If you haven’t been paying attention bikepacking races are sprouting up across North America and around the world. With unofficial races like the Tour Divide from Banff AB to the Mexican border as inspiration it was only a matter of time before someone made the leap here in BC. The BC Epic 1000 had its inaugural run this June thanks to the creativity and passion of Lennard Pretorius of Kamloops BC. Lennard’s passion for riding bikes and exploring the seldom traveled corners of the map were the inspiration to create an ambitious route that would be a test piece for himself. The route that Pretorius created utilizes the existing network of converted rails to trails that covers wildly beautiful and desolate country in southern BC, most of which are part of the Trans Canada Trail system. Utilizing stretches of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail (Hope to Midway), Columbia and Western Rail Trail (Midway to Castlegar), Great Northern Rail Trail (Salmo to Nelson) and the North Star Rail Trail (Kimberly to Cranbrook). With many aesthetic qualities the trails winds through canyons, over wooden trestles and through tunnels and ghost towns, mostly relics of BC’s mining history.
Don’t be fooled, just because much of this route follows low angle rail corridors doesn’t mean it’s without challenge. The seemingly gentle grade of the rail trail can be outweighed by the condition of the riding surface which is far from smooth thanks to motorized users. Other challenges arise from overgrown and neglected sections. Also, moderate rail grades don’t make for long coasting downhills so the route demands more pedaling downhill than you might expect. With a crushing 11,485m of overall elevation gain along the 1040km route you can expect to test your stamina pedaling over the stunning Gray Creek Pass (2074m) between Kootenay Lake and Kimberly.
Pretorius set a departure date for June 24 2016 (which will also be the departure date in 2017) and posted it on Facebook to see if others might like to join and make the route into something like a Tour Divide style race. Unofficial, unsupported without sponsors or prizes. Over a dozen people showed interest and by the departure day 14 people showed up in Merritt. The group was an assortment of folks with some looking for a competitive race type experience and other simply wanting to enjoy the ride and complete the route.
As the route creator Pretorius was (not surprisingly) most often at the head of the pack. With the typical “leap frogging” with other riders as some took breaks to eat and/or sleep. Pretorius pushed hard sleeping little and minimizing breaks, even leaving behind his sleeping bag to cut weight. Pretorius went on to complete the entire route in 4 days 2 hours and 45 minutes. As it stands now there have been 11 riders to complete the route traveling west to east with Pretorius holding the record. The route can be completed in either direction and separate records will be kept for those who choose to ride it that direction.
All that aside, the BC Epic 1000 doesn’t have to be a race. A closer look at the route and you can see how it lends itself to be broken down into smaller more manageable lengths that can make for whatever size of adventure you’re able to fit into your schedule. Whether it’s a weekend warrior ride from Cranbrook to Elko, a 4 day ride from Nelson to Kimberly or a circuit from Greenwood into the surrounding mining districts you can see the opportunities that this route opens up and all the amazing country that it can access!
Learn more about the route at bcepic1000.com