Riding the South Chilcotins

A floatplane and a bicycle—put them in the middle of the mountains, and go wild.
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Apr 26, 2014 | By Matthew Ankeny & Owen Perry

Break down your bike, pack it in the cargo hold, and take a floatplane fifteen minutes from the Tyax lodge, a five hour drive from Vancouver. When the water washes over the pontoons, you’re there. Unload the bike. Breathe the mountain air. Welcome to the South Chilcotin mountains—a playground for dudes with calves the size of swollen grapefruits.

Photographer and mountain biker Owen Perry took a trip last spring. He’d heard of the landscape from friends, watched a vid, and when a spot opened up with a few friends, he snatched up a pass.

The approach to the landscape is unique—think of it as aerial visualization. From the floatplane, you “get a wider perspective on South Chilcotins and the ride you're going to do on the way back.” The ride you’re going to do on the way back. The elevation gains and single track switchbacks and open meadows.

You’re dropped off: bike, gear, life—and then you ride back. “I heard a lot of mountain biking buddies rave about it for the longest time,” Perry told me. Little wonder. The topography of the Chilcotins is pure mountain bike pleasure: “less rocky and more weathered” than it’s southward counterpart, the Coast Range.

Perry set out to document the surroundings. Every trip he “tries to follow some sort of shared aesthetic or colour palette,” which comes about organically from his experience. 

“It seems like every trip and place has its own set of variables that depend on the weather and time of season you visit. The key for me is constant observation.”

And, in a trip like the Chilcotins, you have the aerial perspective. You have the fly in. The scouting trip. Perry saw it as an opportunity to grab “the grand topographical perspective.” An overview of the task ahead.

And when those pontoons touched water, if you don’t think Perry's pulse was racing, you’ve never been there before. You’ve never had the path laid out in front of you—"this is what your adventure looks like"—in a mini-map outline of what’s to come. You’ve never clipped in to the bike, the dirt path winding ahead of you—a fifteen minute flight in, and one hell of a ride out.

Images ©: Owen Perry.