October 31, 2009

On new trails

Top of Mt. Quimper, old forest fire lookout in background.
I'm too fast for the autofocus...cough cough..,
ahh the classic Gustavsberg style shown here by myself...
Nose manual off the skinny...nice
New trails are always great, and on Monday I got to ride some at the Harbourview park in Sooke. Harbourview is located about 30km (20miles) out of Victoria, and is a relatively new destination for me. I have ridden there once before but the last time I was there I broke my frame at the top of the hill and had to nurse it down (see here). This time the frame held up and the longer travel fork that I currently have on my Trek EX8 made for a more pleasurable ride. Some parts of Harborview are right at the limit of my abilities as a mountain biker. Tt made for a very challenging ride which was great. I took a couple of spills on the way down the hill, but nothing too scary. My riding partner for the day was Mitch, but he's a mechanic at Rider's and a great mountain biker. It's always fun to ride with someone that is more skilled than you are. Not only do you get to see how much you can improve as a rider but you see how it's possible to tackle obstacles and lines in a way that never even occurred to you. It was very cool to see Mitch floating down the trail ahead of me when I was fighting the bike and the terrain and my own fear. I would rarely get to see much of Mitch since I lost him out of sight pretty fast. Then he'd be waiting around the next corner, trying not to look like he'd been there forever, which was nice of him. Harbourview is a great riding destination but it definitely helps to have somebody with you that knows the trails and can tell you what to look out for.

October 28, 2009

On hasty reports and shaky journalism

Looks like I jumped the gun a bit in my last post. I somehow got the idea that Race face was being sold to MEC as a company, not just RF selling it's products to MEC. That was an impression I got from somebody and could not shake it until I got the e-mail from Race Face, explaining their actions. I apologize for the poor reporting and have corrected the aforementioned post. Fair is fair so I'll post RF's letter here for comparison to the Lambert one: As many of you are now aware, Race Face has recently made the decision to sell to MEC in Canada. We want to take this opportunity to explain our reasoning for doing this and to separate fact from fiction concerning this decision. Firstly, by selling to MEC this does not mean we are decreasing our commitment to you, the Canadian IBD. In fact, the truth is quite the opposite. We are a Canadian based company that has been in partnership with Canadian IBDs for seventeen years. This will not change. In very frank terms, we decided to add MEC as a customer because the distribution landscape in Canada is changing concerning the selling of bicycles and bicycling related products. MEC has recently made an increased commitment to their cycling business and we believe that they represent one additional sales channel for us to ultimately sell our products to the Canadian cycling consumer. It is really that simple. For us to continue to evolve, and even exist, as a business, like you, we have to change with the times. That is all we are trying to do by selling to MEC - nothing more, nothing less. It should be noted that many top brands already support and sell their products through MEC and as MEC’s bike program grows this will continue to evolve as they build new partnerships with manufacturers and suppliers. Additionally, we are aware that some of you believe that MEC has an advantage versus other Canadian businesses because of their Co-Operative status. To further show our commitment to you, the IBD's, we will offer a specific discount to address this issue. Place a reasonably sized order with us and we will provide a further discount over and above any booking discounts. Call it the “level tax” discount. Details will be released shortly. Also, we want you to know that MEC is only buying select skus from our line. We have many skus that MEC will not carry. Please contact us if you would like to know the exact skus MEC will stock; we are happy to share that information with you. Lastly, when considering your future business with Race Face, please remember that we are proud to be a B.C. based company for the last seventeen years. Our foot print in Canada is still very large as we directly employ 50+ people in our New Westminster office. We still manufacture market leading products in B.C. such as Atlas and Next cranks. In fact, despite the recent tough economic times, the demand for our product is strong and we have just added an additional five people in our manufacturing department. We are a Canadian based company that is committed to our operations in Canada and to supporting the Canadian IBD. We understand for some Canadian IBDs that our selling to MEC is an emotionally charged issue. Our hope, and goal, is that by providing a commitment to the IBD in the Canadian market place, we have addressed the majority of your concerns. As noted previously, we will release details shortly on our “level tax” discount and our 2010 booking program. Please contact us directly to place an order

October 24, 2009

on sellouts

The legendary component/apparel company Race Face just announced that they will be selling their products to Mountain Equipment Co-op (the Canadian equivalent to REI in USA). This has pissed off their current dealer Cycles Lambert and rightly so, so they will stop distributing Race Face products immediately. Recently MEC announced that they will be adding bicycles to their product lineup along with the current outdoor gear and bicycle parts. This has served as a bit of a blow to independent bicycle retailers in Canada as they believe that MEC possesses an unfair advantage as a Co-operative, since that format is considerably less taxed than other businesses. So MEC is not exactly a favorite among the bike shop owners or anyone in the bicycle business in Canada in general. See open letter from Canadian Cyclist here. In any case this move by Race Face has a lot of their fans loosing faith in the integrity of Race Face and their commitment to their product and their core consumers. In all likelihood they will make more money by making this move but will that be at the cost of quality? Many people believe so and point to MEC's shaky quality on certain things in the past. In any case people are a bit perplexed by all of this if not downright pissed off!

See letter from Lambert below:

LAMBERT ENDS DISTRIBUTION OF RACE FACE PRODUCTS

Levis, Quebec, October 23, 2009 - Lambert announced today that it has terminated its Canadian distribution agreement with Race Face, effective immediately.

Race Face recently informed Lambert of its plans to sell its apparel, armour and components to Mountain Equipment CO-OP (MEC). Lambert is very disappointed with the decision Race Face has made in this matter. Due to Race Face’s realignment with MEC, Lambert ceased its business relationship with the company.

The importance of specialty retailers for Canadian cyclists is undeniable. Lambert remains firm in its commitment to channels avoiding an every day low pricestrategy which brings down reasonable market pricing. Lambert will continue to privilege brands that support this same business direction.

October 21, 2009

Don't forget Dave!

Dave in the Juan De Fuca race last year.
In my selfishness I forgot to mention Dave Shiskoff's cross training rides that he has been putting on for free, every Saturday morning for weeks now. If you're interested in cross and live in the Victoria area, this would be a good place to start. Dave does a lot of unselfish work in the Victoria cycling community and deserves to be mentioned in posts about cross on the island. Check it: http://victoria.organicathlete.org/cyclocross

October 20, 2009

Cross you bastard! Cross!

Cross season is undoubtedly upon us, and all over the net you see reports of races in cities in North America and Europe. Generally it seems that Cyclocross is making a big comeback in North America and this is certainly very exciting. We here in the southwestern corner of Canada have our share of cross nuts and currently there are two series on the go on Vancouver Island. One is the official and sanctioned Cross on the rock series and the other is dubbed as the Victoria Cross Club and is an impromptu cross "practice"(read race) in a somewhat surprise location every week in Victoria.
wed nighters pics:
justin killing it on the XO-1
Shayne cornering and ducking under some branches
Frankencross and owner playing in the sand
Mitch airing out the XO
Geoff Kabush showed up for one of the rases
Mitch, Andrew and Halldor pose for the camera
The cross on the rock series is very official, at least on the surface, but the attitude and overall feel of the races is definitely very characteristic of Vancouver Island. You can race what you want, be it mountain bike or whatever and everybody is friendly and laid back. This makes for a great race experience for everybody, especially new racers. I have yet to hear a negative word from anyone at these races, even though and justly so, sandbagging is frowned upon. The race courses are always tough but fun at the same time. I think we have it good here in the west as we get to race a lot on singletrack in the woods. This gives guys like me, with a mountain bike background and poor conditioning a chance to give the fitter roadies a run for the money. It also makes for beautiful scenery, that can be enjoyed both as a racer and spectator. The Vic X club races are a bit of a different beast. They're held in a different location every week and the location is only issued to the racers on race day. This makes for interesting races, but since it's only half sanctioned (racers have to sign a waiver if they don't have a race licence from Cycling BC) sometimes "races" get shut down before they're over, or in last weeks case, before they start. This can be frustrating and you have to wonder how hard it would be to just get a permit to hold those races. However, knowing that in Canada, bureaucracy is a national sport in the same way that rioting is in France, perhaps it would not be that simple. Nevertheless, the races that I've attended have all been great for racers and spectators alike, and the fact that the organizers can show up a half an hour before the race starts and set up the course has to say something about how awesome cross racing is. It's so deliciously simple! Cross is the cycling world's soccer. Like soccer, it can be played/raced anywhere and with minimal equipment, although the great majority of racers are ridiculously decked out in full kits and very expensive bikes. But what you really need is some course marking tape, racers on bikes and a place to race. The last item is probably the most difficult to come by in this day and age. I've raced two races in the Cross on the rock series, and three in the Vic X club series. It's been great so far and there is almost a month and a half to go. Frankencross has held up so far which is somewhat surpricing but very exciting at the same time. Fall is great, and Cross is tasty like blood!

October 15, 2009

On commuting

Fall has finally hit us here in the Northwest. After last weeks cold snap and the rains for the past few days it's no escaping it: it is here. The leafs are starting to fall and the roads are getting wet and slick. To my surprise, this has not thinned out the throngs of commuters that I pass every day on my own commute. I commute mostly on marked bike routes so I always have a healthy amount of commuters joining me every morning and despite the weather they were out in force today. Perhaps they're just being stubborn or they're simply getting ready to fight old man winter, but there was a lot of them this morning. Certainly there is no reason for Victorians not to commute year round, and a I was happy to see the masses out, even though it was drizzling rain. The prevailing type you see on those wet days is the "Super commuter." this character can be recognized by the trademark brightly coloured rain jacked, the abundance of reflective material on clothing and bike, pant clips or reflective Velcro straps, and a bike with fenders, a rack and panniers (mirror optional). This is the stereotype, but individualism does exist among those types. One of those individualistic types crossed my path this morning. He had all the hallmarks of the Super commuter proudly displayed. However there was one anomaly to his getup. This particular commuter did not have any use for pants, or even shorts for that matter. No, when he woke up this morning and looked out the window he somehow figured that this weather would call for his shortest of short shorts. Akin to these: This choice in clothing struck me as a bit strange, and I contemplated what the reason for this could be, as wished I had an Iphone to capture this fantastic moment. These are the possible options I came up with: 1 The cyclist is always super warm and if he wears pants he will overheat, pass out, crash and drown in a pool of sweat. 2 The cyclist is proud of his sculpted cycling legs (they were pretty muscular, and shaved) and wants the world to know. 3 The cyclist lost a bet. 4 The cyclist has a good sense of humor. In any case, this odd commuter, a drooling Boxer in a car at a red light, and the homeless man that was screaming obscenities at cars but said "good morning sir" to me as a I rolled by made for a fun commute this morning. And top of the morning to you sir!

October 14, 2009

October 11, 2009

polo hauler update

I thought I'd write a short update in the polo/laundry bike. That project has been kind of sidelined for a while since Frankencross took up all of my time, and available funds. This is still the case so the future of the polo bike is uncertain at the moment. However the will is there and somehow I'll get her done. There is talk of a polo tournament in Victoria this winter so I need to learn how to play the game. Anyway, here's the most recent shot of the project: Since that shot, I've installed the cranks, bb, cable housing and cut the fork steerer tube. I will probably use a different front wheel and I'll need to figure out a way to mount the basket via some kind of a home brewed quick release system. That way I can use the bike to haul and once I arrive at the polo court I'll just dump the basket and voila! game on. How's "The Polo Hauler" for a name? I like it.

October 09, 2009

Frankencross!!!

Snapped frame:
The frame before going in for repairs at Willi Fahnini's shop, Sidney Propeller:
work in progress, note the weird bars. They're Salsa Bell lap bars, 46cm which have a shallow drop and short reach as well as a 12degree flare on the drops. If that's not weird enough, someone had chopped about an inch of the ends of the drops, don't ask me why.
roughly how it looks now: None drive side because the bontrager cranks are nasty and need some work.
Frankencross is rideable! I've taken this beast to two competitions already and it performs, well, much better than expected. The problem lies not with the bike, but with the motor of the operator. After plans to get a "real cross bike" fell through because of the eternal brokeness, I had to work something else out. Frankencross is what I came up with. It's a Bianchi Volpe Frame which I had laying around and seemed perfect to make something happen. The frame was snapped by the rear dropout but since it's steel, it was not too hard to get welded up and ready for action. I took it out to Sidney where Willi Fahnini welded it up for me. Willi is a really nice guy and it's cool to go there and meet him. He's also made quite a few custom frames through the years and still does, but it has always sort of been a side project of his propeller/marine work. But back to Frankencross. After having Willi weld up the frame for me I went scrounging for parts. I bought a Tange fork from Capital City Cycles, found a bar, stem, housing, tires and brakes at Trek Vic. The saddle was from Rider's as well as the seatpost, bb and cables. The cranks and pedals I had laying around, and Steve was kind enough to forward his donated wheelset to me. I only had to rebuild the rear wheel on a hub that I found in the junk bin at work. At this time I'm running it single speed, but hopefully I can score a bar-end shifter somewhere and run it as a 7 speed sometime in the future (old hub only accepts seven cogs, one chainring just because). But I'm in no rush, singlespeed is good for building form and strength, even though it is painfull as all hell.

October 05, 2009

Sam Brown RIP

Sam Brown was an amazing character. check out this story in Rolling Stone about the man and his demise. A sad, but powerful tale. http://pro-webpage.com/kathy/SamBrown.php