A nice place to take your bike for a hike. That’s how I tend to (sarcastically) describe those bikepacking trips that didn’t turn out as I had hoped. Usually I start out by pouring over paper maps trying to find obscure routes along ridge lines or seldom traveled valleys. Old mining areas are some of my favorites. Those old prospectors built roads and trails in some pretty wild places.
And here’s the point where the problems start. In seeking out the most seldom traveled places on the map and trying to ride a bike through them can be a recipe for two wheel torture. As is typical here in BC (and I’m sure elsewhere) our paper maps are woefully out of date and have, on more than one occasion, landed me at a dead end after several hours of pedaling only to be turned around to back track. The only thing worse than that are the roads or trails that slowly dwindle to a double track, then single track then fade into tall grass and bush. Let’s not forget about the blow down trees! In those moments I find myself wondering if this is my penance for overly aggressive commuting, running stop signs and lights and cutting through traffic like an espresso crazed bike messenger.
Of course I know better than to trust paper maps so I cross reference with google maps to try to gather enough info to decide if there is actually a road/trail/path/access to the place I hope to pedal. Very few if any trail condition reports are available for these off the beaten paths, leaving me with the decision to stay home and keep day dreaming or get out there and find out if the route goes. Eventually I talk myself into going down the unknown path and more often it turns into a slog.
So many of these places don’t get visited more than a dozen times a year and few people carry chainsaws or hand saws to clear the path so more often than not you can expect a route to have plenty of obstacles to climb over, under, around and through. Of course it’s not always downed trees, there’s certainly lots of trails that were not built or intended for bicycles. There’s nothing more fulfilling than planning a 50 km ride only to end up walking your bike 1/3 of the time, bashing your shins into the pedals and wondering why you haven’t taken them off yet because you actually brought along a pedal wrench for this very purpose, but you’re too stubborn to stop.
If my cynical synopsis of bikepacking in BC hasn’t turned you off yet, good. If you read this and think “well it’s probably not that bad” or “I’ve done worse rides than that” you passed the test. This is generally how I screen perspective riding partners. If you’re not averse to suffering you’ll probably have a reasonably descent time bikepacking in BC. At a minimum you’ll get to take your bike for a nice hike.