Day 6 – Spruce Lake to Tyax Lodge
Waking up reasonably early we were tempted to eat our oatmeal outside the “rippers'” tents and talk loudly about how we preferred chunky old school tech to modern flow trails, but we were too mature to resort to the eye-for-an-eye thing. Possibly we were also in a kinder gentler mood because we knew we’d be riding 99% of the time on the trail today. 😉
Cruising south along the east side of Spruce Lake we joined up with Gun Meadows Trail and enjoyed some high speed more or less buff alpine meadow riding. We merged onto Gun Creek Trail and kept dropping through forests and meadows on some amazingly fun curvy singeltrack.
A lot of the trail is on the softer looser side which you don’t realize when running 3″ tires since they provide just the right amount of float and traction to deal with the trail surface. When I was riding the same trail last year on my 27.5″ x 2.35″ tires I was shocked by how much I sank in and how much that slowed the bike down. Sections that were easy coasting and pumping good times on 29+ required constant pedalling on the skinnier tires.
My Krampus loves these sort of fast rolling trails and it was the one trail where I could stick with Scott most of the time. 3″ 29er tires roll faster than 2.8″ 27.5″ tires. Mild roughness equalized things and if things got really rough Scott’s full-suspension rig had the advantage.
This trail is so entertaining a couple hours whiz by without you realizing it.
After a good long section of forest singletrack you get into some rough techy double track that’s even faster and at speed just as entertaining with logs and rocks coming at you fast and furious. My cheeks hurt from all the smiling.
Eventually you get spit back on a dirt road. It’s still pointed down so you don’t mind, but if you’ve been here before you know that the ride is almost over and the last ~4kms are fairly climby and tough in the mid-day heat. Traffic whizzes by you to remind you that you are back in the world and the dust makes you wish you were already at the bar at Tyax Lodge.
I can assure you that first cold $7 beer at the bar was delicious. 🙂 I will warn you not to order the $30 steak at Tyax. It’s a snack sized meal. 😦 The burger is a better choice.
The Tyax campground was full so we grabbed some ice to cool our beer and headed to one of the free campgrounds nearby to relax and pack away our touring gear. I was both very happy to be done and sad that another tour was wrapping up.
It was great to spend some time hanging out with a buddy in such beautiful country. A lot of the riding and all of the hike-a-bike was hard, but we don’t mind an honest effort. Aside from camping at Spruce Lake there really wasn’t anything bad about this trip. The weather was perfect and the bugs were light in most places.
Having said that I don’t see myself going back to the Chilcotins for a longer trip in the next few years.
The bottom line is that hike-a-bike to riding ratio is just too high. Even for someone who doesn’t mind some walking. I think we averaged something like 50% riding/50% HAB on a time basis. That’s probably 25% more HAB than I really want to do.
I’m sure I will be back though for shorter long weekend trips where I’m not eating into my limited holiday time. I’ve got some specific routes to explore, but I can do that in 3 days of riding with less food/gear.
If you’ve never been to the Chilcotins don’t let the HAB discourage you. It’s well worth a major trip and seeing the amazing terrain for the first time takes away much of harshness of the pushing.
I’ve been riding Schwalbe Has Damf tires on my Pivot Mach 6 for a bit over a year now [say 6 months x 3 rides a week with winter off] in the 27.5 x 2.35″ size. I wanted an aggressive yet light tire that could handle our often wet rocky and rooty steep techy trails. Low rolling resistance and fast acceleration were important as well since we have very rough trails that you are constantly slowing down and speeding up on as you overcome each tech section.
These tires come in two different compounds:
- Trailstar [Softer – Better Grip] = Front
- Pacestar [Harder – Faster] = Rear
They both both weigh ~800g and cost ~$90USD. The tread is not front/rear specific.
Initially I tried two of the softer compound tires front & back. This was during a particularly wet slimy part of the year and they really impressed me with how they stuck to the trail like velcro. As the trails dried out I swapped in a harder compound rear tire and rode like that through the summer. There was no noticeable change in grip, but conditions were not as demanding in the traction department.
These tires mounted up tubeless like champs on my 35mm wide Light Bicycle carbon rims. I’ve had zero tubeless hassles or issues. I did puncture one rear through the tread hammering a rocky descent. It was a sad way to lose a nearly new tire, but based on the conditions, how I was riding and the fact these are light tires it wasn’t unreasonable. On the plus side I have not had another flat despite continuing to ride hard.
From strictly a performance point of view these tires are great. I’d give them the nod over my other go to aggressive mountain bike tire the Continental Trail King. The TK’s are a tad less grippy and 25% heavier.
The main downsides to the HDs are that they are pricey and not as durable as the TK’s. After a summer of riding I tore the side knobs right off the HD’s. So that’s a $90 rear every 3 months or so. :(. Contrast that to getting 12 – 18 months out of a rear $56 Trail King.
I’m not one to save a few bucks on tires as they are the most important component on your bike for performance and safety, but the difference in performance between HD’s and TK’s isn’t that much yet the cost/month difference is staggering.
Schwalbe these are great tires, but you need to make them last at least twice as long!
Are there any blog readers in Banff or Canmore I’ve got a favour to ask. Drop me a comment if you are in the area. 🙂
Shawn sent me this video from his recent Island tour. Good to see folks using parts of the island bikepacking route. 🙂
“Rode to the ferries via the dyke trail through Surrey and Delta, then to Saltspring to Crofton to the Cowichan River Campground. Then onto part of VikB’s Vancouver Island Bike Packing Route (vibikepacking.wordpress.com/). From there rode to Victoria and then back home again. Fun few days!”
A couple weekends ago my buddy Michael and I took advantage of some nice weather to ride a loop from Port Alberni to Cumberland and back.
Here is his video. 🙂
I love Continental Trail Kings in the 26″ x 2.4″ format. I’ll go so far as to say they are the only tire I’ll use on my 26″ bikes because they are so tall they provide amazing roll through our rough tech that typifies South Shore mountain biking on Vancouver Island. The large volume makes ’em very comfy and they’ve got a nice surefooted knob pattern making us smile while riding through slick conditions we get every winter. So far we’ve worn through a few sets and they’ve setup tubeless easy and been 100% reliable no matter how hard they are plowed through sharp SW desert rocks on regular trips to Sedona and Moab. The downside is they are ~1000-1200g each [higher for UST].
Sharon rolled through last season on 650B x 2.35″ Schwalbe Hans Damfs then switched to her 26er bike with fat Trail Kings for the winter. She immediately loved how stable and confidence inspiring the Continental tires were. Personally I really like the Hans Damfs because they roll fast, provide loads of grip and they are ~450g lighter each than the 26er Trail Kings we ride. For Sharon the peace of mind of the TK’s is worth a weight penatly since she’ll charge lines she might walk if she doubts her machine.
So we ordered up some of 27.5 x 2.4″ TK’s for her 650B bike. We got the Black Chilli version, but not the UST model so they were only 1000g. That’s about 250g extra per wheel vs. the Schwalbes.
Tubeless setup was very easy as I’ve come to expect for these tires. Just pop them on the rim with some yellow tape, 2.5 scoops of Stan’s and a 1 CO2 cartridge to seat the bead. Done!
Looking in her old tires there was just a puddle of dirty water left where her Stan’s used to be. That’s a good reminder to refresh sealant at the start of each new season.
Sharon also installed a Race Face Turbine Cinch crank on her 650B bike because she wanted a smaller chainring than the 30T that’s the low limit of a SRAM XO1 crank. Since I did the Schwalbe tires and I was looking to upgrade the Deore cranks on my Krampus I got her cast offs. I’ll put them to good use. 🙂
I pulled my largest Stanimal yet out of Sharon’s rear tire. It was quite a beast!