Monday, May 23, 2016

5 Mountain Bike Races I'm looking forward to in 2016

Race the Ridge - Sunridge, May 28.

While I sometimes struggle in the twisty singletrack at Sunridge, I always enjoy racing in Edmonton. You know exactly what you are going to get. At Terwillegar, you get short, steep, punchy climbs. At Sunridge, you get longer, steeper, punchier climbs. And the race organizers have decided to ignore the complainers and we will be racing on the switchbacks of pain!

Mountain Maiden - Canmore, June 4.

Believe it or not, until I saw that the Spin Sisters would be running a NEW course this year, I was contemplating not even bothering to buy a race license. I even made a joke about how they were going to change up their tired, boring, high speed, old course (that everyone still seems to like). With a nice big section of the EKG trail, I'm pumped to be back racing on natural trails at the CNC! Will the other Canmore race step it up with a new course and offer more than a coffee mug and coffee for an elite podium?

Kootenay Krusher - Nipika, June 11.

If I decide to make it 3 weekends in a row of racing, there's quite the prize at the end. The scheduling of the Krusher has in the past conflicted with the date of the Maiden. Not this year, and if I feel up for it, I'll be able to race 2 laps of Nipikas 25km punishing singletrack loop with gorgeous views of the Kootenay and Cross rivers.

Marathon Provincials - Bragg Creek, Aug 7.

I saw the GPS track from this one and was instantly pumped. We're racing to the top! No more driving to the mountains and racing a half loop that barely leaves the parking lot. This loop looks to make a great ride in itself and we will be doing it 2..maybe 3 times?

Kootenay Sufferfest - Kaslo, September 3.

The organizer has stated this is the final year for the burly 100km point to point race, so I will try my best to make it out there. I had a great time in 2014 by riding at a sustainable pace and keeping on top of my nutrition, while really enjoying the huge final descent and singletrack to the finish line.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Columbia in a day

After day tripping Mt. Joffre and the Wapta traverse, a day trip of Mt. Columbia seemed like the next logical challenge, and something that has been in the back of my mind since first skiing the Wapta in 2013. For a successful attempt, weather, glacier conditions, and a good team all need to come together. Upon hearing that the Athabasca glacier was in good condition and a good weather window aligning was aligning with the weekend, it didn't take much to assemble a team. Given the choice, I would prefer doing these types of trips with a strong team, not only for the bragging rights of throwing down a fast time, but also to limit the amount of time spent in ski boots.

So the plan was hatched, with a little logistical challenges as my gear was all in Canmore, but I wanted to drive directly to the icefields from Edmonton. I arrived late in the night, slept in the car and met up with the rest of the gang in the morning. Fortunately all of my required gear made it to the trailhead and we all took our time packing up to get ready to go.

The six of us set off at around 2:30 with headlamps, stumbling up the trail to the toe of the glacier. Shoes were traded for ski boots and we continued stumbling up the stream crossings and lower part of the glacier. Once we hit a previously established track, I was surprised how efficiently we climbed up and around the icefalls that are usually quite a formidable crux of the day.

Once on the icefield, we were able to follow a track to the base of the face set by parties camped on the glacier. We caught them on the face, and then me and Travis got some pretty good summit fever, pushing up to the summit with parched lungs.

Cresting a roll on the neve and the objective appears in the distance

The trench in the middle of the approach was freezing cold. It was nice to get back into the sun. I led the entire approach to the base of the face, it was nice being able to set a good pace!

Lots of 11,000ers were visible on this perfect day. Here the Lyells look mythical draped in glacier.

Looking back from the base of the face, time to start the steep climb!

More "mythical" 11,000ers, the Twins, Stuttfields and Kitchener.


Travis and I drilled it to the summit, so we were there to encourage the rest of the group to top it out!

Not the greatest ski conditions off the summit, but time to finish off the day moving across the flatter neve. 

We missed seeing all of the blocks of ice as we skied up the Athabasca glacier under the small beams of our headlamps.
Total time was 11:38. A beautiful day to be in the mountains. The skimo race gear enabled us to move efficiently across the glaciers, yet still perform well on the steep descent off Columbia's east face. The next day, "the Berner" smashed our time going under 10hrs! Potentially some unfinished business on this one, now I know how many nutella bagels I really need.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

BREAKING NEWS: Leaked 2016 Mountain Maiden Course

Eager to provide a course that was actually worth driving to Canmore for, the Spin Sisters have updated their course for the upcoming Mountain Maiden Alberta Cup. Citing the unrealized increase in spectators that previous courses tried to achieve, the course has been lengthened and ventures further from the stadium onto the classic Canmore Nordic Centre singletrack. According to the Spin Sisters race director, they were also pleased to reduce the severity of crashes by eliminating high speed sections and of course the Organ Donor feature which claimed the spleen of an elite racer last year. Look forward to a course that actually uses some of the good trails at the Nordic Centre!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The case for N-1

Where N is the number of bikes you currently own. Such an equation is sacrilege in the bike community that commonly touts N+1. I’ve heard that the industry has figured out that unless they get more women riding bikes, the total number of bikers will stagnate and even decline. So to sell more bikes, they’ve got to sell more bikes to the same number of riders.

We now have some amazing bike that are designed to kill it in specific applications. Aero road bikes, comfort road bikes, lightweight road bikes, time trial bikes, gravel bikes. Cross country bikes, trail bikes, enduro bikes, bike park bikes, downhill bikes. Fat bikes, plus bikes.

Listing all of those categories is sure to point out the gaps in your stable, and you’re probably about to open a bunch of browser tabs looking at the different categories and have already budgeted in the costs.

But think about the variety of the trails you enjoy riding or see yourself riding. How much time do you really have to ride? What if instead of buying a cross country bike and an enduro bike, you got a really nice trail bike with carbon wheels and dropper post. Something that weighed close to the cross country bike, but only gave up a small bit of capability to the enduro bike. The extra suspension would make the bike faster on all singletrack, climbs included. What about a cyclocross bike that could fit 42mm tires? The bike would be capable on everything from roads to rocky doubletrack and easy singletrack. Not impossible. Like a 29er hardtail with cyclocross geometry and a narrow road bike bottom bracket. Discs and cyclocross geometry would limit it for road racing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Jacob, I said NO DISCS

So last fall, I caved, decided to upgrade my 8 year old cyclocross bike. I’d kept it so long because it didn’t feel like it was holding me back. Being spec’d with excellent wheels, good components, and an aluminum frame that wasn’t an afterthought by a company trying to hit a low price point, it was easily under 18lbs. It served me well when I sold my road bike that I wasn’t using very often. Since then, disc brakes have been deemed legal for use in cyclocross races and after a few hiccups, we now have hydraulic brakes on road shifters.

I’ve always felt that the push for legalization never really came from the top athletes. It came from recreational riders who wanted Shimano and SRAM to make hydraulic disc brakes. I don’t know why these recreational riders had to go to the UCI to get disc brakes, I would think they would have enough market share on their own. 10x as many riders show up to a gran fondo/charity ride/buy road bikes compared to a local road race.

Cantilever brakes are “good enough” for cyclocross and nobody at the World Cup level really wants to add another pound to their bikes when the races are so competitive. They’ve got clean spare bikes to use during the races, personal mechanics to keep the brakes dialed, and equipment sponsors to replace worn out rims. World Championships are still being raced and won on cantilever brakes.

For the privateer or recreational rider who doesn’t have a mechanic around to dial in their brakes every ride, or free carbon rims, discs are pretty nice! I can even use my nice mountain bike wheels on my cyclocross bike.

There’s a similar push bring disc brakes into road racing, but with resistance from the top levels of the sport regarding valid points of safety and wheel change logistics, the experiment is being put on hold. I don’t have much issue with this, if I wanted to road race, I’d buy a road bike. But I don’t want to road race. My cross bike lacks the snappy handling of a road bike for criteriums. Cat 2 races hurt too much. But doing the odd spring series or midweek road race? Should every aspect of club level be run to UCI spec?

Legalize my Marin!

Post race analysis with Strava Flybys

Strava Flybys can be a useful tool when not being a creepy intrusion on your privacy. For those unfamiliar, Flybys are a new feature in Strava that lets you view the activities of the people who pass by you when you are out training and also compare positions over time.

In the context of racing, you can relive the crushing blows of defeat:
-What happened at the crucial point in the race where someone got away. How much of a gap did they get.
-Quantify who is a faster climber vs. descender.
-Who is closing the most on the final lap/final climb.
-Appreciation of the speed of the top guns.
-Should you risk it to try and catch the group ahead, or play it safe and try to stay away from the chasers behind.

Ken Jones Classic racers in the latter portion of the race.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Jerry of the Day

The world of ski media has been mesmerized by Jerry of the Day. Some kid named Colton found his calling on Instagram by posting pictures and videos of hilarious crashes, behaviours, and outfits. But what is almost as hilarious as the videos themselves is watching ski media institutions like Powder Magazine, Teton Gravity Research, Freeskier, Unofficial Networks, etc... take a break from posting garbage clickbait and fall over themselves to repost the latest Jerry of the Day video to try to cash in on the phenomenon and battle for the scraps of page views and ad clicks. The joke's on them as Jerry of the Day has almost double the amount of Instagram followers.

Ski media has always tried to present itself as "more hardcore than thou" and is almost completely devoid of the self depreciating humour that makes Jerry of the Day hilarious. What is lost in the never ending quest for progression of abilities, ski design, and fashion that they are trying to sell is the reason why people ski. We don't ski because it is serious business and goggle straps must be placed under helmets and toques must be worn at all times to cover up messy hair and skis must be at least 5 inches wide and the gnar is where the deepest pow is. We ski because it is one of the only activities where we can go wherever we want and we can control the accelerations of our bodies around corners, over bumps, and through 3D snow. We ski because it is fun. We laugh at ourselves when we faceplant.  Doglotion gets it. Powder doesn't.

7 years have now passed since Shane McConkey died while ski BASEing. I am constantly surprised that his impact reaches well into the mainstream; to be honest, I only knew of him from seeing him in the odd ski film and reading about his signature ski, the Volant Spatula in a copy of Powder Magazine my mom picked up for me at the gas station (And 7 years later, I'm still skiing on traditional cambered, traditional sidecut skis). Shane was famous for his ability to laugh at himself and his way of life, even creating a game to quantify the ridiculousness required at the top of the sport. Few skiers are talented enough to collect line score points in G.N.A.R. but everyone can enjoy the quest for extra credit points. Like licking Scot Schmidt's boots.

Colton found the humour in the mistakes we all make. Not everyone can relate to that time they skied 7 days of deep Alaska heli runs, not everyone cares about who is the best skier on the mountain, but everyone's got a story of that time their buddy forgot a key piece of equipment at home. Or that time they bit off a little more than they could chew and ended up face down in the snow.  Look in any social media comment section and it's filled with average Jerry's! They might dream about the couple of trips out west they are taking this winter. They still think moguls are cool. They still think that skiers hate snowboarders. They probably have a Jerry of the Day worthy outfit collecting dust in the attic. These are the consumers of ski media. All people looking forward to getting out, even if the only time they are "the best skier on the mountain" is around the water cooler.