Dirt Bikes + Snowmobiles = Snow-Biking

© Cecile Gambin Photography

The geniuses at The Hershey Company figured out that if you put peanut butter and chocolate together you get something good. Now I’m not quite sure who created the snow-bike but the same concept holds true: take a dirt bike, remove the wheels, slap on a single ski up front and a track similar to that of a snowmobile behind and you get a snow-bike all of which doesn’t melt in your hands and makes you just as giddy as scarfing down a Peanut Butter cup.

Food aside, my good friend Jon Mutiger called up fellow snow-bikers to meet at Britton Creek Rest Area, just off the Coquihalla Highway this past Saturday. We met up with Kevin, Euc, and Dave all eager beaver to hit the snow but kinda spooked by the weather. They weren’t the only ones…according to everybody in the lower mainland, BC just hit record lows and the complaints I heard about the cold were hilarious. But before all you Vancouverites and other fine BC folks get all bent out of shape and call me an ‘Onterrible’ I need to let you know that I hate the cold. I don’t do well in it. My feet and hands have been frostbitten before and really dislike temps below 5C. So, it seemed fitting to try snow-biking for the first time under blue bird skies and morning temps hovering around -25C. The thought of trying my hand at riding in the deep, fluffy snow and photographing riders where a backdrop of crisp, clean whites and deep blues was too alluring to be bothered by the cold. To view all photos please click HERE.

Jon finished working on his bike installing a long track ‘Timbersled’ late Friday night. The plan was to ride 2-UP and I cannot thank Jon enough for agreeing to take me onboard. He smartly adapted BMX foot pegs to the rear of the bike so that I would have somewhere to place my feet. Because of the track the left peg was displaced further back when compared to the right peg which made for an interesting riding position. I couldn’t see myself travelling far distances with one leg stretched out well behind me while the other was in a more normal 90 degree bent position. As it was, Jon’s GPS recorded a 47 km trip. From time to time I did need to stretch and extend my left leg. This however wasn’t a big concern and I adapted quickly. The hardest part was trying to stay on the seat as my snowboard pants slipped on the rock (frozen) solid KTM seat. The steep verticals were a challenge as Jon needed to punch the throttle a few times to get us up and over. Funny enough while I was gripping the seat with my legs…my thoughts wandered back to when I was 15 and at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto where I rode a mechanical bull. I used my legs to hold on and allowed my upper body to relax and go with the flow. I’m a day dreamer – thinking of weird things while I should be concentrating – I’m odd like that!

Far from being on a mechanical bull though the ride on the snow-bike was relatively smooth. Until we hit a stump. Jon gasped and squawked milliseconds before we hit and I automatically braced myself gripping tighter with the legs and arms tightening around Jon’s waist. No worries…Jon’s a great rider and he expertly handled the stump – just a bump in the snow.

We did fall a few times though and the landing was soft. Actually, they weren’t ‘true’ falls but more of a slow-motion tip over. Please don’t think that these bikes tip easily. They don’t and are in fact very stable…I think. Alas, I can’t really write about how to ride them, or how they handle as I don’t have the experience and I failed miserably attempting to pilot Jon’s machine later in the day. Apparently, the trick is to give the bike lots of gas off the start. On my first two attempts I barely got the bike in motion and fell over. By the third time I realised how much more gas I needed to give it and happily rode about 10 metres before I had to turn (there were trees in front of me). I made it partially through my turn before I fell over. Jon looked at me patiently as I tried with all my might to lift the 350lb + machine in knee deep snow. I batted my eye lids and reduced myself to a princess by throwing up my hands in the air and yelled ‘I can’t lift it…it’s TOO heavy’.

© Cecile Gambin Photography

© Cecile Gambin Photography

I’m determined to learn how to ride one of these machines and will rent one in the future. There are several outfits that rent snow-bikes around the BC area. Geoff Kyle of Geoff Kyle’s Freeriding offer both rentals and guiding in the Whistler area. After spending a day as a passenger soaking in unreal sites I am ready to learn. Snow-bikes have the ability to go where sleds cannot – easily traversing slopes and riding steep verticals. The allure of fresh powder, and (wo)man-handling a bike through un-touched, rarely travelled terrain is appealing. Plus, I love the feeling of the bikes power when climbing and cutting through deep snow on tight turns. The feeling of floating across the powder is unmatched by dirt … not to mention there is no cleaning afterwards. No mud and always squeaky clean!


PS…you can laugh at me as this recent Ontario transplant may not have been afraid of the cold but I did manage to get frostbite on the end of my fingers. Serves me right for holding my camera and lens sans gloves. At least I got some killer photos!


SCORRA Ladies Training Day 2012

On the learning flats, taking a short break and watching dark skies ahead.

Judging from the amount of comments received and smiles seen I would say that the 2012 Ladies Training Day was a success. This marks my third year, along with Allision Grummet, Jaime Kowitz, and Tammie Wilson as instructors teaching an all-women offroad clinic. Also joining us was Megan Grummet – Allisons younger sister. The clinic was held on private property north west of Barrie and although the skies threatened to open up and rear its ugly head it never did.

At the sound of the car horn the riders meeting began (more or less) at 9:30 am. Greeting the instructors were about 30 women ready to learn and ride which frankly amazed us because of the torrential downpour the day before and the bleak cool overcast day ahead of us. I told them the rain was a blessing in disguise because the ability to control the bike in slippery conditionis would become of paramount importance. Plus, the soft ground would be quite ideal should an occasional, or accidental, dismount occur. This, essentially, would be a perfect day for learning. Todd had been working hard all week shaping the long grass into figure 8’s, and several long open straight-aways for us to practice on. He even created a large area and combed the grass for hidden rocks. Clearly, this is a man wanting more women on bikes. Super cool! So, we were not going to disappoint him by not wanting to ride and get dirty.

Taking into consideration the wet trails I readjusted the days lesson plans to include lots of braking and throttle work. Back to the basics – fundamentals skills – without them we do not advance, nor look very graceful. Allison and Megan took the beginner group while Jamie, Tammie and myself tackled the intermediate and advance class. We divided the ladies into three groups of 4-5 people, taught the skills and practiced each drill for about 20 or so minutes. After which, the groups rotated in a clockwise direction thus allowing each group to have a different instructor teaching a different skill. Morning skills for all groups consisted of braking, clutch, body position, throttle control, and gearing with each skill becoming progressively harder as the experience of the rider necessitated.

Lunch was cooked by SCORRA members Don Moore and his assistant chef, and consisted of hamburgers, sausages, fresh condiments, watermelon, fruit and cookies (I know Vanessa liked the cookies because her and I were scarfing them down at the end of the day). We also had a few draw prizes after lunch. As previously posted a few ‘blogs’ back I had created an ‘Ontario Women’ series of posters that would allow me to donate profits to help increase the number of women offroad riders. The sales from the Jamie and Melanie posters permitted me to buy a gift certificate from Mission Cycle and congratulations are extended to Kim Carrigan – the recipient of the gift certificate.

After lunch, we gave the ladies a choice of either heading out to a guided trail ride, stopping along the way for instruction as needed. Or, to stay behind and learn more advanced skills and continue to practice. To my amazement again more women stayed behind and were keen on learning advanced skills such as wheelies, stoppies, and jumping.

The day ended around 4pm. Lots were tired but still had the energy for plenty of smiles. Which made us, the instructors, and Jen very happy. By the way best line of the day…I asked Todd if he had ever had this many women riding his MX track and he said ‘no’ with a smile. I am pretty sure I can safely say that the guys love seeing women ride!!

Thanks to Jen Cole for organising this wonderful event, the crew at SCORRA (Brad Obee, Don Moore, Chris Zanelli and many others), Todd and Angela, Mission Cycle and the instructors. It was a beautiful day, spent on an amazing piece of property with a ‘badass’ vista of Barrie’s escarpment, and the sweet sound of buzzing bikes and laughing people.

To see the entire album of photos please visit my gallery at: http://order.cecilegambin.com/riders. It was great meeting everyone and hopefully we will see you on the trails or at next years clinic.

Playing tag while working on balance and clutch skills.
On the figure 8 track and learning quickly.Down the straights learning how to go over logs. This straight was instrumental teaching the ladies how to wheelie and getting the front tire over larger obstacles.
Thanks to Don and Master BBQ Chef for the excellent lunch.

Chillaxin' over the lunch break.

Angela and friend looking on. Nice helmets 🙂
Our youngest and super duper rider, Vanessa, showing us how it is done on the downhills.
By the end of the day my group did not want to learn how to do stoppies they just wanted to hit the MX track. Super cool!

CGP at The St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, Toronto

I recently had a phone call from an art curator who mentioned interest in my photographs and before I knew it I was dropping off some of my framed pieces and signing a contract.

My artwork is now being represented by Rupert Young (www.artprofile.ca) a curator working out of Toronto. This is exciting news for me as I have always loved my fine art side of my photography. In fact, creating artistic photographs are what drew me into photography back in the 80’s. I realised back then that the camera could record the beauty offered by Mother Nature as perceived by the photographer. It’s only within the last decade that I have begun expanding my taste to include ‘action’ and ‘lifestyle’ pictures. And even then I strive to create and include a visual balance between fine art and action.

The photograph above is named ‘Greenfields’ and it is currently on exhibition at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, Toronto for the month of March. How cool is that? I took this photo in 2009 using my Nikon D80. The story of Greenfields is as follows: waiting for the traffic lights to change I noticed the local park had recently undergone a ‘control burn’ by city employees. Not only could I smell it but I could see the dark ash and burned grass mixed in with new growth from the recent warm spring weather. My goal was to show the beauty of the recent burn. I loved the colours, the texture, the contrast and the idea that old vs new was everywhere. I wanted to recreate the idea that life was sustainable and could excel after a burn at and felt that panning would best demonstrate what I had envisioned.

For the month of March Greenfields is being exhibited at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts along with other notable artists. I am very proud and feel honoured to have the opportunity to show my work here. Of course, theatre goers have automatic access to the gallery on the second floor of the Centre. Gallery visits are offered and just need to be booked so that Mr. Rupert Young can open the doors for you. Let me know if you are interested in seeing the show and if I can I’ll drop by with you.

Thanks for you support and your confidence in me. It’s appreciated and gives me the strength to continue. Showing my photography publicly has not been an easy step for me as I literally feel like my emotions and self are exposed for all to see. To have my work being shown in such an establishment boosts my confidence and gives me the strength to try different forms of photography and art.

UPDATE: As of 2013 my contract with Rupert Young has finished and I am no longer represented by him. As well, my prints are no longer on exhibition at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.