Finding your happy place is easy—just go for a rip, bud!

This B.C. backcountry explorer is allergic to asphalt


Shawn Handley stands next to his motorcycle in the woods.

Shawn Handley enjoys riding trials-only trails in Kaslo, B.C. — Photo courtesy Shawn Handley

There are many reasons to hop on a dirt bike and go for a rip: having an adventure, testing limits and endurance, exploring new locations, bonding with family, escaping reality . . . the list goes on and on. However many reasons there are to pop a wheelie n’ peel out, Shawn Handley has done them all.

Handley lives in Kaslo, B.C., and is a member of the West Kootenay Recreational Dirt Bike and ATV Society (WKRDAS). Locally, Handley favours Rover Creek, just outside of Nelson, B.C.

“It has a wide variety of trails for every rider’s skills,” Handley said. “Typical Kootenay sandbagging grading on the trails—watch out.”

Shawn Handley pops a wheelie in Baja, Mexico.

Shawn Handley travels all over North America, including Baja, Mexico. — Photo courtesy Shawn Handley

Taking advantage of his vocation as a carpenter, Handley has created several single-track trails that he’s built himself in Kaslo.

“My trails vary from easy to gnarly,” he said. “There are also a lot of great mountain two-track routes into the alpine that are local mining roads and mining trails. We also have a few local trials-only trails. They’re very steep, rough and technical.”

Pathfinder extraordinaire

Last year, Handley managed to log 160 hours on his 2018 KTM 500 and 2016 Montesa Repsol trials bike by doing three-day work weeks followed by three days of riding.

“It was all dirt and single track,” he said. “I’m allergic to asphalt.”

Shawn Handley burns rubber on a big rock.

Shawn Handley has an unmatched zest for riding anywhere and everywhere. — Photo courtesy Shawn Handley

Handley isn’t the type of guy to idle on his seat for long. When he’s not in the B.C. backcountry (Revelstoke, Invermere, Radium and McNutt, to name a few), he’s venturing all over North America.

“Motorcycles bring me a new adventure on every trip,” said Handley. “B.C., Alberta, Utah, Arizona, Mexico—my bike takes me to the craziest locations!

“One of my favourite memories is riding bar-to-bar down a dry lakebed in Baja with a buddy. Sunny blue sky, the sound of two four-stroke KTMs side-by-side doing 90 kilometres per hour with twin dust trails behind. Oh my—magic!” 

Handley is planning a Moab or Baja trip in November and looks to venture beyond the continent next summer with a motorcycle trip to Iceland. 

Family fun

Dirt bikes are hereditary in the Handley household. Handley started riding at 10 years old and everyone in his family of four was in on the action.

“Our bikes were not that great but we would go up a mountain for a family ride every weekend,” Handley said. “I don’t think that’s your typical family activity these days—but it should be.”

Shawn Handley poses on his dirt bike in Baja, Mexico.

Shawn Handley had one of his best rides ever in Baja, Mexico. — Photo courtesy Shawn Handley

Handley still rides dirt bikes with his dad and has passed on the family tradition to his 12- and 15-year-old daughters. He already has a few riding and camping weekends planned this summer.

“The highlight of any father’s summer is to ride with their kids,” he said.

Handley’s passion for dirt biking is next level. He chronicles his exploits on a couple of Instagram accounts: Bajarat and Motoneering. Check them out if you’d like to find yourself in the same special headspace as this diehard rider.

“When I’m riding my bike, my mind is clean,” said Handley. “No thoughts about work, bills, or if I’m wearing matching socks—definitely my happy place!”

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