Burning Matches: Tip To Tail (Video)

In a new four-part film series titled “Burning Matches,” Rob Britton shares his story of transitioning from World Tour rider to privateer and adventure racer. In the first episode, he attempts to establish a fastest known time (FKT) on a new north-to-south route on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Find the 12-minute video and by Rob’s thoughts on the project here…

Two years removed from a 15-year career on the road, former World Tour rider Rob Britton is shaping a retirement that looks a hell of a lot harder than his days racing in the peloton, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. His passion for exploration on two wheels has taken Rob into the world of ultra-cycling and FKTs.

In 2023, Rob dipped his toes into multi-day rides on the bike, setting a new record on the BC Epic route. Most recently, he won the prestigious Badlands gravel race in Spain. In a new four-part series titled Burning Matches, Rob will take on some of the biggest cycling challenges the world offers while exploring the psyche that earned him a career riding bikes.

Vancouver Island: Tip to Tail (with a Few Bumps Along the Way)

Words by Rob Britton

Back in 2020, my buddy Taylor and I had a brilliant idea to raise money for the Wirth counseling fund. We decided to tackle the challenge of riding the entire length of Vancouver Island in a single day; that’s roughly 510 kilometers on the road! Our return plan included a four-day North Island bikepacking adventure back from Port Hardy to Gold River, then a float plane to Tofino to meet up with my wife for some relaxation. Well, we made it about a day before limping back to Port Hardy, still tired from the epic ride and possibly food poisoning from a sketchy gas station dinner the night before. Changing plans, we ended up back on the road for most of the way, just in time to catch our flight. It was dreadful. North Island: 1, Rob: 0.

  • Burning Matches Tip to tail Film
  • Burning Matches Tip to tail Film
Burning Matches Tip to tail Film

My second North Island escapade happened last year, when two buddies and I embarked on an 11-day off-road tour. We looped up from Nanaimo to Hardy, over to Bella Coola, and then back down through the Chilcotins, Pemberton, and Harrison before finishing in North Vancouver. Along the way, we encountered my only confirmed cougar sighting. It resulted in a lot of colorful language and a less-than-graceful crash, leaving me with bruised ribs and an elbow that wouldn’t cooperate for a month. This round went to the North Island again: North Island: 2, Rob: 0.

After the post-traumatic stress of the 2022 creek-crossing tour had faded, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I could conquer the entire island in one shot while avoiding the beaten path (the island highway). I got to work, crafting a route that was more than just another epic ride. It was a journey with a deep connection to the island’s roads, filled with memories, context, and, yes, sometimes bodily fluids.

  • Burning Matches Tip to tail Film
  • Burning Matches Tip to tail Film
  • Burning Matches Tip to tail Film
Burning Matches Tip to tail Film

This film initially started as a race against the clock, but it evolved into something different. I don’t do these things to “win” or set fastest known times. For me, this ride was about being the first known time. My hope is that it becomes a point of reference for others, inspiring them to explore their version of Vancouver Island, whether it’s tip to tail, tail to tip, or tip to hip.

Burning Matches Tip to tail Film

Miles had asked me about the route and sharing it for others to chase my FKT, but after some contemplation, I’ve decided not to include it here. Just like that elusive cougar, it’s out there, but you just have to go look for it. For now, I hope you can discover your own first known time. Trust me; our island is worth the challenge. North Island: 2, Rob: 1.

A Vancouver Island Tip-to-Tip Route

By Miles Arbour

Bikepacking on Vancouver Island isn’t quite as straightforward as some may think. Most of the island and the gravel roads on it are privately owned by logging companies, and access is limited. Currently, the Cowichan Valley 8 route in the south, Englishman River Overnighter and Snowden or Dust routes further north, and the epic 1,000-kilometre Tree to Sea Loop are your best bets. I’ve been busy working with Vancouver Island Tourism to help protect access to these routes and have also been pushing for a connection to allow a complete off-pavement route along the entire length of the island. Stay tuned!

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