Sharon and I spent 3 days on Hornby Island last weekend with the Dirty Girlz Bike Club. Hornby is a small island about 200kms up Vancouver Island from Victoria and then two ferry rides to the east. Despite its small size and population it boasts an amazingly well developed and maintained trail network. You can tell mountain bikers have lived and played here for 30 years.
Getting to the island requires a drive to Buckely Bay then a ferry to Denman Island and another ferry to Hornby Island. Although it’s not far from Victoria it still takes nearly 4hrs to get there. Happily it’s well worth the investment!
We setup shop in the Ford’s Cove Campground which is small, clean and other than some chickens it’s quiet and peaceful. There is another much larger public campground on the island, but by all accounts we were in the much nicer place. The store at Ford’s Cove is amazingly well stoked with all the regular camp supplies plus all sorts of gourmet extras. You almost don’t need to bring anything with you from home.
Since we arrived early on Friday before the rest of the gang I didn’t waste any time. I got going drinking beer and passing out for an afternoon nap! When I woke up the rest of our posse had shown up and I was expecting a group ride, but it turned out I was the only one keen on hitting the trails.
I left the girls to their boozing and hit the road. The map I had made it look like the trailhead wasn’t too far from the campground so I decided to pedal over. I did have to climb a pretty extended steep hill, but I just kept telling myself how sweet the downhill on the way back would be.
The trail network on Hornby Island is quite extensive with excellent signage and a nice free map available at the trailhead [hint – the folded paper maps are tucked behind the big map board]. Not really knowing anything about the trails I just headed out picking options that looked interesting and working my way to the summit.
- Spasm Chasm
- Cold Deck
- Mr. Toad’s Ride
- Test Tube
- Chris and Brad’s
- No Horses
The trails here are buff flowy and pretty much groomed to perfection. Unlike the rest of Vancouver Island the riding here is definitely on the chill low-tech side of things. Old skool XC with just enough roots and rock to keep things interesting. There are some steeper trails, but once you get the lay of the land you can ride up nice mellow trails and bomb down all sorts of lovely curvy goodness.
One warning – these trails are decades old – long before uber wide bars were cool so be careful. I run 710mm wide bars and I scrapped trees more than once.
I was losing daylight fast so I cut my ride short after one super fun lap and cruised home. There are loads of small deer on Hornby so if you are going downhill at 55kph at dusk keep your eyes open. I nearly bought the farm as I was watching the scenery speed by and almost hit a deer.
The girls were socializing up at storm back at camp. I enjoyed a fine curry and a few more beers around the fire. I’m not much of a party animal on bike trips so I was the first to bed.
Saturday we got a lazy start to the day, but eventually we made it to the trailhead and started rolling. We had some experienced Hornby riders with us so they plotted out some nice flow.
This was Sharon’s first mountain bike ride since her ACL surgery and Gary [the only other Dirt Hombre on the trip] had never been on a mountain bike before. Luckily Hornby’s chill riding was great for both of them.
I should have brought my DSLR on this trip. Everyone was stoked to take photos and the pace was relaxed enough I could easily get ahead to setup shots. I did my best with my Canon S95, but it’s not the best deep forest action photography choice. I also seemed unable to keep my GPS charged so I didn’t get to record our rides. I took it all in stride and assumed I was meant to just ride on this trip which was fine by me.
Joanne and Gary had rented a great cabin at the campground with a deck that caught the evening sunset. Not surprisingly everyone ended up there to enjoy some BSing and a few drinks.
With two days of riding under my belt I went to sleep even earlier on Saturday night. Probably a good thing as I woke up nice and early Sunday without a hangover.
I think some people partied a bit too much the night before because only 3 of us were excited to ride Sunday morning. That was okay. With our injured and newbie riders taking the day off the rest of us could crank it up a notch and get some fun riding in before we took off for the ferry.
Joanne was riding her brand new Santa Cruz Bronson 650B rig. She was smiling a lot and riding stronger than ever. It looks like the new bike was a great choice. Speaking of bikes the 6″+ travel FS bikes most of us were riding were overkill for the trails here. You can do just fine on a hardtail or rigid bike.
We had a great time shredding our last few hours on the island away, but eventually we had to call it a day.
All in all we had a really wonderful time riding and camping on Hornby Island. I should mention the weather was superb – hot and sunny the whole time. I can see us coming back at least once per summer to enjoy the fine riding here as well as the chill vibe. I’m glad the Dirty Girlz allowed a couple of us Dirt Hombres to join in the fun.