Things got super busy at work for a while, and then I got a new job, but I’m feeling back to normal finally. I think I’m going to spend this awful winter we’re having in Tahoe finishing up my mountain biking road trip recaps. Hopefully I’ll finish by spring when it’s time to get back on the bike.
The previous stop on our #toasterroadtrip was Englishman River Falls Provincial Park and the Hammerfest Trails. After an amazing couple of days there, we headed about an hour up the road toward the three Cs – Courtenay, Comox, and Cumberland. I’ll do a post about the lodging/food/beer of this area next, but now, the mountain biking.
The mountain biking in this part of Vancouver Island is centered in the small town of Cumberland, which is just a short, 15 minute drive from Courtenay. Despite a population under 4,000, Cumberland is a dream destination for mountain bikers. There are more than 50 miles of trails, several bike shops, delicious pizza, a cool brewery, and even a hostel that caters to mountain bikers.
Trail map in hand, we headed to Cumberland Forest and up a fire road. Through no purposeful planning, our honeymoon followed the path of the BC Bike Race, and we began to see the pink route marking tape that would become very familiar over the next 10 days. After about 3.5 miles of fire road climbing, we turned into the forest and began to climb single track – the trail Truffle Shuffle. This was my first hint that BC trail grades are significantly harder than in the other places I’ve ridden.
As I got off to push for the 10th time in under 400 meters, I told myself, “You’re just not used to technical climbing. Most of the uphill you do in Truckee is on fire road or easy single track. Get to the downhill. You’ll be fine.” We crested the climb with 3.6 miles and more than 1,000 feet of climbing. The route that had been recommended to us was approximately Upper and Lower Vanilla to That Dam Trail to Missing Link to Found Link. Vanilla and That Dam Trail were recommended as new, super fun trails that are representative of the type of riding in Cumberland Forest. Vanilla was fast, flowy, and rideable. We hopped onto Teapot briefly to connect to That Dam Trail. Trailforks rates Vanilla & Teapot as blue/intermediate and That Dam Trail as black/advanced.
In the places I usually mountain bike, I can typically ride everything on a blue/intermediate trail and everything to nearly everything on a black/advanced trail. Before this road trip, the Downieville Downhill was the most technical trail I’ve ridden, and I could ride ~90% of it. I can ride the easier double blacks at Mammoth. I say this because mountain biking in BC is different. Vancouver Island is closer to the grades of California/Oregon/Washington, but on the Sunshine Coast/Whistler/Squamish, the trails are much more difficult. This is something I really wish I had known beforehand. I still had a great time, and I’d go back to any of these destinations in a second. If I’d known about the difficulty of the trails ahead of time, I could have adjusted my expectations and been less frustrated.
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That Dam Trail was a little more feature-y than Vanilla, and had jumps, drops and an optional log ride. Some of the features were WAY above my pay grade and I walked some steep drops, but it was still a smile-inducing trail. That Dam Trail dropped us out on the fire road which we rode down until we came to the Missing Link trail head on our left. Note – Cumberland Forest is pretty well signed, but some of the lesser used trails get overgrown which can lead to confusion. Having Trailforks on your phone is great, as well as the paper map that the local bike shops sell. We climbed up Missing Link for less than a quarter mile and ~100 feet of elevation gain before turning onto Found Link for our last downhill of the day. This short trail has jumps and a drop at the top, and the lower section is rooty with berms before dropping us out on the fire road, which led us back to our car.
Greyson and I agreed that Missing Link/Found Link (sometimes called Lost and Found) was our favorite part of the day, though I also really enjoyed Vanilla. Our full ride was 7.25 miles and ~1,230 feet of climbing.
Our second day was more of a slogfest, which involved a lot of pushing bikes – not necessarily because of difficulty, but because of how overgrown the trail was. A local bike shop had recommended Bronco’s Perseverance, which connected to a trail we later found out was called Swamp. We got onto Mama Bear after that -which involved pushing up a very steep and short connector- so I’m not sure if we did that correctly. I wouldn’t full heartedly suggest this route. Bronco’s was pretty fun, but Swamp was a pretty miserable slog, overgrown, humid, and buggy. Mama Bear was decently fun, but I was pretty done after Swamp. I told Greyson that I’d definitely ride Bronco’s again, if I could do it without riding Swamp. From the Trailforks map, it looks like you can get from Bronco’s back up to the fire road, but I don’t have first hand experience.
We loved Cumberland so much that we actually returned to the Cumberland Forest for a quick ride before our ferry trip. Since we knew it had to be short ride, we decided to revisit what we already knew we liked, and we did a quick fire road – Missing Link – Found Link lap. It was a perfect end to our time on Vancouver Island!
Long: Truffle Shuffle to Vanilla to Teapot to That Dam Trail to Missing Link to Found Link. 7.25 miles and ~1,230 feet of climbing. If you want to skip the technical climb on Truffle Shuffle, it looks like you can continue up the fire road and take another fire road (called Vanilla Access) and get onto Lower Vanilla.
Short: Missing Link to Found Link. 2 miles and ~375 feet of climbing.