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Backcountry British Columbia: Exploring the Chilcotins with the Yeti SB5.5
by: Bryson Robertson
Each year, I set a loose set of goals or objectives for my time on the bike. It varies considerably from year to year: could be to hit a feature which has been scaring me for years, learn the joy of road biking (still trying), turn off all the apps and ride until I get lost, race a local race blind (but still seeing), or learn a new skill (other than doing epic skids). Regardless of my ‘objective’ for the year, the top spot on the list is static: Go ride my bike in the high alpine of the Chilcotin Mountains. There is something about standing on the top of an mountain, with very few people anywhere near, looking down at an endless ribbon of brown trail that snakes from your feet to somewhere beyond the next ridge, that simply seems to be the zenith of mountain biking to me. Nothing beats it.
I am sure there is a proper, scientifically-validated, medical reason why mountain biking in the high alpine feels so… bloody good. Maybe it is the view, the fresh air, the sunshine, some chemical released by your body, or the lack of oxygen. I think it is because you have to earn it. It is proper, honest, hard work getting up there. You have to earn the right to access the alpine. You have to go through the long hours of pedalling /pushing /sweating /swearing to reach the top.
Combining my static top spot ‘objective’ with this general belief in the value of suffering, and my good fortune to spend last year riding the much heralded Yeti SB55, there was no discussion about going to the Chilcotins last August. I was going. As far as I am concerned, the Yeti SB55 seemed specifically designed for the long days, exhausting ascents and exhilarating descents of the Chilcotins. After riding the SB55 all winter in slop, muck and endless slippery roots, I could fervently agree with the often-reported incredible climbing attributes of the bike – simply incomparable to other bikes I have ridden. However, I had only seen glimpses of the true descending ability of the bike – it seemed to come alive with speed and open space. I simply hadn’t given it/me the opportunity to see if I could hang on tight enough to find the descending limits of the SB55.
With this goal in mind, two friends and I planned a mid-week strike mission to the Chilcotins last summer. In theory, I had ambitious goals to come back with a complete understanding of the SB55 and the ability to write an in-depth review. In reality, I was far too busy yelling my head off and laughing uncontrollably to do anything remotely analytical (unless counting the contour lines to reach the top again counts). I was simply having too much fun going uncontrollably fast through alpine meadows, railing 200m long natural sand berms, or riding the most incredible ridge lines. Too. Much. Fun. The bike was allowing me to draw different lines, float over chunder bumps and rail the most off chamber corners imaginable.
I guess I should/could have spent some time each evening looking over the bike and trying to identify new features, shortcomings, or specific items to review, but I was much more interested in watching the sun set over the lake, tending to my cold beer, talking story with the crew and watching the fish jump. You know… the important stuff. In the Chilcotins, you are forced to remove oneself from our constantly interconnected digital culture, and are provided the necessary time to think and allow the mind to wander. Conversations are defined by time, fitness and weather. Experiences in the high alpine occur on proper timescales; rather than 140 characters and curated lifestyle images. #nextinstacaption
So what was the point of this ramble? Depends on your perspective. Might I suggest a couple takeaways? 1) It is that time of year to make an ‘objectives’ list for the summer of 2018 (and I suggest putting the Chilcotins and Whistler at the top of that list) and 2) You should take a Yeti SB55 with you – you won’t be disappointed.
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