The Mountain Bike Life

Everyone loves adventures, right? After all, what’s the point in picking up a hobby if it’s a boring one? My favourite thing about mountain biking is the fact that all my rides – whether they be the Sunday morning (amongst probably too many others) hangover cures or the Friday marathoners – are adventures. As someone that rides a mid-travel bike in B.C., I am also lucky enough to be able to ride just about anything that comes up pretty comfortably. So, depending on my mood, I can either plan a route that takes me through the best downhill and singletrack, or I can smile and convince everyone I’m being safe as I ride off down unnamed and unmapped trails for destinations unknown. Occasionally, though, I aim for the first and wind up doing the second – twice (so far) this has gotten me into pretty dicey situations, so I’m writing this in the hopes that you, our Glorious Reader, will be a bit less careless than I sometimes am.

I couldn’t even tell if I was in the middle of nowhere, or somewhere on the outskirts.

Typically, I set out with a good map (bug your local shops about which maps are worth it and which aren’t) and my GPS-enabled phone. On my latest adventure at The Abyss in Nanaimo (definitely worth the trip, it’s probably the best singletrack I’ve met outside of Central Oregon), I had even gone a step further and highlighted the route I was planning on taking. Pretty responsible and prepared, right? Well, as it turns out, not quite. You see, sometime around September I bought the 2011 map book (on the advice of my local shop), because it was apparently miles ahead of the 2012 version. As anyone that rides sanctioned and officially maintained trails knows, things change. So, in addition to an out-of-date map to follow, I was also riding around an active logging area – or at least, I had planned on going around it, but in the time between the map’s publication and my trip the logging zone had been extended to right about the beginning of the trail I had been intending on taking back to the vehicle.

What I had planned versus what I actually accomplished. Notice how much of my riding was on trails that weren’t on the map.

So there I am, three hours into a ride that I was expecting to last about an hour and a half. The muggy 23-25 degree heat (73 to 75 for y’all on the Imperial system) was exacerbated by the fact that I have somehow lost my regular helmet, so I was stuck in my full-face behemoth. I definitely felt bad for Ziggy, too- lots of fur, and black fur at that, must have been uncomfortable.

I was actually considering the validity of Rowling’s Grimm as the omen of death a few times that day.

Obviously, since you’re reading this, I survived the trip. After doing an accidental loop, then following what I assumed was the correct trail (until I rode past a tree marked with a “T” [ I wanted “Keith’s”], which caused me to check my GPS track, which showed that I had actually been going the wrong way for quite a while), I eventually back-tracked to the main service road for the area. If I hadn’t been ridiculously over time and already out of water (I had stopped sweating, but the look on Dog’s face made me think he needed it more than I did), I probably would have just ridden it as an out-and-back. As it were, however, I opted for the shorter/simpler/less-likely-to-get-me-even-more-lost solution and followed the power lines.

This road? Not on my map. Same goes for the trail, which I (in my infinite wisdom) decided to follow because it “seemed like it was going the right way!”

Moral of the story? Adventures are all fine and dandy, as long as you trust your instincts when they tell you “maybe you should quit riding this singletrack, beautiful as it is, and actually go the proper direction!” Yeah, it was a fun ride, but when the sun hit the top of the trees (I had started riding around 2:00) when I was at the furthest point from my car, it was a bit worrying. Remember, everyone, that your map is just a guide – particularly if you’re using an old map (I bought the current one on my way home), and *especially* if you’re riding in an area actively being logged or developed. Maybe the first time you visit somewhere, on your own with only three litres of water, is not the time to play trailblazer (the last time I did that, I wound up hiking 3 hours through snow in the dark, wearing shorts and a T-shirt).

Icy hike clothes these are not.

If you have a smartphone, getting a live-tracking app (I use Google’s My Tracks, for Android) is a pretty good idea. It does do a number on your battery, but most phones will allow you to turn off everything but the GPS, so you won’t take too much of a hit. Happy trails, and remember to stay safe!

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