Subtitle: The Best Trail I Ever Walked Down
The Crew: Becky, Scott, Brian, and Dave
Thursday started with overcast and a threat of rain showers. We headed up to Mt. Seymour for our Main Event of the North Vancouver area. The shuttle was set by leaving Scott and Val’s RV in the Safeway parking lot and heading up the hill in the truck to the parking area above the trailhead. As we were putting on every piece of protective gear in our possession and readying the audiovisual set ups to document our assault on CBC, some local riders rode by and asked if we were going to lower our saddles. Of course, we said “yes” and they, as they rode off, said, perhaps apologetically, “Some people think that this [CBC] is a cross country trail.”
We embarked on the ride with the fast mile or so drop on the paved road to the trailhead. You enter the trail with a slight climb up a small hill and trail begins in earnest. The first section is a beautifully built descending trail segment with a banked turn armored with rock. This section of trail used the cut faces of the rock to form a relatively flat surface. Nevertheless, the conditions on the trail this day, particularly near the top, would be best described as slimy. The mountain had been fogged in overnight. With these conditions, it was a bit difficult to stand without slipping, even on the banked cut rock surface, so momentum coming up over the initial small hill must be maintained. All of the Crew rode the first section onto the first low and wide ladder and we were off.
The CBC Trail has been engineered to retain long-term stability and is subject of a long-term study to see how it holds up. It is, after all is said and done, a downhiller’s dream trail. It is beautifully constructed with rock armoring and build-ups through out stabilizing the tread in the wet climate. The trail is marked as a black diamond (advanced) and there is no grade inflation here. It would have been at least a triple black diamond in Oregon. The trail has frequent drops that are likely best hucked but often offer a skinny board or rock line to roll down for the less skilled. Without experience on the trail, scouting the drops is the rule as an assumption of an easy line down is not always valid.
As the crew headed down the hill, the rock armoring turned to using more rounded rocks. With the snotty conditions, going slow made your front wheel bounce around like a pachinko ball (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pachinko). The ladders were often banked and were slick also. Those that were riding slower, it meant there was a lot of walking. The faster riders, Scott and Becky, were much more successful though did they take a couple of hard hits that, in Becky’s case, left marks, even with the body armor. I figure I probably rode 50 percent of the total distance, though it felt like much, much less.
As I resorted to being a bicycle tourist, there was plenty of time to check out the amazing trail and the occasional riders coming through. The fully armored riders were on downhill rigs, with one exception, typically with around 8 inches of travel. The one exception was a guy on a free ride hardtail. That was sick! We saw one rider around 10 years old on a bike that was a little too big for him. He schooled us going down the trail as his mother, a trail runner, came along! (There seems a lot of use of the North Shore style bike trails by trail runners.)
At the bottom of CBC, we connected over to Corkscrew Trail, which we took to Incline Trail. As we proceeded down the hill, the trails we took tended towards being easier and the conditions started to get dryer, or at least less snotty. Corkscrew twisted down the hill with lots of stunts and roots. Incline was an old school trail, an eroded and rocky skid road trail that was easily rideable, even with the black diamond rating, by those with Bay Area skills and headed pretty much straight down the hill.
Incline Trail terminated at Baden Powell Trail. We took Baden Powell, an old road cut, over to Team Pangor, passing on any thoughts of heading down the infamous Boogieman that was next door as we did not bring the climbing gear we would have needed to get down the trail. Team Pangor is a somewhat milder version of the other North Shore style trails in the area and is in excellent shape having recently been updated. This is a good one to start on (now we know that!) and The Crew was riding a much greater percentage of this one. Scott, being adrenaline depleted from the upper runs, took a couple of hard falls but benefited from the body armor and a full faced helmet and was only slightly the worst for the wear. Be on the lookout for his helmet cam footage!
At the end of Team Pangor, we linked to Slash and then to Empress Strikes Back. Empress Strikes Back is a green trail and is a fast slot car track complete with rock armored bank turns that take you to the parking lot. It was good to feel like you could ride again!
The Crew enjoyed the ride to varying extent. Both Scott and Becky went for it up high survived and had a great time, though not without some good falls (Becky has furthered her lead on the best trail rash contest). For Brian and myself, there was some riding up high, but a lot of walking and no flow. It was better down further. Riding Team Pangor first would have been a good idea.
For me, in the end, the CBC Trail was fun to see. CBC, particularly with the conditions of the day, was beyond me. I’d like to give it a shot again on a future occasion, but I’d like to have bone-dry conditions for a return appearance (relatively rare up here). A bigger hit bike with flat pedals would also help, though I’d need to get practice riding it in this type of terrain. Until then, I’ll just be happy with being a bicycle tourist.