Last weekend was so long ago, and next weekend is sooooo far away. Hump Day…the day before Hump Day…the day after Hump Day…
That’s not what I’m thinking. I’m thinking:
Wohoo, it’s the MIDDLE of the week.
Because whichever day it is in the middle of the week, it’s a weekly series race day–and that’s awesome.
So very very awesome.
I’m tired, I have work legs, I’m behind on every chore that ever existed, and my back and shoulders are still a mess of aching tightness, but for about an hour this evening, NONE OF THAT will matter.
What will matter will be my legs and my lungs, the trail, and the trees, and an hour or so of white knuckle, kick-ass, fast-paced shredding, with a bunch of awesome bike minded people.
Weekly race series. Boom.
A few weeks ago, I gave a complete list of other alternatives to a weekly series race. They included
Cutting the lawn
Washing the dishes
Doing homework (what, I’m a teacher, I call it homework too)
Cleaning your bike after racing the Epic 8 Hour or or other big boss awesome race (the only REAL acceptable option on this list)
Any other mundane daily task that flesh is heir to
To be clear, I just quoted part of a line from Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” soliloquy. He didn’t have a bike, but if he did, I’m pretty sure he would have said “To ride, or not to ride” instead of sulking about his castle wearing his little tights and taunting poor Ophelia.
For me, a weeknight ride is a stolen ride. It’s stolen from all those things listed above. But all those things can wait. It’s true.
Riding can not wait. It’s more true.
The dishes will either grow legs and walk away, or somehow they’ll get done. The grass will get longer, but you can cut it tomorrow. The laundry isn’t an issue because we’ve all got something else in our closet to wear, and if we really want to wear last week’s dirty pants, we can just take them out of the hamper and put them on (really, they were okay when they hit the pile, and they’ll be okay if we put ’em back on for another day.
But a missed riding experience is something we can never get back. The trail will never be the same as it is today…it could rain tomorrow…my bike might get stolen..there could be a zombie apocalypse…
Really, with those options, I think we’d all be fools if we DIDN’T race in the middle of the week.
It’s odd. Riding has kind of (but not really) taken a back seat for me lately. In the past month and a half, I did 4 big races, two weekly series races, a few little rides here and there, and 5 blog posts, but I feel like I have to spend weekdays recovering from a weekend haul, and haven’t been riding as much as I should.
And that’s the great thing about a weekly series race. I’m registered for a season, so the details (and even the decision) have already been established. Having a definite date and time planned for a weekly ride is a great thing indeed. Oh, and I get to play bikes with friends.
What? You’re not a racer?
You feel intimidated?
You don’t think you can do it.
Yes you are a racer–everyone is a racer.
There’s no need to feel intimidated because weekly races are ALWAYS chill, casual, and relaxed.
And yes you can. If I can race, ANYONE can race.
Here are five reasons why a weekly series is awesome:
They’re less than an hour long
The organizers will answer any email questions that you have, and help you through the whole process
The people who race weekly series are the people you want to know (just trust me on this)
They’re a great way to introduce yourself to a big race experience, and they’re not as tough as you’d think.
While there are riders who are there to COMPETE, most are there just to ride hard. So, if you’re really worried about riding with a big mean group, seed yourself at the back of the pack, and within a few minutes, you’ll probably be riding alone.
Oh, and here are three simple rules to doing a weekly race:
If you need to pass someone, ask, wait for a good spot, and announce which side you’re passing on.
If someone asks to pass, pull aside when you can, and tell them to pass.
Stick around after the race to chat with other riders.
By the way, I usually race the King Weekly series on Tuesday nights, but I’ve raced Durham too, and I plan to take a stab at each of the following this summer: Kelso; Coulson Hill; Durham; Hardwood Hills; and Albion Hills. I’ve got links to each race after this post.
With all of the great weekly race series to choose from, and the now discredited list of alternatives, it isn’t a tough choice. Honestly, there is no better way to experience some great racing, some great camaraderie, and some of Southern Ontario’s awesomest trails.
Did I Ever Tell You About The Worst MTB Race Ever?
O Cup #2 @ MTB Kingston. What. A. Race.
What was it? Was it a MTB race, or a Tough Mudder?
Wait, it was a Mountain HIKE race (see what I did there)?
For my fourth race in five weekends, I thought I’d take it easy, and I registered for the Sport Men category (24k) in the Substance Projects, Scott O-Cup #2 Race (presented by Plastiglas and powered by Caterpillar), at MTB Kingston.
24k at MTB Kingston? Pfft. Easy. After the freezing cold 40k windstorm that I struggled against in the Steaming Nostril, the 50k rainy mess that I conquered on my rigid single speed at the H2i, and the constant challenge of the 70k wind tunnel of Paris to Ancaster, I figured I’d seen the worst of Springtime in Ontario.
Me: Is that all you’ve got Ontario? Some wind and a bit of rain? Hah! I mock you and your weak weather!
Springtime in Ontario: Hold my drink…
Stupid Team Colin and his arrogance. Stupid Team Colin for slapping Springtime in Ontario in its metaphorical face with his riding gloves.
Stupid Team Colin.
“It’s my fifth year of racing” I thought “I’ve seen it all”.
I could not have been more wrong.
O Cup #2 was an absolutely gnarly, awesomely boss, mountain bike race. I hated almost every second of it. Here’s why:
It was cold, damp and muddy. (or, in Team Colin language, it was “Brrr and ick”)
I chose the wrong tires and couldn’t find purchase on most climbs, around corners, and just trying to pedal
I hiked my bike more often than I biked my bike
My drivetrain is now a rusted string of orange used-to-be-a-chain
My brake pads are not
I don’t think I’ll ever get the outside (or inside!) of my shoes clean
I don’t even want to try to clean my socks–mostly because I think they’ve just been through enough
I used the wrong lube (okay, I didn’t use any lube because forgot to lube my bike after cleaning the drivetrain the day before), and had to actually dunk my bike into a stream on my last lap in order to have a working drivetrain
Despite my best efforts with a hose after the race, my bike is now a mud encrusted heap of what was once carbon perfection
I could continue, but I won’t, because for every second that I hated the race, I loved it even more.
O Cup # 2 at MTB Kingston was AWESOME. Here’s why:
It was one heck of a boss ride
It was MTB racing at its finest
End of list.
O Cup #2 at MTB Kingston was soooooo MTB from start to finish.
What, we thought a sealed bottom bracket was just a conversation piece?
We thought disk brakes were something bike manufacturers made just for fun?
After the race, I heard some riders saying things like
“Well that was an expensive hike”
“There was just too much mud”
“It should have been cancelled”.
If you were one of those people, I hate to say it, but I think you got it wrong.
Our bikes are bred for the awful slop that Mother Nature threw at us on Sunday: they yearn for muddy chain suck and the strain of trying to crank up slippy-sloppy climbs; they pine for the chance to (try to) shift through ten pounds of derailleur mud; and they ache to be spinning on mud-encrusted wheels that look like more like fatbike tires than the 2.2 Rocket Ron’s I (should have) put on the night before.
So what if our tires looked like homemade “Gift for the Cyclist in your Life” crafts on Pinterest after we rolled through a the carpet of pine needles on mud drenched wheels?
So what if it was really hard?
That’s really MTB.
So what if it was muddy?
That’s totally and thoroughly MTB.
And so what if we’ll probably never again feel clean, and our bikes creak instead of purr, and there’s still sandy grit in our bodies where sand should never be, and…
That’s the heart of MTB.
I don’t say this in a chest-beating, full-of-machismo, way. It’s just what we DO on a mountain bike. We ride. And no matter what the weather throws at us, or how the course conditions cry havoc and let slip the dogs of mud, we ride.
Seriously, did Neanderthal racers complain when their mountain bike races were held in a gruelling mess of knee deep primordial ooze? No. They said “Ooga booga, Ugh! Ugh! Ughhhhh!”, which , roughly translated, means “Awesome, it’s muddy, let’s race! And could somebody please invent padded cycling shorts!”
Our bikes were bred from greatness, and designed to perform in precisely what we faced on Sunday: Mud, and grime, and water, and more mud and grime and water.
I know I always say this, but we didn’t bring a teacup to a garden party, we brought a mountain bike to a race, and Mother Nature did everything she could to make it boss. The weekend before, at P2A, Mother Nature challenged riders with the strongest wind ever recorded on earth (totally true), and on Sunday, Mother Nature challenged us with a week of biblical rain. Clearly, Mother Nature is hardcore.
And that’s awesome.
Besides, where’s the fun in going to work on Monday and saying “I did a mountain bike race on the weekend. It was sunny, warm, and easy”. If we wanted easy, we’d be tooling around a golf course wearing plaid socks and a heinous pair of walking shorts, deciding whether we need to chip the next shot. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (golf, the socks, or the shorts–okay, maybe there’s something wrong with the shorts…).
We chose to spend Sunday playing bikes in the mud. Boom. These guys came just to watch. Great to see you Angela, Dan, and Nick Emsley!
Besides, when you see pictures of the pros, are they clean and pristine, and riding on easy street? Nope.
Before a Race Report, I want to talk about the trails for a sec. It’s usually not cool to ride when it’s muddy because our tires inflict so much damage on soft trails (Um, that’s why it’s called shredding). People work hard to maintain trails, and mud riding can wreck all the hard work. Worse, the cycling community seems a bit salty these days whenever the question of trail closures and mud comes up. Maybe it’s because this is a particularly long wet season, or because it’s been a horribly long winter. Regardless, the sentiment reared its head a few times on Sunday, so I spoke to Rob Sangers, the owner of the private property where the race was held. Rob is a HUGE cycling advocate and devotee. These are his trails, and he (along with a legion of MTB Kingston volunteers) made sure the trails were as good as they could be for the race, and they’ll be working hard over the next few weeks to repair the damage–which was likely substantial. Aside from the fact that the race took place on only a small portion of MTB Kingston’s network, this was a calculated risk on their part. They knew the challenges, and faced them head-on by reinforcing many of the trails with gravel and sand in the days leading up to the race, choosing trails that were rideable in the rain, and designing much of the race on motocross and farm track that was less susceptible to water and wheels. Rob said “I’m not afraid of work. I’m a farmer.” Indeed. He’s got the right attitude, the work ethic, and the access to equipment to make it happen. This isn’t a group of riders spending a Saturday morning with a wheelbarrow and a shovel, this is a massive crew of trained individuals…with tractors.
Rob and MTB Kingston weren’t at the mercy of the OCA, and it wasn’t hubris or greed that made this race happen, it was love and passion for all things MTB. All parties collaborated prior to the race (and toiled to prep the trails), and will continue long after. In fact, they’re still working to make sure the trails are better than ever when the water finally subsides and the animals find their way, two by two, back home.
The result of their planning and dedication was a truly remarkable racing experience.
Wait, did somebody say Race Report?
I did the 11:45 start, in the Men’s Sport 45-49 category (boy, there sure are a lot of categories in an O Cup race). The 9:00, 10:00, and 1:45 races followed slightly different courses, but the meat and bones of each course was fairly similar. The meat and bones of the course, if you haven’t gathered was covered in mud, and it deteriorated throughout the day, causing a great deal of re-routing and section closure. Commissaire Jeff, Rob, and Dan displayed a remarkably chill attitude when faced with the massive changes. By race time, the 8k lap had been reduced to about 5k, and little did I know during my wave even the number of laps was reduced from 3 to 2.
Race Report: O Cup #2 at MTB Kingston (May 7, 2017. Glenburnie, ON)
The first bit of the race was a awesome. There was a quick shot along a crowd-lined slope, through a barn, onto a 1k pump track (with some superbly dialed berms), and up a sweet farm track for a long-ish but gentle climb. Then, we were back past the Start/Finish area for a hero sprint, and down into the valley along another farm lane.
Then it really got awesome. The descent into the valley was our first introduction to the mud that would follow: Deep, flowing, thick, and nasty–and this was on a wide downhill!
The course improved and as soon as we were under the forest canopy. Everything dried and the course was fast and dry. No it wasn’t. It was horrible. The trails for the next kilometre were a mix of calf deep sludge, mud covered roots, standing water, and slick, sucking, muck. I mostly walked, and rarely rode. It was a SLOG.
When the course wound deeper into the forest, there was a nice stretch of mostly rideable single track. Of course, “nice” is a relative term, and relative to the day as a whole, it was only marginally nicer than the previous trek. It was slow and slick, and took every bit of concentration not to slide into a tree or kiss the muck.
Prior to the race, Dan suggested I ride with studs on my tires to help with traction. I always say “There’s already more than enough stud on my bike…” but he was right. Studs would have helped. He’s also right when he laughs at me each time I make that joke because I am not the picture of studliness.
Studs or not, the last 500 metres or so of the race were totally unrideable for me. The mud was calf deep, and seemed even stickier than the rest. My bike just wouldn’t roll. Worse, by this point in the race, my drivetrain was a hulking mess and I couldn’t crank on the pedals without my chain jamming into my chainstay The climb up to the finish line, and the 90 tight and steep corner at the top was a nice touch, and would have been great without mud, but alas, mud was the word of the day and, and mud it was, so I scampered up the hill as best as I could and bowed my head so the crowd couldn’t identify me.
The second lap was a case of lather, rinse, repeat–except in mud. By this time in the day, the course was at its worst. I pedalled when I could, trudged through the same slop, and just tried to finish the lap.
I didn’t discover the last lap was axed until I was finishing my second lap. I was prepared to tough it out for another, but I’m glad I didn’t have to. My time was 1:40 for 2 laps, and a total distance of just over 10k. Yeah, it was that bad.
The honest fact is that races like this are really really really tough. It wasn’t a long race, but my lap time was over 45 minutes, and the difficulty of the terrain was so challenging. So what did I do? I pedalled a bit and walked a lot and walked some more, until I finished each lap. I figure, you can’t finish a race dreading it, and you certainly can’t finish it by not moving, so I kept at it. Eventually, the race has got to stop, even when it feels like it won’t.
But you know, there was a plus side to the race too, because I had my bike with me. With all the shouldering, lugging, and dragging, I think we really had a chance to bond. I touched it in special places. It’s a good thing I was wearing gloves.
There was another plus, and it didn’t involve forbidden bike love. I stuck around to see the Elite riders in the 1:00 wave. By that time of the day, the course was absolutely mangled, but one by one, they sprinted past, and one by one I saw them nail the climb across the valley before entering the forest, and one by one, they RODE UP THE LAST CLIMB.
It probably wasn’t easy for them either, but they did it. What a great reminder of what we aspire to, and what a great example of boss riding. When I dreamt of MTB as a kid, it was races like these that made me want to ride.
Because that’s MTB.
We’re all MTB. Seriously, anyone who did the race is now a member of the “MTB League of Bossness” (not a real organization). Making the choice to enter the race was enough of a BOOM. Starting the race after seeing the course conditions was another BOOM. Finishing the race was, well, that’s just damn epic.
You know what else is MTB? Substance Projects. Slick event, fun time, and there was even a live band. Yeah, a live band. Literal mic drop! This group of local high school students was amazing. They had a tight and mature sound, and played covers, along with a few originals. The future of rock in Kingston is safe. Well done boys! The Banters. Check them out.
Back to the O Cup. For those who took a look at the weather on race day morning said “Been there, done that” and decided not to race. That’s too bad, because sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of the true spirit of mountain biking. There is no HTFU (and I really don’t like that term anyways), but there is a whole bunch of GIYBAEESOIBYDCGAAH (Give It Your Best And Enjoy Every Second Of It Because You Didn’t Choose Golf As A Hobby).
Maybe I’m seeing this wrong.
I don’t see the glass half full or half empty, I see it as 100% AWESOME. The half full part is filled with the potential of what’s to come, and the half empty part is the experience of something awesome, something learned, and something DONE. There are always a million reasons NOT to ride, and sometimes only a few reasons TO ride, but I have yet to regret the decision to ride.
Or maybe I’m just seeing AWESOME.
Now that I’ve “been there and done that”, I can say this: I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. Bring it on Springtime in Ontario. Bring it on.
Oh, and the answer to the title of this blog (Did I ever tell you about the worst MTB race ever?): It was awesome. The worst MTB race ever was awesome.
Because that’s MTB.
Look who showed up. Carl!
PS. Hey, did you race on Sunday? What did you think of the course? The band? The mud? The awesomeness? Did you clean your bike yet? Comment on this post, or send an email (email@example.com).
And we’re not going to see bikes from: Giant, Norco, Specialized, KHS, Cannondale, Trek, Santa Cruz, Devinci, Liv, Pivot, Rocky Mountain, Scott, Yeti, and Staran, and support a few local businesses: The Copper Branch, Hy-Hope Farms, The Merchant of Meat, and Primal Pizza.
Yup, awesome. Gotta respect DMBA for making the right call and cancelling tomorrow’s Demo Fest. It’s been raining all week, it’s not going to stop tonight, and there is just too much water on the trails. Because of the DMBA, the trails will live to be boss for another day.
Respect, respect, RESPECT!
Part of the DMBA mandate is to “preserve trail opportunities”, and cancelling tomorrow must have been a killer decision–especially given the amount of time and money that must have gone into the event, not to mention the few unreasonable people who might complain–but ultimately they have done exactly what we need them to do. They’ve shown exactly why they exist. They exist so that our sport will be protected.
We can’t ride on Saturday, but the trails will be there all summer, and with people like the DMBA advocating for US, protecting OUR trails, and giving US events like the Demo Fest, the trails (and the spirit and vibe of biking) are sure to be there for many summers to come.
It ain’t easy making tough decisions, but it’s called the high road for a reason, and DMBA just took it. All of us know this philosophy too well. When there’s a fork in the trail, and one side has a log-over, we nail the logs. When there’s a killer hill to climb, we attack it (and sometimes even repeat it). When our friends are playing golf and scrapbooking (not that there’s anything wrong with that), we RIDE OUR BIKES hard and fast.
And now, thanks to the DMBA, all that great stuff is protected just a little bit more.
If you’re really itching to ride tomorrow (and I know I am) here are a few other alternatives to Demo Fest:
Feel like an indoor rip? Take a shot up to Joyride 150 and try their new Flow Trail.
Really really really want to ride OUTSIDE tomorrow? Check the Team Colin Facebook page, or send Team Colin an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Rumour is that a ride is planned exploring his famous “South Scarborough Loop” (a teeny tiny bit of road, lots of paved trail, a few climbs and other surprises, and a view of the lake).
Can you wait until Sunday? If so, make the trip east, O-Cup #2 at MTB Kingston (presented by Dan Marshall and Substance Projects) is on Sunday. MTB Kingston has been busy all week making sure the trails are ready for the downpour (sand, gravel, rerouting, and so on), and ensuring the trails won’t sustain any damage. Seriously, check out the Substance Projects Facebook page. These folks CARE about the trails and are knocking themselves out to make the race a reality. Dan, Substance Projects, and MTB Kingston support us, and it’s time for us to support them. Cold and (torrentially) rainy, with a chance of snow? Can’t think of a better time to crush it on a bike. Boom.
Behind on your chores? Spend a bit of time catching up. Seriously, with three races in April (and three in May…plus a few weekly race evenings), I am behind in everything that doesn’t have to do with bikes. My bikes are tuned, and my kits are ready to go, but my garage is a mess, my lawn needs a rake, the shower may be growing things, and the laundry pile is threatening to topple on one of my kids if they put one more sock on top.
Forgot to observe Star Wars Day? Say hi to Chewie, Han, Leih, Obi Wan, Luke, and the droids (even though they aren’t the ones you’re looking for), and watch a Star Wars movie (hint, episodes 4-7 are a good place to start)
Forgot what a non-biking weekend looks like? Read a book, watch a play, sleep in, snuggle someone, bash the mud off your shoes from last weekend’s P2A (or is that just me), clean your bike, visit a bike shop, spend the day in your pajamas and binge watch a new show, get caught in a Youtube Vortex, or otherwise revisit your non-biking life that usually gets put on hold during riding season.
I’m not glad the Demo Fest is cancelled, but I’m happy that our trails and our sport will remain strong and healthy because of the great leadership and forward thinking of the DMBA. I really believe that we’re stewards not just of our trails, but of our natural environment, and it’s nice to have a reminder about the effects of our actions.
So what if we can’t play bikes and eat pancakes tomorrow. There’s plenty of summer ahead of us.
Ride…just not at Durham tomorrow, and probably not for the next few days (unless you’re racing in Kingston).
PS. Hey, anything to say about the trails, riding, or bikes in general? Comment, or send me an email at: email@example.com
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.
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):
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.
The Norco Ithaqua 6.1.My 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?
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.”
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:
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
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)
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
CONGRATULATIONS TO CASS K., WINNER OF THE GRAND PRIZE (XCM RACE REGISTRATION, JOYRIDE 150 PASS, RYDERS SUNGLASSES–COURTESY OF CYCLE SOLUTIONS–FREE REGISTRATION TO A KING WEEKLY SERIES RACE, 2 PASSES TO THE DMBA DEMO FESTIVAL–ON MAY 6th–AND A TEAM COLIN HAT. BOOM.
CONGRATULATIONS ALSO TO JEFF S., WINNER OF A KING SERIES RACE REGISTRATION, AND 2 PASSES TO THE DMBA DEMO FESTIVAL. SMALLER BOOM.
Thanks to Dan Marshall and Substance Projects, Cycle Solutions, Joyride 150, Evolution Cycles, and DMBA. So fun.
The Team Colin Epic Boom Prize Fundemic
Yep, a Mountain Bike Fundemic! AND IT JUST GOT BIGGER!!!
Dan Marshall from Substance Projects has authorized the Team Colin Blog to give away a free registration to one of his XC Marathon races this season. Sweet.
The good folks at Joyride 150 want to help you get in shape for the race season–or maybe just have some fun going for a sweet rip on their new FLOW TRAIL–and have authorized Team Colin to include a day pass to the park. Boom.
But wait, there’s more. Evolution Cycles run the King Weekly Race Series every Tuesday night, from May to September, and Jamie Davies doesn’t want you to feel left out, so he is giving away a free registration to one of their weekly rips. Pick a Tuesday night from May to September, bring your A-Game, and bust a lung at Centennial Park. Kapow!
And to top it all off–literally–how about a Team Colin hat? Team Colin hats are the perfect way to celebrate the Team Colin Experience. Kaboom.
Free registration for an XCM race this season.
Free Joyride 150 day pass
Free pair of sweet Ryders Eyewear sunglasses, courtesy of Cycle Solutions
Free registration to a King Weekly Series race
2 passes to the DMBA Demo Festival on May 6
Free special edition, artisanal cotton, blue camo Team Colin hat
It’s a Fundemic!
Entering is easy. If you already follow the Team Colin blog, or if you already follow the Team Colin Facebook page, just type a sentence with the word “Fundemic” on the blog or the Team Colin Facebook page (yeah, it’s that easy). However, if you aren’t part of the team, all you have to do is one of the following things:
OPTION 1: Follow the Team Colin Blog. It’s not as bad as it seems, and you can unfollow it at any time after the draw.
OPTION 2: Follow the Team Colin Facebook Page. Once again, it’s not as bad as it seems, and you can unfollow it any time after the draw.
The draw will be held live on Facebook, on April 10, at 5:57 PM. Yes, Team Colin’s kids can’t eat supper until they make the draw.
THE SMALL PRINT:
Total value of “The Team Colin Epic Boom Prize Fundemic” is, like a billion dollars*
The draw will be held LIVE ON FACEBOOK, on April 7, 2017, at 8PM. Enter before that date to be eligible.
Unfortunately, if you can’t meet Team Colin at one of the XCM races, the hat and sunglasses cannot be mailed–but you still get your free registration to the races, the DMBA Demo Festival passes, and the Joyride 150 park pass,
Finally, the terms, conditions, and prizes in the Team Colin Epic Boom Prize Fundemic may change because you know, Team Colin makes mistakes and forgets lots of things.
Wait, what? Half price at Joyride 150? Is Team Colin pulling my leg?
Nope. Saturday, December 3, starting at 7:00 PM, it’s Team Colin Day (um, night) at Joyride 150.
Thinking about going to Joyride 150, but never seem to make it?
Been to Joyride 150, but haven’t been in a while?
Want to train in the warmth of an indoor bike park with your friends?
Heard about the park’s epic XC Loop upgrade and want to try it for yourself (hint: it’s now a 800 metre flow trail)?
Well, here’s your chance to do it for half of the regular price.
That’s right, it’s Team Colin Day (um, night) at Joyride 150, and park owners, Mark and Leslie Summers are offering half price admission and rentals.
How do you partake in the evening’s festivities? It’s easy. On Saturday, December 3, after 7:00 PM, go to Joyride and say “Team Colin”. Boom. Half price admission (that’s only $8.50)
Need a rental bike and gear? “Team Colin”. Boom. Half price.
So what’s your excuse? The park is basically paying for your gas. All you have to do is get there.
Bring your friends, bring your family. “Team Colin”. Boom. They’re all in for half price.
I thought this event would be a fun thing to do. So often I hear the name Joyride 150, and people say “Oh yeah, I’ve been trying to go” or “I’ve heard about the place, but…” or “Isn’t that place for kids”. So I figured it would be cool to expose and encourage more XC riders to the park. When I asked owners Mark and Leslie Summers about a special event, they jumped at the chance. Half price admission AND half price bike rental. Sweet.
Joyride 150 is a cycling mecca, and an homage to all things bike. No kidding, when I park my bikes at night, I point them north/east, towards the blue-signed industrial complex in Markham that houses over 100,000 square feet of cycling nirvana. It. Is. Awesome.
And now you can see for yourself (or if you’ve already been, you can see once again).
Friends always ask me what Joyride 150 looks like. I have a standard answer. Remember that dream car you drew as a kid–you know, the one with the huge spoiler, gigantic rear wheels, whale fins, jet propulsion module, missile launcher, flame thrower, and combination slushy maker/pizza oven…oh, and a sweet pinstripe? Yeah, the coolest car in the world. Well, Joyride is the bike park equivalent of that car. It’s like someone asked an 8 year old to draw a bike park. Well, that 8 year old did, and then Mark Summers, and his #1 carpenter, Ty Dawson, built it. More than that, they work tirelessly to continue to make the park better and better. In the four years that I’ve been riding there, they constantly improve the features.
It’s not just a BMX park.
It’s not just where olympian mountain bikers sometimes train (yeah, you read that right).
It’s not just a 800 metre flow track.
It’s not just where Red Bull riders spend their off season (like my pal, Drew Bezanson).
It’s not just for kids (although if you have ’em, bring ’em–they’ll love you for it).
It’s a BMX park, covered in jumplines, with a dash skinny goodness, wrapped in a XC rider’s paradise (served with a side of a vert park).
Oh, and it has the coolest BMX (and BMX apparel) store this side of anywhere. Seriously, the Boiler Room. You should go.
So, on Saturday, December 3, 2016, won’t you consider joining Team Colin (and his family) and hopefully a bunch of other awesome XC riders, at Joyride 150. There might be four of us (me, my wife, and my kids), and there might be more, but either way, we’ll be riding, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday night.
You can check the Team Colin Facebook page for updates and special surprises the evening might have in store. Here’s a link: Team Colin Facebook page. I’ve also posted a few FAQs, and the address.