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Repurposed: Rethinking gravel riding in British Columbia

Chris Hatton reflects on what makes the province's backroads stand out

Photo by: Josh McGarel

After relocating west from Ontario to B.C. for mountain biking, Chris Hatton quickly took a deep dive into the province’s gravel scene. A few short years and many long rides later, Hatton’s covered more, and a more diverse sampling of B.C.’s backroads than most. From Port Renfrew to Fernie, Kamloops and his latest home in Squamish, B.C. (with a stop at Unbound thrown in for good measure), he’s tasted desert dust and splashed through coastal rainforests all on two wheels.

Those long rides leave plenty of time to think. Repurposed is his reflection on what makes Canada’s western gravel roads distinct. How, as infrastructure borrowed from industrial logging, it is a distinct way of immersing yourself in nature.

Repurposed: Gravel Riding in British Columbia

 Here’s what Chris Hatton has to say about Repurposed and the B.C. gravel community:

There’s something about the gravel scene here in British Columbia that seems exceptionally rad. Having moved here just over two and a half years ago, I’ve come across some unreal people and places that have given me nothing short of some amazing life experiences, and the goal of this project was just to show some level of tribute to that. From perfect gravel roads to gravel hotels, bike festivals, stacked local groups rides and everything in between, from my perspective, this place is a mecca for gravel, and it deserves some level of recognition for the amazing things happening here.

Chris Hatton and Lucas Greenout ride below a rock cliff
Chris Hatton, Lucas Greenough, gravel and moss. Photo: Josh McGarel

Having lived on the coast, the island, the city, and a couple places in the interior, I’ve still only scratched the surface of the gravel scene around here, and it genuinely seems endless the number of adventures that you can get up to. Every region has its own look and feel to it, adding this level of diversity and type of access to riding that I’ve found extremely special. Dusty rolling hills around places in the interior, contrasted by shaly, wall-like climbs in the Sea to Sky, to coastline riding on Vancouver Island and Sunshine Coast – even after exploring it for the last few years this place still seems crazy to me.

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At the heart of it all is this network of over 650,000+ forest service roads that span across the province, originally intended for logging, but now being repurposed for things far different than this. For gravel riders, we’re able to use these roads for adventure and exploration, linking together single-day routes and bikepacking trips alike, leading to some pretty epic days out.

Portrait of Chris Hatton
Chis Hatton. Photo: Josh McGarel

With gravel being just one of the ways that this infrastructure is being used for something other than forestry, this seems to be creating another layer of value for this network that wasn’t there before, and there seems to be something profound about that to me. We’re able to access these wild places on bikes because of this extensive forest road network, and I think that’s partially why B.C. is such a unique place for this kind of riding.

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So, for what it’s worth, I genuinely wanted to give a weird thank you to the forest roads that we ride on, the viewpoints we’re able to see from, the painful climbs we suffer up, descents we enjoy, and all the people involved in the gravel scene here doing what they’re doing. Not only do we have this insane network of roads to explore at our fingertips, but we have this rad community of people doing some pretty cool things with it. Events seem to be exploding left and right, new routes popping up around all corners of the province, FKT’s are being attempted, group rides getting bigger, places are being explored, and I’m just stoked to have been introduced to it all.

Chris Hatton rides a repurposed gravel road in Squamish B.C.
Hatton deep in one of B.C.’s endless valleys. Photo: Josh McGarel

So, to everyone here for being such a rad community, and for B.C. for being the place that it is for all this, big thanks to you. Here’s a small culmination of some highlights from the last few years, events that I think are rad, and some local stories about the cool things happening here.

We acknowledge that we work and play on unceded traditional territory of the Squamish Nation where this project was filmed.