This article was originally published in October 2008, but the idea of an Island escape seems really good right about now. Barham and Gronross worked on a project last year getting into how Gronross shifted gears to a different part of the cycling world – check that out HERE.
The sun is setting earlier and according to Environment Canada we, as residents of British Columbia, should be expecting rain, snow and bleak greyness for the foreseeable future. In a personal effort to thwart the mere thought of winter, I asked Dan Barham along for a trip to southern Vancouver Island on what I thought was going to be one of the last sunny weekends of the year. Full Boar Challenge stowaway and good friend Ken Perras had promised us some great south Vancouver Island riding, some of which can be accessed year round depending on the weather and freezing level.
Yours truly on guard, watching the bikes on the late Friday night BC Ferry from Tsawwassen. Normally BC Ferries doesn’t allow this but we were so late that they ushered us up the escalator.
Upon landing in Swartz Bay I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had landed in another country. The Island felt different, and I guess being on the ferry so long, made me feel that we actually flew on a plane somewhere. Waiting for Ken to come and pick us up, I chalked it up to the fact that I had fallen asleep on the floor of the ferry protecting our bikes. Accommodation on Vancouver Island was provided in style by the Eaton Family. The Eatons, and no I don’t mean the department store, are some of the nicest people that I have ever met. They gave us a place to stay, which thanks to Ken’s knowledge of the heaters, was 1000 degrees by the time we went to bed, and they made sure that we didn’t go hungry our entire stay. Many thanks for the good stuff you folks offered.
Our lunch all wrapped up in a cooler, complete with a cheese-less sandwich for the “Lactose Intolerant” me. With the amount of food it contained we were sure that somewhere along the line that our lunch package had been switched with a United Nations Care package destined for a starving country.
Up early on Saturday we jumped onto the truck to meet Duncan local Adele Hunt, who would be shuttling with us for the day. Duncan, a sleepy little town, is about 50 minutes north of Victoria. Once a busy lumber town, it has now embraced tourism as its main attraction. There are 2 options for mountain biking in Duncan: Mount Tzouhalem to the east and Prevost to the west. Steve Smith’s section in Seasons showcased what Prevost had to offer. I was keen to see what makes Stevie so fast it first hand so it won in the fight between the two.
Ken Perras rips into one of the berms on Graceland.
Graceland, Memphis, Daisy Dukes, Patchworks and the DH Course divvy up the mountain side and offer a very wide selection of trails. From the flatter, but nonetheless bermed, Graceland to the steep and fast Memphis, one can have tonnes of fun on this mountain. Daisy Dukes is the trail to hit if you love wood work. Sky bridges and step down ladders are the name of the game with this trail. After ripping all day we were only passed by 4 people – and this was considered a busy day. The trails on Mt. Prevost are unmarked so tagging along with a local is the best way to go. The road up, while not technically challenging, can be daunting unless you know exactly where you are going. With a number of forks in the road your ass could get lost.
Ken tearing through some sweet single track on Prevost. Yeah that is about as wide as the trail gets.
It was decided early on if we shuttled one day that the other day had to be a good old hike a bike. Broom Hill, located in Sooke, a small town that lies about 40 minutes west of Victoria, shares many similarities to Mt. Fromme on the North Shore. There are plenty of great trails on Broom but the fear of the dreaded hike up deters most adrenaline junkies. We teamed up with local ripper/builder/photographer Strahan Loken and he managed, both climbing and descending, to show me up all day. Thank goodness I had an injury excuse.
Taking a break from the hike. Yeah even though it is a hill, taking a rest is always a must with the surroundings this nice. The mountains on the horizon are the US!
The hike up is more of an off the bike, on the bike kind of a trek. There are locations where you can ride your bike up and other locations where walking them was far easier. The trail winds its way up and around the mountain, finally arriving at the top where the views are spectacular. Broom Hill sits on the Strait of Juan de Fuca which separates Vancouver Island from Washington State. On a clear day you can see Olympic National Park across the water.
South Island local Strahan Loken showing us mainlanders how to roll moss-laden rock.
Mindful of the exposure line, Ken rips around one of the last corners before reaching the top of Broom Hill.
After the climb we collected ourselves, pointed our bikes downhill and dropped into Lawn Mower Rodeo. Again it was great having a local guide. The trails broke off left and right and you could easily get lost in the maze of trails, possibly missing something great. Broom starts off with a full helping of single track goodness. It quickly drops further into a few sculpted berms eagerly awaiting some roostage.
Ken railing one of the fresh berms on Lawn Mower Rodeo.
Strahan Loken going in on the Muff Diver. What can be seen after this steep roll in is the step up on the other side.
There is one feature that everybody gets excited about on a trail. Dangerous Curves is just that. Ken and Strahan couldn’t stop talking about it. Truth be told, I take everything with a grain of salt but when we laid eyes on Dangerous Curves, it became clear very quickly that everything they had told us was true. Dangerous Curves is rock step down to step up to wooden platform which is connected to one of the longest twisty skinnies I have ever seen. It curved back and forth 4 times. Pretty much one of the coolest things I have ever seen built for bikes.
Who says skinnies are old school, Ken Perras reminds us of our “roots” on Dangerous Curves.
Waiting at the bottom of the trail was another United Nations care package. After hiking all the way to the top and tearing back to the bottom, the food was welcome.
We packed up our bikes, loaded all the gear back into the truck and headed for Victoria. In one final salvo of motherly goodness, Mrs. Eaton had a home-made curry dinner waiting for us when we got back.
I would like to thank Ken P, Strahan L, Adele H and the Eatons for a great weekend. Oh, and I guess I will thank BC Ferries for taking us there.
With a bum knee, this is about as gnarly as the riding got for me. It was a shaky, super old, rotten bridge that was seconds away from crashing into the rocky chasm below. I swear!
Have you ridden anything on the southern Island? Ridden these trails that Dan and Dan checked out? The original discussion thread is HERE or you can leave a comment below…