February 21, 2017
Little known fact: MEC helps build mountain bike trails. A lot of them. Sometimes, it’s our staff that do the digging themselves, but way more often it’s the talented trail associations across Canada doing the heavy lifting – both in terms of dirt and plans. MEC helps make their trail goals happen with support via community grants and partnerships.
Every time you buy something from MEC – whether it’s a turtle light or an Intense bike – 1% of your purchase goes directly toward our community programs, which includes things like supporting trail networks and mountain bike groups.
Wonder where some of your 1% has gone? Here are a few highlights (from a much bigger list) of mountain bike organizations across Canada – from west to east – that you and other MEC members have helped support through your purchases. There are also lots of local tips on what to check out when you’re riding in these areas.
BC: Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association
Over 20 years, SORCA has evolved from a couple of buddies building trails on Sundays to a collective organizing everything from races and social rides to mass trail maintenance days. In the past few years, MEC’s helped restore the flow with $13,500 to the iconic corners rebuild project, and also gave $9900 to the Alice Lake/Garibaldi Diamond Head trail access project. We caught up with Trail Funding Director Todd for some things to know about the area:
Most popular trail in the area:Half Nelson, according to Trailforks. It’s listed as one of the top mountain bike trails in the world.
What’s unique: The combination of grippy rock slabs, technical singletrack, machine-built flow trails and an ever-expanding number of dedicated climbing trails.
Total kilometres to ride: About 173km, but I expect it’s actually higher.
Big plans for the area: In 2017, SORCA will open a new climb trail that’ll extend the Legacy climb by approximately 6km, for a total trail length of 12km. This will mean a singletrack climb from Quest University all the way to the Garibaldi Park boundary.
BC: North Shore Mountain Bike Association
Celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, the NSMBA works to protect and maintain trails on the iconic North Shore. Their mission? “Trails for all. Trails forever.” MEC’s been a partner for years and has given grants for projects like restoring Bridle Path ($15,000), trail signage ($4500), and even a capacity building grant for an NSMBA staff position ($30,350). We’re also the proud trail adopter of Expresso. We connected with trail-building legend Todd “Digger” Fiander and NSMBA President Jenny for some highlights to check out when you’re riding in this area:
Personal favourite: Ladies Only, because it has the first-ever teeter-totter on a mountain bike trail. The 13 little waterfalls between the teeter-totters are quite pretty as well.
**What’s unique:**The creative use of cedar and woodwork. Our trails give you the feeling that you’re surfing the lay of the land.
Big plans for the area: Redirting all of Expresso. Lower Expresso opening in 2017, which will extend this route to 1865m of continuous singletrack and introduce new A-frames and tabletops. This trail was created with more than 450 volunteer labour hours – a terrific example of what we can accomplish by bringing our community together.
BC: Western Canada Youth Bike Coalition Society
In 2016, we gave $15,000 to the Western Canada Youth Bike Coalition Society to help build partnerships and capacity in First Nation communities to plan, create and maintain trails – all with a strong focus on youth and mountain biking. That helped fund different trail areas, including the Xats’ull Nation trails north of Williams Lake, the system in Chu Chua built by Simpcw Nation, and trails in Williams Lake. When you’re exploring there, here are some highlights to look for from local riders:
Most popular in these areas:
DH Hipsta (Xats’ull Nation trails): fun, fast and has quite possibly the biggest wooden feature in BC. “The Separator” is a crazy-big wallride/gap jump that splits the trail into two lines.
Axehead Trail (Chu Chua): a fast, flowy track that follows the footsteps of our ancestors as they moved throughout our traditional territories hunting, gathering and trading with other Nations.
Chief William XC (Williams Lake): wonderful intermediate-level technical cross-country trail that runs along a ridge with amazing lookouts over the valley.
Big plans for the areas:
Williams Lake: Plans to build a short connector from the campsite to the South Lake Side trail network. This will open up an amazing XC route, connecting all four major Williams Lake networks.
Xats’ull Nation trails: Lots of plans… a long XC is up next.
AB: Calgary Mountain Bike Alliance
The CMBA works across five areas: Station Flats in Kananaskis, Bowmont Park, Fish Creek Provincial Park, Paskapoo Slopes and 12 Mile Coulee. MEC recently hooked up the CMBA with a $5500 grant to help build the Fish Creek MTB Skills Park. David from the CMBA gives us the lowdown on what to look forward to when you’re riding here:
Most popular in the area: Ridgeback (especially since we added the boardwalks). The Fish Creek MTB Skills Park has dramatically exceeded our expectations in terms of popularity. It’s amazing how many people are using it.
Personal favourite: Moosepackers to R4/R3 is so much fun. It’s fast, with everything from roots to rock gardens to berms.
What’s unique: Most of our trails are fairly narrow – 1m max between trees – and usually don’t have technical trail features. This will change, since rider skills and the capabilities of bikes have improved dramatically. People are riding faster and looking for more advanced features.
ON: Simcoe County Mountain Bike Club trails
About an hour and a half north of Toronto, the Simcoe County Mountain Bike Club is one of the largest trail organizations in Ontario. In 2016, SCMBC were winners of the $10,000 MEC Dirt Search grant to improve and expand their singletrack network, flow trail and signage. SCMBC board member Ian gives us the latest on the region:
Three words to describe the trails: Clean, fast, flowing.
**Big plans:**We’re negotiating with private landowners to gain access to private property connectors; we’re on a path to create a mountain bike mecca in Ontario.
**Favourite trail:**Creeks Trail. This 10km trail was built by a dedicated group of volunteers (with financial assistance from the MEC Dirt Search). It’s a long ride without many intersections, and has 9 bridges from 15 to 75ft long. It was designed for winter grooming so the elevation changes are gradual, which makes it fun for all abilities and all seasons.
Post-ride recommendations: Kenzington’s Burger Bar (Barrie, Orillia, Bradford) for one of the best burgers you’ll ever eat.
ON: Ottawa Mountain Bike Association
Founded in 2005, the OMBA works with landowners and stakeholders to support mountain bike access in the South March Highlands Conservation Area, and are now the voice of mountain bikers in the Ottawa area. In 2016, they received a $500 Staff Choice Community Grant through MEC Ottawa to support their group. Here’s the info on the area from Sandra at the OMBA:
Most popular: PWT (Pete’s Wicked Trail), a great intermediate trail with interesting rocky features. Advanced riders can ride it all, and it has fun flow sections for intermediates.
**Personal favourite:**In summer, it’s Outback, a technical trail that’s a full-body workout. For winter fat biking, it’s Trail 66 in Gatineau Park, which is a blast to ride when it’s hard-packed snow.
What’s unique? The South March Highlands trails are more technically demanding (with many large rock features) than the average trail network. If you learn to ride here, you can use those skills at other riding areas around the world. It’s a tough place to learn, but also very rewarding.
Big plans: Shadow’s Ridge, a fun new trail finished in 2016 that’s aimed at beginner and intermediate riders. The signs go in for the 2017 season so it’ll be easier to follow. A dedicated team of volunteers creatively built it using the natural features of the area.
QC: Velo MSM trails
Velo MSM provide stellar intermediate and advanced trails for the Ottawa-Gatineau region. In 2013, MEC set them up with a mega $15,000 grant for Mont Ste-Marie trail development. Here’s what you can look forward to when you’re there, courtesy of Ted at Velo MSM:
Personal favourite: Lager – it’s a white-knuckler no matter how many times you ride it. Plus the faster you go through the technical sections, the more flow they have.
Big plans for the area: Watch for another beginner trail in the lake area, a new technical downhill trail, and a lollipop loop into a new ridgeline in an undiscovered area for trails.
QC: Vallée Bras-du-Nord
The VBN is a long-standing pillar of the Quebec City trail community. Primarily known as a XC destination, a number of high-quality gravity trails have recently emerged. Over the years, MEC has supported them through different partnerships and grants that total about $46,000. We caught up with VBN communications director Magalie for info on the area.
What’s unique? The VBN experience is all about rustic nature, varied places to stay, rigorous trail maintenance and a warm welcome.
Personal favourite: For beginners, it’s Beurre d’Érable trail, a sweet singletrack for first-timers. For more advanced riders, the Boréale trail wins the gold. This fantastic enduro style trail has descents with berms and jumps, the perfect combo for adrenaline junkies.
Most popular in the area: Neilson is the signature trail. It’s a cross-country type trail that offers technical climbs, descents with berms, wood bridges and natural obstacles. It winds through the valley along the river and has spectacular views of the mountain – a must when you’re riding here.
QC: Plein-Air Ste-Adèle
Plein-Air Ste-Adèle serves riders from Montreal and the surrounding area with trails for all tastes, from cross-country to freeride and even fat bike trails in winter. Along with a staff choice grant, they also received a grant from MEC for their freeride trail and bike park. Here’s the scoop, at a glance, from Matheiu at PASA:
**Three words to describe this area:**Diverse, close (Montreal’s less than an hour’s drive away), accessible (no trail fees).
Personal favourite: Yogi trail. It’s long, winding and is just as nice going up as down because of it’s grade. There are also wooden bridges and boulders that add to the fun.
NB: Club Plein Air de Caraquet
Established in 1989, Club Plein Air de Caraquet wants to get people outside, and mountain biking is a part of that goal. MEC contributed a grant when they built their first kilometres of trails, along with funds to help them hire a recreation expert for the organization. Here are some things to know about the area, from a number of riders in the region:
Three words to describe the region: Forest, sea and Acadian culture.
Most popular trail: La Clairière. Riders love its sunny panoramas, its wildflowers, its five berms as well as its bumps and jumps.
Big plans for the area: Our goal for 2017 is to build an additional 4km of mountain bike trails. We also want to offer a second round of the Sprockids program and third edition of Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day.
NS: Na Beinn Trails Cycling Association
The Na Beinn Trails Cycling Association helps make mountain biking happen in and around Mabou and Port Hood, and wants to create an accessible trail network for riders of all levels. In 2015, MEC gave trail crews $5800 to boost trails and infrastructure. Here’s the scoop from Yann at the association:
Most popular: The Celtic Shores Coastal Trail, the product of an absolutely amazing rails-to-trails project that’s part of the Trans-Canada Trail. The ride is accessible to all, with great surfaces, gentle grades and amazing sights likes ocean views, beautiful valleys and historic bridges.
Personal favourite: An abandoned road that’s still used by ATVs, but with some provisions for singletrack for hiking or mountain biking (your GPS may say you can drive on this road, but you better not fall for it!). It connects the amazing Mabou Coal Mines area to the more remote areas of Cape Mabou.
What’s unique?: There’s a bit of everything for everyone. From calm gravel backroads to the accessible Celtic Shores Coastal Trail to the rugged hiking trails of the Cape Mabou Trail Club.
From coast to coast, these are just a few of many highlights from busy mountain bike clubs and organizations – there too many to fit in a single blog post!