If you have enough conversations about mountain biking, the term “North Shore” is bound to come up. Usually it’ll be in reference to a type of trail, or trail feature, but what exactly is meant when something is referred to as North Shore?
The most dramatic examples of North Shore trails can be found where they originated—the North Shore of Vancouver. When it’s not raining cats and dogs here, it’s raining pine needles. Flat areas inevitably become swamps, and steep spots erode as water and soft topsoil make their way down the mountainside. In order to build bike trails in Vancouver, builders needed to invent new techniques.
Today Brian and I will see that first hand, during a very rare dry weather. We’re riding mount Fromme, which is home to an iconic North Shore trail system only minutes from downtown.
That warm up on Bobsled would be our last taste of flow for the day. Little did we know, we were about to encounter some of the techiest tech we ever teched.
The bike I rode for the trip was a Mission Pro, which is a pretty big all mountain bike. Still it’s smaller and nimbler than the downhill bikes our companions were riding. With this slight advantage, I blazed the trail for most of the day and got to ride all these crazy features blind.
Up in Whistler we rode features like these on “A River Runs Through It”. All the ladders, bridges and log rides make the place look more like an Endorian Ewok village than a mountain bike trail.
Much of what you see here was built totally out of necessity to make the terrain traversable, but not all of it. After all, these are mountain bikers we’re talking about. Although we didn’t meet any of the builders there, it was easy to get a sense of their personalities by looking at the stuff they built.
Where wooden features aren’t necessary, you’ll find mind numbingly extensive rock work, akin to a double black Roubaix winding its way through the forest. I can’t imagine the amount of back breaking labor it took to move and position these all in place. It may seem like overkill for bike tires, but it’s probably the forest that will put the biggest hurting on these surfaces. Sometimes, the most sensible route involves circumventing the terrain entirely.
If you plan on riding the double blacks at Fromme, I’d suggest dismounting a few times on your first run. There’s no shame in scoping this stuff out before riding it, although I was pretty excited to clear more ground.
As we made our way down the mountain, the trails got worse, in a really good way.
If you’re watching this video saying “oh that doesn’t look so bad” I encourage you visit Fromme. Seeing this stuff in 3D is pretty humbling.
As someone who lives for super technical trails, I think Fromme may have been one of the funnest places I’ve ever ridden in my life. I had a flight to catch after our ride, so we grabbed some food and said our goodbyes. For any mountain biker with the resources to travel, this region is worth an annual visit. It lives up to the hype, even if you never touch a lift.
The totally unique trails, amazing wood and rock work, technical difficulty, and cool summertime weather are all reasons to venture to the promised land. How about you guys? How many of you have visited the PNW, and how may of you are lucky enough to live there? Have you ridden the North Shore? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for riding with me today, and I’ll see you next time.