You may hear the stut stut stut of skidding tires and whoops of excitement as racers on flashy bikes wearing bright outfits rip towards the bottom of huge mountains with speed and grace.
The Fiver series is a semi-casual race based on the North Shore of Vancouver that is about having fun, enjoying the sport and sharing a good time with your friends rather than being all competitive and trying really hard to win. This is a first-come-first-served style race with 200 spots available that get taken up pretty fast on nice days. Check-in starts at 5:45 pm every other Thursday in the summer. Racers pay for their entry, get information about the event and have a chance to do any last- minute tweaks to their bikes or fill their water bottles.
When the race first started it was called the Toonie race as it only cost 2 bucks, but as the race evolved and costs were increasing it was raised to $5 which gave it the new name “Fiver”. The fees go to the NSMBA, the association in charge of the trails and maintenance on the Shore. They take the proceeds and put the money back into the trails, making them better with beautiful Ewokesque woodwork that raises above creeks and rock gardens that look as if they were an old road from ancient times.
Most of these races have two to five stages that are timed via a very precise tagging system, with untimed climbs up trails or fire roads that allow for excited talk between racers and a chance for a quick recovery before the next stage. The races are set up in an area which is a maze of trails and old features. Obstacles include boulders, jumps and ladder bridges that can be ten or more feet off the ground.
One young first-time racer I spoke to was ecstatic: “Man, I loved this race, I had so much more fun than I thought. I got to challenge myself on the descents with encouragement from everyone and didn’t feel judged on my skill.” He says that he will be going to every race that he can in the future and hopes to improve his times as he gains experience.
The vibe at the event is laid back yet exciting, all the faces are smiling and racers are cheering each other on as they tear through rock gardens and over logs. The volunteers that help run the race are also very helpful and understanding, making everyone feel welcome and giving tips such as how to attach your tag so it doesn’t flap around as you ride. After the races there are “after parties” where delicious free food and drinks are provided by the sponsored shops. At the parties, riders discuss newly discovered trails, and share ideas for riding or bike maintenance by talking with other bike enthusiasts and even company owners.
At one of these parties, a young man told me his story of how after forgetting his wallet in the truck he ended up racing with a group of guys who had paid for his $5 fee. It turns out they were friends with the owner of Endless Biking — a very active and reputable company offering anything from rental bikes to mountain bike lessons — and he got a super interesting job offer.
The events are very approachable for newcomers to the sport. Even if you are a shy person there is a place for you. You can listen to the sweet music and check out new swag that companies are offering. The people are friendly and you’re bound to make some new buddies just by doing something as simple as commenting on some of their gear.
If you are interested in taking your biking to the next level, meeting new people to ride with, or just want a fun challenge, the Fiver should be up there on your list. More about these races can be found at the NSMBA and hopefully you find yourself ripping down some single track trails at full tilt with your buddies having the time of your life.
Image credit: Free Wheeler