Mountain biking trails, rentals, shops and parks located in and around Merritt BC Canada throughout the Nicola Valley.

Nicola Valley Mountainboarding

Merritt, BC, Canada Extreme Sports

“There’s nothing like mountain boarding! I have been to amusement parks and gone on the rides and roller coasters and none have even come close.”

Although mountainboarding is an up and coming new sport in Canada, it is quickly gaining popularity. A mountainboard contains components including a deck, bindings to secure the rider to the deck, four pneumatic tires and two trucks for steering.

Mountainboarders ride specifically designed boarder-cross tracks, slope-style parks, grass hills, woodlands, gravel tracks, streets, skate parks, ski resorts, BMX courses and mountain bike trails. The ability to ride such a variety of terrain is what makes mountainboarding different from other board sports. 

Merritt is mountainboarding country

Mountainboarding in Merritt, BC, Canada is an ideal destination with all the different terrains that the area has to offer. There’s hills, gravel tracks, mountain bike trails, woodlands and so much more to experience.

“You can’t really describe how it feels. It’s like a roller coaster but you have control of the track, if that makes any sense.” 

Youth mountainboarding

Let me introduce you now to a young man, Brayden.  He discovered the sport and became interested in mountainboarding as an alternative to his longboarding. When I spoke to this young man, I  asked him how he got interested in mountainboarding. His response was that he had watched a movie called “Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board.”  Once he watched the movie, he was essentially “hooked” and wanted to try this up and coming sport in Canada.

Brayden mountainboarding near LundbomLake

Setting up your gear

First came the purchase of the deck, trucks, wheels and safety gear. Finally, the day came that he could venture out to try. Starting out small, this young man ventured out into the Merritt area looking for suitable terrain to test out. First place this young man tried was the bike park. He soon found out that mountainboarding was much more different that skateboarding and longboarding.

Mountainboarding 101

Coming home after a few tumbles, he started watching videos from other more seasoned mountainboarders from around the world. After spending several days watching videos, he was ready to venture out again to try. Fast forward about a year and this young man has reached a top speed of 30 km/h down Midday Valley Road during the Winter and 40 km/h down the same road with the arrival of Spring.

“One of the best first attempts was when coming down Midday Valley Road and how you learn to control the board. There’s only so much you can learn from videos and you have to just jump on the board.”

Mountainboarding in the Nicola Valley.

Looking for mountain boarding runs

Brayden is excited and looking at different locations within the Merritt area to test his mountainboard out. He will soon have a better idea of the perfect areas for mountainboarding in Merritt, BC.  Brayden’s ambition and goal is to bring mountainboarding to Merritt, BC. He hopes to offer rental boards, lessons and ventures for groups to enjoy the many different areas Merritt,BC has to offer in the near future.

Mountainboarding in Merritt British Columbia Canada

 

Bike Rentals in Merritt BC

Bikes, kayaks and paddleboard rentals – Breathe Bikes

Bike rentals in Merritt BC includes kayaking and paddleboards when talking with my fellow blogger and Breath Bikes business owner, Travis Fehr. Travis is the proud owner of Breathe Bikes in Merritt BC Canada.  The bike shop is a good starting point in Merritt for mountain biking, kayaking and SUP rentals during your summer visits to the Nicola Valley.

Mountain Biking-Rentals-Canada-Merritt

Travis Fehr outside his bike shop in Merritt BC

10 Questions For A Merritt BC Bike Shop 

I asked Travel Fehr (bike shop owner) 10 questions about his Nicola Valley business. So pull up a stump and have a read about the only bike store in Merritt BC Canada.

Mountian bikes-Rentals-Canada-Merritt

Q1: Why did you want to start Breathe Bikes?

A: I have been working in bike shops for over 3 years and I got to the point where I wanted to be the boss. I was working in Camrose Alberta in a bike shop.

” I wanted to move away from the harsh winters of the prairies because I grew up in Saskatchewan. My family and I wanted to move to some place where the Winters weren’t so harsh and some place where they had excellent biking trails but no bike shops and Merritt fit all the those things.”

Q2: What did you do before you started Breath Bikes?

A: Before working in bike shops I was in the transportation industry in the Lower Mainland for many years. After realizing that I lost my passion for my career, I asked myself why should I keep doing what I don’t have a passion for?

Q3: What has been your biggest hurdle as a business owner?

A: Continuous learning. Being in business as a sole proprietor, you have to wear so many hats. Because there are so many things you have to know. You have to be open to learning and polishing your skills. It’s definitely a hurdle, but it’s also rewarding. I feel good when I am always learning. It keeps you motivated that’s for sure.

Q4: How long have you been in operation?

A:  We opened here in May of 2013, I can’t believe it’s already been 6 years.

Breathe Bikes

Q5: What sets you apart from the competition?

A: There is some competition with the big box stores. but the obvious difference is that I specialize in higher end bikes and bikes that are a little bit different in their specifications. As well, I offer full service and maintenance on all of those bikes. I also like to think that I am connected to my community.

Q6: What is your best selling model?

A: The hardtail mountain bike is my best selling model.

Q7: Besides bikes what else do you sell?

A: Cross country skis, snowshoes, kayaks, paddle boards and our newest product is stunt scooters. We not only sell them but people can rent them too. We also sell bikes, of course. Oh and we also do bike repairs!

Q8: What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?

A: I don’t want to sound like I’m patting myself on my back but I like to help those in need, when I can and in any way I can. Kids Christmas bikes. I donate kids bikes that have been used, I rebuild them. I’m really proud of that.

Q9: What is your company’s goals?

A: TAKE OVER THE WORLD!!! No but seriously, I want to grow my business, to see more growth of Merritt by encouraging active transportation and recreation culture of Merritt and the surrounding area. I would like to see that grow as well as see my business grow with it. I also want to stay grounded. Because sometimes you see businesses start small and get big and then they tend to lose their heart in that process. I don’t want that to happen, so I want to stay grounded and community focused and keep it real.

Q10: If you had ONE piece of advice for someone just starting out a business, what would it be?

A: Stay Positive! There’s going to be obstacles, setbacks and the only defeat is to give up.

Well my friends, that is Travis Fehr and Breathe Bikes .

Another feather in his cap was that Travis also helped fix up and rebuild the bike park in Central Park. This is complimented by his dedication to develop, maintain and design mountain bike paths in and around the Merritt area. To top it all off he is also a member of Council for the City of Merritt.

Some of the mountain biking events, of which, Travis is an active supporter of some of Merritt’s biggest mountain biking races include the Merritt Crown and the Epic 1000.

So if you are driving through the Nicola Valley from out of town or even out of the country and are itching to go for  quick bike ride. Be sure to stop by and see Travis at Breathe Bikes just down from the Coldwater Hotel.

Thank you so much for you time, I now return you to your regularly scheduled scrolling

Bike Rentals in Merritt BC Canada

Merritt Crown Epic 150

Epic Mountain Biking in Merritt, BC? Oh hell, ya! Darch Oborne is well known to anyone in Merritt who rides a mountain bike. He rides, builds trail and advocates for the advancement of riding in the Nicola Valley, and his enthusiasm for the sport is contagious.

Merritt Crown Epic 150

Over Halfway

Senior Bikepacker’s Inspiration

Darch’s first guest blog for Experience Nicola Valley recalls his experience of tackling the BC Epic 1000. The BC Epic is a gruelling 1000+km bikepacking ride from Merritt to Fernie–80% off-road. Check out that story here.

Now Darch is back to describe the new, homegrown, Merritt Crown.

Lakes and Blue Skies

Lakes and Blue Skies!

“It all began back in the summer of 2017. I wanted to find a way to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday—to create something that really captured our country’s landscape and freedom.

As an avid mountain biker and a proud resident of Merritt, BC, I thought of just the thing—a challenging mountain bike race that showcases this place we’re so lucky to call home.

With the help of Travis Fehr of Breathe Bikes, and with funding from the City of Merritt and Tourism Nicola Valley, I configured a route, mapped it out, and made sure all of the sections were ride-able (albeit, I figured that the 120 plus kilometres and over 11,000 feet of vertical were surely impossible for any rider to complete in less than 12 hours). This was the beginning of a route to create epic mountain biking in Merritt, BC.

A Race is Born!

We called the race The Merritt Crown for a couple of reasons. First, the course links the city’s four distinct riding areas—Coutlee Plateau, Iron Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Swakum Mountain—forming a circular shape with four distinct peaks. Secondly, we figured that anyone who could complete it deserved to be called a king or queen.

June 16th, 2018, was a proving day, when the first two riders to ever tackle The Merritt Crown set out on their way. The first was Dr Lennard Pretorius, the founder of the famous BC Epic 1000 race. The second was James Oborne, former bike shop owner in Merritt, and now an engineer in Vancouver.

Merritt Crown Epic 150

The First Crown Finishers

The following details the route, with links to Trailforks for details on the trails. The riders started at 7:00 am from Rotary Bike Park. They sped up section one to the top of JP Cool, down to the Coutlee Flats, up to the radio towers and then down Burn and the unique Windy Canyon.

Vast and Challenging

Merritt Crown Epic 150

Trailforks Crown Route

After rejuvenating with water, snacks, and smiles, they set off to section two. This leg took them up Foxfarm Road and Upper Godey Creek, then down to the Info Centre. Then up TMI (Too Much Info) and down Ridge.

Then they tackled the ascent of Hamilton Hill and rode to the Laurie Guichon Memorial, and onto the challenge of section three–the Sugarloaf Mountain area including the trails: Big Lake/Wounded Knee/Jack/Chutter.

After a quick rest at the Nicola dam, they headed off on Highway 5A to Section four—the Swakum ascent. They arrived at the top of Upper Scenic trail and began their descent back to the Park by 6:47 pm.

First Finishers

Total elapsed time: 11:47 hours– a feat accomplished—just thirteen minutes shy of twelve hours!

Now, we’re excited to say that we’re extending the challenge of epic mountain biking in Merritt, BC to you and your riding community. We’re looking for the next riders to crown. Join us on Saturday, June 22nd, 2019, for the 2nd annual Merritt Crown. We expect sunny, dry trails and lots of good memories.

Register Here!

Start/finish line: Central Park, Merritt, British Columbia.

Cost: $50 entry fee

Cost Includes: 
-1 admission to post-race BBQ incl. food and beer ($18.00 for guests)
-Camping
-A crown for all finishers 
-Cash prize purse for the top riders

Accommodation: 
-Some hosting available 
-Free camp areas 
-Public campgrounds 
-Fine Merritt motels and hotels”

Epic Mountain Biking in Merritt, BC

Merritt BC Canada Things To Do – Mountain Biking!

Mountain biking in Merritt – steep and gnarly or smooth and flowy…

Ridge – a BC Trail with something for everyone

One of my favorite things to do in Merritt, BC Canada that never gets old! Mountain biking in Merritt can be as steep and gnarly or smooth and flowy for just about anyone from the beginner to the full-on down-hill animal. Ridge is the kind of BC trail that has a bit of something for everyone.

Merritt bc canada things to do-rock rollover Ridge trail

Pinkbike user “sidecut” shared this photo to Trailforks

Too Much Information

Getting to the top of Ridge is a substantial climb. It takes the average mountain biker about forty-five minutes to reach the top. Too Much Info is the climb of choice for all of the trails in the lower section of Iron Mountain, and one of the best climbing trails around. The switchbacks are fairly long, with a moderate number of level sections to regroup as you ride.

The climb up TMI provides some of Merritt’s best lookout points. The first is atop one of the steeper, short climbing sections that dot Too Much Info. One of the best things to do in Merritt is going for a picnic! This table is a great spot to hang out and enjoy the sunshine while enjoying the view of Swakum Mountain across the valley. It’s one of the best things to do in Merritt BC Canada!

Merritt bc canada things to do-lookout from Ridge TMI trail crossing

Pinkbike user “sidecut” shared this photo to Trailforks

Following that are three more lookouts that provide increasingly panoramic views of Swakum Mountain, the Coutlee Plateau, and the City of Merritt. The lookouts are all located at intersections of TMI and Ridge. Enjoy the sneak peeks of your downhill! Once you’ve completed the switchbacks of TMI, you’re getting close to the top! Three more switchbacks on Lone Pine trail will get you to the Ridge connector.

High Mountain Ranchland Sunset

It’s always a tough decision for me: go for the gratification of the connector’s shorter climb, or to push up the rest of Lone Pine to the top of Upper Ridge? Both options are worth the effort, but Upper Ridge adds some pretty fun riding. This option also provides another nice rest spot in the open meadow at the tail end of Lone Pine.

The view is great from here! You’ll take in some of the trademark high mountain ranchland of the Nicola Valley. Looking Southwest, you’ll see the tree covered Iron Mountain. This spot is beautiful anytime, but the sunsets are spectacular. Every year at the summer solstice, the local club, Merritt Mountain Biking Association, leads a ride to this spot. It’s worth planning for!

Things to do in Merritt BC Canada-Upper Ridge trail from Lone Pine trail

Pinkbike user “sidecut” posted this photo to Trailforks

Don’t Get Lost!

After scrambling up from the meadow, along the rocky Southeast switchback of Upper Ridge, you’re finally here! Unless you’re lost! The entrance to Upper Ridge can be missed, so make sure you watch for the left trail fork at the big, lone, pine.

Okay, so the first thing you’ll likely notice is a sign. It’s a little menacing with its “experts only” warning, and it is warranted. However, it is still rated as a Black trail, so you be the judge of whether or not you consider yourself an “expert”.  Upper Ridge doesn’t waste any time! Right off you are rolling down fairly steep and jagged rocky sections, with some nice flowy singletrack mixed in.

The Slab

This goes on for a while, with a few sections requiring a pedal here and there. Soon you’ll reach another foreboding sign. In my experience, this is the one to take the most notice of. Again, whether or not you have to be an expert to ride this section is at your discretion. You’ll soon meet an off camber rock slab, after crossing a short bridge/rocky section. This slab is intimidating and I have opted to take the ride around to the right on more than one occasion. It’s the “off camber” that makes it intimidating (not to mention the drop jump ramp at its base that appears to land in the middle of a stand of trees).

On a dry day with at least one of your friends to encourage you, the slab can be cleaned. Just watch this video from Dangerousdave to see how easy it is! He chose the ramp, which I can’t recommend, never having had the guts to attempt it. I take the slab and instead of sticking to the line leading to the ramp, there is a rollover to the right that, although a bit sketchy in its own right, has what seems to be more forgiving consequences in the event of rider failure.

Things to do in Merritt BC Canada- Ridge trail the slab off camber rock

Pinkbike user “Sidecut” shared this picture to Trailforks

Fun Things to do in Merritt BC Canada

Now it’s smooth sailing, well for the most part. You’ll get lots of the yummy flow that follows the slab/ramp in Dangerousdave’s video, plus a few more jagged rock rollovers, one of which ends with a near 90 degree turn after navigating a techy root. To see what’s in store of things to do in Merritt BC Canada, check out this video by Flarix17., for a look at all those rocks and curves, down to the finish at the former Info Centre parking lot.

Mountain biking things to do in Merritt BC Canada Ridge trail wooden feature

Pinkbike user “Canadaka” shared this picture to Trailforks

Mountain biking Ridge is one of my favorite things to do in Merritt BC Canada. There are many others that I think represent the diversity of terrain and riding style in the Merritt area. These trails were built by passionate mountain bikers who were so jazzed by the new sport of mountain biking in the 1990’s that it seems like they must have spent time doing nothing else! Some of them still live here and ride the trails, but many have moved on.

Since moving to Merritt in 2013 and opening Breathe Bikes, I have met and ridden with a few of the trail builders that first carved out beauties like Ridge. I hope I’ve done at least a passable job of showing them how much I appreciate their work. If I haven’t and you’re reading this, please accept my many thanks!

Things to do in Merritt BC Canada

Bikepacking Merritt – the Epic 1000

The BC Epic is a 1000km traverse across South Central BC

 I rode as fast as I thought I could, without injuring or killing myself…

Darch Oborne participated in the BC Epic 1000, and tells us about the bikepacking adventure. In his words…

The BC Epic 1000 is an offroad, unofficial, completely self-supported bikepacking ride/race in the spirit

bikepacking

The beginning in Merritt, BC

of the underground “Tour divide” style and under the same rules. No registration (other than on the website), no support, no insurance, no prizes – it is simply a plotted route with a suggested time for an unofficial group ride. Show up and ride at your own risk.

The BC Epic is a 1000km (1040 to be exact), 11,000m elevation traverse across South Central BC starting in Merrit and ending in Fernie (or vice versa if you choose) mostly along the Trans Canada Trail. The route is about 80% off road on mostly old decommissioned rail grades

The BC Epic 1000 bikepacking ride, since 2015

2018 was the third year of the bikepacking race, created by Dr. Lennard Pretorius of Kamloops. Jame Oborne and Lennard are also the first two riders to complete the Merritt 150 Epic on June 16, in eleven hours and forty-seven minutes. Lennard rode the first and second ‘1000’s’ and had a course record for a while. Virtually single-handedly, Lennard conceived and organized the Epic, seeing it grow from sixteen riders in 2016 to sixty-seven entrants in 2018. Quite an achievement! I predict there will be 100 racers in 2019.

I’d guess that of the sixty-seven riders entered, ten were extreme athletes, with three or four being extremely extreme, ie: 600 miles of off-road riding in less than three days, with less than six hours of sleep! Most of us “racers” chose to get at least some sleep (four to six hours in my case). nightly. Usually right at the side of the trail, after an evening meal at 9 PM, consisting of a couple of energy bars!

Many racers had lights and rode into the dark. My strategy was to ride as fast as I could without injury and to ride long, ie: from the crack of dawn at 4 AM to dark at 9 PM, to at least try to keep up with the middle of the pack.

The grades are less than three percent, but just relentless

The route is mostly old railway bed, including the KVR to Midway and Columbia Western to Castlegar. The grades are less than three percent, but just relentless, such as the climb out of Princeton to Summerland and Christina Lake to Castlegar–they just go on and on and on! But, through beautiful upland fields of flowers, several trestles, tunnels, raging rivers, beautiful forests, lovely meadows are all part of the Epic.

Many bikepacking racers stopped and took pictures of the beautiful features, often allowing me to catch up to them. Then there’s the torture of the Grey Creek Pass. Sixteen kilometers of ‘up’ on gravel, rutted road, at grades to sixteen percent–hike a bike for fifteen kilometers! No fun at all, after already being on the trail for four days.

It is self-supported, meaning you carry what you think you’ll need for each section ahead, including food and water. You can stop at towns or houses for provisions–root beers and double teenburgers–YUM! (I had some coupons from the mail).

I carried my small stove for a quick coffee

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Darch begins the Epic 1000

You carry what you think you’ll need to give you a good sleep, dry riding etc. I carried my small stove for a quick coffee/hot choc in the AM (I only used it twice), and I used a Kelty Thermarest pad, summer bag, and Tyvek covering, all wrapped up in my 1/2 body bag from Kiwanis Surplus store. The bikes of choice are Surly big boys, with 2.5″ to 2.8″ width tires.

I used my Transition Smuggler 29″ with gravel tires (2.5″ on the front and 2.3″ on the rear) until I broke the Hammerschmidt bottom bracket bolt about 3 miles N of Beaverdell at 6 AM on Day 3. Luckily, my son James was in Vernon and after a two-hour wait, he arrived with his Trek hardtail 29″.

Within another two hours, I was on the road, with most of my gear mounted on it. It proved to be a lively, but “hard-on-the-ass” steed and I was able to finish the race with it. Thanks, James–my option was to hitch to Kelowna and buy or rent a bike (sure, on Canada Day)!

There are no support stations, no route markings

I rode as fast as I thought I could, without injuring/killing myself, which was mostly fourteen to sixteen in the saddle daily, with four to six hours of “sleep” at the side of the trail. I figured that if I rode slow and steady, and long, I could maybe keep up with some of the pack. After day one, I only saw two riders for the next five days. We were all so spread out over the 600 miles. Most riders carried a SPOT GPS tracking device, so I checked my relative position a few times, but that’s disheartening when I was (only) halfway, in Grand Forks and Evan Deutsche had finished in Fernie!

There are no support stations, no route markings (other than Trans Cda Trail signs) and you rely on your GPS (my old Garmin did not function well at all—should have tested it more thoroughly). I carried a SPOT tracker with an SOS button for extreme emergency, but it enabled my family to track my slow progress towards the finish in Fernie. The SPOT ate batteries and I had to re-supply twice–not able to find AAA Lithium in Midway or Greenwood. Carry more spares!

And speaking of spares, you have to carry anything you think you’ll need to repair yourself and your bike, and for any weather, etc. As for a Hammerschmidt bottom bracket bolt (we’d just changed the bottom bracket days before the race–go figure)! I carried three tubes and used only one, but a few racers slashed their tires and went through several tubes.

I kept looking for Lance Armstrong’s care packages

bikepacking

You carry what you need

Of the 29 scratches (non-finishers) in the race, most were for human failings, ie: tendons/hamstrings/chafing etc. Mechanicals played their part, but most racers had put many, many miles on their steeds and knew what to expect of them. I did several ‘long’ rides on local gravel roads, ie: six to seven hours and did an overnight trip to Princeton and slept in the bush.

I should have “trained” harder, faster, and longer, but at seventy-three, there’s a limit to my strength and endurance, which I knew beforehand.  All through the race, I kept looking for Lance Armstrong’s care packages, but alas, I found none.

I passed so many lovely lakes and streams that I desperately wanted to dip in and just stop and enjoy, but I did not succumb until the last evening at Koocanusa lake. What a joy to swim and wash after five days of hard riding! On reflection, maybe except for the awful Grey Creek Pass, the route would be nice to do in, say, two weeks, in a group–still riding hard, but stopping to smell the roses…often.

Who wants to do it? The Epic 1000

Nope, not again, for me…unless? I’ll be pleased to assist other Nicola Valley rider who wants to do it and I’ll continue to help Lennard with organizing a BBQ, home hosting, etc. The BC Epic 1000 is a free event, totally volunteer, which turns my cranks for sure. Any riders wanting to try bike-packing, I’d be glad to loan equipment and accompany you if desired. Go to Bikepacking.com for the best info. The kindred spirit of the racers was super, although, as stated above, I rarely saw another racer after day one, until the finish.

My thanks to my family and friends who sent texts of encouragement along the way, those who helped

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Darch’s upports- Travis Fehr of Breathe Bikes, Merritt. And wife Catherine

with the BBQ, home hosting, and to Mayor Menard who came out at 7 AM to start the race. Thanks to MMBA for renting the Park for the BBQ, which was appreciated by all the racers, as they got to meet each other–often for the first time.

Racers filled over fifty Merritt motel rooms the night before, and many will be back to enjoy the hospitality they experienced as well as the mountain biking on our great trails. A win for all.

Ride On!

Guest Blog post (and ride) by Darch Oborne

Executive Director of Merritt Mountain Bike Association

Thanks, Darch! Epic effort!

For more on Darch, and his contributions to our biking experiences in the Nicola Valley, click here.

And for those of you who would like to get on board this sport…

From the site Bikepacking: Simply put, bikepacking is the synthesis of mountain biking and minimalist camping. It evokes the freedom of multi-day backcountry hiking, but with the range and thrill of riding a mountain bike. It’s about exploring places less traveled, both near and far, via singletrack trails, gravel, and abandoned dirt roads, carrying only essential gear. Ride, eat, sleep, repeat, enjoy!

Inspiring Nicola Valley Mountain Biker

Mountain biking may be perceived as a young man’s game. Before I came to Merritt and rode with Darch, I was beginning to consider myself an over-the-hill, once rode the “gnar” kind of guy.

Darch Oborne is an avid Nicola Valley mountain biker, bike-packer, racer, trail builder, ride clinic teacher, and tireless supporter and promoter of all things mountain bike. All this inspiration is 73 years young!

“I rode my 3 speed Raleigh as a kid in Calgary. Then had an old Peugeot 10 speed at the U of Oregon, but it wasn’t until 1999 that I considered mountain biking.”

“…muddy, and bleeding, and laughing!”

At 48 there are times when I remember my twenty-something stamina with sad remorse. Still, I get out there and ride, enjoy it when I do, and look forward to next time. All that pales in comparison to Darch. He rides daily, at virtually all levels of mountain biking, he is comfortable and eager to take on the challenge. His first experience on a mountain bike was a result of friendly encouragement.

“My son James would go ridin’ with my doctor Andries Smit, and my pal Robert Hack and they’d come back muddy, and bleeding, and laughing! I thought only the worst of the sport at that point. Then, as a result of persistence from them all, I said ‘sure, saddle me up a good one and let’s go’. They took me to JP Cool. I walked down 90% of it, but the 10% I rode was enough to bite me! And I’ve been ridin’ and trail building ever since.”

Darch inspires enthusiasm in everyone he rides with.

Nicola Valley Mountain Biker

On our ride today, a two-year-old in his dad’s ride-along high fived and smiled from ear to ear when Darch asked: “Did you have fun?”. He was the first rider to take me out on the trails of Merritt when I moved here to open Breathe Bikes in 2013. My mountain bike experience was pretty out of date at that time, having aged from the days of riding Banff in the 90’s. I was out of shape and lacking in confidence–the result of years of pavement riding (at least that’s my excuse!).

“I’ve ridden some great trails in Sedona, Moab, Whistler, Phoenix etc, and got into bike-packing (just back-packing on a bike really) 2 years ago when I rode the Maah da Hey trail in the badlands of North Dakota for 4 days, self-supported.”

1000 km of Offroad Trail

Darch coaxed, educated, and (gently) prodded me back into riding trails with confidence again. That inspiration elevated my riding skills, and they have never been better. Still, Darch is the leader up the steep climbs and his endurance is far beyond mine. He often rides two or more, two or three-hour rides in a day. He keeps it up year round, enjoying (and working on) the trails in Apache Junction, AZ in the winter months, and Merritt’s in the spring and summer. This year, Darch is tackling the challenge of the BC Epic 1000, a 1000+km trail on 80% offroad trail, starting in Merritt, ending in Fernie.

Nicola Valley Mountain Biker and Trail Builder…

No one would judge Darch if he chose to simply ride the trails, but his inspiration includes trail building, too.

“Trail building is a great way for me to do some payback to the builders who have put in some great hiking and biking trails before me. I’ve been accredited by the US Forest Service as a Trail Builder and have built ‘legal’ trails in Tonto Nat. Forest and the Lost Dutchman State Park in AZ.–as well as lots of ‘informal’ trails in AZ and BC.

As a member of MMBA (Merritt’s mountain biking club), I have built some sanctioned trails like SUPRA SCENIC from scratch, and have also built some ‘informal’ trails like Dangle that have not yet been adopted. I have ‘adopted’ the trails on Swaakum, and all the trails above the Bench, like Scenic, Upper Scenic etc, to maintain them in good hiking/riding condition.

But I sure like to have folks call me when they see a tree down or a big rock that they can’t move from the trail. Currently, a few of us local enthusiasts are trying to make a Rails to Trail project along the old KVR from Merritt to Spences Bridge. That will provide wonderful recreation and a beneficial economic stimulus to the whole corridor. I hope you’ll support it.”

“If you want to go out and ride any trail, any time just let me know.”

Darch envisioned and brought to life an epic trail that connects the four riding areas surrounding the city of Merritt. A day’s ride in one of these areas is enough for an average Nicola Valley mountain biker, so combining all four into a single ride is accessible to only a small portion of the riding population. So why do it? Because it can be done! This route covers a dizzying array of singletrack, terrain, landscape, and astonishing natural beauty. It appeals to a small segment of the population because only the truly epic rider can tackle this epic trail.

“My Canada 150 project was to link our four main riding/hiking areas so that they could be an ‘Epic’ trail for those who want to go big. It’s a 120 km, 4000 m course that will be an extreme effort to ride in one day. And maybe we’ll make it into an Epic Race to bring riders of top caliber from all over to race it, one day. The City and the NV Tourism Association were very helpful in supporting me do it. The first ‘race’ to see if it can be done in 14 hours is on June 16, so we’ll soon know. James Oborne and Dr. Lennard Pretorius, of Kamloops, are going to try it.

If you want to go out and ride any trail, any time just let me know. I try to ride every day, and welcome others to join me.”

“Mountain-biking is a lifelong sport for me”

bikepacking

Darch begins the Epic 1000

Mountain biking may be perceived as a young man’s game. Before I came to Merritt and rode with Darch, I was beginning to consider myself an over-the-hill, once rode the “gnar” kind of guy.

“Mountain-biking is a lifelong sport for me. It dovetails nicely with my distance running to keep me in pretty good physical shape. It is easy on the joints and allows one to travel trails that hiking can’t easily reach. And, with trails for beginners to expert, our Nicola Valley is a prime riding area in BC.”

Darch’s inspiration made me realize that age is just a number, and I can’t thank him enough for that! I hope one day I can provide inspiration for a middle-aged used to ride.

I’d better start riding more!