Monday, August 4, 2014
Sweet and Sticky: Maple Syrup Trail
If you are a mountain biker on Vancouver Island you have most likely heard whispers about 'that Maple Syrup trail'. By now, you may have even gone to taste the Syrup for yourself. So sweet hey?
If you haven't had a chance to sample the Syrup, here is a little taster for you...
I have been spending much more time in my sneakers than my bike shoes this year, and have to say that I came a little late to the party. By the time I caught wind of the whispers this summer, the fabled Maple Syrup trail on Maple Mountain, had been well worn by thousands of wide grinning riders. This 'new' trail was, in fact, officially opened last October by the CTSS- Cowichan Trail Stewardship Society. Friends of friends had riden it. Profile pics of wide spanning, 'rainbow' bridges appeared on social media. Rumours of 'an epic ride' with a 5k climb and '10km of sweet continuous singletrack' got me salivating instantly. It isn't very often that a south Island trail creates enough chatter to drag Valley riders out of our wonderful Cumberland cocoon. It was time to check this trail out.
A few weeks ago a group of us managed to merge our schedules and book it down Island on a Friday. The drive is about 2 hours from the Comox Valley and the trailhead is on Maple Mountain, a couple of kms south of Crofton. 'A 2 hour drive to ride a trail' you say? I can now say that it is well worth the drive!
There are no other trails like it on Vancouver Island. If you have ridden one, please correct me. You can either ride about 5kms up the logging road, which is a good grunt with a few steeper pitches on it, but entirely rideable. Or, you can ride up the new 'climbers trail' which has been crafted at the perfect slope for an enjoyable and very smooth single track ride. The climbers trail was about 2/3 complete and it only left a short climb to the radio tower at the top. I was impressed already! A climbing trail! The lovely, wide, 'green' trail wove it's way through shadey Arbutus forest, open grass fields and over rocky bluffs. 100 times more enjoyable than riding the road, having a trail to climb makes any ride that much better IMO.
The view from the top gave us all some perspective on just how much elevation we had gained on our ride up. The Village of Maple Bay, complete with tiny boats, appeared in miniature, far below. After a snack and a drink it was time to hit the 10k descent. 10k!
Maple Syrup is really like 3 trails in one. The trail covers so much real estate that it actually travels through a very wide range of terrain from top to bottom. It offers a combination of Hornby flow, Nimby 50 gnarl and Jughead/Blue Collar woohoo. As it winds it's way back and forth across Maple Mountain, the trail morphs from steep, technical, rock at the start to mellow, flowy birms at the bottom. All levels of rider will find something they love on the trail.
The very top of the trail includes the most technical terrain, with plenty of rocky drops and steep roll overs. The sun bakes Maple Mountain and by mid summer the dirt turns to powder, making steep pitches loose and challenging. Quickly, the natural rocky drops disappear and the trail flows into big turns, fun descents and sweet rolling bridges (I call them rainbow bridges), reminiscent of the few park trails that I have ridden. It is definitely a thinking trail. After every long descent there is a punchy little climb. Around every corner is a gnarly rock to navigate over or around. The trail definitely keeps you on your toes. By the time Maple Syrup merged into 'Solar Coaster' my body and brain were working overtime. I loved it!
The trail transitions to more flow and less work over the final kms. By then, it is a welcome break and an enjoyable way to finish the ride. Beginners can jump in off the road to experience the lower 'Loggers lane' section of the trail, Intermediate riders can start half way up on the flow of Solar Coaster and those looking for more of a Challenge can tackle the entire trail from the steeps at the top. Brilliant. Helmets off to the trail builders who had the vision and even more impressive ability to execute the idea. They have created a world class trail that will have riders returning for seconds...and thirds...and...
But don't take my word for it. Go ride it for yourself!
Still not convinced? Watch this video of other people having fun riding it...and see if you can resist a road trip...