46. 24 Hours of Summer Solstice

20170625_014303 copyChico Racing’s 24 Hour of Summer Solstice (20th Anniversary edition).

Chico who there?

Chico Racing.

24 Hours of what now?

24 Hours of Summer Solstice.

sol·stice

noun (/ˈsōlstəs,ˈsälstəs/)

summer solstice, when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky at noon, marked by the longest day

Yup, the longest day of the year.  24 hours of MTB goodness.  24 hours of playing bikes…24 hours of BOOM.

Albion Hills.  2,300 riders.  388 teams.  17k.  It was AWESOME.

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Geoff S.  This guy flies.

When my pal, Geoff Simpson (from the Tuesday night King Weekly Series), said “Hey Colin, want to do the 24 Hour Race?”  I said “Um, okay” (because I never say no to a ride).

Best.  Answer.  Ever.

24 Hours of Summer Solstice was totally and completely, off the charts, outrageously awesome.  Honestly, it was lit AF–that’s what the youths nowadays would call it (because for some reason, they refuse to use actual words and have a propensity for acronyms). They might punctuate it with the word “fam” at the end (because, well, whatever).

Seriously though, it was fleek.  What? I spend my days with teenagers.  Their language is bound to rub off on me. Plus, it’s fun to use made up words, fam (note: I may have used the words “fleek” and “fam” incorrectly, but that’s totally okay with me).

As usual with something new for me, I was pretty nervous leading up to the event.  Since it was a last minute decision, I really wasn’t prepared physically for the race.  I worked late every day of the prior week, and even scheduled my daughter’s birthday party on the Friday night before the race.  Let me say this, nothing calms pre-race nerves like 12 screaming tweens…  I’m kidding.  Nothing scratches at your eyeballs–from behind–like a birthday party of 12 tweens.

But it wasn’t my lack of preparation or the course that worried me.  If anything, with a 17k lap distance, and a pretty epic spring of racing behind me, I’d faced way tougher endeavours in the last few months.  It was the whole “riding at night” thing that scared the bejeezus out of me (a real mom word, not a made-up word from the youths).

However, I’ve been steering my life by listening to the universe lately, and everything has been fine, so I figured I’d do it.

Two awesome friends (Dan Marshall from Substance Projects and Mark Summers from Joyride 150) offered to loan me some sweet lights for the race, so at least I’d be lit. Not like “lit fam”, but actually lit with 2,000 watts of illumination. They assured me there was “..nothing to worry about…” on my night lap.

Um, can I just say there was plenty to worry about.  Here are 4 things:

  1. NOT seeing where I was going
  2. seeing ONLY where I was going
  3. the boogeyman
  4. things that actually go bump in the night

Hey universe, help me out here…

(Sort of) Race Report: 24 Hours of Summer Solstice. Albion Hills (June 24-25, 2017)
Here’s my hour-by-hour (or so) recollection of the day:

9:15AM     

Arrive at Albion Hills. I couldn’t believe the sheer number of people, bikes and vehicles.   The ENTIRE park was buzzing with excitement, and so was I.

My team campsite was close to the chalet, and right in the middle of the action. Prior to the race, I had only met one teammate, but within 5 minutes, this new guy knew these guys were the real deal.  Honest to goodness, big boss MTB people, with hearts of gold.

Our team was Billy Biker and the Kickstands.  I was a kickstand!

These guys are awesome. They’ve raced as a team for the last 22 or so years, and had been doing it for so long they even had two teams on their site:  Billy and our team, and a team of their kids and their kid’s friends.

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A few kickstands (From l to r: Gregg, New Guy, Rich, Bill, Geoff, and Mark.  Photo courtesy Cynthia Husband)

11:30AM

Team meeting.  Okay, this didn’t really take place, but we sat around and decided the order of riders.  It was decided I would ride third because I’m not sure. At just over an hour per lap, that meant I’d be riding at around 3:30PM, at midnight, and at about 10:00AM.  Wait, at midnight…  This is where I got a bit woozy.

“Pfft”, I thought.  I could do this.  Bump in the night, schmump in the night.

12:00PM

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Race start.  Holy crap.  The population of a large village was there FOR A BIKE RACE. It was remarkable.  Bikers everywhere.

1:00PM

Our transfer point was an ad hoc location about 500m before the START/FINISH (shh, don’t tell anyone, it was 3 sites away from our campsite, and really really convenient). We watched Gregg finish his lap and hand the number card to Bill.  I changed into my kit, and Geoff and I went for a little zip around the campground to warm up a bit. Everywhere we looked, there were bikes and riders and families and awesomeness.  So awesome.

3:30PM (or so)

It was time for my lap.  I was warmed up (sort of) and mentally ready (not really). Bill got to the transfer site, I took the race plate, and boom, I was off.

I hit the actual transfer point, swiped the number card, and started the lap.

The course was sublime: great climbs, lots and lots of wicked trail features, fast and fun doubletrack, rocks and roots, spectacular singletrack, more spectacular singletrack, and even the brown monster.  It was everything a good MTB race should be, and everything a great MTB race is. Gotta love Albion Hills.

17_24hr_T_(12589)-(ZF-6967-87774-1-001)
A sweet shot of my bike (photo courtesy Apex Photography)

And to make the lap even greater, a lot of the course skirted the campground. People were cheering, hollering, and offering bacon.  Did you hear me?  Bacon.

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Nearing the transfer (photo courtesy G. Simpson)

I finished my lap without incident, and even saw my buddy Ted Anderton from Apex Race Photography on the trail.  Ted may be A race photographer, but I always think of him as MY race photographer.

My lap time was 1:04.  Not a great time, but not horrible given my lack of preparation.

6:30PM

I brought two boxes of Taco Bell burritos for my team (what you didn’t). Standing at the door of my RV, I only had to say one word: “Burritos!”

And just like that, I gave each and every one of them indigestion.

7:00PM to 11:00PM

I tried to catch up on some sleep from the week before, relax a bit, and just experience being surrounded by so much bike love and awesomeness.  Sleep didn’t come easy, so I had a bunch of short naps.  I brought a courier bag full of marking and it was staring at me from the top bunk of my RV like a giant sack of guilt, so that didn’t help. What a doofus.  Who brings marking to a bike race?   A teacher who is late with his marking that’s who.

When Geoff knocked on the door of the RV to “wake me up” I was already up and ready, and nervously pacing in my RV. The night lap was really weighing heavily with me.  Why would I choose to ride at night for the first time in a race?

12:15AM

Transfer point.  It was dark.  Waiting.  Scared.  Transfer the number card.  Boom, I was off.

I could see!

It was awesome.  How can night riding not be a regular thing? The short zip to the START/FINISH was cool, but the real fun didn’t begin until after that.  Alone in the forest, chugging and gasping until I warmed up, safe in a cocoon of light, I felt amazing. I wasn’t really alone though, because there were other rider’s lights zigzagging through the forest ahead of me and around me.

I was lost in a forest of darkness, streaking through the trails of Albion Hills, and could only see what was directly in front of me, but the clarity of it all was striking.

After my lap, I wrote on Facebook:

“Sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself”

Ugh.  How sappy.  It was true, sort of, but I was high from the thrill of the ride, and feeling the bossness of owning the night. I wasn’t really lost, but the sentiment, however sappy, was on point.  Because I could only see directly in front of me, my mind was opened for everything else. It was meditative.  Me and my bike, pedal stroke by pedal stroke, tree, root, and rock.  The only way to move forward was by pedaling, and since I couldn’t see further than 10 feet, I only saw what the IMMEDIATE and pedaled towards the end of the beam of light, knowing that I could never catch it. It was so very Zen.

Plus, it was just really really cool.

I finished my lap, and nothing went bump, and the boogeyman didn’t snatch me.

Like everything else in riding, it was awesome, and enlightening, and just plain fun.

20170625_014313 copyWhy did I say yes to Geoff?  Because if I’ve learned anything through cycling it’s these three things:

  1. everything is always all right
  2. nothing bad ever happens to Colin on a bike
  3. sometimes you just have to listen to the universe

I’ve learned a bit about tire pressure, bike geometry, S-1, and saddle sores too, but that list seems to fit this exercise.

In a good bike race, you ride an awesome course. In a great bike race, your bike takes you on a journey.  The journey of the 24 Hour was awesome.

I went to sleep at about 2:30AM, with visions of night riding dancing under my eyelids. Awesome indeed.

9:00 AM

I was going to start my next lap in about an hour, and it was probably going to be the second last lap for the team.  We’d hit 21 laps overall.  But then we realized something.

Team Meeting.  Okay, it wasn’t a team meeting, but we sat around the site and realized that if I could start my lap at 9:55 (which was likely because Bill was on course and his lap times were blistering), and if I could nail a lap time of 1:05 (which was a bit less likely, but almost possible if the universe helped), and if Ed could nail a lap time after me of about an hour (totally likely because he was Ed and Ed wasn’t me), we could start our last lap at 11:50, which was well before the noon cut-off time, and would allow us to finish the race by the 1:00 cut-off time–and sneak another lap.  The team was a bit wary because they’ve already “been there, done that”, but it was MY first time, and I had neither been there OR done that.

“If you’re going to be, just be EPIC” I told them.  “Do it for Team Colin” I told them (okay, I just thought that part).

They agreed we should shoot for the last lap, and Geoff stepped up.  “I’ll do it”. Yup, our finish was going to be epic.

Bill finished his lap in 1:05.  Epic indeed.

I finished my lap in 1:05.  “I gave you three minutes, Geoff” I said, as I transferred the number card to Ed.  More epicness.

Ed was off like a dart, and I knew he’d be back in an hour.  He was back in 1:01.  The epicness was imminent.

11:50AM

Just after 11:50, Geoff started his lap.  Without a GPS for time, and tired from staying up all night, Geoff left the transfer point.  He would have to complete the lap, plus the additional 500m, in 1:10.

He flew. Like, literally, Geoff flew. That is all there is to say.  Geoff let the rubber fly. and nailed a smoldering final lap time. Our team did 22 laps, and finished at 12:53:16PM.

And, that’s it.  24 hours of EPIC awesomeness.  And here’s the best part.  Chico racing actually bent time so that it wasn’t 24 hours, it was 25.

End of (sort of) Race Report

Under an overcast sky, at about 1:30PM, we celebrated the winners.  Tag teams, solo riders, teams 4, teams of 5, teams of 6-10.  All of them awesome.  Everyone in the audience, equally awesome.  Honestly, check out Riot’s post about the race.  He is epic.

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David.  22 Laps Solo.  ‘Nuff said.

Then, under a canopy of rain, we waited to win one of the spectacular door prizes. The folks at Chico know something about prizes, and with an event of this size they were amazing. Gear, clothes, more gear, and a few bikes. Awesome.  Seriously, for those who left early, bad move.  I recognized two names of people who won but weren’t there because they left early, but I’m not going to be the one to say to them “Dude, you missed a $1,000 worth of prizes.

Alas, Team Colin won nothing.

Gotta say, for my first dip into the 24 Hour pool, it was pretty epic.   I was on a team of nine, and the actual racing for me fell a bit short of epic, but the event experience was unforgettable, and the 24 Hour vibe will stay with me for a long time to come. Plus, I conquered the night riding thing.

24-hours-of-Summer-Solstice-Team-Colin.jpeg
Rob and Miro.  Tag team.  Awesome.

On my team, we only did two or three laps each, but we still felt pretty awesome. However, many other riders blasted truly epic performances. Watching Rob tag team it with his buddy (18 laps), and seeing Riot (13 laps on a singlespeed) and Raf (10 laps on a fatbike) solo the race, was awesome. Another of my racing friends, David V. soloed the race with 22 laps.  Now THAT’S truly lit.

24 Hours of Summer Solstice was awesome.  Riding in my balloon of light, watching the tree trunks zip past, and only seeing what I HAD to see—and only when I NEEDED to see it–was liberating. In my family and work life, I like to see the whole picture, and I spend my days overseeing the tasks of kids and a job , but at the 24 Hour, with my vision confined to a small patch of trail, I was reminded about the importance seeing what was directly in front of me.

And it was really fun too!

Ride.

 

Check out the results at Chico Racing.

And would you look at these sweet shots from Ted at Apex Photography.  If you haven’t bought your picture, do so.

17_24hr_T (6922)17_24hr_T (5598)17_24hr_T (4854)17_24hr_T (3460)17_24hr_T (581)

Here are some other shots from the days:

 

 

 

 

News: 24 Hours of BOOM

Well, I guess it’s time…24-hours-of-Summer-Solstice-1140x300

Earlier this season, it was time for Team Colin to do the full marathon distance in a Substance Projects XC Marathon race, so I did it.  50k at the H2i.  Here’s the link: Homage to Ice.

Then it was time for Team Colin to do the full Paris to Ancaster distance, so I did it.  70k at P2A.  Here’s the link: Paris to Ancaster.

Then, since I did those two races, I figured it was time for Team Colin to do two more marathon distance races in the the XC Marathon, so I did.  70k at the LSC (here’s the link: Long Sock Classic), and 74k at the Humbler (here’s the link:  Northumberland Humbler).

All of those races went fairly well (and by fairly well I mean to say that I didn’t die), so I figured it was time for Team Colin to do the full Singletrack Classic, and I did.  44k. Here’s the link:  Singletrack Classic.

But I never thought it was time for Team Colin to do the 24 Hours of Summer Solstice.  It has never been my thing:

  • It was too much time away from my family
  • It just seemed too big and busy of a race
  • I wasn’t ready to do it solo (and figured I’d only be able to ride a few laps if I was on a team)
  • Really, nobody ever asked me

You see, while I have a bunch of riding friends and people that I ride with on a regular basis (hey John, love ya buddy), I don’t have a formal MTB squad.  You know, a group of regular riders who send weekly texts saying “Dude, where are we riding this weekend?”.

Anyway, I just wasn’t interested in doing the race, and I didn’t think it was time.

But the universe thought it was time, and the universe spoke to me loud and clear.

Here’s what happened.  We’re going to travel back in time 6 days.  I hope I don’t wake up on a planet of apes.  Or worse, a planet with a pumpkin-faced idiot in charge of a launch button…

Saturday, June 18, 2017. Scarborough Ontario, My Bed, 5:38AM

I woke up early and couldn’t fall asleep.  It was about 5:30, and while I was tossing and turning, and replaying favourite rides (what, don’t you do that too) I started thinking about Chico Racing’s 24 Hours of Summer Solstice race.  The race had never even appeared on my radar in the past, and I don’t know why it did at 5:38 on a Saturday morning when I should have been sawing giant logs, but I started to think that it was time to start wondering about considering pondering the possibility of whether I should perhaps try to look into exploring the idea that maybe I should think about doing the race year next year.  Or the year after.

Honestly, I don’t know what sparked the idea, but it stuck.  I started thinking that maybe it’d be fun, or maybe I’d do it solo like Riot on Racing does, or maybe someday I’d be in a cool MTB squad and get a text that said “Dude, let’s do the 24 Hour”…

I fell back asleep and snagged an extra half hour of much needed beauty sleep, while visions of the race–and the sweet blog post that I’d be able to write if I ever did it–pedaled by…

And then things got a bit weird.  I woke up at 8:00, stumbled out of bed, and waited for my knees to start bending while I walked downstairs to eat.  By the 9th step I stopped walking like a drunken baby, but that wasn’t the weird part.

The weird part happened after my morning constitutional.  “Constitutional” is a classy way to say I peed.  You know, because I’m classy that way.

I checked my phone.  It was Saturday morning and I was waiting for my MTB squad to text…  I’m kidding.  No squad.

A few Facebook notifications and Instagram whatevers, some work email to ignore, and a message on the Team Colin Yahoo mail account.  “Who is contacting me on the Team Colin Yahoo account?” I thought.  “Nobody ever uses the Team Colin Yahoo account…”

Well, My buddy, Geoff Simpson contacts me on the Team Colin Yahoo account (actually this was his first time, but you get the idea).  Geoff does the King Weekly Series with me.  He’s a boss rider, and a cool guy.

Get to the weird point Colin…

Okay, here it is.  Geoff’s message said “Dude, let’s ride this weekend”…  No it didn’t. I’m not in his squad.

Yet.

Geoff’s message was better.  Geoff’s message said

“I know it is short notice, but are you available next weekend?   We are looking for an extra rider for our 24 hour team.   I know it is exam report card time and short notice but just wondering if you are interested?”

WOHOO. Team Colin has a MTB squad.  Okay, not yet.  Breathe Team Colin, he hasn’t asked you to be on his squad, he only asked about the 24 Hour.

So I stopped doing my happy dance and replied to his message.  It was a good thing I stopped dancing.  My kids were already up, and the sight of daddy doing the happy dance in his underwear, with morning hair, and still numb knees wasn’t pretty. Sorry kids.  Daddy is lame.  Click on that link.

My response to Geoff was a resounding YES–although in the coolest and most blase way (I didn’t want to sound too eager, lest he dismiss me from his squad without a chance).   You see, I don’ t know much, but I know this:  when the universe speaks, Team Colin listens.

So, on Saturday, June 25, I’m doing the 24 Hours of Summer Solstice, because there is no way I am going to pass up on the chance to be epic.

And I know something else too.  If you’re going to be, JUST BE EPIC.

And that’s what I’m going to do.  Just.  Be.  Epic.

  • I’m looking forward to the community and camaraderie
  • I’m looking forward to my first kick at night riding, alone, in the woods (okay, I’m not)
  • I’m looking forward to being scared in the woods (what, I’m delicate and things that go bump–or worse scratch–in the night give me the willies)
  • I’m looking forward to connecting with the billion riders who I usually meet at races
  • I’m looking forward to playing bikes, along with a few thousand other bike minded people for 24 hours of awesome, solstice-cracking, awesome-being, cycling goodness
  • I’m looking forward to the challenge, and the fun, and the whatever
  • I’m looking forward to pedaling waaaaaay out of my comfort zone

Like I said, I don’t know what to expect, but I expect to be surprised, and if I’ve realized anything on this biking journey, I’ve realized that when you listen to the universe, things always work out in the best of ways.

24 Hours of Summer Solstice, here I come–be gentle with me.

Oh, and to the guys on Billy Biker and the Kickstands, I’m sorry for, well, me. Whatever Geoff said about me to get you to agree to have me on your team is probably a lie.  I’ll do my best, but no promises.

24 Hours of BOOM.

Ride.

 

PS.  I don’t know where the Team Colin Support Vehicle (okay, it’s just my family RV with the letters “TEAM COLIN” on the rear bumper) will be parked, but if you see me, say hi.  There are ALWAYS popsicles (and sometimes freezies) in the freezer.  For the 24 Hour, there might even be Revelos and ice cream bars.  Team Colin loves iced treats.

UPDATE (Friday night).  I’m at a birthday party for my daughter.  She wanted beef burritos from Taco Bell.  Her twelve tween guests weren’t fans.  To make a long story short, I will have 20 beef burritos in the Team Colin Support Vehicle as well.  I’ll be campsite # something, in the Rustling Brook Campground.  I’ll update the Team Colin Facebook page when I land.

42. Why YOU Need to Race a Weekly Series.

Wohoo. It’s The Middle of the Week!

team-colin-King-Weekly-Series.jpgWait, what?

I know what you’re thinking:

Ugh, it’s the middle of the week.

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…

Ugh.

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

  • Laundry
  • Cutting the lawn
  • Washing the dishes
  • Doing homework (what, I’m a teacher, I call it homework too)
  • Watching tv
  • 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.

Well…

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:

  1. They’re less than an hour long
  2. The organizers will answer any email questions that you have, and help you through the whole process
  3. The people who race weekly series are the people you want to know (just trust me on this)
  4. They’re a great way to introduce yourself to a big race experience, and they’re not as tough as you’d think.
  5. 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:

  1. If you need to pass someone, ask, wait for a good spot, and announce which side you’re passing on.
  2. If someone asks to pass, pull aside when you can, and tell them to pass.
  3. 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.

And if you choose not to ride in the middle of the week, just remember Hamlet.  He didn’t ride, and look at what happened to him.  It involved a sword, some poison, and a bit of agony…

Ride.

PS

A few lines that didn’t make the blog:

Hey Laertes, instead of a duel, let’s go for a rip?

Shall we ride a lap, lady?

Frailty, thy name is a cracked frame.

Neither a non-rider or a non-racer be…

This above all: to the ride be true.

Something is rotten in the state of my cycling shoes.  Methinks tis my socks.

Links to weekly series sites.  Click and race!

And here’s a link to a Race Calendar blog that I wrote a while back.  It’s got bigger races, bigger awesomeness, and a summer full of great riding!

41. O-Cup # 2

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)?

Team-Colin-O-Cup-photo-by-Sean-Hickman
Mudfest! (photo courtesy Sean Hickman, MTB Kingston)

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.Team-Colin-O-Cup

“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?

Nope.

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.

Team-Colin-O-Cup-Post
Team Colin Post Race: MUD & SMILES!

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?

That’s MTB.

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!

Team-Colin-O-Cup-Emsleys

Besides, when you see pictures of the pros, are they clean and pristine, and riding on easy street?  Nope.

Unless it’s golf.

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?

Team-Colin-O-Cup-Commissaire-Jeff
Commissaire Jeff and a clipboard that means business.

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.Team-Colin-O-Cup-Start-2

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.

Team-Colin-O-Cup-StartThe 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.Team-Colin-O-Cup-Emcee

Congratulations once again to everyone who raced.  The results are listed on the OCA website.

It’s just too bad the emcee was so lame…

End of Race Report

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.

Team-Colin-O-Cup-Start-2There 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.

Team-Colin-O-Cup-Band
“I’m with the band”

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.

Ride.

 

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 (teamcolinblog@yahoo.com).

A HUGE THANKS TO:

  • THE SPONSORS
  • SUBSTANCE PROJECTS AND DAN MARSHALL
  • OCA
  • COMMISSAIRE JEFF
  • MY RACE PHOTOGRAPHER FOR THE DAY, NORMA MACLELLAN
  • THE SMOKIN’ CARNIVORE FOOD TRUCK
  • THE BANTERS
  • MTB KINGSTON
    • Rob Sangers
    • Kyle Sangers
    • Wally Stanton (the dude who put a bridge in for us)
    • Sean Hickman (the dude who also took an awesome pic of me)
    • Peter Dawson
    • Chris MacFarlane
    • the MTB Kingston Youth Race Team (who used one of their practices to help)
    • and EVERY MEMBER of MTB Kingston who will be working to get the trails back in shape

Nothing would have happened without these people (and probably many more that I don’t know about).  Thanks again.  Many of us just showed up and raced, but you made the day an awesome reality.

BOOM!

News: Demo Fest Cancelled

Noooooooo.

We’re not going to play bikes tomorrow.

We’re not going to meet a few thousand bike minded people (love that saying) and talk about the greatest thing on earth:  MOUNTAIN BIKING.

We’re not going to have pancakes in the forest.

We’re not going to play on Joyride 150’s jumps and skinnies, and ride with the Ride Guides people.

We’re not going to see the staff and bikes from: Bicycles PlusBoyds SportsCycle LifeCycle SolutionsEvolution CyclesImpala BicyclesSpoke O Motion, and Station Ski and Ride (those are all links by the way, click on them).

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.

Nope.  None of that stuff.  DMBA DEMO FEST IS CANCELLED.

And that’s awesome.

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.

20170505_155034.jpgRespect, 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 (teamcolinblog@yahoo.com). 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.
  • Want to support our sport so there are many Demo Fests in the future?  Renew your DMBA membership.  DMBA, YMBA, IMBA, HAFTA, GORBA, Team Van GoSCMBC, Shorthills, WCC, MTB Kingston, whatever.  Each of us should be a member of one of our organizations.  Each name above is a link.  Get clicking!

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: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com

In no time, we’ll be doing this again:

team-colin-King-Weekly-Series.jpg

 

 

 

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.

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.