Don’t let the name fool you, Floppy Bunny is a black diamond run.
Bobsled is blue. Crinkum Crankum is black diamond. Dirty Diapers: Also black diamond.
King of the Shore (not to be confused with the King in the North): Green.
To the uninitiated these words may sound like gibberish, but if you’re one of the tens of thousands of mountain bikers who flock to the North Shore each year they mean something.
They are names of some of the many trails in the area and their corresponding level of difficulty.
Just like skiing, mountain biking runs are marked with an international classification system: green (easy), blue (moderate), red (difficult), black (severe).
What makes trails on the North Shore unique is their steep incline, explains Christine Reid, executive director of the North Shore Mountain Bike Association. Steep slopes are perfect for mountain biking.
But Reid warns with a laugh: “You have to climb up to get down.”
A lot of bridges and some technical trail features are also unique to the area, especially the use of cedar and woodwork for various structures. The newest trail in the collection was completed in May.
Called Lower Expresso, it was created through a combined effort by NSMBA trail crews, local community groups and bike stores, plenty of volunteers, and the District of North Vancouver. Mount Fromme and Mount Seymour are where the popular trails are located, including the original Expresso, which last summer had a counter that recorded more than 3,000 rides in one month.
Reid says most of the riders live on the North Shore, but local trails are a draw for riders from across the Lower Mainland.
“Everybody who is out riding those trails cares deeply about nature, cares deeply about the forest and access to trails, and this is just the way they choose to recreate on those,” says Reid.
She calls mountain bikers “treehuggers,” who enjoy using the trails as much as hikers and trail runners, they just prefer to do it on two wheels.
“It allows people to get outside and be in the trails and still have peace of mind but do something very active,” she says of the sport, adding their organization has found that mountain bikers tend to also choose cycling in other aspects of their life including commuting.
Although the sun and heat serve other sports well (think beach volleyball), the summer months are actually a shoulder season for mountain biking. Riding happens almost year-round, but really hot, dry weather causes the trails to become “dusty, rocky and rooty,” explains Reid, and the dust is what causes the trails to get slippery for riders. This is the time of year when people are riding the least. In September when the rain starts again the trails “are awesome,” notes Reid.
However, she explains that while light rain generally creates better ride conditions, NSMBA asks riders to stay off trails or choose trails that drain really well during times of the year when there is significant rainfall, such as 50-100 millimetres to avoid causing damage to the trails.
“We just try to encourage people to be really good trail stewards,” says Reid, adding. “As trail builders a lot of our work is happening in the spring and the fall as opposed to the summer.”
This is also the first year the group saw less ridership through the winter because the North Shore saw snow for longer and low down the mountains.
If you are thinking of taking a ride during the summer, Reid notes that Circuit 8 on Seymour, off the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, is a good beginner run. And although there are local bike shops that will rent out mountain bikes, Reid says it’s a sport that does require some training and experience to be safe.
“We strongly recommend that people who are new to the North Shore, or who are interested in visiting, take a lesson or go with someone who has been riding before,” she says.
And those who are familiar with the sport can take a look at the Trailforks app for detailed information about mountain biking trails all over the world, including specifics such as GPS locations for navigation, route elevation, ridelogs from other users, and more.
Mounting biking remains a popular activity on the North Shore, and Reid attributes that to the community aspect of the sport and “the people who share a love for two wheels.”