PS None of these pictures have actually anything to do with the actual trail riding.Taking pictures while riding unfamiliar terrain for the first time is unadvisable unless you are super awesome and/or not afraid of losing a few teeth.
After dodging cars for the fifteen years since I learned to ride a bike, I was more than ready to ride off road. All I needed was a way to try off road. The key to that turned out to be one antsy road-biker who also needed some excitement in her life.
The plan: meet with our guide at 9:30 am at Alice Lake. I easily got one of the two bus bike slots at 6:45 in the morning; it’s a different story if you have multiple transfers and opportunities to be turned back by a full bike rack. I was picked up after one bus, thus negating the nerve wracking journey of relying on chance to procure a bike rack spot and off we went. (The reason why I’ve never attempted to bike anywhere cool on transit) (I almost got turned back then because my bike didn’t fit on her rack. At that point I was so surprised it was going so well I was fully prepared to turn back. She put my dirty bike in her car reluctantly.) We would drive to Squamish, where we would meet up with the experienced dude. The experienced dude would kindly show us the trails despite probably preferring a diet of blues and blacks because he hadn’t been in the area before, either. None of us knew what to expect.
At first I thought I’d be pretty screwed since my companion liked to talk about nothing but bike jargon. She gave my bike the evil eye. But once we got there, we got riding and saw the differences immediately. Her knobby-tired-but-still-road bike didn’t fare so well; my cast off faux-suspension bike gave me a taste of what cross country/slight downhill was like. I was surprised my bike could handle the terrain; it was the second time I had ridden it. I usually rode my no-suspension but decided against it for this trip, even though I didn’t know what it would entail. Despite being nervous I wouldn’t know how to handle the bounce, I was instead surprised by how well it handled the rocks. I fully confronted a moment of terror thinking of how close I had come to bringing that piece of junk along. It probably would have fallen apart.
Faux-suspension or not, it got me down more comfortably than my companion. We started off on a dusty single track, which I loved and my companion hated. It would have been way more awesome if we hadn’t been so cautious and gone down faster. (Rob’s corners at Alice Lake http://mountainbikingbc.ca/trail/cliffs-corners) The un-awesome part was having to walk up. After that our guide encouraged us to come with him on a blue run with ladder bridges. Again it was accessible to the beginner, given a bit of gusto. After falling off though and seeing it was ten metres long, with mud on either side, we walked our bikes the rest of the way. From there we finally entered forest. Unlike the single track, the double track through the forest was more gently sloping and full of roots and rocks. Down that, moments later, we reached another logging road (we had to walk up a logging road to get to the first run) and found our way to the next run. I was itching for some more downhill with switch backs but that’s only because I was lazy. Luckily the next one also went down. More forest, with a rocky section that we had to walk. Blah blah blah lots more gentle downhill ending with the realization that a) our poor brakes b) we have to walk back up all of that. After three hours I realized I was incredibly unfit and shoot, we still had to walk all the way back up.
From the woman who knew all about berms, single tracks, and granny gears: “How do you put a chain back on that’s fallen off?”
“Countries always go through a cycle of being progressive, and then traditional. It’s like “Traditional isn’t good enough!” and then they go progressive. And then once they’re progressive they realize what they had before was better, so they go back to being traditional!” “You can’t win.”
“Is that suspension on your bike real?” “No.”
“Cross country is like downhill, except you have to walk your way back up!”
(Scream) “I just killed a squirrel!” (this sucked, we were going down quickly down an actual road to reach the next run and a poor squirrel got in the way…
“I just killed a slug. Wait, I hate slugs.”
“You like downhill because you’re young. Wait till you’re forty and start doing your first mountain biking.”
Anyways, the pictures have absolutely nothing to do with the ride. Most of them are pictures of the logging roads. But Alice Lake is a nice place. It’s worth going for a first timer. Don’t take a road bike. Bring more than one bottle of water, especially if you’re lazy like me. I confronted the realization that I liked downhill because it was a) exciting b) fast c) I’m unfit. If I had to hike back up every hill I went snowboarding down, I’d be pretty pissed. But I guess I’d still do it. 🙂 Four hours totally pushed my limits, which was good, although it was pretty nerve wracking/turned into a hike by the end. (“Why is my bike going so slow?”) I was drafting several “Sorry I’m unfit, wait for me at the top” speeches in my head but that was too tiring so I just slogged up and thought about the relaxing single track and its thrilling switchbacks and the coolness of running water. Amazingly, we made it back shortly after our guide had returned.
Thanks to the people who brought me along.