I’m standing at the top of Easy Rider on Harper Mountain, but “easy” isn’t the first word that comes to mind. The blue-rated mountain bike run is steep, wild and empty—save for my four companions: local high school boys who have taken me out to show off their passion.
I’m questioning their sanity as they gleefully hurl themselves down the slopes that surround Kamloops, British Columbia, on two rugged wheels.
“Dropping!” one of the boys yells before careening past me and straight over a jump.
Kamloops has been a mecca for mountain bikers since the early 1990s, back when “mountain biker” was synonymous with the off-trail, rambunctious-type you didn’t want picking up your daughter for prom. Today, Kamloops’ natural volcanic features lend to over 200 kilometres of trails that attract both recreational and pro-riders, as well as the BC Enduro Series and BrewLoops, a beer-and-bike festival.
Madison Ouellette Photography
However, as more BC riders kick up dust in Revelstoke, Whistler and Squamish, the crowds seem to have forgotten about Kamloops. As I hike up Harper Mountain and startle a baby deer that gallops away through a blanket of bursting yellow, orange and purple wildflowers, I’m starting to think that might not be a bad thing.
“It’s addicting,” a rider warns me. “Do it once, next thing, you’re buying a bike. That’s what happened to me.”
Early the next morning, I head to Pineview, a forested section of single-track trails that branches off from a residential area. Ted Morton, who sits on the Kamloops Bike Riders Association board, along with Kelly Asleson and Keri Lewis, materialize in front of me. They’ve ridden over from their driveways.
“These trails are literally in our backyard,” Kelly says. “They’re so accessible—you can just jump on your bike when you get home and be on a trail in five minutes.”
Alison Karlene Hodgins
As we hike into Pineview, the white, cloudy sky is replaced with a tabernacle of evergreen needles. Kelly, Keri and Ted ride up and down a switchback trail behind a veil of Indian paintbrush.
“The landscape is so different here,” Keri says. “You can go from riding in the forest to desert to wild, rocky terrain within 20 minutes.”
“But the best part is the dirt,” Ted says. “Hero dirt. It’s like Velcro.”
Later in the day, I meet up with Dylan Methot, owner of Mostly Mental Shuttles. When he’s not privately booked for parties and events, you can find him transporting van-loads of bikers to the top of the Kamloops Bike Ranch.
Alison Karlene Hodgins
“At the Bike Ranch, there’s always something to challenge you,” Dylan says. He calls encouragement and tips to the brightly dressed riders who rip past, speckling the mountainside like their own breed of wildflower. “Way to go, Connor!” he shouts as a rider who can’t be older than 14 zooms past us, closely followed by his brother and their dad.
When my friend Ben Grove arrives, I’m finally ready. He passes me his helmet and shin guards and gives me a quick lesson on a green run. “You want to lean forward, elbows out. Keep the pedals flat. There’s no chain right now, so you have to start on an incline.” I look at him like he’s insane. He grins.
I take a deep breath, lift my butt off the seat, push my chest forward and—somehow—I’m riding down the hill! The eight-inch shocks absorb the rugged terrain and the touchy brakes nearly send me tumbling over the handlebars. I start to relax. Then, I dismount and push the bike back up the hill to do it again.
I had been warned.
Alison Karlene Hodgins
On my last day in Kamloops, I wake up early and head to Kenna Cartwright, yet another diverse cluster of trails made up of open, rocky terrain. Today is The North Face Dirty Feet Mountain Bike Race, which Phil and Grace Hiom began seven years ago.
“We left good jobs in Calgary and moved here for the terrain, the long season—from March to November—and the warm weather,” Phil says. “When we arrived, we wanted to find something that was missing and add that to the community.” Dirty Feet was born.
“We try to pick a trail that is open to most riders,” Grace explains. “We want it to be inclusive. So, if you’re a more advanced rider, you’ll just ride it faster.”
There are advanced riders here, all right: Olympic Bronze Medalist and World Cup Champion Catherine Pendrel is racing with World 24-hour Champion and four-time US National Champion Sonya Looney, alongside 93 local and visiting mountain bikers. If other spectators hadn’t pointed them out to me, I never would have known.
This seems to be a reoccurring theme in Kamloops: everyone is extremely humble about their own accomplishments, but quick to brag about their neighbours. Perhaps that’s why even after decades of epic rides, the biking scene in Kamloops remains a relative secret.
For now, anyway.
When You Go
Best Areas For:
Beginner Riders: Kenna Cartwright & Bachelor Heights
Intermediate Riders: Pineview (dog-friendly)
Advanced Riders: Harper Mountain
Flat Riders: Rivers Trail
XC Riders: Pineview & Kenna Cartwright
Downhill Riders: Harper Mountain & the Bike Ranch
Bicycle Café: bicyclecafe.com
District Bicycle Co.: districtbicyclecompany.com
Norkam Lock & Cycle: norkamlockandcycle.com
Spoke N Motion: spokenmotion.net
Kamloops Bike Riders Association: kbra.wildapricot.org
Kamloops Performance Cycling Centre: kamloopsbikeranch.weebly.com
Wednesday Co-Ed ride
Thursday Women’s ride
(Enquire at the bike shops)
Red Collar Brewery: redcollar.ca
Reservoir Coffee: facebook.com/reservoircoffee
The Art We Are Café: theartweare.com
Caffé Motivo: caffemotivo.com
Pizza Pi: pizzapikamloops.com
Best Places to Sleep:
Hotel 540: hotel540.ca
Riverside B&B: riversidebnb.ca
Scott’s Restaurant Inn: scottsinnkamloops.ca
Pick up your Tourism Kamloops’ Trail Guide at the Kamloops Visitor Centre, various locations in town or visit tourismkamloops.com for more.