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Felix Burke Where the Trail Leads: Downieville dreaming

Burke's road trip adds a long-awaited visit to the site of Downieville Classic

Felix Burke Where the Trail Leads Downiville

By Felix BurkeFelix Burke Where the Trail Leads Downiville

Conscious or subconscious, everyone has a list. It can involve anything from promotions at work to life milestones to watching Game of Thrones non-stop from beginning to end.

Some people call it the bucket list, the things you want to do before you kick the bucket, but I think that is a little ominous and prefer to look at is as a cure for boredom.

For adventure junkies with an affinity for riding bikes, this list starts to look mighty peculiar. Ride all the trails in town, take my bike to the top of that mountain, crush my buddy’s soul at the races next season, go to Whistler…

A long standing item on my list has been to visit and race the Downieville Classic, known as the ‘’All Mountain World Championship.’’ Since its inception in 1995, the event has brought together thousands of mountain bikers to a sleepy mountain town for a weekend of festivities and riding wicked trails. Since I first read about it in the pages of Bike I have wanted to go. This trip was the perfect opportunity to go check the place out.

Felix Burke Where the Trail Leads Downiville

We followed the Yuba river into town and headed straight to Yuba expeditions to get some info on the trails and schedule a shuttle ride to the top. Downieville sits in a narrow river valley surrounded by rolling mountains, Yuba expedition shuttles save you the grunt work by bringing you and your bike to the goods at the top. If you are like me and have an acquired taste for the grunt work, there are plenty of opportunities to pedal from the top with trails spreading for miles in each direction.

The trails, a relic of the goldrush era, weave their way through incredible terrain and are a perfect combination of flow and chundery sections to keep you on your toes. We rode the 5000ft of vertical drop through the late afternoon and golden hour, filling up our bottles in streams, encountering a bear and enjoying long sections of trail with perfect corners and loamy dirt. It is the kind of ride you dream of.Felix Burke Where the Trail Leads Downiville

The trails surrounding Downieville are maintained by the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship. Its hard work, more than 72’000 volunteer hours since 2003, is what keeps the trails in such great condition despite the volume of riders that visit and race each year. An organization like the SBTS is a shining example of the power of a passionate community and a testament to what can be achieved when people work together.

Felix Burke Where the Trail Leads Downiville

We rode back into town just after sunset, cruising back to the restaurant under the light of the street lamps. A cold beer and a calzone were the perfect end to an epic day.

Felix Burke Where the Trail Leads Downiville

Concerning the list, ticking off Downieville gave me ideas for a dozen more and I am excited to come back here to race the event and take part in the festivities.

Felix Burke Where the Trail Leads Downiville

Felix Burke is cross country racer from Mont-Tremblant, Que., training in Victoria, B.C. while studying at the University of Victoria. In 2018, Burke achieved his goal of winning the Canada Cup XCO series overall, racing for Rocky Mountain Bicycles. When returning to studies and training in September didn’t feel right, Burke decided to find answers on the trail. Where the Trail Leads is Burke’s story of the journey that follows. Chapter 1: New Season New Plan. Chapter 2: Planning. Chapter 3: Mt. Hood, Ore., Chapter 4: Dust and Burritos in Bend, Ore., Chapter 5: Bucketlist rides in Downieville, Cali, and Chapter 6: Wrong turns in San Francisco.