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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)


I live on a sweet mid-sized island off Canada's West Coast. I've been here 5yrs and wanted to bikepack it to see the sights and have an easy access bike camping alternative out my door since living on an island everything is an expensive flight or ferry to get to.

Bikepacking is just starting to become a thing here and any old-timey epic bike tours were not documented well enough to survive the decay of time so a bunch of friends and I started putting something together.

We've got a boat load of logging roads on the island, but what's on the map and what's on the ground are two different things. Especially in the south island it was a challenge to find a way through to the mid-island with geography and development blocking the obvious choices. After a bunch of on-the-ground recon, internet searching and Google Earth fly throughs we had a route worked out.

Last week we completed the first full ride through from Cape Scott in the North-West down to Victoria in the South-East. ~850kms & 12,590m climbing [531miles & 41,300'] in 7.5 days of riding.

The route is all GDR/TD style logging roads. However, you will pass through 4 towns with amazing trail networks should you want to drop the camping gear and spend a couple days shredding while reloading on beer and pizza! ;)

It was great to see the island from my bike saddle. Especially the north end which was the most remote and where I have spent the least amount of time. I made many mental notes of places I wanted to come back and explore with more time and possibly my fly rod! ;)

I'll post a trip report and all the usual info here over the next few days as I get my pics processed.

I appreciate all the hard work people put into building trails and creating routes. Nothing here is really unique or something I created with my own hands, but at the very least I can curate the info for the bikepacking community so somebody from another part of the world can swing by my lovely island and take a rip without route finding hassles.

I live in Victoria, BC so anyone who wants to ride this route can lean on me for up to date info and logistic support. If the GF is in a good mood you can setup a tent in my backyard and grab a shower/use my bike tools. ;)

Vancouver Island Bikepacking Route - Regional District of Mount Waddington, British Columbia

Interactive map and GPS track: ^^^^^



My trusty Surly Krampus at the end of the ride. 29+ is a great format for this type of trip. Rolls fast through smooth or rough sections. Deep loose gravel ain't no thing. Stupid steep chunky crushed rock fill at 50kph just makes you grin. Climbs well up loose chunder and doesn't feel porky.

My last bikepacking rig was a light 29er and I'm faster overall on the Krampus as well as feeling more confident. Which is awesome when you a spent and not at the top of your game.

Not sure if I'll stick with the suspension fork or not. I think the trip would have been just fine rigid with that short rear end riding the rear wheel is easy.

The Porcelain Rocket gear was superb and I appreciated some of the subtler details when I was trying to push long days and ease of use when beat down tired was so key. It's a great system. 100% stable and reliable on the bike. Intuitive and easy to work with when setting up camp or packing up in the morning.

I will work on lightening/minimizing my load for the next trip. Less is more when you are pushing your limits. :thumbsup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·


A big shoutout to Michael M. MTBR member and local shredder. He joined me for the first half of the trip and was smart in cherry picking some of the sweetest sections of the route up north.



This was his 2nd ever bikepacking trip and he rocked it. Rode hard each day as we had time deadlines to meet. Dealt with adversity in style. His gear was tight and dialed so we didn't spend time futzing with stuff. Most importantly in my books he moved efficiently through the terrain which is the hallmark of a proficient bike tourist.

Chapeau to you sir! :thumbsup::cool:

It was great to have the company and share the good times!
 

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Good stuff, TFPU. Looks like a unique and exotic venue, well worth traveling to do.

Assemblage is an art form, brother, and the route could not have been designed/done without your hands (and complete body and mind) — so you did create something new, modest guy 👍🏼
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·


Getting to the Start

Before we even turned a pedal we needed to get us and our bikes to the start of the ride at Cape Scott Park on Van Isle's North-West coast. That's about 7hrs driving to Port Hardy on pavement and another 90mins of logging road to Cape Scott from there.

Crappy island bus service [when it comes to carrying bikes] and not wanting an epic car shuttle at the end of the trip complicated matters. Luckily my friend Jon offered to drive us to Port Hardy in his RV as he had never seen the north island and he likes a good road trip. He was willing to go all the way to Cape Scott, but I figured we'd do more damage to his new RV on that 150km dirt road round trip than was worth it.



Cape Scott Water Taxi shuttled us to the park in a van for $75/each. I figured one good rock from a passing vehicle would do about $2K damage to Jon's fancy big RV windshield so it seemed like a good idea to take the shuttle! As it turned out that ride was the scariest part of the whole trip. Our driver took the logging roads at rally speeds and I saw no hope of surviving if another vehicle was coming around the corner as we were using the full width of the road and swaying the Ford Econoline to its max. I really wished I had brought a bike helmet on the trip just for the van ride. No joke! ;)

CAPE SCOTT WATER TAXI, North Coast Trail Shuttle, Boat Charters - Port Hardy, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada



Port Hardy ^^^

Eventually we got to the park where some hikers were waiting to be picked up after hiking the Cape Scott Trail along the north coast of the island. One looked at my bike and said "So you are riding without a tent or stove?" I told him no I've got a tent, sleeping pad & bag, clothes, stove, fuel and food for 4 days on my bike. That seemed to blow his mind as he shouldered his 80L expedition pack.



Cape Scott to Port Hardy Turn Off

We got rolling pretty quickly after an obligatory start photo or three. Our initial pace was unsustainably fast, but this trip had been years in the making so no point in dampening our enthusiasm with reality just yet. In a little over an hour we hit the hamlet of Holberg where 60 fine souls live in support of the forestry industry.



Most importantly for us they have a pub. So we stopped for a burger and a pint of beer! Best burger of the trip by far. Not a good choice for high performance, but this was a holiday and I ride bikes so I can eat what I want. ;)

Unfortunately our ride the remaining ~50kms from Holberg happened to coincided with a shift change and being a Friday afternoon the lumberjacks needed to rush to Port Hardy to ensure they didn't miss out on the last pint of beer and last decent looking lady. It wasn't life and death for us, but it did ruin the ride from an enjoyment perspective.

That was okay as we knew it was a short distance in the overall trip and we'd have many many many hours of solitude later rolling through lightly used logging roads.

Eventually finished that section of the route and pointed the bikes south on quieter roads. Starting at Cape Scott was just done because we figured if we were that close to the top of the island we might as well go all the way. Having said that I doubt I would bother riding that section again. If I did I would camp at Cape Scott overnight and hit the road early to avoid traffic.



Lots of rain on the drive up ^^^

Rain!

A word on weather. Vancouver Island can be wet. Particularly the north end, but the middle and south parts typically have hot dry summers. This year late May and June were unseasonably hot and dry throughout. That was until the day before we started when rain moved in.

**sigh** - I don't love rain, but what are you going to do?

We sort of lucked out because as we drove west in the van we passed through fairly heavy rain which was moving eastwards so on our first day of riding we just bumped into the backside of that system getting sporadic light rain showers, but no deluges. With all the traffic that passed us some rain worked out to our benefit in keeping the dust in check.



Turning South to Camp

We were rewarded very quickly after getting off the Cape Scott Road with barely used rugged logging roads that climbed up along an escarpment with sweet views of the ocean. Vancouver Island is a giant forest so when you can pop your head above the trees and enjoy a vista you take advantage of it!

So we setup camp for the night after 75km of cool damp riding. Two issues with our camp were 1) the lack of water and 2) the prodigious amounts of bear scat.

The parts of the mid and south island I typically ride have tons of high quality water sources so you can always camp with lots of water. In this case we had enough for the night, but we'd have to ride a ways in the morning to find water for breakfast.

This road was clearly a bear highway and for good reason as it was the easy way through this area. Not much we could do other than cook away from camp and stash our food in odour-proof bags.



We didn't have any issues with bears that night. Although I scared one away as I walked up the trail in the AM looking for a good spot to go to the bathroom.
 

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Nice job Vik! I worked out of Holberg one summer so those pics definitely bring back memories.

I did a ton of fishing that summer rather than MTB, and can say that bringing the fishing rod next time would definitely be worth your while.

If you didn't like the road between Holberg and Port Hardy an alternative would be to ride south on logging roads before Holberg and catch a water taxi across to Coal Harbour. There is a water taxi from Quatsino to CH (How to get to Quatsino) and it looks from satellite like they may finally built roads that link in the Quatsino road; if not, looks like max 300-500ft bushwack east of Colony Lake. A bit more adventurous and cool way to go.

It was a good call not taking the RV to Cape Scott. Those roads are notorious for killing tires. Many times we would come across tourists in their new 4x4s with 2-3 flats at once!

Can't wait to see the rest of your report
 

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Great trip. Sometimes it's nice to dream of far off exotic locations but it's also important to take advantage of what's in your own backyard. And it turns out we have amazing backyards!

One note is that there are no grizzlies on v island so the bears aren't too dangerous. Although apparently one swims across via the discovery islands every once in a while but is usually taken by hunters.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I'm not worried about being killed by a bear. If I was going to worry about something like that we have a healthy cougar population here! ;)

My concern is a bear can easily trash our gear and/or eat our food. At which point the bear is likely to get killed and we've got a resupply issue.

All in all bear encounters of any significance aren't good for human or bear.
 

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That's an awesome trip vikb! Wouldn't it be nice for every bikepacking trail to have a pub to stop at with great burgers? :thumbsup:
 

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That's what makes solo kayaking and bike packing challenging and more limiting, you can't leave camp to go do something else. This limited my fishing options in baja and I hope to do some spearfishing next time I go, which would be really iffy if I left camp on the beach for the coyotes.

I usually put the food in a dry bag tied off, elevated above the ground outside the tent and I'll get up if I hear anything. Not a fan of hanging it from trees
 

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Nice addendum, vik. Way to take care of biz and have fun. Same thing, eh?...

Between you and Evdog, there's no telling how long I can go without bikepacking again. Thanks for the vicariosity!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)


Heading South to Atluck Lake

Day 2 we woke up to damp and cool conditions. I scared a bear way from camp as I walked around looking for a suitable toilet location. Although we have many black bears on Vancouver Island they are generally no trouble as long as you keep your food scents in check and you don't startle one at close range. If I can't see around a downhill corner I'll sing a song or holler out some bear calls to give them notice I'm coming.



Before I could pack away my sleeping gear the rain started again in earnest. Aside from not enjoying being soaked in the rain I didn't want to get my gear wet as I packed it so we made the call to hang out in our tents for a bit until the rain stopped. The forecast was for things to get hot and dry so we knew the rain was not going to be an all day affair. 45mins later things cleared and we got the bikes ready to roll.

On the south island there are a ton of high quality fresh water sources, but so far we hadn't seen any that we could access since turning south after leaving the Holberg logging road. I was carrying 2 x 750ml bottles and Michael had a 2L bladder. We were okay for drinking water, but didn't have enough for breakfast and riding so we decided to eat once we found a creek.



We started pretty high up on an escarpment which lead to some great downhill riding on a lightly used logging road. Lots of fun curves and the odd rock to pop off of. Within an hour we found water and cooked breakfast on a handy bridge.

The riding was a nice change from yesterday with zero traffic to deal with so we could just ride and enjoy the forest.



Eventually we needed some more water and thought we had found a decent river, but upon closer inspection we realized it was tidal movement of brackish water through an inlet from the ocean. If I was riding the route again I'd probably carry an extra water bottle for the first couple days and then ditch it as I got further south and water was more plentiful. We've had a dry spring and very little snow pack this year so this could just be an unusually dry year.

With the first day done it was nice to settle into the trip and get used to just turning pedals all day. Grades were moderate so we were able to ride most of the climbs and the rain plus lack of significant traffic meant dust was not an issue.



We did see a handful of vehicles around Alice Lake, but they were driving slow and were courteous. Thanks!



We rode along the shore of Atluck Lake and were nearing 100kms for the day which for us middle aged recreational cyclists was a solid effort so the search for a campsite began. After considering a couple marginal sites right at the edge of the road we found a sweet site which sadly turned out to be occupied by a couple and their 4 dogs. The guy mentioned a possibility a the north end of the lake worth checking out so we kept trucking and we were rewarded with a super nice private site at the edge of the lake with amazing views and some strategically placed logs for furniture.



With warm water and the sun shinning we took the opportunity to wash some clothes and clean ourselves up a bit. As well as to dry out our tents and sleeping bags from the previous night's rain.

Across the lake from us some local red necks had their camp setup and were doing all the usual foolishness - loud country music, running a generator at night, shooting guns, drinking heavily then operating ATVs and motor boats. It was fairly entertaining from our vantage point. Sort of a reality TV show.



Woss and Mulchat Lake

We woke up to a sunny clear day and rolled out into the building heat. We were able to find drinking water much easier now which took one concern off our plates and after a couple damp days the sun/heat were welcome - at least at first. The riding along the Nimpkish River was scenic and grades were moderate.



We had added the Cape Scott segment to the trip last minute and figured we'd just ride a bit extra each day to make up for it. However, our actual pace and daily mileage were predicting that we'd be out an extra day before we got to Cumberland where Michael would be driving home. We had enough food to stretch the extra day if we rationed a bit, but who wants to ration food on a bike tour!!



Our route passed the hamlet of Woss so we figured it was worth a ride in to check out what supplies we could grab. As it turned out this was a great decision. Woss is home to ~200 folks involved in the forestry industry. There is a small hotel/gas station/diner in town which is where we headed. First we ate burgers/fries and pounded down cokes. Yum! Then we hit the store for supplies for the extra day. Finally we figured beer for camp and an ice cream to fuel the next part of the ride were a good idea!



Leaving Woss with full bellies and heavy packs we may not have been moving at lightspeed, but we had everything we needed to get to Cumberland comfortably.

More easy riding took us past Vernon Lake and to a nice camp site at the Mulchat Lake Rec Site. Having a picnic table and toilet to sit on felt downright luxurious.



As with many trips I've been on Day 3 is the turning point where you get into things deeply and you feel connected with your ride more than your normal life. We were working well as a team and I was impressed with Michael's ability to efficiently get stuff done. We are not super-fast nor super hardcore so if we wanted to get to Cumberland on schedule we needed to keep rolling steady and not waste time in the mornings or during the day.

We had our chill time in the evenings once we had met our goal for the day. So it wasn't all death march.



Michael's dérailleur was sounding pretty bad due to all the mud and dust. We lacked any chain lube, but got creative and used an olive oil package from one of our freeze dried dinners to lube chains. It worked really well keeping his drivetrain trucking nicely until Cumberland.



Gold River - Sayward - Brewster Lake

We got rolling again early as it was likely to be hot and dry. Heading downhill from camp towards Gold River we then turned NE towards Sayward and rode some challenging logging roads that climbed a lot, featured steep rough chunky fill and we had them mostly to ourselves. This was some of the most scenic riding we did the whole trip despite the hard climbing, heat and challenging descents it put a smile on our faces.



There looked to be some great fishing in this area with river after river looking like it should be on the cover of a fly fishing magazine!



The only traffic we saw during the first half of the day were a couple forestry guys in pick ups and 2 giant pieces of machinery. The logging folks were friendly although the second one looked us up and down then asked "Are you lost????" When I saw the machinery coming our way I got off my bike and climbed down into the ditch off the narrow road. The equipment was so wide I almost needed to drop the bike and climb further into the forest.



All the climbing we did in the first part of the day paid off in some extended downhills. I felt like we were getting more down than we were having to climb to earn it. I know that's not possible, but it did feel good!



It got plenty hot by the afternoon and our legs were tired by now so progress was a bit more painful than earlier in the trip. On the other hand we knew that Cumberland was up ahead and our bodies were used to putting solid efforts.



We made it to an empty Rec Site on Brewster Lake at the end of a 110km day. We were pretty beat and we arrived around 8pm so there wasn't too much partying happening. We drank a couple beers, ate dinner and washed up in the lake.



We each had a beer left from Woss and planned to get to Cumberland the next day so we left 2 beers at our campsite for the next folks. I keep dreaming of the day somebody is going to hand me an ice cold coke or beer on a bikepacking trip. Hasn't happened yet, but I have faith! Leaving the beer lightened our load and hopefully made the Bike Gods favour us.



Bears

We ran into lots of bears on the trip, but my memory of each encounter is limited. One or two bears a day was the norm. With bear scat all over the more remote roads we were travelling this was no shock. Typically the bears would take off when they saw us and we didn't have to do anything. One bear wouldn't get off the road we needed to ride down so we fired off a bear banger to motivate him.

Although there was bear scat in most places we camped we didn't have a nocturnal bear encounter. We put our food into odour-proof bags and stored them far enough from where we slept that we were not inviting the bears into our tents if they smelled something yummy.

 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·


Cumberland

This was going to be our last day riding together which was a little sad, but we would be arriving in Cumberland where we could pig out on food/beer and where I had a bunch of resupply items stashed in Michael's truck. Not to mention getting a real shower at the Riding Fool Hostel! ;)



The day started out with ~10kms of downhill riding through a lovely forested area on very old logging roads that had not been used for a long time. Relaxing, scenic and exactly the reason you do this sort of tour.

Eventually we got spit out onto a section of paved rural highway. Not awful, but a bit of a shock to the system when you've hardly seen any cars for a few days. It's sections like this that would be considered uber sweet in the road touring world that make me very happy I am focusing on dirt touring these days. On the plus side it was downhill for a long time. Coasting at 30kph+ isn't so bad.

I'm going to do some recon work and try and reroute this part of the trip.



The paved section of the route spat us back onto some logging roads again. It was amazing how peaceful it felt not to have any cars speeding by us. On the other hand it was hot, dusty and there was enough washboard to really shake us up.

I'd rather be on logging roads than the side of the highway, but there were not my favourite logging roads of he trip. We put our heads down and cranked out the KMs. I got a bit of a sunburn on my arms this day. Being a brown dude it takes a lot to burn my skin so that was a scorcher.

The last section into Cumberland was the hottest, dustiest and most washboarded of the whole day.



If there wasn't beer, pizza and a shower at the end of that road I would be really tempted to skip it and keep going towards the next section of the route. However, by Day 5 those luxuries made a little suffering worth it.

Michael packed up his bike and gear into his truck and zoomed home to Victoria. I was both jealous of him leaving and sad he didn't get to finish the trip. It was good to have the company up north. I know the south island pretty well and apart from one section of the route I had ridden it all in chunks before.

I dropped by the local bike shop Dodge City Cycles to get my Brooks B17 tightened and to grab some bike energy snacks. The guys at DCC have always been great to me when I passed through town touring or when I was just trail riding in Cumberland. This time was no exception.

I found a stylish pair of $10 gas station sunglasses to replace the lost ones and pigged out on gas station food a bit more than I should have.



I took a room at the Riding Fool Hostel for the night. Taking a real shower and changing into fresh clothes was awesome! The shitty sleep due to people partying on a Tuesday night was not awesome.

I was up at 530am and still very tired, but with lots of riding to do I wanted to get out of town and onto the less used logging roads before traffic got busy and made things dusty.

My plans went slightly off the rails when I adjusted one of my Ergon Grips and stripped the threads in the grip so I couldn't tighten it up. I didn't want to wait 3-4hrs for the bike shop to open, but I couldn't ride with a freely rotating grip either. I was still dopey from lack of sleep, but it eventually occurred to me that 1) only the first few threads were stripped [the OEM bolt was quite short] and 2) the water bottle cage bolts in my frame under my framebag were the same size, but much longer. So I just stole one and it snugged up the grip easily. Yeah! I was rolling without too much delay.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
A lucky escape with the grip... I have read a few people doing the same thing but thankfully mine have been bombproof!
Thanks... :)

I have probably a dozen sets of Ergon Grips and used them hard for many years. This is the first problem I have had. It could be as simple as a supplier providing bolts that are a bit shorter than normal.

I really like them and have no second thoughts about using them.
 
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