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Feature: The Escape–Day 0

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Photo by Dan Barham
Words by Seb Kemp

On the face of it, when you describe a 700-kilometer ride through British Columbia during February, an image of beards, panniers and grey suffering might come to mind.

When I came up with the idea of cycling around beautiful British Columbia I didn’t really think about the seven hundred kilometers of physical exertion or the cold, wet days. Actually, all I thought about was how much there was out there to go see and do.

I live in Whistler. Some call this place a Mecca, some call it nirvana, some call it a mountain biker’s wet dream made real. And consider this: around Whistler there is much, much more trail than most riders will ever sample. Some of it I’ve tasted, some I have only heard whispers of. Either way, when the snow has choked out the possibility of riding bikes in Whistler for five straight months it only makes sense to look around a little bit more.

The Escape route: 700 kilometers on mountain bikes. Here we go....

Canada is huge, B.C. is massive, but everywhere that people live there seems to be absolutely magnificent networks of trails. Every town seems to have better singletrack than the last. What’s more, some people might be surprised to hear that not all of B.C. is cloaked in the devil’s dandruff all winter. In the Southwest corner – particularly around the Georgia Strait (or Salish Sea) between Vancouver’s lower mainland and Vancouver Island – there are clusters of little communities that elude the snow line, leaving the ribbons of crafted dirt, free to ride year-round.

To prove what’s out there, myself and Dave Roth will be cycling, on mountain bikes, from Whistler and circumnavigate the Georgia Strait stopping off in Squamish, Sunshine Coast, Powell River, Cumberland, Hornby Island, Parksville, Duncan, Saturna Island to ride the trails there.

Stupidly, I didn’t think much further than that. I didn’t think about the cold, the narrow, hard shoulders, the wet, and the distance. But I’m glad I didn’t, and I will try to keep ignoring these things. The distance or degree of hardship isn’t the reason we’re embarking on this trip. We aren’t setting out to prove any feats of endurance, perseverance or tolerance for discomfort. Far from it. We just want to ride singletrack, have some fun, meet some new inspiring people, catch up with old friends, and absorb the journey.

It’s not about the task, but rather the process.

Mountain biking is brilliant in its scope and variety. There is no right or wrong way to enjoy it. However, mountain biking, to me, is about adventure and exploration, fun and games, and understanding a little bit more about the world, the people around us, and in the long run, about ourselves.

I feel that the mountain biking that most people experience and fall in love with differs radically from the image of energy drink-fueled aerial tricksters, cowboy huckers, and jock-like racers that dominates the media. Most mountain bikers I know are under represented. They are sold an adolescent’s dream by people their own age who should know better. What about finding a private space in that patch of woods at the end of the road, or the shared adventure, or the triumph that doesn’t need a judge, stopwatch or onlooker to justify it?

This trip is about bringing the pleasure of the road and the thrill of the trails back into people’s lives. We want to reach out to the guy who is told he is getting old but still feels young and who still gets recharged with boyish thrills. We want to reach out to the man in the cubicle and reunite him with that long-lost wanderlust. We want to show everyone that, yes, nothing is easy, but the rewards of the journey soothe all hardships.

We want to remind the world that adventure is on your own doorstep if you get off the couch to seek it. It is about celebrating the world, that as mountain bikers, we ride within. It is also about the communities and individuals that dare imagine, build, and nourish so that mountain biking can flourish.

You might think we are utterly barking mad and are singing off the wrong song sheet. You might not see the point to this trip. You might not relate to what we are doing. That’s fine. Mountain biking doesn’t have a singular meta-narrative. Nothing is wrong or right, and it is your right to experience it your way.

We set off on Wednesday, the 6th of February. I’ll be writing daily trip journals for bikemag.com every day. Stay tuned.

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