45. Humbler TC: 17

It Was the Best of Times, it Was the Bester of Times.

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74k later and still smiling (photo courtesy of Dan Emsley)

Northumberland Forest.  Coburg, Ontario:  The 2017 Substance Projects Northumberland Humbler.

74 kilometres.

That’s the same as driving from the CN Tower to Barrie.  Well, 20k south of Barrie. 74,000 metres of singletrack, double track, old trails, new trails, fire road, access road, this side of the road, that side of the road, back to this side of the road again…  We even did a few sliart. That’s trails spelled backward.  You know, because we rode some of the trails in reverse.

1,400m of climbing.

That’s as tall as, well something really tall.

It was my favourite race EVER.

Let me say it again.  The Northumberland Humbler was, by far, my favourite race ever.

WHATTARACE!!!

Here’s why:

  • I actually started, raced, and finished my longest MTB race ever.  74k of BOOM.
  • It capped a two month spree of epic race awesomeness.  7 big races in 9 weekends, plus 5 weekly series races.  BOOM times 7, plus 5, divided by 9.
  • Northumberland Forest is one of my favourite places to ride–AND we got to try a new trail AND, a whole bunch of it was backwards.  MOOB (same joke as above)
  • I nailed a spot on the podium:  3rd place Clydesdale (and so what if there were only three Clydesdales and I was actually 2nd last place overall).  A podium finish is a podium finish.  One third of a BOOM.
  • I got to see my favourite biking sub-community:  the folks at Substance Projects.  A big Dan Marshall BOOM.
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    Jeff Shikaze, Team Colin, and Hair (photo courtesy of Jeff Shikaze)

    And, after almost five hours of sweating in a helmet, there isn’t a single hair out of place. Thanks to my race photographer and Fatbike God, Jeff Shikaze for the shot, and thanks to great hair product. L’Oreal BOOM.

  • Honestly, if you peel everything away (the challenge, the exhaustion, the poison ivy all over my legs…) the Humbler was just a big boss, 4 hour and 48 minute long, rip (although it was considerably less time for the rest of the riders…).  Bike playing BOOM.

I’m not saying it was easy, because it wasn’t, but honestly, it wasn’t that tough either.  I started strong and with a smile on my face, I was still grinning at the halfway point, and I finished strong, with a bigger smile on my face.  This race is a very stark contrast to the desolation and hopelessness (yes, actual desolation) I felt for the ENTIRE Long Sock Classic. Very stark indeed.  While the LSC was my toughest race ever, the Humbler was the funnestest.

You might think funnestest isn’t a word, but if you raced the Humbler, you would know exactly what I’m talking about.

I still can’t believe we did it.  I still can’t believe Team Colin rode a full marathon distance, on a single speed, and it didn’t kill us.  Didn’t kill us?  Pfft.  Actually, I felt almost good at the end of the race.

The Humbler marked the end of a nine weekend racing spree that covered a good chunk of Ontario’s finest bike trails, a bunch of different riding disciplines, and almost 450k of race-pace, white-knuckle, maximum heart rate, riding…

Wait, what’s this about 9 weekend epic racing spree?

Well, from April 9th to June 3rd I raced almost every MTB race within 2 hours of my house.  Here’s my Facebook post from the day after the Humbler:

8 weeks
9 weekends
7 big races
5 weekly series races
3 shots on the podium
Over 7,000m of climbing (um, that’s almost Mt. Everest)
Just under 450k of racing (and almost half of it on a single speed)

Yup.

  1. Steaming Nostril (April 9);
  2. Homage to Ice (April 15);
  3. Paris to Ancaster (April 30);
  4. O Cup #2 in Kingston (May 7);
  5. Long Sock Classic (May 20);
  6. Singletrack Classic (May 27);
  7. Northumberland Humbler (June 3).

Oh, and five King Weekly Series races.

And yes, I know Team Colin really isn’t that good of a rider, and I know there are so many riders who are way more epically awesome than me (they ride longer, faster, harder, and better, and their results are way better than mine–like waaaaaaaaay better), and because of that, there’s usually no shortage of self deprecation on my blog.

But not today.

Nope.  Because Team Colin is now sort-of-in-a-periphery-way-kinda-almost-maybe-close-to-being in the same league as the big kid MTBers.

Not really, but almost sort of.  Um, why do I keep referring to myself Team Colin?

And even though I’m not the traditional (okay, actual) definition of epic MTB awesomeness, I always place first because I’m not racing THEM, I’m racing ME.  Although saying that, I also know that if I’m the “only person in the race”, I also place last, but that’s not the point I’m making right now.  Right now, I feel good about my riding, and I want to hold onto it for a while longer.  Besides, if you’ve ever seen my results, you know there’s plenty of opportunity for me to feel crappy about my riding.

You know, I feel better than just good.  For the first time in my racing career, I feel kinda badass.  No, I feel wickedly badass. As I wrote in blog #38, this season, I stopped QUALIFYING each race, and I started OWNING each race: The full P2A, the full Singletrack Classic, and three marathons (on a single speed)!  So cool.

By the way, I didn’t start racing the marathon distances because I COULD, I started racing the marathon distances because I wanted to see if I could.  The rationale and mindset leading to that decision is for another blog post, because now it’s time for a Race Report.

Race Report.  Northumberland Humbler:  Northumberland Forest (June 3, 2017)

The race started with the Humbler’s standard quick blast out of the start, and a rip up a moderate double track climb.  There was a short rider snag at the first bit of sand, but then we were up the hill, and immediately into the sweet singletrack goodness that makes Northumberland my favourite place to ride:  long stretches of fast and flowy singletrack, awesomely railed berms, and sweet MTB awesomeness at every tree, root, rock, and stalk of poison.  For anyone familiar with the trails, we took the Hogsback bypass, which winds, in the gruntiest way, around the actual Hogsback. The bypass skirts a giant climb, but that doesn’t mean it’s gentle.  It’s almost 2k of continual output, which took us to the 5k mark.  Once at the top of that climb, I knew we didn’t have a significant climb for a long time.  The next 15k was a blur of more awesomely flowing singletrack, speedy climbs, and long descents (that always seemed to end in a 90 degree turn).  At the first aid station, I took a minute to recover with Liz, who was being assisted by Dan Elmsly, and then we we crossed the street for a quick zip alongside a pioneer stone wall (the fun new part).

At approximately 20k (across the road from the parking lot) the race transported us to Ganaraska Forest for a long haul.  Yeah, the Northumberland Forest actually becomes the Ganny for a while.  No it doesn’t, but it sure feels like it.  On that side of the road, the trails morph from the fun Northumberland vibe to the raw Ganaraska vibe.  While the trails leading into Stonewall (the fun new part) were awesome, the trails leading away from Stonewall (the fun new part) are a mean, raw and grunty mesh of tight and twisty, rocky and rooty trail that’s better suited for its intended use as motocross track instead of a mountain bike race.  It wasn’t a walk in the park, but that’s okay, because I wasn’t walking, and I had my bike.  By the time we were back on “this side” of the road, we were spent.

Fortunately, there were a few FAST stretches of trail that led to a faster switchback climb, and down to the START/FINISH line.

I hit the START/FINISH for a quick recovery before heading out onto the trails for a repeat.

Even though I felt strong, the first part of the second lap was the hardest.  I knew what lay ahead, and I knew it was still 35k until I could stop pedalling, and I knew the pain had to kick in eventually.

However, surprisingly, the pain didn’t really kick in.  On the other side of the road, just after Stonewall (the fun new part) at the 65k mark, the race became a slog, but I knew it was only 10k of lousy-ness, so I counted the metres until it ended.

And it did.  I hit the aid station for a get-off-a-bike-stretch-and-drink, before the last 5k, and a few minutes later, I finished my longest MTB race.

Smiling.  Grinning.  I was even ready to do another lap.  I’m kidding.  I was sore and tired, and I think I would have had a temper tantrum if I had to get back on my bike, but I’m not kidding about my smile.  It was an ear to ear, open mouthed, sweaty and spent, dirt-caked and trail-grimy, poop eating grin.  True story:  On the drive home, I was smiling so much that I felt like my cheeks were actually going to cramp.

End of Race Report.

So that’s it.  I rode hard, I felt strong, and I did it.

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Enter a caption

These marathon distances are tough, but after three of them in four weeks, I feel like they’re now well within my realm of possibility.  I’m not good at them, but I can still finish.

I should rephrase that.  I’m not good at them YET.

It was an awesome day from start to finish–and I even won a set of pedals (courtesy of Bateman’s Cycle).

After the race, when the podium was finished, and most racers left, Team Colin relaxed for a post race chat/popsicle with my pal Raf (from Fatboy Nation), and the Emsleys (from Awesometon–totally a real place).  Dan Emsley gave me a bear roast to cook when I got home.  Yes, an actual bear roast.  That night, I roasted it, and Team Colin sampled Haliburton’s best.

Seriously though, what’s with me always referring to myself in the third person?

With all the fresh bear meat in my belly, I felt like I was Nick Emsley, and without even knowing it, I roared “I AM TEAM COLIN”.  It was kind of primal.  Maybe it was the fresh bear.  Maybe not.  Either way, I immediately thought “Were the heck did that come from, and what’s with this third person thing?”

And then it dawned on me.  I. AM. TEAM. COLIN.  Say that like Jean Luc Picard telling Gul Madred “There.  Are.  Four.  Lights.”  It sounds way more boss.  It’s not the epic bike racing spree, or the bike love, or the positivity, or anything else that makes me Team Colin.  It’s not even the hats (although they are pretty sweet).  It’s a feeling deep down in my belly–a primal fire in my belly–that makes me who I am, and I am totally digging it.

There are four lights, and I am Team Colin.

Ride

 

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Now THAT’S a big podium… (photo courtesy of Jenn Kennedy/Mike Orsan)

Post race update.  During the race, one of the lead riders was hurt.  Three of the leaders, Nick Emsley, Rick Landry, and Seth Stewart, stopped to help.  The three of them are awesome.  I can only imagine how tough it was for the three of them to step out of race mode to help a fellow rider–and Nick Emsley is 18 years old.  These racers demonstrated a remarkable level of fellowship.  I don’t know Jeff and Seth, but Nick sure made me proud to know him and his family.  Nice work Nick.  You’re an example for the rest of us.

To Jeff, Seth, and Nick, the three of you are the undisputed Humbler winners.

If you have something to say about the race, or anything else, comment on this blog, or send an email to: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com

 

 

 

43. Long Sock Classic

It Was the WORST of Times.  It Was The BEST of Times

Ganaraska Forest.

The Substance Projects Long Sock Classic.

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Long Socks! (I look like a tap dancer)
  • 70k of Ontario’s finest single track.
  • 1,600m of relentless, punishing, climbs.
  • Rocks and roots.  Trees and sand.  Grit and grime.
  • One boss Cannondale Trail SL single speed.
  • And lots and lots of teeny tiny poison ivy sprouts.

Over five hours of rolling time.

It was race #2 in the Substance Projects XCM.

Was it fun?  Nope.

Was it easy?  Heck no.

Was it worth it?  You bet.

Was it awesome, and memorable, and totally boss?  You bet…TIMES A BILLION.

Okay, so maybe it didn’t feel that way during the race…or immediately after the race…or the next morning, when my knees were fireballs of stiffness, when my lower back was a lava pit of torment, when my legs were wobbly stumps of ache, and when my new body part (now known as my SHOULDERNECK) was a lump of knotted agony.

But some time the next day (as soon as I could walk upright, and as soon as I had the strength to move all body parts independently and not look like a zombie when I wanted to see something to my left or right) it was totally worth it…and utterly awesome…and absolutely boss.

But mostly, the 2017 Long Sock Classic was a reminder of how awesome this MTB thing really is.  If the Kingston O Cup was a reminder of our mud roots, the LSC was a giant wake-up call that this awesome MTB thing can also be really tough sometimes.

Prior to the race, I was worried about the distance.  I’d never attempted 70k on a mountain bike and the magnitude of the undertaking wasn’t lost on me.  By the way, I never even contemplated racing long distances until earlier this year when, on a whim, I decided it was time to race the big kid distance of P2A.  After registering for the full P2A, I figured “What the heck, might as well register for the long course in the XCM as well.

However, the 70k at P2A a few weeks ago was mostly smooth surfaces, with little climbing, on a gravel bike.  Even the 50k of the H2i didn’t compare.  And 70k at the Ganny–a trail system renowned for nasty climbs and horrible awesomeness–was another thing altogether.

And because, well, I still don’t know why, I decided to register on my single speed.  “Sure” I thought “Sounds about right.  I’ll just ride further than I’ve ever ridden, without gears…”.

What was I thinking?  I don’t know.  I honestly and truly don’t know.  I’d like to say I was being intentionally hardcore (grrrr) but I wasn’t (and I’m not).  I’d like to say it was puffed-up confidence, but it really wasn’t.  I’d like to say it was “for the challenge” but honestly, when I registered I had no idea what I was getting into.  I think maybe it was just because I thought “Hey, it’d be cool to do it on my single speed” when I was registering.  I should really work on my self regulation.

In any case, I was high on hopes, and (felt) up to the challenge.  It was my 5th race in 7 weeks (my 7th race if you count 2 weekly series races), so my legs and lungs were in good spring shape.

Here’s what I wrote on the Team Colin Facebook page the night before:

The Team Colin support vehicle is packed: my helmet is washed; my bike is clean (my chain is literally gleaming); my kit is ready; and I’ve got a bag of electrolyte fizzes and energy chews, a tool kit and pump…  I know the first 45 minutes will be spent with tight muscles and tighter lungs, and I’ll be panting like crazy until I warm up, and I know that I’ll feel strong and fast (for me) from that point until about the 90 minute mark. But then my back will pack up and go home, and I’ll finish my first lap in a goodly amount of pain about 15 minutes later…  I’m not doing this because I like it. I’m doing this because I LOVE it. Each year I dread the “Hill on Top of a Hill”. But not this year. This year, I’m looking forward to it. Bring it on LSC!

Okay, full disclosure.  I may have employed a bit too much bravado when I wrote that.  I was wrong to talk about the Hill on Top of a Hill like that, and I don’t mind saying now I spent a good deal of time apologizing to the “Hill on Top of a Hill” during the race.  Once again, I’m sorry for taunting you, “Hill on Top of a Hill”.  My bad.

Kidding aside (okay, I’m not kidding–I’m sorry Hil, it won’t happen again), the LSC was also a great reminder, via a sucker punch to the gut, that no matter how much you plan, and regardless of how meticulous you are in preparing, nothing beats a last minute checklist to ensure you have your damn water bottles before beginning a 35k lap.  I did not complete the aforementioned checklist until AFTER the race started.  So, I was halfway up the first climb before I realized I was dry.  I can’t believe that I actually contemplated racing without water for a moment.  Fortunately, sanity caught up with me pretty fast, and I turned around for a quick zip back to the start.  With two bottles of water snuggled safely in my bottle cages, I looked at my GPS unit, and saw that I only lost 4 minutes.

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Coming back to the START for my @$&! water bottles.

4 minutes.  No problem.  It’s a long race, I’ll make it up…

Yeah, I can say that now, but on Saturday all I was thinking about was my spot on the podium.  I’m kidding, I wasn’t thinking about my spot on the podium (because there is no podium spot for me).  I was panicked.  It was the beginning of a long race, and I wasn’t thinking.  So I sprinted (well, whatever qualifies for a sprint when you’re Team Colin–to the casual observer it may look like “just riding”, but inside I’m on fire and giving it everything I’ve got) for the first 15 minutes or so.

And here’s the thing about a 15 minute sprint at the beginning of a long race.  It’s stupid. Like, really stupid.

But I booked it anyway.

At least I now had water.  Yay, water…

After burning all of my matches on the fire road after the second START, and then all of my reserve matches just after that on the climb to get to the “Hill on Top of a Hill” , and then my extra reserve matches on the “Hill on Top of a Hill”, I was done for the day.

And I was only about 6k into the race.

I was 6k into a 70k race and I was spent.

And I didn’t have gears.

Aw c’mon.  Really?  I was on my single speed?  What was I thinking?  Oh yeah, I still don’t know.

I’ve always said that I feel every ounce of my weight in the Ganny.  Every turn, climb, and obstacle is a challenge.  Sure there are a few descents, but they’re usually rooty and rocky, and take almost as much concentration and energy as the climbs.  Oh, did I mention my single speed has a rigid aluminium fork?  Yeah, so that’s nice.  Now, to be clear, there are some sections in the Ganny that I can really groove on, but riding in the Ganny is like riding through a giant, heartless, really really really mean, bank.  And the Bank of Ganaraska is one tough lender.  Because whatever joy you take in riding, the BOG (Bank Of Ganaraska) collects interest and a pound of flesh afterward.

And early spring in the Ganny is a special treat.  It’s a bit soft and spongy, and the blanket of last year’s leaves conceal a delightful web of deep ruts, rocks, and other special treasures.  It’s like knocking on the door of the Bank of Ganaraska on Halloween. Instead of a trick (or a treat), the BOG jams a twig into your wheel, punches you in the throat, and steals your bike.

And then it collects an ATM fee

Hey, at least I wasn’t worried about stick wrecking my derailleur–BECAUSE I DIDN’T HAVE ONE.

But I had water.  Yay water…

Okay, so enough complaining about my single speed and the Ganny.  I wasn’t at a tea party, and I was riding the bike I chose.  Besides, what was I expecting, an espresso and a paceline?  Boom. See what I did there?  A little roadie zinger.  Also, there were plenty of riders who smoked through the course way quicker than me.  It likely wasn’t the bike, or the Ganny, or anything else.  It was me.

Race Report.  Long Sock Classic:  Ganaraska Forest (May 20, 2017)

The first few hundred metres of the LSC is a gentle climb up some double track to a fire road.  If I was with the pack I’m sure it would have been close and tight.  When the course hits the fire road, things open up a bit, and I’m sure the pack of riders became close and tight AND FAST.  The fire road is an undulating ribbon of deep sand, gnarly ruts, and dislodged boulders.  It also either goes straight up, or straight down, which means riders are alternately chugging to keep pace on the climbs, or white knuckling it on the descents.  Either way, both options take a great deal of skill and concentration. Take a read of Riot’s Race Report.  He didn’t forget his water bottles, and he nailed the atmosphere with the other riders who didn’t forget their water bottles.

After the fire road, the track turns up a gentle, winding, climb that brings riders to the bottom of the “Hill on Top of a Hill”.  It’s a 2k grind up that part of the hill, and leads to the bottom of a steeper hill.  It’s brutal.  This year, the climb was rutted deeply, and covered with leaves and branches for an extra bit of challenge.

But we all did it, and nobody died on the hill. Kinda felt like dying the second time I did it, but alas, I wasn’t so lucky.

Immediately after the HTH (Hill on Top of a Hill), the LSC hit the first bit of single track for a long section of awesomeness.  The trail was tight, twisty, and FAST.  It was a quickish 10k zip of sweet single track, punctuated by little shots of double track. Lots of space for passing.  Oh wait, I was waaaaay behind the pack so there was no need to pass.

But I had water.  Yay water…

I finally caught up to Angie Emsley, one of my racing buddies, who was taking a stab at her first marathon distance. She was riding strong.  Nice work Angie!

Liz was waiting at the aid station with some much needed cheer and nutrients. Some e-load, bananas, chain lube, and jujubes.

I took a 2 minute breather.  I wasn’t tired, but I was trying to pace myself for the long ride ahead.  Angie stopped for a second, and left ahead of me.

The 12k or so after the aid station was tough.  The track was raw, tight, and twisty.  I was feeling the full effect of my early sprint, and the alternating climbs and zig-zagging was relentless and punishing.  Like I said earlier (and last year too) I felt every ounce of my 250 pounds.

Strangely enough, however, my body wasn’t the mess I had anticipated.  The early sprint really hit me, and I was slow moving.  Also, most things ached, but my usual trouble spots hadn’t ignited to Pain Level: Inferno.  I was really slow though.  Did I already say that?  Because I was really really really slow.

The last 5k was a swoosh down some awesomely fast and slightly technical double track, with a bit of single track nirvana thrown in for good measure, and then a grunty climb. After 2 hours and 27 minutes of riding, I hit the Start/Finish for a short recoup and refresh, before realizing something.  My race was only half over.  I was riding for 2 hours and 27 minutes, and I now had to do it all over again.

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One lap done, one lap to go.  Ugh.

It was the same with my first marathon distance race the month before, the H2i. You know, there is no amount of positivity and awesomeness that can negate how hard it is to finish a really tough lap, and then have to start all over again. I knew every climb, root, dismount, and rock that was waiting for me, and it was a killer the first time.  I was so bloody tired and spent.  Clipping in for the next half was really really tough.

But I did. I pedalled, and I pedalled, and I got off my bike a few times, and I pedalled some more, and I finished.  My friend and mentor Dan Marshall (also the organizer) once told me “You know how you finish a race?  You pedal”.  That’s what kept me going–knowing that if I pedalled enough times, I’d eventually finish the race.  There were times when I was looking at the metres rack up on my GPS, not kilometres, and there were times when I just didn’t want to pedal, but I did.

And there were a few times when I had to dismount for a climb, and just walked alongside my bike for an extra minute because I couldn’t fathom having to get on my bike again.

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A little bunny hop at the end.

But somehow, I pedalled enough times.  I nailed the HTH, the awesome first sections of singletrack, the aid station, the nasty bit after the aid station, the swoosh of the last 5k, and I finally saw that last climb out of the forest and up to the FINISH line.

Here are the full race results.  Pretty much everyone else was faster than me.

End of Race Report.

Easy2?The Bank of Ganaraska collected a bucket of interest from Team Colin at the LSC, but I paid back every penny.

And, I now have a new qualifier after the race.  But it’s not a BUT, it’s an AND.

I did the Long Sock Classic full marathon distance AND I did it on my single speed.

And I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

I’ll just make sure I’ve got water.

Ride.

 

PS

As always thanks to Substance projects, Dan Marshall, and the amazing sponsors.  And thanks to Dan’s mom and dad, Sherry, Jenn and Simon, Liz Grootenboer, and Dan’s awesome team of staff and volunteers (especially the day’s cook, Lorraine), and my wife (tireless supporter and photographer) and my kids (cheerleaders, horn blowers, bell ringers, and little bits of awesomeness).

If you read this and have something to say, make a comment at the bottom, or send an email to me at: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com

Oh, and since there were only two Clydesdale racers in the marathon distance, I placed second.

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Two Happy Clydes

 

Post Race Recap (Wednesday, May 24–4 days after the LSC)

After my first kick at a marathon distance last month (the H2i), I was in rough shape. Like, really rough shape.  I spent the next week recovering.  After P2A a few weeks ago, I was also a mess for a few days.  However, after Saturday’s race, I spent Sunday out with friends, and Victoria Day cutting the lawn and playing with my kids.  Sure, I was tired and a bit sore (and yes, I had a loooong nap on Sunday), but I wasn’t completely zonked. In fact, I even raced last night, and I felt amazing.  Hmm.

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)?

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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

 

 

 

38. Homage to Ice ’17

17976087_10208800564074751_1237933248_o
Photo credit:  Jeff Shikaze

Single Speed 201.

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

And let me tell you this: Homage was paid.

Except that I paid homage to everything except ice.

Homage to rain and mud.

Homage to Dan Marshall.

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

And sure, homage to AWESOMENESS (just not mine)

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

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

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

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

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

Lots and lots of rain.

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

Last place overall, 2nd place Clydesdale.20170415_154552

Lemme say it again.  Boom.

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

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

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

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

I know someone has to come last, but still…

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I was mostly worried.

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

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

AW DANG IT!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then it started to really rain.

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

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

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

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

And then it stopped raining.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least the rain had finally stopped.

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

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

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

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

And pedalled.

And pedalled.

And walked a bit.

And pedaled.

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

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

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

10k to go…ugh.

5k to go…ughhhhh.

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

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

End of Race Report

I did it.20170415_153520

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ride.

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

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

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

20170413_183223

Review: Salsa Beargrease

A Salsa Beargrease, the Snumbler, and Team Colin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The race course had it all:

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

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

Salsa Beargrease X01: Review

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

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

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

1. BUILD

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

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

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

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

2. FIT

I cannot say more than the Salsa Beargrease website:

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

Truer words were never spoken. That is all.

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

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

3. RELIABILITY

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

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

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

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

4. VALUE

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

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

5. PERFORMANCE

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

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

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

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

Here’s a story for you.

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

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

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

 

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

snumbler-salsa

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

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

 

Conclusion

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

End of Salsa Beargrease X01 review.

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

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

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

Ride

 

2016 Salsa Beargrease X01: Factory Specs

snumbler-salsa-2

Frameset

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

Components

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

Drivetrain

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

Wheelset

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

Rolling Adaptability:

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

2016 Salsa Beargrease X01 Retail cost:  $5,499

 

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

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

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

snumbler-salsa-cycle-solutions

 

 

 

News: It’s A Fundemic!

UPDATE:  April 10, 2017

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!!!

Once again, mountain biking is about to get a wee bit awesomer, with the Team Colin Epic Boom Prize Fundemic (not to be confused with last Fall’s Team Colin Epic Boom Giveaway Spectacular).

What exactly is the Team Colin Epic Prize Boom Fundemic?  It’s a boatload of prizes, that’s what.

UPDATE    Not only is it all of the cool stuff listed below, but it now includes a PAIR of passes to the Durham Mountain Bike Demo Festival on May 6.  Wickedly rad.  

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 there’s even more!  Matt Morrish and Cycle Solutions  have Ryders Eyewear sunglasses, and the want you to look cool.  Bam!

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.

To recap:

  • 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.
A full list of contest rules can be found at: http://www.there_are_no_rules.com
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.
*estimated value