LOGGING ROADS REPURPOSED
July 22, 2022
Chris Hatton’s passion for gravel shines through in this film about the riding scene in his home of Squamish, British Columbia. It’s an ode to the potential of local logging roads and the riders who are making the most of them with group rides and organized events. Watch Chris’s film and read our interview with him below.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
For sure! My name’s Chris Hatton, I’m 25 and am currently living in Squamish, British Columbia. I’ve been riding for the better part of 10 years now, starting when I got into mountain biking back when I lived in Toronto, Ontario. I spent several years working at a bike shop before going on to work as a cycling coach, events manager, team manager, trail builder, magazine contributor, and more. I currently work at a bike apparel company called 7mesh and love anything and everything two wheels. You can usually find me out riding up a random forest service road somewhere in British Columbia or hopping on my MTB for some laps with friends.
What originally sparked your interest in cycling?
When I was living in downtown Toronto in high school, my parents bought me this older 26" dirt jumper to get around. At the time, I wasn’t really having fun with the usual city interests, so I started going out on the bike and exploring the streets, eventually discovering this one patch of greenery that exists in the city — the Don Valley. It turns out there’s a pretty huge network of singletrack trails in there, and I’d go riding there day in and day out, looking for new trails and features to ride. I loved being able to get lost and explore that place, and the sense of freedom to do that is what really drew me in, I think.
What makes gravel riding so appealing to you?
Ah, there are so many things. I think going back to why I started riding: the biggest thing is the ability to explore. A gravel bike gives you this seemingly endless ability to explore places, and there’s something pretty enticing about that. I love being able to adventure down roads that I’ve never been on before just to see what’s on the other side of them. It feels like there are more gravel roads than paved roads around here, so having a bike that can handle those is great.
It’s also really refreshing being able to switch it up with mountain biking, since that’s something I do a ton of.
What makes the gravel scene in BC so unique?
I think it’s a mixture of the place and the people. For better or for worse, logging is a major industry in the province, and it’s created this huge network of forest roads that people can use and explore. These roads go anywhere — up mountains, along rivers, through forests — and definitely give us access to some pretty unique places and terrain that otherwise wouldn’t be reachable (by bike anyways). So just having that infrastructure accessible here is a unique thing to start.
Maybe partially because of that, there’s now this pretty extensive community of riders developing the gravel scene here, doing some amazing things both on and off the bike. The amount of people creating routes, running events, starting group rides, etc. seems to be absolutely exploding right now, so there are tons of gravel-related things that people can be a part of. It adds to what this place has to offer.
How has gravel riding impacted BC? (for example, increased tourism, creation of events like FGG, sense of community)
Good question. I think all of those things for sure — there’s definitely gravel “infrastructure” now (events, routes, etc.) which is great.
From my perspective, though, I think it has created a community of people here in BC that may not have connected with one another in the same way otherwise. Mountain bikers and road riders are riding together because gravel’s kind of this fusion between the two disciplines. I think it’s allowed riders to connect with one another in this kind of shared discipline, so the riding community has changed in terms of its focus and what people are doing within it.
How did you come up with the idea for Repurposed?
I think when I first moved to the province, I was really struck by how wild it is that there are all these forest service roads around here that people can access. After I started riding them, it really began to form in my head just how profound it was that the roads I was having all these epic gravel adventures on were originally intended for logging trucks, and that I was now using them for something totally different from their original purpose — hence the whole “Repurposed” idea.
What do you hope people learn or take away from Repurposed?
The goal of the project was to show appreciation for this unique place and the people here who deserve recognition for doing something rad. Hopefully that also shows people outside of the province what’s going on here.
I stumbled on this whole gravel riding thing a few years ago, and it’s provided me with a set of experiences and perspective of this place that I never thought I’d have. I wanted to share that with others as best I could. From my perspective, there’s a gravel mecca growing here because of the forest road network and the rad community of people pushing the sport; I wanted to show some appreciation of that.
What are some of the more memorable moments you’ve experienced riding gravel?
Ah, there are so many to count! I think the most memorable ones for me are the moments spent with friends or meeting new people in the scene here. There are so many cool people around here that any group ride is always a ton of fun, so anything along those lines stays with me.
Can you speak to some of the ways that gravel riding has helped you connect with the land? How has it helped increase your appreciation of/respect for the local terrain?
For sure — gravel has provided me with this new perspective on the land that I wouldn’t otherwise have. I started off more as a mountain biker, and really connected with the land first by exploring the singletrack trails. Now that I’ve ridden a bunch of gravel, I feel like I’ve seen places in the province that I otherwise wouldn’t have — tops of mountains, rivers, valleys, etc. — just because these roads are here.
In BC, we work and play on, at the core, indigenous land. That’s something I recognize that I’ve been privileged enough to do. As I’ve learned more about the land and seen it for myself, I’ve gained a lot of respect and appreciation for it.
What do you hope to see as the gravel scene in BC continues to evolve? (for example, increased diversity in riders, more events, riders finding ways to give back to the land)?
Good question. I think developing the general gravel infrastructure would be great, really! I think having more routes and events around here would help bring together the gravel community, so I’m all for that!
What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects/events/etc. that you are especially excited about?
It seems like I’ve always got these wild trip ideas floating around and getting me excited, so I’m hoping to make a few of them work! I’ve had this crazy idea to try to tow a surfboard up the coastline for a while now, so I’m looking to try to put that together for the fall. There’s also a bikepacking trip in northern BC I’m hoping to line up in the future; it requires a float plane drop to get into the zone we’d be riding, so we’re still working out how that will all work.
We hope this dose of ride stoke, scenery, and swoon-worthy roads gets you out the door for a ride soon — maybe you’ll find a network of forest roads near you.
A Few Words From Chris
“There’s something about the gravel scene here in British Columbia that seems exceptionally rad. Since moving here a little more than two and a half years ago, I’ve come across some unreal people and places that have given me nothing short of amazing life experiences. The goal of this project was to show some level of tribute to that. From gravel hotels to bike festivals to stacked local group rides and everything in between, this place is a mecca for gravel, and it deserves some level of recognition for the amazing things happening here.
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. The number of adventures you can get up to genuinely seems endless. Every region has its own look and feel, which adds a level of diversity and access to riding that I’ve found extremely special. Dusty rolling hills in the interior contrasted by shaly, wall-like climbs in the Sea to Sky, coastline riding on the island and Sunshine Coast — even after exploring it for the last few years, this place still seems crazy to me.
At the heart of it all is this network of more than 650,000 forest service roads that span across the province, originally intended for logging but are now being repurposed for something far different. This repurposing seems to be creating another layer of value for this road network that wasn’t there before, and there’s something profound about that to me. We’re able to access these places on gravel bikes because of this extensive forest road network in our backyard, and I think that’s partially why BC is such a unique place for this.
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 get, the painful climbs we suffer up, and descents we enjoy, alongside all the people involved in the gravel scene here doing what they’re doing. Events seem to be exploding left and right, new routes popping up around all corners of the province, people are attempting FKTs, group rides are growing, and I’m just stoked to have been introduced to it all.
To everyone here for being such a rad community, and to BC for being the place that it is for all this, big cheers to you. Here’s a compilation of some highlights from the last few years, events that I think are rad, local stories that I’ve found inspiring, and gear that’s helped me along the way.” -Chris Hatton
0:09 I feel like this is an AA meeting, man, where I'm just like 0:12 "yeah, I'm here just talking about gravel riding like it's a straight-up addiction, so..." 0:32 I think BC's extremely unique, because of its diversity. 0:35 And whether or not that's diversity in terrain and the ability to ride different levels of gravel 0:42 or different types of gravel across the province, 0:44 or just the diversity in the community and how different approaches that people have 0:50 between the kind of riding they want to do. 0:53 And whether or not that's, you know, your weekend warrior that wants to go for 40k and explore the back roads 0:58 or the ultra-endurance racer that wants to go race the Buckshot and ride 500k in 24 hours. 1:03 It's really up to you on what kind of gravel riding you want to do, 1:07 and BC is the perfect place for that. 1:13 Hi, I'm Chris, and I am addicted to gravel riding. 1:44 "What is gravel?" is such a personal thing. 1:46 My version of gravel is different than someone else's. 1:49 But, when I think of it for myself it's doing a massive ride in, you know, 1:55 the back roads of British Columbia and kind of finding some crazy places and exploring there. 2:01 So, that's what I define it as but it could be very different for someone else. 2:47 Over the last couple of years, I've realized that, or I've been exposed to, 2:50 this network of roads that I just think of as cool gravel roads, but are really logging roads. 2:57 And, I'm not sure if I'm the one to say whether or not logging is right or wrong, 3:01 I can just relate to the fact that I've been very fortunate to be able to explore these places on a gravel bike. 3:08 But I do think it's cool that what was originally intended for something such as logging 3:13 is now being repurposed into something that is so different in so many ways. 3:18 You have all these people on bikes, exploring all these places 3:21 no one really thought you'd be able to access on a bike, and were originally intended for something very different. 3:42 I think it's kind of the meeting point, right? 3:45 Like, you get the roadies. You get the people that come from the road side 3:47 and have been hit by a car a couple of times and don't want to ride on the road anymore. 3:51 And then you get the mountain bikers who are just looking to, like, get their fitness up a little bit. 3:55 You get the people who just love to, like, go slow. 3:58 You know, stop for a beer and pizza at lunch and ride super loaded. 4:02 I think it's the meeting point. It's, like, the kind of riding that connects everyone. 4:24 I think this idea has been sitting in my head for over two years, after moving to BC. 4:30 Because I came here not knowing about logging or gravel riding or anything like that. 4:35 Having seen that over the last couple of years, I feel like I have had all of these amazing experiences on it. 4:41 I really just wanted to show, and give recognition to, 4:44 this infrastructure that's provided that, and has provided that to so many people in the province. 4:50 And just to give people some level of stoke on gravel riding in BC. 5:20 I think being exposed to this community of people who are paving the way 5:26 for routes, and events, and gravel hotels, and companies, and shops, and pretty much everything in-between 5:34 has been really cool to be exposed to. 5:37 And just being around the people that are in BC who are so passionate about this 5:41 gets me really excited about riding my bike. 5:44 It's pretty cool to see the general buzz for this kind of riding. 6:18 Well, it's like, you walk up there and it's like...hauling. Going so fast. It's so fun. 6:30 Yeah I think I'll always remember coming to BC and being on a road bike 6:36 and realizing how many forest roads were around me, 6:39 and trying to ride the forest roads on my road bike. 6:44 And, basically snapping it in two. 6:47 I think it was at that point where I was like "I need a gravel bike" 6:50 and sold that thing, bought a gravel bike, and have been riding ever since.
Handful of Events
- Fernie Gravel Grind: https://www.ferniegravelgrind.com/
- Basecamp Gravel: https://www.basecampgravel.ca/
- BC Epic: https://www.bcepic1000.com/
- Buckshot 500: https://www.bcepic1000.com/
- BCBR Gravel - https://bcbrgravel.com/
- Okanagan Graveller - https://okanagangraveller.com/
- Xfondo - https://www.xfondo.com/
- Blue Moose Gravel - https://www.theblumoose.com/
- Burnt Bridge - https://www.burntbridgeclassic.com/
- Cowichan Crusher - https://www.cowichancrusher.com/
- Transrockies Gravel - https://www.transrockiesgravelroyale.com/
- Kettle Mettle Dirty Fondo - https://kettlemettle.ca/
- Forbidden Gravel Experience - http://forbiddengravelexperience.com
Handful of Stories
- Felix Burke and the Rocky team circumnavigate Vancouver Island
- Port Renfrew – A wild West Coast Exploration
- To Tahsis: Exploring and underbiking Vancouver Island’s remote coastal mountains
- Tutti Gravel Inn
- Cory Buckshot 500
- Rob Briton FKT
- Landyachtz gravel guides
- Dropbar Cycles
- The BC Trail
- Svein Tuft – reconnecting with Bella Coola
Big thank-yous to the people over at Teravail, We Are One, and 7mesh for supporting the project and everything else they’re doing in the BC gravel scene.
Words by Chris Hatton
Film by Pierre-Luc Arseneau