This is the 4th year I have organised a trip to Vancouver Island over the Easter long weekend. In my mind this weekend marks the start of the "official" biking season (since biking never really ends for me, I just tend to bike a tad less over the colder months) It is a chance to get a bunch of friends together and pack ourselves off to one of my favorite places to ride; Cumberland. For the past couple of years we have rented a private house that sleeps 10 and has a large garage for bike storage as well as everyone's guilty little please, a hot tub.
Day 1 - Nanaimo
Packing, I am terrible at packing to go anywhere (I not so secretly think it drives my Jackrabbit a little nuts as he tends to like to be a little more organised pre trip) I tend to pack last minute, no matter how often I plan to be organised earlier it never happens. I have theories about this, the first is that by packing last minute I don't bring too much stuff that I don't need. The second theory is that I enjoy a little bit of chaos in my life. Regardless, not only did I need to pack, I also had to partly strip down my new Specialized Camber Comp 29er and rebuild it the way I like.
Leaving things to the last minute means that the last hour before arriving at the ferry (even with a reservation) is pretty hectic, I also had to collect 3 other members of our riding party along the way and fit them and all their gear into the Beast (aka Gina's truck) we actually arrived at the ferry terminal with plenty of time to spare.
Day 2 - Cumberland
Also known as, "let's see how many Cumberland trails we can ride today". After a quick warm up on the road we hit our first bit of single track; a trail called Two & A Juice, this linked us into Buggered Pig, this later trail is a homage to North Shore woodwork as it is littered with log rides, ladder bridges and skinnies, a lot of which looked to be recently re-built. From here it's a long pedal up fire-roads, our goal for the day was to reach the highest trails on the map, those that I've only ever looked and and wished I could ride in the past but were always under snow, but today, I was confident that we would be able to push through whatever snow remained and make it to the top.
Today we got to go and ride my current favorite trail in Cumberland. As I am adverse to riding road, and since no one else complained, we shuttled to the gated road that marks the start of the accent for today's adventure. As you head up the fireroad you look up and see a wall of mountain, with a fire road heading up the side of it, it's really quite impressive; I also think this was when I got my first dark looks from a couple of my adventure companions. About 20 minutes up the fire road we pass the exit to the trail, I decided to keep that one to myself. Fire road eventually turns into an old moto double track road, that then turns into a "put your bikes on your shoulders and start hiking up" sort of track, after about an hour of this we eventually popped out on the main FSR, at which point I think a couple of people realised we could have taken a far mellower (albeit much longer) approach to getting up the mountain.
Another day, another planned ride. I began today's ride informing everyone that it was pretty much one big climb followed by one big descent (I think I forgot to mention the second small climb) Nikkei Mountain is the Eastern side of the Cumberland trails, and again we had two options to get up the mountain. Option A, straight up including a hike-a-bike or Option B, a more meandering route along interconnecting fire roads; I of course chose Option A for us.
Once you get to the top of Nikkei Mt I think my crew appreciated the views, I know they also appreciated the descent! The first trail Rhizome is through a clear cut and it's fast and flowy with lots of little hits, once you cross the road the trails started to get a little steep and a little more technical, we also re-entered the forest. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and we finally hit the low point, luckily I knew what trails to take to get us back up the mountain a ways so we could enjoy a second descent.
The afternoon the rain that had been threatening all weekend finally decided to make good on it's threat and began to fall, a very small group of brave souls chose to slip in a single lap on Forbidden before deciding that a hot tub and cold beer was more appealing than wet and cold mountain bike trails
Day 5 - Maple Mountain
Another early morning, although today was our last day, it was by no means any less action packed! We loaded up our trucks and said farwell to Cumberland and made our way south heading towards Cowichan to what was until recently a little known about trail on Maple Mountain. Maple Syrup is my favorite trail on Vancouver Island, and it's one of my top 10 favorite trails. You climb 5km up the main fire road to a radio tower, from here you drop into the trail. Maple Syrup & Solar Coaster are around 9km of single track, so when you start doing that math in your head, yes you climb back down the mountain.