Comox Valley Earns Reputation as Two-Wheeled Hub
Comox Valley earns reputation as two-wheeled hub
Move over Portland, Oregon; Copenhagen, Denmark; and hello, Comox Valley. Cycling capital of the universe? Well perhaps not yet, but the Comox Valley is quickly earning a reputation as a small but vibrant hub of two-wheeled, cycling fun. Sinuous singletrack trails wind through silent forests and down mountainsides, along meandering rivers and around sun-washed islands. Chairlifts whisk you to the top of technical drops and smooth fast flowing descents that will get the heart pumping and the camera shutter clicking with glacier and ocean views. Quiet country and seaside roads unfold as you embark on an exploration of farmland, vineyards, lush river valleys and secluded beaches.
In the Comox Valley cycling is religion, as integral to lifestyle as the rivers, beaches and delicious locally-grown, raised and harvested food that have become synonymous with this Vancouver Island community.
“We think the best way to experience the Comox Valley is from the seat of a bike. You smell, taste, hear and feel so much more,” says Kim Barry, co-owner of Island Joy Rides: Unique Cycling Tours (www.islandjoyrides.com).
Indeed there is much to satisfy the bike rider's senses. Island Joy Rides, founded in 2010 by Barry and business partner Laurel Cronk, offers day, weekend and five-day road riding adventures that showcase the best of the Comox Valley and surrounding islands. Take theTour de Spa; this one is all about spinning by day and relaxing by night at the Kingfisher Seaside Resort and Spa (http://www.kingfisherspa.com) and Old House Village Hotel and Spa (http://www.oldhousevillage.com). Or for the naturally curious, the Edge of the Island tour reveals the wild beauty and photogenic side of the Comox Valley under the guidance of a local photographer and naturalist. Taste buds are in control forWest Coast Foodie, a gastronomic cycling adventure to organic fruit farms and award-winning vineyards such as Blue Moon Winery (http://www.bluemoonwinery.ca)and Beaufort Vineyard and Estate Winery (www.beaufortwines.ca).
And, what better way to sample sumptuous calories than by burning a few in the process. The Comox Valley Farm Cycle Tour, an annual event held in August, allows cyclists to get up close to some of the characters who make their living from the soil and sell their products at the bustling Comox Valley Farmers' Market (comoxvalleyfarmersmarket.com) and restaurants like Titas (http://www.titas.ca) and Locals Restaurant (http://www.localscomoxvalley.com) where chef Ronald St Pierre showcases regional ingredients with characteristic creative flare.
“Based on its popularity we extended the farm tour to two days, and partnered with local hotels to offer visitors fantastic weekend accommodation packages,” says Willy van Kemenade, a local cycling activist and chair of the Comox Valley Farm Cycle Tour.
Three self-guided routes ranged from 18 Km and 58 Km in length, and offered sampling top shelf cheeses, wines, organic blueberries and heritage vegetables. With over 450 farms in the Comox Valley, the diverse offerings will make for an enticing 2013 event.
For fat tire aficionados, the Comox Valley is nirvana. The trails of Hornby Island's Mt. Geoffrey are fast and flowy. Bear's Bait and Bevan trails wind through BC Hydro lands adjacent to the refreshing Puntledge River, tracing paths from one dreamy swimming hole to another. In Cumberland, affectionately known as ‘Dodge’, a keen cycling community has been instrumental in the preservation of the 150-acre Cumberland Community Forest and the development of an ever expanding trail network that has the trailhead parking lot bustling on weekends. At the same time, mountain biking enthusiasts continue adding to the labyrinth of singletrack that drops from Forbidden Plateau above Comox Lake, linking together arbutus-covered basalt bluffs where views of Comox Valley farms, deep blue ocean waters and snowy Coast Mountains will drop the jaw. Martin Ready, the Cumberland-based owner of Island Mountain Rides (http://www.islandmountainrides.com), has made it his business to share this enviable supply of singletrack with a global audience of mountain bikers.
If lift assisted biking is your preference, then head to the mile high resort. For the past 15 years, Mount Washington Alpine Resort's (http://www.mountwashington.ca) bike park has delivered the adrenaline charged goods on trails like Magical Mystery Tour and Big Brother.
“Our park offers a little bit of everything. We have steep and technical singletrack for old schoolers, free ride trails with wooden stunts and jumps for rippers, and wide and flowy easy trails for beginners,” says Mike Manara, Mount Washington Alpine Resort bike park manager.
While tour companies and resorts work to share this rich riding resource with the world, a roster of international calibre events and races are also helping to raise the Comox Valley's cycling profile. The annual Bearclaw International (http://www.bearclawinvitational.com) at Mt. Washington, with its $30,000 Cdn purse up for grabs, is now a regular stop on the Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour. The Comox Valley is also day-one for the BC Bike Race (http://www.bcbikerace.com), a seven-day stage mountain bike event that attracts 500 participants from around the world.
When visiting the Comox Valley, your biking retail and service needs are well covered. The three Cs of Comox, Cumberland and Courtenay are home to more than five full service and retail independent bike stores providing new and used bike sales, accessories, quick tune-ups and helpful trail and cycling route information and advice. Accommodation like Best Western Plus: They Westerly Hotel & Convention Centre (http://www.thewesterlyhotel.ca) with their recent addition of bike storage units and The Riding Fool Hostel (http://www.ridingfool.com) which is a few short pedal strokes away from Cumberland's legendary trail system, gives new meaning to the words ‘bike friendly’.
Comox Valley belongs to a growing movement toward two-wheeled transport in British Columbia. Cycling is now the fastest growing mode of commuting in Vancouver. Victoria, at 4.9 per cent, enjoys some of the highest rates of bicycle ridership in Canada. Dozens of communities across the province are recognizing the value of mountain bike tourism and creating destination trail networks to capitalize on BC's impressive credentials; according to the Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association, there are more than 38M cyclists in the United States alone, more than a quarter of whom are mountain bikers. The increasing number of participants in the BC Bike Race, GranFondos and other large cycling events is further indication that interest in cycling as both a form of recreation and a healthy transportation choice is on the rise.
For more information about riding in the Comox Valley as well as accommodation, packages, events and transportation including BC Ferries, contact the Vancouver Island Visitor Centre at 1-855-400-2882 or www.discovercomoxvalley.com.
About the Comox Valley
Located halfway up Vancouver Island’s east coast, the Comox Valley abounds with culinary bounty from land and sea. Coupled with arts, music and sporting events, and stunning alpine to ocean resorts and spas, the region is a place of supernatural beauty that offers rich culinary, cultural and outdoor experiences. For more information, visitwww.discovercomoxvalley.com.
Lara Greasley, Comox Valley Economic Development: 250-702-1298 (cell) firstname.lastname@example.org
Kate Rogers, Tartan Group: 604-880.1494 (cell) email@example.com
Brian Cant, Tartan Group: 250-592-3838, 250-896-3844 (cell) firstname.lastname@example.org