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Feature - From the bar to the car to the gnar’

One day’s epic mountain bike ride in the Sea to Sky corridor

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3 p.m. Cat Lake ride, Squamish

We arrive at Tantalus Bike Shop in Squamish and the pace slows down a little. The crew are adjusting their bikes and yarning to the shop staff. This is obviously a regular hangout. I meet Peanut, who is reputedly one of the best bike mechanics in the corridor, and staff member Matt McNulty who explains the naming of bike trails.

"The Icy Hole of Death for example was being built during winter in the Alice Lake/Highlands area when one of the builders fell through this big frozen puddle into the water, and the Labour of Love trail, well that’s pretty self explanatory."

For the record, the Hole of Death victim didn’t die but just got very wet.

In keeping with his hectic schedule, March leaves the group in Squamish. He has to pack and start driving to California to compete in his next mountain bike race. His replacement, Manus Coyle, is another experienced rider of the Sea to Sky corridor. Like March, he is capitalizing on the growth in mountain biking as a sport, with the launch this season of his own company, Tantalus Tours and Technical Camps, run out of the bike shop. He says Squamish is increasingly becoming a hotbed for riding.

"Most people used to blast through Squamish on their way to Whistler but now they stay in town for a couple of days and want to ride," he says.

"They could buy a guidebook and try to find the trails on their own but by spending a day with me they will see all the highlights, plus we can shuttle them."

Coyle says he used to take people out for just dinner and beers, but now wants to make a business out of it. Bike clinics are another feature he wants to establish locally, as is already happening in Whistler and to a lesser degree, among school children in Squamish.

"The Test of Metal (mountain bike race) has quite an influence on the town, going through all the neighbourhoods, and everybody is riding a bike now," he enthuses. "The scene here is just incredible and the kids coming into the shop are happy, healthy kids doing something they love."

We shuttle to Cat Lake, also known as Endor Trail, because the fast downhill ride apparently feels like the speeder chase on Planet Endor in the movie, Return of the Jedi. It’s the fastest downhill yet. The group verdict is "very smooth and flowing." Some people want to run it again, and there are a number of other side trails that look intriguing. But there’s a lot more distance to cover so we start driving.

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