To become a master at any craft is the embodiment of the human spirit. Through a collection of imposed mindsets, like discipline and the pursuit of making your inner child happy; to choose a route of excellence is a prize to be celebrated. Recently, I was able to spend time with Mark Matthews on Vancouver Island, a man who’s doing just that. For the last decade, Mark’s been riding out his dream traveling country to country with his bike by his side every step of the way (or over the jumps that get in his way).
To get a feel for Mark’s riding abilities, we grabbed a quote from a follower, left on one of his booming social media channels.
I don’t think Mark knows how good he is. The guy rides so fast and with such a flow. He doesn’t make noise, he doesn’t brag about stuff, he just shreds with pure skill and it’s an absolute a pleasure to see him on a bike. – Pierre B.
After camping with Mark for three days I got to witness this first hand. We explored florescent green, dense, old growth forests, conquered towering bone crunching jumps, and of course, got to see how the Bean Trailer could fit into his lifestyle. This was our journey.
Day 1: Beach Camp
Upon entering Port Renfrew, I wasn’t sure I’d made it to the right spot. This town is very remote and as small as they come. If you’re into minimalism and could lead a life of solitude deep within the coastal wilderness, this could be your chance to sell it all, and become the Canadian fisherman you’ve always wanted to be. Planning for my late arrival, Mark and his friend John toured me no less than a two miles away to a beach front campground that I won’t name out of respect for the locals. I’ve camped oceanside a handful of times, but the sensation of sand beneath your feet, the alleviating smell of crisp evergreen trees, and falling asleep to the sound of the ocean never gets old.
Now, what does get old very fast is having to start a fire with soaking wet wood, illegitimate kindling, and some damp graham cracker boxes. We had to have been at it for almost an hour, quickly resupplying our micro embers with the thin pieces of timber we split with an on-hand knife-hatchet hybrid. Reflecting on it now, we could have avoided all of the rain and smoke in our eyes by easily deploying our teardrop trailer's galley system but what's a campsite without a campfire? Finally, after getting a solid base going we got to enjoy our night from there. If you haven’t gotten to experience camping with new friends, I’m almost certain its the best way to get to know someone. Forced teamwork for setup, cooking, and fire-starting combined with late night hazy fireside chats overlooking a rumbling Pacific Ocean has a way of allowing people to settle into one another.
Day 2: Hiking, Scouting, and Overlanding
The next day started like any good day should: waking up surrounded by God’s green earth, smelling like campfire with a thirst for adventure in our bellies and of course, freshly brewed coffee. As it turns out, John is a barista with his very own organic coffee truck just down the road. So with no other option, Mark and I made a pit stop atBeach Camp Coffeebefore hitting the road.
Vancouver Island is ripe for endless exploration and while we could have headed off in almost any direction we decided to make our first stop at Avatar Grove, an endangered forest, Mark and his family frequented while growing up. We hiked amongst giants: up, down, and through the gnarly growth of old Redwoods straight out of James Cameron'sAvatar.Within a few miles, was another memorable spot for Mark, an old jump line him and some friends had built for a mountain biking documentary, titled,Builder Movie. After off-roading our way up steep logging roads, we parked at a seemly random spot before trekking our way down 80 ft or so into the middle of the jungle. It was oddly satisfying following Mark out to the secretive jump line knowing the cinematic undertaking that was filmed a few years prior. Standing on the jumps and next to the man that rode them was surreal considering some of the gaps were more than 20 ft. wide. Contributing to the absurdity, at the bottom, was a hollowed out lightning-zapped Red Cedar that was wide enough to stand in. Mark jokingly said that if he were to rebuild the same trail he’d want continue the line on the other side, so the tree would act as a half way point and riders could cruise on through. It was great to be able to spend time with Mark while he was in his element in a place of which he held such fond memories.
As our day was coming to a close, we needed to get the Bean to our next camping spot before dark. After some deep conversation, a lost and found camera microphone head, and a short drive later, we made it to the base of Mount Prevost. Mark informed me it would be chilly if we camped at the top but when you’re fully equipped with a teardrop built for overlanding, snow, rough terrain, and the cold are no match. Needless to say, we camped at the top. Following our first night beach camp was a second night, 2,585 feet up, along a snowy mountainside overlooking the Strait of Juan De Fuca. Even more surprising, through the fog covered horizon we could see faint lights beaming from Seattle.
Day 3: Rough Terrain, Beautiful Sites, and the Smell of Campfire
It came as no shock that Mark picked Mount Prevost for our second basecamp, as it is home to some of the best single track riding in North America. Riders from all over the world travel to Mount Prevo to train for down hill, freeride, and various other competitions. We had discussed a few Mark Matthews x Bean Trailer mash-up action photos and this mountain was going to give us the best opportunity to capture the never-before-completed, "Bean Jump". Getting the camper off the main pathway onto a rough side trail was tough but when you’re hanging out with someone as extreme as Mark it’s a prerequisite to just seeeend ittttt. I’ve never seen the trailer so twisted and I’ve taken it up some gnarly mountains! Cheers to product testing because we put that thing through the wringer.
After positioning the trailer, it was time to set up for the jump. I was amazed by Mark’s impromptu ability to ride such extreme and rugged terrain without a warm up but I guess that’s why he’s the professional and I am not. With seemingly minimal effort and within minutes, I was, buried in the side-brush of a ditch, trigger finger down on my camera’s shutter button, intensely watching him fly over the back hatch of the trailer. Day made!
As our adventures together came to a close, two things became apparent. Mark’s focus and dedication to his craft is undeniable and Bean’s versatility and precision craftsmanship is one of the same with Mark's riding capabilities. Amongst the trees, It was beautiful to be in unison and see the symbiotic partnership come together. Even as he progresses out of competitive riding and into a creative role, he brings a lot of value to the sport. Whether that’s working with suitable brands like Bean Trailer, or organizing international meet-ups with enthusiastic and like-minded riders.
To watch our Vancouver Island adventure unfold from Mark’s point of view, and hear exactly what he thought of Bean Trailer, watch his YouTube vlog: