoy some incredible dry fall riding. Heli drop #8 went down (a new personal best for a single season of riding). Actually, my bike got 10 drops. I got to hike up a couple of times while the bike went up on the rack. I humped my bike up that ridge enough times this summer, and I'll take that service any time.

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images

Kinrade and I also found a bit of time to do some exploring. Now that we've finally reached the alpine, our appetite for more is just increasing. Recon missions like this are a favourite. Tools like Google Earth and GPS are amazing, but sooner or later you gotta put the rubber to the dirt and see what's there.

Reco recon mission

Finally, the flow of clients up there slowed to a trickle. I returned to the Okanagan, but I did have a few more interesting rides to do before the snow came. One was this trip to investigate some terrain in the Monashee range. Some of the gang from the Askom Mtn. ride tagged along to ride a new line up in the Monashee courtesy of our old friend Matt Pinto. He had a brand new trail to show off, and while it was quite raw, it definitely opened my eyes up to a whole new zone in BC. It may be a while in coming, but the Monashees are on the radar now.

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images

As the fall days began to shorten, I got a call from Cam down at NSMB.com. They were looking to do a little team getaway and dry out a bit from the autumn rains. Ever the gracious host, I immediately obliged. That story hasn't actually come out yet, but I expect it will soon. For now, here's a couple of teaser shots. It was actually really cool, because NSMB was the first group I guided after deciding to chase this dream back in 2003. At times, I think things haven't changed much since then, but then I look at old pictures and realize that we've come a long, long way.

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images

There was really only one place I had to visit to make my year complete. It's pretty tough to do a whole summer of riding in BC and not make Williams Lake part of the experience. So I went.


Shreddie always has something going on. A few folks put it together to jump in on a trip the weekend before Halloween, which just happens to be the Pumpkin Ride weekend. In addition to the usual Puddle shenanigans, on the Pumpkin Ride you dress up and do an extended night ride to Uncle Kenny's for a feast and a party. I really do love that town. Also, Farwell is nice.

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images

At this point, I was actually done for the season when the phone rang. Wade had to finish off a bit of video for a BC tourism project, and brought along Bruno Long for some LOLz. It was already quite cold out, but still dry. Frozen hard dusty trails are awesome, and one of the fun things about shooting early and late is that you get extended sunsets. We got the goods, and had a ball at the same time. And also a fair amount of bourbon.

Bush Pilot Biking - Full Cycle 2014 Recap images

Time really does fly when you're having fun. One of the busiest riding years I've ever had, and it just flew by. Within days of Wade and Bruno being here, the skies opened up with a big dump and cold temps. The bike got put away, and the skis came back out. I hear that the skiing hasn't been happening a lot of places in the west. I wouldn't know. I've been too busy shredding, but I can see the end of the ski season approaching. It's almost time to start again...

Snow...out west...

Care to join me?

Hit me up directly at smoke@bushpilotbiking.com.

For Retallack bookings and info, check out www.retallack.com

Thanks to the following folks for making my last summer so incredible:

Devinci Bikes
Troy Lee Designs
Ryders Eyewear
Freedom Bike Shop
Red Shreds Bike and Board
Pemby Bike Co.

... plus so many more.

Want to see more of these pics? There's a gallery displaying them individually here -Full Size Pics

Of course, if you were following any of my feeds, there's a good chance you'd have seen these already www.BushPilotBiking.com

MENTIONS: @smoke @troyleedesigns @devinci @Chromagbikes @retallacklodge @the-coastal-crew @bretttippie @wadevsimmons @richieschley @GiantBicycle @DakineTV @RydersEyewear

Must Read This Week


  • + 17
 riding a Devinci Wilson with an enduro helmet... thuglife
  • + 2
 Turn about is fair play
  • + 8
 its not enduro until he puts on goggles
  • - 3
 $539 a day, no thanks. ... One season pass to Whistler please!!!
  • + 7
 This article started off rad but by the end I was depressed because my life now looks dull and boring.
I'll never wake up and say "Hey let's go catch a heli and ride with Wade brah" Nope. Never going to happen.
  • + 11
 Maybe use it as a catalyst for change? I had a shit job in Birminghell in the UK for years but got a guiding job in Whistler for the season and never went back. I spent a weekend with Smoke and got to see how guiding should be done (i.e. not looking at maps when the guests are looking the other way....). Thanks Smoke! I'm not really a name dropper (prefer to ride with my dog most of the time to be honest!), but I've also had the pleasure to ride with some of the legends and now have the North Shore as my local trails. So if your life sucks, do something about it Smile
  • + 4
 ...I was depressed because my life now looks dull and boring.

Same here, I knew it since the very first time I visited pinkbike.com. Frown
  • + 2
 It's ironic, I am at a uni that people fight to get into, but whenever I am here I just want to go home and ride... I just have to tell myself 'work now, play later'....
  • + 6
 Best feature ever on PB JSmoke. More content like this will drive people to seek a balanced life.
  • + 5
 Johnny Smoke from Bush Pilot Tours KNOWS where the goods are...keep giving er bud!
  • + 4
 Smoke is the real deal!! Way to go buddy....You do live a charmed life my friend!
  • + 3
 the best riding and tour guided adventures in Canada by pros who are very cool to hang with. I recommend anyone interested to give Smoke a shout out and plan on a hell drop
  • + 2
 Number one Rule, when the short notice crew call comes in, you ditch everything and say "yes, i'll be there"
Thanks for the props smoke!
  • + 1
 Anyone from out of town looking to taste the best of beautiful BCs trails should DEFINITELY check out Bush Pilot Biking. You won't regret it! I gotta get back out and ride with Smoke again soon!!!
  • + 2
 Makes me want to go spend a week at some cabin in the wilderness with a couple riding buddies and shred trails all day long
  • + 2
 The skiing sucks and there's no riding here!!! Go to the Kootenays or Whistler or something.............
  • + 1
 What a year, nice work Smoke! Hopefully we actually share some trail time this year. Keep given'r!
  • + 2
 Thats the hilo from where the trail ends
  • + 2
 Yeah Smoke!! Keep'r pinned
  • + 2
 And this is a really good example of why BC is the place on earth !!
  • + 1
 Nice work Smoke! Great photos!
  • + 2
 Smoke for president !!!!
  • + 1
 taking an helicopter with your bike must be so exciting !
  • + 1
 Smoke Dawg with the goods!
  • + 0
 got tired just reading that!
  • + 1
 Riding BC by Full Moon
  • + 0
 Great article, Johnny! I do want to get back to the Okanagan

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