13
Sep
2021

Trail Tales – The Outlaw Sport – Vancouver North Shore

9/13/2021 : sicklines

Trail Tales “The Outlaw Sport” 

The history and legacy of trail building in Vancouver’s North Shore mountains is incredible, few places on earth have had as much impact on the mountain biking community as this Canadian mecca. With its perfect dirt and dense trees – the trails were built with whatever they could find lying around the woods. 

Trail Tails The Outlaw Sport Vancouver North Shore, Trail Tales – The Outlaw Sport – Vancouver North Shore
Geoff Gulevich on his Orbea Rise – Vancouver’s North Shore, June 2021.

The progressive nature of these trails started pushing the limits of mountain biking in the 1980’s and encountered their fair share of obstacles along the way. Skinny wooden bridges and rock slab rolls were the features of choice for the original trail builders in the area. 

Video Synopsis: 

The history and legacy of trail building in Vancouver’s North Shore mountains is incredible, few places on earth have had as much impact on the mountain biking community as these Canadian mountains. Follow Geoff Gulevich and legendary trail builder Todd “Digger” Fiander on their quest to sanction mountain biking trails with the local government. With the evolution of mountain biking as a sport, came the due diligence of preserving the land for future generations to enjoy.

Video: Scott Secco 

“It began in the 1980’s when Digger and his buddies spent hours in the woods making these trails for a sport that didn’t even exist yet.” – Geoff

“My hope is that I made some fun trails and brought smiles to people’s faces. That’s what I want my legacy to be like.” – Todd “Digger” Fiander, trail builder 

Originally, the North Shore district was against mountain biking for years. Mountain bikers were seen as adrenaline junkies tearing up the forest. It took until 1997 for these trails and cycling to be recognized as a valid user group who have the best interest in the land. 

Trail Tails The Outlaw Sport Vancouver North Shore, Trail Tales – The Outlaw Sport – Vancouver North Shore
Geoff Gulevich on Vancouver’s North Shore, June 2021.

“The district was super against mountain biking for a long time, I can’t even imagine the stress of builders back then being labeled as the “bad guys”. With all the crack-downs we needed to get organized and finally in 1997 the North Shore Mountain Bike Association (NSMBA) was formed.” – Geoff 

Trail Tails The Outlaw Sport Vancouver North Shore, Trail Tales – The Outlaw Sport – Vancouver North Shore

With the North Shore Mountain Bike Association working together alongside land management teams and local government officials, a symbiotic relationship between mountain bikers and land has evolved to be one of the most impressive networks of trails in the world. 

Trail Tails The Outlaw Sport Vancouver North Shore, Trail Tales – The Outlaw Sport – Vancouver North Shore
NSMBA trail builder Penny Deck on Mount Seymour, 2021.

“North Vancouver is an interesting situation because you have wilderness lands right in the backyard of a massive community. When the trail building community looks at the side of a mountain, they see a blank canvas ripe for opportunity. But when a land manager looks at that, they see a mosaic of land with competing interests, rights, existing titles – those are all the things being balanced.” – John Hawkins, Director of rec sites & trails

Although the rogue building has subsided, there will always be people who push against the grain of regulation. At the end of the day most cyclists also have the best interest of the land and people who manage it. 

With the help of the entire community of builders, riders and government the hopes are to have these trails around for future generations to enjoy. 

Trail Tails The Outlaw Sport Vancouver North Shore, Trail Tales – The Outlaw Sport – Vancouver North Shore

Learn more about the Orbea Rise

Photos: Sterling Lorence

Transcript from Video: 

The North Shore is one of the meccas of mountain biking, you go to any bike park around the world and every place has their version of the North Shore trail. 

RIght when I got into mountain biking all the features here were cut down, they tried to put a complete end to it, but we’re stubborn and you can’t get rid of us. 

It began in the 1980’s when Digger and his buddies spent hours in the woods making these trails for a sport that didn’t even exist yet.

My name is Digger, or they call Todd Fiander. Been doing this since 1984 when I started digging. I’m up to 45 trails I’ve built. 

The district was super against mountain biking for a long time, I can’t even imagine the stress of builders back then being labeled as the “bad guys”. With all the crack-downs we needed to get organized and finally in 1997 the North Shore Mountain Bike Association (NSMBA) was formed.

The northern district told me that if I threw dirt on a trail again, they’d ban me from coming up here. 

With all the crack-downs we needed to get organized, and finally in 1997 the North Shore Mountain Bike Association was formed. 

Mountain bikers at the time were a new user group, seen and villainized as a bunch of adrenaline seeking people tearing up the forest. The first big step is ensuring access for mountain bikers on the trails. We’ve now established ourselves as a valid user group who build and maintain things and have the best interest of the forest and broader community in-mind. 

20 years ago there was a lot of animosity between mountain biking and the government. It was mostly driven by residents who were opposed to mountain biking, but now the residents have changed. Now we have mountain bikers living at the trailhead so they think it’s good, the government has evolved with the population. 

One of the cool parts of the NSMBA, we’re the only organization that oversees trails across the entire network. They don’t know land manager boundaries and neither can we as the NSMBA. 

North Vancouver is an interesting situation because you have wilderness forested lands right in the backyard of a massive community. I think that when the trail building community looks at the side of a mountain, they see a blank canvas ripe for opportunity. But when a land manager looks at that, they see a massive mosaic of land with competing interests, existing rights, existing titles and those are all the things being balanced. 

It’s not unusual for a trail to start in the alpine on public lands and cross through various jurisdictions, cross through municipal lands and end on private lands.

You can have all the sanctioned trails in the world, but there will always be rogue builders out there building something for themselves. It’s more or less black market mountain biking. It’s all out there, everyone knows exactly where it is, but nobody talks about it. 

There’s always going to be rogue and illegal building and it’s a really difficult thing for trail associations to manage because eventually the land manager pays attention and blames the trail association for the problem. 

For the most part, the people working on the trails are working directly with the North Shore Mountain Bike Association. 

You would never ask a group of swim racers to go out and dig their own pool and fill it with water. But the people that actually use the trails have to take care of them and build them as well. 

It’s so rad to see trails that were once illegal, now becoming part of the community. It’s changed  a lot in the years I’ve been involved.

To say that there’s a legacy makes it sound like there’s an end point, and I don’t think that there is an end point for the NSMBA, or at least that’s the goal. The goal of all trails forever, is that the North Shore Mountain Bike Association always exists.

I look at it now and I see women up here with their little kids riding, it’s fantastic. 

My legacy, I hope, is that I made some fun trails and brought smiles to people’s faces. That’s what I wish my legacy would be like. 

Want to see more of Digger and the North Shore? Check out this video as well.

Digger – The Legend

Tags:

You may also like...