The future is here. Words aren’t dead but in a changing media landscape they may have to be integrated with moving pictures. The writer’s place isn’t diminishing it is expanding. Stories still matter.
This is the first episode of the Hey Neighbour! series which I have been working on. When I moved to the North Shore of Vancouver I wanted to learn about the people and places that have made this such an important place for mountain biking. I knew other people wanted to hear these stories too so I pitched the idea to NSMB.com. Fortunately NSMB have the little genius Matt Dennison on contract for film making duties.
The first episode was all about Cam McRae and he kicked off what is going to be a great series. Click the LINK to read the accompanying story. The feedback from viewers has been fantastic and I want to thank everyone who left messages on NSMB.com, Facebook and Twitter.
By Seb Kemp
The North Shore has always intrigued me. Why is it that this one place has had a huge influence on mountain biking? The need to explore this question lead me to move to the North Shore recently.
Arriving somewhere new is daunting and yet invigorating. Everything is new and every corner turned is exploration that leads to new discoveries. This is amplified when you are graced with having the whole North Shore trail network laid out before you but not knowing which way is up or down. It’s like knicker naughties with the lights out: lot’s of fun but requires some guestimation.
Hey Neighbour is about discovering the people and places that characterize the North Shore. Each episode we meet someone who will take us on a literal adventure of the trails all whilst allowing us to explore and fathom why the North Shore is the way it is.
It is my aim that with each episode with learn a little about someones personal history with the Shore and for them to explain a little about how they see the history of the Shore. This isn’t just about pro athletes or celebrity faces, sometimes these people maybe hidden heroes or the unnamed soldiers of the Shore and each episode we will go on a short ride on these peoples favorite rides to put some color into the trail map.
Although it is my own need for answers I hope that everyone will learn a little more about the North Shore, whether you live here already, have visited here and left with the same questions as I, or if you have never set foot here but still curious about the land of the big wet trails. If you have heard it all before then I apologize but everyones personal experience and interpretation of history differs so maybe there’s something new for everyone in here.
So it makes total sense that we start with Cam McRae, who is one of the first people I met who lives on the Shore. I have had the pleasure of getting to know as a friend over the last few years and who has helped me find my way around North Vancouver since arriving here.
Cam McRae is the captain of the good ship NSMB. Many of you will know of him, some of you would have ridden with him but perhaps many more have no idea who the chap behind this site is.
Cam McRae has a long history on the Shore. A longtime Vancouver resident he began mountain biking here on the Shore, but as he says in the video, it was a baptism of fire and took a while for him to feel comfortable here. Biking here on the Shore is more than just a fact of growing up here and having his family here, he really appreciates the unique character of the trails here and has a great respect for the trails, the community and the legacy of the North Shore.
It was whilst teaching English in Italy between the fall of 1998 and early 1999 that the idea of NSMB came to him. He was so desperate to hear about what was happening back on the Shore, a place that was alight with activity as more and more riders were joining in the antics, building wilder and wilder trails and the Shore was starting to get a lot of attention, not all of it good. It was a hot bed of activity and Cam wanted to keep in touch with what was happening and realized there was no way he could get any information about it. The few magazines he could get hold of were Italian mountain bike magazines that had nothing about the North Shore and at this particular time immediate information wasn’t at all readily available like it is today. The original idea for NSMB was for Cam to start a magazine that focused on the North Shore but it was whilst speaking to a friend that he realized they could harness the internet. Websites were something which at the time was very new to anyone, in fact many people didn’t even have email accounts back then. NSMB was soft launched in 2000 and was one of the very first mountain bike websites to appear.
NSMB has always been about crafting original content that celebrated the lifestyle of mountain biking rather than just a consumer advice website. For years Cam has been documenting the North Shore scene and in doing so has attracted the attention of readers from 70 countries around the world these days. Cam helped bring the Shore to the world and bring the world to the Shore. Just like Cam’s original intention, people can feel engaged with what is happening on the North Shore and they can be living on the other side of the world.
I’ve always been very impressed with Cam as a rider. He might not be showy and is always modest enough to let everyone go first but this hides the fact that Cam is a very accomplished rider. His technical skills and mastery of the bike on technical lines is always impressive to watch. Whilst we were filming this episode Cam showed me several lines off the side of Ladies Only that have become almost forgotten as the trail has found more flow over the years. Most of these lines are awkward, requiring brute force and finesse in equal measure and if you get them wrong you will be left sore and embarrassed for some time. He also showed he how to ride over ‘humper logs’. It requires a bit of trials skills and a sturdy chain ring or bash guard.
Also, at the end of the day, with light fading fast, Cam showed us a cheeky line right at the bottom of the trail which leads to Dempsey called Rag Doll (another Digger line). As we approached he said there was a move coming up. Now if Cam says there is a move then this means there is one hell of a move coming up. Usually Cam doesn’t talk people down a trail so I knew there was something ahead that I’d need to keep on my toes for. Matt set up his camera and Cam talked me through it, “Just try to step up wide and then get your front wheel on the far side of the huge root that runs downhill as you turn hard to the right.”
I’m comfortable on my bike and figure that there isn’t much I won’t ride. Then as Matt gave the all clear sign and Cam rolled in I stopped to see Cam come to a complete stop on the corner between two really meaty roots and in one powerful move turn and push up, over and down the drop. I didn’t move. It didn’t look right and I have to admit to being intimidated enough by this one move that I walked up to it, shrugged and lifted my bike down. I could say that I wasn’t feeling it that day but I have to be honest and admit to just plainly beaten by it because it looked like a move with consequences that I wasn’t willing to deal with. Cam isn’t a wild or a ballsy rider but with years of North Shore trail riding under his belt is comfortable on his bike in these positions.
He wasn’t showing off, he is just a seriously calculated and composed rider. Which is how he is in life. I’ve not met many people who are as calm and fair as Cam. He always sees the wider picture, is willing to give everyone an opportunity to shine and seems to be very balanced as a human and in his life. He is unselfish and willing to give praise where it is due but this doesn’t mean he is some even mannered dullard; give Cam a beer and an opportunity to flare up and Damn McMenace comes to life.
So here we are at the first installment of Hey Neighbour. I hope you enjoy these looks at the people and places of the Shore. If you have any feedback, questions you want answered or recommendations for people to be profiled in future episodes then please leave a comment and I’ll endeavour to heed your advice.