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It’s Only Common Sense

Solo back road rides spur random thoughts.

I am all for common sense. It is one of the traits I admire but occasionally I have a quiet concern at the back of my mind that yielding to common sense on a regular basis might indicate that one has become “mature.”  

Over the years I have ridden just about every paved road on southern Vancouver Island—many times. On some routes this is beneficial as you come to know where the tricky corners are, where to slow down, and where to carry your speed through a twisty bit. There are few surprises of the non- moving kind if you use common sense. But occasionally you get the feeling of been there, done that. Which leaves the logging roads. 

On southern Vancouver Island this also poses a challenge as many roads, along with the enormous tracts of land, are off limits, gated and signed. They are either owned or leased for eternity by the big timber outfits. This leads to the subject of public access, which is too long and complex to go into here. 

But at the end of a typical Van-Isle paved road, if you have ridden far enough, there is a logging road that will eventually branch in many, many spurs. Using Google Earth, the route looks obvious: this one, that one, turn there and you will make it back to civilization. Theoretically it would be hard to get completely lost on the southern half of the Island. 

With a full tank when you left (common sense) if you ride far enough east or west you will run into the ocean. The rivers drain to the ocean and so eventually do all the logging roads. Should the bike break it could be that no one will come along for a few days because there isn’t much traffic. But a day’s walk would get you pretty close to somewhere. 

Common sense would also dictate having a riding partner to watch your back on these little adventures, but that isn’t always possible. Oddly, what I often think about are bears when I am out alone on a remote logging road and I turn down a slightly narrower logging road and then onto what might have once been a logging road. Vancouver Island has a remarkably large and healthy bear population.

I have often been bumping along a road only to find myself tailing a bear. Cougars are also a worry as we have the highest density of the big cats in North America. Sometimes I like to get off the bike to take a look at a view and the bush is so thick that you can’t see past the first six inches of leaves and it’s perfectly quiet except for the sound of pointy teeth on bone. 

I’ve heard people say that not being at the top of the food chain in the wilderness gives you a heightened sense of nature. From speaking to my neighbour who spent years tree planting in the back of nowhere while running into bears and experiencing the occasional bluff charge and a real one, I can live without that heightened sense of my own potential tastiness. 

Common sense is also about knowing when you just might just have gone too far. Can I get this press bike out of here in one piece, and is there even room to turn around? That thought comes up once in a while. “Hey Suzuki, yeah um, the test bike you lent us is now 23.8 kilometres up an unnamed spur but you will recognized the spot after passing the clearcut slash pile, the abandoned car and pile of spent shotgun shells. The bike made an odd sound and then there was a lot of smoke.” 

But it is so tempting. There is always that road up there where the view must be fantastic. Maybe a little steep, a little rocky but it’s doable. Common sense says if I put my back to the bike and lift with my legs I can get this big ADV off the ground. Piece of cake. Face it down the hill, grab the brake. 

What was that crashing in the woods? Sure glad I brought that giant roast beef sandwich, I could be here a while. Sure smells good, I’m getting a little hungry now. 

Hey, there’s that noise again … 

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