Beauty Rides in B.C.
“SALT SPRING ISLAND REALLY HAS THAT BUCOLIC ISLAND SETTING, WITH TERRAIN THAT INCLUDES LUSH RAINFOREST, ARBUTUS GROVE AND ROLLING FARMLAND.”
Salt Spring Island is a short ferry ride from both Vancouver Island and the mainland. Any gravel route here should tie in Mount Tuam and Mount Maxwell. Both offer long climbs and beautiful vistas. And that’s just the start.
“Salt Spring Island really has that bucolic island setting, with terrain that includes lush rainforest, arbutus grove and rolling farmland,” says Parker Bloom, who’s part of the Shimano Gravel Alliance. “There’s also countless singletrack cut-throughs, fern-laden walking paths, definitely-shouldn’t-ride-here routes and all kinds of secret connectors.”
If you can’t tell, Bloom’s a fan of the adventurous, unexpected finds that can make a gravel ride one to remember. He has some stops you won’t want to miss. Moonshine Mama’s Elixirs and Tonics offers up organic juices of all kinds. Get some bread from Francis Bread to munch on as you wander the sculpture garden at the Duthie Gallery. Fuel up some more at the Rock Salt Cafe at the ferry terminal as you wait for your lift back.
If the coast is too wet, head to the interior to ride from the town of Lillooet. It’s a typical winter-training location for Vancouver’s Mighty Riders team. The roads are chip seal and quickly break down to some version of gravel. While Bloom says a 28-mm-wide tire is workable, 38 mm is wonderful. North from town toward Seton Dam on the Bridge River Road is a standout route. Ride cliffside above the river and then cut down through four picture-perfect switchbacks into a slot canyon to the base of the dam. Food, snacks and drinks are best at the Lightfoot Gas station and Abundance Bakery. To make the most of a weekend, book into the Four Pines Motel. “It’s rough in all the right ways,” Bloom says. “The carpets are as thin as the walls, but it makes for a good home base, and the laundry machine hasn’t given in yet to the countless washes of gritty shoe covers.”