Here are some important points to consider so your upcoming Chilcotins trip goes off without a hitch.
You are headed deep into a remote part of BC’s backcountry. That means amazing scenery, wildlife and few people. It also means you need to stay safe and healthy so you can get back out again. Ride safe. If you get hurt or damage your bike getting back to civilization will be very hard. So always ride conservatively and leave yourself lots of safety margin.
It’s far better to walk your bike for 10mins then try and ride a tough section and get hurt.
This is not a guided trip!
You are not embarking on a guided bike trip. Nobody is being paid to look out for you or ensure you have a fun/safe time. You are the only person who is responsible for what happens to you.
Ride within your limits and don’t start any rides that are not safely within your limits.
Research the information about the area. Buy and study the Spruce Lake map. Carry that map with you when you ride. Know where you are and how to use a compass/GPS to get you where you need to go.
Carry a suitable first aid kit and know how to use it.
Unlike Victoria area riding the Chilcotins trails are less technical, but longer and faster. You need to be able to cover a lot of ground and to ride hard all day on back-to-back days. Get out on some long road rides and crush as many all day epic mountain bike rides as you can before August rolls around. This is particularly important if you are a slow rider. You don’t need to become a superhero, but you do need to ride at a moderate pace comfortably for 5-6hrs at a time.
The Gear Flights In/Out
Tyax Air will be flying our gear/food/drink into Spruce Lake. You can take 100lbs in with you and 70lbs out. Bulkiness/size also matters so don’t bring anything that won’t fit easily into a small floatplane. Weigh your stuff at home and don’t bring too much weight. Pack your stuff so it’s easy to load and unload.
The Ride In
The whole group has to ride into Spruce Lake from Tyax Lodge. That’s ~25kms and it’s uphill. The pace will be reasonable, but the key will be to ride consistently without stopping too frequently. That means you need to be able to ride efficiently, manage your food and energy levels so you can keep going. When we do stop take advantage of the time to eat and adjust your gear so you can ride solidly for the next stretch.
We are a big group and it’s hard to know how many folks will be camped at Spruce Lake when we get there. It could be totally just us or there could be another 10-15+ people. So be flexible with your expectations for camping. We may need to put tents close together or spread out to find spots to pitch them. It would best if we are all using backpacking tents and leave any family size mega tents at home.
Bring a tarp and extra rope in case we have a lot of rain.
We are in grizzly bear country so bear safety is critical. Mainly this means keeping our camps clean and storing our food appropriately. There are metal food lockers at Spruce Lake, but there is limited space in them. So it’s important to have some rope and a bag that can be used to hang your food if you can’t fit it all into the lockers. It also means bringing compact food will be easier to store.
Any food discards need to be burnt in our campfire. Any garbage has to burnt or stored with your food. So think ahead and pack food in ways that don’t generate a lot of garbage or packaging that can be burnt in the fire.
Every rider should be carrying bear spray and bear bangers plus a Fox 40 whistle. You should also know how to use these items. Bear spray in particular has a very limited window of effectiveness in terms of range.
Having a bear bell attached to your bike is a good idea.
Buy a bear safety book and read it.
The first hint you will have that a dangerous cougar is stalking you is when its jaws are closing down on your neck. Fight like your life depends on it because it does! Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen. Any cougar you see in the distance is not a cougar you need to worry about. The best [only] thing you can do to avoid a cougar attack is to stay in a group and never ride/hike alone.
Anything that you bring with you to Spruce Lake has to be consumed, burned or carried back out. Be prepared for that and plan what you are bringing with that in mind. Can & bottles are going back into your bags for the flight out. Paper and organics can be burned.
There will be one group ride per day. You don’t have to join the group ride. If you do join the group ride you need to stick with the group unless you clearly let everyone know you are going ahead/turning back. Most rides will be out and back so fast folks can do their own thing and go off ahead. Slower folks can turn back early when they have reached a distance that suits their abilities.
The group pace will be determined by the speed of the slowest riders. That means if you are a fast rider you need to adjust your riding to be compatible with the group or do your own thing and skip the group ride.
You should never ride alone. Always stay with your ride partner and work as a team.
Everyone will have a ride partner. You can pick this person or if needed we’ll pair up any singles. You don’t leave your ride partner alone – ever! Except for bathroom breaks and even then you make sure they come back in reasonable amount of time. You ride together. You eat together and you stay safe together.
If your partner breaks their bike or hurts their shoulder and has to walk back out to Tyax lodge you are going with them. So it’s important you look out for each other and remind each other to ride like you can’t afford a bad crash.
Backcountry biking means you need to carry more gear than you would on a day ride at home. Consider the following for your pack:
- Water purification drops
- Food for 24hrs
- Headlamp [check your batteries]
- Emergency space blanket bivy
- Lighter & fire starter [ie. dryer lint]
- Rain jacket
- Extra LS thermal top
- Spare tube
- spare emergency kelvar spoke
- spare set of brake pads
- Tubeless tire plugs + extra sealant
- Shock pump
- Spare length of chain and quicklink
- Small roll of duct tape or electrical tape
- Some zipties
- Spare clipless pedal cleats and bolts [if you swing that way]
- First aid kit
- SPOT/InReach emergency beacons
This means you’ll need a reasonable sized pack.
You will have a map and a compass or GPS. You will know how to use them. You need to be ready at anytime to find your way back to camp or to the Tyax Lodge. Practice your navigation skills before you get to the Chilcotins.
Buy the South Chilcotins map: http://www.trailventuresbc.com/maps/south-chilcotin/order-chilcotin-map
We will be in the mountains where weather is unpredictable and changes rapidly. Snow, rain, freezing temperatures and uber hot 35 deg C+ weather can all happen and maybe will happen in the same 24hrs.
Be ready for anything.
Depending on the weather there can be quite a lot of flies and/or mozzies. Consider a bug shirt and or bug spray to repel the beasts!
Your bike is your ride in and out. If it breaks you are in for a heck of a walk. Get it fully inspected before the trip and maintain it properly.
- Check all of the frame for damage
- Overhaul suspension at both ends, no play, properly lubricated, properly setup
- Headset properly adjusted, lubricated and not worn out
- Stem properly installed and undamaged
- Bars undamaged
- Grips installed correctly and comfortable for all day rides
- Wheels trued, strong enough for your weight, bearings lubricated and wheels properly installed in your frame
- Tires not worn out, not damaged and installed correctly
- Drivetrain clean and not worn out [check your chain for wear]
- Shifting works perfectly
- Check shifter cables for wear
- Check brakes – solid braking power, pads not worn out, rotors/calipers true and adjusted, hydro lines not worn/damaged and properly bled
- Seatpost undamaged, droppers operating properly and well maintained
- Saddle comfortable for all day rides, undamaged and installed correctly
- all bolts tight
Pack spare parts in your luggage as needed. Have some chain lube and a couple rags with you to service your bike on the trip.
The ride in and the ride out are not optional, but the other days are optional. If you need some rest Spruce Lake is gorgeous. Pack a book and a bathing suit so you can enjoy some down time if you need it. Respect your body this is a holiday!
This trip sounds awful!
If you stack up all the possible problems/risks/challenges of a backcountry trip into one post it can sound pretty grim. The point is that not all these things will happen and you have many months to prepare yourself as well as your gear so that the few issues that pop up are not a major problem for you. The key to a fun backcountry trip is being prepared.
- grizzly bear on the trail? – no problem scare it off with some bear bangers from a safe distance
- broken spoke, cable or chain? – no problem you have packed spares
- rain at the top of the pass? – no problem you have a rain shell in your pack and a spare pair of dry gloves to put on
- riding too aggressively? – no problem your ride partner will remind you that the nearest emergency room is a long ways away
- got separated from the group? – no problem you have a map and a compass so you can find your way back to camp
As you can imagine all those situations above could be pretty awful if you didn’t prepare for the trip properly.
You don’t need to become a wilderness biking expert and you can ask questions/get help with your preparations from folks with more experience. So don’t let the process intimidate or overwhelm you. You have plenty of time to tackle each item one at a time.
To put it into perspective we did a Chilcotins tour last year with a 5yr old and a 9yr old and we carried all our food/camping gear with us [no plane support]. A much harder trip and the kids had no problems. 🙂
Some trip reports and area info to get you stoked and better prepared.