39. King Weekly Series ’17

King-weekly-series-team-colin.jpgWhat are you doing when you get home from work on Tuesday night?

If you’re a rider, you have four choices:

  1. Go for a ride.
  2. Relax and watch tv.  Here’s Tuesday’s television schedule.  If you just clicked that link, you suck.
  3. Cut the lawn, do the laundry, or otherwise occupy yourself with household non-bike drudgery.
  4. Race!

Note the punctuation in the list above.  While “Ride” is a viable option, “Race!”, is the clear choice.

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King Weekly Series!

The Spring Season is in full bloom, and it’s time to start riding, racing, and riding some more, because even though the winter just ended, there are only 7 more months of guaranteed riding awesomeness before the Spring/Summer/Fall season is over and the snow starts to fall.

And there is no better way to enjoy a spring ride than to race the King Weekly Series. It’s happening every Tuesday night of the season, and here’s the thing:  It’s a race, but not really.  Sure, if you’re hungry and want to win, you can go out and give it your best shot–although be warned that some choice riders are going to be doing the same thing–but if you just want to get on your bike with a bunch of other bike minded people (I am so using this term more often), and push yourself harder than you do on a regular ride, a weekly series race is the way to go.

The course is different each week, the vibe is relaxed and communal, and Jamie and crew will walk you through whatever hesitations you have.

Here are the Top Eleven reasons why the King Weekly Series is for YOU.  Yeah, eleven reasons…because Team Colin goes to eleven.

  1. The series is a well kept secret, and that means small crowds.  Small crowds mean a better chance of snagging a door prize, and if you’ve got the lungs for it, fewer racers means a possible spot on the podium (Of course, there is no podium at the weekly races–just an announcement–but if you win the series, there is a podium ceremony at the end of the season).  Oh, and sometimes Team Colin Hats are a door prize.  Yeah, boom.
  2. Treats!  When it’s warm, someone usually brings frozen treats (HINT:  it’s Team Colin). FYI, watching a bunch of gnarly MTBers trying to look gnarly while eating a popsicle is awesome.  Spoiler alert:  they look the opposite of gnarly.  There is also a free pizza night, a free BBQ night, and sometimes even home baked goods!
  3. Jamie Davies.  I love this guy.  Maybe it’s the hair, maybe it’s the boss MTB vibe, maybe it’s the AWESOME courses he creates.  Whatever it is, I just love him.  (Don’t worry Ryan and Tristan, I love you two too!).  By the way, if you haven’t seen Jamie grace a bike seat, you HAVE TO.  This guy is FAST.  Like, smoking fast.  Dude can ride.
  4. Centennial Park. It may not be big, but it’s filled with some great technical features, some grunty climbs, a few hairy descents, and lots of new stuff each year.  It’s a tiny mecca of MTB nirvana.
  5. 15/20.  It only costs 15 bucks to race (or $175 for the season), and there are 20 races. between April 25th and September somethingth.
  6. Here’s another name:  Tyler Clark.  Tyler is the 2016 U17 Canadian National MTB champ!  Two days after a winning run in Baie-Saint-Paul, he clocked a blistering time at the King Series.  How did he win a Canadian National Championship?  Surely, it was his time spent doing the King Weekly Series…  By the way, his siblings are pretty awesome too.  ALL of the Clarks race the King Series.
  7. The King Weekly Series has a Facebook page!
  8. Two words.  Drew.  Bezanson.  Drew and I are totally BFFs.  It’s true.  Here’s what I wrote about my bestie (he loves it when I call him that) after he raced the King Series last year.  Riding With My Pal Drew Bezanson.
  9. The Bateman’s Bicycle Company team riders.  A bunch of them race the series.  Want to watch some hardcore MTB riders do their thing–these guys are awesome. Store owner, Robert Bateman sometimes rides too, and he just books it.  If you ride as slow as me, you can watch them shred the trail as they skim past you in the last lap.
  10. Laps.  Yeah, laps.  It’s usually a 3k to 4k lap.  That means you can easily book through a practice lap before the race starts and try to master some of the fun stuff. Also, with short laps, you can experiment with pacing and pretty much ride full out.
  11. Kids.  The course and vibe of a King Race is totally kid friendly.  It’s not Kid-Easy, because, you know, MTB, but it’s Kid-Doable.  Jamie has a kid, many racers bring their kids. There’s even a reduced kid price.  You should bring your kids. If you don’t have any, please think about your MTB responsibility.  The fruit of your loins is the next wave of MTBers.  Now get out there and make a kid!

Here’s a bonus.  If you’ve read to the bottom of this list, and if you comment on this blog, YOU are entered into a draw to race for free one Tuesday this summer.  Jamie Davies has authorized Team Colin to grant the awardment (totally a real word) of one race each month.  That’s one draw in April, one draw in May, one draw in June, one draw in July, one draw in August, and one draw in September.  The best thing is that if you win, you don’t have to race in that month.  Contest Rules:  1.) If you haven’t raced in the series before, I’m going to put your name in twice.  2.) There are no other rules.

I wrote about the King Series a few times last summer.  If you want to get a feel for the course, click one of these:

Can I talk about Evolution Cycles for a sec?  They run the series.  They are awesome. Like any great bike shop, they are everything bikes! Whether you are a beginner or a pro, road, fatbike, or MTB, or anything in between, they will nurture and support you.  If your current bike shop doesn’t make you feel like a pro, find a new bike shop.  If you’re close to Yonge and Major Mackenzie, it should be Evolution Cycles.   When you walk out of Evolution Cycles, you feel like a team rider.  If you can’t find parking right in front of the store on Yonge Street, park in the back and use the back door.  There’s a sign.

When I get home from work on Tuesdays this summer, I’m going to have a few choices. I will be tired.  I may want to have a dirt nap.  I may want to just bake my brain in front of the TV.  There will be buckets of laundry.  There will be grass that needs to be cut.  There will be chores and homework and errands and all sorts of life that need tending.

There will also be the King Weekly Series.  Everything else will just have to wait.

Ride.

 

PS.  Hey, do you have a question about the series? Do you want to try a race, but think it may not be for you, or have questions?  Comment below, or send an email to me at: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com

By the way, if you want to try a weekly series, they are all awesome.  I like King on Tuesdays, but check out these other races too.  You won’t regret it.

 

News: DMBA Demo Fest!

What’s better than a sweet rip through the forest.

Um, nothing,  If you said anything else, you failed.

And what’s better than riding YOUR bike?

Again, nothing.  There is nothing better than riding YOUR bike.

However, testing a new bike comes pretty close–especially if you’re on the market for a new bike, or if you like super sweet high-end bikes, or if you’re like me and you just like everything about bikes.

If only there was a way to test a new bike, and maybe have some PANCAKES IN THE FOREST with a bunch of bike minded people (see what I did there)…

Or if there was a way to try a skills park created by Joyride 150, while rocking out to music by the Red Bull event team…

Or if there was a way to take a Ride Guides skills session, while checking out some awesome bike stuff…

And if only you could do all of this with your kids, at Durham Forest (one of Ontario’s best trail systems–with over 125 km of awesome trails).

Well you can:  The Durham Mountain Bike Association Demo Festival.

Demo Fest Poster040417 (1)

Yeah, BOOM.

So, while last weekend was the official start of the Spring season (with the Homage to Ice), this event is the officialler (and very AWESOME) start to the Spring season, and I have no doubt it is going to be one to remember.

“Who is going to be at the Demo Fest?”, you might be asking.  The better question is “Who isn’t?”

Bike shops (by the way, each is a link to their web site):

Manufacturers:

  • Giant
  • Norco
  • Specialized
  • KHS
  • Cannondale
  • Trek
  • Santa Cruz
  • Devinci
  • Liv
  • Pivot
  • Rocky Mountain
  • Scott
  • Yeti
  • Staran

Plus a bunch of other cool bikey and food-like merchants, manufacturers, and what have you.

And the best part is, it’s FREE.  Yep, totally free.  Well, it’s free for DMBA members. What, you’re not a member yet?  No seriously, you’re not a member?  Well, if you aren’t a member (although you should be) you can get a DMBA membership here.  A basic membership is $31.

If you’re on the fence about membership, or having to pay an admission fee, think about this.  Not only does DMBA promote our sport and maintain our trails, they have assembled a ridiculous number of exhibitors (who are sure to bring some pretty choice rides–bikes most of us usually don’t get to a chance to taste).  Plus, all the cheap, cranky people won’t cough up the coin, so they won’t be there to rain on our parade.  Really, 10 bucks is a pretty sweet deal.  Sometimes you gotta pay to play, and I can’t think of a better recipient of some well needed funds.

Oh, and who doesn’t like group rides.  DMBA group rides are awesome–but you gotta be a member.

Speaking of rain, Durham Forest is a jewel in the rain.  It’s sandy and has great drainage. With over 125k trails, and encompassing Dagmar, Glen Major, and Walkers Woods, Durham Forest is my go-to for mountain biking nirvana.  It’s about 40 minutes away from my home, and always great for a sweet, technical, heart pounding, gut busting, ride. Oh look, a map to Durham Forest.  Thank you Trailforks!

If you haven’t ridden Durham, or if it’s your place, the Demo Fest is going to be awesome. And it’s not just demo rides.  There’s a bunch of other sweet things happening that day. Check out their full site for more information:  DMBA DEMO FEST.

Here are some more facts that you need to know

  • DMBA Demo Fest is Saturday May 6th, 2017 between 10am to 4pm
  • Durham Forest is located at 3789 Concession Rd. 7, Uxbridge, Ontario
  • There’s parking for 500 vehicles.
  • Registration is required to participate: DMBA members are complimentary, non-members are $10 (under 16 years of age free with paying adult or DMBA Member).
  • Registration fee includes access to all manufacturer demo booths to test premium bikes, and entry into amazing prize raffles.
  • Food is available for purchase, including pancakes, and lunch options from local businesses: The Copper Branch, Hy-Hope Farms, The Merchant of Meat, and Primal Pizza.
  • It’s best to register before you get there.  Do that here.
Full disclosure.  DMBA called this event to my attention, and gave me a few passes for friends, and a few more for the Epic Boom Prize Giveaway.  I’ve been a DMBA member for a while now, ride regularly at the forest, and was planning to write about the event in any case, but I think it’s important to be open about things like this.  I’m writing about this event because I think it’s going to be awesome.  Period.
Ride.

38. Homage to Ice ’17

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Photo credit:  Jeff Shikaze

Single Speed 201.

Team Colin went for a big, giant rip in Dufferin County Forest on Saturday, in race #1 of the Substance Projects XC Marathon: The Homage to Ice (presented by Cycle Solutions).

And let me tell you this: Homage was paid.

Except that I paid homage to everything except ice.

Homage to rain and mud.

Homage to Dan Marshall.

Homage to the big boss riders who served my arse to me on a mud splotched,  platter.

And sure, homage to AWESOMENESS (just not mine)

On a very personal–and physical level– I paid homage to pain, more pain, a bit more pain, and then some other pain for good measure.

This is my 5th year racing Dan Marshall’s XC Marathon, and I haven’t missed a race yet. 4 races each year.  4 years.  16 races in total.  But this year, it was different.

This year I decided to race the marathon distance.  Yeah, the marathon distance!

Okay, it was really tough, but I’m going to say it right now.  Boom.

1 speed, 2 laps 3 hours and 50 minutes on my bike.

Lots and lots of rain.

A giant mass of KNOTTED muscle where I used to have shoulders (plus a pair arm flaps that are going to be basically useless for a few more days), and the gentle satisfaction that I DID IT.

Last place overall, 2nd place Clydesdale.20170415_154552

Lemme say it again.  Boom.

So H2i 2017 was my first kick at a full race.  My first kick at a race distance that I couldn’t even fathom attempting a few years ago.  It’s the first time that I don’t have to give a disclaimer afterwards.  “I did Race X–the half distance…”

BUT HOLY CRAP IT WAS TOUGH.  So very very tough.  Remember when I said it was an “…homage to awesomeness”?  Yeah, well it wasn’t.  It was gruelling, tough, and just plain hard.  Damnit, it was so hard.

When I finished the race, on the drive home, and in the days since, I’ve been feeling uncharacteristically bleak. Aside from being physically drained, I’m beating myself up for doing so poorly…for having spring legs…for not being able to get into a groove…for not training as much as I should have…for not training as hard as I should have…for getting passed by the half marathon leaders (who started half an hour later then I did) at the 15k mark…and for actually thinking I could do the full race.

Seriously, what possessed me, a half marathon racer (and not even a good one at that) to attempt the full distance?

I know someone has to come last, but still…

And to add insult to injury, there were even a few riders at the race who did the Tilsonburn 100 Mile race the day before.  Check out Riot’s post about it.  So let me get this right.  I couldn’t handle the race, but other racers did an ever BIGGER race the day before and still managed. I get it, I’m not them, but still…

My overall time was 3:51.  The winning Single Speed category time was 2:36.  Ugh. Seriously, I was an hour and 15 minutes behind first place.  Heck, I was almost an hour behind the second last place rider.  Double Ugh.

My first lap time was 1:48.  My second lap was 2:02 (what, I really needed a few breaks).

I felt pretty stupid, a bit embarrassed, and kind of demoralized.  But then I realized something. If I’d raced the half marathon, I would have beaten a few pretty fast riders, and placed 7/9.  Well that’s not so bad.  Hmm.  So everyone else had a tough time too. Sure, a bunch of riders were waaaay faster than me (in both races), but I held my own, and my results were consistent with my prior races.

Sure, I’m still not that great, but I’m not worse than I was last year, and I might even be getting better.  Edit.  I’m getting (a tiny wee little bit) better.

Flashback to race day morning:  It was 108 km to Mansfield, I had a full tank of gas, it was bright, and I was wearing sunglasses.  I was listening to some tunes and ready for my first big boy race. The forecast for the day was a high of 20, with a chance of showers. I was worried about tackling the full distance–no, I was terrified–but I was excited too. Excited to be challenging myself.  Excited to have the chance to push myself hard. Excited to be ABLE to even think about the longer distance.

But I was mostly worried.

It started raining while I was driving. Stupid forecast.  Fortunately, I was prepared for any weather. Bib pants or bib shorts;  Short sleeve or long sleeve jersey; full finger or fingerless gloves; and I even packed my neck muffler and helmet liner as a precaution the night before.

Wait, my gloves were still in the clean laundry basket waiting to be packed.

AW DANG IT!!!

I was supposed to get to Mansfield with more than enough time to prep.  I was supposed to have a relaxed drive.  I was supposed to STRETCH before the race. Nope. A quick exit…turn around…pick up my gloves…back on my way.  30 minutes lost.

I made it to the race about 35 minutes before start time.  35 minutes to mentally and physically prepare for the biggest race of my life.  35 minutes to register…say hello to everyone…change into my race kit…put some air in my tires..check and repack my tool bag..jam some food in my belly…think about the task at hand…

What the?  It was 10:59, the race was about to start, and I wasn’t ready.

Race Report:  Homage to Ice. Dufferin County Forest (April 15, 2017)

The race started, I still wasn’t ready, I hadn’t stretched, and well, I JUST WASN’T READY! The pack booked it down the doubletrack, and out of sight.  I wasn’t even on my bike in time to even see the tail end of the pack.

My gearing is pretty low, so I pretty much spun my wheels for the first few k of double track.  I passed two friends who were trying to fix a bent chain, and then hit my first sweet singletrack rip of the year.

The rain wasn’t heavy, so the course was wet, but not too muddy.  However, Dufferin Forest is so tight and twisty, and there was very little chance for me to just let it fly, no chance to find a pace.  Worse, between the tight trees, the slick mud, the giant (and awesome) logovers, and my gearing, I spent every pedal stroke either braking or trying to crank back up to speed.  I realized almost immediately that the day was going to be a slog.

And then it started to really rain.

I hankered in for the downpour, tried to maintain visibility though my glasses, and just tried my best to keep some sort of pace.  In dry conditions, the course would have been great but tough.  In the rain, the course was not great and tougher.

Dan Marshall always says that Team Van Go have a policy of turning every downed tree into a logover. He isn’t wrong.  The logovers in Dufferin County Forest are legendary: They’re big, meaty, rideable (but just barely) and fun.  If a tree falls in Team Van Go’s forest, does it make a sound?  Yup “Logover!”.  They were daunting to look at it, but awesome to nail–especially in the rain.  I spent the entire race alone–utterly alone.  However, I took some comfort that I was riding in Team Van Go’s forest.  They have such a cool vibe, and I always feel it when I’m riding there.

The course followed a bunch of awesome singletrack for the next 5 or 6k, and then, at about 8k, there was a wickedly sweet, twisting descent.  The rain made it slick and a little gnarly.  Awesome.

The course for the next while was tight and winding, uppy-downy, and tough.  Man, it was tough.  I just couldn’t find my pace.

And then it stopped raining.

No it didn’t.  It just rained harder.  There was more single track, punctuated with very short sections of double track, and then the course came to the first aid zone.  What the?  The aid station was at 12k, but it felt like I had been riding forever.

Liz and Jenn at the aid station were kind and generous with their words of support.  A quick snack, a bottle refill, and I was back on the bike.  More singletrack, a few grinding climbs, and the “10K To Go” sign.  Dang.  This wasn’t getting easier.  The rain proved to be a menace at this point, and it slowed me even more.  The climbs were even tougher, the corners were even sketchier, and it all just sucked.  I was off my bike to walk a bunch of climbs (but I attacked a few too), and then came The Wall.  I didn’t even try to attempt it, and dismounted when I started losing traction, and hoofed it up the rest.

“5K To Go”  C’mon.  This race was taking forever.

At about that point, my back didn’t want to play any longer, and went home. “Okay back, I’ll finish this thing without you”

And then the sun came out.  No it didn’t.  It just rained more.

Some more tight track, lots of mud that was quickly turning to muck, a few little climbs, and out into the driveway for a short zip to the finish line.

Phew, the race was finally over.  No it wasn’t.  There was another lap.  It was the halfway point of the race.  After an hour and 48 minutes, all that work, the slogging, and all the pain, I was only halfway finished. I needed a break, so I spent a few minutes at the Start/Finish.  I refilled my bottle, guzzled some pop, had a PB and J sandwich, and tried to stretch (Yeah, nice move dummy–you’re two hours late. Shut up brain).  And where the heck was my back?  Dang, I was sore.

At least the rain had finally stopped.

I was in last place, and I was looking forward to a complete rerun of EVERYTHING I just covered.  Every log over, every climb, every dismount, every wince, every muck pool Everything.  Every ache of my back and throb of my shoulders.

Yeah, my shoulders.  My single speed isn’t just rigid, it’s fully rigid–with an aluminium fork.  After 25k, my neck and shoulders were…  Well, they were sore.

I have to say, the stark realization at that point of the race was pretty bleak.  In the first few minutes of the second lap (really, for most of the second lap), I experienced my darkest time on a bike.

Dan Marshall always says you finish a race by pedalling until it’s over.  So I pedalled.

And pedalled.

And pedalled.

And walked a bit.

And pedaled.

The same climbs, the same descents, the same trees, the same logovers, the same everything.

With 1k to the aid station, I saw Jenn and Liz through the trees, and they rang their bells and hollered words of encouragement.  After the aid station, there was still 13k to go.  They were a beacon of hope and positivity.  Refill..stretch the shoulders to try and break up the knot…have a snack…back on the bike.

And then it got easier.  No it didn’t.  It got tougher.  People always comment about my enthusiasm for the sport, and I have to say that it’s a good thing I’m so amped.  It kept nipping at my heels and propelling me forward when all I wanted to do was quit.

10k to go…ugh.

5k to go…ughhhhh.

Out of the valley, back onto the driveway and the race was over.

They waited.  I was last place, and they waited for me to finish until they started packing up.  Dan didn’t scream my name, he SCREAMED MY NAME.

End of Race Report

I did it.20170415_153520

You know, I always talk about the love groove, and the strong connections in my MTB world, and I always say I know it’s not very MTB.  But I think I’m wrong.  I think the love grove is the very essence of MTB.  We’re all in the same boat.  We all love riding.  We all support each other.  I would not be riding without it, I wouldn’t have tried the marathon distance without it, and I wouldn’t love the sport so much if it wasn’t such a big part of it. It helped me finish the race on Saturday.  And whether it was Liz and Jenn at the aid station, or Dan screaming “Team COLIN!!!” at the finish, or all my fiends after the race, it was heartwarming and awesome.  That’s all I’ve got to say about that.  No it isn’t.  Can I talk about Heather for a sec?  She wants to the the 8 hour in May, and she’s training.  So what did she do?  After the half marathon, she did another lap.  Just because. No timing. Nobody cheering her on.  Just because she’s awesome.

I loved my first big race.  I laughed, I cried, I winced, and I experienced an epiphany.  But it wasn’t the epiphany I was expecting.

At some point in the race, or maybe it was some time after the race (don’t remember–delirium) I realized that I hit my riding ceiling. I realized that my ceiling–at this point in my life–is just a bit below a full race.

And it kinda sucks.  No, it doesn’t kinda suck.  It just plain sucks.  But it’s okay, because my ceiling 5 years ago was well below a half marathon.  And my ceiling next year?  In five years?  Well, who knows.

Scratch that.  I know.  I know it’ll be higher.  And I’ll make sure my gloves are packed the night before.

I raced the marathon distance in Saturday’s Homage to Ice.  Boom.

Ride.

PS.  Hey, did I capture the race?  If you were there, and I missed something, let me know. Anything to say?  Comment here on the blog, or send an email to: teamcolin@yahoo.com

And if you really want to read about last year’s course–my first time racing a single speed, check it out here.

Oh, one more thing.  Team Colin hats are in.  Awesome.

20170413_183223

37. Steaming Nostril ’17

Great Gravel Grindage

Steaming-Nostril-Team-ColinFor the last year, I’ve been pretty steamed with the Steaming Nostril race–a 45k or 65k gravel romp through the horribly awesome, wickedly gravel, roads, hills, rail trail, and farmer’s fields of St. Jacobs.

I was angry at the race because it was so horrible last year.  I’m kidding of course, there is no such thing as a horrible race.

But last year came close.  It was awesome, but it was mostly horrible.  Cold, windy, snowy, windy, cold and windy. Worse, because of a poorly positioned horse and buggy, I missed a turn and added a bunch of pedaling to my race.  Horrible indeed.  Here’s my post from last year:  The 2016 Steaming Nostril

I was excited to be finally riding my new (used) Norco Threshold–a proper gravel ripper, and after last year’s Draft-A-Thon (at my expense–I’m talking to you, Runny Nose Rider), I was excited to explore the possibility of drafting.

Well, I’m happy to say that yesterday we made up.  The 2017 Steaming Nostril (Runny Nose distance) was, as the title says, a bunch of great gravel grindage.  Sure it was windy, but it’s tough to beat racing in 12 degrees on a sunny Sunday morning during MTB shoulder season.

Although it almost wasn’t meant to be.  The day started with tragedy.  While loading my new bike into my van, it tipped over and bent the heck out of the rear derailleur hanger.  I’d been plagued by drivetrain issues since buying the bike, but my shop finally had it purring the day before the race.  Now, unless the Steaming Nostril involved a puck and an ice rink, my hockey stick derailleur hanger wasn’t going to be any good.

Have no fear, Velofix was there.  Damn, that almost rhymed.

Here’s how it went down:

Me:  Thank god you’re here.  My rear derailleur hates me.

Tim:  It’s the morning of a race.  If you can pedal, leave it.  The last thing you want to do is snap it.

Me:  Well, it was bent into my spokes this morning…

Tim:  Okay, let’s take a look (Velofix Tim–that was his name–clamps bike on stand).  Oh no.

Okay, here’s where a little bedside manner would have been nice Velofix Tim.  The words “oh” and “no” together, half an hour before a race, are so very not cool.  Thankfully, I had another pair of bib shorts.  You know, because of the immediate and involuntary bowel evacuation.

Tim:  (attaching his Park Tools derailleur hanger bender-backer) Well, here goes.

While I waited for a the horrific “PINGK”  sound of my derailleur hanger snapping, I felt like I was going to throw up.

Tim:  Just a bit more…

Yup, I was definitely going to throw up.

Tim:  And some more…

I may have blacked out at this point.

Tim:  There you go.

Me:  Wha?  How?  Really.  How much do I owe you?

Tim:  Nothing.  Now get out of here and change your shorts.

Velofix Tim is my guy.  Seriously, I love you Velofix Tim.  Also, super cool van.

Velofix
Velofix Tim!

With my bike in shape, and weighing at least 10 pounds less, I was good to go.

Race Report:  Steaming Nostril–Runny Nose distance.  St. Jacobs (April 9, 2017) 

I did something I never do.  I seeded myself near the front of the pack.  I placed 10th overall last year, and 7th overall two years ago, so I figured (hoped) I’d have a similar performance this year.  It was the biggest crowd I’d seen at the race–52 riders in total–but I was chatting with my new blog/hat buddy Steve Shikaze, and I tried to play it cool.

Awooooo (that’s what I heard) and the race was on.  There was a little zip up a soft grassy knoll that was short enough to book, but tough enough to feel.  The 65k riders cheered and waved.  Nice.

Within a few minutes, we hit the Millrace Footpath–a 2k stretch along the river that is usually sheer ice, but was completely dry this year.  The pace was fast, but I felt strong.

Back on the road we left St. Jacobs, for the long haul:  gravel, road, and gravel for the next little while.  The wind was punishing.  I was riding alone, distancing myself from the pack behind, while watching the pack ahead slowly thin to lone riders .  Really, we were all ALONE.  While this year’s field was the biggest I’d seen at the Steaming Nostril, 52 riders does not allow for any pack riding the same way that it isn’t possible to NOT be in a pack when there are a few hundred riders (take THAT 65k riders–we couldn’t draft). By 8k, we were firmly into our respective race positions, and it was time to get into the race.  The wind was hammering us, so there was only one thing to do.  Pedal.

The distance started adding up.  My Garmin read 12k…18k…20k.  Wind, gravel, farms, and awesomeness.  I was into my groove, and struggling, but my pace wasn’t unmanageable, and I held speeds between 25-35 km/h.  Clearly my bike was a good investment.

And then the 20k mark.

Oh.  That.  Wind.

I hit the drop bars, lowered my head, and just gave it.  The wind was mean. Punishing. I still felt strong, so I increased my pace enough to close the gap between me and the rider in front of me.  Maybe I’d get a chance to draft after all.  It hurt.  A lot.  But I closed it.  When I caught up to the rider, I suggested we share the load a bit.  At least I think that’s what I suggested. My lungs were infernos, my legs were stumps, and I may have vomited.  In any case, he got the message and tucked in behind me.  I pulled for a short stretch, before tucking behind him.  Actually, it was such a crazy cross-wind, that we pretty much rode astride and barely behind each other when we were drafting.  Crazy wind.

And that’s when I got disqualified.

Yeah, disqualified.  Team Colin got disqualified (although not officially) on my 41st race.

I have finished every race I started.  Sometimes I start late, and sometimes I finish late. Sometimes I sail across the finish line, and sometimes I finish with one shoe on, one shoe off, and a taco for a front wheel.

But I ALWAYS record a time.

It was stupid, really.  Somewhere along the road, we missed a turn onto the rail trail, and skipped a 1.4k portion of the race.  Every turn was marshalled by police officers, but apparently, there was an unmarshalled turn that we missed. I was riding with dude, and we were probably tucked low and focussed on not dying, but we definitely missed a turn.  I didn’t find out until much later when one of the leaders passed and notified my.  It was devastating.  Up to that point I was feeling strong and confident.  After that, I felt deflated and stupid.  The wind wasn’t my enemy this year.  I was.  At the end, I found out that I missed about 1.4k.  It wasn’t enough to cause much of a time difference, and the officials said many others had done the same thing, but it was enough for me to feel absolutely, utterly, and totally bummed.  I may not be a good rider, but I race with all I can, and this really stung.

So, with a broken heart, I pushed on.  More headwind, even more headwind, maybe perhaps possibly a bit of tailwind, lots of gravel, a few paved sections, a bunch of horse buggies taking Mennonite families back home–and back in time–after church service.  It was a bright and sunny day, and I was racing my bike (that was performing like a champ by the way–thanks Velofix Tim) so it really wasn’t that bad, but my upcoming DQ was ever present in the back of my mind.

And then, at about 28k, I passed a farm with a few horses.  I said hello to the horses, because it really is rude to ignore them, and asked them how they felt about the state of American politics.  Unanimously, they said “Nay”.  But one horse stood out.  I called him (or her–I’m not an equestrianite) Fabio Horse.  Seriously, dude horse was rocking a wind swept mane of awesomeness that would broil a romance novel cover.  “Dude, you are awesome”, I said to the horse.  He (or she) said “Nay” but I think they were just playing coy.

Honestly, with Fabio Horse on this planet, I figured everything would be alright, DQ or not.

And then the farm.  Hey farm, I hate you.  Even Fabio Horse hates you.  Seriously, just ask him if he likes you.  No I don’t really hate you, but c’mon.  Even the route into the farm (which I knew would be tough) was tough.  At the farm, the rutted, soft descent was rideable, as was most of the valley, but that dang section did all it could to throw me off my pace, zap whatever energy I had left, and make me feel like a chump.

Except….Maple Syrup!

The farmer had shots of maple syrup.  I asked if they could give me an IV drip of maple syrup, but no luck.  Two shots of maple syrup later, I was off, and up out of the valley. Last year, there was only one route out of the valley–the Cliff of Exhaustive Swear Words.  This year, there were two options:  the shorter COESW, or the longer and easier route.  I thought I took the shorter route, but got mangled on the longer and easier route. What is it with me and signs?

Out of the valley, off the farm, and a few k to the end.  Here’s something I really like about this race.  Many race organizers exaggerate and give an inflated distance. The Steaming Nostril was supposed to be 40k, but it was just over 44.  The organizers love riding and racing that much.  Me too.  Nice work organizers.

It was a quick(ish) shot along our last taste of gravel for the day, through the last farm, and the finish line.  The crowds waiting at the Waterloo Rod and Gun Club were great, and it was a sweet lead up to the end as well.  The wind cooperated, and I booked a sweet sprint through the road crossing, and down to the finish line.  The announcer read my name as I crossed–always a nice touch and a very pro feel–and gave me a tenth place finish

Except for my DQ.

End of Race Report

Runny-Nose-finish
1oth Place finish!  Or not.

I approached the officials immediately and explained my transgression.  They were very cool about it, and since the next rider came in 8 minutes later, they kept the time and the place.  I guess I’m okay with the result, but there is still something scratching at the back of my mind: an unfinished race.  So not cool.

Steaming-NostrilThe day ended with some great bike and life chat with a bunch of awesomely cool people. The food was spectacular and plentiful, and the hall was just thumping with the adrenaline and post-race vibe.  I spent most of it with my new blog/hat buddy, Steve Shikaze (check out his link), a few lapdogs, and a bunch of other awesome riders (some of whom actually read my blog sometimes–so cool).  Names were exchanged.  Race stories were related.  Loved the vibe.

And guess what?  On the way home, I missed my turn from highway 85 onto highway 8. Damn signs…

And that wind?  Whatever.  Like I said last year, we didn’t bring our teacups to a garden party, we brought our bikes to a big boss race.  Can’t beat that.

Ride.

 

PS.  Hey, did I miss anything?  Were you there?  Want to say something, add something, or ask something?  Comment below, or send me an email (teamcolinblog@yahoo.com)

 

Look who I found.  A few blogger pals, and She Who Will Not Be Named (last year’s Runny Nose Rider–yeah, were buds now).

 

36. A Spring Ride

Nothing Like a Spring Ride

Spring started two weeks ago.

Except I think Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.

But I don’t care.

I don’t care because it’s not warm, but it’s warm enough to get outside.  I don’t care because the trails are too fragile to ride, but the roads, urban paths, and gravel aren’t.  I don’t care because THIS IS SPRING IN ONTARIO.  Unpredictable, cold, windy (I really hate the wind), crappy, horrible, and wet.

And AWESOME.  Yes, awesome.  It’s shoulder season, and while most of us are itching to hit some sweet singletrack, there’s still plenty of riding to be done.

And so, last night, after work, I was sulking.  I was sulking because I have this boss new bike, and for the past two weeks, I’ve been dying to let it roar.  Lately, so many riders have been posting pictures from their rides on social media, but I’ve been fairly inert. Forget the bike, the savage beast inside ME wanted to roar.  I NEEDED to get out for a ride, so finally I planned to leave work early and go for a romp on my CX bike–just some park paths, a bit of gravel, and bit of road, and a ravine or two, down to Lake Ontario. It wouldn’t be much, but enough to warm me up for Sunday’s Steaming Nostril, and tame my restlessness. And then I left work a bit late, and got home with only 2 hours before sunset.  Aw dang it!

My wife hates it when I sulk (but I wanna sulk…) so she said “Go for a ride”. What else could I do?  I squeezed every ounce of those dwindling hours of light.

I wrote this on my Facebook page:

…most people in my neighbourhood don’t even realize that we basically live right on Lake Ontario. It’s true. It’s only a quick shot up the road, through a ravine shortcut, into the park, up to my old high school, along a 2k road connection, down (and up) a sweet gully, over the train tracks, into Morningside Park, through the university campus and Colonel Danforth Park, straight to the lake, and then a quick boot to Rouge Beach. Yeah, I pretty much have beachfront property.

And would you look at the beauty I rode.

Norco-Threshold
My new (used) Norco Threshold SL.

It was my first proper rip on my new (used) Norco Threshold.  Forget that I had drivetrain problems; and forget the fact that I had to turn it upside down three times during my ride; and forget that I coiled the chain so badly around my crank that I bent the heck out of it and need a new one. Despite everything, this bike purrs. It climbs like a rutting bobcat, and tears at everything else like a tyrannosaurus rex.  What a rip.

I’ve lived in Scarborough my whole life, so it’s safe to say that I pretty much know most every rideable nook and cranny (although I’m always looking for more) around my house.  I don’t really follow a set route.  Depending on weather, conditions, and my mood, I usually just make it up as I go–and Wednesday was no different.  Wednesday was about climbs, wood chip trails, winding park paths, and repeat.  I had an hour to get to Rouge Beach (the furthest east I figured I’d make it), and an hour to get home before the street lights went on.  That was my usual curfew time growing up.

I made it to the beach.  And somewhere along the way, which is usually the case on a great ride, I changed a bit.   I remembered something.  I remembered the joy, bliss, and absolute peace of a ride.  I remembered the physical, emotional, and mental cleanse of a sweet rip.

I spent the winter riding at Joyride, spinning in my basement, and even on a fatbike (or three), and while all of it was awesome, nothing–and I mean nothing–beats being outside.

Part way through my ride, I also remembered that sweet climb up to a great lookout at the Highland Creek Sewage Treatment Plant (at the foot of Beachgrove Road).  It’s a quick detour, but totally worth it. There is a walking path climb that starts at the top of a paved climb, and it was dry enough to shred.  The paved climb is sprintable, but not really, so when I hit the walking path, my lungs were already burning, and my legs were on fire, but it didn’t matter because the change in cadence from the pavement to grass was enough to reinvigorate me.  I hit the climb and the wind kicked in (stupid wind).  I dug in and gave it everything I had left.  At that point of the hill, you can really smell the poop curing in the nearby sludge tanks, but it didn’t matter because I devoted my attention to managing the ruts, fighting with that damn wind, my legs, and my lungs.

And before I knew it, I hit the top for the sweet view.

But I was in the zone, and I didn’t remember to stop and enjoy the view.  I de-snotted, got out of my seat, moved back on my bike, steadied my grip on my brakes, and hit the descent on the other side of the hill.  More ruts, a bit of spongy trail, a horrible wall of poop smell, and I was at the bottom.  I shook it off, did a 180, and continued on my way.  It was 6k to Rouge Beach against a punishing head wind.  I kicked the wind in the throat, and made it the shack on the beach with just a bit more than an hour before dark.  I was feeling strong–not summer strong–but strong enough.  My back was feeling the climbs, and that bloody wind was just mean, but my legs felt good, and my heart was still beating.

Heck, it wasn’t just beating, it was singing.

I never really forgot how a awesome a great ride makes me feel, but between work (that’s been a bit of a mess lately) and life (that’s been a bit hectic lately), and trying to carve out some time for a proper rip, the joy took a back seat.  Not anymore.

It’s Spring, and I’m back in the saddle.  Boom.

I took a different route home, and made a quick stop on a bridge overlooking MY ravine. I made it home well before the street lights came on (phew).  My route was awesome, and I wondered about the awesome secret routes that other riders carve close to their homes.  That’s MY ravine in the background, but I also wonder who else OWNS it.  And how THEY use it on their rides.  A-Spring Ride

After a winter of waiting, the outdoor riding season (in shorts) is upon us, and I’ll take the uncertainty of spring weather, the waiting for the trails to dry, and the stupid jerky wind, because spring riding is AWESOME.  It’s not sweet singletrack, but you can smell it in the air. And I’m not talking about the smell of the poop from the sewage treatment plant–I’m talking about the smell of the eminent singletrack bliss.

I know it sounds hokey, but for me, nothing soothes the savage beast like a sweet rip. Initially, this ride was intended to be a warm up for this weekend’s Steaming Nostril (Runny Nose distance), but it became so much more, because at the heart of every great ride is fun, a bit of evolution, and just a great time playing bikes.  Team Colin:  1, Savage Beast:  0.  Roar.

Here’s to a season of sweat dripping into my eyes, cramped calves and sore wrists, the occasional sun burn, horribly awesome climbs, shiver-inducing descents, grit-covered water bottle nipples, the promise of the road, the grind of gravel, and miles and miles of sweet singletrack.

Even when it’s windy.

Ride.

 

PS

I’d love to hear about your secret route.  Or whether you think I got this right.  Comment in the space below, or send a message to: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com

 

 

Review: Norco Ithaqua

The Norco Ithaqua 6.1.Norco-IthaquaMy first bike review.  The Norco Ithaqua 6.1.  What a bike.  I reviewed the bike in December, and tt was featured on Riding Feels Good.  
Now that I’ve reviewed a few others, I thought I’d include it in my blog.  If you want to read it, you can follow the link above, or read the text below.  The review was also featured on Norco.com.  Pretty cool.
Team Colin Reviews the 2017 Norco Ithaqua

Christmas came early this year for Team Colin, in the form of a test ride weekend with a 2017 Norco Ithaqua 6.1.  Norco’s answer to the question “Hey Norco, could you please build a racing fatbike for me?

 
They answered “Yes”, and the Ithaqua is many other things too, but at it its core, it’s just a big, mean, race-ready, fatbike.  It literally squashes the Sasquatch and Bigfoot (The Ithaqua’s little brother and sister), and rides like a raging behemoth.  This bike is one big mother.  Really, I think that’s what I like about it the most.  It’s long, lean, and robust–and its size and geometry combine for a tight, yet supple, and burly feel.
 
Wait, Itha what, now?
 
Ithahaqawaqana?
 
ITHAQUA.  Remember that name.
 
Seriously though, did I just write “burly”!  And what’s an Ithaqua?
 
Well aside from being Norco’s aforementioned big boss mountain bike, it’s a big boss legend too.  Here, from the Google, are some notes about the legend of the Ithaqua:
 
“Ithaqua is a horrifying giant that controls snow, ice and cold…prowling the Arctic, hunting unwary travellers and slaying them gruesomely.
 
Ithaqua is the only one of his kind.  Those who join Ithaqua’s cult will gain the ability to be completely unaffected by cold.”
(The Wikipedia)
I think the engineers at Norco read the legend, and then built a bike around it, because they have created something truly awesome.  Seriously, Norco didn’t just build a bike.  They built a legend. This bike is sooooo badass.  Yeah, I just cussed.
 
The Ithaqua frame is made of mid modulus carbon, and…BORING.  Okay, if you want to read the actual review part of this “review” (note the quotation marks, denoting how serious of a reviewer I am), you can scroll down to the “Norco Ithaqua’s Five Cs of Awesomeness”.  I’m not big on “mm”, degrees of anything, or specific specifics, but I think you’ll get the picture.  However, first, I want to gush a bit more. 
 
Well, the cat’s out of the bag.  I love this bike—I love this bike–and the tone of this post is going to be, um, glowing.
 
Full disclosure:  I’m not a techie cyclister.  When riders are comparing gear ratios and suspension travel, I’m more apt to say “Hey, cool bike”.  To be honest, I’m still not even sure why Kevin, the rep at Live to Play Sports, let me demo the bike.  True story:  when I left the warehouse, I speed walked to my van shouting “Start the car!  Start the car!” even though I was alone.  Shh.  Don’t tell Kevin–I want to try it again on snow.  Also, don’t tell Kevin that I yell to people who don’t exist in my car.
 
Okay, so I like the bike, but does the Ithaqua live up to its lofty, mythic name?
 
Yep.  Absolutely.  You bet.  Oh yes, it honestly and truly does.  And omigod does it ever.
 
I had the bike for four days, and tried a few types of terrain.  Unfortunately, the weather in Ontario can change pretty drastically in one week, and the demo days were snowless.  Boy, what a difference one week can make.  We’re on our third straight day of snow here.  Anyway, on the Day 1, I rode it on the streets around Mount Albert, Ontario, to get to their Christmas Parade.  True story—at times there more people were craning their necks to see the cool bike behind them than there were watching the floats.  The next day, I spent a few hours on the XC Loop pumptracks, and skinnies at Joyride 150.  Tooling around the park was awesome. Then, on Day 3 (the morning after Joyride) I met my riding buddy, John (and his friend) for a proper rip in Northumberland Forest.  After a rough work week, a few sleepless nights, and pounding the bike at Joyride for a few hours the day before, I was not in the mood for a ride.  Also, it was cold, and I was tired.  What can I say, I’m delicate.
 
And then I sat on the bike (vroom). 
 
And then we started riding (vroom vroom). 
 
And then we hit a few climbs and some technical stuff (VROOM VROOM). 
 
If I thought Joyride 150 was fun on the Ithaqua, ripping actual singletrack was a blast.  You don’t just ride over logs with an Ithaqua.  You ride up the trunk of a tree, through its canopy, and down the other side of the trunk.  This is a beast of a bike.  I thought I was Batman, riding something cooked-up in the Wayne Industries laboratory.  The bike climbs like a jackrabbit, handles trail features like a ballerina, and just rips like a demon.  Put plainly, it was gnarly and fun.
 
The next day, my demo weekend was over, and my time with the bike was waning, but I wanted to feel the thrill jut a bit more, so I spent Day 4 just messing around.  I managed to sit on the bike and play around as much as I could: In my driveway; around my house; next door to see the neighbours; or whatever.  I don’t think there’s a more fun ride when you want to play bikes, and as much as the Ithaqua will “hunt unwary travellers and slay them gruesomely” in a race, if you scratch its surface, it’s a bike, and bikes are fun—this one is just that much more fun because it’s made so well.
 
Enough gushing, here’s my review of the Norco Ithaqua 6.1:
 
For those inclined, here are the Specific Specifics on my demo:

Frameset

  • Frame:  Mid-modulus carbon fibre fatbike frame (weight:  1350 grams)
  • Fork:  Norco Carbon 150×15 Fat Fork  (weight:  690 grams)

Components

  • Seat/Seatpost:  SDG Duster RL/Race Face Next Carbon 31.6 x 400mm
  • Headset:  Angular Sealed Cartridge Bearings w/2x10mm Matte UD Carbon spacer
  • Stem:  Race Face Turbine 35mm/60mm
  • Handlebar:  Race Face Next 35 Carbon 760mm/10mm Rise
  • Brakes:  SRAM Level TLM (180mm front, 160mm rear)
  • Brake Cable Housing:  SRAM Hydraulic

Wheels

  • Hubs:  DT Swiss 350 (150×15 front, 97×12 CL rear)
  • Rims:  Sun Mulefut 80SL 26″ 32H”
  • Tires:  Kenda Juggernaut Pro 26 x 4.5 (Tubeless)

Drivetrain

  • Rear Shifter:  SRAM X1 11spd
  • Rear Derailleur: SRAM X01 11spd Carbon Cage
  • Cassette:  SRAM XG1175 10/42 11spd
  • Crankset:  Race Face Next Carbon 28T
  • Bottom Bracket:  Race Face PF92 Fat Bike BB

$6,099 (Canadian MSRP)

And here,as promised the

Norco Ithaqua’s Five Cs of Awesomeness

1.  CARBON

The Ithaqua’s frame is a thing of beauty,and you can’t get any sweeter than a carbon bike, but it doesn’t end there.  The fork is carbon, the handle bars, crank, and seatpost are carbon (Raceface Next).   Rides awesome, looks awesome, and lasts awesome.  Carbon.  Oh, and when it’s cold, you can lick carbon and your tongue won’t stick to it.  I mean, you know, if you’re inclined to—no judgement from Team Colin.

2.  CRANKING 

The cranking performance of this bike is phenomenal,  The driveTRAIN is a grinder.  Focus on the word TRAIN, because the Ithaqua’s 1×11 is unstoppable.  The 28 x 10/42 gearing is going to haunt my bike upgrade dreams for a while.  It took a beating at high speed, or at low cadence while hammering up a steep climb.  The Ithaqua doesn’t purr, it howls, and the drivetrain is designed for some serious forward movement.

3.  Componets

The build of the 6.1 is exceptional:  DT Swiss 350 thru-axle hubs, Mulefut rims, and Kenda Juggernaut Pro tires: Awesome.  Race Face Turbine stem:  whatever, it’s just a stem—but it’s stubby, it rocks, and with 760mm bars the bike handles nimbly, and solidly.  Every detail on the bike is meant to help win a race.  Even the SDG Duster seat is sweet (and it has orange accents to match the frame, natch).  Norco jams an exceptional pile of high end components on their bikes, and this one is no exception.  Seriously though, 76cm wide bars?  A w e s o m e.

Oh, and they’ve got these new, screw fit internal cabling ports that keep cables super snug.  Sweet.

4.  C’braking

Braking isn’t usually a review section (and “c’braking” isn’t even a word) but the SRAM Level TLM brakes are a work of art and deserve some love here.  They use DOT 5.1 fluid, instead of mineral oil, which will give awesome, consistent, braking in extreme conditions—and especially the cold. Plus, the TLM upgrade even has something called “Bleeding Edge” to make quick, RIDER, maintenance a snap.  These brakes could stop a, wait for it, TRAIN. 

5. C’geometry

Yeah, this word is a stretch, but I promised five Cs.  Any way you slice it, this bike performs.  Components and C’braking aside, I think the fit and feel of the frame is what really sings.  And I mean SING.  Sure, the components on the 6.1 are going to make a few things easier, and they may even win a race for someone who wins races, but the frame is the star here, and it is spectacular.  The top tune brings the centre of the bike pretty low,and gives is a zippy feel when cornering, and the head tube is steep and sharp.  Norco says: “…the bike features Gravity Tune, our unique geometry philosophy that adjusts the rear centre length in proportion with the front centre, giving riders of all sizes equal weight distribution over the bike”.  The name”Gravity Tune” may be a brainchild or a engineer or marketing guru, but whatever you want to call it, it’s awesomely sweet.

Okay, made up words aside, when the “Five Cs of Awesomeness “ are put together, the Norco Ithaqua is a stunning, race ready beast. 
 
However…
 
Kevin at Norco made me promise to find a few problems with the bike.  So, to appease him, here goes.  The first major problem with the bike is—I’m kidding, seriously, there’s nothing wrong with the Ithaqua.  At over 6 grand, how could anything possibly be wrong?  Honestly, if Norco couldn’t get it right (and boy, did they ever get it right) at this dollar figure, they’d be out of business.  Which I guess is the only problem. It sure costs a lot to get this level of perfection.  Are you happy Kevin?  Instead of being critical, I’m just outing myself as a big ol’ cheapo.
If I had to really search for something critical, I think I’d like to see a dropper seatpost. Given the size of the bike (and the price), I think it might be a benefit.  Also, I wonder how it’ll perform in the deep snow–especially when you have to dismount–and whether a dropper might make climbing and dismounting a bit easier.  Wait, is it just me who often has to shoulder his bike on trails…
 
If price is an issue, you can drop to the other models, the Ihtaqua 6.2 or the 6.3.  You lose a few things, like those sweet carbon components, but it’s the same frame, and I really think the frame is all the difference.  Plus, all models have SRAM Level brakes, and you’ve still got the same tires and wheels (although you take a bit of a hit on the hubs–which I don’t think is a big problem).  Finally, you get a lesser drivetrain, but I think the only disadvantage is the loss of a bit of durability, not performance.  And all of this for almost half the price. I gotta say that $3,600 for an entry level Ithaqua, is still expensive, but I don’t think Norco is trying to appeal to the average, looking-for-fun, fatbike rider.  I think they’re appealing to the racing, RESULTS-DRIVEN racer, hardcore racing, fatbike RACER.
 
And they’re probably looking for the average, looking-for-fun, fatbike rider too–just one who carries buckets of money in their jersey pocket.
 
It’s plain and simple, the Ithaqua is a racing fatbike, and to get this level of performance, it’ll cost some serious cheddar.  When I compare the bike to my Norco Bigfoot, it’s 10 times better, but only three times the price.  Hey, with that kind of economic justification, I think I may have just found a way to attack the N+ discussion with my wife. It would actually be like losing money if I didn’t consider buying one…   
 
What an awesome demo weekend.  It was Team Colin’s first legitimate demo, and one that’s going to be tough to top.
The Ithaqua has the heart of a race bike, wrapped in a fatbike shell, with the soul of a monster.  AND IT’S REALLY FUN TO RIDE!  Awesome.
 
Ride.

Review: Salsa Beargrease

A Salsa Beargrease, the Snumbler, and Team Colin

snumbler-salsa-and-meOn my third foray into the world of bicycle reviews, I dipped my feet into a pool of Salsa, and demoed a 2016 Salsa Beargrease X01.

The Salsa Beargrease (and Mukluk, and Bucksaw)  have a huge chunk of the fatbike market. The Mukluk is most popular because the aluminium frame gives it a great entry price, but it’s the Beargrease that seems to be their flag-bearing fatbike, especially for RACING.  They’re everywhere you look, and there are legions of fans who swear by their Salsa fatbikes. They rave every chance they get. “Salsa this”, “Salsa that”, “MY Salsa is better than your…”  So I jumped at the chance to debunk the Salsa groove, and demoed a sherbet orange and pink monstrosity (officially called the orange/pink fade), in race #4 of Dan Marshall’s 45NRTH Ontario Fatbike Race Serie, the ”Snumbler”: A 25k romp through the rolling Northumberland Hills, just north of Coburg, Ontario. The race was presented by Substance Projects, and my bike shop, Cycle Solutions (who also provided the demo).

I also thought the review would be a chance to say “Take THAT, Salsa”, and dispel the notion that I’m a lightweight “fanboy” bike reviewer.  Finally, I’d be able to demonstrate my technical knowledge with some witty barbs and critical comments, instead of my usual position of fawning over a review bike.

Aw dangit dangit dangit. Dang. It. I LOVED THE BEARGREASE! I wanted to hate the Salsa vibe. I wanted to sound like a critical rider. I wanted to poke fun at the fact that it looked like you could walk-up to its order window and order a large vanilla swirl ice cream cone…

Instead, after the race, I wrote this in my blog:

“Best fatbike ride ever… by far, the most fun I’ve ever had on a fatbike. Ever”.

You can read the whole race report on the Team Colin blog.

Also, full disclosure, I LOVE the way the bike looks. It’s not an orange/pink fade monstrosity. It’s a sherbet delight. So damn boss looking.  It’s like an orange and pink DREAMCYCLE.  See what I did there.

Now, since I’m being honest, I have to be clear and say the course conditions on race day were perfect. Seriously perfect: Great hardpack, exceptional grooming, and just enough granular stuff for maximum traction, grinding, and rippage. Combined with the rolling terrain of Northumberland County Forest, and a course designed to perfection, I really don’t think there was much that could have put a damper on the day.

However, somehow I don’t think it would have mattered because the Salsa Beargrease X01 is one heck of a fatbike.

My past fatbike reviews have employed generous portions of words like “weapon”, “legendary”, and “loggles”.

Oh, and I may have used the words “awesome” and “boom” a few times.

And this review will be no different. The fact is, I just love bikes, and there is no doubt in my mind that any company selling bikes with a retail price over 5 grand must know their stuff. Also, as my reviews have proven in the past, my enthusiasm for bikes has made me what the industry calls a “not-so-great reviewer”. However, there’s more to this bike, and here’s what I have to say about the Salsa Beargrease X01: I only had it for two hours, on one cold Ontario winter afternoon, and it was more than enough time for me, but not nearly enough time for me.

It was enough time because of the sheer beauty and performance of the bike, but it wasn’t enough time, because now that I’ve had a taste, I want MORE.

This review is taken from the perspective of a race setting, which is a really great opportunity to push a bike. Under race conditions, you get a REAL feel for the performance of a bike, REALLY fast.

Hold on a sec. Do your bikes talk to you? When you ride a bike, does it speak to your soul? Bikes talk to me. It’s true—and when I sat on the Beargrease, we exchanged all of our knowledge in a cool, Vulcan bike-mind meld. I felt like a bike whisperer.  BOOM. Sorry, I should have whispered that.  boom.

With virtually no warm up (having put on my pedals with no time before the race started, and only riding it a hundred metres to my van to get my sunglasses, and a hundred meters back to the start line–it’s all in the Race Report), I was a bit worried immediately before the race started. And then, I had to pee. The race was moments from starting, and I was busting a kidney. What did I do? Well, I peed.  I was in the midst of actually peeing when the race started just a few feet away from the door of the port-o-potty. What the? After finishing, reclothing, regloving, and regloving again, I was under the gun to seed myself within the pack. Actually, by the time I got going, I couldn’t even see the tail end of the pack and first had to catch up with them.

It was a less-than magnanimous start, but I was immediately comfortable and aggressive on the bike.

The race course had it all:

  • gentle stretches of double track, and tight and winding switchbacks;
  • perfect, and less-than-perfect-but-still-awesome singletrack;
  • gruesomely awesome climbs that made my lungs SCREAM; and
  • long, swooping, downhills that felt like they lead directly to Fatbike Heaven (totally a real place).

I knew the race was going to test me, and the bike. Sweet.

Salsa Beargrease X01: Review

So, I’d like to start with a Team Colin PSA rating (Pure and Simple Awesomeness: a PSA of 10 is perfect, a PSA of 1 isn’t). My PSA rating for the Beargrease is infinity. Actually, it’s infinity plus one. Some people will say that infinity isn’t a number, so you can’t add one, but they haven’t ridden the Beargrease…

However, for a more scientific method, I want to talk about:

  1. Build
  2. Fit
  3. Reliability
  4. Value
  5. Performance

1. BUILD

The X01 that I rode had a ton of custom components. It was a demo from Cycle Solutions, and my good buddy dialed it in with some sweet extras that made it sing. To be safe, I think there was probably about a grand worth of sweet extras. Most of them were pretty comparable to the factory specs, but the build also included Hope hubs, with Rolling Darryl rims, and Dillinger 4 tires that were custom “semi-studded” (two sets of studs: 120 on the front and 80 on the rear). The engagement and sweet ride from the Hope hubs was stunning. Powerful, quick, and smooooooooooth. I could write a whole review on these puppies. When you crank a Hope hub, the bike roars to life.  Instantly. So damn awesome.

The demo also had a sponsor seat made by Fabric. snumbler-fabricGotta say, pretty sweet for the money. Supple and comfortable, and their pricing is very competitive.

In terms of performance and durability, aside from the hubs, I really don’t think the custom build components made a huge performance difference from the factory spec components, and were probably just preference.

Although, the Hope hubs sure sound cool when you’re ripping…

2. FIT

I cannot say more than the Salsa Beargrease website:

“At its core, we used the shortest chainstay possible in conjunction with a headtube angle and fork offset that place the rider’s center of gravity further over the rear wheel. This location and combination of front and rear center is key to getting a fatbike that is stable, steers well in loose conditions, and still feels nimble and agile despite the massive wheels and tires. A low bottom bracket height is also key, to keep the rider’s center of gravity low, and make dabbing and dismounting easier.”

Truer words were never spoken. That is all.

No it’s not! I really love talking about this bike. It. Just. Fits. The demo was a large frame, set up for regular height and weight riders. I’m irregular. I’m 6’2” and I weigh 250 pounds. And did you read that part at the beginning about my warm up. There wasn’t any. Was it because I spent my time before the race sizing the bike for me? No! It was because I was late. Before the race, I only had time to adjust the seat height to “stupid high” clip in (and pee) before racing. Everything Salsa says about center of gravity, cornering, stability, and agility is actual fact. No need for manipulative advertising here—the bike is the proof, and instantly, the bike sprung to life.

Fit and adaptability with the Salsa are also pretty cool, and it’s fitting that the demo I had was so dialed, because I think that’s part of the Salsa thing. The bike can accommodate a huge range of tire and rim sizes. They’re listed after the review.

3. RELIABILITY

What can I say?  This bike was a demo, not a freshly unboxed new build, but it still hummed like it was on its first rip. Durability is a reputation game, and the reputation of the components on the Salsa is there from top to bottom. Seamless shifting, precise and nimble braking, and rolling that was easy like Sunday morning. The reliability on a bike in this price range is unquestionable, and Salsa delivered with top components that will stand proudly to any test that most riders can throw at them—both in terms of durability, and performance.

Also, aside from the sweet aesthetics of full length cable routing and housing, maintenance is less frequent, and way easier.

I wonder about durability issues that I’ve heard about with the PressFit bottom bracket, but I haven’t experienced any, and I think the problems usually aren’t catastrophic. Plus, you get such an awesome fit with a PressFit BB that it’s worth any risk.

Also, the reliability of the frame’s High Modulus carbon is no stranger to anyone who rides bikes. Aside from the awesome stiffness and supple vibration damping of the High-Modulus carbon, it’s almost a pound lighter than the aluminium model. The factory build comes with an optional RockShox Bluto (with 100mm of travel), but the model I demoed had a matching orange/pink fade fork made of the same High Modulus carbon. Wow.

4. VALUE

I know that PERFORMANCE is key, but without value, it’s moot. Compared to the Trek Farley 9.9 that I reviewed earlier this year (with a retail of 10 grand) this bike stands its ground.  It’s comparable to the Norco Ithaqua 6.1 (with a slightly lower retail price), although it has a very different feel.  It also has a different (and I think maybe even a little better) frame composite.

Plus, there really isn’t a flaw in the bike’s build that I could see.  Every component was pretty excellent.

5. PERFORMANCE

This is where the matte finish of the orange/pink fade really shines.  Everything else aside, the PERFORMANCE of the bike is what really matters.  In a race, you don’t pay attention to what gear you’re cranking, or have time to test the range of your brakes. But I didn’t have to. Whatever gear I needed, the bike had it:  hard-pack granular, deep soft snow, grinding climb, or gut busting sprint.  The course tested the range of this bike’s drivetrain, and it didn’t flinch. And when I needed to feather my brakes before a corner, or help me not die when descending, the brakes were there at every twist in the trail.

Nuance. That’s the word I think of when I daydream about this bike, because the performance of the bike isn’t confined to cranking and braking. The performance of the Beargrease relies mostly on the nuance of its ride, and, while the ride is something to behold (infinity plus 1, remember), I couldn’t believe that a rigid fatbike felt like a full suspension bike.

The Beargrease literally wraps itself around corners, torques through heavy pedal cranks, and hugs the terrain like a, um, well, like a torqueing-wrapping-hugger thing. I get it, groomed snow is more forgiving than hard singletrack, but there was no mistaking the FEELING. Around corners, the frame “schwinnnnngs” back into place with a quick snap. I think the torqueing motion may have actually helped propel the bike.

Better yet, at full sprint, the bike feels like an amorphous beast, bending, transforming, and adapting to the terrain.  I don’t care how that sounds, there simply aren’t better words that I can think of. Try to imagine the ride I just described. Yeah, pretty awesome.

Here’s a story for you.

I’m a fairly conservative rider. I like the race vibe, and a podium finish is out of reach for me, so my philosophy in a race is to ride hard, ride fast, push myself as hard as I can (and maybe bust a lung–or two), but I don’t take chances because I want to be able to drive home and snuggle my kids without a trip to the hospital. I don’t rail corners, and I often take it a bit too easy, especially in the snow when I’m not sure how the conditions will shuffle my wheels.  On the X01, I actually railed a few corners. Well, I’m not sure it was me.  I’m convinced the bike is like some sort of Herbie, and it took over and cornered for me. This bike made me feel like a pro team rider.

One more thing, the bike actually feels, rides, and performs way lighter than its listed weight. The factory specs weigh in just over 29 pounds. I think they weighed the bike with a 5 pound bag of avacados on the seat (Get it, avacados. To make GUACAMOLE. You know, for SALSA. Oh, forget it).

The nuance of the bike may intangible to talk about, but I have to say this, it’s something you have to try.

 

The bike stands on its own. Look, it’s literally standing on its own. Magic

snumbler-salsa

The Beargrease is light, super high quality, nimble, and stunning, without the pro price tag. Granted, when you’re paying around 5 grand for a bike, you expect that, but compared to its peers, this bike will keep the weight in your wallet, in the form of dollar bills.

Plus, I’m not convinced the extra coinage is worth it for a few newer, and (slightly) more durable, components that you’ll find on more expensive bikes, especially given the exceptional performance of the Beargrease.

 

Conclusion

There’s a reason why Cycle Solution stocks predominantly Salsa fatbikes as their go-to fatbike:  It’s awesome. Matt Morrish, and the staff at the shop know their stuff, and they know the Salsa Beargrease is one heck of a sweet fatbike dream.

End of Salsa Beargrease X01 review.

The Salsa Beargrease actually made me a better rider. No, that’s no entirely accurate. I was a better rider when I was on the Beargrease. After always hearing about Salsa’s legendary fatbike racing groove, I now get it. I finally get it. The Beargrease cuts through the trail like a bullet, and soars through the forest like a wild animal. One race, two hours in the saddle, and 25k of fatbike perfection: my time with the Beargrease was definitely a game changer.

Do you know the way we see ourselves riding in our dreams. With this bike, it’s possible.

The only problem is now that I’ve had a taste of the Salsa, I want more. I probably won’t even need to make guacamole with that extra bag of avocados. Pass the nachos…

Ride

 

2016 Salsa Beargrease X01: Factory Specs

snumbler-salsa-2

Frameset

  • Frame:  High-modulus carbon fibre
  • Fork: RockShox Bluto RCT3 (with 100ml travel)
  • NOTE:  the demo I rode had a High Modulus carbon rigid fork

Components

  • Seat/Seatpost:  WTB Silverado Race/Thomson Elite
  • Handlebar:  Salsa Salt Flat carbon (750mm)
  • Stem:  Thomson X4
  • Brakes:  SRAM Guide RS

Drivetrain

  • Crankset/shifters/rear derailleur:  SRAM X01
  • Cassette:  SRAM 1180 (10-42)
  • Bottom bracket:  PressFit 41/121mm

Wheelset

  • Rims:  Runringle Mulefut SL (80ml)
  • Hubs:  Salsa Fat
  • Tires:  Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 26 x 4

Rolling Adaptability:

  • Wheels up to 100mm wide
  • Front:
    • 26 x 3.8 -4.8” (on up to a 100mm rim)
    • 29 x 2.25-3” (including 29+)
    • 27.5 x 3.0t3.25” (including 27.5+
  • Rear:
    • 26 x 4.33” (up to 100mm rim, 1x drivetrain)
    • 26 x 4.34-4.7” (up to 82mm rim, 1x drivetrain)
    • 29 x 2.25-3” (incl. 29+)
    • 27.5 x 3.0-3.25 (27.5+)

2016 Salsa Beargrease X01 Retail cost:  $5,499

 

Well, there you have it:  Team Colin’s take on the Salsa Beargrease X01.  Did I get this right?  Have something to say about this sweet piece of fatbike dreaminess?  Comment on the blog, or send me an email:  Team Colin Email

One last thing, don’t forget to enter the Team Colin Epic Boom Prize Fundemic, and come to Team Colin Day, um, Night @ Joyride 150 (on April 7).

Here’s one more picture of the bike leaning against the Cycle Solutions Team Support vehicle.

snumbler-salsa-cycle-solutions