Massive Kms, Huge Elevation and Singletrack Heaven: Our Favourite Rides of 2023

Massive Kms, Huge Elevation and Singletrack Heaven: Our Favourite Rides of 2023

What better way to celebrate the new year than to recount some of our favourite rides from 2023. As a store, we've all put in a bunch of miles this year, making for some truly epic rides along the way, from road to mountain and everything in between. Maybe not every ride was an all-day sufferfest, but that doesn't stop them from being just as memorable. Hopefully some of the rides on the list inspire you to get out and explore some new areas in 2024. If you have any questions about specific routes etc. please feel free to drop an email in my inbox and I'll do my best to answer them.

Mt Baker - 165km / 2400m - Rob

A right of passage for the Vancouver road cyclist. Don’t forget to bring your passport!

Starting in Abbotsford, BC you soon enter the United States by bicycle - not to worry, there is never a wait when travelling by two wheels. You are welcomed by beautiful country paved roads, surrounded by farmers fields and wildlife. But the elevation profile soon changes as you make your way up towards Mt Baker ski resort. Fields turn to forests, mountains looming in the background - a snowy peaked Baker will always catch your eye, even in the dead of summer. The conversations with friends soon turns to an internal monologue… heavy breathing becomes the cadence you pedal to. The mountain roads have a story of their own, every crack a reminder of the true force of Mother Nature. The tree-line starts to thin, revealed are the views of the surrounding counties, the rugged canvas of the Cascade mountain range. The pack has thinned - your water is running low, sweat pours down over your brow - jerseys open, flapping in the wind. Alas, the summit is just ahead. Unclipping, you are finally rewarded with the views you were promised. Breathless. Cool-off, have a lay in the snowpack - soon the jacket will go on as the chill sets in. Clip-in, zip-up, head down - the descent back home begins… but not to worry - it’s all downhill

Fruita, Colorado - Branden

Back in April I was invited to go down to Fruita, Colorado for 5 days of riding. As soon as I found out I was immediately pumped since this was a destination I always wanted to check out. Arriving in Fruita I was met with what can only be described as the definition of a small town that is definitely focused on outdoor recreation. There were three bike shops in about three blocks, and lots of great coffee shops and breweries. Looking at each day of riding, we researched popular routes and picked the local riders brains at one of the local shops. There are about three to four trail networks in the area, and each one offered a different style of terrain which caused our biggest issue: what we wanted to ride each day. Each day we covered about 30-50km, and four to six hours in the saddle, allowing us to try and experience what each zone had to offer. For one of the days we packed up the truck and drove out to Moab to ride a portion of the famous Whole Enchilada trail. We were not able to ride the upper section of this trail due to weather conditions, but it was still very much a highlight of the trip!

Kim grinds up a climb in Fruita, Colorado 

Harrison/Pemberton/S2S loop - Graham

At the end of August, Graham attempted an oft discussed but rarely ridden loop, so ridiculous in its proportions that it barely even sounds doable, yet he did it. Graham rode from his place in Vancouver, out to Mission, up the entire West side of Lake Harrison, to Lillooet Lake via the In-SHUCK-ch FSR, out at Mount Currie and Pemberton, then home through Whistler and Squamish on the Sea to Sky Highway. An absolute monster of a ride, Graham completed it in one go without stopping to sleep. Stats for the ride include 23:42:15 moving time, 478.59km total distance, and 6,325m elevation gain. 

Graham and his Santa Cruz Stigmata

To make that even more impressive, the stretch from Mission to Mount Currie is entirely gravel for roughly 170km, with a few steep punches that gain almost 300m over a grade of around 10%. Graham rode this loop on his trusty Santa Cruz Stigmata with a Rockshox Rudy fork on it, the perfect gravel bike for the task. Check out his Strava ride here and download the GPX, if you dare.

Graham's big silly ride

Monstrous Strava Loop

Crested Butte, Colorado - Sam 

Another Colorado-based adventure, but completely separate to Branden's, I was invited on a trip to Crested Butte to test out the Pivot Shuttle AM emtb. Having never ridden in Colorado before I jumped at the chance. Colorado seems like something of a mixed bag in terms of riding - bordering on Utah and New Mexico, with varying elevations and landscapes from forested mountains with snow-capped peaks to arid desert, Colorado seems to have it all. Nestled at high elevation in the Rockies, Crested Butte is a stunning former coal mining town turned ski resort, replete with historic town center and heritage buildings, it was a beautiful setting for a weekend of amazing riding.

Crested Butte, Colorado, main stripPhoto: Matt Jones

The riding itself was just as good, taking in the truly epic Teocalli Ridge and 409.5 trails on the first day - climbing on access roads with stunning mountain vistas, into singletrack weaving through wildflower meadows and eventually onto the forested Teocalli Ridge. Once summited we were treated to a fast, flat-out rocky and dusty tech/flow descent, with enough gnar to keep us on our toes, but fast enough to absolutely rip. Day 2 was more of the same that, without really knowing the area well, included some of the best climbs and descents around, following mostly multi-use moto style trails. The three main descents were Flag Creek, Bear Creek, and Deadman's Gulch, the first two consisting mostly of flat out fast, wide-open trails with the occasional section of tech thrown in with an occasional creek crossing. Cruising through more wildflower meadows, pine forests and finishing up on a steep, rocky descent, the riding was a masterpiece of epic backcountry excellence. Thanks Colorado, you truly delivered.

Sam rails a corner on the Pivot Shuttle AMPhoto: Matt Jones

Tree to Sea, Vancouver Island - Tom and Rachel

Myself and my partner set out to complete the Tree to Sea bikepacking loop around North Vancouver island at the start of the summer. The loop itself is just over 1000km with 14000m of elevation gain and mainly consists of forest service roads and double track with some road sections and a water taxi to link everything together into a rideable loop. We managed to complete it in 11 days, many times we rode from sun up to sun down and used every bit of sunlight the day could offer to get the distance done. We met many other bikepackers and tourers on our trip, one lady had driven all the way from Idaho to Vancouver island simply to ride the loop. Due to the time of year we were actually charged by lots of territorial grouse protecting their young, we also saw black bears and what felt like a million chipmunks. The cumulative fatigue of riding hard for 11 days definitely took its toll on us and we were both broken but feeling accomplished by the end. I've never had to deal with food resupply logistics like on this remote loop, we had to mail ourselves food for pickup halfway through the loop so that we had more dehydrated food ready to roll for the second leg of our trip, in comparison to my usual ride diet of coke and chips from the gas station this required some extra thought and planning. This was easily the hardest bikepacking trip we have undertaken due to its length and remoteness, but it was also the most fulfilling trip we have done so far, I'd highly recommend it.

Link to the route info: https://bikepacking.com/routes/tree-to-sea-loop-vancouver-island/

Tom and Rachel on the Tree to Sea loop on Vancouver Island