It was one of the most obvious signs of the changes in Revelstoke. On a partly-cloudy day early in June, the streets in Revelstoke were lined with vintage cars – a hobby that comes from a love of automobiles, spare time for upkeep and money to invest.
Early that afternoon, the new Revelstoke came out for a bike scavenger hunt. Close to 100 people gathered at Grizzly Plaza for their clues, then scattered about the city on their bikes for some fun and games.
The contrast couldn’t help but be noted.
Cycling has taken off in Revelstoke over the last few years. It’s not anything new – people have been biking the old trails around Revelstoke for decades and bike commuting is nothing, but as many long-time residents have noted, there are more and more mountain bikers hitting the trails and more and more townies zipping around town.
This weekend, this trend will be celebrated with Bike Fest Revelstoke, three days of rides, races and more in and around town. The event will include a poker ride Friday night, group trail rides on Saturday and Sunday, a town criterium Saturday evening, and bike polo Sunday evening.
“I think it will draw people to Revelstoke, show them we have a lot of cycling to offer whether its road riding north and south of town, mountain biking,” said Brent Strand, one of the organizers of Bike Fest, along with Mike Gravelle of Skookum Cycle. “Lots of people seem to cycle and it would be nice to get everyone together and celebrate cycling.”
There aren’t many statistics to go with that demonstrate the rise of cycling in Revelstoke. You could look at the clutter of townies at the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings, or the steady stream of road cyclists pedalling down Airport Way or north and south on Highway 23; or the full parking lots at Mt. Macpherson.
Statistically, there’s little to go on. The number of people taking part in Bike to Work Week at the start of summer has risen consistently over the events four years. The city’s draft transportation plan says that 30 per cent of all commuter trips in summer are by bicycle. Beyond that, it’s hard to gauge, except via anectodal evidence from people who have been biking here for years.
“Anecdotally, every time you go out now there’s people in all the parking lots, including the new ones we’re building,” said Keith McNab, the president of the Revelstoke Cycling Association, who has been biking here since the early-90s. “Every time you go out there’s more people on the trails.”
The RCA has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the surge in mountain biking. It has undergone a renaissance in recent years, with membership jumping from 112 last year to 178 so far this year. Along with that has come a number of new trails around Revelstoke.
At Mt. Macpherson, the popular Flowdown trail was finished last fall and proved a hit from the start. When the snow melted this year, it felt like everyone was riding it.
The renaissance also led to a revival and legalization of the Boulder Mountain downhill trails. Once illegal, they were devastated by logging and since rebuilt and brought into the fold.
Nowhere is the rise of mountain biking in Revelstoke more prominent than on the spectacular Frisby Ridge trail, which in the year since it was finished has become a destination ride in the province. Trail counters are being installed to monitor how many people are riding the trail. In the meantime, the fact two overflow parking lots were built this year is a sure sign of the trail’s success.
This year the RCA is building another trail in the Begbie Bluffs area, expanding the parking lot at Griffith Creek on Mt. Macpherson, and, if funding permits, building several new link trails on Mt. Macpherson.
Meghan Tabor, the co-ordinator for Revelstoke Tourism, said more people are asking about biking at the visitor centre. No specific numbers were tracked for biking but she noted that promoting mountain bike tourism was a new thing.
“I think it’s going to keep taking off,” she said.
Brent Strand grew up in Revelstoke and as the organizer of the weekly pedal and pint rides, he knows the trails around here as well as anyone. He moved to Fort MacMurray for a time, but moved back to Revelstoke seven years ago. He has noted more and more people biking.
“There just seems to be a lot of cycling in general – everyone’s riding around town on their cruisers,’ he said.
Bike Fest will combine all aspects of cycling. The poker ride on Friday will be a cruise around town. Saturday there will be a group ride on Frisby Ridge. Sunday will feature a group ride to Keystone. Both rides will leave from the community centre parking lot at 9 a.m. “We’re going to highlight the alpine trails of Revelstoke,” said Strand.
Later Saturday there will be a criterium, a short race through downtown. The plan is to have one race for serious road bikers, another for everyone else, and potentially a kids race, said Strand.
Sunday, after riders return from Keystone, there will be a bike polo demonstration. The sport is similar to regular polo, but on bikes instead of horses.
Strand hopes Bike Fest will turn into a week-long event in Revelstoke
“I know Revelstoke is starting to get on the map a little for its spectacular cross-country rides. There sure are lots of people on the trails now. Ten years ago you’d go out and not see anybody, now you’re guaranteed to see people every time you go out