Vancouver and its surrounds are renowned for having some of the best mountain biking in Canada, so we’ve asked an expert for the inside scoop.
Michael works for Different Bikes in Vancouver, BC and when not at work is often found on the North Shore Mountains riding all the trails.
Michael @ Different Bikes
I started riding bikes when I was 15 and I quickly gained a lot of enjoyment going fast. I raced cross country for 5 years in Scotland before moving to Canada.
Upon arriving I upgraded to a full suspension bike and began progressing to more of the harder trails which is almost essential if you want a good variety of trails.
As I grew to know more people I found most of them came from a downhill racing background which really helped to make me faster and more confident on the descents.
Mountain biking in Vancouver
Vancouver is a world-renowned destination for mountain biking, and for good reason. Within an hour’s drive of the city are many worthwhile destinations, starting with Squamish in the north and heading to the Fraser Valley trails in the east, including Bear and Sumas Mountains.
We’re going to focus on the much-revered three mountains that make up the North Shore, just outside downtown Vancouver.
Going west to east the three mountains are: Cypress, also known for great skiing in the winter, Fromme and Seymour. This is also the order of decreasing difficulty on average, although you’ll still find some very challenging trails wherever you go.
Mountain biking can be dangerous if the correct precautions aren’t taken. Bear in mind that the North Shore has some of the most technical riding in the world so it may not be the place to try it for the first time. If you’re reasonably confident hitting small drops and tight turns then you’ll have a lot of fun.
On the North Shore the trails follow a simple grading scale of difficulty. Starting with green as the easiest, they moving to blue, black diamond and finally, double black. For most people new to the shore it’s worth starting on some blue trails, seeing how you fare, then moving onto the flowy black trails. Some of the best trails for starters include the newly re-mastered John Deer on Mount Seymour – which has a newly built climb trail – and Good Sir Martin also on Mount Seymour, which takes you on a winding route straight to the top. There are quite a few low level trails such as Sticks and Stones and Salamander that are great for improving skills, with fewer consequences if it goes wrong!
On Mt Fromme, Bobsled is the go-to starter trail which is quite short and a great taster for the mountain. Further up the climb, Espresso has been the subject of lots of hard-grafted man hours over recent years and is the most popular descent on the mountain. It’s a fast trail with a lot of little jumps and just a couple of technical trail features. It’s a lot of fun!
The NSMBA is the organisation in charge of maintaining the trails on the shore with the help of many volunteers and a few lead builders.
My favourite places to ride
My favourite trails for beginners: John Deer, Sticks and Stones, Slippery Salamander, Asian Adonis, Forever After.
My personal favourites: Severed, Pingu, Boogieman, Empress (short, low speed trail, consecutive steep rock rolls – when you have a large rock protruding from the hillside, it’s very steep and you roll down it.)
My favourite trails for beginners: Bobsled, Floppy Bunny, Expresso, Leopard to Crinkum Crankum to Kirkford.
My personal favourites: Executioner to Dreamweaver, Crippler, Lower Skull
Favourite places outside Vancouver
Squamish – Alice Lake area
My favourite trails: Rupert, Entrails (natural forest and plenty of exposed rock rolls)
My favourite trails: Wizards Burial Ground, Billy’s Epic, Micro Climate (a lot of steep natural trails, lots of trees, roots and mud) and “Out There” (but that’s more rock rolls mixed into forest).
Best bike to bring:
Around 150-160mm travel bike is best, but not essential. Definitely knee pads, extra protection optional.
Things to bear in mind:
• Bears! (Excuse the pun!) North shore rescue advises riding with a bear bell so you don’t surprise them. You’re out in the wilderness so make sure someone knows where you are and when you should be finished.
• Charge your phone and I advise downloading the Trailforks app – it’s free and incredibly useful.
• Take a first aid kit, antiseptic wipes and bandages just in case.
• Make sure you have plenty of water, it gets very hot in the summer.
• Take a spare derailleur hanger, spare tubes, extra food, chain quick link and multi tool so you’re covered for everything.
• It’s always best to be prepared!