There are lots of folks on the online forums saying they want to try riding their dual-sport off-road, but they don’t know where, or how, and don’t know anyone to ride with.
Who? If you’ve found this post, then you’re probably active online, and should be able to find other riders in the various regional forums. (e.g. advrider.com, facebook, dualsportbc.com). No one will recommend it, but you CAN ride by yourself, and that might be better than not riding.
How? Pretty simple: make a plan, then follow it. You should spend a few moments considering what could go wrong and how to deal with it. Your cell phone won’t work in most of the backwoods areas. One of the best and simplest back-up plans is to never ride alone. Another simple plan is to not go very deep into the woods so that you can walk out if you have a break-down (bring shoes?).
Depending on the time-of-year and weather, you may want spare clothes and/or water. Food, a very basic first aid kit, basic tools and the gear to fix a flat tire are all “darn good” to have, even on a short ride. I recommend a GPS, or possibly a smart phone IF you use an app like osmand (android) or Pocket Earth (iphone). Those apps download the maps in advance, so you don’t need cell service.
Know your limits and expand them slowly. Be sure you can lift your bike .. you will drop it. Start on the flat and level, go slow and get comfortable with the bike on dirt/gravel. Try riding over/through potholes, small branches. Then try small gentle up/down slopes.
Remember you don’t have a reverse gear, try not to get stopped facing downhill with no-where to go. Turning a bike around on a tight trail is a skill in itself. (Learn to do a kick-stand pivot.)
Where: This is a bit of a challenge. The ONLY OFFICIAL offroad riding area on the southern island is the Tansky area out past Jordan River. And I wouldn’t recommend that for new riders. There is NO riding in the immediate Victoria area that I know of. And even as you look farther away, the nearer logging roads are all gated.
On that note, any of the mainlines that are not gated are a fine place to start, ask online if Kapoor Main (West of the North end of Shawnigan Lake), or Muir or Butler (West Sooke) are open.
The closest riding area I know is the area between Shawnigan Lake and the Malahat (what I call the “Mt Wood area“). If you’re past the novice stage and/or on a reasonably light bike, you can start there. It isn’t officially open, and as such you will be passing gates. There generally IS cell service here. The North end of the area is reasonably flat and North end of this track is a good entrance (the entrance being the hardest part). The roads by Oliphant Lake (West and East sides) are relatively harder… the West side being the easier of the two.
Another good (but distant) beginner area is the Hillcrest Rd, Mt Prevost/Sicker area just north of Duncan. You can find anything there from well graded gravel roads to sketchy mountain bike paths. I believe most of the area is community forest, crown land, and/or Hydro right of way.
I was recommending Tugwell East, but at least as of early 2020 access is difficult, as Otter Main is usually gated.