A message to Cam McRae and Pete Roggeman

Hate to break it to you guys, but your trails suck.
I’m not going to tell you what trails I rode because already I know, no matter which North shore trails I rode, the locals will say “oh yeah, well those aren’t the good ones. Trust me, if you’d ridden [xyz trails with exactly the same fundamental qualities but slight superficial differences] you’d be pumped.”
In graphic design it’s helpful to repurpose old resources where possible. You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel, and as long as no one can see the underlying similarities, or as long as you’re working for two non-competing clients in different sectors, you can save huge time by borrowing here and there from past work.
Fortunately I already had a graphic kicking around that I think captures the trail design ethos on the North Shore, so with a few little tweaks here you go:

More thoughts on Canadian “technical” trail building:

It’s not because I didn’t ride “the gnarly trails.” If anything those would be even worse, with the steep fast bits being even steeper and faster, and the violent, awkward, jolting 90 corner at the bottom being even more violent, awkward, and jolting. It’s called momentum, guys. If you designed the trails in 1998 when bikes had 2 inches of suspension and surviving a four foot rock roll was the highlight of your year, you probably didn’t give two shits about carrying speed. Your whole goal was probably losing speed while somehow not dying. But it’s 2015 now, I have 8-inch disk brakes, 2.5″ tires, and lots of quality suspension so I can stop. Somehow I’m just not seeing the joy in going from two miles an hour up to 15 and then back to two 800 times in one descent.

Now I understand why people come down to Oregon or Washington and ride trails that we think are boring and say how amazing they were. I can only imagine that these people have never gone downhill unencumbered at a rapid, sustained rate in their entire lives. Hearing stories from Canadians who rode boring, vanilla places like Oakridge and came back raving makes me weep for those poor souls who’ve never enjoyed momentum before. It’s pretty simple guys. Downhill = momentum = fun. If you can keep the trail pointed downhill instead of weaving all over creation, it’s pretty fun.

Oakridge is pretty boring and half-assed and yet people from Canada consistently come back raving about how mind-blowing the trails are. You could have this too, Canadians, if you gave a moment’s thought to maintaining momentum in your trail building (in between ripping bong hits, devaluing your currency, and talking about “the good old days in college when Sublime was still at the top of their game and Green Day hadn’t sold out yet”).

And we’re riding a shuttle-accessed trail system up here. I saw people out there on downhill bikes. I can only imagine what that poor bastard from Langley was suffering through on every run with his 9.5 inch travel 41 pound 26 inch wheel Intense M9. I’m on a shorter travel sub-30 pound 29er and the flat, awkward bits are still awful. If you ever wondered why “Shore bikes” like the Norco VPS range and the Kona Stinky’s from 1999-2009 all had high BB’s, short top tubes, and steep head angles, it’s because the average speed on this trail system is about four mph, with top speeds somewhere in the 12-14 mph range.

There’s a reason why this bike looks the way it does. In a related story, there’s a reason why no one outside of Western BC purchased this bike in 2009. Or in 2010 when it was on clearance at your local bike shop. Or in 2011 when it was still on clearance at your local bike shop. Or 2012. Or 2013…

My biked sucked to ride until I took 13 psi out of the rear shock and opened up the compression to Descend mode. I started the day in trail 3 mode, then trail 2, then trail 1, then full descend mode, then I took 13 psi out and left it in descend mode. There are exactly three other trails in the universe I’ve ever run my shock in descend mode for, but it still wasn’t soft enough for the snail’s pace thrashing that my bike was taking yesterday. Add to that mix a toxic cocktail of high tire pressure to keep from flatting on all the rock ledges you have to run into… and it was awesomely slow and awkward.

I didn’t know you could make trails that were so rough while simultaneously being so slow until I came to the North Shore. Bravo.

46 thoughts on “A message to Cam McRae and Pete Roggeman

  1. As a guy who learned how to ride there, rode there for 10 years and loved it, but now at this point I couldn't agree more with what you are saying. When you ride there enough, you get used to it, and may even start to like it.

    I have now lived in Kamloops for the past 10 years and finally understand how good fast flowy trails are, and how much those NS trails really suck. Not all, but most of them that have that awkward 180 degree turn after a faster section.

    I went back there twice in the past year and I hope to never go there again. Super choppy, weird corners, and little thought to an exit strategy. No thought to holding speed. I couldn't wait to get back to the interior.

  2. I should follow up and say that those trails were built/designed back in the 80's and 90's when it was in vogue to inch along at a snails pace, on fully rigid bikes with cantis. Unfortunately most of the trails overall direction has not changed with the times. They are trying to modernize some of the trails, but those 180 degree turns are still littered everywhere.

  3. Groan, Shore haters. You know whats better than “flowy” trails?

    NOT LIVING IN Kamloops.

    Yes our trails have a “Special” flow but we like them like that. Berm jump berm…… snor

    We have many “fast” “flowy” trails. it's just you need to be able to ride nasty things like root (scary) and rocks (oh no) and lets not forget dreaded moisture(terrified) too.

    Grow a set boys.

  4. What did you ride? There are tons of awesome trails but they aren't shared.

    Also if you ride the shore enough you will master the janky two foot rock drop to 90 degree corner. Its featured on almost every trail and is an essential piece of any core shore rider's vernacular.

  5. Valid points, but you should remember that these trails were built when flow had a different meaning, and not dabbing while linking up trail sections and stunts with trials-like skill was what it was all about. If you had chosen to ride CBC (a poor choice if you were looking for flow btw, though admittedly there aren't many candidates on the Shore that fit the modern definition) 10 years ago, you probably would have thought it was the cat's meow. So from a modern perspective, you may very well be right, but keeping things in the proper historical context, your criticisms are unfair. if the trails were being built from scratch today instead of being inherited, they would almost certainly be built differently. And let's not forget the impact Shore riding had on the mountain biking world in its heyday. In fact, there are still bike parks all over Europe with a “North Shore section”, and wooden stunts that are called “north shores.” The article was still at least as funny as it was offensive; i.e., only a little bit of each. I can give credit and say it was probably as much wrong as it was right, as well. Moving along, here are some people who make the Shore look fast an flowy, due to smooth riding and good bike skills (which I'm sure you possess, as well.)

  6. Got to admit I was impressed when I read “120mm 29'er”. The Robot knows what's up.

  7. Chunder brings out the defenses in people. I like using all my gears on a ride. Getting up to 60kms/hr on a trail means a little berm or rut becomes a life saving feature. drifting into corners and maintaining speed is something you would rarely (if ever) experience on the shore. The is a reason why nobody fast comes out of NV – you can't go fast on those jenky ass trails!

  8. I have a lot of fun on certain trails in Oakridge. So I'm now going to post a response full of personal insults, videos of people riding there who are slower and worse than you to 'prove you wrong', and generally completely miss the point.

  9. I had that exact Norco. In Australia. It was essentially a boat anchor and eventually broke my leg by landing on it at high speed. I also had to warranty the rear triangle after it crumpled. The only thing it was good for was hucking to flat.

  10. Paul Snyder – “here are some people who make the Shore look fast an flowy”
    you don't know what speed is if you think they looked fast. And the same comment regarding flow

  11. Thank god someone said it. Place sucks. I've had more fun skateboarding in a gravel pit.

  12. Paul Snyder, that was terrible riding. Not in the fact that the riders were terrible, but you put up two very boring edits of very slow and non flow trails in order to prove us wrong. But in fact it proves the haters oh so right. The haters don't hate because they can't ride it, as Mt. Robot leader just showed at the NV enduro – he can ride it better than you or me. Its just that if you ride fast trails, learn how to carry speed, and how to rail corners then riding slow ass jerky trails is not overly exciting. This coming from a guy who spent many years riding there and loving it.

  13. So are you gonna start calling out the trail builders by name for now on when you ride something you don't like? Or just Canadians get this treatment?

  14. Yes im glad you posted about this… The shore was cool when I was 15 years old in 1994. I had the luck of riding down there in april and I barfed a few times. Its better but still herky jerky. Im not down with FLOW shit either. Being from Kelowna we have good and bad shit. There is way better stuff on the shore they could have used. I just feel sorry for all the people that paid money to race a 19 km day of racing bikes. I hope the series doesn't get MORE dumbed down for the punters. We need longer days and faster courses . Charlie you should have raced on a Kona Stinky 9…

  15. ^ Not sure you're the intended audience, D, but thanks for the heads up anyway.

  16. Peter Oakley, I'm well aware what they are, thanks. Fast and flowy by contrast to what Charlie amusingly describes in his blog. And taken in context of Shore riding.

  17. Anonymous, I'm not trying to prove anyone wrong, but you've made my point for me. They're not flow trails, so why are they being criticized for not having flow (in the new sense)? That asaside, people can still find flow on them, even if in the old Shore definition. The videos were made to showcase the trails btw, not the riders. Plenty of high speed slo-mo roost and boost bro videos out there you though.

  18. I moved to the Shore from Quebec, where I broke my back building 8 percent grade flow trails and 5 percent grade climbing trails so anyone and their aunt could ride the things and any with their whits could ride fast without being tangled in a shit-web of cobblestone swtichbackery.

    Living here for over a year now, you appreciate the brute force and ignorance necessary to enjoy the riding in your backyard. And you develop a keen sense for seeking out illegal trails that are in fact rad as fuck, full blast and awesome, until they get roached by a bunch of hacks dragging brakes down straight sections and clipping pedals on traverses. To have fun here you need a guide. Which is fucking stupid. If the trails on your trailnetwork all suck, your trail network sucks by association.

    The “awesome” illegal sections built from the same ill-fated and impulsive need to go fast over “loam” that created the repulsive trail network you are now trying to overcome are not the path to redemption. They are the path to a bunch of shitty eroded gutters that speed erosion and get old ladies pissed enough to try and kill us. Ever ridden Pile of Cocks?

    You don't have to go to the land of Cabella's to find flow. You just have to get the fuck off the shore. Or just start sending the many huge drops sprinkled throughout the woods.

  19. I would like to qualify my ramblings with a HUGE thank you to the NSMBA. The new trails are better. As weird as some of the old trails are, I love them. For some reason.

  20. Hey – hope your race was good. enjoyed the beer sat and chat at bottom…looks like you got your comments now 🙂 !

  21. Everyone should go to Squamish or Whistler to ride. The Shore sucks… pass it on.

  22. skibowl was a lot of fun this weekend. when are you going to get over this nonsensical career and go back to what you enjoy doing?

  23. Boom, hot off the shore. Looks pretty fast and flowy to me, and some tech:


    You just got Knolly'd. As usual you probably just aren't in the know about the best trails.. Nobody ever sees your shite Portland area trails in any edits and no fast racer or famous freerider has ever come out of Portland for a reason. It's bunk city, and your blog reeks of it.

  24. Shots fired over the bow!

    Pretty good result for your first time on our janky trails, Chuck. So I can't go ahead and say something like “learn to ride 'em and you'll feel the flow” because you obviously were pretty quick.

    There are trails here that allow you to carry momentum out of corners, but you didn't ride 'em in the race on Sunday. Like Cam said, we'd be happy to show you some trails you'd hate even more.

  25. At first I thought, “If I was trying to prove I was a PRO ENURBRO racer and I got my butt kicked by Geoff Kabush I would complain about how technical the trails were too.” Then I realized, Geoff Kabush is and XC RACER, so I thought “I wouldn't want everyone to think I lost to him on the most technical trails I had ever ridden.” So which is it, are you fat, or do you suck?

  26. Yup, North Van sucks, so does Canada in general. You're way better off staying down south and never coming back.

  27. Wait… you guys are from portland? Bahahahahahahahaga. Whatever makes u feel better about that! 🙂

  28. Sorry you didn't like the trails – they can be pretty challenging but that's the way we like them. I can see how they'd be frustrating if you don't have that skillset. You guys were riding the intermediate trails but there are also a few beginner trails that are similar to WA/OR stuff. So don't sweat the bike skills, just see if you can improve your blog over the next 8 years.

  29. Skill has nothing to do with whether or not trails suck. The robot clearly has more skill than anyone here, but if you need to thumps your chest, then by all means dos so.

  30. Yo brosephine your issue is simple. Suspension brah. You paid for all that delicious travel, you may as well use it. You've probably never encountered bumps down in 'Merica, and your quest for “mid stroke” support has resulted in an over damped mess. Open them dampers up, get some coil springs (air is for tires) and let the good times roll.

    On a side note, I'm Canadian and agree the Oakridge trails suck. BORING.

  31. I gave up on riding mountain bikes for 10 years only to be dragged back into it when I moved to Vancouver for a few years. After getting back on the bike, I quickly figured out a few key things:

    – Bikes now are about a billion times better than they were 15 years ago. Why? Mostly because they work and don't break constantly.

    – Bike geometry and fit are better than ever, as is suspension. All of this is awesome when you're riding your bike.

    – None of the improvements on bikes in the past 15 years are at all relevant on the Shore because of the stupid fucking stunts, pointless wooden bridges and idiotic trail routing decisions made by people who had the guys who built trails back in 1998 teach them to build trails. 6 inches of genuinely usable travel front and rear, disc brakes that could stop an F1 car, a bike that ACTUALLY FITS and has geometry seemingly designed for going up and down mountains as opposed to roads and it was all fucking useless on the fucking Shore because the trails aren't trails. They're a collection of obstacles meant to be hit in a row.

    “Flow” doesn't have to mean non-technical. It just means you can flow from obstacle to obstacle in a way that works with the trail.

    Think of it this way: the drive up the Sea to Sky to get to good trails in Squamish, Whistler, and Pemberton is very technical and exposed in many areas. It's a shitty drive in the summer when tourists and mountain bikers in pick up trucks clog it up. So why is it so much better at 6 am in January when it's filled with skiers who know how to drive? BECAUSE TRAFFIC FLOW.

    Same applies to trails. The Shore kinda sucks. Bobsled's alright though.

  32. Sorry, late to the party…because I mostly avoid your tripe..but really, why don't you give up racing FFS? It seems like it holds no joy for you unless you are on home/holy ground and know exactly what you are riding into. You'd do well to expand your horizons a bit and go ride some of the shit you complain about in a non-race environment. Might be fun.. So yea, in summary unless you are a NS local its going to suck balls racing on the Shore…so go suck some balls.

  33. As much as I love the Shore I have to agree with one point Mr Robot has decided to so eloquently share. Even though the tech, rooty, rocky, off-camber terrain that requires a high level of bike handling skills to be able to flow through it all definitely rides slower, some of those sudden 90 degree corners kill the flow and the fun of the ride. On some trails, the hard corners fit in with the feel/flow of the trail, but on others they do not. While it may not be practical to go back and change trails that were built according to the style of the day where trials moves played a significant part in riding, I agree that it makes no sense to put them in on the newer crop of trails that seem have been designed with flow in mind.

    That said, for all the knocks some people throw against the older “janky” trails, when you hit them right, pick all the right little spots to pop off or slide a tire around or it puts you in certain state of zen and leaves you with a smile on your face at the end of the ride even though you had to work hard for it. It's a very different experience than a “flow” trail that requires less effort from the rider.

    Whether one is better than the other is really not up for debate though, it's like arguing the merits of one flavour of ice-cream over another – there's really no point. Each type of trail will have it's own type of fun and you either like it or you don't or even better, you like both.

  34. It's really trails don't create flow good riders create flow no matter what trail they ride. So such it up butter cup and head back your cross country..eerrr flow trails.

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