Friday, December 31, 2010

The Twists and Turns of Winter Training

It's no secret that I fell very far from the world of sanctioned racing this year. Instead, I was getting lost in the woods, exploring the North Shore trails I'd known about since the early '90s but never really ridden. What had started out so innocently as off-season training for CX turned into a full-blown addiction to mountain biking.

Hidden beauty on Mt. Fromme.

In January, our Brodie Bikes rep Andrew Summers delivered a beautiful steel cross-country bike to the Broadway shop. I went in expecting to build my bike, and found Bob wheelieing it up the sidewalk just as I arrived. He was stoked to see the bike together, and had built it for me. What a guy. Maybe that's why Bob made it on to the 2011 Brodie site...

The 2010 Brodie Catalyst

I'd like to think that Mr. Summers is at least partially responsible for my disappearance from most other disciplines of riding. His great attitude towards riding and a love of photography meant that we became great friends this year, spending countless hours doing shoots on the trails, roadtrips, and generally having a good time.

Mr. Summers, always with a big smile.

Of course, to blame Andrew would be ignoring the true reason I became so addicted to the North Shore. I grew up in these forests hiking with my family, and the discovery of riding here was, in a way, a homecoming. My BMX background lends itself toward technical riding, and on the Shore, those skills are put to the test in the form of wooden structures, rock faces, slippery root drops, and so on. With these endless technical challenges I had met my match.

Photo by Lyle

What I didn't know in January, in buying an XC bike, was that I would soon be riding trails that were well beyond the limits of my bike. After a month or about ten rides, I replaced the stock fork with a sturdier and travel-adjustable Fox model. By May, I had retired the Catalyst frame on the advice of Brodie product manager and racing legend Bruce Spicer. I chose to replace the frame with a Santa Cruz Chameleon, an aluminum hardtail with a good pedigree.

Lush greenery on Mt. Seymour's Bridal Path.

I was out on the trails 2-3 times a week all year, and had familiarized myself with trails on all three North Shore hills as well as Burnaby Mountain, and visited Whistler, Squamish, Salmon Arm, Kelowna, and Rossland in the name of riding. Along with laying tracks on a ton of awesome trails, I set out to document them as well—which is a great way to improve your photography.

A ridge on the 35km Seven Summits trail near Rossland.

I even grew out my hair...

If you weren't questioning my sanity already...

Summer came and went, cross season began, and my stoke for the trails was as high as ever. When combined with a strenuous school semester, I didn't race CX once this year. After spending most of the year trying to tell me to buy his full suspension bike, Ryan Lidstone finally got through. I did a bit of research and decided that if I liked it on a test ride, the Banshee Wildcard would find a good home in my stable. Since that day, my hardtail has been neglected...

I was reluctant to jump into a full squish bike too soon with so many options out there...

As the season came to a close, the cross team was ready to come out and risk both potential for injury and an addiction to mountain biking. During a likely inebriated conversation with Jodi on the book of faces, Matt Hornland agreed to a date. On Boxing Day, exactly one year after Nick Berry, Matt Barber, and myself had an epic cyclocross ride on Burnaby Mountain, Team Mighty CX took it to the trails.

Nick Berry, hero of the entire Mighty team, spotted having fun on a bike.

This year, the District of North Vancouver invested something in the high six figures range on Mt. Fromme's trail network. One of the major projects involved rebuilding an older trail, Bobsled, into a beginner-slash-intermediate trail to make the mountain more accessible to newer riders. The North Shore's trails—even the "blue square" aka intermediate trails—are known for being more difficult than similarly-graded trails anywhere else. A "beginner-friendly" trail was a missing piece of the puzzle if the DNV was to avoid scaring people away from the recreation area.

Matt Hornland, small man with a big mouth, borrowed my Chameleon.

The revitalized Bobsled is a huge departure from the slow, technical riding the Shore is known for. It's almost like a downhill BMX track, with smooth berms and jumps, and a few cedar bridges in the wetter sections. For an idea of what the trail is like, check out this video from I haven't done much shooting on Bobsled, but did happen to nail the self-timer function and snap this self-portrait on the one optional drop on the trail.

The rest of the trail is nothing like this...

Having spent his first racing days on a BMX bike, Matt Barber is right at home on Bobsled.

"Do you know who I am?"

It takes about 15 minutes to ride up to the top of Bobsled and less than 5 to get down. After a couple of warmup laps, and Nick having quickly solved a mechanical issue at Lynn Valley Bikes, the soft intro was over and it was time to take these cross-dressers to the gnar. Thomas Pickett was along for the ride on his brand spankin' new Kona Five-O, a perfect Shore hardtail.

Thomas now rides for West Coast Racing, not Glotman-Simpson... but kit ain't cheap!

Hornland was getting more comfortable on the Chameleon, and appeared to be having fun even through his normally heavy amount of sarcasm.

In hindsight, Matt should have taken the knee pads as well.

We rode to just above the 5th switchback on the gravel road which eventually leads to Grouse Mountain. From this point a number of trails wind their way down the south slope of Mt. Fromme; our destination was a classic all-weather trail: Pipeline. Here we have Jodi taking on the hamster cage, an elevated structure with steep sections, a teeter totter, sharp turns, and a very narrow log to exit.

"Classic Shore" conditions, as Mr. Summers would say.

Having done well with his off-season training program on his carbon Jamis Dakar XCR, Nick is very comfortable riding a low travel bike on the North Shore. He will descend basically anything you put in front of him with his seat way up, and have a huge smile on at the end of it. Nick's foray into XC mountain biking this year was truly inspirational from the cyclocross cross-training perspective.

Wrong bike? No problem, at least for Nick Berry.

After the hamster cage, the trail follows the pipeline of its namesake down a steep rocky slope. High-traffic trails on the North Shore have traditionally been armoured with rock to prevent erosion, and this section of Pipeline has been built into a three-stage rock roller coaster. Matt's XC bike is definitely a touch too big for this style of riding, but he made it out of this section unscathed and looking good!

Getting over it.

We had such a good time on Sunday that Pipeline was calling me back. On Wednesday morning, Mr. Summers and I headed up and sessioned the same section of trail, coming out with quite a few great shots. With a light dusting of snow, the technical challenge is taken to the next level.

Gettin' rad in the forest.

Splish splash...

Andrew takes a bit of air time.

Back up for another...

And we have liftoff once again!

Andrew insisted that he take a turn behind the lens, which meant it was my turn to get rad!

Beard Power.

We then continued down the trail where I weaseled my way on to a snowy teeter totter, then stopped to grab another photo. For a cold winter's day, the light sure was warm.

Fresh tracks.


Then I lined up and launched a gap I'd had my eye on all year. I hit this drop for the first time on Sunday, but it was so dark by the time we finished our ride that I didn't bother to try to get a photo of it.

The drop itself is about 6 feet into a steep transition.

Andrew was by this point very comfortable with my camera, and snapped a banger with the snowy trees and a nice beam of light coming through.

He made me jump it 6 or 7 times.

I guess in a way this is my season recap. I spent more time in the forest of the North Shore than in any year of my life, made a whole bunch of new friends, and shot a ton of great photos. I gained technical riding skills that will no doubt transfer to the cross course in the future.

Brodie is using a number of my photos for their 2011 site, and Ghostrider Messengers used one of my images for his calendar. And I won two separate photo contests.

Even as the snow line dips closer to sea level, I'm still on my bike. And isn't that the point? Having fun on a bike? Let me know if you want to join...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

CX Provincials

BC Cyclocross Provincial Championships were held on November 28th in North Vancouver. The snow was gone but left a very muddy course for the Mighty kids in attendance.
Jay 'Lowball' Loder was the Mighty hero of the day bringing home a Bronze medal in the Masters 50+ age group despite a good off in the tricky mud pool. He was last seen complaining of extreme neck pain on his patio deck apres race (perhaps due to the weight of this year's medal and his '09 Nationals Medal he brought out to compare). Naturally he soothed his pain with a foamy beverage or six.
Mighty's leader in the dirt, Nick Berry, had a tough day against some of Canada's best CX riders which included Andrew Pinfold, Tyler Trace and Evan Guthrie as well as Singlespeed World Champion Drew Mackenzie. In the first lap chaos he had a tough crash in traffic that left him chasing hard and working his way back up through the pack. Eventually succumbing to another crash he had to call it a day early but it was another great season from Berrryjuice.
Our racing Mama, Stacey Hutton (inspiration to all those who complain of not having enough time to train) showed up to get dirty with the ladies. She fought hard but had a few offs of her own and missed a late flask feed (hmmm, legal?) from her roadie teammate UpChuck. As usual she showed us all how to give 'er with a smile and finished 7th.
The Magical bearded one known as Meat decided to see what the big guns could throw his way. It was his first Elite race after making quick work of the Cat 3 field the last two weeks on his 'highly questionable braking' but otherwise fancy new bike. It proved to be a learning experience for our little Ginger but he raced hard as always and had a race long battle with super junior track sprinter Erik Mulder (note: Meat is about as big as one of his legs...) while fending off one of BC's best roadies Mike Sidic for lucky 13th place.
Special thanks to Hot Hot Barber who showed up early with Berry and set up the tent, BBQ and cooler and looked after all the Mighty racers and hanger-on'ers. It made for a great day to watch some fast, hard racing put on by Kevin Calhoun and friends. And thanks to Ted for some excellent photos.

Congratulations to the BC Champions for 2010, Tyler Trace in the Elite Men and Mical Dyck in the Elite Women.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

No no no, THIS is Christmas.

Oh yes, it's that time again. What time is it, you ask? Time for yet another


As 1/2 of the Mighty PPC, I am pleased to announce that this years Xmas party will take place on Friday December 17th 2010. Like last year, the party will be held in 2 stages. Think of it as a party specific stage race. Or a stage specific party race. Or something. Or a chance to get drunk with all your cycling buddies. You know.

Stage 1: Beers and treats at On The Rivet/Mighty Riders. 7-9pm. This is for all the Vets, the calmer bunch, the Saturday morning workers, the moms and dads that aren't going to rage into the night, the, ahem, Nick Berrys of the world. There will be decor, merriness, pals, jokes, and bike talk I'm sure.

Stage 2: Food, cheap beers (mighty beer special), raffle, and debauchery at our dear friends and neighbours fine establishment Bandidas Taqueria (2718 Commercial, at 12th). 10pm-1am. I hope to see the whole team filter over, as this is where the raffle will be held. Like last year, we will have some excellent prizes from many of our vendors and sponsors. Here's the catch: because Ed and Sean have generously provided a food budget, and because there is no cost involved in the venues, there is no need for us to generate any money by selling raffle tickets. Instead, we will be collecting 1 item of warm clothing to donate to a charity (tbd) per raffle ticket. You bring 1 thing, you get a chance to win 1 thing. You bring 2 things, you get 2 chances to win things. Cool, right?

Mark it on your calendars. Warm up your livers. Pump up the tires on your bar bikes (we will most likely all ride down 10th ave to Bandidas together). Also, please feel to bring ONE date. GF, BF, one night stand, whatever, but just one. We want to make sure we are able to adequately feed/water all of you fine folks that fly the Mighty flag so proudly all year. So there you have it. See you soon!

Yours in all things party related,

Phyllis and Angela, Mighty Riders PPC (Party Planning Committee).

Monday, November 29, 2010

Surrey Shred

This weekend was slick.

Not in the good way.

More like "oh, hey, you want to spend some time on your ass?" slick.

The whole debacle started with Daryl Evans Racing CX/BC Cup Finals in South Surrey. For those who remember last year, the cruel and unrelenting forces of Daryl Evans built a course of grass, that somehow ended with me getting a black eye. I mean, I'm sure some other stuff happened. But I really remember that black eye.

This year was flatter, but still rough, with the course slick as oil about 2 inches deep, where the mud ended and the ground met us, frozen and unforgiving.

Paul, Stacey and I rolled out to the race, meeting Haley and the GS Goofs (Thomas Pickett and Matt Kennedy) already there.

Paul raced Cat 3s with myself and a crew of 24 (?) racers. He mentioned taking it easy on me since he was sandbagging rather than racing 2s.

Being a nice guy, he yelled some pretty encouraging words as he chased me down in smooth style, but I was pretty self-focused on catching Eric Mulder. Damn 17 year olds. I did not revel in his mechanical failure, however, as the guy behind me was taking full advantage of the times I wasn't looking as pro as this:

Aside from falling down the Rocky Mountain Slip And Slide next to the announcers booth almost every lap, I managed to stay out of this kind of trouble:

And ended up making the extended podium behind Rob (?) in SuperChampion kit

and David, who is always secret fast, as well as a guy who's name I can't remember. I think it got knocked out of my head when I did some break dancing before what would be the final sprint for 3/4.

Stacey gives us the following thoughts on her race

"3,4,5 was a super tight battle until the last lap in my race. I tried my best to knock them down with a hip check, but Katherine Vipond broke away in the last lap and left Joelle Guynup and I to battle it out for 4th."

I've edited the bit about the sandpits, you know, for the kids.

The Mens Elite and Masters showed a few of the usual suspects, but as we were cold, wet and tired, we didn't see too much of it. Here's the podium shot for you gawkers:

More on Matt Barber and the North Van Wieners tomorrow.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Double Crossed

Here's Meat with a wrap-up of last wknd's double dose of dumb mud days:
(oh, and please ride the fancy new bike...)

Saturday morning was the first annual Glotman-Simpson CX race, with a course that was previously handled by Daryll Evans, but this year laid out by the few, the proud, the Matt Kennedy (and hosted by Thomas Pickett).

I caught a ride in the All Star Van with the illustrious Nick Berry, listening to the new Arcade Fire album and using our minds to keep us warm in lieu of a heater.

For my last debut at 11am in the Cat 4 race, I was graced with a few Island racers and folks I had never raced against. The weather was simply cold, and the new skinsuits tight as could be. Our course was similar to last year, with a beautiful mud pit, a few off cambers, but largely a flat and fast. One hill begged to be ridden, though many would run. I used Matt Atkinstall's patented "Big Ring Racing" technique and kept it 46t in the front the full race. This helped after a good bobble into the mudbath ( on the first lap, and a good number of heckles, to keep the blood flowing. I finished up first place, taking my first ever #1 and earning my upgrade points for Cat 3. GS provided some excellent prizes, BTW.

Haley competed with the Open Women, putting tires to mud with Kelly Jones as the two female competitors willing to brave the elements for a non-BC Cup event. Haley came out with a payment, which I believe makes her a pro racer. Keeping it clean.

Mens 3 went off with a fast pack and 3 solid leaders, Paul McClosky showing Mighty/OTR colors. He breathed deep and held a solid 2nd place during a "bunch" sprint to the finish. Paul kept it smooth and earned some tires and socks for that 2nd place victory, as well as upgrade points to 1/2s next time he feels like it! Paul, I'll drop those tires off at the shop sometime soon.

Finally the big gun show, with Nick Berry in 1/2s racing 10 grueling laps with Calhoun, Noiles, Andre Sutton from Edmonton and Andrew Pinfold coming out of left field. The laps were hot, with the gang of 5 playing cat and mouse, finally Pinner and Calhoun took a bit of a gap. In a sprint for the end, Pinner beat out Calhoun by 2 seconds. Nick came in after Noiles by 6 seconds, dropping the Edmontonian, who had been out performed by our fearless CX leader.

This double header weekend continued with Sunday's Atomic Racing out in Aldergrove. There are photos here:

Thanks to upgrades, Nick and I drove out for a 12 o'clock start on a drizzly Sunday morning. The conversation consisted of household cleaning products and their safety, Matt Barber, Belle and Sebastian, hemp hearts, and farming. We arrived to a wet, grassy course near the US border, holding for us bogs, hills, switchbacks and the promise of seized bottom brackets. The preride consisted of a bog ("the free bike wash") which we enjoyed crossing 3 times, a long gravel trail, back to a grass climb and long mud singletrack with grass descents and a short switchback before, well, more grass.

With Cat 3s as my new home, I lined up with Brett Wakefield of Local Ride, Geoff Agnew of GS and two others I just don't know.Classically, Brett has destroyed me on long flats, but those organic bananas must have had something in them, as I took lead on the first lap and never (well, no, I did) looked back. The extra 10 minutes of riding was nice as opposed to Cat 4s, and I opened a considerable gap on Brett after he had some bobbles on the "technical" descent. My first race in 3s was my first #1 in 3s, and I hope to keep it up as I love the sound of 60 minute slog fests. Self congratulatory enough? I exchanged some good heckling from Local Ride on the descents, so I might have to watch my back.

Haley raced with a larger field, finding the bog section to be less than agreeable, however slaughtered it out to the finish. She was kind enough to lend me some coffee after the race.

Jay Loder graced BC with his presence in the Masters Race, putting in a solid performance, though showing quite a bit of mud that I never could quite explain. The new skinsuit was looking good.

The 1/2s had more folks from the Island on Sunday, with Drew Mackenzie and Dylan Tremblay coming in with fresh legs. After a fast race on Saturday, Nick and the Kevins went out fast, with Drew, Dylan and the Edmontonian trailing the lead 3. Mr. Berry looked strong in the technical and, though neither his bottom bracket or his legs had been well stretched, put down some power to set pace. The sprints with Pinfold must have taken a toll on Kevin Calhoun, as he dropped after 3 laps. Drew, however, upped his game and pushed into the lead, with Kevin and Nick continuing to hold strong. Unfortunately, fresh from the rock, Tremblay took position over Nick at the end and our Mighty ended 4th.

Overall, a wet, muddy, grassy, skinsuit-y weekend. Nick was kind enough to pull over on the side of Highway 1 so my bladder wouldn't explode on the ride home. Fun.

[edit: I hope this information is accurate. It seems results from Atomic are yet to be posted, so no fact checking has been done]

(photos by Daryl Evans Racing)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin CX

Another great Halloween Pumpkin Cross has come and gone. Local Ride once again managed to scare the bejeezus out of the BC cyclocross racers. Or at least get them really dirty.

Cat 1/2 Men: Nick Berry on the extended podium with a 4th place.

Women: Stacey 5th, Jenny 9th, Haley 11th. Of note was Stacey swimming the mud pond for the prime on lap 3 only to have found somebody already got it. D'oh!

Masters Men: Jay Loder 25th.
Cat 4 Men: Barry 25th.

Below: Jean Ann McKirdy - women's winner and a terrifying member of the hosts, Local Ride

Below: Pimp Daddy Paul Craig, another Local Ride'r who helped put on a great race. Apparently the inspiration of the Spiral of Death which came right after the Spooky Forest section...
Thanks to Ted for the great pics! Rest of the set is HERE.