Here at Swift we’re big proponents of building community around cycling and the outdoors. We’re excited to shine a light on our neighbors to the North, the Van Island Bikepack Collective. VIBC is a grassroots, all-inclusive cycling organization — with the mission to reduce barriers for those wishing to participate in adventure cycling.
This May saw the third installment of the Vancouver Island Bikepack Collective’s 2023 series of monthly group campouts. Founded in 2022, the VIBC is based on Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia, Canada and has a mission to reduce barriers to adventure cycling and build a robust local community of rad human beings who like to strap gear on bikes and go camping!
Past group campouts have focused around destinations on lower Vancouver Island and Southern Gulf Islands, and have succeeded in attracting the participation of riders both experienced and brand new to the art of underbiking, overpacking, and enjoying the camaraderie of a warm campfire with upwards of fifty of their newest friends. Frequent draw prizes from amazing companies both local and international (thanks Swift!) haven’t hurt either, of course. Everyone who participates in a ride gets a fun little, numbered spoke card as well.
Accommodating a variety of skill levels and preferences means providing a variety of routes and paces with different levels of challenge provided by combinations of terrain, surface type, elevation, and distance. To that end this trip to the Goldstream Provincial Park group site provided an ideal opportunity to make things spicy or chill to a rider’s preference – read on for the full report.
The VIBC acknowledges that this camp out took place the unceded, traditional lands of the lək̓wəŋən peoples and the Songhees, Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples whose historical relationship with the land continues to this day.
Heat Dome – A persistent high pressure system that brings with it sustained above seasonal temperatures. That’s what greeted the nearly 40 riders that met to depart in Victoria, BC. In other words, perfect weather to take the most circuitous routes possible to reach the Goldstream Provincial Park Group Campground – only 17.5km and 115m of elevation away by the direct route, but 45km and 400m of climbing or 60km and 900m of climbing by the moderate and advanced routes, respectively.
Setting off in temperatures approaching 25C (~80F) already by 11am the group quickly dropped off the paved regional trail to the well worn gravel surface of the Colquitz River trail. After about 10 km, 9 riders split off for the advanced route featuring more elevation and a selection of singletrack trails, while the balance continued along the moderate route which promised its own set of challenges!
Alas, the advanced crew had our first mechanical within 50 meters as a shift cable snapped on a rear shifter. Fortunately, one member came in clutch with a spare cable once the old ‘squid’ was cleared, and we were re-indexed and back on our way in short order.
Once back on the move the advanced crew cruised up the west side of Elk Lake (former home of Canada’s national rowing program) passing a small group of ultra marathoners running loops around the lake – what a day for that! Dropping down a spicy connector the groups converged briefly once more, with the moderate crew having earned their 20km mark ice cream stop and resupply.
Parting in opposite directions the moderate group made their way up a standby local climb on Willis Point Rd circling around Mt. Work towards the Highlands. The advanced group charged straight over Mt. Work in the welcome shade of the Hartland MTB area’s shade covered singletrack, and provided a solid example of how with enough enthusiasm, any bike can take you fun places!
Once into the Highlands, both groups took varying routes to reach Thetis Lake Regional Park – home to some fast, sometimes chunky doubletrack and vintage 90’s singletrack options perfect for modern dropbar gravel bikes, or those with a complete disregard for the condition of their knuckles. Facing peak afternoon heat and a bit of hike a bike, the moderate crew found their own excuse for a break with a flat that needed bootin’ and also took some time to explore the now deserted Kinghorn Cabin.
Of course, every route has a terminus, and after navigating through the municipality of Langford and doing another resupply the moderate group reached the open fields and bountiful shade of the Gold Miner group site at Goldstream regional park. The lower Island has some history of gold mining dating from the late 19th century, though no great fortunes were made. In present times Goldstream Provincial Park hosts a nature centre, an annual salmon run, and access to some excellent hiking trails along Finlayson Arm.
The true joy of the VIBC is the people it brings together, both from Vancouver Island, the lower mainland, and even a few regulars from down south in Washington State. A quick scan of the various bikes and gear at the campsite shows a wide range of tools to get the job done. Fancy carbon gravel bikes with fancy bags? Sure! An old 90s riding mountain bikes with dry bags strapped on? Heck yea, if it works it works! At the end of the day, the VIBC is about creating community and providing opportunity to explore some new trails, make new friends, share some laughs and camp under the stars.
Nothing quite brings people together like sitting in a circle to the roaring of canister stoves reminiscing about the shared accomplishments of a good day’s (type two) fun ride in the heat. Winding down the evening, we distributed some amazing prizes provided to us by various sponsors.
With at least 3 more campouts planned for the season (Mid-Vancouver Island’s Miracle Beach in June, Salt Spring Island’s Ruckle Park in July, and Gabriola Island’s Descanso Bay in August), there’s still plenty of time for you to come out and ride with a bunch of your newest friends. Costs are kept minimal and the VIBC only asks that you cover your portion of camp fees. See you around the campfire, eh?