The Croken Classic

Consolation Cross, gravel grinder, Colossal Cross, Hell of the North, The Croken Classic.  Earlier this week the City of Edmonton pulled the plug on our double header cyclocross weekend due to fear of potential grass damage in the parks.  Now that everyone’s schedule was cleared what were we to do?  This is where I hatched the idea of Consolation Cross ride, now lovingly or spitefully named the Croken Classic to make up for the lack of cross racing happening in town.  Knowing that everyone who races crosses loves suffering as much as I do I figured we should tackle a long gravel ride.  What would be better than the Victoria Trail that I rode earlier in the summer?

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Whoever said a 5 bike carrying capacity was useless was wrong!
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Lots of frost around, the sun was bright but was luckily not packing a punch yet.

We all congregated on the side of the highway at 10:30am as we weren’t sure exactly how long the day was going to be or what we might encounter.  More and more vehicles started showing up to my surprise as I only had 9 confirmed riders for the day! After countless conversations regarding the proper layering techniques for our clothing, booties or no booties, which gloves to wear, wind breaker or soft shell we all agreed on one thing, bring all the food and water we could carry. Later in the day we were all thankful that our piggish selves had brought a copious amount of food.   A few of us were walking around getting excited about how frozen the ground and how fast this ride was going to be compared to our summer effort. Oh how wrong we would be.

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Nobody had any idea what we were in for.
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15 brave souls and myself were off to see what the day had in store for us.

The first 25 kms of the ride were absolute bliss. Everyone was spinning along, getting warmed up and we were averaging about 30kmh, the top end of my estimated average for the whole day. The sun was up, the temperature  was a perfect 1 degree and there was no wind.  At this point the ground was still frozen so we were having a great time.

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Take note of how clean Albert is and that he is wearing a smile. The day was still young.
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Look at those clean kits and smiles!  We ditched some layers at this barn 30km in.
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You’d never have guessed that two weeks ago we were racing in 6″ of snow
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The last vestige of frozen road took us up to this viewpoint.

Remember how I mentioned that we thought the frozen ground was going to be fast?  Well we had no idea how bad it was going to be when it started to thaw out and the backside of this hill was our first taste of it. When the hint of a descent appeared a few of us charged off the front to be greeted with a lovely combination of mud and ice at 50kmh. At this stage I had a feel the day was going to take a turn from quick paced ride to an adventure ride with some curve balls thrown our way.

The next 15-20km were quite a bit more interesting than the first 25km but it was still manageable.  At this stage we were getting wet from the mud and our bikes started to make sounds that nobody wants to hear from their drivetrains.  It was here that a couple riders decided to turn around, we were down to 14.

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The gravel grind with zero gravel and a lot of mud, still some clean kits though!

Less than 2km after the two riders turned around we were now greeted with the most interesting conditions I’ve ridden to date.  The temperature was now up to 3 degrees and the ice and snow was melting leaving us with pure mud. Everyone thought the cyclocross conditions were bad the last two weekends of racing and here we were staring down miles upon miles of cyclocross caliber mud.  Things were going to get interesting and exhausting from here on out!

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Luckily we were all on cyclocross bikes because this would have killed our road rigs.
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Is that a sliver of dry gravel?! 
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Darryl venturing out front to see what we were up against.

It was at this point that I realized I had dragged 14 friends out into a war zone of conditions and that I was on the verge of losing my riding/training/racing partners.  Nina always says that I know how to take something fun and turn it into a sufferfest. I now understand what she means.

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One smile drafted by grimaces. This is fun, right?
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Zero smiles and the kits are now far from clean. Party time.

About 10 minutes after those photos were shot we were riding along commenting on how our poor drive trains have never seen such abuse for such an extended period of time.  The orchestra of sad bikes was playing 14 different tunes today and not one will go down in history as pleasant. Our poor bikes.   As if on cue Greg states “My bike is shifting like shit, I wonder what could be going on.”  Imagine a crash in any movie, minus the horns and sirens that is exactly what Greg’s bike did next.  He skidded out sideways and hopped off the bike.  I’ve seen many a broken derailleurs but I’ve never seen one tear clean off the hanger and loop around the cassette ending up at the 1 o’clock position.

Great, we are now 50km from the car, the roads resemble the trenches of Passchendaele and one of our bikes is properly dickered.  Luckily all of us are handy with the workings of a bike and someone had an 11 speed quick link. Normally I’d ridicule someone for bringing everything and the kitchen sink on a cross ride but today I was glad we had the kitchen sink.  A few minutes later and Greg had himself a sorry looking single speed and one hell of a slow trek home. Better than walking right? Oh wait, he had to walk the hills because they were muddy? Quit whining, we normally pay to do that!

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There are easier ways to reduce the weight of your bike Greg.
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Everyone wanted to quit but the derailleur is the only who did.
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SSCX anyone? 

 

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Taking in the views while the pit crew worked on Greg’s bike.
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Full on conditions.

At this point we were all a bit nervous because we hadn’t reached the half way point and the conditions were deteriorating rapidly.  We pressed onward with our speed down to about 24kmh at it’s best due to the dense mud we were now pushing through.  Mud puddles were a welcome sight as we could splash through and simultaneously lube our drive trains.  Dry lube, wet lube, or gritty mud water?  We had no choice but to choose option three.  Who needs cassettes and chains to last anyway?

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Victoria Settlement, the turn around point.

 

The few kilometers of paved road leading into Victoria settlement was a very welcome reprieve from the mud and potholes we had been dealing with.  We grouped up and pulled into the settlement at a normal pace unlike the slog we’d done for the last 55km.  We were all downing our drinks and snacks here.  Had there been a bus with a bike trailer offering us a ride home I don’t think anyone would have denied it.  We were wet, tired, and our souls had been dampened by the unexpected conditions.

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I needed a new drive train anyway…

After warming up in the sun and convincing ourselves that the ride home is always faster than the ride out we took off again the same way we came.  As if the mud and ice weren’t enough we were treated to a lovely headwind for most of the ride back to the cars.  Group and a draft you’re surely saying.  Drafts just don’t work the same when you’re going 23kmh as they do when you’re cooking along at 35-40kmh.  Any bit of draft you might get wasn’t even worth it due to the spray off of the wheels in front of you.  Some folks went for the mud in the face as they were running out of steam and took every bit of help they could get.  Not an easy choice!

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Grouping up on one of the less muddy sections

We thought things were going great until we have another bike failure! This time it was Caitlin’s BMC. Her rear brake had decided to give up the ghost and was not retracting the pads enough for the wheel to spin freely. After multiple attempts to flush the caliper out or align the caliper so that the wheel would spin freely we were left with one option, pull the pads. Luckily for Caitlin not having a brake wasn’t a big deal as if it any point you felt like you were going too quickly you could just aim for deeper mud and bring yourself back to a crawl.

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Who needs a rear brake anyway, they only slow you down.

After we sorted out the brake issue we had an uneventful ride back to the cars.  Conditions continued to degrade as the day went on but we kept plugging away, slowly but surely.  Remember that hill I mentioned earlier in the post where we broke 50kmh on the ice? It was now time to climb the three tiered hill.  Not only was the hill steep but there was more mud here than we’d seen anywhere else on the entire ride.  This hill punished us to a degree you rarely get on a bike. Granny gears didn’t cut it and you couldn’t get out of the saddle as you’d lose traction, this was now the definition of a grind.   We regrouped at the barn after the hill and decided we’d hold a steady pace as a group to get back in timely fashion.

Seeing the cars on the horizon was without a doubt the highlight of everyone’s day.  The now dubbed Croken Classic will be a ride we won’t forget for a long time.  Sure, conditions were garbage, we went slower than we thought we would, it was a long day in the saddle, and all of us need new drive trains but the experience was like nothing else.  Despite all of that we managed to keep smiles (grimaces) on our face the whole day and laugh through everything.  Cyclists are a stubborn bunch and they love to suffer with their friends and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Everyone is already asking me what the Croken Classic will be next year and I’ve got some ideas brewing for that.  The ride will without a doubt be more organized with significantly more than 4 days notice and it will hopefully involve more gravel than mud.

Kudos go out to everyone who came out on the ride, you’re tougher than most out there and I promise your legs will be stronger because of it.  Nobody would willingly go out there and do the ride knowing that conditions couldn’t possibly be worth but we did.  Call it stubbornness, stupidity, or what I prefer, the love of sport.

I can’t wait for next year!

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Everything was saturated with mud and grit, it was glorious.

 

If you’re curious about the ride check it out on Strava right here.

 

First Impressions : 2017 Norco Revolver 9.1 FS

For the 2016 season I was riding a Norco Revolver 9.2 hardtail.   As I was planning on getting into racing I wanted a bike that was more nimble, lighter, and more responsive to power input.  The Revolver was the bike I ended up choosing and rode it for over 1000 km this summer.  Due to an unfortunate issue with the front wheel that could not be solved despite valiant efforts by both Norco and Pedalhead  the bike had to go back to the factory.  This is how I ended up with one of the first 2017 Revolver 9.1 FS bikes to hit the dealers.

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Racing the 2016 Revolver 9.2 HT

Why the switch to a full suspension bike?  First and foremost was that I had bought a trail hardtail so this bike could be used exclusively for racing and go fast days.  The hardail was light, it handled beautifully and climbed like a billy goat but there were some short comings.  The biggest area where I felt I was losing time was on the descents that had lots of roots or rocks.  With the back end of the bike bouncing around I wasn’t able to brake as late for corners or hold the optimal line as well as I’d like to.  Due to my new bike being a higher end model than my hard tail was it actually weighs a bit less despite having a rear shock!  Now that that is out of the way let’s get started!

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2017 Norco Revolver 9.1 FS

Yes, that is Eagle.  Yes, the cassette is gigantic and larger than the brake rotor.  Well done SRAM for making the big ring a different colour because it has grabbed everyone’s attention on my first few rides.  I know that the big ring is a different material than the rest of the X-dome cassette but I can’t help but feel the unmatched paint is to attract more attention to the drive train. So far the drivetrain has been significantly quieter than my previous bike’s Shimano XT 1×11 and despite the insane chain line, the bike shifts beautifully.  Another huge perk of the 500% gear range of the Eagle is that I can run a 34t front ring and not have to worry about spinning out my 10t like I did with my shimano drive train.  I question the long term durability of the chain but only time will tell if that’s justified or not.

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Size does matter!
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Eagle shifter housing, the double down shift that Shimano offers would be lovely when you’re rowing through 12 gears.

 

Another big upgrade from last year’s Revolver line up is the introduction of the completely new  Rock Shox Sid RLC fork.  On my HT I found that the fork was a bit flimsy when charging hard into corners or descents with lots of rough terrain.  Despite the 2017 fork being lighter it feels noticeably stiffer which is greatly appreciated.  This year they have also changed the dampener from the Motion Control one found in last years fork to the Charger dampener which is similar to the one found in the Pike.  The damping certainly feels much smoother, especially over the smaller bumps. With the motion control dampener the fork felt very very linear, which, while predictable, didn’t handle small trail bumps as well as it could have. Unlike my HT this bike also has remote lock out on the bars which is a great for those long climbs.  Unlike other fork lockouts that are hydraulic this one is cable actuated which I really appreciate as it is easily serviced if you happen to snag the line and break it.

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Charger equipped Sid RLC.
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Remote fork lockout that is cable actuated(!!!)

Out back we have a Rock Shox Monarch RL handling the dampening.  So far I can say that despite this bike being a full suspension rocket ship it climbs just as well as my hard tail did.  Even when I’m hammering as hard as I can I don’t feel like the rear end is wasting a noticeable amount of energy.  On super rooty climbs I’ve noticed that this bike climbs better than a hard tail due to the huge increase in traction the suspension provides. Just like the Sid up front the Monarch does a great job with the small bumps on the trails.  Descending is, as I expected, much faster with the rear suspension provided huge gains in traction and cornering performance. Well worth any penalty on the climbs.

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Monarch Rl handling things out back

Another area of improvement on this bike are the weels, they are the DT Swiss X1700s with the star ratchet in the rear hub.  This ratchet system provides near instant engagement which is amazing when you need to kick your way over technical areas or push over the top of a challenging climb.  The tires that are mounted are the Maxxis Ikons which are billed as a fast rolling XC race tire.  Two of my rides so far were on either tacky dirt or bone dry dirt and they were very predictable with no loss of traction.  A third ride however was when the trails were a bit wet and these tires were utterly useless,  they didn’t clear mud at all and I found myself pushing my bike while my friends were riding theirs.  If the forecast for a race weekend isn’t dry I’ll certainly have another pair of tires ready to go as these would be downright dangerous on a wet course.

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Great when conditions are perfect otherwise quite scary

One area where I was extremely impressed with my other new bike, the Trek Stache, was the cockpit and crankset, they were both carbon.  On the Revolver Norco decided to save some money by kitting the bike out with Norco branded bars and seat post and an aluminum crankset.  On a $7000 I feel like you shouldn’t need to go and spend another $400 to get a decent carbon bar and seat post.  We all know that carbon posts make for a much more comfortable ride not to mention a nice weight savings in an area that makes a difference in handling. Luckily I had a carbon post from my hard tail and have a carbon bar on the way to replace the factory alloy kit.  C’mon Norco, charge a tad bit more and have a bike that’s ready to go! Anyone buying this bike has high expectations and would be more than will to spend a couple hundred dollars more upfront rather than having to deal with it after the fact. While we are talking about seat posts I feel like it’s important to mention that there is stealth routing for a dropper post.  More and more of the pros are starting to use droppers due to their huge benefits on nasty descents  so it’s great that Norco has future proofed the bike in that regard as I’m sure many riders will be throwing droppers on their xc rigs this year.

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Alloy bar from the factory that should really be carbon
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Dropper post routing is a nice touch

Sram Level TLM brakes are on stopping duty and so far they have been flawless.  They share a similar design to the Guide RS brakes other than having two fewer pistons per caliper.  I haven’t noticed a brake build up in these brakes like I did with my Shimano XT brakes which is really nice as I was continually frustrated with the inconsistent lever feel while descending.

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Sram Level TLM in charge of slowing things down

In the 200 kms I’ve ridden the bike so far I can say that this is a very responsive bike both in how it responds to power and how it handles the trail. Some bikes can be ridden casually and still be fun but I find the Revolver to be a bike that demands to be ridden fast and hard for everything to work properly. When I’m warming up on the trails the bike feels too light and a bit jittery but the second I turn up the power and charge the trails the bike settles right in and flies over everything in it’s way.

I have a few climbs in town that I like to test bikes and tires out on and this bike cruised up all them with ease.  A benefit of eagle that isn’t commonly mentioned is that you can run a larger ring up front which greatly increases the anti squat characteristics of the suspension which is huge when climbing technical lines.

Despite the race geometry on this bike it handles the descents with a surprising amount of confidence.  With that confidence I believe that the Revolver FS could be someone’s only mountain bike with a few changes such as a dropper post, a bit of a riser bar, and if you’re really keen a 120mm fork.  With those changes you could ride pretty much everything east of the Rockies with ease.

Norco also makes this bike in a 650b version but I feel that if you’re getting a bike for cross country riding then 29″ wheels are the only way to go. There are four complete builds available of this bike ranging from $3999-$9799.  All bikes share the same frame which is impressive when the frameset sells for $2999.  If you’re interested in picking one of these rocket ships up give the guys over at Pedalhead Bicycle Works a shout and they’ll set you up.

As per usual, once I have 1000km on the bike I’ll be able to give a much more thorough review on the machine and any issues that might arise.  If you have any questions, drop me a line in the comments and I’ll get back to you!

 

First Impressions : Trek Stache 9.8

Recently I picked up a 2017 Trek Stache 9.8 with the idea that it would be my trail bike for next year. I’ve only put 150km on the bike so far so this won’t be a full blown review, it will be a first impressions post on the bike.  Not one ride has gone by where I haven’t been stopped multiple times by curious onlookers with a variety of questions. The most common ones are:

Is it heavy? I wouldn’t say so, it’s about 27 lbs ready to go.  Not as light as an xc race rocket, remember, this is a trail bike!

Does it ride like a fatbike?  Not even close.

How big are those tires? 29×3″ on 40mm wheels.

Is it slow? It must be slow with those tires!  I’ll touch on this one later.

How much does it cost?  This model retails for $6249.99 but there are many models in the lineup to cater to every budget.

Now that the most common questions are out of the way let’s start with what makes the bike unique.  The first and most obvious thing that sets this bike apart from virtually everything else on the market are the large 29+ tires. The idea behind this tire size is an increase in traction as well as a noticeable increase in the roll over ability when you hit roots and rocks on the trails.  Trek has managed to get the chainstay length down to 420mm, that is 22mm shorter than my cross country race bike’s chainstay.  They accomplished this by using boost hub spacing and and assymetric chainstay design that actually goes above the chain line on the drive side of the bike.  The third thing that should be noted on the Stache is the longer top tube with a slacker head angle.  Many companies are exploiting the modern geometry which results in bikes that climb like xc rigs and descend with the confidence of a full blown 140mm trail bike.

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The elevated chainstay allows for an impossibly short and stiff rear end with the ability to run 29+, 27.5+ and 29 tires.

The tires that come with the Stache are the Bontrager Chupacabras and let me tell you, they are amazing.  When you first look at the tires you wonder how they can possibly hook up but due to the large surface area and low tire pressure, (11 front, 12 rear) they are impossible to break loose.  The only time I’ve skidded is when I grabbed way too much rear brake on a descent just to see what would happen. I’ve yet to run out of tire in the front.  Due to the amazing traction the bike climbs like a billy goat!  A couple of the hardest hills in town, Prime Rib and the east entrance to Cambodia are extremely challenging or impossible on most bikes but the Stache climbs them both with ease. No more excuses on the climbs.

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Despite the small knobs the Chupacabras have near limitless traction.

The wheels that the Chupacabras are mounted to are Bontrager’s new Line Pro 40 carbon hoops with bontrager hubs that look and sound suspiciously like DT240s.  With such a lightweight combination you would never know you’re on rubber as big as you are as the wheel spin up effortlessly.   The boost hubs allow for the wheel to be super stiff laterally as well which is critical for a bike that can rail corners as fast as the Stache can.  The wheels are tubeless ready as are the tires, you’d be a fool to run tubes on this bike.

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40mm wide carbon wheels make for a stiff, light, package

The drivetrain that comes with the 9.8 Stache is the full Sram X0 kit complete with carbon cranks.  The carbon cranks are a sweet addition considering many companies throw an alloy crank on to keep costs down.  As per usual, the sram kit shifts smoothly every time without any hiccups. I thought I would get used to the lack of the double shift that Shimano offers but I still miss it. Maybe by mid summer when I post a full review I’ll be over that.

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Full X01 complete with carbon cranks

The cockpit is using the new 35mm Bontrager line pro riser bar, carbon of course. Mounted up to the bar are the Sram Guide RS brakes.  Coming from Shimano XT brakes on both of my last bikes I can say that I am impressed with these new brakes.  The four piston design allows for a huge range of modulation and ample power.  You definitely need the power on this bike as the second you point it down hill you are going way faster than you ever expected you could on a hardtail.

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35mm bars are great but don’t expect to put your out front Garmin mount or most lights in the middle.
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Guide RS Brakes provide all the power you could hope for and then a little bit more.

The Bontrager Dropline dropper post comes equipped on this bike and has worked flawlessly so far. Unlike the Reverb that many bikes come with, the dropline is cable actuated. I must admit that so far I’ve preferred this style of dropper to the reverb on my last bike.  Adjustments are easily made with a barrel adjuster at the lever and if you crash and wreck the cable you can easily swap in a brake cable available from every bike shop and you’re on your way. With the Reverb the first line of action was a bleed but first you needed to track down the Reverb fluid.  The bleed was easy enough but it was just one more thing you needed to do.  I could not imagine riding this bike without the dropper post.  The second you drop in on your descent you’ll have an ear to ear grin because of how rowdy this bike wants to get on the descent and having a dropper allows you to open it up to it’s full potential.

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125mm of travel greets you at the back end with a simple two bolt head.
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A shifter style lever with buttery smooth action.  If this mated to the brake lever it would be even better!

Trek knew just how capable this bike was going to be and equipped it with one of the new Rockshox Pike 29+ forks.  The 120mm version is on the bike and so far I haven’t been left wanting more.  The charger dampener does a brilliant job of ramping up through the travel while still absorbing the small bumps on the trail.  Brake dive is non existent once you’ve got it set up properly for your trails.  Despite the 120mm being sufficient, I do wonder what this bike would be capable of in the mountains with a 130 or even a 140mm Pike up front.

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29+ Pike RC takes care of the front end quite nicely.

After 150km of riding the bike on Edmonton’s finest singletrack I can say that without a doubt, this is the most fun bike without a motor that I’ve ever ridden.  The playful nature due to the short chainstays and infinite traction from the big tires allows for lines that no other bike could hope to hold and for speed to be carried through the roughest trails with ease.  I am really looking forward to getting this rig out into the mountains where I feel it will really shine. Despite being a hardtail I have to reiterate that it does not ride like a cross country race machine that beats your lower back into oblivion.  During my first couple rides I thought out loud, I should let just a bit of air out of the shock to soften things up only to remember that there is no rear shock!

Hardcore Bikes has one in large available for demos, but really, you should just go order one. You won’t regret it one bit.  Remember, the correct amount of bikes is N+1.

If you have any questions about the bike, feel free to ask away in the comments below!

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Bike Fit, is it Important on your Mountain Bike?

A proper bike fit is absolutely critical to enjoying any bike.

For years everyone has sworn by paying the big bucks to get fit on your new road bike.  You’ll be so much more comfortable, you won’t have the pain in your back anymore, you’ll be able to ride forever without feeling sore, but have you ever heard the same about your mountain bike?  I hadn’t until very recently.

I recently purchased a new trail bike (more to come on that in another post) from Hardcore Bikes and included it with it, is a bike fit.  Every bike purchased from the shop includes a bike fit whether it is a road, mountain, or hybrid style bike.  Steve booked me in for a 1-2 hour fit session a few days later and it was time to see what this was all about.  The days leading up to the fit had me thinking things like, how important can fit possibly be on a mountain bike?  My seat height feels fine and my suspension feels ok, what more could be done?  I had already ridden the bike once and it felt great, why do I need to spend this much time on something that already works.  Little did I know, I was very wrong in my thoughts.

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The new trail bike, a Trek Stache 9.8

I showed up to the shop with the shiny new steed, some bib shorts, and my cycling shoes ready for session, still not knowing what to expect.

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Determining how much steer tube to remove

The first thing that Steve did was set up my bike on the turbo trainer, this would allow me to pedal the bike during the session so that Steve could analyze what my body was doing. Before I hopped on the bike Steve asked me to walk back and forth a couple of times in the shop.  Wait, what?  Now I know bib shorts can be most flattering but why was I walking around the shop when I’m here for a bike fit.  Steve was analyzing how my feet were placed with each footstep.  Everyone’s foot placement is a little bit different and this plays a huge role in the bike fit.  After strutting my stuff I took off my shoes and handed them over to Steve.  Immediately he loosened off both of my cleats and started adjusting them.  The little tweaks being made were to reduce heel strike on the rear stays of the bike and more importantly, allow me to use the right muscles in my pedal strokes.  Cleats a bit further back allow you to use your larger leg muscles which harness more power and take longer to fatigue than your calves.  News to me but I like hearing the words more power and less fatigue.

Now that my cleats were sorted out I got to hop on the bike.  I pedaled the bike for a couple of minutes while Steve walked around, checking out how everything was looking and then out came the tape measure and a few other tools that would look more at home in a doctors office than a bike shop.  It turns out my saddle was a little too low which was robbing me of power and endurance.  We didn’t just look at the height of the saddle, we looked at it’s fore/aft position as well to ensure that everything was lining up over the pedal axle to prevent possible knee pain or injuries from applying the force in the wrong ways on my knees.  The saddle came forward a bit but I can’t say that I felt much of a difference at this point.  The saddle that came with the bike was a high end one that happened to fit me perfectly so we didn’t need to swap that out.  If you’re a guy you may be fine sitting on anything for a saddle but in my experience women always need to swap out their saddles for different ones as female sit bones are oriented quite a bit differently than male ones.  Saddles can range from $50-300 depending on how fancy you want to get.  Keep in mind that a softer saddle is rarely the more comfortable one.

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Steer tube shortening to ensure no unnecessary injuries occur while riding

On to the cockpit! On my new bike the cockpit was fairly simple with just one shifter, a dropper remote and of course the brakes.  On the xc race bikes you have all of those plus remote options for suspension so getting them all dialed in is critical.  First up we adjusted the brake levers not only for position but also for lever reach.  This was the one area where my view differed from Steve’s.  I have ridden motorcycles for many years so I am used to braking with my middle finger instead of my index as well as having the brakes grab very early in their stroke.  I was given a pass on the lever feel but suggest that you probably should be braking with your index finger and have the brakes engaging later in their stroke to allow for easier modulation.  We also swapped out the factory grips for something a bit larger in diameter with a soft compound.  My hands are an absolute mess from years of rock climbing and the injuries often flare up on rough descents.    Stock grips are notoriously less than ideal so I would factor in $30-40 for a nice pair when you pick up a new rig.

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Having some fun on the new rig

So, did it work? Did all of the minor tweaks and adjustments make for a better ride? I went for a 40km single track ride the next day taking on some of the rougher trails in town and can say without a doubt that the bike fit made a difference.  I noticed that the bike felt much more natural to ride than the day before the fit.  The bike just worked.  Everything was behaving exactly how it should without any real thought on my end.  Instead of trying to adjust to the bike I could focus on the trails and enjoying my ride. Knowing now that everything is set up perfectly will allow me to perform at a different level than I would be able to on the same bike without a fit.  Along with the performance will come comfort which, for me, is critical on those 60km+ rides on technical single track.

Chances are that you the bike you are on is not set up properly for you and due to that you aren’t reaching your full potential on your bike. Some examples of issues I’ve heard many people complain of while riding their mountain bikes are :

  1.  Pain in the butt, this could be due to being on the wrong saddle, it’s tilted improperly, you’re reaching too far ahead etc
  2.  Wrists ache which is often caused by the cockpit being set up wrong or the suspension not being set properly.
  3. Cramping calve.  I have seen multiple friends rolling on the ground in pain due to this which is often caused by improper seat placement or fore/aft adjustment on the saddle.
  4. Pain on the front or behind the knees.  This all ties into cleat and seat placement.
  5. A twitchy front end.  Some shops simply put a longer stem on a smaller bike to get you out the door. On an mtb this will make descending really terrifying.
  6. Lack of power.  Nobodies legs are as strong as they want them to be but having your seat too high or too low is robbing you of the power you do have.

These are among the many things that a bike fit will solve along with a bike that is the right size for you.  I have a few friends riding bikes that they were sold because the shop had the attitude of “the bike that’s in stock is the one that’s right for you.”  Now they are trying to get the bike to fit properly through other means and due to that their bike will never perform as well as it could had it been the right size to begin with.

Most higher end bike shops will have bike fit services whether using the old school method with handheld tools and tape measures or the new school method such as the Guru Fit machine that Pedalhead Road Works utilizes.  Hardcore Bikes is the only shop in town that I’ve seen or heard of doing a mountain bike fit as comprehensive as that of a road bike.  If a bike fit is not included in your bike purchase than I would highly suggest calling your local shop and finding out if they offer the service.  The fit could be the difference between a great day on the bike followed by many more or one day on the bike followed by discomfort.

 

 

Victoria Trail Gravel Grinder

120km of pure gravel bliss north of Edmonton

Victoria Trail is a historic gravel road that is about 60km long starting just northeast of town.  We headed north to explore this as we had a week of heavy rain and the trails were not fit to be ridden. Road miles are fun but we were looking for something a bit different, something none of us had ridden before.  Here in Alberta we are surrounded by perfectly straight, flat, paved roads with nothing but farmer’s fields as the eyes can see.  What most people don’t realize is that if you duck off the major roads there are absolute gems to be ridden if you’re cool with gravel.  The Victoria Trail is one of those gems.

We parked just off Highway 28 and RR211B.  There is no parking lot but there is a relatively mild shoulder you can park on, our VW Wagon had no issues.  From there we headed north along a route that I had planned based off when I had ridden the trail before on my motorcycle.  The gravel you’ll find on this ride is fairly loose for the most part as the road does not see a lot of traffic, picture a typical road leading to a farm house, that is what this is like.  Luckily for us it had rained quite hard the day before so dust was kept to a minimum, if you’re heading out there when it’s been hot all week prepare for loose gravel and lots of dust!

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Heading north

There isn’t very much climbing to be done along the stretch but don’t let that deceive you, the gravel takes a significant toll on your legs and an even worse toll on your ass.  Wear your favourite set of shorts and a healthy application of chamois cream as this is a rough ride!  If you are a masochist who enjoys beating their bike to a pulp then you could ride this on a road bike with wider, 25-28 tires.  A cyclocross bike is the ideal tool for this ride and what all of us chose to bring when we rode it.  File tread tires at about 40 psi will work best as there is no really need for the traction that knobby tires would offer.

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On top of the largest hill of the day you’ll be treated to this stunning view of the North Saskatchewan River

Along the path there are numerous memorials and plaques giving you more information on the history of this road and it’s importance to Alberta.

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Old Homestead along the way

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As you reach the 60km halfway mark you will each the old village.  From Thursday through Sunday the village is open and there is a store with washrooms there. We went on a Wednesday and nothing was open, luckily we brought enough food and water for the full 120km out and back trip.

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Part of the village
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All smiles on the gravel
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Ensuring we are still going in the right direction

About 30km from the car a large storm cell showed up on the horizon.  With the winds picking up and rain started to fall we dropped the hammer to get back to the cars.  Getting caught out here in a storm would be less than ideal as there are very few bands of trees to protect you from the elements.

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In total we rode 120km from the car to the village and back.  I would strongly suggest that you be comfortable with rides of this length or better before tackling the full distance.  120km on these roads is significantly different than 120-150km on a road ride.  How much different? I don’t have a power meter on my cross bike so I can’t give an exact number but I’d guess 15-20% more effort is required than a nice paved road.

I’d suggest bringing ample supplies for flat/tire repair, especially if you plan on riding your road bike on this trail (leave the carbon wheels at home.)

GPX route for your garmin https://www.strava.com/routes/5063318

Starting point where we parked https://goo.gl/maps/nUxemULZsWP2

stravamap

Lezyne Digital Floor Pump

A review of the digital Lezyne Floor Pump.

A year ago if you told me me that one of the best things I could buy for cycling was a bike pump, never mind one that costs $100, I would have just laughed in your face and proceeded to use my old $25 pump from MEC. Little did I know that a high quality pump would make my life easier but also improve my riding experience. Let me explain.

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The Lezyne Digital Alloy Pump

Tire pressure is one of the most critical parts of a ride, especially with everyone running tubeless tire setups on their mountain bikes, fat bikes, cyclocross bikes, and road bikes (no, not tubular.) When you’re inflating your tires there are so many variables to consider, such as which tires you’re running, the terrain you’re riding, and even the weather the day before.  On your mountain bike, cyclocross, and fat bikes one psi of air makes a massive difference. Gone are the days where you’d pump up your tires, pull off the pump head, check with a tire gauge, and then either add/remove until you’ve got it right.  That takes time, time that could be spent riding. The Lezyne digital pumps solve these issues by having an extremely accurate digital gauge built in. How accurate? I’ve tested it against multiple digital hand held gauges and there hasn’t been a discrepancy yet, even when I’m dealing with pressures <10 psi on the fat bikes.  Unlike many other pumps, this one easily gets you over 100 psi to fill up your skinny tired steed without giving your arms any grief.

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Easy to ready gauge

Next up is the way you hook the pump up to your valve using the threaded chuck.  Most pumps have a clamp style head where you mash the head onto the valve, clamp it down and hope you’ve made an airtight seal. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t!  The Lezyne uses a threaded head that is dead simple to use and works every time.  All you need to do is unthread the release valve on the presta valve and thread the pump chuck on.  The chuck can be flipped depending on if you’re using schrader or presta valves.  Once you feel the chuck bottom out you start pumping. Once you’ve reached your desired pressure you press the black button on the side of the chuck which purges the system to ensure that no air is lost when you undo the chuck.

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Threaded chuck and braided hose
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Pressure relief valve and presta/schrader options

If you’re looking at the valve and thinking, how am I going to inflate the disc wheel on my TT bike then don’t worry, Lezyne includes a 90 degree speed chuck for just that application.  The pumps also come with a needle to inflate and sports balls you might have around.

The alloy version of the pump is pictured in the review but you can save a bit of money and the get steel sport version which is just a bit heavier than the alloy version.

Looking to pick one of these beauties up? Swing on by Hardcore Bikes on whyte ave and they’ll set you up.  $100 and it’ll be the last pump you buy.

Invermere Trail Network

Recently Nina and I ventured to Panorama as her team, Prairie Girls Racing was taking part in a downhill course held by The Shred Sisters and the Prairie Girls. We arrived in Radium the Thursday evening and checked out what the locals had to say about the trails. We were pointed towards the Johnson Trail network just up the hill from town.  Always keen to explore trails outside of Edmonton we loaded up the bikes and made our way to the trail head.  As you come up the road there is a parking lot on the right hand side of the road with ample parking.

We started out by heading down the Johnson Loop in a clockwise direction. A couple kilometers in we hopped on the black diamond trail, Rock’n the Flume. This was tight single track trail with only one real black diamond feature, a wooden roll over down a rock.  If you enjoy tight single track with lots of line selection through rocks then this trail is for you. After that trail we continued on the Johnson trail and rode over to the Kloosifier trail.  This section of trail is by far the best piece that we rode while in Invermere. High speeds with lots of flow would be the only way to describe this 10km loop.  There are a few decent climbs but nothing overly technical.

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Nina heading up to look out on the trail where you have a great view of town.
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Overlooking Invermere.
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Another part of the ridge line with great views.

After riding the Kloosifier loop we turned around and rode back up the hill to finish the Johnson loop.  The second half of the trail was much more interesting than the first with quite a bit more change in elevation and more technical parts of the trail.  In many places you are given the option of a black diamond or blue way to do the same part of the trail.  If you are a capable rider with experience on technical climbs and descents than you should absolutely take the harder of the two options every time.  As you move to the southern part of the trail, once again, riding in a clockwise direction, you will be treated to stunning views of hoodoos as well as the river snaking its way through the canyon.

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Some of the hoodoos visible from the trail.
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The whole view!
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Great views the entire time.

I would highly suggest you check out these trails and let me know what you think! If you have any questions or suggestions for similar riding, leave them in the comments below!

Details

Bike Ridden: 2016 Norco Revolver HT 9.2

Camera: Olympus TG-4

Strava Ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/634541927

 

Useful Links

Bicycle Works, the crew will keep your bike sorted while in town and can offer advice on trails!

Trailforks Maps for Invermere

GPX Route to follow the Johnson Kloosifer Loops from the Parking lot that I created

invermere trail forks

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Nina crushing one of the climbs on the Johnson Loop