We started our trip by driving to Vernon, BC to ride the bike park at Silver Star. Given that the temperatures hovered around 40 degrees and there hasn’t been any rain in what seems like forever, I instantly got dust in my eyes (and a giant bug). After a quick trip to the village to buy some goggles, we were back on track and exploring the mountain. Another thing I learned: keep your mouth closed as much as you can and breathe through your nose because the bugs are so dense, they continually hit you in the face as you’re shredding down. (Later on this week, I actually took a branch to the face which left a scrape. So even when not riding bike park, consider eye protection!)
Lesson 2: Research events
On our first day at Silver Star, Norco had their Rider Appreciation Day, or RADfest, giving 50% off the lift ticket price for anyone with a Norco bike. We knew this was happening and purposely scheduled our trip so we would be there! It was absolutely great. The Norco people were very friendly, we got to ride the park all day, and at the raffle at the end of the day, we won a bag of goodies including socks, tshirt, and knee pads. However, we were not aware that this weekend overlapped with the BC Enduro! The first day was down in Vernon at Kalamalka (which I’ve heard is absolutely a must-do) and the second day would be at Silver Star. On our first day, we quickly learned that blacks (and some double-blacks) were good terrain for me but these runs were closed on the second day for the race. Instead of buying lift tickets, we ended up just packing up and driving to Kelowna to visit friends. So, next time, I’ll be researching when and where there will be races to see if it will impact our riding plans at all.
Alternatively, we’d bring all-mountain bikes to Silver Star. The terrain is suited to ride with a 6-inch bike and I think the blues would have been better on a smaller bike. With smaller bikes, we would have had the option of riding the park for one or two days or ride the cross-country trails Silver Star offers. Or ride at Kalamalka or down in Kelowna. There are so many good places to ride around there that we would have gladly stayed longer.
Lesson 3: Look ahead
After our trip three-day trip to Vernon, we decided to head to Whistler (this whole week was really not planned and done quite spontaneously…). We drove up to Squamish in the morning and rode the Mashiter area. This was our first time on Rupert and boy, was that fun! We then continued onto Whistler with a little pit stop at Alexander Falls. I had never heard of it but it was really nice. And a good spot to change out of our riding shorts (we didn’t undress in Squamish since we were parked at a residential area). The falls are easily accessible from the road to Callaghan Valley. There is a short section of dirt road into a large dirt parking lot. A few picnic tables dot the back section in the trees and a viewing platform shows off the waterfalls.
In the evening, I joined the Muddbunnies ride in Whistler (new this summer, every Tuesday night, meet at Evolution at 6)! We first rode Cut Yer Bars, which is lovely and technical. And then we cruised our way over to A River Runs Through It, which is a classic trail although it was my first time riding it. And since I wasn’t familiar with it but was feeling rather "good", I forgot to look ahead and check stuff out before attempting it. The result… on the first ladder, I flew over the handlebars. Ouch! Lesson learned. For the rest of the trail, I peeked ahead at features (and there’s lots of them) before attempting them.
By now, it was mid-week and Canada Day! And it was a hot one in Whistler. I woke up stiff and bruised from the crash the night before. Given the soaring temperatures, we started early and climbed up Blackcomb all the way to the bottom of the Excelerator chairlift. Given the rather late bedtime the night before and not drinking enough water, I suffered on this climb. I had done it a couple time before and knew what I was in for but it had never felt as bad as it did this time. The temperatures were again above 30 degrees, as they had been for a while. I remembered that it’s important to pre-hydrate. Usually, I'm pretty good about drinking a cumulative litre of water before my ride: with breakfast, on the drive to the trailhead, as I’m getting ready. I find that it helps with staying hydrated for the rest of the ride and recovery won’t be as bad after either. I dropped the ball after riding in Squamish and Whistler and not hydrating before this ride on Blackcomb. On the upside, once we got to the top of Micro Climate, I had a great ride down and rode a lot more than I expected to ride. Whoo!
Lesson 5: Take care down there
The one thing I’m never doing again is installing a new saddle on my bike right before a trip… It takes quite a while (for me) to get things adjusted so that it feels comfortable and being on bike vacation is not the time to have to suffer through a seat that’s not in the correct position. On top of that, but without getting into sordid details, heat leads to sweating and sweating can lead to friction. And friction plus a saddle that’s not quite right don’t add up to a happy-ever-after. By Thursday, I was hurting and the short ride from the Whistler village to Rainbow park did not go well. We made the call to not ride the Flank (but we will be back!) and instead headed home.
I took the time to sort out where exactly my seat was bugging me and am now (hopefully) not touching it again. I also invested in my first pair of bib shorts. I had my doubts but my husband convinced me that for longer rides, they are more comfortable.
I tested the new shorts out on the Sunshine Coast the next day (again, a last minute decision to head over there). We took an early ferry and found a camp spot in Roberts Creek Provincial Park. We would have camped somewhere out there but given the wildfire in Sechelt, we played it safe. No need to venture off the beaten path when there is an extreme fire danger and a blaze nearby. We climbed up the B&K in Roberts Creek towards Highway 103. I have to agree… bib shorts are very nice. I’m definitely using those for longer rides from now on!
When shopping for bib shorts, I was advised of two things: make sure the chamois is comfortable and the shorts fit you (as you would for any other pair of cycling shorts) and make sure the bib part is the right length. If the straps are too long, they won’t hold up the shorts. And too short doesn’t sound pleasant either… When trying them on, move into your riding position. The straps should feel too loose in the back when standing up straight but should feel good when in the riding position.
Lesson 6: Rest
When riding a lot or riding in high temperatures, I learned it’s important to know when to call it quits. By the time we rode along Highway 103 and down Red Baron, we were both tired and hot. And on top of that, we were not feeling very good either. A mixture of heat plus food we weren’t used to got us feeling a little less rock star. I’ve been told that when racing, it’s important to not introduce new things to your body, like food that sounds like it’d be good fuel but that your body isn’t used to. It’s better to stick with the foods that your stomach recognizes and you know you don’t have issues with. Sometimes while on vacation, it’s not always possible to eat like we would at home. In our case, I think that plus not being used to riding in 30+ degree weather turned our smiley faces into frowny faces.
In the afternoon, we rested at our camp site and both took nice naps inside the tent. Our camp spot was conveniently shaded and cool enough to even wear a second layer in the middle of the day. It was the first reprieve of the heat in more than a week. A quiet evening and a homemade dinner helped us feel more like ourselves again.
Lesson 7: Be prepared
On our second day on the Sunshine Coast, we rode the trails in West Sechelt. We parked at the Big Tree area and just explored things. All the blues can be ridden in both directions, which was fun and very different than our usual riding in the Lower Mainland. It was also a good reminder to be prepared and have the necessary equipment with you. My husband’s bike started to creak in a few spots but he had the right tools to fix it along the trail. When heading out, I like to make sure I have a working pump, tire levers, and a spare tube at the minimum. But when riding in unknown areas or on longer rides, I pack things like a map, a Clif bar, a light windproof shell, the ability to get extra water (using either a filtration system or tablets), first-aid kit, and spare brake pads. Additionally, it helps to know how to use the equipment in your pack too.
In summary, it was a great week off! Lots of spontaneity as we went east, north, and west. I won’t be forgetting what I’ve learned this past week!