Monday, June 20, 2011

What was then and what is now

Lina spent 2 days this weekend doing very well at the Kalamalka Lake Classic stand-up paddleboard races. So well in fact, that she won all three of them and retained her title as "Queen of Kalamalka". Lots of photos of paddling and winning can be found here.

Whilst Lina was winning, Paul, Angie, and I enjoyed the trails in the Cosen's Bay area of the lake at a more relaxed pace.

Paul about to escape gravity for a fleeting moment

Paul and Angie in a field of green

The wrong end of a deer

Now for what's next. Tomorrow, Lina and I leave for Whitehorse, where we'll race bikes in the 24 Hours of Light, and then Lina will attempt to paddle a very long way down the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson... on a stand-up paddleboard. I will be carrying the beer and potato chips (and a few other things) in a sea kayak. As far as we can tell no-one has done this before (the SUP part, not the beer and potato chips)... which has let to a lot of interest and greatly appreciated support and advice. The following people have helped us out with some great equipment for the trip, which we will try not to lose or break along the way. Thank you!

Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak
Kialoa SUP Paddles
Mountain Equipment Co-Op
Icebreaker Merino Clothing
Starboard SUP
Trident Sports
Ryders Sunglasses
Werner Paddles

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Yesterday was my last shift at OCB and Monday will be my last day in "my other job". The times they are a-changin'.  My last OCB day was enhanced with a bit of a special/awful/excellent (delete as appropriate) project. Our great friend Gary has discovered triathlon. I pity the fool, but then I did a triathlon once so who am I to judge? An essential part of triathlon seems to be obsessing over equipment and the bug has apparently bitten Gary, with some unusual symptoms. Before the race Gary got some faster tires for his flat-bar commuter bike and while he was in the shop picked up a rusty old drop-bar from the $5 bin. He told me about his plan to cut the hooks off it and jam them into the ends of his flat-bar. Knowing Gary, I had a feeling this wasn't actually a joke and feared for his life. I suggeted a few more-conventional options (aerobars, bar-ends), but Gary is a man who knows his own mind... and the drop bars were happening one way or another.

The race came and went... and then last week Gary asked if I could "take a look at his bike". The drop-bars were on there alright, but what was missing was any way of braking or shifting gears effectively. Something had to be done and I like a challenge, so rode the contraption into OCB and got to work. Unexpectedly, it turned out quite well (relatively speaking). You can hold the hooks of the bars, you can brake, and you can shift (with some dexterous finger-work). Obviously there's no "hoods" position that you can brake from, or even hold, but the bars are set really high which makes riding in the hooks pretty comfortable. I even managed to rig it up so a standard length gear cable is just long enough for the rear... despite the epic proportions loop of housing from the from the shifter to the frame. I learned the following things doing this that perhaps someone in the internet universe might find interesting, as unlikely as that seems.

Thing #1: Old steel drop-bars (from an old 10-speed) have a smaller tube diameter in the hooks than modern drops, so you can slide flat-bar shifters on there with no problem. The bulge also clamped just fine in a standard 25.4mm stem.

Thing #2: These flat-bar STIs with the brake reach adjuster wound all the way in mounted on the hooks quite well, and you can actually brake. Amazing.

Thing #3: Doing this "properly" would have involved buying a set of road STIs, plus changing the disk brake calipers to those Avid ones which work with the short cable pull of road brake levers. That's got to be at least $400 in parts... if I could even find 8-speed road STIs. Doing this the "Gary way" involved buying a couple of pieces of cable housing and some bar tape at a total cost of $28.

Thing #4: I can't wait until Gary races this thing again... I would love to hear the comments.

For the ultra-observant: the bar tape is wrapped backwards for a reason you know.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

When will this infernal racing end?

This weekend, I continued "not being really into racing" by agreeing to do another race. Ridiculous. This time I was half of a 2-man team with Paul, racing for Syndicate Industries in the 2nd Annual Wade's Excellent Adventure on Mt Fromme.  The format was a sort of treasure-hunt style, where we were given instructions on which trails to ride, then came back for more instructions until we had done 3 loops. For anyone who this means something to, we rode: Seventh Secret, Crinkum Crankem, Ladies Only, Executioner, Dreamweaver, St Mary's, King of the Shore, Roadside Attraction, and Bobsled... with some Baden Powell and Mountain Highway thrown in to link it all together. Pretty much all of my favorite Fromme trails in just under 3 hours. Phew.

My increasingly wonky Blur 4X held together and we ended up 3rd in the 2 man team category and 5th overall... proof of which is here. Unfortunately we managed to be in the wrong place at the right time, and avoided the award presentations. Oops. Maybe one day I will learn to read the instructions carefully.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The tortoise and the hare

This weekend I spent most of my time riding to, riding home from, eating post-race burgers at, or racing in the Return of the Ripper. I felt like a visitor is a strange world at the Friday-night prologue, surrounded by tall skinny people skipping up and down the trails on featherweight bikes... pre-race chit-chat about tires, heart rates, and such was floating through the warm (at last!) summer air.  It was good to see some familiar faces from last weekend's NIMBY, the always-friendly (and fast) Kim from Steed Cycles, and a surprise visit from Paul who diverted his road ride to wish me luck. Having accidentally pre-ridden the course while I was trying to find the start line I knew I was in for a very short and very fierce ride. Sprinting for 15 minutes is not really my idea of a good time, and I'm certainly not good at it. I arrived at the tricky climbing section of the Richard Juryn trails out of breath and spent the whole thing slipping around and getting on and off my bike. I enjoy the challenge of these kind of climbs, but trying to race up them is a whole different thing... or is it? Maybe that's where I went wrong. Whatever, with the ritual punishment over I rode back in the evening sunshine, through North Van, over the bridge, and home.

Saturday's XC race promised to be more my style. The weather was great, the trails were tough, and it took about 3 hours (for me at least). I had a great ride/hike and enjoyed riding some familiar and some unfamiliar trails. How the elite racers get around the same course as me an hour faster is a complete mystery to me. I should have eaten some more food.... and probably put some special luminous energy powders in my water, but to be as fast as those folks takes something remarkable I think. Feeling a little humbled by the speed of the elite crowd I rode home and got stuck behind a huge group of folks enjoying the sun and riding over the Second Narrows Bridge. After a minute or so uphill, most of the gang stopped to push up to the top and let me past. It's nice to know where I fit into the cyclist spectrum... somewhere between elite XC racer and afternoon bridge-pootler.

Looks like I'm racing, right?                   Photo from Simon Chester

Last, was the "Super D" race on Sunday. Now that sounds pretty exciting doesn't it? It was. I couldn't face riding all the way from home and back again, plus riding up Mount Seymour... so I resigned myself to driving over to the Shore and "just" riding up the mountain. As luck would have it, some friendly racers picked my up on my climb up the hill so I only rode half way... which to be honest, was a relief. Standing around waiting for my start at the TNT trail, the realization crept in that any ideas I  had about doing well in this were misguided. Apparently there aren't too many people (only 13 in my category) who think the idea of barreling down really tough trails, then up some things, and down some more scary things.... probably clipped-in on the same featherweight bike you just rode a monster race on yesterday... is a good idea. I think it's a great idea (except the featherweight bike part), but unfortunately I'm not as fast as folk like Wade Simmons who I was racing against. Heck, I don't even have a Wikipedia entry about me. You know you've made it when you're in Wikipedia. The start went great... I got down all the steep and slippery stuff on TNT on my bike, fell in a refreshing pile of mud, sprinted up the first hill on Dales, down the next, had a nice smooth run down Severed... and then failed to ride Sticks and Stones in any kind of respectable fashion. S&S is a fun, pedal-y trail and I usually really enjoy it, but it just wasn't coming together. Whacking my pedals into every rock and struggling to clip-in I clattered my way to the end. The finish was a gravel-road sprint, which was hard for my non-racer head to get excited about, but that's what racing is all about right... doing something different to what you would normally. The times the fast guys put in on that course on their XC bikes were again, incredible. I wish I could have watched them on their way down.

The overall results in the King of the Shore category (for those who did all 3 races in the same bike) show me two things. Firstly, the tortoise doesn't win if the hare runs all the way to the finish. Secondly, I'm one of only 25 mountain bikers around here (there must be thousands) who thought spending a weekend getting humbled by these races was a good idea, rather than just going for normal, type-one-fun, ride. Sometimes I like being one of those people... whatever that means.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Game plan

I still claim that I'm "not really into racing", though it's not very convincing when I will have done 4 mountain bike races in 9 days.

Last weekend, I re-visited NIMBY50 which I entered last year. Note "entered", not "rode" there. About 30 minutes before the start of NIMBY 2010 I discovered that my bike was deflated (literally) and no amount of pumping air into the rear shock or tinkering with it was helping. I ran the course on foot... helped people fix their bikes and encouraged the last riders over the line. Then we drank a heroic amount of beer, sat on hay bales, and a good time was had by all.

This year I returned to NIMBY with a different bike (that Blur 4X that I had to hacksaw the back end off of) and a determination to actually ride the course this time. It worked out. The weather was perfect, the course was fantastic, and the bike not only held together but was fun to ride. Careful analysis of the results indicates that if I can keep up the same pace for another 27 years my time of 3h16m:34s might stand a chance of winning the 60-69 years category. A good aim I think.

This weekend I have signed up to race in the time-trial, cross-country, and "Super D" races in the North Shore Bike Fest. Quite why I have done this is a mystery to me... but it probably has something to do with there being a "King of the Shore" category limited to people who ride all three races on the same bike. That's the kind of thing I'm into.  I do now realize that it's also the kind of thing that all the best riders in Vancouver are also going to be into. My plan for racing success seems to be fatally flawed. There is some hope though, after all... will all those fast folk still be there in 27 years time I wonder?

Watch out for my domination of the 2038 mountain bike racing scene folks.