Become a Que-Biker and discover mountain biking's best kept secret
The Quebec Singletrack Experience highlights some of the best trails in Eastern Canada
There are so many good reasons why the Quebec Singletrack Experience should be on any mountain bike-include person’s bucket list, but really, we all just want to free our inner Que-Biker.
Yes, British Columbia has a bit of a reputation for mountain biking. And, sure, it’s well-deserved. But isn’t Canada big enough to accommodate two meccas for the knobby-tired set? We think so. If there is anywhere in the country that can rival the West Coast it is Quebec and specifically the 400-km of trails surrounding Quebec City.
And it’s here that the Quebec Singletrack Experience showcases the best the area has to offer in a unique and compelling way.
The QSE is like a summer camp for mountain bikers. Every year, participants from New Zealand to Europe to the United States and across Canada flock to Quebec City to participate in this unique stage race from elite competitors to weekend warriors to newbies looking for a crash course in mountain biking.
It’s all singletrack all the time with six stages all minutes from the hub in historic downtown Quebec City, and it is accessible to all rider levels.
The concept is brilliant.
The event is centred on a hub of activity smack dab in the middle of Quebec City at a private college across the street from the historic Plains of Abraham. Every day there is a new stage showcasing one of the area’s unique mountain biking areas. Racers leave every morning on a luxury coach to arrive at the site with their bikes waiting for them.
They have epic day after epic day of riding, each of which is followed by a prepared dinner at the stage on-site before returning to the hub for post-race fun and to sleep in a range of accommodations including a tent, trailer, dorm-style room or four-star hotel and shuttle.
Bringing the family along? There are excursions for them, too at a number of the stages, in addition to a beautiful city to explore.
Unlike similar multi-stage mountain bike races in Canada. There is no slogging your bike for hours to get to the start of the race, there is no setting up and breaking camp. It’s all contained. It’s all catered. And it’s all epic.
“We think we have something quite unique,” says François Calletta, general manager of Group Pentathlon, which organizes the QSE.
“When we wanted to start this, we visited trails around Quebec City and said, whoa. The trails we have, it is second to no one even BC,” he continues. “And the quality of trails, all six stages within one hour of Quebec City is very unique.”
When thinking of mountain biking in Quebec City most think of Mont Saint-Anne, which is home to the only permanent stage of the UCI World Cup. And, that’s not a bad place to start and is certainly one of the highlights of the QSE. But over the past decade, major push from Quebec Tourism and the assistance of a legion of trail builders has invested heavily in mountain bike tourism and it has paid off.
The trails are nearing legendary status at this point, yet they still grow and improve every year. There are literally hundreds of kilometres of trails that snake through the hills that rim the city.
When Ryan Thebault of PinkBike.com took the experience, he enthused: “We’re deep int he forest and surrounded by the supernatural beauty of British Columbia. And I might even think I was actually in BC if Tommy and my other companions didn’t have a heavy French accent… and if I wasn’t less than one hour away from Quebec City”
Some of the regions visited by the QSE include the famed Vallée Bras-du-Nord, considered one of the top 10 areas in the world with more than 80kms of mountain biking punctuated by the majestic Neilson Trail.
“It is absolutely unique and amazing right along the river,” Calletta says. “That’s one of the highlights of the week for sure.”
On another stage, the Saint-Raymond section of the Vallée Bras-du-Nord is featured. But, it’s completely different with a tight network of trails and plenty of jumps, berms, and features.
“One thing that people find very attractive is that the six days are totally different,” Calletta explains. “The soil is different, sometimes there are roots, rock slabs and on and on.”
For example, the Empire 47 section of Lac Delage, one of the most famous fat biking areas in the world is also on the QSE.
“It is this beautiful young trail network, a very funky network,” Calletta says. “And also Sentiers du Moulin, now famous for their enduro trails.”
Bevin Reith, a Toronto mountain biker, has ridden the QSE every year since its founding three years ago.
"First: quality of trails. Second: variety of trails. Third: amazing pricing for what is offered,” says Reith, when asked about what makes QSE so special. “On top of that, having a permanent base camp where we come back every day, gives you time to visit the oldest and only fortified city in America. It is a major advantage, compared to other races where you are moving every day. It leaves you no time to go around and visit."
According to Calletta, the magic happens even before hitting the mountain biking trails. On the first night of arrival, participants are escorted on a night biking tour of the city, especially the Historic District of Old Quebec — a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Although the race attracts its share of talented riders, as long as participants have good fitness and a basic understanding of cycling, they can do the six stages of the experience and love it just like everyone else.
“We had a woman from Toronto, she was a mountain biker for a month, a good athlete, good runner,” Calletta says. “Day one she suffered, day two she suffered, day three she started gaining ground, and by the end of the week, she was right in the middle of the pack. But she completed all the stages. It’s accessible, you don’t have to be elite, or very strong technically.”
The QSE is run by the same team that puts on the wildly popular and well-executed Pentathlon des Neiges, a multi-sport winter competition that takes place on the Plains du Abraham.
The group actually has its roots as a mountain biking club in the area. And the Pentathlon was born out of the club members’ desire for a winter activity to keep active. Calletta, himself an avid mountain biker, has participated in a number of multi-day races in Canada such as the BC Bike Race.
Although he says the riding is incredible, the logistics were challenging. And, that’s something he was keen to avoid when creating QSE.
“We don’t want people on the saddle for six or eight hours every day,” he says. “This is like the Club Med of mountain biking. Everything is taken care of once they get to the airport — 100 per cent of the logistics for everyone.”
So, if a luxurious summer camp for mountain biking, which happens to feature some of the best trails in Eastern Canada turns your crank, then the Quebec Singletrack Experience is for you and it’s time to take the next step to become a Que-Biker.
For more information or to register visit www.Quebecsingletrack.com.