There isn’t much to say about the video other than it’s truly amazing how good these trials riders are. I can’t even wheelie my ‘cross bike very well!
Most people spend a cold snowy evening drinking hot chocolate cuddled up with a loved one next to a fireplace watching a nameless Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy, and I am no exception. Unfortunately, I don’t have any hot chocolate, I have this pathetic electric fireplace that blows fake paper flames like a Gillian’s Island campfire and I won’t bore you with stories of my floundering personal life, so I spend my nights scouring the interweb for cool and interesting cycling things to covet for the next 6 months until spring. Here are a few things that I can’t wait to try out next year:
I can remember when the mere mention of a dropper seatpost at the shop would set you up for an earful of vitriolic derision like “Learn how to descend better, loser”, “Do you want training wheels with that?” or “Is your mother learning how to mountain bike?” I personally would love to see my mom on a mountain bike so I didn’t see the point of disparaging mothers along with dropper seatposts, but I digress. We didn’t understand why any self respecting mountain biker would want one as most of us local Edmonton cyclists can clean all the technical descents, and if we were doing anything else like chairlift or shuttle access downhilling, we just rode our downhill bikes with a low saddle height and 8 inches of travel. Very few people have them locally, but reading the general reviews online, it made me understand some of the inherent benefits of a dropper seatpost, especially the remote actuated ones.
The first misconception I learned is that they are not used to help clean a decent, but to help you do them faster. Sure, having a lowered saddle will position your body with a lower center of gravity to stay in more control thus helping you with completing the downhill section, but it’s really about being able to do it faster. If you come up to a steep technical section and your saddle is at the normal pedaling height, you may have to brake a bit more because if you hit something and your center of gravity is high, you have a greater chance of going over your handlebar. With a dropper seatpost, you can attack a downhill with more speed without stopping to lower it manually.
Second, a dropper seatpost is actually an advantage to the more skillful technically sound rider. For example, if you are riding a rolling section of trail with lots of obstacles, a rider who has strong technical skill can “pump” speed into and out of the corners and smoothly “bunnyhop” over obstacles instead of hitting them and lose speed. Imagine how fast Roddi Lega can ride “Golfcourse trail aka Rollercoaster trail” if he can drop his saddle 125mm and really use his bike handling skills to go faster in the corners and “pump” harder on the rolling bumps. A hack like me probably will go slightly faster with a dropper seatpost, but not as much as a skilled cyclist like Roddi, Brad, Kurt, etc.
This is how fast Roddi can rip RollerCoaster without a Dropper Post
Third, the dropper seatpost will allow you to use larger stronger muscles on long descents during mountain multi-day races. There are some races where the descents are so long, your arms actually get tired because your weight shifts to your upper body. With a dropper seatpost, you can lower your stance on your bike so you can transfer your weight to larger and stronger muscles or at least, you can shift positions on the bike to rest muscles periodically.
Lastly, with RockShox leading the industry with their well-reviewed Reverb, the dropper seatpost seemed to have left the plagues of the past in regards to their poor performance and durability behind. Specialized, KS, Thomson and others are in the market and all seem to be producing some quality product. I am personally excited about Thomson getting involved and hopefully imbuing their meticulous engineering into their dropper seatposts as they have with their other fine cycling products.
Thomson Dropper Seatpost
Ever since the beginning of my mountain biking history, which goes back to the early 90’s, I’ve always loathed the front derailleur as it seemed archaic and poorly designed for it’s purpose. I can remember countless moments when I wanted and needed to drop from the middle ring to the granny ring, but when I turned my thumbshifter (Yes, I wrote thumbshifter you young punks!!!), the front derailleur cage just rubbed sadly against the chain without action, much like a husband getting a lapdance from his wife. Once you knew the chain wouldn’t drop, you had to concede, get off your bike, lift the rear wheel, pedal with your hands until the chain dropped to the granny ring, then you can continue with your epic cycling journey. The design of the front derailleur didn’t change much over the past 20 years as it seemed the technology hit it’s zenith in the 90’s, so what did the geniuses at SRAM decide to do? They just got rid of it.
XX1 is a single ring drivetrain with a rear cassette that has 11 cogs ranging from 10 to 42 teeth effectively making the mountain bike an 11 speeder. I don’t know why they call it XX1 as it implies that it has 21 gears; I thought they would call it XI to correspond to their 20 speed 2×10 XX nomenclature. Anyways, you can change the ring up or down 2 teeth without adding or subtracting chainlinks so you can add variability to the gearing without too much effort. Sure, I may need a 30, 32 and 34 ring collection, but apparently, the switch is simple with only 4 bolts to deal with. The idea of not having a front derailleur is exciting and monumental as this could be the beginning of a mountain bike standard. The simplicity of having just a rear derailleur and shifter opens up more possibilities like a 1×12 system and clearing space on the handlebar for other remotes like lockout and dropper seatpost.
My Beargrease is coming with XX1, and it really makes sense for winter riding as the front derailleur can freeze up or get clogged with snow and ice rendering it nonfunctional. It comes with a 28 ring which seems logical as you need the lower gears to trudge through the snow, but as a race bike, I am considering a 30 ring. Overall, I am just excited to never look down with consternation at that pathetic front derailleur again.
Enve carbon Wheelset:
This was a total ego purchase as the logic of spending $3000 on a set of wheels seems to escape most people, including me. As a mid pack Expert ABA Master racer, my pedigree deserves a $3000 bike with decent reliable parts as my weakest link is probably my “muffintop” from drinking too much beer with my fellow cyclists (or anyone to be totally honest) and my penchant for 1 hour rides and 3 hours of coffee with Paavo or Shantel. I never rode or raced with carbon wheels, and with its availability, I just thought the time for self-reward was now. With it’s gossamer weight claims and purported durability, I chose Enve XC wheels because I didn’t want to second guess my decision as this may be the last chance to purchase such a decadent piece of cycling equipment. Contrary to most people’s opinion, I despise the Enve logo/font plastered on the rims as it is reminiscent of some tacky 70’s USSR propaganda design. Thankfully, the stickers peeled off easily to display the carbon rims in their beautiful naked form. Despite my hopeful intentions of buying a set of light carbon wheels, I don’t really expect to see my racing results change much, unless you think placing 15th instead of 16th is an improvement. I just really love the way it looks on my Rocky Mountain Vertex with XX1. It’s a $3000 ornamental accent so I plan on taking plenty of pictures and posting them on facebook ad nauseam.
Enve Wheels in all their glory
Patience is a virtue for those who seek it or already have it. For me, I always liked sulking and whining like a petulant child when I don’t get my way or get what I want right away. In today’s society of instant gratification, it’s very easy to get things or information immediately from the palms of our hands, literally. If we have any fleeting thought whether it’s trivial or a cathartic epiphany, we just go to our social media outlet and just type it out on our virtual soapbox and hope to get an appropriate response from our adoring audience. We, as a society, do not have much patience for anything anymore so I can feel somewhat justified, or at least an assuaged guilt, to have a wrenching angst in my gut for my new carbon Beargrease XX1.
Carbon Salsa Beargrease XX1 in the flesh @ Interbike. With these HED fatbike wheels, the bike tipped the scale at 21.5 lbs!
This story starts back in April of this year where I was propositioned by redbike to demo a carbon Beargrease XX1 with a purported weight of sub 25lbs for the upcoming winter. There were a couple of real concerns regarding this offer: First, I really had a great time riding my old Mukluk the past winter without any complains or failures, other than the time I broke my chain misshifting on a climb. Secondly, will the BearGrease show up in time for the winter season or at all? There are some famous quotes describing this situation: “ Once bitten, twice shy” and “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”. The second quote was fantastically mishandled by George W. Bush which still makes me chortle whenever I think of it. For those unacquainted, last fall, QBP failed to deliver my Beargrease which left me fatbikeless for the impending winter. Fortunately, redbike had a Mukluk that I was able to filch as a replacement for the BearGrease, then winter fatbiking history was made. Hyperbolic? Probably, but I put in so many winter trail miles, it felt monumental.
I will not be too redundant about the benefits of riding a fatbike as you can refer to my previous blogs, but I think that is why this waiting game is so frustrating for me. I don’t have to guess, surmise or anticipate the fun of riding a fatbike on the snowpacked singletrack as I know exactly what I am missing. I hate looking at my friends’ smug little faces as they discuss rear hub spacing, which tire width is best on what conditions and them feigning sympathy about my situation. I love and hate being so covetous.
Salsa Beargrease Glam Shot
So here was are, at the beginning of December, still waiting for my BearGrease to arrive from Salsa. I can almost hear George W. Bush laughing at my misfortune, and that man should have no reason to be laughing at anyone. Well, perhaps the American and Iraqi people. Please don’t let me give you the impression that I don’t like winter riding on my 29er Devinci as it works really well, and I love the serenity, silence and Robert Frost whiteness of cycling in the snow with my friends. As a lifer Edmontonian, I realize that fondness of cold snowy days is paramount to surviving the winters, and I just sampled cycling’s next big thing for snow so I want it, now.
This past weekend Alberta CX racers congregated in the scenic town of Devon, aka Biketown, for races 10 and 11 of the ABA calendar. The racing promised to be fast and furious with only a handful of races left before the Provincial championships and the end of another Alberta CX season. Bicycle races in Devon have always ranked among my favourites – no matter what the discipline, racers and spectators can count on an enjoyable day and leave feeling inspired by a community in love with bicycles.
Sadly, The United Cycle race team was forced to move their race from the Devon Lions Campground (my personal favourite) due to some flooding and erosion issues, but luckily an equally cross-worthy backdrop exists just up the river at Voyageur Park. This venue was introduced last year, and from memory I knew it would provide plenty of variety and challenging terrain to make for a satisfying doubleheader. Special mention should be made of the town’s very impressive bike skills park at Voyageur Park. What was just a small park with some skinnies and teeter-totters last year, is now a fully developed park complete with jumps, a flow trail, and plenty of features to practice and build skills on. I know more than a few of us were wishing we had brought our mountain bikes along; however, the distraction of the bike park quickly faded as racers donned their skinsuits and focused on the task at hand.
Task number one for me was to get in solid warm ups this weekend. As I get older and older, it takes me longer and longer to get warmed up. Despite knowing this, I’ve been rather lacksidasical with regards to warming up all season, and you really pay the price for this in cross. So, as opposed to just squeaking in one lap before my race, I arrived early enough to get in a pre-ride a full race before my own and then concentrated on pedaling to keep the legs warm and on staying hydrated until my race.
The pre-ride helped to highlight the technical nature of the course – lots of corners, loose soil, bumpy grass sections, a sandpit with a challenging entry, and a super steep run/ride up – all features that gave me hope I could finally bag my first win of the season. I tried to remain positive but realistic, since anything can happen during a race, especially on a course such as this one.
- The skills park at Voyageur park even found its way into a section of the course. Photo courtesy Chris Hubick.
- Josh murdering the steep climb. Photo courtesy Chris Hubick.
The promise of a holeshot prize made for a fast and furious start, and without even knowing what prize I was racing for I went for it and made it to the woods first to score a ginormous 750g Toblerone. Podi-yum! I maintained the lead until the first time through the sand pit, where what I had cleared without too much difficulty during pre-ride punished me for not choosing the proper line. I stalled out magnificently, getting caught up in my bike in the process, and watched Andrea sprint past me in what has become a sort of first lap Groundhog Day pattern for me: lead it out, screw it up, spend rest of race trying to make it back up. Only difference was that in this race I was actually able to make back up enough time in the corners and on the climb, and by the last lap I was back with Andrea and pretty confident I could make a dig for the win when the timing was right. Unfortunately though, I was a bit too hesitant and sat back too long, and when we got to the final time up the steep climb, Andrea stalled out just as she got to the top. She was able to foot push over the top, but positioned right behind her I was forced to stop and hop off my bike and scramble up. The gap was made, and Andrea earned the win. Drat. The sting didn’t last though, as deep down I knew I had the steam to win, and it only made me more hungry for a win the next day.
- The holeshot Toblerone. Victory never tasted so sweet. Photo courtesy Chris Hubick.
I stayed smart about warming up again on Sunday, and once again the pre-ride revealed a course well-suited to donkeys. Essentially the previous day run in reverse, the Devon Bicycle Association had strategically rerouted a couple sections to include the full length of the sandpit, a riverside beach section, and a stair run up out of the beach section. These alterations also allowed the reinsertion of the previous day’s steep climb, although now much trickier to ride since you approached it from an awkward angle. I had a feeling this was the feature that was going to make or break the race.
Race started fast again, and not wanting to ruin my streak, I led it out and proceeded to screw up the steep climb magnificently, taking the opportunity to step on my bike and rear wheel in the process, and just like so many times before watched Andrea run by and get a gap. I shrugged it off and focused on keeping her in sight, but my attention on her was quickly replaced by what was happening behind me – wonder kid and wonder lady cyclocross phenoms Sidney McGill and Marg Fedyna were just behind me and chasing at a furious pace. I knew I couldn’t afford to make a mistake, for they were both there ready to capitalize on any seconds I was willing to give up. Luckily, this initiative from behind inspired me to go a little faster, and as the race wore on I was able to latch back on to Andrea about halfway through the second last lap. I hesitated here for a bit, but knew I couldn’t play it safe if I really wanted the win and made a dig so I could lead going into the last lap. We stayed together, and as we approached the steep climb I knew this was the deal maker/breaker. Clean it and I would have a gap and an essentially clear run to the finish, or dab and likely have to settle for second yet again. No dab. Made it up and over and headed for home as fast as I could muster, finally earning a spot on the top step of the podium.
- Being tailed by Sidney, who is more than 20 years younger than me. Where’s my botox. Photo courtesy Brent Topilko.
I wasn’t the only one scoring a personal victory. Mighty mite Sydney came in 3rd, and barely in her teens she will surely prove to be a force to be reckoned with in the next couple of years. It was an excellent showing by new racers also, including a group of local ladies who looked like pros using all the skills cross champ Pepper Harlton had taught them in the weeks leading up to the race. I bet they’re as excited for next year as I am!
I’m really loving how the smaller Alberta communities are embracing cyclocross. Everybody wins – we get awesome courses and can visit new communities, and the communities get to experience the excitement of our sport and hopefully also get caught up with a healthy dose of cycling fever. For some great video action from the weekend, check out Sheldon’s video here:
In the world of cycling, there is no other race that exemplifies suffering than the Paris-Roubaix classic that occurs every year mid-April due to the punishing cobblestone sections of the race. This may sound far reaching, but I seemed to have imbued some of the feelings the racers must have felt during the Hell of the North by deciding to race the KettleCross at the beginning of September at the Blackfoot recreational area.
Sarns Preaching to Schooler the Benefits of a Single Ring (Photo Credit: Chris Kolaczan)
It’s a pretty simple concept: ride whatever bike you want 74km, 37km or 15 kms as fast as you can whichever way you can. The general consensus is that cyclocross bikes are the fastest bikes, but there is a large caveat with that choice as it¹s also the most punishing bike to ride physically and mentally as the course is undulating and relentlessly rough. Fast or comfortable is the contemplation on everyone¹s mind coming into the race.
Something was Funny at the Start (Photo Credit: Chris Kolaczan)
The Kokanee Redbike race team fully formed for this race as Mike, Shantel, Sheldon, Josh and I entered into the team category as well as our respective individual categories. I was very excited to race as I missed the Kettlecross last year due to my Whistler Grand Fondo/downhill trip, so with my naïve anticipation I lined up at the start line with the usual Edmonton racers. It was interesting to notice the relaxed, humorous atmosphere despite the horror stories of the race circulating from last year, but I suppose that was the calm before the storm. With cool fall temperatures, the race started with a panicked pace which I was startled with since it¹s such a long race, I thought the start would be more of a medium endurance pace. The next thing I knew there were crashes all around me as people were positioning themselves or were unsure how deep the mud puddles went; they were surprisingly deep. I remember yelling at Chris Hubick that the pace was ridiculously fast for an 80 km race and he responded by a sullen look of despair.
Mark & Josh Pushed Each Other All Day (Photo Credit: Chris Kolaczan)
After the initial melee, I found myself behind Chantel Widney and Pepper trying to hold on to the second group of racers as the lead group quickly separately themselves due to the pull of Aaron Schooler. I just had to hold the pace and see who will drop out of the group, and soon enough, Pepper, Chantel and I started to pass people who couldn¹t hold the pace, but at one of the wooden bridges, Pepper crashed into Jason Redfern. Mike B and I slowed down to see if she and Jason were seriously hurt. Fortunately, we heard a light gasping from Pepper sounding like ³I¹m okay² so we raced on. Soon enough, a four person group formed including me, Mike B, Rhett and my teammate, Josh. Mike B was brilliant in pulling the entire group for the entire second half of the first lap, but no good deed goes unpunished as he faded during the first part of the second lap.
Holding Off a Hard-Charging Chantel Whitney (Photo Credit: Chris Kolaczan)
For a while, Josh and I rode together taking turns pulling where we caught up to a crashed Robin Bailey, then promptly got dropped by him as he gathered his senses. As Josh and I approached the 60km mark, I started to feel horrible in every sense. My left hand started to burn, my waterbottle cage started to rattle loose, my stomach started to ache and my vision started to blur due to the inability to eat food and the redundancy of the errain. Basically, I started to bonk, crash, hit the wall. Josh sensed that and started to pull hard, and all I could do is just hold on to his wheel; a mantra that every cyclist have said over and over again, but at that time, it was survival as if I lost it, I may have fallen over and died in the woods.
Mike in the Front of the Lead Group at the End of Lap 1 (Photo Credit: Chris Kolaczan)
Nearing the 75km mark, I started to feel better and regain my senses to a certain degree where I felt I could take the pressure off of Josh. So I started off my saddle and pushed it home where Josh and I finished 13th and 14th overall. The consequences of the races were rather immediate; my back was so sore and stiff that I was not able to flex forward to take off my shoes, there was a blister the size of a toonie on my left hand and I had the most erosive saddle sore in the history of cycling. I can¹t wait till next year.
Jung Pushed to the Finish (Photo Credit: Chris Kolaczan)
Overall, our Kokanee Redbike team placed second in the team standing and I felt like Tom Boonen.
Looking to squeeze one last MTB race in this season, Josh & I took to Canmore to race the 50 km Grizzly Ultra mountain bike Marathon. A unique format, the race consisted of 5 different loops of the Canmore Nordic centre.
Josh Rippin’ some of the Nordic Centre’s Finest Singletrack (Photo: Justin Parsons CRAG CANYON QMI AGENCY)
According to my GPS, the course climbed over 1200m and featured some of the best trails around. Matt Hadley & crew have done a phenomenal job building, repairing, and maintaining the trails at the centre, evident by my giggly schoolgirl demeanor as I ripped some of the fun technical trails.
As a mass start race, I wanted to line up in the front to avoid racing against traffic, and with the mellow laid back feel of the event it was pretty chill at the start line. Competing against some fast Canmore locals, we took off and set a good pace on the opening, double track and roller ski, first loop.
Lapping thru as a group (Photo: Grizzly Events)
Josh was able to sit in with the lead group, and we rode into the stadium to begin loop # 2 as a group of 12 or so. The 2nd loop wasn’t technical, but it did climb more than the first loop, and I took the opportunity to throttle up the pace a smidge. My effort widdled the group down to a RMCC rider & myself, and near the top of the climb I laid down an effort to get a gap and pushed it over the top to try to create a greater gap.
I kept the power on the pedals and tried to get out of sight – which is more difficult with our hi-vis Giro helmets! Eventually I didn’t see anyone behind me and I tried to keep it smooth on the technical sections while keeping the pressure on and pushing a good tempo on the climbs. Since I’ve been racing cyclocross the past couple of weeks it was pretty tempting to go for an hour’s pace instead of two-and-a-half.
Mike Post Race (Photo: Grizzly Events)
In the end, I won by nearly 5 minutes, finishing in a time of 02:30:11 – a great way to cap off an adventurous and eventful mountain bike season. Josh hammered in a time of 02:51:02, which was good enough for 12th place overall.
Thanks to Dave & Fin for coming out and cheering us on!
Future / Current Singletrack Ripper!