Thursday, April 27, 2006

What Am I Doing?

What am I thinking? Here is a video compelation of last year's Ripper Series. On the other hand it could be fun.

The Test

This weekend is the first race in the North Shore Ripper series. The race is up Mountain Highway to the seventh switchback on Mt Fromme and then down the Seventh Secret trail. The race is open to teams -- one rider will ride up and the other rider will ride down, or to solo competitors. I chose to ride solo. I'm not the fastest rider up, and I'm not the fastest rider down. But by combining the two I should do ok.

In the team event all the uphill riders will be on cross country bikes -- light and fast. For the downhill member of the team the choice of steeds will be a downhill bike -- although not a really difficult trail, Seventh is still tough and downhill bikes will do well.

The uphill riders will probably take 25 minutes to ascend, the downhill riders will be in the 18 minute area.

So for those of us doing both up and down there is a bit of a dilemma. Cross country bike or downhill/All mountain bike? I have been wrestling with this for a couple of weeks now. I can ride my all mountain bike up in about 31 minutes and come down in 18. From what I have heard though is that the race is won or lost in the uphill ride. So maybe I should use the cross country bike -- it's light and nimble.

Last night on my way home from work I decided to test the cross country bike. I rode up to Fromme from work and then timed myself up to the seventh switchback. Damn I'm slow. It hurt. In fact it was punishing and not from an aerobic perspective (although I was done by the time I reached the top). I guess I had too much tire pressure and it took it's toll, I was sore. And to add insult to injury I wasn't that much faster.

The decent proved less even less exciting. It was tough, I think I lost all the time I gained on the climb in the first 300 m of the decent -- and that was the easy part of the trail.

Well I had to try it. As I say I have been pondering the advantages/disadvantages of each bike for the past few weeks -- and have been driving my riding buds crazy. It's final, the all mountain 33 pounder will be my steed of choice for the ripper.

I won't win -- by any stretch of the imagination -- but at least I will have fun, and that's what this series is all about.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Get a Grip

I rode my mountain bike to work yesterday with the idea that I would go for a long off road ride on the way home. It was Friday, I was a little slow getting going in the morning -- kids to feed, dress and get to daycare. None-the-less I decided to take some trails on the way in to work.
As I was riding I noticed that my grip on my left side was a little loose. We have just been to the Oregon Coast, where my bike sat on the car for 5 days in the pouring rain. It was buffeted with water on the drive down, it sat out in the sleet and hail and driving rain and salt air for just too long. I think it was trying to tell me something, something like "take care of me". Anyway with all the water, some must have worked it's way under my left grip (front brake side). As I was descending along a trial towards work I came to a hard left-hander with a root just before it. Now I have taken this route to work many times. What I like to do is get a little air off the root and kick out the back end of my bike, landing in the correct direction for an exit to the corner. There are a few things that make this maneuver a bit dicey though. First off I'm still getting used to the new set up on my cross country bike. It still seems a little squirrelly. It might be the new forks or the new front wheel, but I really think it is the low end rear wheel (a Mavic Crossland) that makes it a handful. Secondly, the roots were all slick from the rain we had the previous night. Finally, there is a big tree at the apex of the corner, so one false move and ..... well you get the picture. But on this day none of those were to cause me grief. The loose grip on the other hand was the trump card.
Down the hill over the root -- a little air, kick out the rear wheel, land in the appropriate direction, a little front brake for speed control, a little front brake for speed control, hello, a little front brake for speed control. There was to be none of that. As I went to pull on the front brake as I landed my grip spun backwards. I jammed my wrist as I spun out of control towards the big tree at the apex of the corner. Luckily with a bit of body "English" I was able to miss the big tree and careen into the bushes. Hmm, I'll have to get a new grip. Who knew grips are so important?

Now I am partial to my grips. I have a set of rather ancient Serfas Connectors with red metallic sparkles that remind me of a kids bike.
They are comfortable.
The rubber is grippy.
They have character.
They have holes.
Those holes let in water.
The water makes the grip not so.
They have to go.
Get a grip

A Weekend Without Bikes

I didn't know it was possible, but last weekend --Easter -- I went the whole weekend (5 days) without riding. It's not that I didn't want to, or I didn't have a bike, I just couldn't.

We went to the Oregon Coast for the weekend with my brother and sister in law. We met them in Portland where I had a new bike rack for the van waiting for me. I was quite excited about the rack -- I would be able to open the back door of the van with the bikes and rack still attached -- something I wasn't able to do with my Swagman. I decided to put the new rack on and try it out for the weekend. So in the pouring rain on Saturday I fumbled away trying to get our two mountain bikes and a trail-a-bike on the new Softride Access DX. Bloodied cold and soaked I was finally victorious and we were ready to hit the Coast.

It's a couple of hour drive to Manzanita from Portland. Quite nice actually, though the mountains and then down to the Coast Highway at Canon Beach. We followed the Coast Highway south to Manzanita, a small sleepy town with, I'm sure, good riding in the hills behind.

We had to endure storm after storm until finally I thought we could get a family ride in with Tessa on the Trail-a-bike and Aiden on his own bike. I even talked my brother and sister-in-law into bringing their ancient mountain bikes. We were all ready to go so I went to get the bikes off the new rack. Now what did I do with that key? Well in my bloodied, cold and soaked condition when I was installing the rack I put the key to the lock, that held on all the bikes on, in my brother's living room in Portland.


So not only did we have a weekend without riding -- I had to suffer even more because I saw the bikes hanging on the back of the van all weekend long!
It wasn't so bad though. There was lots to do. We played soccer and frisbee on the beach. We jumped in the sand dunes. We walked a lot. We even went crabbing and caught our dinner.

It was really a great weekend, even though I didn't ride. Imagine that!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Important Things

Well another year has passed.
Actually a big one.
Yes I turned 40 this week.
I'm not sure how I feel about it. On one hand I don't feel any different than when I was 30.
I know it sounds a bit cliche. I am still me. Just because I woke up on Tuesday and was 40 didn't mean things were going to be different.
I still ride daily.
I still play with and teach my kids daily.
I'm still pals with my wife daily.
So things haven't changed.
But on another level they have changed.
In the first 40 years I accomplished a lot -- I'm not bragging here . I raced bikes at a national level. I went to University, and got a couple of degrees. I was a ski bum. I got a job. I bought a house. I got married. I had kids. I'm sure there are a lot of other things that should be on that list -- but that is what I can think of right now.
Anyway the gist is I feel I have done a lot.
What do I have to look forward to in the next 40 years?
There will always be riding, my wife, my kids, my job (not necessarily in that order).
But what about the BIG stuff?
I guess it is time to make some goals.
Anyway, as a start I have signed up for the first Ripper of the season. April 29th on Mt. Fromme. I'm doing the up and the down. Should be fun. It's a start.
Live life in the now.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


So I thought I'd go in a few mountain bike races this year. I haven't raced for probably 10 years. I'm a bit worried, needless to say. I'll start with the "loonie" races that are on Wednesday evenings. They are supposed to be a lot of fun and are under an hour long. They have various locations around the Lower Mainland.

I think I'll also try and do the Ripper Series. These are also "fun" races, some aren't even timed. The first of these Rippers is April 29 and can be done as a team or as a solo. The team has one rider that rides up and one that rides down. The ride is up Fromme to the seventh switch back and then down Seventh Secret Trail. In the team event the uphill rider will ride a cross country bike and the downhill rider will likely ride a downhill bike. I have thought about which leg I would be good at. I'm light, I have a light cross country bike, so it would seem that I am destined for the uphill leg. But, on the other hand, I love going down Seventh, I also have the bike for it. Hmm, ok I'll do the solo.
Now back to the bike issue. My cross country bike would be great to ascend with, but I think it would be a lot of work coming down -- in fact I might be scared for my life in the downhill. My "freeride" bike is great coming down --we did the down in 19 minutes last night, but it might be a bit of a bear going up.
I know I won't be the first up and I know I won't be the fastest down so what does it matter which bike I use? Well I think for safety I'll forgo blazing speed up for a safe ride down. Remember it is supposed to be "fun".

NSMBA Trail Day

It is time to partake is some Karma building. We have been riding this trail, and others, and have been enjoying the hard work of others. Now it is time to give a day, or a morning, or a couple of hours. It's good for karma. It's good for the trail. It saves the environment. Come on out, have some fun, work some muscles that perhaps need some work. Socialize, and play in the mud.

See you Sunday.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Freeriding -- What is it?

This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a pilot project for some graduate work a student is undertaking at UVic. The title was "Freeride Physiology Study" .

There were a number of reasons for partaking in the study. First of all I remember when I was doing my graduate work and what a p.i.ta. it was recruiting subjects. So whenever I can help out I do. Second of all it is always interesting to see how you compare with other riders, and for that matter yourself -- I rarely ride with a heart rate monitor or do any other measurements while I'm riding. Third, it gave me the opportunity to ride with other people that I wouldn't normally ride with. And finally it might help me to define this "freeride" phenomenon.

What is Freeride? Cam, the grad student, defined it as
A recreational form of downhill mountain biking, involving negotiating natural and man-made obstacles such as roots, rocks, and bridges. Routes typically involve a significant loss of elevation but may incorporate undulating terrain.

but is that really all it is? If so haven't we been doing this for years on the Shore? How does this differ from downhill mountain biking?

The study was conducted on Fromme mountain. One of the great things about Fromme is that you have to ride UP. There are no opportunities for "shuttling". So this brings me to where I think the definition of Freeride should be. I think one has to include the ride up in the definition, otherwise, to me, it is just downhill.

It is funny, I ride up Fromme once or twice a week. The number of "kids" that are walking up pushing their bikes is astounding. I often see these "freeriders" and wonder "what is wrong with them?" They are young, they have great bikes, so why are they walking. It must take them hours to walk up. Granted this is exercise, and at least they aren't playing video games all day, but really, walking up? Are they not fit enough to ride up? If not what is this saying about the exercise benefits of Freeride mountain biking? Maybe there is a need to study this type of riding.

The study was interested mainly in our heart rates during the descent, although we did record our ascent as well. What I found interesting was that my heart rate was indeed HIGHER during the descent. Granted I wasn't riding hard up, but I was surprised to see that my heart rate was higher coming down (at least when I had a chance to look at it-- I should get the data this week -- I'll keep you posted).

I did indeed get to ride with people I wouldn't normally ride with. I rode both up and down with Eamonn one of the NSMB Freeride Team members. He had a heavier bike than I did, so the ride up was more difficult for him. Coming down he had more travel than I did, so he would pull away on the big drops, I would catch him on the inclines. It was a lot of fun to ride all the way from top to bottom on a trail that normally we would stop and chat on after every stunt. I definitely enjoyed the flow. And the ride down was definitely more tiring than the ride up.

Maybe there is something to this freeride thing. Maybe I am getting some aerobic benefit coming down. Wouldn't that be great -- I get my cake AND I can eat it too!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Project Bikes

I've got three "project bikes" on the deck right now. Actually I have finished my cross country bike, so I can strike that from the list, but I'll talk about it anyway.

Project 1: I decided, now that I have a "freeride" bike, I would upgrade my old all mountain bike and make it into a better cross country bike. I had a 1997 Deep Cove Hummer. It's a great bike that deserves some upgrading. It's a Sandvic titanium steed that is absolutely bullet proof and is still pretty light. Most of the components are XTR, although old they still work. I wanted to stop better and that was the main reason for the work, also the forks were shot. I got a set of Marzzochi MX Pro forks, with 4 " of travel and ETA lock out for climbing. I got a WTB front wheel and a deore hydraulic disk. Total cost ~500.00. Not bad -- although I think it is actually HEAVIER than it was before, but the forks work and I can stop now. Both are big pluses.

Project 2: I have an old (1986) custom Chas Roberts with similar era Shimano Dura Ace components (actually the first year of index shifting). I have to change the wheels, it still has tubulars on it! And I have some brake issues as well. I have thought about making it into a fixie, but I live at way up a mountain, so it's not that practical having only one gear. I think I will put some moustache bars on it and some new wheels. Ultimately I would like to put some wood fenders on it. I think that will make it look really classy. I might also need a paint job, but I think that can wait for now.

Project 3: this one is kinda cool. It is actually for my kids. The daycare at my work was throwing out an old Norco Moto-X kids bike. It is pretty retro, and my son really likes it -- you know it's got a gas tank and looks like a motorbike, any five year old would go crazy. It's got issues though. Both wheels are pretty rusty and the rear hub no longer has a brake. In fact it IS a fixie right now, you can go forward and backwards on it. He actually did quite well today when we rode it -- no brakes and all. It should be fun showing him how to fix bikes, how to recycle, and the value of father son time. I'm really looking forward to this project.
Here is a link to most of the bikes: Projects, and the Cross country

Let me know what you think of these projects. Any ideas?