December 28, 2010

year ender ramble

A great cycling year is coming to an end. There has been some developments in my life that have enabled me to ride my bike more than before and I've tried to take advantage of that. I changed jobs in March and now work for Capital City Cycles in downtown Victoria. This change involved more freedom to attend races all over the island and I had a big season as a result. I attended all XC races in the Island Cup series and a few of the Downhill races as well as most of the CX races. I've raced more this year than I have in my life so far combined, and as a result I've learned a few things which I'd like to share on this log. So here goes: Things that worked: Niner MCR (has worked flawlessly for me) 2009 Trek Remedy 8 (although not a great choice for downhill, it gave me the chance to try my hand at that sport, and has been my all mountain machine all year) Sram X7/X9 drivetrain Shimano XT drivetrain Consistency in racing Training some Slow and steady (don't crash, don't flat) Maxxis Aspen 29" tires for dry conditions Maxxis Minion Tires for all mountain riding Michelin Mud 2 CX tires (they wear super fast, so there is a minus for that) Schwalbe Racing Ralph CX tires (allthough not as fast as the Muds they hook up very well in nasty conditions) Specialized Captain S-Works 29" tire. Shimano XTR, DX Pedals Vittoria Rubino Pro and Rubino road tires Rock Shox Reba (QR version is very flexy, it has held up for 10 months however) Spandex! Things that did not work: Bontrager Race saddle (I thought I was loosing my manhood in the middle of the Test of Metal) Racing hung over... Rock Shox Lyrik 2-step (I jinxed it as I put it in the things that did work list but blew it up last week just before the end of the year) IRD Butted steel touring/CX fork (bent in a freak cx accident) Thinking I could take a break from riding before cross season... Bar-end shifters in cross, and for road riding...only suitable for touring in my opinion (note: those did not fail but are just uncomfortable and slow for racing situations and fast rides) Anatomic bend drop handlebars Deep drop bars in Cross Racing on worn out tires in Cross Low Tire Pressures in Cross (flats galore...lets face it: I'm over 220lbs) DT Swiss 470SL wheels (lots of broken spokes, too flexy) Not eating breakfast before racing... Easton EA70 carbon seatpost (snapped) Maxxis Minions 2-ply as a downhill tire (lots of flats) Specialized Fasttrack 29" tire (got better after I customized the tread with side cutters) Truvative Hussafelt Cranks, junk. Learned: Polo is not for me Downhill is an exercise in patience as well as tolerance for spoiled teenage boys and their attitude. Preriding UP to and down the course in downhill is not necessarily a good idea. Road riding is fun, and amazing training tool XC racing is surprisingly welcoming and unpretentious XC marathon racing is stupidly hard but very good for the soul Roadies in a XC race will not let you pass-wait for the mistake and take advantage I'm not a fast climber Elbows get thrown in cross (it's not a myth) Flat un-technical CX courses make me grumpy (see above) CX: The worse the conditions, and the more technical course = more fun Downhill: the better the conditions and the more technical course = more fun XC: See downhill In 2010 my main goal was to do the Test of Metal in Squamish. So I started riding more than usual in the beginning of the year and then as the XC season started, I decided it would be good for my fitness to race some of those races. I was surprised how much fun I was having in those races and I was placing pretty well, so I got kind of hooked on it. Previously I had some prejudice about xc riders and xc racing, pertaining in part, to their choice of dress. This was narrow minded and stupid of me and I found out that XC racing is really one of truest, and least pretentious forms of mountain biking. I ended up taking the win in the Intermediate category of the series and I did this simply by showing up for every race and being consistent. I did not win a single race! I raced a few downhills as well this year and that helped a bit with my confidence and technical skills, even though my placement was not great in any of them, I believe my best finish was 12th in Port Alice. All this racing whipped me into decent shape for the Test, and I did pretty well in that one too. But after all that racing in the first part of the year I took a big break in July, which accidentally lasted until about mid September. This made for a sloppy Cross season, I think my best placement was about 8th place in Duncan. Although that was disappointing it was a good lesson and I can't wait for the next season. Next year is looking just as epic as this one was and I hope everyone gets as much riding in as possible. Keep your eyes peeled for the Victoria International Cycling Festival in June 2011. That's going to be great for the city and cycling on the South Island. Even sooner though, the annual Blubber Burn Classic CX race is on this month and as always it should be a hell of a time. More details on that one soon! Happy New Year Everyone! May you ride new trails and reach new goals.

September 30, 2010

on cross and super-d

My buddy Shayne racing in the masters' category at Providence farm in Duncan see all photos here
The Cyclocross season has started here on Vancouver Island. As I've mentioned before on these pages, Cross on the Rock, is a very cool mix of island casualness mixed with gritty racing and very technical courses. I've never raced cross anywhere else but I've been told that the courses we race on are more technical than what is considered to be the norm. In any case, for a mountain biker like myself they're pure joy. But even though their fun, there needs to be some kind of form in place if you want to do well. This was sadly missing in the first race that took place in Cumberland (one of the coolest mtb riding spots on the island). After a successful XC season and a good race in the Test of Metal I slacked of in July and August and I'm paying for it. The course was amazing though and included the whole Coal Hills BMX track as well as some fun singletrack, conventional whirly whirl, grassy straights and an asphalt section. Frankencross did well in it's latest configuration as an eight speed cross machine, and it was nice to try out some new mods I've made to the rig. After bending my forks during a race in the Wednesday VCL cross practice race in Victoria. I found a Bontrager Satelite fork at a local bike store (Thanks Scotty) and got to work getting the Frankencross ready. In it's current figuration it's sporting second hand Race Light wheels, that new carbon fork and a 11-28/38-46 gear ratio (no longer an eight speed, kept dropping the chain). The only other modifications I intend to make on it is installing second hand Ultegra sti's and a nine speed cassette. That should do it for the next year or so...The rest of the modifications will have to be made to myself! Time to ride more and party less. After the first race in Cumberland, I missed the second one in Nanaimo, after crashing on my fixed gear and banging up my knee. I made it out to the Duncan one though (oct 17th), and my knee was not feeling too bad, so I decided to give it a try. I felt alright in the race but I was feeling sluggish after two weeks off the bike. Managed to finish strong though and came in 8th, which was one better than in the Cumberland race, so I was happy with that. It's awesome seeing my friends kicking arse in these races too. The top four guys in the intermediate category of yesterdays race are buddies of mine. Regan, Mitch, and Scotty from Trek Victoria Pro City and my old coworker and rival (he's destroying me this year) Justin Wolfe from Rider's Cycles. I'd love to be up there with them, but the form is simply not there right now. Yesterday oct. 24th we had a Super Downhill race at the local mtb. park in Hartland. It was called the Dumpster Dive Super-D in a nod to the location of the park next to the landfill. After a near month of great conditions it finally started to rain and this made for a slick and scary course. For some reason I thought I'd ride out to the Race on my Remedy, and this resulted in extra wetness and cold chills before the race. I had lots of fun though and after a practice lap, I did my race run. It was looking to be a pretty good run, but then I snagged a tree with my handlebars, in a slow left hand turn (totally unneccesary) and lost a lot of time. I had a great time racing though and the mud made for a challenging course. Next up, alleycat on Friday followed by back to back cross races on Saturday and Sunday. Should make for an awesome weekend!

May 10, 2010

on mountainbiking, bike proms, and ritualistic strangeness

Are you Jesus?
Well it's been a busy few weeks, with racing and riding...This weekend however, the only riding that was done was a long Mtb ride yesterday at the Dump. I finally rode trails that I knew about but had never ridden before. These are off the map and a bit hard to find but they're fun. Even though there is a hell of a lot of climbing it seems like it is easily possible to link up some trails to ride on singletrack for about 4 hours which should be good practice for the Test of Metal. This week I also rode out to the dump from Victoria and did a loop there and rode back. That's an ok ride but mountain bikes are not much fun on longer commutes. Hardpack gravel is fun on a crossbike but gets old pretty fast on a mountain bike. Nevertheless, with a little help from Dave Shiskoff (and when I say little I mean a gps map) I realized that you can ride all the way to the dump with very little time on the road. This makes that commute a bit more interesting. I was pretty tired after that ride though and when I came back into town I was begging for red lights so I could take a breather! The Victoria Bike Prom was on the weekend before, and as always it was a blast. On Friday there was an alleycat and a Midnight mystery ride and on Saturday there was a polo turney, the prom ride and the Prom itself. On Sunday there was some pickup polo and a breakfast. All events were very successful even though the live music that was supposed to happen under the bay Bridge was shut down by the police (surprice, surprice). I took part in most of the events although not the polo (had to work). Then on Sunday I went out for a mountain bike ride with Will Rondoff of Midnight Mystery Ride fame and Gabriel Amadeus from Portland, but he was keen on riding some Victoria singletrack. Good way to get rid of the cobwebs. Up next: Road ride with the Rider's crew tonight, sprints on friday in the Capital City Summer series, and a XC race in Duncan on Sunday. Not to mention a lot of road action to watch from Giro D'Italia! Anyway, here are some photos from the prom weekend:
Will, Shiva and Gabe joined me on a ride on Sunday
Bučan Bučan played during the prom ride and at the prom, they were extremely entertaining.
Friday mystery ride
This kind officer took my beer, but to my surprice, in stead of having a sip...
he proceded to poor it on the ground in some strange police ritual of fertility or to celebrate mother earth or something. Anyway did not make too much sense to me.
Cole wore his fancy shoes
Gabriel wore his bitching Zoobomb vest.
Andreas and Bill
What? This is not a reasonable place to have a concert?
Bay st. Bridge
Andrew brought out the white Stumpjumpers for the occasion
Triane lays down the law for the alleycat!
Colin, BelleDawn, and Annina plot for the alleycat. Serious business as you can see!

April 22, 2010

on touring your hood

Imagine having your own cool would that be? Lots of space for your cars and bikes and what have you, photo by:
I've always been interested to visit Detroit. Not only because the Pistons have always been my Team in basketball or the fact that I'm a car nut at heart, but also because it's a city with an interesting history. It's also a representation of the rise, and more recently, the fall of American industry. Detroit used to be a metropolitan city of 2 million people. Now, it's a city of 700,000. I've always liked to photograph, industrial landscapes, and the more abandoned and desolate, the better. This is also (perhaps strangely to some) part of the appeal for me as far as Detroit goes. But since I can't see myself traveling there any time soon, I travel there virtually every once in a while through It's one man's photographic documentation of his weekly rides through his beloved city. I'm sure it must be sad at times to ride through neighborhoods that are falling apart, but the author of the blog does a good job of looking on the bright sides, and brings us a very interesting view of a city you never hear about here in Western Canada. To quote the author of tourdehood: "Detroit is [also] a synopsis of America’s rise and fall as one of the world’s manufacturing powerhouses. It was the “Arsenal of Democracy”. Much of Detroit was based on making things – from cars and all their ancillary parts, to giant machine tools, to smelting and banging and forging. That’s all gone now, and the hulking remnants of that 20th Century glory still stand, empty, and collapsing, while someone tries to figure out what to do next. (No one’s come up with a workable idea yet)."

April 19, 2010

On racing and racing some more...

I got a puncture a few hundred meters before the finish line but managed to limp to the end. Note the manly bike rack.
Fuel, something I've discovered is rather important. Pix by Jaxattacks
There is a lot of racing going on on Vancouver Island these days. There are the Island Cup mountain bike series, the Victoria Cycling League series and the Capital City Cycles Summer Race series. I have been racing in the Island Cup and C3 series, but I think I might do at least on race in the VCL series. For the last two weekends I've been riding in Cumberland, which is about 2.5 hours north of Victoria. Last weekend I took the Niner up there and raced a punishing XC race. It's always a joy to ride in Cumberland and it is definitely one of my favorite riding spots of the island. The XC race was tough, but not nearly as grueling as the Port Alberni race a few weeks ago. I was also more careful to have lots of gas in the tank before I started the race this time and that made a big difference. The Cumberland XC was a mass rolling start, and I believe my biggest mistake in the race was to not pinning it off the line and get in a good position before the singletrack. Having all skill levels funneling into the singletrack at the same time made for a huge traffic jam on the trails and I was held back by riders with less technical skills. The saddest part was that some of those slower riders, who had to jump of their bike and run, did not have the good sense to make way for faster riders behind them. In my mind it's pretty simple: If somebody is breathing down your neck, you move out of the way. If you cant ride the trail, you move out of the way of people who can. If you're getting lapped, you move out of the way. If you crash, you move out of the way. It's just common sense. The fact that some of the riders were not aware of this unwritten code was very frustrating and I hope next year there will be a different setup. That is, the different classes will be started separately. But in the organizers defense, I made the mistake of not getting myself in a better situation, and perhaps that is what it is all about. Overall I loved the race and managed to crawl my way up to 8th place in spite of long punishing climbs, which I traditionally don't excel at. I also rolled through the finish line on a flat tire which was pretty cool.
The lower part of the top section just before entering the woods. These berms were fun. Photo by Len Martell
This week we had the Cumberland DH race. It was my first DH race and I finished in 31st place out of 60 riders in my class. I'm happy with that, even though I would have liked to have come in in the upper half of the racers, like in 29th place or something like that. DH racing for me this year, is mainly for fun and to practice my technical skills. I rode my Remedy for this race and I was surprised by how well it handled the course. The course had a "pedaly" upper half mostly in a clear cut, with a steep rock strewn lower part in the woods. The course should have suited me pretty well (because my bike pedals pretty well) but I took the chicken line around some of the jumps in the top part and I believe I lost some time because of my gutlessness. The lower part was a combination of rather gnarly rock gardens and rooty creek beds and mud. It was mostly a point and shoot affair and I just tried to keep focused and hold on for that section and luckily made it down the course without crashing or flatting. That's success on it's own right there. One thing I did not like about downhill racing however, is the lineups and the waiting. You want to be there early to ride the course and get a feel for it but as soon as the shuttles start to run, the waiting begins. In the worst period there was a three shuttle lineup for the flatbeds. I did not particularly want to wait for 45min for a 10 min ride in a van so instead of taking the shuttle I rode up the fire-roads twice to get more practice runs in. In the end I got four practice runs in (one hike a bike, two rides up, and one shuttle) and then I shuttled for my race run. I figured that this is what my Remedy is designed for, and again I was surprised by how well it pedaled up the fire roads. I did wear myself a bit thin on those rides though so when the time finally came to do my race run I was a bit tired. But I certainly made it worth my time to drive up there and got lots of riding in. The United Riders of Cumberland did a superb job of organizing this race and set a standard which other races will be measured by. After the race there was a delicious BBQ and bike toss for a six pack of Phillips Slipstream. I wanted the beer but lost to bigger and better bike throwers:
Photo by Strahan Loken
Next up: Sprints on Friday, and Hammerfest XC on Sunday.

April 06, 2010

On niners and the dark side

Self portrait in church...
I knew it would happen sooner or later. The fact that I'm 6'3 and the 21,5" bikes I normally ride seem kind of small beneath me made this a logical progression. Yes, I now have a 29er. I got the first ride in the night before the first XC race this year at Hartland in Victoria. I went up there and prerode the course in the dark with my lights and tried to get a feel for the bike. Since then I've raced the bike twice and I've taken it on rides two other times. The bike is a Niner M.C.R. 9 Steel hardtail, with a Rock Shox Reba fork, Juicy Five Sl's, x7/x9 shifters and derailleurs, carbon bar and seatpost, and Dt Swiss 470 Sl wheels. It's strange being back on a hardtail but just as I enjoy taking my old singlespeed, rigid Cannondale out for spins at the Dump this bike is also a blast. Sure enough, you can't go off any big drops and it's not exactly built for fast and rough downhill sections, but I'm surpriced at how comfortable I'm on the bike. It also forces you to be smooth, which I can definately use at times. Don't get me wrong, a hard tail will always beat you up a bit, but the Reynolds 853 steel helps out a lot. The big wheels also do help, and even though I have not experienced the "roll over anything" feeling that some 29ers talk about, I have noticed a difference on technical climbs and other bumpy sections. The big wheels come in handy on steep rock rolls as well, since the transfer from rock to ground is evened out a bit by the wheels. I wouldn't say it makes up for the 72 degree head tube angle, but the bike is surprisingly capable on rolls. The bike also climbs really well, something that you'd expect from a hard tail of this sort. It's not overly light though and I've read reviews where a seated climb in a low gear is recommended. I disagree with this. One of the things I've noticed riding a 29er, is the increased distance you can get out of a single pedal stroke, and this comes in handy on difficult climbs. So I like to climb in the middle ring and 1st. The only issue with that is tight uphill cornering, where you really have to keep in mind the added difficulty of getting those big wheels up to speed before you hit the next obstacle. This is the only time I get that feeling however, I can't say I notice it anywhere else. It's a joy to climb on the bike and the only thing that's holding me back on that front, at least as far as the bike is concerned, is the rear tire. It's a Specialized Fast Track, a tire that is definitely not designed for the greasy conditions we experience here on the west coast. So that will be one of my updates in the future. Another thing I'm considering is going to a wider bar for more stability at high speed. I'm currently running a Syncros Gain Carbon bar and it's not narrow at nearly 26" but I feel I could go a bit wider and gaining some leverage and stability. Another drawback is the Reba QR forks. Even though I've dialed in the suspension too my liking (running it way under the recommended psi ratings) the problem lies in the lack of stiffness in the forks themselves. I guess this has to do with the big wheels and is undoubtedly the reason for so many through axle 29er forks (mine is a 9mm q/r). I'll probably run this setup for this season, but I'll be looking to upgrade in the future. One other drawback is the wheels. they feel very light and so far have held true but I believe they in conjunction with the forks, are the cause of at least half of my already numerous crashes on the bike. They are not stiff enough to withstand tight cornering on steep downhill sections. The combination of a noodle of a fork and those wheels I've actually seen the wheel flexing towards me in a hard turn, before it locks up and then in a split second I end up sitting on my ass on the outside of the turn. This is not acceptable. It looks like the wheels are built up using light weight 1,8mm spokes, so for now I'll get my boss to lace them up on some heavy gauge 2mm spokes and see if there is a difference. If not, I'll put the forks up for sale. But overall, the bike is a blast and I'm sure I'll enjoy this one for a while to come.
Forest bike

March 22, 2010

on racing xc and suffering (kind of the same thing)

practicing a track stand at the start line, Tyler Johnson is behind me (out of the frame) trying to throw me off my balance. He eventually succeeded.
Coming onto the bridge on crossover on my first lap, post crash. (photos: Dave Shiskoff's camera shot by Alyssa)
It's been a while since I've posted here, but I'll try and regain some regularity in posting from now on. Lots has been going on since I last wrote here, I'm in a new job and racing has started on Vancouver Island. I'm working for Capital City Cycles now and things are going great there. I'll be posting on their blog as well, and as it was with Rider's, there will be some overlap of posts from the Capital blog and this blog depending on the subject matter. The first race of the season was on March 14 at the Dump in Victoria. It was a xc race on a really nice course laid out by the Trek Victoria/Pro City Racing guys. This is going to be a huge season for me (basically from now until the end of november), and I'm more focused on racing than ever before. I've cut back in other areas which feels great for everybody except the closest liquor stores! The race at the Dump was my second ride on the Niner MCR bike that I just got for racing XC/Marathon and the Test of metal this year. The big tires and steel frame are a cool change from full sussers and aluminum, but it sure beats you up when you have not been on a hardtail for awhile. I prerode the course the night before the race and made some adjustments to the bike. But what I had not gotten used to before the first race, was the steep angles of the frame. Those help in making the bike nimble and quick in techy singletrack, but you have to be aware of how they change seemingly intuitive stuff like going hard into sharp turns etc. I was doing pretty well at the start of the race, after the climb to the top and was preparing for the descent down Crazy horse and into Rolly ridge. This is were I usually make up some lost time from the climbs so I turned on the gas and had this idea that I'd probably gain a couple of places before the next grueling climb. This was not to be the case as in the third turn of the downhill I went over the bars and slammed into the ground so hard and so fast that I saw stars and had no idea what had just happened. "RESPECT THE 72DEGREE HEAD ANGLE!"-Said the bike god at that time. I got up as quickly as I could, checked myself for injuries and kept going. But at this point I had already lost a few places. So now my strategy was all messed up. I had planned on going a little easier on the first lap and making a real push for it on the second but now I had to hammer hard to make up for that crash. All tactics were now down the drain, so I just rode as hard as I could for the rest of the race. I had a small crash later on but nothing as drastic as the first one. I ended up in eight place in the Intermediate category which I was very pleased with. After the racing I got my camera and took some shots of the experts. Check them out here: Drew Mackenzie one of my heroes, he's the two-time Single Speed CX champion of the world. Capital City Racing boys. Angus' face better represents how we were feeling after the Port Alberni Race. Photo by Regan L. Pringle.
Next up was the XC race in Port Alberni. Me and Angus went up there and arrived in time to do a prelap of the course. On second thought that time may/or may not have been better served by getting some food in our bellies, but we'll get to that later. The course was long for the race and the Intermediates only did a lap and a half. The preriding was awesome and we'll definitely be back there to ride just for fun. The course had a lot of climbing, and nasty technical sections with a sprinkling of fireroads climbs and insane downhills. All this suits me pretty well except for the climbing part, but the downhill part was obviously a favorite. Since I had done surprisingly well on the first super techy climb, I was in a pretty good position before the rest of the long fireroad/singletrack climb to the top. At this time I was really starting to feel the lack of fuel in my system but I managed to get to the top (was passed by a couple of guys on the way there) and then gained a few places on the downhill. I was looking good aside from the fact that I was almost totally blown before I finished the first lap. Poor pre-race planning has a lot to do with that I'm sure and I think I went a bit too hard on the first lap. However, it seemed as though I had built a bit of a gap from the guys behind me, so I had a chance to finish well if I did not totally bonk. I was probably in 4-6 place after the first lap. So off I went up that torturous climb again, but this time we only had to go half way to the top or so. I was riding in a considerably lower gear for the second turn around and at the same time was trying to maintain some speed through the descents so I would not fall too far back. In the end I got passed by a few riders, but did surprisingly well given the fact that for probably the last 15-20 min I was just grinding away in low-low, and trying to think about nothing except to keep turning those cranks while trying to ignore thoughts like: "why am I doing this" and "Oh my god, if this is so horrible, how is the Test of Metal going to be?". This method got me through to the finish line, where I suffered for a good half hour before I started to feel vaguely human again. The mixture of a tough course, tough conditions, and poor pre-race preparations made this the hardest race I've ever done. But it sure was fun, in a strange masochistic way. Also, I took a couple of lessons home with me after that race: Race and Learn.

March 06, 2010

Blubber Burn Classic 2010

Blubber Burn Classic 2010The Blubber Burn went well. We had a pretty lame show of people, but I suppose that's to be expected if you only give people a one week notice. Some people may also have used the hockey game later that day as an excuse, even though they could well have done both. A real surprise was the lameness of my own people (Andrew, Shayne). But this lameness has reared its ugly head too often in recent months, a situation that I hope will remedy itself with the rising sun.
At least Justin and Cam showed up and kicked ass in the race, and jax, Colin and Mitch came out for support and to photograph (Colin could not get his own frankenbike together in time, Mitch is battling an annoying wrist injury, and Jax does not have a cross bike (yet)). I don't know. If you're doing an event for a bike shop that you work at, is it unfair to expect everyone from that bike shop to show up? Anyway, I'll try and put that one behind me (on to the next one). Because of the small field I decided to race in the race myself, and therefore got a taste of my own medicine, and by the second lap that drug wast tasting mighty sour. I had an advantage over the rest of the field of course, since I'd ridden the track numerous times when I was scouting for it and marking it out. This helped me work myself up to the second place behind Cam, where I was quite comfortable. After seeing Cam disappear over the hill ahead of me in a cloud of dust with a thundering roar and the mad laugh of a man consumed by racing, I thought to myself: "I'm not going to try and catch him, cause I wont. I'm going to keep it smooth, try not to crash and try not to get a flat." I was perfectly ok with the second place, but figured that if I was lucky, Cam would have a flat or a mechanical or something and I would be able to steal the win. Sadly for Cam, this is what happened. He got a flat on the third lap I believe and I stole the race. Dave Shiskoff came in second on his Vegan power Salsa, followed by Justin who had to sprint to the finish to hold back Cam who was battling back after his puncture. Some prizes were dealt out, and overall I think everybody had fun. here are some photo's: So, over all I think the race was a success. I might hold this race as an annual thing, so be prepared to shed your housecoat of winter next year around the same time.