Best bike trails
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  Posted March 30th, 2014 by Zdenko  in Edmonton | No comments yet.

Edmonton cycling

By: Lewis Kelly

World-class level mountain biking is here!
Warm weather is beginning to return to Edmonton at last, bringing with it the staggering array of festivals and concerts that make the city’s summers so remarkable. While our reputation as a summer festival mecca is deserved, there’s another warm-weather activity in Edmonton that happens at a world-class level: mountain biking.

DSC_2266Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River valley

“For large urban centers, it would be one of the best,” says Evan Sherman of Alberta MTB Racing. “Like, top nine out of 10.” On top of more than 150 kilometers of paved trail, any number of coyotes and the mighty North Saskatchewan, Edmonton’s river valley contains some of the most accessible single track bike trails in Canada.

“I moved here from Kamloops a few years ago, and the trail riding here is actually really good,” says Bruce Penner, who works at Redbike, near the High Level Bridge. “You can just walk out your door and ride for hours and hours, [and] not on the same trail.”

100_4607Bike riding in the city

Road run_Devon_AlbertaBike riding close to Devon, Alberta

Of course, this raises the question of which trails to ride. With so much single track out there (over 450 kilometers, according to the city’s website), a biker could ride for days straight and still not see it all. With this in mind, I set out to survey some of Edmonton’s prominent bike enthusiasts to get the inside track on their favorite trails.

I promptly ran into a small problem: none of the trails have official names. Unlike a ski hill or city grid, no official body names the routes Edmonton’s mountain bikers travel on. This led to a lot of answers like, “We used to have one called Razorback Ridge,” and, “Jeez, everybody names everything something different.” Still, certain geographic themes were common among pedal-pushers, even if trail names were not.

DSCN1047Bike riding in Strathcona County

EMCC_04Some serious bike racing in Alberta

The most frequently mentioned area was a network of trails northwest of Saskatchewan Drive, with the easternmost edge of the course defined by last year’s inaugural Canada Cup Race trails. These trails drew praise from almost every bike store owner and mountain biking advocate. Chris Check, owner of Pedalhead Bicycle Works, called the area “Skunk Hollow,” while Mike Sarnecki of Alberta MTB Racing praised trails in the area he called “Treasure Island” and “Pleasure Island.”

Trails around Terwillegar Park in the southwestern corner of the city also came up often. Chris Anderson of Velocity Cycle and Redbike’s Penner both rank the area as their favorite in Edmonton. Penner singles it out as a great area for prospective racers to go for practice.

Penner also praises MacKinnon Ravine Park, just east of 142 Street and south of Ravine Drive, for its gnarled and rooted trails that demand technical skill from a rider. Ben Fedoruk, general manager of Revolution Cycle, names the area as one of his favourites, in particular for one trail he and his friends imaginatively christened the Regular Rooted Trail.

EMCC_40Big group of cycling enthusiasts enjoying autumn ride

DSC_2264Several bridges cross North Saskatchewan River

Other favorite areas among single track enthusiasts include Mill Creek Ravine, which runs roughly south from the Muttart Conservatory and is bisected by Whtye Ave, and the trails around Sunridge Ski Hill in the northeast near Strathcona Science Provincial Park.

What makes a trail a favorite, says Anderson, is the sensation of “flow” it gives a rider. Flow is an important concept for mountain bikers.

“A trail with good flow allows you to get up a rhythm, get up a bit of momentum and spend more time gliding on the trail and less time stopping and starting,” explains the Velocity Cycle worker. “A roller coaster has good flow.”

Flow gives “a rhythm to the trail,” says Pedalhead’s Check. “The speed that you get going on the bike, you can carry through the corners.”
But though Edmonton offers a wide selection of single track with good flow, Sarnecki thinks there’s always room for more.

The city is so far ahead of its peers in what it offers mountain bikers that it’s difficult to ask for more, he explains, “But that’s where I’d like to see us. Not just maintaining but creating new trails.

100_4633Low traffic and safe roads

Alberta raceBike racing in Alberta

Pedal pushers pick a peck of pretty paths

Evan Sherman, co-founder, Alberta MTB Racing
1. Canada Cup course near Saskatchewan Drive
2. Cambodia Trail near Sunridge Ski Hill
3. Bobsleigh Trail in MacKinnon Ravine Park

Mike Sarnecki, co-founder, Alberta MTB Racing
1. Cambodia Trail near Sunridge Ski Hill
2. West Coast Trail on the Canada Cup course near Saskatchewan Drive
3. Treasure Island and Pleasure Island on the Canada Cup course near Saskatchewan Drive

Chris Anderson, Velocity Cycle
1. Terwillegar Park
2. Mill Creek Park
3. Canada Cup course

Chris Check, owner, Pedalhead Bicycle Works
1. Canada Cup course near Saskatchewan Drive
2. Wolf Trail, in Rio Park west of the Quesnell Bridge on the north side of the North Saskatchewan River
3. Fireman’s Trail on the east end of Terwillegar Par

Bruce Penner, Redbike
1. Terwillegar Park in general
2. Fireman’s Trail
3. MacKinnon Ravine Park

Ben Fedoruk, general manager, Revolution Cycle
1. Regular Rooted Trail in MacKinnon Ravine Park
2. Razorback Ridge on the Canada Cup course near Saskatchewan Drive
3. Pinball Alley in MacKinnon Ravine Park

Luke Penner, Mountain Equipment Co-op
1. Canada Cup course near Saskatchewan Drive
2. Mill Creek Ravine Park
3. Gold Bar Park


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