Our Must Do Rides series features some of the best routes around the world. This ride comes from Vancouver, British Columbia based photography and media house, Stirl and Rae.
Vancouver, British Columbia sits a short drive away from the Washington State border and is framed by the Pacific Ocean and Coastal Mountain Range. Known for its pristine wilderness that is only a stone throw away from the downtown core, it provides endless opportunities to escape the city hustle and ride on road, gravel, and single track.
The biggest decision doesn't lie with where to ride, but rather which discipline and selecting the many options that get you to the pure and raw environments this area of the world is known for.
Though the North Shore of Vancouver was where mountain biking exploded, we decided on a road and gravel mix for the route. Tying in road, gravel, and single track is a daily occurrence for Vancouverites and riders are often found immersed in online maps planning weekend adventures that involve all three as they cover the borders of the city and ride high into the rainforest that looks back to town.
Our route covered just over 50 miles that was 80% road, 20% gravel and took in some of the classic parts of town while sampling some of the explorative options as you cross over into the North Shore.
Any ride that starts in downtown Vancouver must first stop by Musette Caffe. A cycling centric cafe that pays homage to the history of the sport with memorabilia that includes Mario Cipollino's famous muscle TT suit, serves some of the best coffee in town and tasty food. It is also the place to join fellow cycling fans to watch the Tour de France and the Classics each year on big screens that adorn the airy setting.
From Musette, riders roll out of town on the well-planned bike lanes towards Stanley Park. A 400-hectare rainforest, you can circumnavigate the park as you take in views back to the downtown and also the North Shore.
A short climb up and over the Lion's Gate Bridge and you have the choice of the many bike lanes that weave their way through leafy PNW suburbia and navigate to the primo roads and gravel in the area. On this day, we beelined towards Deep Cove and Indian Arm Road, an out and back section that provides some tight curvy roads and steep pitches to climb and test the legs.
From Deep Cove, you can pretty much ride as much or as little as you want to explore these raw environments. There are rides that include boat trips to drop you off to gravel that can take you all the way to the Squamish and Whistler areas of BC or you can simply make your way back to town in a loop.
SIDE NOTE: The ride options are many and vast, but you should always be prepared for long days if choosing to venture down these options with GPS and plenty of food and water. Though you are close to a major metropolitan, you can quickly become lost in the wilderness that borders Vancouver.
We made the choice to hit the classic Demonstration Forest from Deep Cove, a 12km stretch of beautiful pavement that is closed to cars and symbolic of the beauty that is offered on two wheels in this part of the world. Another out and back option on the road that S-curves its way through North Vancouver, you can also drop into gravel sections which we did on this day to add variety and a loop rather than an out and back. We followed the Fisherman's Trail, a tight gravel section that follows the rushing Seymour River encompassing a truly characteristic view of the riding in these parts. For most of this route, you can get away with simply a road bike. If you were to explore more of the gravel region on the North Shore I would recommend a tire that was a little wider like a 32mm up to 37mm width range.
As we saw the last of the short climbs from the Demonstration Forest, we changed the compass and headed back from North Vancouver and rode across the Ironworkers Bridge to East Vancouver as the sun dipped behind the high rises. We ended the ride here to experience one of the many breweries that are gathered in this culturally rich and authentic neighborhood. We decided on the Luppolo Brewing Company, a bike-friendly establishment that focuses on experimental beers like a Gose with Black Lime and accompanies their beer selection with Italian influenced foods. It will fuel your ride back to your starting point and help ease the heavy legs from the day's mileage.