If you are long time blog reader you will have noticed a definite shift towards dirt on this blog. Urban utility riding, road riding and road touring doesn’t get the same coverage it once did. That’s mainly due to my move from Calgary Alberta to Victoria BC. In Calgary I lived downtown and the closest mountain biking I was stoked for was 90 mins drive away and there was only a limited 4 month season each summer. That meant a lot more of my riding was on pavement and a lot more of my blog posts were about paved road missions.
Fast forward a couple years and I live on an underpopulated island on Canada’s far west coast with a lot of amazing mountain bike trails and logging roads to explore. I still use my bikes to get around town for errands or socializing, but I’m not as keen about documenting those rides. No real agenda here – I guess after posting so much about urban/utility riding in Calgary I’m happy to focus on something else.
Now you could ask why I don’t do more road riding either for fun or in preparation for the rando season? And why I haven’t done a single paved tour in the last couple years?
The simple answer is that dirt riding is more fun than pavement riding in pretty much every case.
When I go mountain biking I can be alone in a stunning coastal rainforest or with a couple buddies. We rarely see/hear other riders and we have world class terrain to enjoy. No cars, no people – barely any hint of civilization other than the fact the trails themselves exist. It’s an amazing feeling to just forget about all of the practical issues of a modern life and focus on the simple task at hand – riding a bike in the forest.
So when faced with the choice of spending a few hours riding my mountain bike in the trees or doing a road ride around Victoria it just never seems like riding on the road is going to be more fun. Hence the mountain bike gets ridden and my rando bike waits for the next brevet to see action.
The same principal applies to touring. Why ride along side a highway or rural road when you can ride a remote dirt road? There is a hard and fast rule about roads – the better the roads the more traffic you’ll see and the faster it will go. Governments only maintain roads that get used a lot and well maintained roads are preferred by drivers. It’s a vicious circle that sees the best roads used the most and the worst roads used the least. Nobody takes their vehicle down a rough/dusty remote logging road unless they really have to. That means you’ll see a handful of vehicles a day on a dirt road – possibly none as you go deeper into the spaces between paved road network.
Yet with a well equipped mountain bike carrying a lightweight bikepacking setup you can move around on dirt roads and trails with the same ease a typical fully loaded Surly Long Haul Trucker rolls down a paved highway. The difference is you can be alone to a much greater extent and you can explore areas not frequently toured by cyclists.
Exploring is what’s fueling my stoke currently for bikepacking. If you do a search for bike touring and Vancouver Island you’ll see that almost all the tourists stick to a handful of routes. Most of which I haven’t ridden! I’d rather spend my time looking at maps and trying to piece together a killer dirt touring route of the island than do laps on existing routes. It’s not as easy and sometimes your plans don’t work out, but you learn something every ride and get to know your “neighbourhood” that much better.
There is a definite fewer cars the better message in this post. To be clear I am not afraid to ride on the road with cars. I am not a cautious cyclist. I’ll happily mix it up with rush hour traffic if I need to get somewhere. But the reality is that it’s not fun to be around cars even if they don’t hit you. They are noisy, smelly and I don’t like a lot of the people driving them. Let’s not stop at cars – I don’t love riding on bikepaths either. There are lots of idiot cyclists, dog walkers, roller bladers, joggers, etc… And let’s not forget Sharon had her most serious accident to date in a bike-on-bike collision on a bike path – so they aren’t necessarily that safe.
The bottom line is that for fun I’d rather be outside in nature with as few people around as possible. On Vancouver Island that means riding dirt. So you are bound to see a lot more dirt riding on this blog. I’m not ashamed to be dirty…;-)