A Front Country Adventure in Mountain Biking BC's Sea-to-Sky Corridor
The trails you will be riding in this itinerary are maintained by committed volunteer builders with some help from both PORCA and WORCA. Please be respectful of the trails, pack in what you pack out, and buy a trail pass to help support the local trail organizations.
The ride starts with roughly 3-5 hours of climbing up Nimby to Middle Earth, past the upper paraglide launch and all the way to the end of the Mackenzie FSR. Then you start your final climb up Xtratron, the most technical ascent of the whole ride. Full disclosure, you will end up hiking. Rumor has it that the climb was cleaned as recently as the spring of 2018, but this is something we have yet to complete or witness.
In addition to the bugs, this next section of the climb is savagely steep, and just when you think it levels out, it only gets steeper, and just when you feel like the worst must be over, it gets technical. If you manage to clean this climb first try, kudos!
Navigation to the entrance of Gargamel is pretty easy, ride to the top of the Cougar Mountain FSR and the trail leads off the dead end of the road. The first 750m of the trail is rolling, with some slightly technical climbing and short descents to get you warmed up before the true top of the trail.
Bike selection and Setup
1. Heavy duty tires, or Cush Core front and rear: We rode Gargamel 7 times this season, and every time at least one person got a flat tire.
2. Bump your fork travel: Have we mentioned these trails are steep, and rough? Well they are, so this tactic can help you get your bike a bit more tuned up for these wild trails, and hopefully keep you from going over the bars too many times. Depending on your fork, adding 10mm to your travel could be as easy as an internal adjustment, done at your local suspension service center, or after 6 beers and a couple of minutes on Youtube. Sometimes you might need to change the air shaft, which gets a bit more expensive, or sometimes you are just out of luck.
3. More stack height and/or a high rise handlebar: If changing your fork travel is out of your budget, increasing your stack height, aka adding more spacers under your stem and above your top tube can help improve performance on steep tracks. Start with 5mm, it makes more of a difference than you might think. Higher rise handlebars achieve essentially the same outcome, as sometimes there isn’t enough steerer tube on your fork to raise your cockpit as high as desired, making this a good alternative.
4. Shorter stem: You can run any stem you like, so long as it is a maximum of 50mm in length. A shorter stem will drastically improve how your bike handles in the steeps.
5. Smaller chain ring: Unless you are a seasoned Sea-to-Sky climbing veteran, it is likely that you will want to run a front chainring that is 32T or smaller. Mark runs a 34T chainring and never uses his 50T on his cassette, but he’s a showoff.
6. 200mm Front and Rear Rotor: The sustained steeps of these trails mean you will be on your brakes more than you are likely used to. More braking means more heat, more heat means your rotors are hot and your brakes lose performance as you descend the trail. This is NOT ideal. If you aren’t already running a 200mm rotor up front, then we would HIGHLY suggest this at the very least, but both front and rear is favourable.