Building a northern hub for riding of all kinds
Prince George Cycling Club
Prince George, B.C., a city of around 86,000 people that was first established as a North West Company fur trading post, is dubbed the capital of Northern B.C., although it sits almost at the same latitude as the province’s geographical centre. Once a sawmill and pulp-mill town, the city’s economy now depends on its role as the service heart of B.C.’S north. Known locally as P.G. or Prince, it’s built in rugged country where the Nechako River joins the Fraser River on its way to the Lower Mainland to meet the Pacific. The trails weaving through its hilly forests are the stomping grounds of Prince George Cycling Club (pgcc).
The club’s membership co-ordinator, Josh Straub, who says the club is at least 20 years old, boils down the organization’s enduring principle: “We’re a group of dedicated volunteers looking to improve cycling in P.G. in all forms.” After a real dearth of members in the first decade of the millennium, membership has grown gradually to 200 riders.
The centre of P.G.’S mountain bike scene – short on racing but long on riding – is the Pidherny Recreation Site, just northwest of where the Nechako drains into the Fraser. pgcc holds trail maintenance nights in Pidherny, alternating with club rides. Straub recommends linking up a few of Pidherny’s delights if you’re in town: “Northern Lights to Kitchen Sink and Lazy Susan is a great technical loop with amazing woodwork and viewing points. If you’re looking for more pedalling, an equally great loop is Mcleod and Screefer to Ditch Pig.”
Members can also be found riding the dirt of the Otway Nordic Centre, where youth Learn to Ride camps in the spring and summer help young riders develop their skills. It was in P.G.’S Heritage subdivision in 1973 that I learned to ride a bike.
“You can splash in the river before returning via a beautiful country road that has very little traffic.”
It seems natural that Prince Georgians would take to fat-bike riding in the winter, as the town used to host the snow golf world championships. Straub says, “We have dedicated winter trails that see a lot of use.”
“Road racing,” Straub notes, “has traditionally been the backbone of the club.” An elaborate points system tallied throughout a season of road races, time trials and crits determines annual champions. In 2016, 42 men, 12 women and two youths scored points. The crown jewel of the road season is the 65-km Koops Classic race from Purden Lake Provincial Park to the city.
But the local road riding isn’t all about competition, Straub adds. He suggests a ride north on the smooth pavement of Highway 97 to Salmon Valley. “You can splash in the river before returning via a beautiful country road that has very little traffic.”
The club boasts a board of directors with members who address specific types of riding, like road, mountain and urban. “The urban director,” Straub notes, “has been instrumental in bike-lane development as well as initiatives for bike racks in the downtown core.”
Straub hopes that his city becomes a centre not only for services, but also, like nearby towns, for outdoor pursuits. “We feel P.G. deserves to be a real destination for cycling and outdoor adventure,” he says, “like other great northern destinations like William’s Lake, Burns Lake and Smithers.”