The Sunshine Coast dirt, made famous by the Coastal Crew, is the stuff mountain biker’s dreams are made of. But beyond the bounty of gold dirt the thing that makes this place so special to ride is that there are trails – carved and cared for by mountain bikers trails. Although this can be the case in many places worldwide where a core community of bikers exist, on the Sunshine Coast there are some other rather unique factors at play too.
I try to make a trip to the SSC every season because it’s so close to home yet feels like a real getaway when you need some time to stare at the sky, the sea and the setting sun (yes, it really is often much sunnier on the Sunshine Coast than other parts of the Sea To Sky Corridor). I’d found that a good one-day trip can be squeezed out of the SSC if time is tight, as the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale only takes 40 minutes and the riding can start right from the moment you strike land. What follows is a brief run down of a typical one-day ride on the SSC and some backstory on how some of the trails have come to being.
One day might not be enough to see it all, but one day is enough to get a great taste of what the Sunshine Coast is all about. I tend to park my car at Horseshoe Bay and ride onto the ferry with just my bike. It saves a bunch of money and unless you are staying for more than a day and you are willing to spend a day in the saddle, you really don’t need a car.
Often I’ll start the day off at the Sprockids Mountain Bike Park, just a stones throw from the ferry terminal in Langdale then move further along the coast. I overlooked Sprockids for the first half a dozen visits but eventually gave it a try and was rewarded with a dense network of fun trails. These days skills parks are popping up in communities all over the globe, but it was this park that lead the way for every single one of them.
In 1990, Sprockids was developed by local school teacher, Doug Detwiller. The idea behind it was, in Doug’s words, “To involve young people in the lifelong healthy sport of mountain biking, while teaching them the skills, values and strategies to succeed in school and in life.” Young people are readily empowered to be the greatest and most powerful advocacy group in trail conservation; through Sprockids they now have a personal relationship with their surroundings, and they take ownership of the environment and ensure its care well into the future.
Through the sport of mountain biking, students develop a strong sense of self-esteem, and hopefully discover the potential within themselves. The program has expanded to 17 countries and take place through schools, community centers, boys and girls clubs, and cycling clubs, serving as a template for other communities wanting to build a community teaching park of their own. For the past twenty years it has made a huge impact to young people growing up locally. The Coastal Crew’s Dylan Dunkerton and Curtis Robinson, Katherine Short, Kris Snedden and the UCI Junior World Champion Downhiller Holly Feniak were all a part of this program. The dedication that Doug Detwiller has shown in help guide young people to mold there lives, both personally and athletically, is considerable.
In 1993, 54 hectares of land was secured by the Sunshine Coast Regional District through the Crown Land tenure for the use of the Sprockids youth skills development project. What Doug did was create North America’s first officially recognized skills park. These days there is a pump track, skills features that progress in difficulty, a range of dirt jumps, and freeride features. But that is just the start. Beyond that there are some of the funnest, most flowy trails in BC – something quite remarkable for this corner of the mountain biking world, considering Vancouver’s hellish and unfriendly North Shore trails are just a forty minute ferry ride away.
Some of these trails are built by volunteers, some by commercial trail building agencies, and some by the local youth community, including the Capilano University in Sechelt which offers the only accredited course in Mountain Biking Management in Canada, and the Bike Park is the ongoing teaching site for their students.
After a morning of riding Sprockids I’ll typically move along to Robert’s Creek to ride in the BNK zone. You can connect from Sprockids to the BNK via Highway 102 trail, a lovely gradually ascending singletrack trail through the forest and across stunning creeks. It’ll bring you up quite high up on the BNK trails so you’ll be handsomely rewarded for your efforts. Here the gradient still favors the trail bike, even if the easy access fire road does often attract shuttlers. Fast and flowy, the trails here move the rider along between the lush green forest undergrowth and wind around the forest monsters that were left by foresters and the pecker poles that have arisen since regrowth. It really is hard to have a bad day here it seems.
Once we start to run out of daylight in the woods (happy to call it a day after enough brown pow to choke an elephant) it’s always a treat to take in the sunset at Robert’s Creek and get a bite to eat at the Gumboot Cafe. Then it’s a pedal along the shoreline or retracing your ride back up the BNK and along Highway 102.
If you have longer then stay at the nearby Up The Creek Hostel for the night then explore deeper along the Sunshine Coast.
More posts about the fabulous Sunshine Coast to follow.
Images by WeAreUnion:Dan Barham/Andy Rogers taken from The Escape.