Bikepacking Across British Colombia’s Sunshine Coast

The best plans are created an hour before departure time. The scramble to put together a cohesive collection of gear is a task within itself. This was the case for three friends from the sea to sky. As they embarked on a bikepacking adventure from Horseshoe Bay to Powell River and back.

The motive behind the trip was twofold. The first reason was to meet four friends for their final leg of an 11-day circumnavigation of Vancouver Island. The second, being biking is really fun and why not go on a big old bike ride.

The Route

The three riders that headed to Powell River were Spencer Wight, Rhys Verner and, Braedyn Kozman. All avid mountain bikers and skiers but this would be their first bikepacking experience. After attaching all their gear to their bikes, they set off to catch the Queen of Surrey. A ferry that sails from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale terminal. From here they would ride 83km from Langdale to Earls Cove. Then a sailing aboard Malaspina Sky from Earls Cove to Saltry Bay for a 30 km ride into Powell River. 

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? With one exception. The only issue was in order to catch a ferry without having to wait an extra 2 hours the riders had to ride the 83km of mountainous terrain with fully loaded bikes in a very fast 2 hours and 45 minutes.

The Bikes

The bikes varied between each rider. Spencer brought his $500 Stevens road bike that he bought at a garage sale 7 years prior. Rigged up with a tent bag strapped to his drop bars and Birkenstocks taped to his seat as a fender. Spencer’s bike was the epitome of last-minute planning, packing, and preparedness.

Rhys brought his full carbon Kona Jake with a full road groupset. The road gearing would begin to be an issue on the larger climbs. Rhys would run out of gears forcing him to work extra hard to get up the hills. In addition to the gearing issue, Rhys overpacked. His Kona was equipped with a large bar bag, frame bag, a huge seat bag in addition to the backpack on his back. Rhys brought all the bikepacking essentials. If anything were to go awry, Rhys had the guys covered.

Braedyn was on his trusty Specialized Sequoia. A bike that has been to the arctic circle and back. lt was loaded very minimally with a handlebar bag containing a sleeping bag and mat and a frame bag with some food. Each bike setup was unique in itself with a wide variation of contents and bag setups. 

The Jounrey

As they left Langdale they were faced with a grueling 5km steep hill out of the ferry terminal. Racing time, as well as each other, the three sprinted up the first large climb of the trip. They tested each other’s fitness and gusto. With the taste of blood in their mouths and the hot late afternoon sun beating down on them, they continued on. The first climb was a tell-tale sign of what they had in store for the following 2 hours and 45 minutes. As they crested the top of the hill passing Persephone Brewing the pace continued to increase to an all-out sprint. This unseemly pace was kept all the way through Sechelt then past Halfmoon Bay.

The prospect of catching the next ferry was becoming a plausible reality. But, this pace was taking its toll on the three riders with their weighed-down bikes. As the kilometers clicked by, minute by minute the pace up the climbs started to become unattainable for Braedyn. All Braedyn could muster was the slight draft hanging on to the wheel of Rhys. Each punchy climb sent him further into the pain cave. He knew full-well that this pace was mandatory in order to catch the ferry, so he silently suffered along for the next hour. 

Pedal stroke by pedal stroke, staring at the flip flops precariously attached to the saddlebag in front of him watching for any opportunity to rest his legs, Braedyn rode on. With just 5 kilometers to go, the cramp-osaurus rex came to have a nibble on his hamstring and quads. An attack that could halt the entire ride. The promise of Coca-Cola and ferry food started to fade. Each pedal stroke threatened to start a full-on cramping episode. These last 5 kilometers felt like an eternity. Without a minute to spare, the trio rolled into the ferry terminal completely spent having given it their all. With salt stains across their shirts, resembling contour lines of mountain passes, and smiles on their faces the three boarded the ferry just after the cars had finished loading. Elated and relieved the three rushed to buy Coca-Cola and sat on the sundeck where they celebrated their effort.

Once in Powell River, the three set out to find their friends riding down from Lund. They figured the easiest way to find this group of tired hungry riders was to sit down at the best Mexican place in town. Eat some good authentic Mexican food, and drink some strawberry lemonade margaritas until the others rolled in.

From here the best course of action was obviously to keep drinking because, apparently, that’s what bikepackers do. The name of the game is to stay perpetually drunk so you don’t realize how much biking you are actually doing. While conducting this important business the reunited crew realized their lack of sleeping accommodation and began to devise a plan to set up camp. 

Having scoured google maps for a total of 69 seconds, they found an FSR about 5 kilometers out of town. They began the swervy journey over to the random fire road in the middle of know where. With a quick camp set up, the riders were swiftly asleep ready for an early morning start. They set off for the 9:30 am ferry at 8 am, making good time with the larger group on the final leg of their journey.

Contrary to the popular belief, 10 days of bikepacking along gravel roads for 8-12 hours per day does not wear you out. In fact, it makes you stronger day by day. (Or so it would seem) The four riders Colin Kerr, Greg Day, Felix Burke and, Quinn Moberg were fuelled by Lucky Lager and gas station food. They were pushing a phenomenal pace all the way to the ferry.

With a good breakfast in their bellies, the riders were ready to ride the distance to Sechelt. With great style, the peloton of 7 riders all packed with heavy gear cruised along the sunshine coast highway, cracking jokes, having laughs, sharing beers, and smiles. The tempo would increase as they got to Redrooffs road with Greg on the front and his speaker blaring EDM spin music. The rolling hills and tight corners of the tree-lined, two-lane road made for exciting riding and an enjoyable pedal into Sechelt. 

Greeted in Sechelt by Colin’s wife Alicia. They grabbed a quick bite to eat, while they listened to a street performer play Elvis tunes. The 9 riders finished the final leg at a relaxed pace. They smoothly rolled into Persephone for a couple more beverages before the ferry ride back to the mainland. All in all, it was a good adventure, ill-prepared and underestimated always makes for a good time. Turns out, all the bikepacking gear really wears on the bike frames leaving paint scuffs, scratches, and swirls. It would have been advantageous to have protected the bikes with RideWrap prior to the bikepacking trip. Any of the Covered Road and Gravel Protection Kits or the Tailored Protection™ kits would have been perfect.