Let’s face facts-The month of March has always been a complete gong show when it comes to weather. It acts like a succinct version of the entire winter we have here in Edmonton; it’s so completely unpredictable, polarized and sudden, we sometimes just give up trying to deal with it and stay inside until summer actually arrives. When you think about having a fatbike race in the middle of March, you think that it will be mild in temperature, but there should be plenty of snow to ride on. That’s when the E-town weather punches you straight in the gut by giving you a 15 degree day just before the race followed up by freezing overnight temperatures. March, you are a fickle mistress.
When James and I were scouting out the trails for our third and final 45NRTH fatbike race, it was 10 degrees out. So when we rode out on the planned course, the snow was soft with plenty of grip with a few icy puddles so that emboldened us to give the go ahead for the race the next day. It was still shortened due to the icy conditions of the descending chutes, but we were confident that the course would still provide plenty of fun for the racers. The race must and will go on, but then morning arrived.
All the soft snow turned to hard packed snow with a lovely layer of ice on top and the wet puddles froze overnight to glaring smooth but undulating ice trails. The entire course was either pavement or sphincter clenching ice. Whom would possibility want to race with these conditions? Apparently, 35 nail swallowing fatbikers/cyclists (one person on a Rocky Vertex with Ice Spiker Pro tires blew past me sending shredded ice in my face). Sure, most people hit the deck once or twice or way more than that, but they all came in with a big smile on their faces. It was survival mode out there as you tried to keep the bike upright, then if you came off the bike, good luck standing back up to get on your bike. Kevin from the Edmonton Triathlon Academy was trying to stand up on the ice and commented to me, “I feel like Bambi trying to stand on a frozen lake”.
On the one and only descend on the course, my bike went sideways and I plowed face first into the ground taking Nick down with me as he was right on my wheel. I smashed my right knee to the ice in the process so I had to do a quick re-evaluation of my body parts before moving on. Nothing felt broken, but I was indeed bruised. We entered the lower trail to head back to the Savage center where we were blinded by the light reflecting off the smoothed out ice. I was moving so slowly I don’t think I’ve ever taken so long riding that length of trail in my entire life. With great relief, I made it back to finish lap one.
On the second lap, I was riding with two new racers who never raced a bike race in their entire lives, and they were loving it. They were talking about how they would like to do more bike races in the future and how they were surprised about how friendly the experience was. If these two were the only ones who showed up for the race, I would still be happy and deem the race successful. Well, actually I’m glad that more people showed up so we wouldn’t lose money on the race, but I loved those two guys.
We wanted the last race of the triple-crown to be the best as Aaron from Quality Bike Products drove all the way to Edmonton to checkout and participate in our race, but weather is one thing you can’t control. We wanted 100 people to show up to race their fatbikes instead of 35, but at the end of the day, I couldn’t be happier to see them all come in and talk about how challenging and fun the day was despite the conditions. I’ve been to races where people just complain about how crappy the course or conditions were, how cheap the payouts were, how there were not enough door prizes or there wasn’t enough food, etc. There wasn’t a single person who came to me, James or Mike and expressed any dismay or anger that we put on the race. Besides some bumps and bruises, most people were in a convivial mood. Especially Nick from Hardcore and Denis from Pedalheal who won Dillinger 5 studded tires, and because we received so many door prizes from 45NRTH, every racer got schwag to take home!
Anyways, the Kokanee redbike gang learned a lot from these races. We will strive to put on a better set of races for everyone next year. Thanks to everyone involved with races as we truly appreciated the support.
submitted by: Greazybear
Watching fat bikes roll around this past winter brought a degeree to calm my knee surgery recovery. They have a certain amount of gravitas while not taking themselves too seriously. It might be those giant tyres in those tiny frames. They give the impression that the human race can overcome any obstacle be it weather or terrain if we make the tyres big enough and we dress in black. Like this Schienenzeppelin from 1935 German engineers.
Thanks to our friend Cycling Cosmonaut for this.
About this time last year, I reported that my love of spring comes down to two factors:
1) weather-related factors, and
2) the purchase and anticipation of getting a new bike
Well, in true groundhog day fashion, I am once again excited about both, although this year I must admit the excitement is definitely weighted squarely towards the "new bike getting" side of things.
Go ahead; say it. "New bike? Didn't you just get a new bike last year and profess your love for it all last season?" Well yes, I did (thanks for remembering and you can re-live that here and here), but love is fleeting and short-lived, even in the bike industry, where no matter how awesome your current awesome bike is, there is a better and much more awesomer bike just around the bend.
First, a quick recap from last year's bike purchase endeavour - I spent the season having mad amounts of fun on the Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt, a then newly-designed and just released 120mm full suspension 27.5-wheeled bicyclette meant to sit more or less between the categories of full on race bike and fun, all-day trail bike. My only complaint at the time was the weight of the bike kept it solidly planted in the fun, all-day trail bike category, and it was ultimately the kind of bike only a fool would show up to the start line of an Elite XC race on. *Cue quiet coughs and everyone looking in my direction*
"This bike would be perfect if only it were carbon and about 6 pounds lighter" I lamented repeatedly to my faithful and seemingly understanding and caring teammates, and instead of focusing on my PhD studies, I could instead be found relentlessly Googling the term "rocky mountain carbon thunderbolt 2015" day in and day out hoping Rocky would somehow hear my pleas.
Indeed someone was listening, and last fall Rocky Mountain revealed there would be a carbon Thunderbolt for 2015. A number of us redbikers instantly new this was the bike to get, and I am super excited to report I am finally getting my hands on my dream XC bike (until next year). With any luck my Thunderbolt 799 MSL will be arriving at redbike in the coming weeks just in time to hit Edmonton's trails in prime spring form.
What makes this year's MSL Thunderbolts so much better? In addition to the carbon frame and a few tweaks to the geometry to make climbing more efficient, Rocky has also integrated their unique Ride9 system, which allows one to adjust a frame insert to change up the geometry to match rider size/weight and riding style. This feature has been around for a few years now on the bigger travel Altitude, and really adds versatility and customization for each rider's unique preferences. Almost like having a few bikes in one. Further, as if going to a full carbon frame wasn't enough, Rocky released as part of the line up a "full bling" 799 MSL model, complete with all top-tier parts, including, most notably, Shimano's brand spanking new, XTR Di2 electronic 2by11 drivetrain and updated XTR brakes. Shimano's electronic shifting has been praised in every review so far (including one by the illustrious Greazypanda), and promises to deliver perfect, efficient shifts throughout the entire range of gears by using a system Shimano has dubbed Synchro Shift. The system is both completely customizable as far as shifting patterns and shifter trigger function, and I can't wait to try it out. I should probably also mention the 799 comes with the fresh as a baby's bottom Stan's carbon Valor wheels, top dog kashima-coated Fox suspension front and back, a RockShox dropper seat post, new carbon Race Face cockpit bits, and basically a bike geek's dream sequence of other top tier finishing parts. See for yourself here what I'm talking about (and also check out the other models in the Thunderbolt line and across Rocky's entire line-up while your at it).
"Wow," you're probably thinking, "that sounds amazing and also very, very expensive", and yes, yes it is, and is some more. In fact, if you happened to notice the MSRP for the Thunderbolt 799 on Rocky's website, you are probably also thinking I'm at least a little bit cray cray and maybe in the midst of a mid-life crisis. Maybe a bit, and surely debatable, but honestly, the best way I can rationalize this type of investment to anyone is there is a point in every bike geek's geekdom that price no longer becomes an object, and spending more on a bike than you would on a car doesn't even phase you. The enjoyment and satisfaction that comes from even just the first ride on a supremely crafted bicycle dissipates any regret or doubt about spending that much money on what most would consider a toy. Cycling is my vice, and a good and honest one at that, and I will never hesitate or regret a bicycle-related purchase. No, I will not give in to buying that trendy, new app from Apple for $1.29, but I will hand over more than my total taxable income for a bicycle. Priorities really. Plus, I'm totally worth it. At least that's what they keep telling me at redbike each time I bring in a payment installation with each payment I receive for organs I certainly don't need. Two kidneys? Come on now. Who really needs two kidneys? That's really just 250 grams less to carry around. I'm ready to race in true weight-weenie fashion this season.
Kieran brought in a Marinoni frame that he got for a song, his only criteria for the build was that it be garish... this could be my favourite build to date. at first i was going for a mustard, ketchup and relish vibe, then Derek suggested throwing in some blue, which led to adding a bit of pink. as for the build kit we kept it pretty straight forward for the sake of budget, Kieran already had the wheels so we added a sram force crank from our collection of random, shimano tiagra derailluers and cassette, 105 levers and tektro brakes. In the end I like to think we nailed it, and hopefully Kieran enjoys ridding it as much as we enjoyed building it.!
submitted by: Kimberlysleepyjean
I have to admit it; I’m a pretty social guy. One of the things that’s really endearing for me about racing is hanging out with my fellow racers after the race to regale about the suffering and good times. So, when I rode through the LP Tent start/finish arch to signify the finishing of five hours of racing, I had a feeling of consternation when the Savage Center, which acted as a neutral zone, was torn down and almost everyone had gone home. (Thanks to Brent and Derek for waiting for me, although once I got in they gave me a protein bar and took off). I suppose that’s what happens when you and one other smuck decides to finish the 4thlap and complete almost 70km of fatbiking in the rivervalley. Well, despite the utter isolation and underwhelming finishing celebration, the first of three 45NRTH Triple Crown races went exceptionally well.
(photo credit: Bruce Edwards / Edmonton Journal)
With a winter cycling race in Edmonton, you are at the mercy of some very angry weather patterns. Seriously, it could have been minus 38, snowed 30 cm overnight or it could have rained and gone up to 10 degrees. I suppose it depends on the subjective views of what perfect winter fatbike racing really is, but I would say minus 5ish, sunny with calm winds with packed down trails would be pretty darn close. True, the singletrack past the Fort Edmonton bridge got so brutally chewed up it was rendered impossible to ride on fatbikes let alone skinny tires. I was able to completely ride it on the first lap due to the virtue that I hit it first, but the third and fourth lap was a full hike a bike section. It was not great, but I’ve done mountain bike races where it was mired in so much mud that I ran through half the race. Just so you know, there is an entire cycling race discipline based on mud racing and carrying your bike through, at times, a large portion of the course: cyclocross. And, it’s awesome.
With 50 plus racers, most of them on fatbikes, showing up to the race on Sunday morning, it presented a rare and amazing sight: A coalescing of Fatbikers. Like accidentally stumbling into a Pontiac Aztec lovers meeting, it’s something of an aberration, but an absolutely beautiful one. It’s accepting the fact that you are not a freak for loving these enormously large-tired bikes and that winter cycling on any bike is just plain fun. The racers had a course set up for them which included fast snowy paved trails, packed double track, packed and not so packed singletrack. There were some really tricky downhills that got trickier as the race went on, and there were plenty of thawing dog (perhaps human) poop you had to bunny hop over. It’s always tricky to set up a racecourse for a wide varying group of cyclists, but I think Mike S did a commendable job of setting up a great and most ridable course.
At the end of the race, Mitchell, who was the only other person masochistic enough to finish the fourth lap, asked me, “What do I get for winning the race?” I replied, “A hardy thumbs up and a cookie” Then his buddy comes up to us and goes, “Look what I won!” He won one of the 45NRTH merino wool T-shirts that was given out as a door prize. Mitchell had a laugh until I told him that it’s a $80 shirt and that we had other shirts, toques, Dillinger tires, Sturmfist gloves, pedals, etc all as door prizes. The race is a race so we expect people to go out and try as hard as they want to, but the main purpose of the race is participation and having fun. All participants and volunteers are in the draw for schwag every race and then for the Krampus frame at the end of the series.
The next race, all I’m asking for is for more people to hang around to get drunk with me and talk about the race like old fishing buddies.
submitted by: Greazypanda
When someone told me what the Surly Krampus was named after, I thought those Germans were kind of unnecessarily cruel to children by adding a horned monster to accompany St. Nicholas to scare the shit out of them during Christmas. I suppose the Krampus (bike) is kinda similar to the other Krampus (monster) due to its dark yet sparkling green color and unfamiliar tire size that can make it look quite frightening and dreadful. But, some people do prognosticate that 3” wide tires is the perfect 29er tire width for that “do it all” bike, so that is why Surly and redbike thinks it will be the perfect giveaway for the 45 Nrth Fatbike Triple Crown.
Yes folks, the first of three winter races in our lovely Edmonton river valley is just days away, and the weather looks like it’s going to be perfect for an endurance fatbike race. With fresh snow and slightly below freezing weather, the trails will not only be perfect, the scenery in the river valley will be memorable. This race is not designed to be a full max effort race, but a longer strategic race of attrition. If you prepare, eat well and are willing to suffer in a long steady way, you can win one if not all three of the races. If you don’t really care about winning, but you want to go out there for a fun, hard ride with your friends, you still have a fair chance on winning the 45Nrth winter outfit or the Krampus frame. The results are just for bragging rights (which actually mean a lot; look at the craziness of Strava), but the giveaways are based on participation throughout the three races. So the more often you race, the better odds you have for winning the schwag. If you win the Krampus frame, you can build that baby into whatever you want; it has horizontal dropouts so you can put on a rear derailleur or go singlespeed to simplify your trail machine. Eventually, they will have studded high tpi winter tires so you can make the Krampus into the ultimate winter commuting tool.
We love bikes, and the Krampus is the perfect “next bike” for anyone. Come out for all three of the races and maybe luck will be on your side.
submitted by: greazybear
in the new year im going to be posting some of my thoughts and ideas regarding cycling, the shop, edmonton and other random junk.!
january marks my three year anniversary at redbike. between derek flipping me off regularly, hiding any snacks i want to finish by myself from brent, jays constant chipperness, darcys ability to justify, enable and source anything, having to have the dictionary on my phone for when marks around, and cliffs odd music preference... why do i think these are some of the greatest men in edmonton? maybe i have stokholm syndrome, or i’ve found a bunch of jerks that accept me for being a jerk and now they’re encouraging me to write about it.
submitted by: kimberlysleepyjean
Wondering about whether if we are going to have a mild or harsh winter is as useless as wondering if Prince is ever going to age. The fact is: Edmonton winters are just like sex or pizza; it doesn’t really matter if it’s good or bad. You just have to accept it and love it as it comes.
If you live in Edmonton, you have to get through six months of winter, but you can either embrace it or just wallow in your collective misery. I cannot believe how people can just hibernate indoors for the entire winter and let themselves deteriorate to a pale mass of Netflix addiction. They get up in the morning, start their cars in a heated garage, sit in rush hour traffic, catatonically work through the day, drive back home and stay inside for the rest of the evening until they go to bed. People avoid going outside like there is a zombie apocalypse going on. It is no wonder that Albertans are hopelessly unhealthy compared to the rest of the world, except our American sister state: Texas.
I’m not going to be overly sanctimonious about how cycling will save the world or how it will give you a body like Zac Efron, but this about getting outside during the winter. That’s it. I don’t care if you trail run, fatbike, cross-country ski, walk the dog or just sit on a bench and look out into the river valley. If you accept the fact that going outside is good for the body, then you will be amazed how it effects your mental state. Breathing brisk cold fresh air will sharpen your mental awareness and give you a better state of happiness. Then, if you add in exercise to that mental stimulation, you will enter a state of euphoric bliss. Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you do feel pretty bloody good about yourself.
Yeah, it sounds like a drug, but it really is. Everyone has heard about “runner’s high”, but that sense of euphoria can be achieved by going outside during the cold winter and enjoying a sweet workout for as little as 20 minutes of whatever you want. If you engage in some form of winter physical activity, the length of winter will shorten significantly as time is relative. Between cycling on my fatbike, snowboarding and squash, I have plenty of things to do during the winter months, and pretty soon, I will have to start planning out my summer plans because April is rushing in. So, winter doesn’t seem so odious to me as it does to others.
Sure, I’m not thrilled when those -30 degrees days hit and linger, but I really find it amusingly challenging to suit up and go for a bike ride when the windchill hits -40. When I get home, I can lounge around in my pajamas for the rest of the day feeling guilt free and relaxed. I love the pageantry of taking a hot bath with Body Shop oil in candlelight when I get home from a particularly long freezing ride. It also makes those -10 degree days feel wonderfully warm and comfortable like a fall or spring day. It’s a form of cognitive relativity.
When I hear people complain or wonder if we are going to have a mild or harsh winter, it’s almost always someone who rarely ventures outside in the cold and enjoys the majesty of our winters with the snow and cold air. If they did, I wonder if they would still look at winter with such dread. I find the river valley to be the most beautiful during the winter months because it has such a Robert Frost stillness and solitude, yet it has a sense of promise and adventure. So, try to find any excuse to get outside and breath in that cold fresh air, and I’ll promise you that you will see that winter is just…..winter.
submitted by: Greazypanda
The ABA cyclocross season is like a one night stand; It’s hot, sweaty, quick, awkward, bloody fun and a wicked story to tell your friends.
I suppose a few days before the Nationals in Winnipeg and with the majority of the season over; this is a good time to reflect on this year’s cyclocross season. I’m not going to regale you with my own stories of racing agony, but I’m going to try to explain the general atmosphere of the cyclocross scene. It’s just not a coalescing of roadies and mountain bikers, it is something quite unique and rather odd.
The race schedule is very short and condensed with a race on the Saturday and Sunday of every weekend starting in September and ending in November, so you get to see/race the same people within a very short period of time. It’s sort of like moving in with someone after a month of dating just because you really want to know if it’s going to work out. This is a strategy which I normally dissuade people from utilizing as I’ve tried and failed numerous times (I’m a hopeless romantic and a huge John Hughes fan). You go from, “Who the hell is that guy?” to “Hey Brad, how are your kids doing in math”, quite quickly at the start line.
After having my cross season shortened early last due to a knee injury, I was looking forward to traveling to Calgary a few times this year to make up for lost time. So between all the Edmonton and Calgary area races this year, I’ve collected some interesting observations from the cross scene.
First of all, people are here to race. Hard. Even though most people spent the summer road or mountain bike racing, this is no half exerted venture. Most people have cyclocross bikes that are, at most, 2 to 3 years old reaching into the $5000 plus range. If you have an older bike, like Ryan Hopping and his Salsa Con Crosso, you will receive constant lighthearted derision from other racers. The days of piecing together a cross bike for racing is over. If you don’t have a carbon frame, hydraulic disc brakes and carbon wheels with tubular tires, you may as well just show up on a Huffy wearing acid wash jeans. Yet, despite the haughty bike snobbery, people are genuinely encouraging and inclusive. They want you to buy a new bike because they just love cyclocross. With everyone reloaded with new bikes, the racing is intense, short, frustrating and climactic.
After race-to-race and weekend-to-weekend, you get to know or get familiar with people who frequent the races. It’s like homeroom from the beginning of the school year to the end. You get to recognize where people sit in class, who the class clown is, who the popular kids are, who the wallflowers are, etc. Because you see the same people in such a short period of time, you can’t count on small talk to get you through the day. You can’t say, “How are you doing?” or “Nice weather we’re having this fall aren’t we?” when you just saw them yesterday. Well, you can, but you would be the weirdo everyone makes fun of. You are basically forced into some kind of meaningful conversation whether you want it or not. Because of this, you actually get to know people over the course of the racing season or, in some awesome cases, you become friends. Yes, it has been reported that there is a flutter of new Facebook friending during cross season. At the beginning of the season, Shantel and I are constantly trying to remind ourselves who is who, but at the end, I’m telling those same people that we should go on an All-Inclusive Mexico vacation in March.
These same people are also usually the ones who stay after the race and help out with taking down the racecourse. We had our redbike race at the beginning of the season so when we started to take the racecourse down, it was mostly volunteers from our own club. As the season went on and people started to get to know each other, we all started becoming accustomed to helping out with the tear down. At the Pumphouse race in Calgary, I remember the horde of people who just started to help Synergy with the clean up. The kids and parents from Juventus, Marg from ERTC, Kyle from DeadGoat and others all stuck around and helped out Marcus with pulling up the stakes and collecting the tape. Even my buddies from Pedalhead supervised the clean up from their cool down routine on their trainers. It takes a village to raise a child as they say.
Now, you would think that the frequent cross racing would create animosity, enmity and segregation amongst the racers, and it kinda does, but just during the race. Once it’s over, there is this sense of admiration for the other racers because they just went through the same hell you just did. The acknowledgment of your similar achievement kind of creates a bizarre unity with racers, and with the repeated frequency of cross racing, it magnifies the phenomenon. While I’m sure some people just straight up hate me and my racing, I’d like to think the feeling is mutual. Right after the race, we all shake hands (or in some cases, uncomfortably side hug or gymnastic hug each other) and share stories of the race. It’s like the old cartoon of Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog. They are good buddies and punch in their timecards and then once the whistle blows, Sam proceeds to beat the shit out of Ralph. At the end of the day, they punch out and become friends again.
By the end of the cross season, you know oddities about people like: Andre likes to collect ceramic unicorns, Marcus has an amazing beard grooming routine involving a picture of Prince, Janet can do a wicked “Carlton” dance, Shantel can put 8 pickles in her mouth at one time, Stu has a tattoo of PeeWee Herman covering his back, Katie purposely unzips her jersey for a certain someone, Kyle’s nickname of “Chocolate Rocket” has nothing to do with his bike racing, Pepper’s real name is Petulia, the entire Juventus junior squad’s collective age is still less than Peter Lawrence’s and Shawn Bunnin is a foot model in Japan.
Cyclocross: Bringing strangers together to race so they can ignore each other, then eventually become friends since 1902.
submitted by: Greazybear
Living on the 53rd parallel is both a blessing and a curse for year round cyclists. On the summer solstice we are blessed with almost 17 hrs of daylight, however, on the flip side, during the winter solstice, we receive a little more than 7.5 hrs of daylight. Some of us arrive at work when it’s dark, and head home…when it’s dark!
This is where the Serfas S500 headlight is a crucial tool in my ride all year routine. With 500 lumens and a 1 hour & 45 minute run time on the highest setting, the S500 is the perfect light to get around Edmonton in the dark hours of the night, evening, or albeit, late afternoon.
Perfect for bike path commuting, snow trail shredding, and the occasional rip on buff single track, the S500 is as versatile as it is affordable. October is a prime riding month as the single track has opened up with the lack of overgrowth and the crowds are thinned - the perfect opportunity to let-er-rip! With the 150 gram S500 in your pocket, it’s easy to get out after work for a ride in the daylight, and safely make it home in the dark, whether that be on the trail, bike path, or streets.
The official burn times are as follows:
Overdrive: 1 hour and 45 minutes (500 lumens)
High: 2 hours and 30 minutes (325 lumens)
Medium: 4 hours (200 lumens)
Low: 8 hours (100 lumens)
Flashing: 4 hours and 30 minutes
I’ve used my light for over 3 seasons now, and it’s still going strong. I set it on the highest setting and leave it burn, and I’m yet to out ride it’s beam on a ride to or from work. Easy to recharge at the office or home with the USB connection, the S500 helps get you where you need to be - even when it’s dark!