When Rob Parkin (of Parkin Bros fame) and Nicholas Kupiak (of Ride Gradient fame) started talking about the idea of doing something really epic for this year’s Festive 500, let’s just say it ‘piqued my interest’. I have always been a fan of doing something big for the Festive 500, bordering somewhere on the realm between inspiration and insanity. So when Rob and Nick brought forth an idea that had been on my ‘to ride’ list for many years I was stoked. The idea was Port Hardy to Victoria, the entire length of Vancouver Island, conveniently 500km almost to the kilometer. The goal was to ride it over a two day period completing the eight day challenge in just two days. Unfortunately Kupiak’s schedule wasn’t aligning but Parkin and I were not to be deterred and began looking at logistics, things were looking promising. Then the snow started falling...
Not wanting to relive the infamous Watershed Death March of 2013, alterations were made to the plan. The idea was to base camp out of Cumberland and link together two big rides, one to Gold River and the other linking up a few logging roads in the area. The snow kept falling...
Since pulling the plug on a ride wasn’t an option we settled on a simple out and back to Cumberland. To be honest we found the idea a little mundane with long stretches of boring highway and few new roads. However, as the departure date grew closer, and friends began to fill up our phones with photos of snow covered roads up island, we knew we had chosen the best option. At roughly 220km the ride would total just over 440km over the course of two days (luckily we had both done a Festive 500 warm-up ride of 60km to complete the 500km).
Although the initial journey didn’t greatly inspire me, the outcome did. Not only did I get to spend two solid days in the saddle riding with good company but I was reminded of just what makes the cycling community on Vancouver Island so special and tight knit. Although Parkin and I rode “self supported” we were far from being unsupported along the way. Talented photographer Geoff Robson made the impromptu decision to follow us on both our journey up and down island turning what to us felt like long highway grinds into art. The support didn’t stop there. Homemade muffin hands ups and supportive honks helped pass the kilometers. Cumberland no doubt has one of the raddest groups of cyclists on the island and it added fully to the ride experience. A home cooked meal, shower and place to sleep welcomed us and we were sent off with breakfast and coffee well before the crack of dawn. Seriously Cumberland is wicked. Get up there and ride once the trails thaw! No where to stay? Check out the Riding Fool Hostel, it rules. Nobody to ride with? Hit up Martin at Island Mountain Rides and he'll show you what Cumberland is all about. Cumberland is worth a visit and its rad community of cyclists definitely helped make our ride more than just long highway miles in the winter, we had a destination.
All in all a great journey. Proving we have a rad cycling community and sometimes you just have to get on the bike and start riding even if things aren't going as planned. So what does next years Festive 500 entail? You'll just have to wait and see, but lets just say there are a few ideas being tossed around.
Words: Clay Webb
Photography: Geoff Robson
Riders: Rob Parkin and Clay Webb
Link to Strava from ride here:
|Cresting the Malahat at day break|
|Wet roads and flurries were a theme|
|Start in the dark, finish in the dark|
|Early mornings, quiet roads|
|Surprise fresh baked muffin hand-up|