Friday, October 31, 2014

Tried and tested – Top 5 Vancouver Island Mtn. Bike Trail Systems

Over the past year, mountain biking has dominated our outdoor adventures as a family.  Vancouver Island, BC has no shortage of world class mountain biking trails to shred.  Even with a mixed level of riding ability between the four of us, we are still able to hit the trails as a family.  I have put together an overview of five of our favorite Vancouver Island trail systems, tried and tested by the entire OTBP crew.  Each area lists a travel or adventure experience for riders of all ages and levels of expertise, the types of trails and features, location, trail maps, local mtn. biking resources, and some unique features of each trail system.

Cobble Hill  – located west off of the Trans-Canada Highway on to Cobble Hill Road.  Quarry Nature Park and Cleasby Bike Park are on the right at Hutchinson Rd. Map to CobbleHill trailhead  A great place to start mountain biking together for beginners or as a family.  This place is chock full of amenities for mountain bikers.  A family can easily spend a whole day here.  Washrooms, picnic area, a beautiful bike park complete with dirt jumps, pump track and a bike washing station to get your bike sparkling clean again.  

If you can tear yourself away from the bike park, the trails up Cobble Hill are smooth, not a lot of rocks and roots, so Liv, our 7 year old mountain biker, could easily ride up and down most trails with a 24” wheel.  The entire trail system has good signage throughout complete with distances and difficult rating.   

Trails are cross country single and double track which are shared with hikers and horseback riders.  Great summit views to catch your breath before racing back down.

For more info: Cobble Hill CVRD & South Island Mountain Bike Society

Hornby Island - an extension of Vancouver Island and accessible by ferry service at Fanny Bay to Denman Island and then Hornby Island.  Bike friendly Hornby Island has a variety of trails to suit every type of mountain bike rider. Map location of Hornby Island The vibe of Hornby Island is laid back with an eclectic mix of people, art, and food. Being able to bike to the trails from anywhere adds to the experience.  There is a pump track, built by the Hornby Island Mountain Bike Association, for those wishing to practice their riding skills before heading to Mt. Geoffrey Park.  The network of single track cross country trails on Mt. Geoffrey offer a variety of fast and flowy trails that will have you screaming like a school girl, even grown men.  I know, I heard him!

Trails have plenty of signage, maps available online or at the local bike shop and are complete with description of trails, rating and features. We were able to find trails that suited all of our abilities and still ride up and down a variety of trails. The peak of Mount Geoffrey and Summit Trail is hands down the best place for an enscarfment - food break at edge of cliff. 

Best enscarfment location, smart ass optional
No ride on Hornby is complete without visiting Tribune Bay, one of BC’s most beautiful beaches.  Grab some local grub and head to the beach for a west coast picnic/swim before heading home.  Even better, make it a weekend and camp or stay at one of the many cottages or B&B’s for multiple days of pure riding bliss with family and friends.  More trail info on Comox Valley Mountain Bike's website.

Mt. Tzouhalem (Mt. Zoo) – located at the end of Kaspa Road in Duncan, BC.  Map to Mt. Tzouhalem trailhead Definitely the place to go for hours of uninterrupted riding, rarely hitting the same trail twice! Mt. Zoo has a wide variety of trails; logging road, double track, slow technical single track and flowy fast swoopy trails.  Ben, my 9 year old fearless rider, can carve trails like "Double D" like no one’s business.

A bit of a grunt from the parking lot to the top, or to access other trails, but the first few times, you get the hang of it.  That's why we have granny gears.  If hitting jumps more your style, there are built jumps and ramps to test you limits.  Mt. Zoo is busy, so unlike other trail networks, be prepared to see other riders.

With no creeks or large bodies of water on the mountain, riding conditions throughout the winter are appealing with less mud and wet terrain. With winter though, comes less daylight.  No problem, keep your mtn. biking skills sharp with some night riding.  Strap on some lights and ride the trails after work, school, or supper.  Most trails are marked, rated and maps available online.  What is unique about Mt. Zoo is a cool app available called the Mt. Zoo GeoMap.  This app lets you see where you are on the map/mountain in real time, using your SmartPhones' built in GPS.  A helpful tool to keepyou orientated on the mountain which is handy for night riding.  For a comprehensive list of routes, maps, videos, the geoapp and any trail maintenance information, got to Heavy J's Offical Mt. Zoo Website.

Doumont Located in Nanaimo, BC west off of the Trans Canada highway on Jingle Pot Rd (the one between Northfield and Aulds) then right on Biggs Road (which will turn into Weigles Road) and follow past motor cross track.  Park and get out and ride.  Map to Doumont There is an extensive network of trails in Nanaimo that wind and weave around Westwood, Mt. Benson and south into Cinnabar Valley, but for now, I am only speaking of Doumont.  Here is where you can find downhill and freeride type trails with some pretty crazy and high jumps, ramps, and log rides.

Still plenty of cross country and we found most trails suited an intermediate rider, even though we all managed to make it down.  Signage in Doumont not as good as other areas but online maps, such as Phil's Maps, will do.  To avoid wasting time or for a better first time experience, ride the trails with someone who knows the area and can string together some runs.

The newest trail to hit Doumont, Fine China, is the first provincially approved mountain bike trail, built by the Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club.  The 1200m trail is described as a pump track or flow track, and let me tell you, it is a few minutes of pure fun!  Well worth the grinder to get to the start of the trail.  If my kids had their waywe would ride Doumont everyday, as would many of my adult friends.  Just be forewarned, in and around the Doumont trail network, biosolids are applied to VIU's woodlot under the Forest Fertilization Program, so be sure to keep your mouth closed when riding.

Cumberland – Located in the Comox Valley, Cumberland is a small village west of Courtenay and Comox.  When you hit the village, you pretty much have reached the trail head. Map marking trailhead of Cumberland Trails Cumberland has an outdoor enthusiast feel to it and is my favorite place to ride.  You could call it the epicentre to all things mt. biking. No matter where you are, someone is riding or the empty bike rack on the vehicle tells you they are still out riding.  People here are passionate about their outdoors.  Everything from trail building, purchasing land to add to the Cumberland Forest, and supporting local business, the people of Cumberland make it special. 

To really get a feel for the place, spend a weekend riding the trails.  Stay at the Riding Fool Hostel, grab a trail map from Dodge City Cycles, and get to know the local riders at the Waverley Pub.  Start or end your day by stopping in at one of the many, many fabulous eateries in the village (too many to mention)  Oh yeah, and ride some trails.  Cumberland has a little bit of everything.

From the village you can ride along the streets, on flat walking trails, or climb on up the main logging road surrounding the community forest for some light technical and downhill riding.  Cumberland is a popular riding destination but unlike Mt. Zoo, you can pedal for hours without meeting another rider.  A short ride up and you are able to get away from your busy schedule, responsibilities and surround yourself in a lush second growth temperate rain forest. The trail builders of Cumberland, known to locals as the River Rats, create trails like nothing you have ever seen and the craftsmanship of the ramps, berms, jumps and yes, even a teeter totter, are works of art.  Among other artistic things.

Most of the trails have signage and the phone friendly or print out map will not fail you.  Riding Cumberland can easily be done as a day trip offering all levels of riders a great day on the trails or as a weekend adventure, shredding as much trail as possible. 

Whether your new to mtn. biking, looking to ride on Vancouver Island, or an Island rider already, these five trail systems have everything you are looking for.  What I love best is that these are only a snippet of what is out there for mountain bike riders on Vancouver Island.  I can’t wait to get the OTBP crew out again and tear up more trails. 

Happy Riding!

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