Logging Roads Repurposed

Aerial view of a cyclist riding on a curving gravel road that lines a rocky cliff

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.

Chris Hatton stands on a bike trail with his gravel bike wearing a red jacket and helmet

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.

2 images. Left is a sprawling green valley beside a mountain. Right is Chris riding a gravel road in the mountains.

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.

Chris comes around a curve on a gravel trail at the edge of a cliff.

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.

Chris rides his gravel bike on a descent down a rocky path lined with tress.

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.

Piles of logs line a muddy dirt road through the mountains

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.

2 images side by side. Left is an aerial view of 2 cyclists on a dirt road. Right is a closeup of a muddy teravail tire and fork.

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.

Closeup view of a snail crawling on a dark rock

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!

Chris is shown from behind as a bikes down a gravel path lined with trees.

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.

Chris's gravel bike is standing against a log, covered with mud, and loaded with a framepack and water bottles.

 

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.

Two cyclists descend down a gravel trail that wraps around a rocky cliff.

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.

Two cyclists ride side by side on a dirt path through the mountains while the sun shines down.

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.

Cyclists bike up a small hill on a trail through the mountains with logging debris lining the trail

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.

Two cyclists ride together on a rocky trail up a hill with snow covered mountains in the background.

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

Handful of Events

Handful of Stories

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

Drone
Rob Massie

Photographer
Josh McGarel
Jordan Graves

Special Thanks
Will Guy