As the spring season is upon us, and the promise of better weather looms, the ability to enjoy the outdoors has begun to heat up. While many embrace the warm weather by playing a round of golf or heading to the baseball diamond, others dust off their helmets, pump their tires, get back up on their bike, and prepare themselves for another intense season of bikepacking. 

A unique and at times very difficult sport, bikepacking is an exciting style of bicycle touring that combines the beauty of mountain biking and distance backpacking. There are limited rules such as no help from or helping of other cyclists, no resupply stations, and employment of the honour system (tracking your own time). 

Every year cyclists leisurely experience the beauty of bikepacking and the trails the sport has to offer such as the Okanagan Rail Trail or Kettle Valley Railway (KVR). However, the B.C. Epic 1000 is on a whole different level with its 600 km rail beds from Merritt to Castlegar and another 400 km along gravel tracks heading into Fernie.

While the route from Merritt to Fernie is not as difficult as some other bikepacking routes, like the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (4,300 km route from Banff to Antelope, New Mexico), it still has its challenges. Hard gravel and uneven rocky roads, along with discomforting prolonged climbs are just some of the adversities riders will have to overcome. 

Additionally, the path is not always cleared for riders to pass by smoothly and with the recent floods that took place across BC, there might be sections of the path that are completely washed out. 

“Between the flood and the fires in BC, some of the bikepacking routes might have sustained a lot of damage,” said last year’s BC Epic 1000 winner,  Meaghan Hackinen.

Hackinen is also women’s record holder, and second all-time record holder for the B.C. Epic 1000. 

“I think what would happen is we would follow the original route as much as possible and then we would hop on the road to avoid any sort of flooded areas.” 

“In general that’s how these events work,” Hackinen stated. “If there’s more miles because of that, then that’s just part of the event.” 

Being an avid cyclist, Hackinen has prior experience with unforeseen forks in the road. 

“This year there was a section that was washed out on the trail near the end of Otter Lake,” Hackinen recalled. “We all hopped onto Coalmont Road for an extra 10 or 15 kilometres to avoid the washout.” 

Hackinen credits the bikepacking community for coordinating with fellow cyclists, informing them of any conditions that could influence a group’s ride. 

“If there’s a rider in Merritt who goes out and rides on some of the path, they would report back and might tell Lennard ‘hey, this part’s closed so make sure your riders know about it.”

Lennard Pretorius is a Kamloops doctor, bikepacker, and the creator of the B.C. Epic 1000. In 2015, Pretorius mapped out the path after riding a 600 km route in Oregon and wanting something similar back home.

The annual informal ride along the same route of public trails and roads has grown in popularity over the past few years, and as Hackinen states, “has attracted competitors worldwide,” to come and experience a long and daunting route that requires a lot of, “patience and skill.”  

Additionally, it can be even more of a challenge when one has to bike through extreme heat like the heat dome bikers experienced last summer (2021).  

The B.C. Epic 1000 is an extreme test for even the most skilled and dedicated riders. 

“It is a race but it is also just a bike ride,” Hackinen stated. “If you want to slow down, stop, and have a dip in the near water then go ahead.”

For those riders who want to take on a challenge and join the vigorous 1000 km race, they are free to do so and can register on the B.C. Epic 1000 website. However, they must do so at their own risk and must be prepared for the inevitable challenges that will be thrown their way. 

The 2022 B.C. Epic 1000 is scheduled to depart from Merrit on June 25th at 7:00 am. 

For more information on how to register for the B.C. Epic 1000, please visit bcepic100.com