Vancouver Island Bikepacking Route

Click on image for interactive map and GPS track...

Click on image for interactive map and GPS track…

I live on a sweet mid-sized island off Canada’s West Coast. I’ve been here 5yrs and wanted to bikepack it to see the sights and have a easy access bike camping alternative out my door since living on an island everything is an expensive flight or ferry to get to.

Bikepacking is just starting to become a thing here and any old-timey epic bike tours were not documented well enough to survive the decay of time so a bunch of friends and I started putting something together.

Hombres at the Cape Scott Park start...

Hombres at the Cape Scott Park start…

We’ve got a boat load of logging roads on the island, but what’s on the map and what’s on-the-ground are two different things. Especially in the south island it was a challenge to find a way through to the mid-island with geography and development blocking the obvious choices. After a bunch of on the ground recon, internet searching and Google Earth fly throughs we had a route worked out.

Last week we completed the first full ride through from Cape Scott in the North-West down to Victoria in the South-East. ~850kms & 12,590m climbing [531miles & 41,300′] in 7.5 days of riding.

The route is all GDR/TD style logging roads. However, you will pass through 4 towns with amazing trail networks should you want to drop the camping gear and spend a couple days shredding while reloading on beer and pizza!

The famous shoe tree...

The famous shoe tree…

It was great to see the island from my bike saddle. Especially the north end which was the most remote and where I have spent the least amount of time. I made many mental notes of places I wanted to come back and explore with more time and possibly my fly rod!

I’ll post a trip report and all the usual info here over the next few days as I get my pics processed.

Maxing and relaxing BC style...

Maxing and relaxing BC style…

I appreciate all the hard work people put into building trails and creating routes. Nothing here is really unique or something I created with my own hands, but at the very least I can curate the info for the bikepacking community so somebody from another part of the world can swing by my lovely island and take a rip without route finding hassles.

I live in Victoria, BC so anyone who wants to ride this route can lean on me for up to date info and logistic support. If my GF is in a good mood you can setup a tent in my backyard and grab a shower/use my bike tools.

My trusty Surly Krampus at the end of the ride. :)

My trusty Surly Krampus at the end of the ride. 🙂

AZT750 Race Video

With the TD in full effect at the moment and some bikepacking trips coming up for me I thought I would post some mountain bike touring content. I’ve been keen to ride the AZT course [not race #crazytalk] and this video is great motivation to make it happen. 🙂

Butt Buster Tour – Day 1

Here is the long awaited trip report from newly graduated Gravel Pimp Michael Melo aka Mr. Smooth aka The Director!

We went counter clockwise around the route...

We went counter clockwise around the route…

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Had this actually happened? Month’s or is it years in the making I have completed my first bikepacking trip. My friend Vik an experienced backcountry bikepacker volunteered to take me on a loop he had previously explored on a solo trip in the reverse direction.

A sneak peak at our rigs from later in the trip...

A sneak peak at our rigs from later in the trip…

The weather forecast looked very promising with high’s in the upper teens and possibly even lower 20’s. Our first stop after leaving Victoria and before reaching our departure point of Port Alberni was Smokin George’s BBQ in Nanaimo tucked away in an unusual setting for a restaurant amongst industrial and commercial buildings. With our stomachs full of beef brisket, fries and corn bread we continued on to our departure point. Our next task was to find a safe spot to stash the truck for a few days, fortunately a new found friend Lee at Ozzie’s Cycle was gracious enough to let us park in their lot. With our bikes unloaded gear checked and après ride drinks organized it was time to head out.

Finally rolling like a boss!

Finally rolling like a boss!

Departing Port Alberni heading first east up the No. 4 highway. Vik wasn’t pulling any punches on my virgin trip, the first leg would have us humping 15km uphill, 450m meters of climbing with grades topping out north of 15%. Now road riding is not my preferred way to enjoy cycling and this particular road less pleasant still, No. 4 highway out of Port Alberni is a busy corridor frequented by large commercial vehicles. By the time we made it to the top and entrance to the fire road my left ear was aching. Which is just as well since it took my mind off my aching legs.

Look at that climb!

Look at that climb!

After that initial noisy introduction the silence of the first few meters up the fire road was pleasantly startling. With only the sound of my wheels rolling over the gravel the air tasted sweet and was invigorating, I couldn’t help but grin widely as I felt the weight of civilized life fall away behind me. A few short rolling hills later we come to a large old clear cut. The lack of any sort of trail required us to push our bikes over the terrain resembling a forgotten game of giant pick-up sticks. We picked our way across, carefully avoiding dropping a foot into a seemingly bottomless hole and doing our best to sidestep the young thorny bushes seemingly escaping every crevice.

Someone forgot to sweep up!

Someone forgot to sweep up!

With the sun hanging low we arrived at a decommissioned bridge over a lovely small river, presumably removed to reduce or eliminate travel over this route. As Vik pointed out one of the awesome things about bikepacking is the extreme portability afforded by our lightweight mode of transportation, allowing us to push forward through these types of obstacles. After some deliberation over whether to continue on or not we chose to camp on the opposite side and walked our bikes across the shallow side of the river. The water was exactly the perfect temperature (bloody cold) to drop our brews in to cool off while we set up camp and cooked up our dinners.

Pimping a new tent... :)

Pimping a new tent… 🙂

I was excited to express my wildageek and exercise some virgin outdoor gear, including a new Tarptent Moment DW and an alcohol cook set from Trail Designs.

Time for some vittles...

Time for some vittles…

I’ve been experimenting with a new product called a Hitcase, essentially a ruggedized housing for an iPhone 5s with a wide-angle lens mounted to it. It’s the poor mans GoPro, a previous trip and subsequent video edit proved it makes for a pretty decent action sports cam. Having used the iPhone for video all day I knew it needed a charge and my first job was to pull out a new portable battery I purchased expressly for this trip and give the phone a power boost. Unfortunately I discovered that I had forgotten the iPhone charging cable in Vik’s truck. So that was it for day ones footage, I was confident that we’d be able to pick up a cable along the next days route in one of the small towns we’d be passing by.

Time for a nice cold beer...

Time for a nice cold beer…

Vik coaxed a small fire to life and despite what appeared to be a buffet of dry wood surrounding us it was surprisingly difficult to keep it going. As the waning light of the sun faded we rescued the beer from the river a welcome treat at the end of the day and chatted, finalizing our plans for the next leg of the trip. With an early start planned we decided to turn in while the sky was still a shade of blue. I’m not sure if it was the excitement of what lay ahead the new experience of sleeping on an ultra light inflatable mattress, the use of a quilt instead of a traditional sleeping bag or my bad habit of getting to bed late in my regular life. I had a hard time falling asleep, tossing and turning for what seemed like ages and two bathroom trips later at the sign of the first couple of stars I finally dozed off to the rushing sound of the river.

Krampus Bikepacking Mods Scorecard

Krampus on gravel...

Krampus on gravel…

I think the Krampus is an amazing bikepacking platform. I’m sold on 29+ for this type of riding. I’m keen to tweak my setup and get the most from it without becoming a gratuitous bling-whore. After making some changes over the winter I wanted to field test them so I headed out for a 3 day Gravel Pimping adventure with my buddy Michael who has been wanting to get his bikepacking rig into action for a while now. We rode from Port Alberni to Cumberland and back in the reverse loop of a route I used previously. Michael is doing a ride report which I’ll post when he’s got it done. In the meantime I thought I would do a rundown of my mods with some thoughts on how well they worked.

Fox Float 34 x 130mm fork...

Fox Float 34 x 130mm fork…

Fox Float 34 x 130mm Fork

This trip was not very technical. There were some rough sections for sure as well as paved sections. I really didn’t notice the suspension fork much either for the good or the bad. The steering geo seemed fine and there was no issue with tire clearance in the fork. Looking at the dust marks on the stanchions I used about 100mm of travel during the trip which is a fair bit, but from the saddle that never seemed obvious. I’m going to wait until I get a more technical bikepacking trip under my belt before I make any decisions about what to do with this fork.

I will say that having ridden the same route rigid [as well as two trips to the Chilcotins rigid] that the Krampus and its 29+ tires really smooth out rough terrain even without the benefit of suspension. I’m too lazy to go swapping forks back and forth for each trip, but I certainly wouldn’t feel any need for a suspension fork on a GDR style Gravel Pimp trip. It just adds weight. maintenance and an extra failure point.

One fork related thing I didn’t like was the bar height. Since this was a used fork with a cut steerer I had to place the bars a bit lower than my previous setup. That wasn’t as comfortable. Especially for long non-technical sections with less body movement. I’ll be trying a new bar with 3/4″ more rise to see if that sorts the problem out.

Comfy, but no bar ends...

Comfy, but no bar ends…

Ergon Grips

Previously I had some Egon grips on the Krampus that look like the ones in the photo above except they had built-in bar ends. I really liked them and was sad when I crashed a wrecked one of the pair. I had these white ones in my parts box so I used them instead of buying new ones. They were comfortable as I have grown to expect from Ergon grips, but I missed the lack of a bar end which provides a nice change of hand position for long days in the saddle. Adding external bar ends would push the grips and controls too far towards the centre of the bar so I’ll bite the bullet and buy some new Ergons with built-in bar ends.

Not as comfy as leather...

Not as comfy as leather…

WTB Pure V Saddle

I’ve been a die hard leather saddle user for a number of years now. I can ride all day for weeks at a time in total comfort on leather saddles without needing a bike diaper. I was interested in finding a lighter and cheaper option which lead me to the WTB Pure V for my trail riding needs. I find these saddles very comfortable for 3-5hr trail rides without needing any bike specific padded shorts. On tour though I found they were not as comfortable when I moved around the bike less and spent 8-10hrs riding per day. They weren’t awful, but when you are used total comfort in the butt region some mild discomfort seems like a big deal. So I’ll be going back to a Brooks B17 for the Krampus. The WTB saddle will get used on my trail bikes.

I realize there may be other plastic saddles I might like better, but I have enough Brooks saddles and WTB saddles in my garage to last me a while so I’m just going to use them.

New Porcelain Rocket gear...

New Porcelain Rocket gear…

Porcelain Rocket MCA Bar Bag

This is Scott’s new minimalist bikepacking bar bag setup. I don’t have a great picture of it handy so jump over to his blog post about it to see the details. His previous setup had a fabric bag that stayed mounted to the bars that you stuffed with your gear and rolled up at the ends to close it. They new setup gets rid of the bag and replaces it with a dry bag [you provide] that loads from the front. I didn’t have much negative to say about the old version. Mine was a bit tight for my sleeping bag in a dry bag when I was loading it in the morning, but that was the only 5 mins of the day where it wasn’t awesome. The new setup gets rid of that one annoyance and is lighter. The new system lets you pack your bag away from the bike and then just pop the dry bag onto the bars and ride away. Nice if you are not sleeping right by your bike.

Overall it was easy to use and kept my gear in place just as well as the old system.

One issue to be aware of is that your dry bag is vulnerable to damage since it’s not covered with any other fabric. It’s also the only thing keeping your gear together on your bars. If you do a lot of bushwhacking through thorny vegetation or are on a long trip and are concerned about wear and tear you may want to cover the dry bag with another bag that has tougher fabric.

Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion Seat Bag

Once again I’ll suggest you jump to Scott’s blog for detailed photos of this new seat bag setup. The main difference between the new system and Scott’s older one is that it uses a metal frame + harness to stabilize the load. That means as you bomb down a rough trail your seat bag isn’t flopping around. A secondary feature is that the bag itself can be removed from the bike in a couple seconds and carried elsewhere so you can easily camp away from your ride. I found this new design to be a lot better than my old bag mostly due to how stable it was on rough terrain, but also I liked just grabbing the whole bag and loading/unloading it at my campsite.

One extra benefit we noticed on this trip [Michael used my old PR seat bag] is that the new version once set in place didn’t move vertically. While the old bag on Michael’s bike would sag a bit under its own weight when hammered down a rough road. This ended up with the bag rubbing the tire a couple times due to a combination of a tall 29er tire and a short exposed seatpost. Because of the metal tubes and the clamp on the seatpost once you get the Mr. Fusion adjusted for your bike it stays where you put it.

Custom PR frame bag...

Custom PR frame bag…

Porcelain Rocket Frame Bag

The frame bag I had been using on my Krampus the last couple years was built for a different bike. It fit well enough that I couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it, but last summer when I was on tour with Scott I could tell the crappy fit of the bag on the Krampus made him sad and I did feel a bit guilty because someone might assume he built that bag for my Krampus and just didn’t do a good job. So I got a new custom fit bag this year. Not a lot to say about it. It fits great and is well constructed like all of Scott’s gear. He made it pretty narrow compared to the old bag which I think is Scott’s way of telling me I carry too much damn stuff on tour! 😉