Riley McIntosh back on the trails he grew up on.

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By the boys of Union Production Co

"If I can’t make it legal to build trails here, then I will give up trail building forever," says Riley McIntosh.

This is a big statement from a big man who, in one way or another, has spent most of his life building trails.

Riley has been building bike trails professionally for more than ten years and has turned soil and cut wood in the Whistler Bike Park, Vallnord Bike Park, the Nelson Cycling Club, Retallack Lodge, Selkirk Wilderness Lodge, and Saalbach Hinterglemm Bike Park.


His most famous works were perhaps the ones that propelled the freeride fraternity into fame and notoriety. For five years Riley built stunts and trails for many of the world's top freeriders and Freeride Entertainment's New World Disorder movie series. In more recent years he has shifted his focus to building trails that are sustainable and approachable for everyday riders and not just the uber-talented one-percenters.

A year ago Riley moved from his home of ten years, Nelson, BC, back to Maple Bay, not far from where he was raised, in Duncan. Before he had even unpacked his bags Riley had set about trying to make his home a better place. He spearheaded the establishment of Cowichan Trail Stewards (or "CTS") – a non-profit society with the mission to create an authorized and managed mountain bike trail network in the Cowichan Valley. Along with Jane Kaiser, Riley then spent months writing and compiling the Cowichan Trail Stewards: Trail Management Plan – Maple Mountain, a proposal that was presented just this week to the District of North Cowichan in the hopes of legitimizing the existing trails and building a stronger community through mature trail management.

Riley McIntosh is a big man with big plans.

The objectives of the report are to enter into a partnership with the DNC (District North Cowichan), effectively reducing the risk of liability the municipality might face from mountain bikers getting injured. From there, the hope is that riders and land managers can attempt to develop a clear network of safe, sustainable, and enjoyable trails that will provide a community asset and potentially make Cowichan Valley a year-round mountain bike destination.

As Riley passionately runs me through all the facets of the plans and current negotiations, I can't help but think how lucky the area is to have him turn his focus this way. Riley is the kind of leader that every community needs: he's motivated, energetic, can see the bigger picture, and has experience navigating the bureaucratic hurdles that inevitably rear their heads whenever trail access is at stake. "If in thirty years time I can say I have built thirty rad, legal trails, then that would be a lot more fulfilling than saying I built one hundred houses." The guy is driven and motivated.

There's always plenty of bridges to cross with any big endeavor.

Dave and I had been utterly deflated by the long, wet road slog we had endured from Parksville to Duncan the day before meeting up with Riley, but the trail builder's zeal was exactly what we needed to raise our spirits. After riding singletrack all day long we rolled into Experience Cycling to get Dave's bike a tune up.

Will Arnold, Experience Cycling's main man with his 1882 penny farthing. The only non-original piece is one of the tires.

Experience Cycling is the oldest bike shop on the Canadian west coast (opened in 1915) and is currently owned and operated by Will Arnold. Will is helping make the world a better place too. He was part of a group that established a bicycle-tire recycling program, which has since been adopted across the whole province. Before the program took hold, bicycles tires were simply buried in the ground along with other refuse. Now the bicycle-tire program piggybacks on the existing auto scrap tire collection and recycling infrastructure managed by Tire Stewardship of B.C. There is no disposal cost to bike shops, all they have to do is follow the guidelines for disposal. Now the tires are recycled, much of the material being used as landscape mulch.

Another big day in the saddle. This time on singletrack.

Before setting out on this trip I knew that every little town in B.C. had great singletrack. I even suspected that they had bustling mountain biking communities. Nevertheless, I'm astounded by how deep the passion and ambition runs in every town we visit. We have been afforded glimpses into a richer world. We have peeked down at the foundations and the future of mountain biking.

The effects of speculative golf course construction – Another story for another time.

When you want to understand where mountain biking comes from and where it is going, don't look at the glossy catalogues and marketing of shiny things. Instead, just look around your own hometown for inspiration.

Previous Entries from our Journey
DAY 9 of the Escape
DAY 8 of the Escape
DAY 7 of the Escape
DAY 6 of the Escape
DAY 5 of the Escape
DAY 4 of the Escape
DAY 3 of the Escape
DAY 2 of the Escape
DAY 1 of the Escape
DAY 0 of the Escape