He’s gotta nice build. Meet Dave Sutton: boutique builder of burl, re-engineer of industrial ephemera and hand-hewing heavy hitter. By Valerie Rossi.
Anyone who’s ridden the Merry Creek area in Castlegar, British Columbia, knows the Cliff Hanger feature on the Merry Go Round trail. Dangling from an 18-metre-high sheer rock face over the forest floor, the 20-metre-long bridge structure is one of the triumphs of the Castlegar Mountain Bike Society (CMBS). To create that masterpiece, Dave Sutton hauled in a half dozen heavy metal brackets and used cement, expansion bolts and a cordless drill to rig them to the side of the cliff. Ten rechargeable batteries later and the footings for the area’s most epic bike bridge were secured in place.
Sutton is the visionary behind the CMBS volunteer group, which is making its mark in the West Kootenay by building beautiful trails on and around natural features. “The difference with our crew is the attention to detail that we take in scouting and building,” he says.” Adam Pomery, co-owner of Cycology Bikes in Castlegar, concurs. “Dave’s building incredible stuff and all by hand. Take the Crazy Merry trail for example. You’d think it was machine-built because it’s six- to eight-feet wide in spots with huge jumps and landings. But it was all done freehand.”
Born and raised in Castlegar, Sutton started mountain biking at 13 years old, chasing the older neighbourhood kids on his Giant Cadex CFM3. Now 37, he’s the big kid most are trying to keep up with. He rides his Pivot Switchblade 29er almost daily and competes in the annual BC Enduro series as well as in other events around the world. At home, he works in heavy industry as a carpenter, perfecting his trade at a pulp mill and digging through on-site scrap piles of steel pipes, rubber belts and drag chains so he can use them for trailbuilding. Accompanied by his faithful dog, Mallory, Sutton and his core crew, which includes Dustin Monk, Vince Faucher, Phil Chwachka and Sarah Meunier, start the process with a walk-through to scout the area for natural features before creating a line, testing the flow, flagging and marking the trail in a GPS system, and then breaking ground. In the past five years, they’ve opened a dozen new trails and legalized several old ones.
In 2012, the CMBS joined forces with the Castlegar Parks and Trails Society, becoming an official club eligible to apply for grant money. And with volunteer energy amplifying his efforts, Sutton is helping solidify Castlegar as the next great Kootenay biking destination.