Thursday, 22 December 2011

Las Vegas!*

*of the North (of England.)

Not much dirt to be ridden around where my folks live. But a diet of 9000 calories a day, consumed on the sofa watching tv, needs some sort of offsetting. So I took a ride down the prom to get the blood pumping. Riding into gale force winds keeps the heart rate up, and a few drops down concrete stairs adds a bit of fun. But I'm ready to climb aboard the Nomad and hit some Cali' dirt soon. Just need to plough through a few more cakes and chocolate bars first. Lay down some insulation ;o)

Monday, 19 December 2011

Fasties and Pasties! - The 4th Annual Christmas Ride

My 100th post! Woo hoo! I'm suprised I've managed to keep this going for this long. But as it turns out, writing this blog is quite good fun and a nice place to stick my pics. Plus some things are worth continuing with. Including the Annual Christmas Ride! This year was the 4th year we've done it. The line up changed a bit, and the venue was different. But we kept the traditions alive by getting in some quality blighty style riding, some (Thai) curry and plenty of cups of tea and biscuits.

This year we decided to hit the Forest of Dean trail centre. After a decent full english carb load and mug of tea we geared up and hit the M4 in convoy. I've been eagerly anticipating a ride here. From what I'd seen on the googletube the trails looked amazing. Plus I was excited to dust off my English Rose hardtail and take her for a spin.

The UK is getting spoilt with some amazing trail centres. National parks are embracing the business mountain bikers bring and providing epic trails and fantastic facilities. As awesome as northern Cali' is, we have to fend for ourselves and fight for space with hikers and the like. At places like the FoD you have miles of beautifully manicured trails, bike shops, showers (for you AND the bike) and somewhere warm to get a chip butty and a hot brew before the drive home. Lush!

We managed a couple of laps of the centre's XC routes. Mellow climbs intermingled with some swooping, flowey descents kept everyone grinning. The Rose is such a joy to ride. As much as I love the Nomad, it is a bit of a barge... Having something shorter and twitchier made for a nice change. After a few miles of rolling singletrack, we hit the final descent for a spirited run back to the car park. Full of burms, whoops and really satisfying jumps, the mud wasn't enough to stop us from shredding hard and finishing feeling knackered and happy. Great fun. As ever, I can't wait for next year's!

Thursday, 8 December 2011


Spangles has shied away from the dirt for much of this year. A big shame for those of us who like to shred with the fecker, and for his dust covered Stumpy. But he's not lost his love for bikes.... Or at least I think this is a bike. It has 2 wheels and handlebars... but no seat!?! Whatever it is, it looks bad ass and a LOT of dirty fun.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Soquel Demonstration Forest

We're well into December  now and the final ride of the year (in Cali' at least) came and went this weekend. Almost hard to believe another year of Northern California riding has come to a close. And what a great year it's been. I've had a few injuries, surgeries and a long stint on the east coast. Time away from the bike that simply fueled the fires of my passion for the dirt and made the riding all the more sweeter. We also got to experience Whistler for the first - and definitely not the last - time. And whilst the racing was sparse, what I managed to partake in was awesome. This year's Downieville was so epic I still get chills thinking about it.

This Sunday we took to trails new, and I took the Nomad back to it's spiritual home - Santa Cruz. The fellas at Big Swinging Cycles closed shop for the day and lead a caravan of bike laden vehicles down the coast to check out 'demo (Soquel demonstration forest.) I've heard of this popular place before and have always been curious about it. But I've neglected to check it out as it seems Santa Cruz is best ridden with people who already know where the gems are. So this was a great chance to ride some gnarly trails and get the maximum fun out the day with people who know the place well.

20 odd riders strong, we climbed road, then single track to the trailheads. We started on the Pig and Bacon trails. Steep, twisty and covered in leaves and debris from the recent storms. These trails were a challenge. Fun, but hard to really let go and shred as the front wheel kept washing out as it fought for grip on the trail shrapnel. After another climb, we hit more solid dirt - Ridge. Steep but tacky with some fantastic single track and rutted, rocky sections to test the mettle. I've been getting my mojo back recently after the ankle injury and this was a good reaffirmation that I can tackle the gnarlier stuff and enjoy it. Awesome!

After we climbed the fireroad once again to the trail heads, we hit our final descent - Braille. Known for it's steep, fast, burmed and super flowey singletrack, Braille is also littered with free ride features that invite the brave to sample. I chose to be cautious on the bigger drops and jumps. Not knowing exactly what the landing is like, or how far away it is, always freaks me somewhat. So I took it easy and vowed to come back and session the trail some more. But the large drops and rooty sections were a fantastic test of the Nomad's 6 inches and my own willingness to grin, hold on, and try to ease off the brakes.

Santa Cruz is known to have burlier, gnarlier and beefier trails by Marin standards. 'Demo is a prime example. I can't wait to go back and ride some more of it's delights. I bought a trail guide book on the way home. Turns out we barely scratched the surface.... Looks like I'll be taking the Nomad back there a few more times when I return from my England xmas trip :o)

Friday, 25 November 2011

Turkey Ride

I've been riding in the states for almost 3 years now. Traditions have started to form. This Thursday it was time to honor one of those traditions : The Thanksgiving Turkey Ride (or "Turkey Trot," or "Appetite Seminar" depending on how and where you hear about it.) Essentially a few hundred of the areas mountain bike enthusiasts descend upon Pine Mountain to grind up steep, rocky fireroads - congregate, drink booze and then rip down more fireroads back to Fairfax. Excellent fun!

The weather forecast for the morning's fun was dire. We braced ourselves for a punishing wet ride in hideous rain. I didn't mind too much. It gave me a rare chance to sport my nice, new Gortex waterproof costume. Last year's ride was bitterly cold, so we layered up in anticipation of that too. However, as we hit the java hut rendezvous, we were pleasantly suprised to be gearing up in crisp, foggy but mild and dry conditions.

After the initial road climb we hit the Pine Mountain trailhead. The first few climbs are fairly brutal at the best of times. Plenty of rain and a few hundred bike tires before us ensured these weren't the best of times. Thick mud snaked up and ahead for miles as we wheezed and cursed our way to the top. I didn't have much faith in the descents being great either, given how sloppy it was. But thankfully I was wrong. The mud kept speeds in check somewhat, but the conditions made for challenging, and grin inducing riding.  Great stuff. I'd forgotten how satisfying it is to have the bike slip and slide underneath you but somehow stay upright enough to hit the massive puddles and drift - moto style - through them!

Repack was closed for action. Probably just as well.... I saw Rosson caught in a mud slide one one descent. Hilarious, but on the super steep Repack, we'd all be sliding into oblivion and it would've been carnage. After 20 odd miles and almost 3000 ft of climbing we hit Porcupine all the way back to Fairfax. Plastered with mud, grinning like fools and ready for an afternoon of self indulgence and self loathing ;o)

Sunday, 20 November 2011


In the American sense that is. Luckily I've been staying upright for the past few rides. It's the season for cold, crisp and occasionally rain soaked riding at the moment. Over the past few weeks we've been hitting our favourite haunts. An awesome, speederbike-esque ride at Annadel with Jaime and his new uber-lite S-Works hardtail. A fantastic shred at Skeggs where Dave broke in his new Enduro. And a cheeky Tamarancho loop where Chris demo'd (and subsequently put on order) a sexy new Yeti SB66. So, the crew is getting tooled up with sweet new rides and the burning enthusiasm for the sport gets ever stronger. Last week we hit 'rancho for a night ride and amassed 7 riders! Aubrey came along too and was still cranking even after a mid ride puke stop!

Yesterday we hit Pine Mountain. A training ride ahead of next week's Thanksgiving mass ride. Zach introduced us to some epic singletrack. Tight and flowey with some rooty technical sections and severe switchbacks to test the skills. Our plan is to go back and session them some more. We hit some rocky stuff too. I tripod legged most of it. My mojo has definitely suffered on the bigger, sketchier stuff. My ankle fracture is completely healed, but my brain needs to get the memo. I keep pulling up short when I see big, rocky trails and it's frustrating. I've done stuff like it before - no worries. I've worked hard to see lines through that kinda shit and not freak out, so I know it's just a mental funk I'm in. Humbling, but annoying that I have some work to do to get back to where I was before.

Still, I'm slowly improving in other areas of my riding. Each weekly loop around 'rancho is improving my technical Kung Fu. Every solo ride at China' helps my cornering and flow. Im slowly taming the Nomad steed and making it my own. And those epic, runaway train descents induce the best grinning lunacy, leaving me excited for the next opportunity to hit dirt and keep on learning. :o)

Saturday, 12 November 2011

SF Bike Expo

Me and Chris checked out the SF Bike Expo today. After wading through all the bling'ed up lowriders and painfully cool hipster fixies, we found ourselves out in the fresh air with this awesome spectacle to keep us entertained :

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Having a Ball...

This weekend I found myself in pastures new : Joaquin Miller State Park in Oakland. My first time venturing over to the East Bay and my first time riding with Paul - a fellow MTBer who I met at China Camp last week. Joaquin Miller is small, but has a fair selection of intermingled single and double track. Also, with climbs like "The Wall" and trails called "Sunshine" you know it's going to deliver it's fair share of pleasure and pain.

Paul is an extremely relaxed rider. Totally at ease on his steed it was very cool to follow as he wheelied and manualed through the lush redwood trails. We we're exploring somewhat as neither of us knew the park very well. We got a good couple of hours riding in though, and next time we'll be better prepared to link up the trails and find some good flow. However, one guaranteed fun descent is the Cinderella trail. The Disneyesque name is somewhat misleading. This is a gnarly, fast descent with rooty drops and awesome jumps. Definitely built for the brave, but you can safely ride it at whatever pace suits your mood. We hit it a few times and with each descent I tackled more of the jumps and drops with grinning abandon. Not all of them though. Incentive enough to go back and session it some more.

 I finished the weekend with a 'Rancho loop. My plan was to session some of the trickier switchbacks and features that always trip me up on our night rides. The Nomad was freshly primped and preened with fettled gears and new tyres (shaving about 3 stone off the bikes weight.) Unfortunately I wasn't quite as prepared. My head just wasn't in it for some reason. Tamarancho can be a cruel beast. At times it brings out the best in my riding but other days, like today, it seems to expose my worst. And it pokes and prods until I feel like I'm going backwards in my skills progression..... Once I'd fumbled through the technical crap and finally hit some flow on B17 my feckin' contact dislodged so I could barely see.... Aargh.... Frustration. Still. I was out in the sun, hitting dirt. And the final descent down Alchemist was a lot of fun. However I did end the ride kinda wishing I'd gone to China instead to hit the flow section. Ah well. Any time spent at 'Rancho is all money in the bank. Frustrating or not. One day I'll conquer that feckin' 8 mile loop......

Sunday, 9 October 2011


My ankle is on the mend. Which is good. I've missed a fair few rides and was starting to lose my mind, but luckily nature took it's course and slowly put my foot back to good use. A timid ride around China last weekend, and then a slog up Tam with Aubrey yesterday. My foot feels strong. Unfortunately my lungs and legs don't... but the fitness will come back. Just need to keep getting out there.

Today I did a cheeky little 10 miler around China Camp. I missed out the backside (lots of ruts and such to abuse a rehabbing ankle... not a good idea.) But I lapped up the flow section. I treated my ears and brain to a playlist of my favourite bike p0rn tunes and had them cranking as I lay down shred on tacky trails. The past week's rain plus my childlike grinning enthusiasm proved to be a good mix. Short, but one of the best rides I've had in ages. We're hoping to get the night rides back on the schedule this week too. And then everything will be all back to normal again :o)

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Crankin' Up The A Line!

So, it turns out my little Tahoe tumble fractured my feckin' ankle. So no riding for me for a short while. My downhill season began and ended with Whistler..... Speaking of which! All this extra time on my hands has allowed me to finish editing, cropping, colour correcting and after effectsing the GoPro footage from our trip. It's on The Facetube, right.....


Saturday, 10 September 2011

Define "Sucks"

1. Swap the Nomad's pedals for big, fat, flats
2. Pack armor and full face helmet and downhill shit
3. Get up at early o'clock on a weekend and pick up Dave
4. Spend 3 hours driving to Tahoe, buy lift pass
5. Ride lift, get excited about the day's riding ahead
6. Get off lift and walk down stairs to trail head
7. Fumble last step and badly roll ankle. Collapse into ball of pain
8. Get back on lift, ride back to the base and spend the rest of the day with ankle raised and iced

= Sucks.
Fuking sucks.


Monday, 5 September 2011

September Shizzle

Not much in the way of bloggage recently, but that doesn't mean I haven't been riding. Far from it. Me and Dave have got a regular Wednesday night ride going at Tamarancho. Zach usually comes too, and we're always trying to drag more people out for a moonlit spin around the spooky woods. My Maxx D fat boy light is doing a cracking job of blinding the wildlife, and the extra ride mid week is a great way to set up for the weekend's shredding.

Chris is back in the saddle too which is fantastic. Picking up where he left off 4 months (and a broken collar bone) ago, he's super strong and super keen. I've missed having Chris as a riding buddy so it's been awesome welcoming him back to the dirt. Especially as some of the regular lads have fallen by the wayside, which is a shame. But there are always people up for a spin. Today me, Adam, Sam, Eric and Chris took in the sights from Mount Tam. It's a ride I've done before and, whilst daunting in it's length and climbing, is hugely rewarding in it's descents. We climbed up Tenderfoot to the West Point Inn. From there, a fire road descent to the Coastal trail. Coastal is so much fun.... So. Much. Fun. It's the sort of trail you rip down and wonder why you don't ride it every week. Not steep, but fast, flowy and, at times, really narrow. But the deep ruts quickly give way to bermed corners which encourage you to hit with abandon and reward with an epic descent.

After a tactical refuel at the Pelican Inn, it was time to climb Dias. Tight switchbacks add to the fun, but for the most part it's a steady ascent with great views. I was pleasantly suprised at my climbing pace. The last time I did this ride (the very last ride before I went to NYC) I'd struggled to keep the other lads in sight. Today I (more or less) kept up with Sam and Ad..... and I've still got my big, heavy 2.5 inch Whistler wheels (including downhill tubes) on the Nomad. After Dias, we hit Miwok. A cracking trail, but you have to keep your wits about you. The cool little jumps give way to endo inducing divots if you're not careful. Hikers and dog walkers are also thrown in to keep you alert and hitting the brakes more often than you like. But it's a great trail and adds to the awesome variety this ride provides.

We're into September now. Its officially Summer in San Francisco. We'll be hitting Tam more as the weather turns sour. Until then, there's a Tahoe Lake Rim trail trip planned. Plus I want to hit Northstar before the downhill season ends. Speaking of DH.... the Whistler video has been AfterFX'd and should be online soon.

Sunday, 14 August 2011


The Whistler trip wiped me out. Wafting up the mountain's face on a gondola doesn't mean downhill is an easy ride. My body was knackered and beaten. Still, the faff of suiting up in all that cumbersome plastic protection left me hungry for the freedom and simplicity of cross country. So, since we got back, I've squeezed a couple of rides in. Me and Dave are starting to get a good thing going every Wednesday eve : night riding at 'Rancho. This week I debuted my lovely new Exposure Lights Maxx D. Spangles bought it last year and let it mature in it's case for a while. Once he realised night riding wasn't for him he kindly sent it my way. Such an awesome piece of kit. Combined with my Diablo helmet mounted light the trail was positively floodlit.

Today I met up with Adam at Annadel. I'm always a little nervous riding with Adam and his crew. Those boys are super fit. Built like a whippet and strong as an ox, I'm always a good few clicks behind Ad', struggling not to be too much of a drag. But a good workout is always guaranteed and today was no exception. We dropped in from Channel Drive which made a pleasant change from my usual route with Jaime. Hitting North Burma, with it's cool little jumps, and Cobblestone with it's lovely flow mixed with challenging rocky tech sections made for a great ride. Brutal though. The churning of dust left the poor Nomad parched of lube and grinding like a motherfecker. Me and Ad' both took spills too. I managed to break my fall by planting my man boob on the end of the bars and scraping it's length until I hit a whimpering stop. If only I was wearing my gladiator suit :o(

Sunday, 7 August 2011


Our last day of shredding Whistler's beautifully designed slopes and I brought something a little more fitting for the occasion : a Santa Cruz carbon V10. Very similar to the Nomad, in fact it weighed about the same, but the wider bars and slacker geometry, not to mention 10 inches of plush, meant she was a little more gravity inclined than my own trusty steed. After a few warm ups, we hit A Line to really see what I could do with it.

The V10 is not as burly or brutal as the other, 40lbs+ rigs you see at the park. It's a little more poised and elegant. It's lighter weight makes it super responsive, especially when airborne, so I struggled at first to keep it tame. Those extra inches of travel meant I gained - what felt like - several feet more air each time I hit the jumps. A first I was unnerved but once I got used to it I was hitting the lips with as much speed as I dared, eagerly awaiting the kick skywards! (The Go Pro footage - which is to come - will confirm that my "skyward" launches were in fact about 3 feet) ;o)

The bike soaked up drops though. Rolling over with the merest shift of weight backwards inspired a lot of confidence. I stuck to the trails on the lower half of the mountain. A week's worth of riding fatigue, plus a love of A Line, meant I shied away from the rougher trails at the top. A shame as I had the ride for it, but I wanted to dial the jumps. It was like an addiction!

Me and Spangles finished our final day's riding with a blast down Crank It Up. I felt like I'd dialed that trail and had some awesome, fast runs down it. It seemed fitting to end the trip with one last shred. Mentally, I felt keen to ride more, but physically I was shot so injury was inevitable. Just as well that I quit while ahead. My last run and I hit many of the jumps way too hard and cleared the transitions. The V10 didn't flinch though and coasted me safely back to the village where, weary and grinning, we sat and had cold beers and reflected on the week's fun.So, that's it. All done and dusted (literally on some days.) 7 months ago me and a few fellas I know decided we'd had enough of simply gazing at DVDs featuring the world's best mountain bike park, and that we were going to pack up our bikes and head up there to see what all the fuss was about. A broken collar bone, the daily grind and United Airlines meant 3 of us fell by the wayside. But that's just a good excuse to book another trip next year. The rest of us spent a week in the shadow of Whistler mountain, ripping down the dirt equivalent of Disneyland. Awesome, amazing fun and definitely something to be repeated annually.

Friday, 5 August 2011


Day 4 of the crazy adventure that is a fella's mountain biking trip to Whistler. We started the day like any other : a cheeky blast down Crank It Up. Breakfast of champions! Suitably warmed up we took the Garbonzo lift to the dizzying heights of the mountain to hit Freight Train. As it happens, we took Original Sin - a steep, boulder lined technical black diamond. I was soon out of my element with the suspension punishing descents and took a nasty spill. Pausing briefly to asses damage, I realised nothing was broken and pressed on. But my nerves were shot. As we continued down the black runs I felt shaky and couldn't enjoy the trail. Seeing certain death instead of lines, I kept pulling up short on drops and serious technical stuff. Not fun. So, once we hit the top of Fitzsimmons I opted to take Crank' to the bottom to regain some mettle. A nice, flowey run, teamed with a pint of liquid courage at the village soon set me straight.

In the afternoon me and Spangles sessioned A-Line. Such an awesome trail it's not hard to see why it's Whistler's signature trail. Super fast, steep berms and epic jumps. With each run we gained more confidence and started clearing a few table tops. It's good to feel progress has been made this week. The jumps on A-Line no longer feel super steep and scary, but fun and challenging. The jumps on the blue runs - which at first seemed big - now seem tame and something to play with.

Today is our last day of shredding. My Nomad has performed awesomely all week. Can't fault it. It does look upright when standing in the lift lines next to the downhill rigs. And I have hit the limits of it's travel may times, especially on steep techy stuff. This says more about this rider's ability than anything lacking in the bike. But some extra travel and slack geometry would be nice. It would certainly instill a bit more confidence as it forgives my lack of finesse on steep black diamond trails. So, today I'm renting a carbon Santa Cruz V10. I want to see what difference it makes to my riding. Plus, those rigs look bad ass and I want to huck one over A-Line a few times!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Rest Day

Day 3 of our Whistler adventure and the Jason's took a day off from riding to rest their weary bods. I couldn't resist the draw of the mountain, but conscious of my blistered, fatigued hands and lead dead quads, I decided to take it easy and stick to my favourite blue runs. I've been having issues with my Leatte neck brace and Fox Titan armor mating since we got here. After some trial and error I decided to ditch the Fox back armadillo plate to allow the neck brace to sit properly. Not an ideal choice to make ; neck protection over back protection, but I figured I'd be safer riding more comfortably and with better visibility than with mis matched armor. I definitely felt a little more nimble as I hit Crank It Up for some warm up. Things felt good and my aches and pains soon melted away as focus switched to trail and jumps.

The bottom of Crank' was closed so I decided to explore another blue run. I can't remember what it was called, but I dived into the woods and soon hit a wooden drop. I approached it gingerly to scout, decided to roll it and dropped in. Big mistake. I had almost no momentum.... a school boy error which sent me pitching into the front fork's full range of travel, only to be sprung back again, arse over tit and head first into the dirt. My poor steed cartwheeled over me and crashed, twisted down the trail. I felt lucky that I'd taken time to fit the neck brace properly. I think it saved me from a trip to ER and, instead, left me with a lesson well learned and a squashed PB&J sando in my camel sack. A minor casualty given the circumstances.

My head a little dazed and my confidence wobbly, I decided to session some of the smaller wooden drops located, conveniently, right beside my tumble, Once I'd gotten my mojo back, I alternately rode B Line and Crank It Up. I still don't have railing berms nailed. I struggle to feel it and always seem to fight gravity rather than use it to carry speed. I think a clinic with Mike and Celia might be on the horizon. But I felt good on the jumps. Lofting the Nomad into the air and perfectly catching the backside of a tabletop is such an awesome feeling. For this reason I could ride Crank' all day. But I need to step it up. I replaced my frazzled brake pads with fresh ones, if I could do the same with my fingers and quads that would be awesome. I can't, but it won't stop me hitting some black diamonds tomorrow. A Line and Freight Train are on the agenda. Watch this space! :o)

Cranking It Up

Day 2 of hitting the bike park and I'm pretty sure I won't be looking for any XC riding here. I know there's lots of amazing trails, and it'd be nice to ride without the full gladiator costume on, but Whistler Bike Park is just too much fun. It's like going to the fun fair every day and choosing which of the world's best roller coasters to ride :o)

Me, Spangles and Rosson warmed up on Crank It Up. My current favorite trail, the jumps are gauged perfectly to instill confidence, but forgive the odd misjudgment. The flow sections are super fast too, so it's the perfect way to get into the swing of things. After Crank' we hit B-Line and then explored some of the other blue rated routes. Golden Triangle was a little disappointing. Flowy in places but also quite flat (chair lifts and steep descents have spoiled me.) However it lead to Samurai Pizza Cat - rooty and rutted with some nice challenging technical sections through the trees, and Devil's Club - ladders with fairly tight switchbacks (especially for the guys with double crown forks.) Great fun and a nice change of pace from the bermed, groomed stuff we'd been riding.

The morning's technical riding was a good taster of what was to come in the afternoon. We took the Garbanzo lift high up the face of the mountain. Our plan was to hit blue routes all the way back to Fitzsimmons but Rosson persuaded us to hit some of the black routes too. Good call! Blue Velvet lead into In Deep and the Freight Train. The terrain up here is steep, in some cases insanely steep - I must've fried 3 months worth of normal brake pad wear in less than 15 minutes. The drops are fearsome too. You have no idea how steep the other side is unless you just gun it and commit, or pull up short and peek over the edge. I baulked a couple of times. The constant problem solving over steep, challenging terrain mixed with unforgiving jumps started to fray my nerves. By the time we hit A-Line and the trails back to the village, I was done.

Ready to call it a day we instead took time out to relax, sit down and sink a couple of cold beers. People have told me it's always a good idea to ride downhill with a drink or two packed away, but I always dismissed it. I want to stay focussed and feel strong! But sometimes my brain can overload with trying to process the trail and I start to make errors and slow down. So, to try out the theory, I decided to do one last run on Crank It Up (Rosson and Spangles, veered off down A-Line instead.) As it turns out, the beerskis sorted out my whirring head and I had one of my best runs that day! Admittedly, a few of the jumps were hit a little too fast and I almost cleared the backsides, but my body was loosey goosey and so was my brain. I just relaxed and didn't worry and focussed on having fun. I'm not quite ready to replace my Camel Sack's contents with IPA, but it's good to know a little pit stop at the bar can sort out frazzled nerves and give you one last run of the day :o)

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Achey Quads

That's what a full day at Whistler bike park will give the uninitiated. Aching quads, and wrists and sunburn. Sitting here, carb loading for another day on the slopes, the physical ails remind me of yesterday's adventures. The village is a great place to behold. Bristling with burly bikes and stoked riders the excitement builds as you grab your steed and join the snaking line to the chair lifts. The bikes ride up front as you begin the steady, peaceful ascent up Whistler's face. Riders hurtle down the beautiful groomed trails below. The enormous jumps from the Crankworx festival left untouched, save for the odd brown bear wandering around.

We decided to warm up on B-Line. It's the park's loosener of choice, full of berms, whoops and jumps. A few rocky sections get the technical kung fu going too. My first run and I spent the whole time battling collapsing goggles and a badly fitted neck brace. Restricted head movement and eyesight didn't exactly inspire confidence in my ability on these trails. Imagine a normal XC ride and tilt everything 45 degrees down and scale the height of everything by 60-70%... that's pretty much your basic downhill trail. From there it gets gnarly. Fast.

After a couple of B-Line runs, we hit Crank It Up. Similar to B-Line, Crank' has more jumps. Progressing from whoops and small table tops, you're soon hitting 10ft tables with big, steep drops down the backside. After doing Celia's clinic I felt armed with the knowledge to hit these jumps with confidence. A few near misses and mis-corrected landings soon reined in my over confidence and made me show a little more discipline with the technique. The jumps here are extremely "lippy" and kick you hard if you don't employ the right moves. I was loosening up though. Still felt very conscious of my every move - over thinking for the most part and struggling to find flow and lose myself in the trail. Something to be expected I suppose on the first day of riding in such epic surroundings.

Me and Spangles finished day with a couple of A-Line runs. One of Whistler's signature trails, and one I've seen over and over on MTB videos. All thoughts of how cool it was to be finally riding it disappeared as I focussed on keeping both wheels pointing down. A-Line is a lot like B-Line, except the berms are bigger (which is good - my skills on small, tight berms are lacking) and the jumps lippier and steeper. You have no choice but to catch air so Mike's words of wisdom we're at the forefront of my lobes as I fisted the bars and hit the tables with as much speed as I dare.

So, that was day one. Definitely a warm up day and a few new things I need to work on to really get the most out of these trails. Day 2, and we're out again. The Nomad - which behaved amazingly - is lubed, poised and the shock pumped up ready for more abuse. Hopefully I'm just as prepared :o)

Sunday, 31 July 2011

And Here We Go.......

We arrived. We're here. Whistler. Mountain Bike Mecca. Today we did a quick scout around the village to get our bearings, and lift passes. Seeing people fly down the final stretch, dusty and grinning, is causing my anticipation excitement levels to bubble over into grinning lunacy! The bike is pimped and ready (and covered in 1000 miles worth of bug corpses) GoPro is charged and the armor is hanging patiently in the closet ready for some downhill mayhem. Tomorrow, we get up early and hit it!

Friday, 29 July 2011

Dave's Goodies

HERE's Dave's video of a recent China Camp shred. Great times recorded for posterity :o)

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Lake Sonoma Series 3

The third (and last) Lake Sonoma series race was held today. Even though it's been a few months since the first race (and start of the season,) it really doesn't feel like it. A guess a 3 month break in NYC will do that. It did feel good to be back in sunny Sonoma again though. The first race was a lot of fun, if not muddy, and I remember looking forward to hitting the trails again in drier conditions. The race was the same 3 laps, 5 miles each, format. Not a lot of climbing, just lots of twisty turny singletrack. Lap 1, and I overcooked it a little and got stitch. I spent the whole lap in pain and unable to get into the trail. By lap 2 I felt much better and started to warm up a little. Dropping into turns, pumping the trail and enjoying the few drops and jumps on the route. I'd decided to go "race lite" and forgo the camel's sack for a bottle drop. Lap 3 and I made the error of not bothering with the second bottle, or ingesting more Guup. So a couple of miles in and I started to wilt in the California sunshine. My, already not too impressive, performance did not improve on the last stretch.

Today was lots of fun, but I definitely wasn't wearing my race face. I think I spent all I had at Downieville. It felt more like a regular ride than a race. Also, I couldn't help but look ahead to Whistler. Instead of focussing on keeping a good pace and catching people, I thought about employing Mike's tips from last week's clinics in the hopes of getting somewhere with technique before we hit the big mountain. And, I struggled to find the flow. The course felt like a fragmented jumble of twists, turns and switchbacks. No reflection on the good folks who'd designed it, more to do with my own state of mind. Spangles must've felt something even more extreme as he decided to bail after the first lap. Overall, I came last in my group (although my lap times were a lot faster than the first race - which is good.) I haven't raced much this year, but this marks the end of the season for me. I had contemplated racing SoNoMas, but today's jaunt reminded me that those trails can be brutally hard work (when you add 30 miles and multiply by 8000ft of climbing) and not very rewarding. I dunno, maybe they need a bit of mud to make them fun? ;o)

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Downieville Papped

Rocky Arroyo Photography were once again at Downieville this year. Here's my moment captured in technicolor glory. Good times :o)

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Jump Around!

Two weeks from now we're taking a road trip to British Columbia for a week's shredding at Whistler. I'm so excited I can barely think straight. Every ounce of skill learnt and enthusiasm gained for this awesome sport will be flexed at the world's best bike park. We've been talking about it and planning it for months. I have new tires, grips and other bits and pieces. Everything is getting dialed in, except one thing ; Me and jumping. I've watched my MTB dvd's over and over and it's clear that jumping is such an important part of keeping good flow at bike parks. Not to mention, it looks like a huge amount of fun when done properly. So, in order to dial in a little jumping confidence I got in touch with the guys at Mountain Biking Marin for help. I've done a couple of clinics with them before and have always come away feeling super stoked about riding and far more confident than I'd ever achieve under my own steam. So, Celia put a clinic together with instructor Mike Brill and me and Jason Spangles headed down to Pacifica to catch some air!

We arrived and I was a little concerned about my brakes. They've always been temperamental and today they felt especially spongey. Not good, but what was worse was my feckin' shoes.... still sitting in the kitchen airing out! I feel utterly dependent on clipping into the bike, especially on gnarlier stuff, and here I was about to push my boundaries with my comfort blanket left at home! I felt devastated.... but as it turns out, riding flats (and with slightly ineffective brakes) was probably the best thing that could've happened to me!

Mike and Ceila are both Whistler veterans so the clinic was designed with our trip in mind. We started out by warming up on the Mile trail. Not too steep, but fast and rutted, it served as a good way to warm up and let our instructors gauge where our riding was at. Mike gave me good feedback about loosening up my upper body and using my arms more. I have a tendency to stiffen, especially in armor, so it was good to have someone help me keep it in check and relax into the trail. We began by sessioning a couple of small jumps and focussing on breaking the technique down into it's component parts. First : we rolled the jump's face and then pushed the bike away from us as we crested the lip. No air, just rolling and getting used to the feeling of pushing the bike away. Then, adding a deliberate pump the front face of the jump before pushing away. The pump preloads the suspension so you can't help but get some air. Pushing away then helps to get the right balance point for control in the air. As we progressed, Mike stressed the importance of looking beyond the lip and eyeballing the landing point. Staying relaxed, focussed on the exit and keeping the bars straight will keep you on target for a nice, smooth landing. I felt pretty good and started to pump and little harder and pop off the lip to get more air. My fear of feet detaching from the pedals was yet to manifest.... focussing on the technique and feeling comfortable catching a little air meant the feet stayed where they should. I overcooked it a bit and took a couple of spills. Good though. I needed to experience screwing it up to know where the technique would save me next time.

Next it was time to hit the Boyscout jump section. Full of big, gapped jumps and armored up fellas on burly rigs, it's easy to be intimidated by this place. But we were in safe, encouraging hands. Mike had us get comfortable with popping off the jumps, but landing flat off to one side rather than trying to clear the gaps. This allowed us to progress each time until we were jumping higher up the front side and getting a good feel for the techniques. Mike's encouragement and my own growing confidence meant that I was soon hitting and clearing gapped doubles, including a gnarly 10ft drop jump that had me weak at the knees the first time I saw it. The feeling of popping off the front side, controlling the bike... feeling weightless and enjoying the moment, before smoothly landing the backside of the jump is amazing. Feeling good about the technique made it a little easier to drop the hammers, swallow fear and commit to the launch. Having crappy brakes also helped as bail outs were made that much harder ;o)

I would never have gotten to the level of comfort and confidence that I reached today were it not for Celia and Mike. Sure, I still have a ways to go before I'm hitting 20ft table tops, and it's up to me to get there. But the Mountain Biking Marin guys have, once again, pushed me to a new level in my mountain biking that I was never really sure I'd achieve. An extremely satisfying, awe inspiring day and I gained a whole new skill to practice at Whistler in a couple of weeks!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Rancho Night Ride

Last year, I remember doing a night ride straight after Downieville (all fired up from a great race) and sucking on the trail. Well, last night we went out to hit Tamarancho.... and the same thing happened. I just couldn't find my mojo. Screwing up switchbacks, picking bad lines, making schoolboy errors. I did the whole ride like a complete noob, until Alchemist (the last 5 mins of the ride) where I finally tapped into the flow. Still, as Dave put it, "it's Wednesday night and we're out and riding".... so I couldn't really complain. There's no such thing as a bad ride. Not really :o)