A few things might clue you in that mountain biking is pretty important to folks in Vancouver and North Vancouver. First, the area is home and training ground for two top-ranked competitive bikersAlison Sydor, an Olympic silver medalist and three time world mountain biking champion, and Leslie Tomlinson, who also generally finishes in the top ten in the world. Then there's the fact that mountain biking counts as a school-sanctioned extracurricular activity in North Vancouver, with 300 kids participating in the league championships every May. North Van, especially, is a place where "you can't ride anywhere without riding uphill," said Steve Sokalski, the founder of local bike shop Velo City. But local riders have certainly found creative and fun ways of getting back down.
A couple of caveats: this stuff is challenging and many trails feature plenty of grueling climbing."The skill level of riders here has rapidly increased due to the difficulty level of these trails," said Sokalski. Still, there are ways to "cheat". Sokalski and other outfitters will take you uphill so you can concentrate on the descent.
This is not to say that there isn't good riding in the city proper. It's relatively flat and motorists are pretty bike tolerant. There are over 45 miles of dedicated non-car routes for bikes and roller bladers.
Sokalski recommends the following rides in Greater Vancouver:
The Seaside Bicycle Route: This 15-kilometer (9.4 mile) ridebegins at English Bay and continues around False Creek to the University of British Columbia. It's a fairly flat ride until you start getting closer to the University, when the route heads uphill. You'll mostly be pedaling a gravel trail which takes you by beautiful sandy beaches and colorful boats.
Seymour Demonstration Forest: This 5,200 hectare land of alpine meadows and forested slopes was opened for recreational use in 1987. Cyclists can ride an 11 km paved road from the forest entrance to the Seymour Falls Dam and the reservoir, through stands of second-growth trees and lots of wildlife. Bikes are only permitted here on weekends and after 5 p.m. weekdays.
Grouse Mountain: You can bike up the mountain (the trip on the main road could take more than one and a half hours), but coming down is generally the fun part. There's always the option of riding up a tramway if you're just interested in the descent. Here you'll find 15 miles of old logging roads with single track tributaries branching off all the way to Lynn Canyon. The territory is mostly coastal rainforest, with second-growth trees like douglas fir, hemlock, and cedar dominating. Heartier souls can add another 8 miles from there through the Seymour Demonstration Forest to the waterfront. If you take the easy way up with Sokalski, expect a four and a half hour trip, with tramway, breakfast, bikes, guides, and snacks provided. And sometimes, unexpected wildlife.
Last summer Sokalski saw a cougar. "I heard a scream, looked behindme and there was a mountain lion. It was about the size of a goldenretriever and appeared to be stalking me. I backed up against a bank andstared back. It took off."
Other Area Rides
Pacific Spirit Regional Park: This park, formerly called the University Endowment Lands, features 35 kilometers of beginning to intermediate level gravel trails shared by bikers, pedestrians and equestrians. The park borders the University of British Columbia campus. North of 16th Avenue you'll find young alder, birch and cherry trees and small evergreens. South of 16th Avenue conifers dominate.
Burnaby Mountain: This land surrounding Simon Fraser University is a big draw for mountain bikers, although there's been some controversy over land use. Here you'll find intermediate to advanced single track trails, with some challenging technical downhills. As you might expect, a lot of the riders hereabouts are SFU students.
More North Shore: In addition to Grouse Mountain, which was mentioned above, Cypress Mountain and Mount Seymour are also crawling with mountain biking trails. This area is a mecca for daredevil bikers. These challenging routes, many of them augmented with wooden planks and rocks, are not for the easily thrown. If you're wondering about how difficult this area is, just take a look at some of the trail names: The Hangman, Crippler, Executioner, Fleshy Wound and The Reaper. Still, there are some intermediate trails thrown in here and there, with Mount Seymour offering the largest variation in difficulty levels.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication