Marco Bieri poses by his bicycle in Sicamous following a five-day ride, done largely over trails and backroads, from Vancouver between July 24 and 29, 2020. (Contributed)

Vancouver to Sicamous: a backroads journey by bicycle

Marco Bieri discovers backcountry via trails, logging and mining roads

Instead of a drive, Marco Bieri chose to make his recent trip from Vancouver to Sicamous a journey.

That journey began with the idea to do something he’d been considering for a long while: a bike ride from his current Lower Mainland residence to his parents’ home in Sicamous. But instead of using the Coquihalla and Highway 1, he would endeavour to stick to logging roads and trails, and see parts of the province in the periphery of his usual drive.

He was inspired in part by a YouTube video he saw of a person who did a three-day ride from Vancouver to Vernon, including a stretch along Douglas Lake Road that stretches east from Merritt to Falkland.

For the trip, Bieri purchased a gravel bike (similar to a road bike, but with a more formidable frame and specialized tires), bike bags and light camping gear. He also prepared for the trip by doing some 100-kilometre rides around Vancouver.

The journey began on July 24, a 160-kilometre ride from Vancouver to Hope – the longest ride Bieri had ever done.

“I think the most I’d done before was 120, like once, but somehow, when you’re in the saddle, you kind of just keep going,” said Bieri. “I set it for Hope for no reason except that I wanted to get off the highway on Day 2.”

In Hope, Bieri said he found a random creek and pitched a tent in the bush. From there he found a different trail network. He rode a part of the Kettle Valley Railway trail as well as the Great Trail, followed by numerous logging and mining roads.

“I just followed Google Maps as well as I could, with the main objective being to not go on the Coquihalla Highway,” said Bieri.

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Being an avid problem solver, Bieri found plenty to keep him busy with the best paths recommended by technology not always being in synch with reality. And the occasional trail or road washout meant for some frustrating backtracking.

“One morning I had a few things to say in multiple languages,” said Bieri. “I missed one of the signs saying the trail was washed out, but on Google Maps it said the trail was functional. I saw one washed out area, I climbed down the bank with all my stuff, pitched a tent, in the morning climbed up the bank… and then you go less than 10 minutes and there’s another wash out. Then you… go back where you came from and try to find a plan B.”

But these moments were blurred by the peace and beauty found along back- and less-travelled roads like Coquihalla Lakes Road between Hope and Merritt.

“I ran into quite a few quadders and even horseback riders,” said Bieri. “It’s like a whole different road even though it’s along a road you’ve travelled many times.”

Even in the Shuswap, Bieri found paths he’d heard of but never taken.

“The Salmon River Road, that was awesome,” said Bieri who, during the final stretch, also discovered the Larch Hills Traverse.

“I rode about eight kilometres on Highway 1 which was terrifying and then went up a forest service road, I think it was number 10 and then connected to the Larch Hills Traverse and that’s how I got to Sicamous,” said Bieri. “That was a beautiful trail, but definitely harder than – you know, in the pictures, it has a bunch of six year olds on bikes overlooking the lake, and that’s definitely not what it is. I thought it was going to be a plateau with a boardwalk.”

Bieri arrived at his parents’ home on July 29. Knowing what he knows now of the route, he figures he could cut down from five days to three. And though he says he would do it again, he chose to catch a ride with a friend for the return trip to Vancouver. Still inspired, however, he’s planning a ride with a friend from Vancouver to Earls Cove on the Sunshine Coast.

For anyone considering bike-packing, Bieri said apps like Trailforks, or even Google (satellite) are good for plotting a course. However, to learn if you’re ready for a long trip, he advised an overnight excursion closer to home.

“Even around Sicamous, I tell everybody to do just an overnight trip close to home so if it sucks, you can always leave or call somebody to pick you up,” laughed Bieri.

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