Story by Julia Hofmann
It’s been an excruciating climb, one with as much hike-a-biking as pedalling, but at last, we’ve arrived. Standing atop the highest point of Cronin Pass above Smithers the wind is howling; the air is cold. It’s been ten years since my first trip to Canada. Ten years since my first international mountain bike adventure. And as I stare out at the vast landscape of Northern British Columbia, I can see the long, flowing, epic trail I’m about to ride.
It’s the middle of August and each piercing gust hints that autumn is just around the corner. Despite our early start, the sun is now low. Shadows along the cliff bands lengthen and the colors of our surroundings begin to saturate. Feelings of peace and solitude complete this blissful scene, but I can feel the growing anticipation to drop in. The combination creates a sense of freedom inside me that washes me with happiness. From my extensive travels around the world to mountain bike, British Columbia is still one of the only places that host all the elements I love about riding. Well-built trails, a supportive riding community, and general love and appreciation for spending time in the woods.
When I was young my adventures started small – riding horses through the fields and woods near my childhood home near Lichtenfels, Germany – and grew to be grander over time. With each ride, I pushed myself to go a little further than before. The first true piece of singletrack I rode a bike on was a nice piece of trail, not far away, near my grandparents’ house. The special feeling of moving through the woods on two wheels was like nothing else I had experienced and chasing that feeling has continued to shape my life.
As an adult, I became so familiar with the forests around my home in Upper Franconia that I eventually began to look elsewhere for adventures. I started taking road trips to bike parks throughout Germany, then further on to Austria, Switzerland, Spain, and Italy. I’d read about British Columbia’s North Shore and seen videos of the Whistler Bike Park, but it seemed unattainably far away. It was several years before I’d even considered the possibility of traveling to a riding destination beyond what I could drive to. But the idea of flying to another country was there – somewhere – in the back of my mind and finally, it worked it’s way forward. Before I had thought about what I was committing to, I was standing at the airport ready to check in, heading to Canada.
I’ll never forget the feeling of landing on another continent for the first time, building my bike, and putting the tires into the dirt. Canada will always be a special place in my heart for this reason. The country feels vast with endless forests and mighty mountains, and to top it off there’s perfect singletrack that navigates the dramatic landscapes. The quality of trails is really what sets the riding here apart from the rest of the world. They are made specifically for riding rather than being repurposed old hiking routes. There’s something for everyone and the purpose-built climbs can be as enjoyable as the amazing descents.
As the sun disappears below the horizon line of endless peaks and ridges, the oversaturated filter begins to fade. It’s time to go as we’re losing light, and we have a long descent ahead of us. At the bottom of the mountain, a cozy cabin waits for us where we will stay for the night before moving on to the next incredible location. I lower my seat, start rolling down, and am treated to another unbelievable Canadian descent.
As I continue to travel around the world with my bike, I realize how the famous adage, ‘the more things change the more they remain the same’, rings true in my heart. All these years later, standing on top of a mountain on another continent, and I am still chasing that same feeling I discovered riding my bike through the forests in Lichtenfels as a child.