Bryson Robertson is an Arbutus Routes Ambassador living the Island life in Victoria, BC
Summer is firmly upon us here in British Columbia and mountain biking season is in full swing. Your fitness is back, your bike is running smoothly, your trail riding ‘mojo’ is on point and you are feeling good. Now is the time to plan Your Big Loop (#YBL); an overly ambitious day out on the mountain bike.
Most towns with a riding community have public version of the Big Loop. For example, Whistler / Pemberton play host to the Big F#$king Loop – a terribly long, arduous and awful sounding day on your bicycle. Taking in some of the biggest climbs in Pemberton and the longest descents, this is definitely a Big Loop. Sounds terrible – I can’t wait to try it out.
Here in Victoria, our super secret Thursday Night Bike Club (#TNBC) become enamoured with this idea of a Big Loop and started scouting possibilities. After some plotting and mapping on Strava and OpenStreetMaps, we managed to put together a solid Big Loop. We guessed it would take 8hrs to ride, feature almost no road pedalling and included a few scary tech trails. After volun-tell-ing the #TNBC crew that they were coming, we successfully secured solid bakers-dozen of riders, and came up with #BFL.
(OK, I know someone if going to point out that #BFL is already in use for the Whistler Big F#$king Loop. BUT… this is different. Given that the British Queen (our towns namesake) thinks using swear words is extremely uncouth, Victoria’s main tourist attraction involves tea and cucumber sandwiches, and that we were all friends, we decided that the Best Friends Loop (#BFL) was much more fitting and appropriate name for our Big Loop.)
Starting from Thetis Lake in the early morning hours, we were ‘delighted’ that the trails would be nice and moist from the continuing downpour. Regardless, once bodies warmed up and clothing was completely soaked, the rain wasn’t able to dampen spirits. Thetis Lake, Bear Mountain, Lone Tree Hill, and Partridge Hills all passed under our wheels before lunch. Some hike-a-biking, some treacherous rock slabs, some perfect single track and some route finding were the order of the day. Surprisingly, the group stayed mainly intact, mechanicals were limited and everyone was in high spirits. Stopping for lunch, we learnt a few valuable lessons:
1) chocolate milk is NOT an excellent mid-ride fluid replacement – keep it for POST Big Loop,
2) Long breaks allow the legs to get really stiff and sore,
3) iTelephones don’t like rain.
With a thinning group, we headed back up into the woods and tackled Mount Work, Scarfe Mountain and Stewart Mountain. Here we learn another valuable lesson – do not let anyone with a background of riding bikes at the Olympics lead the group; keep them in the middle of the pack to mitigate risks of additional ‘fun’ loops. After leaving the rooty-est, slippery-est, pedally-est, least fun-est trail for the final section, we were more than overjoyed to reach the parking lot approximately 7.5 hours later.
Savouring a cold pint on the tailgate, each participant was stoked to receive special #BFL Memorabilia; a new pair of ‘branded’ white cotton gym socks; proudly sponsored by WalMart and their new brand of Athletic gear. To the finishers, go the spoils… Despite the inclement weather, the incredibly sore bums, aching legs and scratched up bodies, the #BFL is one of the biggest highlights of the summer so far.
So, I postulate that everyone should plan and complete Your Big Loop (#YBL) NOW. Why now? Because summer doesn’t last forever, and if you don’t, winter/rain/children/jobs/wives/husbands/chores will all collude to bring world tumbling down with no glimmer of opportunity, salvation or happiness. To avoid this terrible scenario, I have laid out six simple points to help you plan YBL. Follow these simple steps, and soon you will be sitting in the pub with seriously painful bum, aching legs and a glowing smile.
Ok, without further ado about nothing:
- The 4x Rule: Your Big Loop (#YBL) must take at least 4x your standard ride length. If you normal afternoon ride is 2 hrs, then multiply by 4 = YBL should take ~ 8 hours.
- Avoid Pavement: If there is a way to avoid riding roads, do so (unless it allows you to access super wicked riding terrain, or YBL is a road ride.)
- Keep the Tech: Keep your favourite technical trails in YBL. Eliminating the fun trails in favour of flat featureless ones, purely to extend a ride, results in a Big BORING Loop (#BBL). Worst case scenario.
- Invite friends. But only friends whom are fit enough to finish, friends who like to suffer, or are sufficiently self-sufficient to be left behind.
- Bring food: Lots of food. And water.
- Marketing: Come up with a really good name and hashtag it far more than appropriate.