March 24, 2008

So long, old friend

I sold my Brodie on the Weekend. The purchase of this bike, marked the reintroduction of mountain biking in my life. However, in a few years I had outgrown the bike in the sense that I felt it was halting my progression as a rider. Therefore it was time to move on. When I bought this bike, it was a technological wonder in my mind, you see I have always been a bit low-fi when it comes to bikes. The bike before the Brodie was (and is, it's my SS commuter at the moment) a rigid Cannondale with cantilever brakes. So stepping up to a used hardtail with a Bomber up front and.... wait for it....V-Brakes! Was a quantum leap in my world. I felt I could launch of everything and stop on a dime. That feeling lasted for awhile, but a broken bottom bracket and some hairy moments on muddy downhill sections proved that those assumptions were not necessarily a hundred percent accurate. I later broke the fork as well, a rear hub, rear derailleur, cranks, etc. But those are just parts, and granted they weren't always of top quality. But the heart and soul of it all, the 2001 Brodie Spark frame, kept on ticking. After three years of abuse on two continents, it was finally time to give it up. I'd say about ninety percent of my time spent on that bike was alone in the woods. It brought me into a whole new world of mountain biking, calmed my restless mind, and made me forget about everything, for a few hours at a time. You have completed your mission, orange one. Time to fight somebody's else's battles. Thanks for fighting mine for awhile.

March 20, 2008

Seattle fixies and bike locking

I went to Seattle for a birthday road-trip with my girlfriend this week. She wanted to get of the island and I was all for it. It was all decided on a whim though and the only real goal was to buy some clothes for my girl. So all in all it was a very uncultured, unplanned and un-bicycle focused trip. That's exactly how we wanted it. We wanted to eat good food, shop, watch motel tv's, and be lazy. However, I got to visit a couple of bike stores and the singlespeed culture is hard to miss in Seattle. I spotted these 4 fixie fans on their way to downtown and tried to chase them in our Subaru, while my girlfriend grabbed our point and shoot and tried to get a couple of photos for me. I lost them after two lights as they were way faster than the traffic, even though it was not congested on this sleepy Sunday in Seattle. the day after coming back from the states I went over to Vancouver to check out a school there. Outside the school's building I saw this very sexy Norco. This Norco illustrated three things: 1 Singlespeeds look pretty cool. 2 Bikes are hard to do justice in a photograph when they're locked to a bike rack. 3 The correct (almost, see below) use of bike lock - lock all the removable items you can, or this happens: I'm always weary of this kind of bike racks though. The coat hanger style of the bike rack, is clever and reasonably easy on the eyes. Nevertheless, they are a bit too flimsy to be safe. I've seen a few of those where the welds where the small diameter rod iron meets the bigger tube, have been cracked open. This is easy enough in cold weather. Just stick a two by six in there and use leverage to crack it open. So if you're using those racks. Lock your bike to the big tube, and not the coat hanger, especially not if there's a construction site close by.

March 12, 2008

Super Downhill in Nanaimo

I went to see the season opener in the 2008 Vancouver Island Cup MTB series this Sunday. The event was hosted by Arrowsmith Bikes in Nanaimo with race insurance supplied through GRMBA . The race took place on the Doumont trails, just east of Nanaimo. It was the first Super Downhill race I've been to, and it was interesting to watch. The competitors are divided into beginner, intermediate and expert. Then everyone in each group starts at the same time, which makes for some interesting riding. It's not easy passing someone when you're riding on a singletrack so narrow that you can just barely fit your bars between the trees. The spectators will also see and hear things that you're not used to in a rece. Like someone saying: "no you go ahead," and stopping to let a fellow competitor get past." This makes for an interesting vibe to the whole scene and, seems to me like a pretty cool way to get into racing. However, one thing is sure, this system makes the race hard to photograph. The racers only went down the trail once, and since virtually everyone in each group comes down at the same time, you only get a maximum of three shooting locations per group. Thats if you're scrambling around franticly, trying to get angles. They way I did it was to ride down the race course and get set up for the beginners on the tight singletrack at the top of the course. Once the beginners were past, I got on the bike again and rode down to the next location and shot the intermediate group, got back on the bike, looked for a place to shoot the experts and when my time ran out, dumped the bike in the bushes and tried to work with what I had. It's hard to plan such a shoot if you don't know the trails. So next time, I'm going to get to the race early and scout locations before the race starts. The trail was not that difficult to ride, and about half way down the trail I felt like I should have raced instead of shot. Who knows, maybe I'll do that in some of the upcoming events in the Island Cup. Once the race was over I got on the bike and rode up the paved road to the parking lot. This road has a perfect slope for wheelies, and I think my camera gear backpack helped me balance on the rear wheel as well. Anyway, these ideal conditions contributed to a personal best in distance ridden on the back wheel. I have no idea how far my wheelie took me, but I spent a few minutes on the back wheel, chugging along in the middle chain ring and first gear. I had a great time at the race in Nanaimo, and the drive from Victoria was relaxing after a stressful week. Next race is a Downhill on the 24th in Nanaimo, again, and you better believe I'm going to be there. More pics from the race here

March 07, 2008

Penny Farthings on the outskirts of Duncan

I went for a drive with a friend of mine the other day to see a body-guy up in Duncan, about 45min north of Victoria. Cars are kind of my guilty pleasure, even though I don't spend much time on that interest these days. It's something that runs in my blood though, so please don't hate me just because I like cars. I'm really not that bad. Anyway, on our way up there, we came across these crazy looking home-fabricated Penny Farthings. They were basically made of 1 1/2" tubing, some old wagon wheels (or home-made wheels) a tractor seat and some scavenged cranks and pedals. The bikes looked like they were ridable, although they might be a bit on the heavy side. Not the ideal grocery getter, even with those fancy baskets. These bikes were on either side of a driveway, under an arch made from old bulldozer tracks, that had been welded stuck in that shape. Seems like the owner of that place has some time, energy and creative vision to recycle stuff that ends up on his property. Unique driveway, if nothing else.

March 03, 2008

a slipup, I love the trails

I finally went out to the Dump, the local mtb park here in Victoria last weekend. The Heartland / Mount Work is a beautiful area just north of Victoria. Beautiful, that is, if you ignore the fact that a great deal of that area is devoted to Victoria's landfill, and that the power lines supplying the city with electricity, slice through the park leaving a treeless, buzzing, electric highway as far as the eye can see. So maybe it's not the most appealing recreational area you could find around here, but mountain bikers take what they can get. And besides, this area actually IS quite beautiful in spite of it's drawbacks and that is Vancouver Island for you. The location of the park, next to the power lines and the dump, is not an unusual one in the mountain biking world, and the thing is, that you can forget about all these things once you're on the trails. The park is managed by the South Island Mountain Bike Society in collaboration with the Capital Regional District. This alliance is a delicate one. Mountain bikers are allowed this one place to legally ride within the CRD's park system of 28 parks. However, this location is not even secure. Every year the CRD has a different issue with the park, and the latest one is an issues with SIMBS's insurance for the trail maintenance volunteers that work in the park on every third Sunday of the month, donating their time and energy to upkeep CRD property. Seems to me that the CRD takes every chance they get to crack down on mountain bikers, who are just trying to enjoy the one park where their allowed to ride. A fair note here is that the Heartland dump, is not even an exclusive mountain biking park, it's a multi use trail system, albeit maintained almost exclusively by mountain bikers. Victoria is dubbed as the "cycling capital of Canada" but the CRD needs to get of it's high horse and treat cyclists better, if it is to stand up to that moniker. Perhaps they're not interested in that. Perhaps the other nickname, "the garden city," requires less effort and is therefore more desirable than anything that might possibly imply that the city is healthy, young and hip?... SIMBS is doing a great job at Heartland and they deserve all the praise and support the can get. The CRD however is looking increasingly sheepish and conservative in all their efforts, or lack thereof, regarding the park. Which is just sad, really. And so much for all that. Where did all that come from anyway? From some deep and wretched place, I'm sure. A place that disappears when I'm out on the trails, along with other worries and annoyances.