Over the weekend I took part in the Sea to Sky Challenge, which is an organized 2 day, mostly offroad ride from Birkenhead Lake, north of Whistler BC, to Whistler, and then to Squamish BC. At about 150-160 km over 2 days it was one of the bigger and most varied rides I’ve done, and it covers some of the coolest XC riding anywhere.
About 60 of us started at Birkenhead Lake, a beautiful, pristine lake about 2 hours drive north of Whistler BC, and took off down the north side of the lake along gorgeous doubletrack and dirt roads, with some twisting singletrack leading to a small town of Grampson. From there we climbed up some singletrack to emerge onto the main riding area above Pemberton, BC.
The Sea to Sky corridor contains perhaps the highest concentration of mountain bike/uni trails anywhere and it’s amazingly varied. Pemberton is famous for rocky, steep DH riding with gorgeous views of Mt. Currie to the southeast. We speeded down through some of these trails and I took a wrong turn onto a tough DH section with some scary rock rollovers leading down to a railroad track and into the town of Pemberton.
By then we’d ridden about 55-60 km and it was enough for most. Only 3 of us decided to keep riding south along the Sea to Sky highway and valley trails, which is a grunt of a 40 km road and bike path ride with several climbs and descents before you emerge 400 m higher in Whistler. I rode by myself, fighting some headwind, but it was a really fun way to end the day, into a small place called Function Junction south of Whistler.
Next day was the more well-known trail of the trip, the new Sea to Sky trail connecting Whistler to Squamish. It extends about 55-60 km along mostly buff singletrack that takes you away from the highway into some incredible views of the Tantalus Range west of the highway. We rode all day and ended with a fun tech singletrack section through the trails of Squamish. My patellas were sore by the end from the volume of riding, which was big for me, but it was still a great experience to travel such a beautiful linkup close to home.
Attached is an overview map of the route and a couple of photos. I rode the whole thing on a geared KH26.
Yes, I was in second gear for much of the ride, including trails. I rode most of the second day’s trails in second gear as you descend from 2100’ elevation to sea level over 60 km. The first day I rode much of it in 2nd except for the tech downhill parts, and the steeper climbing.
Knee (patella) soreness was a bit new for me. I’ve ridden quite a bit this year and cross-train at a gym once/week for opposing muscles, but mostly I focused on more intense sub-40 km rides. As a result I still had plenty of energy at the end but the huge jump in riding volume was something my knees seemed unhappy about. In comparision I trained much more for high volume for the BC Bike Race last year and never had any knee issues.
I have no idea actually. I was really appreciating the fact that it wasn’t a race and I could take the time to enjoy a beautiful ride. The BC Bike race was fun last year but it’s tunnel vision - for a week all I saw was the ground 2 metres in front of me, while riding some of the most beautiful trails in the world. I’d much rather ride hard and also stop and enjoy the view. I do wish I’d brought by GPS on Day 1 though, because there was quite a bit of routefinding and it would be hard to repeat. I’m also fairly sure it was a metric century ride with a lot of vertical and some technical trails, but there’s no way to measure it off a map. Likely it’s better this way - less focus on the numbers and more on the experience.