I recently talked with Steve Sheldon, who is a mountain biker and trail builder in the Tri-Cities area.
Steve (SS): Hmm. Can’t totally remember. I used to live in (really) rural England, and I had a BMX that I used to ride around the fields and through Cannock Chase. When I moved here, I saved up and bought a “mountain” bike from Costco, which I started riding on Burnaby Mountain. It survived surprisingly well, all things considered, and I was on that from 1991-1993.
SD: Neat! So it’s been a while then! In all that time, what’s the one thing, on your opinion, that’s really improved the sport?
SS: When I started, I was on fully rigid, with cantilever brakes. If you’ve ever done a ride on them, then you will appreciate that V-brakes were incredible. Being able to stop was beautiful. Then disc brakes were great (eventually), but they had more of an evolution. The difference from cantilever to V-brake was massive. Suspension came, lots of experimenting, lots of goofy designs, and I loved that stage of bikes. It was so mental, but rear suspension wasn’t a huge deal compared to front suspension. The reason I don’t say that front suspension was the big improvement was because, again, it evolved.
Early suspension forks were flexy, unreliable, and in some cases just terrifying. If I was to compare my first bike to my current bike, then I think that the suspension fork would be the biggest improvement with the brakes being a very close second. Then there are dropper posts. I don’t know how we managed without them. Everything is better now for sure. But it’s not the epic levels that the marketing would have you believe. Go out and ride an old school bike, you’ll still have fun; you will just do so a little slower, and accumulate a few more bruises.
SD: I’m a fan of stopping and slowing down! I wanted to get some information about TORCA. What does TORCA stand for and what is it about?
SS: TORCA is the Tri Cities Off Road Cycling Association (formerly TORCC, the coalition - we changed the name when we became a legal entity so that we could deal with land owners). We are the stewards of the Port Moody, Coquitlam, Anmore, Belcarra, and Port Coquitlam trails. We are working with land owners to create sustainable trail networks for everyone to enjoy. http://www.torca.ca/about/temp-history/
SS: I am currently a trail director. I look after the tools, organise trail days, work on the trails, lead/teach others maintenance techniques, and cook the lunches. I’ve been with TORCA for almost two years (I think).
SD: Word on the street is those lunches are delicious. So why did you decide to start building trails? What trails have you built or worked on?
SS: I think the first official trail work I did was helping on the IMBA re-route of the bottom of Randy’s/B&A trail back in 2000 when the houses were encroaching. That re-route is now the lower part of Imby. I really got involved in 2006. I was working in Europe for 3 months, and when I came back, I decided (well, [my wife] Susan decided for me ;)) to get more involved in the community, and started going to NSMBA trail days. I was clueless, completely out of my element, but it was something new to learn which excited me. I became really good friends with Chris B after hitting him with a hammer on Boogieman, and since then, we’ve dug together a lot. I was trail day coordinator with NSMBA for a while. I love digging. You get immediate feedback from what you are doing; it’s so satisfying.
SD: Hopefully no more hammer incidents since then… You mentioned Imby. You built this trail, correct? What was your motivation behind it?
SS: Two reasons. 1) The wall climb (up the gas pipeline) is horrible. It’s unrideable, exposed, and ugly. I figured I could make a better climb that would mean never going up the wall again. 2) I love loops. Linking trails or networks together creates the possibilities for bigger, better rides. Imby effectively connects the Bert Flinn trails to the upper [Eagle] mountain.
SS: I’ve been tweaking Imby, doing a few small projects here and there. My next big project is climbing access to the Lungbuster (jeep road), but because of a wrist injury, heavy building is a no go right now.
SD: Ouch, that’s no fun. What else would like to see happen in the Tri-Cities? What do you think makes the area so special already?
SS: Tri-Cities is unique. Burke has remained old school and kept a lot of its natural charm. Eagle is diverse, and to get to the trails requires a fair amount of effort, which makes it rewarding. As I mentioned before, I like loops so small connectors here and there to open up new loop options are always nice. I would love for the trails in Anmore to get proper connections to the Eagle trails. Even so, there is the potential for some huge epics that are nearly all single track.
SD: How can people get involved or help with TORCA?
SS: Come out to traildays, or lurk on the TORCA forum and come and help some of the builders when they want help. I also recommend everyone takes the Builders Academy through NSMBA.
SD: Traildays are always posted as events on Facebook (search for TORCA), which is very handy. So finally, blow us away with a story. What was your most memorable ride?
SS: Hmm, most memorably ride is normally the last one I did because my memory is crap. This year’s New Year’s Full Pull was awesome. I think the ride I did on December 27th, 2010 would be the one though. From home up the road to Bert Flinn, down Starz and the backyard trails. That was it. But it was 3 days after my first round of chemo, and it was the first time in 4 months I could do anything without painful coughing crippling me. It was that point I realised that I wasn’t going to die. Not going to die is generally considered a favourable outcome. And the feeling of freedom associated with it is incredible. Next ride you go on, remember you are alive. I guarantee your ride will be better.
(That left me wordless and inspired to go ride. Thanks for your time, Steve!)