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!


10 Cardinal rules for trials riding in BC

© Cecile Gambin Photography


A blue sky, warm temps, killer trails and snow capped mountains! Awesome. What through me for a loop though was the steepness of the trails from minute one onwards. Guess I’m used to a smooth, gentle rise in elevation. BC single tracks, in general, are pretty tough and I admit that the narrow paths, steep granite walls, and slick roots made my heart patter more than once. My years as a downhill racer led me to race more than once on BC trails so you would think I would be used to the difficulty. I have come to accept that I am green. My skills on a trials bike is negotiable and my friend Jon has now rated me as a beginner. After todays ride I accept that I am a newbie.

The technical – a 12.4 km ride, with over 800 metres of climbing in 4.5 hours (break time, photo time) and approximately 2 litres of fuel used. The start, as mentioned, clearly took me by surprise as the rapid narrow ascent became gnarlier and greasier as rocks and roots jutted in all directions. While you are visualising this throw in about 10 tight switchbacks into the mix. I surprised myself being able to keep up with Jon and Steve. I dabbed my foot on a slippery rock and that threw me off and I landed hard on my right hip. No problem. Pick up the bike and keep going. If I stop it’ll be that much harder to get going again so … ‘don’t stop’ became my mantra.

Eventually the trail straightened and a sea of lush green moss welcomed us into the higher levels. Only a few deciduous trees remained while big cedars and Douglas Firs (I think…I’m not really a botanist) lined the forest standing tall and majestic. The trail continued upwards but relaxed a bit in the steepness until faced with a few monstrous rock walls slick from moisture and drizzled with moss. I realised then I should pay heed to the kind words given to me by Jon before the start of the ride – he calmly and clearly stated for me not to be afraid to ask for assistance. Looking up at my first obstacle it didn’t take long to first laugh at the thought that I would even consider attempting this and finally, cave in and loudly cry ‘help’!

Now before I paint a picture of myself as some unskilled damsel I would like to say that I have matured and grown during my last two rides in BC on my trials bike. Clearly, it was evident that at times I was not going to clean some sections. And in an attempt to keep both myself, my bike and my friends happy I accepted the help and let the guys ride my bike up on some of the (as I found out) intermediate to advanced climbs. Afterall, we were riding a single black diamond downhill trail backwards so I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad asking for help once in a while. Besides…riding is way more fun than falling and fixing myself and my bike.

As I lay in bed that night I had some time to reflect upon my first two rides in BC on a trials bike and realised that there are 10 Cardinal Rules for Riding in BC. Along with my own thoughts, words of wisdom from both Jon and Steve led me to the following:

1. Be prepared – for me that means bring zip ties so when I loop my bike I don’t have to rely on friends to put my fender back on.

2. Tire Pressure – they are pretty much flat right now and grip is much better.

3. Back to the basics – clutch control, balance, body position need to be well rehearsed.

4. Commitment – Give ‘er!! is appropriate at times. Whatever the case…follow through and don’t back off.

5. Whoa! – and sometimes we need to stop and look before we ‘give ‘er’ as steep drops and giant boulders are the norm.

6. Feet on the pegs – self explanatory. If you must dabble at least keep on foot on for traction.

7. Plan a route – that means plan your route of attack before actually trying it.

8. Plan an escape route – just like the above plan an escape route should you not attain your goal and decide when and how to fall should the need arise.

9. Breathe – do not underestimate this Cardinal Rule.

… and the top cardinal rule …

10. Ask for help – there is no shame asking for help over an obstacle.

I cannot thank both Jon and Steve for their assistance. Without them I would have missed out on an incredible ride. I have learned a lot and plan to continue learning. One day I will tackle that monstrous granite wall…but maybe when it’s a bit drier. For now I am a beginner and loving where it takes me.

'Up, up and away'. Jon tackles steep, slick rock. I chose to take photos instead.
‘Up, up and away’. Jon tackles steep, slick rock. I chose to take photos instead.
Steep, slick and full of cracks. One slip and it's a long tumble down.
Having made it the highest Jon is King of the Hill as he tackles this steep, slick rock face. Can we go back so I can get more photos?? Need to work the rock on my end to showcase how steep and long this wall is.


There goes my Gas Gas expertly being ridden by Steve Bonnet. This was a 3 stage climb - the entrance steep, narrow and slick with a thick root at the top followed by a tight turn. Still charging upwards, parallel to the rock, and finally another steep, right turn and over some more greasy roots and rocks. Thanks Steve!! My bike and my body appreciate your help :)
There goes my Gas Gas expertly being ridden by Steve Bonnet. This was a 3 stage climb – the entrance steep, narrow and slick with a thick root at the top followed by a tight turn. Still charging upwards, parallel to the rock, and finally another steep, right turn and over some more greasy roots and rocks. Thanks Steve!! My bike and my body appreciate your help 🙂
Taking a breather and soaking in a few rays.
Taking a breather and soaking in a few rays.
Steve laying down the law over the trail.
Steve laying down the law over the trail.
Steve clearly lacks technical skills...
Riding the front down the hill. Steve has some serious bike handling skills that I can only dream of!
‘Roots, what roots? There ain’t no stinking roots here!!’







Shopping, Trials & Tribulations in Crumpit Woods, BC

© Cecile Gambin PhotographyI think I have a bag fetish. A camera bag fetish to be exact. In preparation for my first big trials off-road ride in BC I marked the event with a few new purchases shopping for both myself and my trials bike for the unknown ride in Crumpit Woods. And by unknown I mean just that. Riding new terrain, in a new province, in an area that my good friend Jon Mutiger had never been to.

To start off my new adventure I decided to purchase a Lowepro Flipside 15L Sport Backpack which came the day before my ride. I needed a camera bag that would allow me to bring one pro camera body with either 1-2 lens and an external flash. I also needed a bag where I could store a few non-camera essentials such as bike tools, spare spark plug, some food, my phone, a point & shoot camera and some water. Water proof capabilities, adjustable straps and easy access were also high on my list. The Lowepro did not disappoint. It rained throughout the entire ride and the inside of the bag remained dry thanks to it’s external rain cover. The beauty of the bag though, and ultimately what sold me on this model, was how easy it is getting my equipment. I was able to stay on the bike, swing the pack around and grab my camera through a unique rear panel. Genious!! My only complaint would be the zipper system, and the waist band. I would prefer seeing a more rugged and waterproof system to keep out dirt, and dust as well as a padded waist belt.

My second purchase was for my bike. No longer wishing to carry extra fuel in my back pack I purchased an Acerbis Auxillary Fuel Tank for my Gas Gas TXT 200 Pro. This also meant that my camera equipment would be that much safer as I never really liked packing pre-mix along side. A relatively inexpensive addition ($99 plus free shipping from MX1) the tank, despite it’s garish looks, functioned flawlessly, providing me with an extra 3L of fuel (bringing the total up to 6L for me to play around with). The idea behind the tank is rather simple as the gas is drawn from the auxillary tank first and once empty it would take from the OEM tank. I should note though that I lost my breather hose in one of my ‘few’ falls. Victim of the trails I suppose.

So, it became quite clear that my first off-road motorcycle ride in BC was going to be a wet one as the weather man correctly forecasted foul weather. No matter…I was pumped and a ‘little’ rain did not damper my spirits as my friend Jon and myself headed towards Crumpit Woods just outside Squamish. The main trail head is in a new subdivision. Various mountain bike groups were assembled and ready to ride when we pulled up with our two Gas Gas’s on the trailer. No questions were asked or eye brows raised.

After checking the map and being gleefully delighted at all the trails available we hopped on and began our trek into what became a maze of never-ending trails. Meandering across the forest, the terrain varied in elevation and continued to twist and turn across rock and root infested trails in one area, and smooth, flowy turns and straights in another area. As we gained elevation the paths led us up steep granite hills. I tempted a few, fell, and than happily watched Jon as he gracefully manoeuvered his bike up and over the slick rock. I won’t bore you with the details of my falls but will tell you that my ego was bruised and I need to replace my front fender, bracket and possibly handle bars after a few newbie moves!

I followed Jon as I clearly had no clue where I was going. We had a blast exploring and thought at one point he was going to run out of gas, or me having to drag my bike out of the woods due to a mangled front end – details not available 🙂 Click on this link to see our route as recorded by Jon’s phone: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B8Oj9VklLPwjS0NhMERYem1sdWM/edit?pli=1. I’m not sure how long we rode for nor the distance. I did go through approximately 3.5 litres of gas riding at a slow to medium pace.

Despite the wet rock and terrain I was amazed at how well the trails held up and how little mud there was. Being my first ride in BC I cannot tell you if there is a better trail to ride on a rainy day but I can say with certainty that Crumpit Woodss is a great place to ride in the rain with great traction and no wear and tear on the trails. Our faces weren’t even mud speckled! I will be back to visit Crumpit Woods again.

Thanks to Jon for a spectacular day. It was great to ride with him again!! Next up is a ride on my big bike with Kellee Irwin. I do not know where she will take me but I do know I am in for another great day of riding 🙂

Look for the black dotted lines, the solid purple lines and the purple dotted lines. Now check out the legend below!!


© Cecile Gambin Photography
First time I have ever seen the words ‘Trials Motorbike Trail’ on a legend. Uber cool!!
© Cecile Gambin Photography
Jon Mutiger with his Gas Gas TXT 280 and my Gas Gas TXT 200 with an Acerbis long range fuel tank.

Crumpit Woods-2

Crumpit Woods-3