Welcome back to sunny Alberta! It’s been a while since the last time, and my mountain bike gear is packed and ready to go. Choosing to use a rental bike on this trip since it’s a one day adventure and not worth the hassle of boxing up my bike and unpacking it again for this trip across the country.
I am very happy to be the guest of ABMBA (Alberta Mountain Bike Adventures) who promises to show me “the good stuff” that he’ll soon be leading his tour groups on. I’m stoked to be getting some trail time in with a local who can not only show me the trails here, but also make it a memorable day’s riding.
We meet up at Canadian Olympic Park, and find a good spot to leave my rental car. I transfer into his ride and meet his super nice partner Shelley and get going without delay. It’s a short drive to the trail head at West Bragg Creek and for all the times I visited Alberta I can honestly say that I never realized how close this system is to Calgary city limits. The park is technically in Kananaskis Country and you totally feel the power of the mountains close by.
We meet up with one of David’s friends who will be joining us for the morning and saddle up pretty quick. They have a good selection of tools, and I get my eggbeater pedals on the loaner Specialized Rockhopper Camber 29 in no time.
We start with a lung-crushing ascent – I think we’re all hitting the gas pretty good (as you often do with new riding buddies!) and when we stop for the first view point we’re all breathing like Darth Vadar’s breakdancing cousin.
There’s snow on the ground – fresh snow I might add – which the guys seem concerned I won’t like; but believe me it’s a pleasure – the pack is firm, with a good mud layer on top and no ice so it’s really cool to be climbing in this kind of situation for me. There’s a cool breeze off the snow, and the light through the ancient forest pines is enlivening. I get into my groove and we fly up and over the trail system into the downhills. Phenomenal trail building – super well-constructed ridge lines and berms. My whooping starts and echoes back to the next whooping rider.
We hit the bottom of the trail and chat to a few other riders. People here are so friendly and genuinely happy to share their time. Social time over we climb back up to the main trail junction. Overtaken by a couple of lycra-racers; shredding it on the uphill, I tease them about the time-check. See you in Portugal next year J. We head into a good loop and continue our adventure.
Back at the parking lot Shelley has found a great picnic bench for lunch; which is super welcome and appreciated – lots of tasty snacks and fruit and sandwiches. Not starving but man those date squares sure vanish fast!
After lunch the trio becomes a duo. The trail is dryer on the north side and we cover ground quickly – there are lots of riders of all ages and abilities on this side which encourages me to slow down, relax, and enjoy the session. The morning was for sure more intense although to be fair, we’re covering ground at a steady, consistent pace. Lots of climbing, some great feature sections and lots of poppers if you want to catch you some fresh mountain air.
Cold beers welcome us back at the “base camp” where the lot is full with, like, 75 cars, and totally even more than that riders – some in apres-bike mode and some still heading out. It’s really a great mountain bike vibe; more like a race-day atmosphere than a normal weekend feeling. The trail builders should be proud of themselves, which considering it’s a “free-use” trail is even more incredible.
Did I mention muddy? Yes, we got caked but good. The photo evidence says it all. The rental bike held up great and was dialed in pretty damn near ideal for me. It was fun to ride a dually, since I’m normally a hardtail carbon kind of mountain biker.
For the record we rode in the morning: Ranger Summit, Bobcat, Strange Brew and Boundary Ridge. Afternoon was Braggin’ Rights and Merlin view Loop.
Stoked is all I can say in summary. Thanks for an awesome day’s riding. Hope to be back out on a trail with you guys soon.