Mountain biking can feel like a different sport on different terrain, but it’s all bound together by bike and rider. You progress with the changing environment. With Versa, the goal was simple: to maximize the diversity of landscapes you can ride your bike in — visually and geologically — in a 10 day road trip around BC. Joining Joel Ducrot on this mission was Peter Wojnar and Margus Riga. If anyone was going to be happy carrying bikes and heavy camera gear up mountains, it would be them.
Most of the time if you ask Joel what he’s been doing, he’ll say he’s been wrenching. I’ll argue that what he’s really doing, and what the film Versa does, is bring romanticism back to mountain biking. It’s not about love, although there’s some of that in there. It’s not about some knight on a quest, although there’s some of that in there too. It’s about putting that extra effort into learning something more about yourself and the landscape around you — and finding the beauty in it. And riding sick terrain too of course.
Joel had seen some of Reuben Krabbe‘s surreal looking photos from this zone. Two ant-sized riders printed on a double-page, surrounded by an enormous rock slab filling the entire frame. The sheer scale of it made him wonder. That curiosity is also what ended up getting him, Woj, and Riga to carry their bikes and gear up the long and heinous approach — once they found it. “Riding a slab that big is super disorienting because there aren’t any trees or frames of reference. When the rideable surface is a few hundred metres wide and you can’t really see much from the top, it’s really important to aim for the right shade of rock.” It felt like what he imagines big mountain skiing to be like — orienting yourself with vague landmarks you’ve only seen from an entirely different point of view.
While the granite feels like it’s falling away from you, the sunbaked, volcanic mud of the interior desert holds you. Somehow Joel had never made it to the Kamloops bike ranch before. Kamloops has been a staple in the BC freeride movement for years with its berms, big jumps, and desert landscape. The bike ranch is basically their public bikepark, by and for the riding community, backed by the city. We all love a well-built corner, and with the lack of trees and rocks, and with the amazing dirt, the Kamloops trail wizards have sculpted some amazing marble tracks over the years. It’s pretty simple: the faster you go, the more you lean in.
As it stands, you have to know a guy to access and ride the Paradise Mines area in the Purcell mountains. The crew met José Tomás Letelier Prieto, the guy, the usual way. He and Woj both were sleeping under their trucks at the Canadian Enduro Series. José is building trails now on Toby Creek land to eventually open a shuttle service bike park. You can see and feel the mining history in the area, with remnants of machinery reminding you of other ways people have interacted with this land. José’s preferred trail building technique, when he’s not sculpting pristine flow, is to just clear old mining road banks — and then ride them.
Even 25 years after the North Shore Extreme films and a whole lot of bike engineering later, it’s still a challenging place to ride. Littered with relics of stunts from the days of cantilever-brakes that resemble something closer to a physics experiment, you can feel the energy from when they were just building weird stuff in the forest and having a blast. That spirit is alive and well with a thriving trail building and riding community that keeps the core of mountain biking going strong. When you’re not just hucking freeride lines or hauling bikes through undergrowth to natural features, it’s the trail builders that are really working with the terrain to push mountain biking in new directions.
Contrast and diversity in riding is what has kept Joel intrigued with mountain biking all his life, and is what they were chasing on this trip. Each place has its own appeal, and also challenges. Whether it’s five-hour hike-a-bikes, wrangling filming permits, or hours of driving, it always pays off one way or another. No matter how many hours you spend looking at maps and scouring the world wide web, things always look a bit different than they do on a little computer monitor. It only takes one good look down the other side of the mountain ridge to keep the bucket list growing. This trip brought together some combination of the irrational, the imaginative, and the visionary in a way that really makes you understand why people love to ride bikes — and how it keeps bringing them together to do something that doesn’t really make sense, but also makes more sense than maybe anything.
Athlete, Director, Producer Joel Ducrot
DOP, Director, Editor, Colourist Peter Wojnar
Stills photographer Margus Riga
Still photographer Kamloops Aeden Skinner
Copywriter Grace Grim
Sound Design Ridgeline Sound
Music The Mystery Lights – What Happens When You Turn The Devil Down
Thanks to Jose the Legend, Ted Morton, Mike McPherson, Trailbuilders worldwide