What began as locals biking around in the woods has grown into one of North America’s hot spots for mountain biking. Whatcom County is a mountain biking destination, with cyclists venturing to our corner of the country on trips or even to find a new place to call home. Galbraith Mountain is the center of the mountain biking universe in Whatcom County, with miles of well-maintained trails for all levels of riding.
If you are an experienced mountain biker fortunate enough to call Whatcom County home, then you have plenty of time to explore the mountain on your own with your own gear. If you are traveling to the area or new to mountain biking, having some assistance could be an excellent place to start. That is where Dig Deep Tours comes in. Ike Bancroft began the business of guided mountain biking tours and rentals to give people a shortcut to experiencing the mountain biking our county has to offer.
“A lot of what we do is oriented towards the person who is here on vacation for a short amount of time because you have this whole new place you don’t know anything about, and it’s overwhelming,” Bancroft said. “We simplify that and make it so that you experience a little snapshot of this place in a way that is oriented towards you as a person.”
The business model for Dig Deep Tours is centered around making it easy for people to get on the trails. Whether they are renting or doing a guided tour, Bancroft meets customers on the south side of Galbraith with everything they need, so they don’t have to worry about transporting bikes or gear.
“We meet at the trailhead, with about 90% starting on the south side,” Bancroft said. “The south side of Galbraith is really the best assortment of trails to be able to curate to the specific skill levels, desires and fitness levels, because you have a lot of choices, a huge variety.”
In addition to the bikes themselves, Bancroft supplies helmets, water bottles and snacks. On a guided tour, the personally curated experience starts with a line of questioning to get an understanding of each rider’s experience level. Bancroft generally begins with a shorter trail in line with the assumed skill level and then adjusts from there based on the experience the group is having.
This customized approach allows Bancroft to cater to everyone, from novices to the highly skilled. Because Galbraith has such a wide variety of trails, the experience can be adapted on the fly, with no set route required. Starting with a short trail allows for a comfortable access point for anyone looking to get out and enjoy Pacific Northwest riding.
Bancroft, who grew up in Vermont and began mountain biking in high school, has prioritized getting people into riding the right way. When he first began, he was intimidated and didn’t really enjoy the experience. Instead of it being something fun, he found the sport stressful.
At age 19, he found himself living in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, looking for ways to connect with the community. He found the place to do that was out on the trails.
“I started getting into their gravity trails, some of the downhill, more intense trails, and just started to love it,” he said. “I started to have a little community just totally built around mountain biking. Since I was young, I couldn’t really engage the community in many other ways, so I kind of started my dirtbagging mountain bike life. Then I suddenly just felt enveloped in it. This community was diehard and loved it, and I just fed off that energy. That’s when I became obsessed with the sport.”
While living this mountain biking life, Bancroft served a stint as a guide for a mountain biking company in Moab, Utah. The companies there were established and had been around for a couple of decades, successfully operating with guided tours and rentals. It was this experience that showed him that it was a viable business. Upon arriving in Whatcom County, drawn by Western Washington University and Mount Baker, Bancroft found that guiding companies like the ones in Moab simply didn’t exist in this area.
As Bancroft began to formulate a business plan, he knew that he didn’t want to just give people access to some trails but really create an experience where people could use their time on the bike as a way to connect with a local area, as he has done elsewhere around the country. Bancroft, who went to WWU for environmental studies, enjoys passing along some of that knowledge while out on the trails.
While the vast majority of his trips are on Galbraith, his vision for the business is to encompass all that our region has to offer.
“Washington just has so much variety, from coastal hills to islands to bigger mountains,” Bancroft said. “There is a lot of potential there for a longer experience.”
In one of these longer trips that he plans for the business, Bancroft envisions an educational piece that allows people to see and feel the natural history of our area.
It was 2019 when Bancroft got serious about making his vision a reality, and in March 2020, he was ready to launch. Then the world came to a screeching halt. The start of his business was delayed two years, with Bancroft finally starting guiding people this past spring. Now, with a successful summer of getting people out on the trails through rentals and guided rides, Bancroft is all in.
As the winter months approach, Bancroft is optimistic that locals and visitors alike will continue to use his services. With the right gear, there doesn’t need to be an end to the season.
“Unlike most of the rest of the country, in Whatcom, it is possible to ride about 50 out of 52 weeks a year,” he said. “The soil here does very well with rain, so damaging the trail isn’t a concern. Since the occasional snow we get at the low elevations where bike trails exist typically melts out within a few days, one can get back in the saddle soon after a winter storm.”
If there are some down days, Bancroft will use the time to prepare Dig Deep Tours for the future. He wants to continue connecting with locals and visitors while planning his eventual multi-day trips. By expanding tours to other regions, including Eastern Washington, he can diversify the climates he and his customers ride in.
Bancroft is excited to be sharing his passion with people in a way that is accessible for all ages and abilities. Dig Deep Tours offers both full and half-day options ranging from four to eight hours. To schedule a guided tour or rental, book online at www.digdeeptours.com. The company also can be found on Instagram and Facebook: @digdeeptours.