Saturday, April 28, 2007

How Do You Pick a Bike Shop?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the all sponsors trail day on Mount Seymour. Most of these trail days put on by the NSMBA have a shop sponsor the day. The shop will supply lunch, maybe some draw prizes and help to organise the day's events. What was different about April 15th trail day was a number of shops helped to sponsor and organise the events and lunch for the day.

The boys from Different bikes had a great chili, Dan from On Top Bike Shop had a couple of salmon on the BBQ. Kim Steed and his crew from Steed Cycles had hamburgers and hot dogs. I think it was John Henry Bikes that brought pizza. New guy on the block Matt Juhas of North Shore Bike shop was making the rounds all day handing stuff out and giving a hand where he could. The Cove Bikes was also helping out.

What was interesting to me was that I know all these guys and gals. On Top is just down the street from our house. Dan, one of the owners of On Top, has a daughter the same age as my son. We have a lot in common.

Willie, of John Henry, lives down the street from me, has a kid that went to daycare with my daughter, and has just recently had another child. Willie is riding across Canada this fall to help support Juvenile diabetes .

I found out at the trail day that Kim Steed's wife is a "Townsend" A few of my buddies from Edmonton, when I raced, were sponsored by Proctor/Townsend bikes. We had a lot to talk about including additions to their family.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that all of these store owners are really great people. I want to do business with all of them. Unfortunately I don't have the time or the money to frequent all the shops that I want to. So how does one choose a shop, or maybe more importantly, why do you need to choose a shop? What I have found over the years is that it pays to be loyal to one shop.

Years ago when Jeff Carr was at the Cove, I would go there and Jeff would treat me right. He knew that I would come back if he helped me make the best decisions for my riding and my budget. He also knew that if he gave me a bit of a deal I would definitely keep coming back. Through the years Jeff has moved around a bit. I have followed Jeff from the Cove, to Simon's, and now to his newest venture at Different Bikes. Jeff has always treated me with respect, he has always listenes to my concerns, he gives me deals on everything I buy from him, but most importantly he makes sure that if I am having a problem with a piece of equipment that he tries his darndest to get it fixed, replaced or has a demo for me to ride on the weekend.

So although all of the bike shop owners are great here on the North Shore you have to find one or two that you are comfortable with, that treat you well and give you a reason to keep coming back time and again to spend your hard earned cash.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

All Sponsors Trail Day

Today my son and I went to our first "Father Son" trail day. These trail days are organised by the NSMBA and are usually sponsored by one bike shop or another. This one was a bit different though, it was a group effort by a number of bike shops and was directed towards a long standing hiking trail that is minimally used by mountain bikers, the Baden Powell Trail. The Baden Powell Trail spans the whole North Shore and three mountains. Today's event was to upgrade and repair a section on Mount Seymour between Old Buck and Severed Dick. This section has seen a lot of erosion due to the torrential rains we have seen in the past year and little upkeep by any of the stake holders. Very few if any other user groups organise maintenance of the trails on the North Shore. The NSMBA has been the major force in maintenance of all trails on the North Shore in recent years, not just mountain bike trails.

Today A and I picked a section of the trail that had been eroded because a culvert had been plugged with debris and water went over and down the trail instead of being moved under the trail. It was great fun. I was worried that A might be bored, but he got right into it. He helped dig out the ditch beside the trail and then moved rocks back onto the trial. Once our section was ready for the North Shore Gold that we needed to "cement" the rocks together A was in his element. He searched and found a "vein" just off the trail where he and Wade Simmons spent a lot of time filling buckets with Gold for the trail. It was difficult to get him to stop for lunch. By lunch we had two sections of the trail completed-- we, and others including Wade, had made a couple of berms to allow the water to flow off the trail and not down the trail. Even with the lure of a birthday party in the afternoon it was difficult to get A away from that North Shore Gold. Ahh, I think he has the bug.

Thanks to all the sponsors which included, Different Bikes, the Cove Bikes, On Top Bike Shop, Steed Cycles, The Northshore Bike shop and the organisers at the NSMBA. We'll see you at the next one.

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Ripper 1: Up and Down Fromme

Well it was the first NSMBA Ripper of the season today and in true Ripper form "it was an experience." The theme today was "what is up is down, what is forwards is backwards" according to Race Director James Wilson of Obsession Bikes. The race had two categories, the team and the solo. In the team category a good downhiller tries to find a "hired gun" cross country rider to climb up and he/she then rips down. Since I am neither a a skinny cross country rider (although some may disagree) or an expert downhiller , my skills are mediocre in both so I am perfectly suited to the second category, Solo. Also in true Ripper fashion I learned a lot today. I learned two main things 1) never follow the race director's wife and 2) never borrow a bike for a race.

Let's start with #1. At the start line I wondered where Amber (the race director's wife) was. James had said that there was to be a backwards theme, and usually Amber is at the front of the pack at the start (she's fast). But not today. The "gun" went off and we were told to turn around and go backwards down the trail -- and then I realised -- Amber was at the back (front) of the pack. I made an important "note to self" here -- always watch for Amber. So by the time I caught up to Amber on the climb we were approaching the 4th switchback up Mt. Fromme. We were making good time, I was ahead of some of the guys I was behind last year, so I was feeling good. And then it happened, Amber turned down Warden's trail and I (and a handful of other Rippers) believed that must be the way. It was a nice downhill, there was one of the "hired gun" cross country riders in front of me so I thought we must be on the right track. Well by the time we got back to the road, near the second switch back (and after a bit of bushwacking) it quickly became clear that something was wrong. After about 10 more minutes of climbing (back to the 4th switchback) it became evident that the race went UP Warden's trail and not down and I/we were now at least 10 minutes behind. Note to self -- the race director's wife can get lost too.

The second thing I learned was don't borrow a bike for a race -- especially one you have never ridden before. My own bike was experiencing some rear shock problems, so I was forced to send it in for warranty replacement. I was assured that this would be a "week turn around." That was a month ago now, and still there is no end in sight. So I had to send the word out that I needed a bike for the Ripper. My friend Terry offered up his new Salsa Cassaroll, but I felt this might be a bit fragile and the single speed fixed gear may not have been appropriate for the downhill section of the course. Jeff at Different Bikes came through with a Rocky Mountain Slayer 50. This is probably the perfect bike for this type of event, it has adjustable travel, rear lock out and it's pretty light (I noticed Wade Simmons was riding his Slayer 70 as a downhill bike, he and his hired gun uphill rider won the event). The only problem is that I haven't ridden one before. Not a big deal for the ride up -- it was light and fast, but on the way down the trouble began. On the first three tight turns I augured each of them. I also made the mistake of clipless pedals -- new bike AND clipless pedals -- what was I thinking? After some adjustment I got fairly comfortable and I didn't crash again. The main thing I noticed is that 9mm front axles are not meant for the Shore. The front wheel's line (the line the wheel choses) may not always be the line that you chose. With a 9mm front axle (and with extensive fork travel) this difference can become quite large at times. This offset between handle bar and wheel then induces the famed "tank slap" and then the inevitable auger. I suppose you could get used to this type of relationship with your front end but why?

In the end, although there was no chance of placing, I had a great time. The addition of Pipeline to the race was great-- it meant more uphill AND more down hill. I almost placed in the top 10, even with the extra lap -- which really just helped add miles in my non existent training regime.

Thanks to all the sponsors, volunteers and everyone else that make the Rippers such an experience.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mountain and Stunt Biking in North Vancouver

This post is a response to a piece on the "North Van politics" blog where Ernie Crist, a former councillor in North Vancouver District, makes accusations that mountain biking on Mt. Fromme is environmentally damaging and unsustainable, and that North Van taxpayers are footing the bill for trail maintenance to "restore damaged trails."

As a mountain biker, a North Van resident, and general outdoor enthusiast I find these accusations quite off target. First of all, yes there is mountain biking on Mt Fromme. I started riding there over 20 years ago. Since then there has been a boom in the sport. More and more people are riding. Over the years I have seen the trails go from mud tracks down the side of the mountain (that were absolutely an ecological disaster) to trails that are much more sensitive to both the needs of mountain bikers and to the environment. When a trail crosses a stream, in most cases, a bridge made of dead fall is used to keep riders from riding through the stream and causing erosion. Over sensitive muddy areas ladders are built, again to minimise the impact of the tires. Through the organised efforts of the North Shore Mountain Bike Association (NSMBA) mountain biking has become legitimized because of some of these more sustainable methods of trail building. Mountain bikers not only maintain and improve their own trails, they also maintain hiking trails, something hikers as a group rarely do.

I ride up Fromme almost weekly. In my travels I do see environmental degradation. This degradation is rarely a result of anything mountain bikers do though. At the bottom of Crinkum Crankum as a result of run off there is a terrible wash out. This wash out is not a result of any mountain bike trail, although one does cross here, it is a result of improper road construction. Yes mountain bikers use the road to access trails on Fromme, but the road is there so that vehicles can access Grouse Mountain, private cabins and the Van Tan Club.

Mr. Crist also makes the assertion that
"There is also an aesthetic factor in the equation. Artificial structures on forested mountain slopes can detract from the atmosphere of an unspoiled wilderness, inhabited by wild life"
I find this statement hard to believe. Anyone driving or hiking up Mountain Highway to Grouse Mountain would be hard pressed to see any structures, or for that matter, any trails. It takes a keen eye, in many cases, to even find the trail head of many of the mountain bike trails on Fromme. To say that the structures, many of which are put in for environmental reasons, are aesthetically unpleasing is ludicrous. I don't like the look of Lynn Valley Mall. It is an eye sore and I have to see it every day. Most of the structures made for mountain biking are almost invisible until you are right on top of them. All of the structures are made from dead fall and are natural to the environment. Each of the trails that the NSMBA maintains is done so with a permit from the District of North Vancouver. So to say that the trail building and maintenance is illegal is also false.

Many of the mountain bike trails are actually old skidder tracks used by loggers when the trees from Fromme were used to build the houses that many of us are living in. To say that mountain bikers are ruining Fromme seems laughable. Fromme has tracks and trails all over it, from industry no less! So to say that Fromme is pristine wilderness is really not true, it has been used by business and developers for many years. I suspect the developers will get more of Fromme in the future and pave over and build houses on many of the trails that I ride today. I also suspect little will be said about that type of environmental raping.

Are NVD taxpayers paying for trail maintenance and restoration? I doubt that. Most of the work on trails done by the NSMBA is done by volunteers with donated materials. There have been grants received by the NSMBA to maintain and improve trails, such as the Baden Powell hiking trail, but I suspect if indeed some of this money did come in part from the DNV, it is relatively small and well worth it for all trail users and residents.

I won't say that there are no illegal or poorly built trails on Mt Fromme, there are. There are a "bad apples" in the mountain bike world, those that don't go by the rules, those that build illegal trails, scare hikers by riding past without regard for other trail users, but I also believe that they are in the minority. There are many people in our society that don't play by the rules. I see them every day when I walk my son to school. The people that don't stop for pedestrians, those that speed without regard for other road users.

So let's move on. Mt. Fromme has always been a "working" mountain. It has been logged, developed and now it is being mountain biked on. I see both logging and development far more detrimental to the environment than mountain biking. Let's help the NSMBA improve and maintain the trails for all users.

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