Kamloops: The Man-Up Gene

Kamloops: The Man-Up Gene

Driving in Kamloops feels dangerous. The roads are good, the drivers are courteous but I feel like I’m always on the verge of rolling off the road or hitting a lamppost. The reason for this is entirely of my own doing. Every moment behind the wheel I’m rubber necking at ghosts of legends and scoping possibilities. Lines disease takes over and it becomes hard to concentrate on the road in front when any other angle affords views of potential.

British Columbia is usually characterized as towering white capped peaks which crowd the horizon, but what is often forgotten or overlooked is that there is a vast space of high elevation semi-arid plains. Kamloops is located in South Central BC, about four hours drive northeast of Vancouver and lies in the rain shadow of the Coast Mountains (the mountains that Vancouver and Whistler sit within). Summers are hot and dry, and winters are generally milder than much of BC.

The clay hills roll gently, covered in a scrappy jacket of grassland, sagebrush and scattered Ponderosa Pine. Unlike much of BC, there is not a thick, dense cloak of forest and rock. Instead the terrain is exposed, displaying shapes that invite riders to carve a little of their wishes into the landscape. Usually mountain bikers are constrained to colour within the lines; hemmed in by the imagination of builders before us, but here in Kamloops there is potential everywhere. The terrain is perfect for mountain bikers with a vivid imagination, or in the case of Kamloops a twisted and sick imagination.

Everywhere you look you see stunts, jumps and weathered bumps all which were serious chapter openers in the history of freeriding. These natural lines or man-made features dot the landscape, all of them with stories and names attached to them. There is the Devil’s Peak – a clay tower that stands 200 sheer, terrifying feet above backyards and which Tippie, Olsen and Schley rode for cult movie The Tao Of Riding in 1996 and the legendary 1997 Bike Magazine expose Sick in which writer Leslie Anthony heralds “the ethos and visual mindfuck of freeriding.” If you take the right road it is hard to miss Josh Bender’s Jah Drop, but much easier to understand why no one went back and ever stuck the landing. Off to the side of Rose Hill Road there are numerous clay-turf stacked cheesewedge booters scattered about the landscape, including Matt Hunter’s enormous gap that he leaped in the movie, Seasons. Around the same area there are numerous imitators, non quite as psychotic, but all absolutely deranged.  

There’s Bourdon’s Road Gap, Aggy’s Hip, Tippie’s Gravel Pit, Sorge’s Line. The list runs on and on. It is remarkable that there is no map for the area’s singletrack and most trails are hidden from view, but the stunts are there for all to see just off the side of the highway.

The piles of dirt or scraped out features have all helped shape the bike industry over the last 20 years. From the Froriders skidding down gravel pits that revolutionised how mountain bikes were perceived, to Bender’s national newspaper headline grabbing hucks, and now the moto-snowboard infused style that riders like Hunter and Graham Agassiz have pioneered.

The above is an extract of the feature appeared in Dirt Magazine #128 and features the riding styles of Dylan Sherrard, Paulo Stevens, Joe Schwartz, Ace Hayden, Brad Stuart and Stephen Matthews, all captured by the fine eye and camera control of Reuben Krabbe.

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