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).