KRob is the famous mtbr member/writer who puts out the best Interbike Test Ride summary every year. His latest work can be found here:

Shortly after Interbike, he made his way to Whistler to ride and meet up with LeeL and Brodiegirl who write for mtbr as well. Follow their adventures here.

francis @mtbr

Photos by Lee Lau

Since my earliest forays into mountain biking and mountain biking reports I've seen pictures and read tales of the famous BC riding scene. But up until now these have been just surreal imaginings of deep green, moss, loam, ladders, and slabs that only really lived on my computer screen, ink smudged magazine pages and dreams. I scarcely believed I would ever get the chance (or develop the ability) to ride there.

Canada Flag by kentsaundra, on Flickr

I usually always go to Interbike the third week in September spending the first two days at Dirt Demo then moving on to Hurricane for a day then Moab for rest of the week. But this year, thanks to the urging of some good folks in this thread and via email, I decided to venture north before I got too old to enjoy the kind of trails for which British Columbia is famous.

My one hesitation was that I really enjoy doing the Interbike Dirt Demo reports and riding a bunch of new bikes, but with the generous aid of Lee Lau and the extreme kindness of many different people, shops, and bike companies, I was able to blend my desire to ride the Shore and test some different bikes while doing it. My super supportive non-biking wife graciously consented to come with me eventhough she knew this would be primarily a biking trip which really sealed the deal for me. So with bike gear stuffing my duffle to overflowing we caught our flight from the dry, desolate starkness of Nevada to the lush, deep greens of British Columbia.

It started with some very enjoyable touristy kinds of things in North Vancouver and Vancouver just chilling with my wife and seeing the sites.

Honey, I think we're in Canada! Yup, pretty sure.

Honey, I think we're in Canada! by kentsaundra, on Flickr

Prospect Point Stanley Park

Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

We even found us a Mountie to pose with.

Stanley Park Sea Wall. This walking/riding path goes clear around the peninsula on which Stanley Park resides. It was extensively rebuilt and paved a few years ago after high winds and rains washed much of it away. We were going to come back another day and rent a tandem but ran out of time.

Monday and our meet-up with Lee and Sharon for some riding on Mt. Fromme finally came. Lee was able to hook me up with a Rocky Mountain Slayer from Different Bikes in North Van for this ride. He, unfortunately dislocated his shoulder while in Europe a couple weeks previous to our trip so was relegated to hiking and photographing my adventure making me feel like a real bike journalist.

Thanks to Dan McRorie of Different Bikes for the use of this quintessential shore bike. Rocky Mountain Slayer 70.

The Mt. Fromme riding started with 'shore newb warm up rides down Floppy Bunny and Bob Sled, two short but oh so sweet trails near the bottom of Fromme that beginners and experts alike would enjoy. So well built, flowy fast and easily accessible.

Floppy Bunny was an old trail formerly known as Green Tunnel that was worked on sometime in the early 2000s then left to its own devices. In 2010 or so, Patrick Podolski (with the support of the North Shore Bike Shop) and in cooperation/conjunction with the NSMBA's TAP program extensively re-worked the trail. Pat is assisted by many, many volunteers - Very much the Endor Moon speeder bike experience.

Bobsled is a re-alignment of an old trail. It was made new-school with berms, small jumps, grade-reversals and other features to make it more beginner-friendly. It's still one of the few purpose built all skill levels trails in the North Shore.

The first thing I notice about the Slayer is the same thing I noticed when I first threw a leg over it at I-bike last year. It just feels natural. The cockpit is well set-up and despite it being a loaner I'm almost instantly comfortable on it though this medium felt a bit cramped while climbing compared to the large we rode last year. Once pointed down the trail I was perfectly content on the medium... in fact I think I would prefer it. It was easy to transition from side to side on the slalomy berms of Bob Sled and from centered to butt on the back tire when dropping in on steep rollers. Pedaling was efficient and relatively bob-free on the smooth fire road climbs. They must've known my weight coming in or the bike is mostly ridden by someone about my size as the suspension was pretty close to spot on. The Hans Dampf tires helped this feeling of familiarity having ridden them for the past year on my 5 spot. The bike stuck pretty well in the much dryer than normal conditions only washing a bit in the looser duff before catching and saving my face. The TALAS was about the best I've felt a Fox fork feel. Damping was firm and controlled, not super plush but not harsh. It worked well for this type of riding with multiple small drops and rounded rocks interconnected by relatively smooth chatter free trail.

I did notice some chainslap noise on the Rocky which is always annoying for me and I would occasionally get a bit of suspension lock-out while braking over roots and rocks if I was just entering that section and was still turning the cranks a bit while applying the brakes. Subtle, but noticeable. I should say that I had the same sensation a few times on the Chilcotin.

In summary, the Slayer is a really well rounded, well-balanced all-purpose mount. I wouldn't have any problem having this bike in my stable.

After my warm-up rides we pedaled up to the top of the seven switchbacks before descending some fun old school type North Shore trails. These are trails that the locals would call "XC" but I would place squarely in the AM tech category. Really really fun stuff. Can't remember all the names other than Executioner to Dreamweaver but Sharon connected up a good "intermediate" mix for me. Some fun challenges but nothing too crazy.

More goodness on Fromme

I completed the descent off Mt Fromme on a couple of choice bits called Natural High and Immonator popping out on the road literally a half block from my B&B. Lots of fun ladder work and mini drops. Natural High was a very very old beat up trail that was lovingly restored. It's woodwork is a shining example of how to build quality. Credit for that to Rob Hlus and Ian Collings (whose wife jokingly refers to the trail as his mistress)

After returning the bike that evening we walked around Deep Cove which was beautiful enough, but the most mind-bending event of the day, as cool as the riding was, may have been the hot-out-of-the-friar doughnut from Honey's. Wow.

The day was complete after a drive to Horseshoe Bay and Salmon for me and Crab and Lobster Ravioli for Saundra at The Boat House. As if the trails aren't impressive enough the dining was very good as well.

Day two

Having sampled just a fraction of Fromme (you could seriously spend a week just there and never hit every trail, let alone tire of them) I met up with Lee and Sharon again for a couple of shuttle runs on Mt. Seymour..... but first we were treated to a killer meat, potatoes and eggs feast by Andrew Knowles at the Lynn Valley Bed and Breakfast where we were staying. If you ever get a chance to ride the North Shore, you must consider staying here. It is literally right at the start of the Mt. Fromme trails at the top of Mt. Highway and Andrew and Vanessa are the most welcoming, generous hosts we have ever encountered at a B&B. It's like coming home for thanksgiving but instead of your own family who may annoy you, you've got a disarmingly jovial, quick-to-kid British fellow and his charming wife to cater to your every need. Nice, nice people. Great place to stay.

The description from Wade Simmons' and Sharon Bader's "Locals' Guide to North Shore Rides" for Mt. Seymour sums up what this peak's rides entail. "Mount Seymour is the hard working, blue collar brother, able to accommodate heavily travelled cross-country, freeride, and downhill trails. Being the furthest east, its dark wet forests offer a variety of trails to explore. The intense trailbuilding efforts of NSMBA and other groups ensure that the trails on Seymour are well drained and able to handle high levels of traffic, no matter how heinous the weather."

Weather for us was very uncharacteristically dry for this late in the year, with blue bird skies and moderate temps the whole week. This dry-lander appreciated the lack of slick mud and snotty roots even though this may have deprived me of the classic North Shore experience. Although Lee and Sharon kept apologizing for the lack of tackiness to the soil I still found it to be much more grippy and loamy than anything I ride in Nevada.

The bike for the day was the Knolly Chilcotin in size medium with RP23 shock, standard north shore Minion DHF tire up front with an Ardent out back, a nice parts mix, and pink grips (to make me faster :thumbsup:), generously loaned to me by Sharon. The climb up Seymour was done mostly by truck thanks to Lee who then hiked down and met us at various locations for photo ops so I didn't get in any long fire road climbing to compare it to the Slayer but in the little seated climbing I did do I was pleasantly surprised at how well the medium frame fit me. Even with a relatively short stem, it did not feel as cramped in the top tube as the Slayer. As soon as I stood up the sizing felt just fine for this type of technical riding.

I think the trails we did included TNT, Dales's and a bunch of others that I can't remember (or shouldn't mention) but I do know they were fun, deeper in the dense mossy green woods, and a bit loamier than Fromme. Lots of ladders and bridges, rock rollers, log skinnies, and more berms.

Maybe all girls ride well up here in BC, but I was impressed with Sharon's skills.

I really liked how the Chilcotin handled sketchy tech sections where wheel placement is crucial. Very sharp and accurate handling.

Manualling up onto rock lips and powering up the many short rooty, rocky climbs also proved to be a Chilcotin strong suit. The rear wheel tracked the ground and found traction as long as I had the legs to keep the cranks moving.

I left the shock in the steep setting all day and didn't have any problems with pedal strikes nor did it seem to shirk or get sketched on steep rollers and chutes. If we had ventured onto some of the double black trails I'm sure the slacker HA would've been appreciated.

The day finished off with another shuttle on Seymour with a couple more "XC" type trails so we switched up bikes for the relatively more tame of Severed D*ck and Applicator.

The bikes of choice were the Pivot Mach 5 for me and Carbon March 5.7 for Sharon both in size medium. I was at first skeptical of taking the Mach 5 on anything that didn't resemble a XC race course but Lee's old Mach 5 was definitely set up well for this type of riding. The 160 float was well broken in and plush and the shorter than stock RP23 dropped the tail end and BB down a bit totally transforming the nature of the Mach 5.

It was flickable, playful, and dare I say, plush. Never thought I'd ever say that about a Pivot long legged XC bike. It climbed effortlessly and hooked up on everything. The frame was stiff. The medium fit me well. I gotta say, I really enjoyed this spin on the Mach 5.

Nice shiny bits in red offset the white nicely.

Here's Sharon's new 5.7 Carbon. Very sexy. We were having such a good time railing trail that I forgot to ask Sharon if I could try it, but if it is more of the Mach 5 but better then I bet it's a pretty dang good ride. KRob----> Adding Mach 5.7 Carbon onto Interbike dance card for next year.

Later that afternoon Saundra and I rode the Sea Bus across to Vancouver and walked around Gas Town and bought some souvenirs for the kids. Later we met Lee and Sharon for some very good Sushi. When we got "home" Andy made us some hot cocoa and we snuggled up in the living room with a good book and warm fire. Another great day on the 'Shore!

Day three

Tuesday afternoon Lee was still working furiously to round up a Norco Range 650b for me to test when we got back from our Mt. Seymour rides. The Norco crew had just arrived back from I-bike the night before and had hardly unpacked but he was somehow able to tease a very scarce test bike away from them for the rest of the week……. IF I could somehow work in a 40-60 minute rush hour commute (each way) into Vancouver to pick it up the next morning.

I really, really wanted to ride the Norco and was ready to make the drive but I had an appointment to ride Squamish with Noel at 10:00 and opted to pass. Riding is always better than rush hour commuting and I'd be riding a Chilcotin with its creator that day anyway so it was kind of a no-brainer. Thanks to Norco for going out of their way to make it available to me though.

I met up with Noel at the B&B and we drove up to Squamish talking shop the whole way. I don't pretend to have the slightest knowledge about the ins and outs of running a bike company but I'm pretty sure it's not every day when the president and CEO can break away to go riding with a customer. I thought it was super cool of him to do it and we had a great day. His marketing philosophy is one of just letting the brand and the bike speak for itself through his dealer network and loyal customers. So even though he wasn't interested in me doing a "bike test/review" per se, he totally wanted to just go riding and have a good time with a long-time customer. Hats off to Noel.

The riding in Squamish is similar to, but different than North Van. A little more up and down with lots of roots, slabs, and tech to keep the stoke factor high. We first climbed a fireroad to get up to the start of Angry Midget then descend on it and Pseudo Suka (?) This Chilcotin was a large and set up with the CCDB air, a 2.5 DHF dual ply Minion up front and 2.5 DHR II Minion in the rear so was a bit heavier than Sharon's. Sizing felt a bit more spread out than I remember but I'd been on mediums all week up to this point so that may explain the difference. Pedaling efficiency was good though at first I felt off the back a bit as far as riding position goes until we realized it was set up in the slack mode. We stopped and switched it and things felt much better. Descending was as expected. It is tight, accurate, and stable though I did feel some harshness and packing up in the fork. After stopping to adjust the suspension (someone had the rebound set up really slow) it felt much better.

After my test ride on the Chilcotin in Hurricane last April I was pretty sure I'd want a large but now I'm a bit undecided. In the tighter techy stuff the large felt a bit long compared to the snappy compactness of the medium. I guess it depends on what type of riding I'll end up doing the most. I really do seem to be in between sizes a bit on this bike but could be very happy on either one. Most of my rides are long pedally ups followed by pretty fast bombing downs so would probably still lean towards the large though.
I know Noel doesn't need my endorsement to sell Chilcotins but this bike is very, very good.

I liked this Joystick seat. I also love the blacked out color scheme but I'm not a good enough photographer to get it to really pop, especially in this shadowed light. Take my word for it… it looks great in person.

Knolly Chilcotin Joystick Seat by kentsaundra, on Flickr

Chromag was nicely represented in the OSX Fubars, stem, and seat collar. I love their stuff, and I love wide bars but these were really wide….. maybe a bit too wide for weaving in and out of trees like we were doing today.

Knolly Chilcotin Chromag by kentsaundra, on Flickr

I didn't have my personal photographer with me today so didn't take too many pictures but coaxed Noel into pointing and shooting a couple with my camera.

Squamish is still very deep and green with lots of moss. I left home without my sunscreen and was kinda stressing to pick some up, but then realized pretty quickly that I wasn't going to need it.

Squamish by kentsaundra, on Flickr

Getting ready to descend End Trails after a gradual, sometimes punchy climb. Such good, techy, fun.

End Trails by kentsaundra, on Flickr

A few really fun exposed hog's backs on this trail. This one is pretty broad, but a few were blinder worthy.

Exposed Hogs Backs by kentsaundra, on Flickr

This is the alternate move at the end of End Trails. As always STIL.

The end of End Trails by kentsaundra, on Flickr

Here's a view of me attempting to climb back up it so we could take some better photos. I think it shows the steepness of the face a bit better. This was the scariest move of the day (climbing back up).

End Trails Steepness by kentsaundra, on Flickr

Incredibly awesome trails and, again, we barely even scratched the surface. Another month's worth of riding lurks in the mountains surrounding Squamish. Did I mention the views around Squamish? Shut the front door!

Day Four Whistler Bike Park

As much as I loved the trails of North Van and Squamish and as much as that is more my style of riding, these next three days in Whistler Bike Park I've been looking forward to the most simply because I've never really done this type of riding before. And let's face it, this is the mecca of gravity riders everywhere. "You mean they just haul you up to the top on a lift time after time after time and you just keep bombing back down until your hands and arms are so sore you can't hang onto the bars? Are you kiddng me?" I've seen the vids and it looks like more fun than should be legal. I couldn't wait to give it a whirl.

Stairway to Heaven by kentsaundra, on Flickr

Tourism Whistler and Whistler Blackcomb Guest Relations were nice enough to hook this DH noob up with a proper Downhill steed and full Park tour and clinic with my own personal coach for the first day. (Not to mention lift passes and bike rental for the duration of my stay in Whistler.) I was panicked when I arrived at Whistler that night to find a text from Noel saying I'd left my clipless pedals on his Chilcotin. I've tried flats on jumpy trails before and it didn't end well. I've been running clips for so long I've developed some bad habits when leaving the ground.

My coach, Duncan, said I should learn on flats anyway so off we went to see if I could figure out how to keep my feet on the pedals without being clipped in and without killing myself.

Duncan is a super talented rider, a patient teacher, and despite my previous failures at trying flats he had me sticking to the pedals by the end of the first day. By the third it was a non-issue.

Duncan by kentsaundra, on Flickr

I've been riding mountain bikes for 15 years and think I'm a reasonably skilled rider but he taught me some stuff that had never even crossed my mind before, and helped me to understand why some things I do intuitively work and why some things I've learned on my own need to be unlearned. If you ever get a chance to go to a skills camp or have coach for a day, do it.

All geared up and ready to go.

All geared up and ready to go by kentsaundra, on Flickr

The Giant Glory is kind of the ugly duckling of the Bike Park because it is the main rental bike in the park it is quite ubiquitous and oft times thrashed. This particular size Medium was in pretty good shape. I think the large they set me on would've fit OK too but after my experience in North Van (and after seeing the beat up condition and sticky stanchions of this particular large) I confidently declared that the medium felt much better and was the one I wanted.

Though lowly in street cred at Whistler, the Glory proved to be a worthy companion for all the riding in the Park. It launched off lips without any hint of trying to buck me off, felt balanced and stable in the air and landed softly when I came up short. Like a tame horse carrying its city slicker mount safely along the meadows of a dude ranch. The rough choppy braking bumps coming into corners and pull-out areas seemed to cause the fork to pack up and rattle my eyes out of their sockets, but I didn't want to mess with the settings for fear it would lose its stellar "in-air" manners. Rolling down steep ladders and slabs and through steep, gnarly roots and rocky sections really made me appreciate the extra cush and margin for error a proper DH rig provides.

It even did perfectly well on the more "XC" Top of the World trail that we did on Friday displaying impressive pedaling manners, and decent tight trail maneuverability.

The guys and gals at the G1 Rental shop at the base of the mountain were great. They catered to me like I was some kind of rock star and got me set up and going each morning with almost no fuss or waiting.

G1 Rental Shop by kentsaundra, on Flickr

One thing I love about mountain bikers (or hate depending if I'm waiting on them or trying to beat them to the trails or lift lines) is that they are basically late risers and late starters. Every morning I was on the lift when it opened and had the park relatively to myself for the first few runs. Last weekend was Thanksgiving for Canada and the last weekend for the Bike Park so things got crazy during the 2-3 hours during mid-day but generally the waits were never bad.

In fact on Thursday Duncan and I got in probably 15 runs and did most every open trail on the lower mountain, rolling right onto the lift as soon as we got to the bottom after every run. I loved the techy, twisty trails and felt most comfortable on those at first but what I was here for was to get comfortable in the air through repeated flight.

Towards the end of the day we did some runs down A-Line which is a fairly beginner friendly machine built jump and berm trail that flows nicely and really helps getting you comfortable in the air…. But I still wasn't clearing most of the jumps, landing solidly on top of most of the tabletops. Duncan was encouraging but I left a bit disappointed though really stoked at the fun I had had that day.

The next day (before and after the TOTW ride) the light kind of clicked on after three straight runs down Crank it Up to build my jumping confidence. I then moved over to A-line again and started to land trannies on most of the tables. Amazing how much smoother and satisfying that is! Ha ha.

Nearly as smooth and satisfying was the fantastic burgers we had at Splitz Grill later that night. Anyone who made food recommendations for Whistler Village always included this one on the list…. Now I see why. I truly can't remember a burger hitting the spot so pleasingly and so well.

Day Five Top of the World

Top of the World by kentsaundra, on Flickr

Through some connections that Lee and Sharon have from Sharon's time with the Bike Park Patrol we were able to get a shuttle up to the very top of Whistler Peak on Friday to sample the recently completed Top of the World trail.

Many thanks to Justin and Kira from bike patrol who got us up there despite the lift being closed for the season. You guys rock!

Words don't begin to describe this special experience and a more aptly named trail would be hard to find. Even though the total elevation of Whistler Peak is slightly lower than my home town it looms up so abruptly from almost sea level that it feels like you are literally on top of the world. The views are nothing short of astounding.

Top of the World

Almost immediately upon entering the trail we encountered some of the best rock armoring I've ever seen. I can't imagine the work that went into piecing this puzzle together-Equal parts genius and artistry.

In fact major kudos need to go out to Gravity Logic and many others for the work on this entire trail. It was supposed to be finished in three years but was done in two. Trail line and work was put in by Tom Pro, Alex Pro and Gunnar . The fantastic rock work you'll see in the top section was by Kenneth Melamed with help of Hiro and Boyd.

Top of the World

Top of the World

It just keeps going on like this for quite a good long time. If you can just flow the whole thing it probably wouldn't take that long, but I recommend you stop and take in the views as often as possible. I don't know how many times I'd have to ride this trail before I got so jaded that I wasn't totally awed by this scene.

Top of the World

The trail just weaves its way over and around this shoulder as you descend towards the treeline with what could only be described as inspired routing.

Top of the World

Top of the World

Top of the World

Top of the World

In most places you would just have a switchback here….. This being Whistler, you have a huge, beautifully bermed turn……and it was like this all the way down!

Bermed Turns

Diving into the trees introduces us to our friend Mr. Loam….. and, you guessed it, more cool berms.



As we pop back out of the trees we see the fall colors starting to peak out here and there.

A huge effort must've gone into building up this rock bridge over this boulder field.

Top of the World Rock Bridge

Top of the World Fall Colors

Top of the World

All too soon we're back in the bike park proper, but the fun doesn't end as we pick our way down an assortment of rocky, tech trails that canvas the upper mountain in the Garbanzo Zone then on down through the lower mountain trails and back to the base. Taking the whole descent into account I think this TOTW ride gives The Whole Enchilada a run for its money. Not as long mileage wise but total elevation loss has got to be close (Nearly 5000 ft.)

If you get a chance to do Top of the World when you go to Whistler, don't pass it up. And if you see any of the good folks who are responsible for building this trail be sure and tell them what a great job they did. It truly is one for the ages.

Day 6

When debating whether to go to Whistler or Interbike and Moab this year for my fall trip, mikesee sent me an email that basically said how bike-career alteringly awesome going to Whistler is. Says Mike, "Oh, oh, oh how I wish I could join you. I sincerely hope that you follow through with it-I look at my mountain bike 'career' in terms of how I rode (and looked at trails) before Whistler, and since. Knowing just a bit about you and where/how you like to ride, I suspect you'll do the same. Whizzler does indeed change everything. Not everyone gets the same out of it--duh--but everyone finds something to love. And yes--god yes, go now, so that you can go again and again and again before you have to stop."

I really didn't need any further encouragement to go but rereading this now, I see how true it was. Saturday was my last day in the park and the last day of my trip I wanted to spend as much time in the park as I could before my arms, wrists and shoulders gave out. I figured I could always rest when I get back to work and like I said, I just don't have anything like this near my home in the States.

As I walked out the lobby of the Aava Hotel where we stayed I noticed a booth where they would loan you a GoPro video camera for the day for free so I strapped one on and headed up the magical chair lift device for more, more, and more runs down. It just makes me giddy thinking about it.

Speaking of the Aava, we really enjoyed our accommodations there. The room we stayed in was spacious, clean,and quiet. Everyone we dealt with was very friendly and helpful and they really catered to bikers, offering in addition to the free GoPro loaner, a bike tuning and cleaning station, bike valet, and easy 5 minute walking distance to the chairlifts.

Aava Hotel Bike Tuning and Cleaning

Only in Whistler

Aava Hotel Bike Valet

Aava Hotel

Aava Hotel

I started out with a couple of warm up runs on Crank It Up and Blue Line then hit A-line a couple times to cement what I'd learned the previous day. Then once the Garbanzo lift opened I caught a ride up to the upper mountain. I had the good fortune to hook up with a friendly fellow who lives a couple hours east of Whistler who was on his own as well, was quite familiar with the bike park, an excellent rider, and who offered to hang with me and show me around. Thanks a ton Andrew.

Several runs down Freight Train and A-line latter (not to mention a smattering of other interesting tech trails like Angry Pirate and Goats Gulley) we ran in to some friends of his from California who joined us for the last few runs. It was really great to hook up with a group rather than just riding on my own. I was able to see a bunch of stuff I wouldn't have seen otherwise and progressed my skills on some of the jump line trails by following more experienced jumpers.

By 4:30 my arms and hands were screaming uncle and after a particularly awkward get-off into/over a berm on my "just-one-more-run" run down Freight Train I knew it was time to go. I reluctantly turned in the Giant and walked back to the hotel where my ever-patient and supportive wife was waiting. We drove down to Vancouver to catch our early flight out the next morning as the sun set over the peaks and bays along the Sea to Sky Highway.

Mike was right. This trip changes everything and ruined me for any other riding. In fact I haven't even been able to face getting up in the morning to do my same old local rides. I really hope this passes but I know it won't completely and I'll have to get back up to Whistler and North Vancouver to scratch that itch again soon.

I can't begin to thank everyone who helped make this trip a reality but special thanks need to go out to Lee Lau and Sharon Bader for taking us under their wings and facilitating practically everything we did while in British Columbia, not to mention making me look good in so many fantastic pictures; Wendy Robinson, Kerry Duff, and Mary Zinck, from Tourism Whistler; and Bea Searle, Tom Radke, and Rob McSkimming of Whistler Blackcomb Resort.