This is IT! Wow!! Canada’s Top Climb - NO DOUBT ABOUT IT - been there, done that - there will be no rematch! This beast lives up to its ranking – We cannot say enough about this adventure, it has it all. At the outset, we must advise (warn?) that the road as of June, 2016 was entirely dirt and rock. One of us (the old guy) used a Specialized Roubaix with a compact chainring (34t) and 32 cassette (I really do not like to publicize that, but for purposes of those objectively evaluating this climb, I guess I have to fess up, just this once), 28cm tire back and 25cm front, while the young-un made it with no problem with a compact 34t front chainring and 28t cassette.
We were surprised that very few cyclists appear to have taken on the mighty McBride Peak climb. As of July, 2016, there was only 1 Strava attempt for any part of the Mountain, this in spite of the fact that McBride Peak is listed as the #1 most difficult climb in Canada by ClimbByBike (verified by the FIETS ranking system we use). We created a Strava segment for the climb from the beginning of Rainbow Falls Road to the top of the bike portion of the climb - one can hike another 2 kilometers to the top).
We do recommend a cross , or even mountain, bike for those with such cycling options. We ran into Troy and Dave, two great adventurous Canadians who had just made the climb on fat bikes (see slideshow photo for contrast between a road bike 25cm tire and a fat bike tire) – we agree that Troy and Dave are the smart ones and we are just plain . . . well, let’s not get rude here . . . .
There is a viewpoint at the halfway mark that offers stunning views of the Robson Valley, Fraser River, McBride area and the Cariboo Mountains to the south/southeast – unbelievable and by itself worth the climb (you will have gotten your money’s worth by just going to this point and saving your legs for another day (see slideshow for graphic proof of our subjective conclusions on this point).
There are a few 75-100 meter stretches in the 22-26% range, made a bit more difficult climbing on dirt with limited success standing and powering up the mountain.
Weather: Be prepared for precipitation on this journey as McBride is home to the wettest July on average in Canada with averages 21 rainydays during the month. From June to August the average low temperature is around 7 celsius (45 degrees) and high 22/71. We were extremely fortunate the day we climbed the mountain as there was a 70% probability of rain, yet we made it through bone dry – no rain.
Roadway Surface and Traffic: Good News and Bad News: Which do you want first? The good news is – no traffic! The bad news likely explains the good news: the road is pretty rough – the ascent was manageable on a road bike, but the descent was pretty tough on the body (what the Roubaix gives, the 60 years of age takes away on this bumpy descent).
Recommended bike: We recommend using a cross or mountain bike on this climb. If you do use a road bike and are an decent climber, use a compact chainring and 32t cassette, or if you are young and an exceptional climber, you can likely get away with a compact chainring/28t cassette.
We love Canada: We have special fondness for Canada as it lives up to its reputation as a proud country with extremely nice and generous citizens. I have been saved by Canadian tourists riding up Mauna Loa short on water (they happily volunteered a litre of water and refused any form of payment), a very nice Canadian woman insisted on paying for my coffee at a gas station on the way to McBride because she felt bad I had to wait in line so long, and the only life we encountered on McBride Peak were two extremely helpful, generous and friendly mountain biker/campers who offered us food and drink. Canada: Go for the climbs, stay for the people!
The McBride Visitor Center (250 569-3366 is incredibly informative and helpful if you have any questions about this road or McBride.
Note: Click on “View full route" (top left) which opens the McBride Peak RideWithGPS page. Hover over the distance line at the spot you would like to begin a sub- segment for this climb. Click your mouse on the start point and drag the vertical graphing line the distance you wish to obtain sub-detail from, then release the mouse at the end point. This will give you the following sub-detail for the selected segment in the “Metrics” window top right of the page: (a) distance, (b) elevation gained and lost, (c) max grade, (d) average grade (e) that segment's climb category – e.g. Cat 1, HC, etc., and (f) FIETS score for the segment.
That's where we're headed!
Background photo - U.S. #5 Pikes Peak CO.
Hover cursor over segment slices (below) for exact grade of a particular segment. Map route (bottom) colors correlate with elevation legend colors.