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Fat Tire Tuesdays are coming... | Mar 30, 2016

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Last Day of Winter Beer Night | Mar 17, 2016

It's the night before Spring Equinox - so what better of an execuse do we need to celebrate! Join us for some beers & cheers and some light snacks too. Our friends from Kokanee Redbike will be on hand and they've got a lot of beer to share! We hope you can join us.

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them's the breaks | Feb 29, 2016

When it comes to bikes, I'll admit to being a bit of a carbon snob. Light, stiff, responsive, strong, and indulgently expensive at times, I'm always drawn to this magical, man-made material when it comes to bikes. There are the naysayers of course; the carbon critic is quick to point out that unlike a steel or aluminum frame, which typically dents upon impact and essentially maintains its integrity and usability, carbon is much more likely to crack or break, leaving the frame broken and useless. Boo! I scream like the old woman shouting at Princess Buttercup in Princess Bride. While this was a mildly defensible position when carbon first appeared, this argument is now as outdated as Mark's 90s bootcut Diesel jeans that he's secretly kept and doesn't want anyone to know about. Repairing carbon fiber is common practice now, and even available as do-it-yourself kits (disclaimer: I, nor redbike, nor mainstream media, endorse this method!).

 

Carbon fiber frames are unfixable you say?! Booooo!
Carbon fiber frames are unfixable you say?! Booooo!

 

Even if you consider yourself only a casual rider, breaking things comes with the territory as a cyclist. However, there is a relationship between amount of riding and the amount of destruction going on, and it's not terribly complicated math - the more you ride, the more stuff you break. Breaking parts is one thing; snapped chain, broken shifter, seatpost - these are certainly inconvenient, but usually not too hard on the wallet. A broken frame though is significantly more complicated and expensive, and surprisingly not all that uncommon. Most riders I know have cracked or broken at least one frame over the years - I cracked an aluminum frame years back, and was lucky to still be eligible for a warranty replacement. But what if your warranty is expired, or you bought the bike second hand? You're essentially stuck buying a new frame (or bike), right? Well, if you frame is metal, then yes, a new frame is the most feasible option. If your frame is carbon though, it's quite possible the frame can be repaired and put back into perfect working order for a fraction of the cost of a new frame.

 

With some bikes, the bond you form with the bike makes it worth repairing when you break it
With some bikes, the bond you form with the bike makes it worth trying to repair it when you break it. My original Van Dessel FTB is one of those bikes. No one throws Boogie in the corner.

 

"What does broken carbon look like?" you might be wondering. Not pretty - big breaks will usually be obvious cracking or splintering of some kind (procrastination alert: http://www.bustedcarbon.com/), although smaller cracks can remain unnoticed for a long time, especially if you don't clean your frame very often. Chances are, if you're like many of us, you won't even notice a crack or break right away - unless say you've crashed and the crack is in a noticeable, obvious place where you know an impact has occurred (the handlebar swinging around and smacking the top tube is a common example). Typically, a crack will become apparent while cleaning or polishing your frame, which is how I recently stumbled upon a rather nasty crack in my driveside chainstay on my well-loved and abused Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie. Since I first acquired it in 2012, I've loved everything about this bike, and despite putting it through hell and back for several cyclocross seasons and torturing it the last two seasons as a full-on winter bike/commuting bike, there was no chance I was going to just toss the frame in the garbage dump. Sure, I could re-purpose the parts, but this is a bike that fits like a glove and is very near and dear to my heart that I had planned to ride for many more years.

 

Okay, okay. I'll admit some things are beyond repair. (http://www.bustedcarbon.com/)
Okay, okay. I'll admit some things are beyond repair. (http://www.bustedcarbon.com/)
My unfortunate break. Not pretty, but fixable!
My unfortunate break. Not pretty, but fixable!

 

After the initial shock and expletives expressed upon discovery of the crack and some pity phishing on social media, I assessed the situation rationally. Repair seemed like a possible solution as I looked wistfully at the formidable crack, but it was a topic I'll admit being a bit ignorant about - even though several friends had mentioned getting their frames repaired locally, I never asked much about it. Until now. Several quick and panicked texts returned the name of a genetleman named Al and his company Dynamic Composites, so I looked up his contact information on the interwebs and sent off an email to see what could be done.

 

Al responded promptly and gave a quote based on the picture I sent, and I arranged to drop off the frame for the repair, which he said would take about a week. To be honest, I performed my due diligence as a consumer and received a quote from another recommended repair place in Vancouver, but when that quote was more than three times this quote, plus the cost of shipping the frame there and back, the choice was obvious. I was glad to meet Al as well - he is a gem of a man and full of entertaining stories and historical tidbits about the bike industry. He's certainly had a chance to design and build some neat things, so it was quite an honour to meet him.

 

My frame was fixed in a week as promised, and came in cheaper than the original quote, which was a great surprise. Al was a treat to work with, and upon picking up my bike I was treated to several more great stories and some classic memorabilia on display in his office (e.g., Magura hydraulic rim brakes on one of the first prototype carbon Rocky Mountain DH frames). The bike is back together and in regular rotation, and working as good as ever. Because my frame sports a raw finish (read: unpainted), you can see where the repair is on the chainstay if you look for it - it's virtually impossible to match the raw weave look and make the repair invisible. However, this also made the repair cheaper; getting paint matched up on a painted frame to make the repair invisible can add to the cost of a carbon repair significantly.

 

All fixed! Picture taken with flash shows where the new carbon was applied and used to fix the break
All fixed! Picture taken with flash shows where the new carbon was applied and used to fix the break
The fix under normal lighting - barely noticeable!
The fix under normal lighting - barely noticeable!

 

Take that carbon naysayers. My broken bike was fixed as strong as new (likely stronger in fact) in less than a week right here in Edmonton. Easy peasy. Having now experienced a carbon repair experience myself, I can only fully endorse and highly recommend going to see Al if you crack your carbon frame and need to get it repaired.

 

I know it's probably killing you at this point to know how much this endeavor set me back. But I'm also curious about what you think it cost me. Next time you see me, give me your best guesstimate, and if you're within $10, I'll buy you a beer. Otherwise, you're buying.

 

 

 

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Sedona 2 Electric Bugaloo | Feb 26, 2016

   For those of you who understood the title reference, you’re probably really old and had to endure the worst 2 hours of your life watching a horrible movie. Sure, it sounds hyperbolic, but you watch Breakin’ 2 Electric Bugaloo and not agree with me. Anyways, the title was purposely ironic because the 2016 Sedona, Arizona trip was quite fantastic, even better than last year.

    This was the second year in a row that some of us redbike folk were able to join Steve Martins and the rest of the Hardcore gang to ride some amazingly scenic trails in Sedona. And since it was my second trip to this rodeo, I was more prepared for the type of sadistic riding Steve had planned for us; as last year, I had some hiccups on the trails. I didn’t bring enough food and water and my rental bike didn’t have a tubeless setup so I had some unfortunate repeated flats. Sedona is renown for its redrock mountain biking because of the amazing trail system they have built all within close range to the town itself. Imagine an opposite topographical situation from Edmonton where the city sits high and all the mountain biking trails are below within the river valley system; Sedona is in the valley and all its trails are above and around it. The trails are very well designed and marked so you can get around and link the trails quite easily. There are some specific one-way trails like High on the Hog, which was one of my favorite technical trails, but most of the trails are ridable going both ways. It feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere riding in isolation, but you are always one downhill back into town. That being said, you still want to be fully prepared for anything that can happen on the trail because they are rough and unforgiving.

 

   Like most holidays, the weather had a big part on how things were going to go for us on this trip. A month before the trip, the southern US was experiencing some significantly lower than normal   temperatures. The word we heard from some people who were already in Arizona was that the high ranged from 6-9 degrees Celsius to a low just below zero so it didn’t look so promising at that point, but a month is a long way away. As the days flew by, we constantly check the weather and when the trip was a week away, the weather looked very propitious for our time in Sedona. The forecast called for daily highs to be 16-19 degrees Celsius with sun for the duration of our stay. Perfect.

 

      

 

   The biggest thing I was looking forward to this year compared to last year was riding my own bike instead of renting a demolition of a bike like the Kona Precept. Yes, I was bringing my stupendous Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 799 MSL. The Shimano DI2 XTR spec’d, Enve wheeled, carbon framed superstar was accompanying me on our honeymoon (sort to speak), and I was very excited. Of course, the idea of packing up and throwing a $12 000 bike on a plane seemed odious to me, but luckily we had the Biknd Jetpack bike bag at redbike which I was able to use. With Shanny giving a professor-like tutorial, we were able to securely pack up the T bolt without any worries that the airline would be able to damage the bike even if they wanted to. The bike was ensconced into the bag by using the thru axles themselves to securely attach to the base so it wouldn’t be able to shift during transport, and with the dropper seatpost, we just had to drop it to the lowest height and that was enough to clear the top of the bag. Genius.

 

   Once we got to Sedona, putting the bike back together was a cinch, but we won’t discuss what happened to Blaine’s chain during transport. I thought he was going to suplex the bike until we decided that we would just break the chain to fix it. But, once we got the bikes all built, Trevor, Blaine and I headed towards the Hardcore house to meet up with the rest of the gang to go for the first ride of the trip. We just flew in that day and it was 3:00pm, but all of us were super keen to go riding, and as projected, it was sunny and warm. We headed to the familiar Red Agave Resort where we started the ride with one of our favorite trails, Slim Shady. It has a similar feel to an Edmonton trail with its short punchy ups and downs, but the terrain was totally different with the red soil, cacti and rocky technical features.

 

   We rode till it started getting dark, and with our first taste of Sedona riding, fatigue from the flight and thirsty from the dusty dry air, we headed to our usual post ride establishment: Famous Pizza. With their cantankerous, sullen staff, fantastic pizza and well chosen beer taps, it is a great way to end the ride.

 

   Whilst slightly drunk and tired from our first day of riding, Blaine, Trevor and I headed back to the condo for a well deserved shower and rest, and while we had some complications with the front gate, we were all very happy with the way the first day went. Blaine, being the newbie to Sedona, was ecstatic with the trails we rode that day and with the fact that we have 8 more days of it.  We were also very please with how our bike performed; Trevor and Blaine both had the robust Altitude and I had my T bolt so it was a Rocky household.

 

 

 

   During our first morning, we made lots of toast, bacon and eggs, which later on we realized that the eggs were sabotaging Trevor’s stomach and effected his riding. Then after drinking copious amounts of coffee and slathering on loads of sunscreen, we were off to go for a full day of riding. We started our ride at the ChuckWagon trailhead which lead us to the Mezcal trail. This was a fast and flowy trail with some river crossings, and this is when I first realized what a fast group of riders we had. There was Steve, Andre, Neil, Brian, Brian, Jason and Karen, all from the Hardcore house.

 

   After the usual flats, blown up Reverb dropper seatpost and me crashing and landing on my left wrist, we headed back home after a very long ride which is typical for a Steve lead ride. We logged 56km on some really hard terrain so it felt like we rode 100km, but it made the first sip of beer taste even better. And that’s basically it: Coffee, ride, pizza and beer. What else could a mountain biker ask for? Oh yeah, more heat and more friends.

 

   Tuesday brought in 4 more riders in the form of Paavo, Nick, Mitchell and Lance. With the group complete, we headed to ride Broken Arrow and High on the Hog. The pace seemed to have quickened with the addition of more fit riders and we started to ride more of the technical trails. This is when everyone was really appreciative of their dropper seatposts. We even visited the infamous White Line which is this terrifyingly off camber white trail precariously perched next to a cliff. There are some maniacal people who has ridden it, but nobody seemed to be interested in risking their lives for some meaningless glory. Still, it was pretty cool to take a look at it.

 

 

   On the hottest day of the trip, we headed south to Phoenix and South Mountain to ride The National trail. It was the shortest ride of the trip, but it was also the most physically draining day as it was a rough and rocky climb and descent. One downhill was so rocky it seemed that I perpetually hit rock drop after rock drop. I thought for sure that I was going to blow up my Snakeskin Rocket Rons any second, but it held together, thank goodness. When we got back to the van, we realized that it was 30 degrees so we all decided that we needed food and beer immediately. We went to Tempe for some great cheap tacos before the long ride home in the quagmire of rush hour traffic.

 

   The rest of the week was full of the same good times with my Rocket Rons holding on for dear life, and if it does, Steve said he would eat them. I would have been happy if he just bought me a pint, but a bet is a bet. So as fate would have it, we were at the trailhead for Hangover when Neil pointed at my rear tire where a hissing sound was emitting. With shooting Stans spewing everyone, I finally got a leak in my tire. I thought this was an omen of sorts (If you believe in such things, which I don’t), but this was a good time to avoid riding Hangover and fix my puncture. This was, of course, the last ride of the trip so I couldn’t be happier with the way the trip went.

 

  

 

   

'This Sedona trip had many more stories to tell, but I’m sure you get the gist of how it went. Yes, we got lucky with unseasonably hot and sunny weather and nobody got seriously hurt despite the fact that most of us crashed at some point of the trip, but, I would highly recommend to anyone who loves mountain biking to check out Sedona for some of the best trails I’ve ever seen.

 


 

 submitted by: GreazyPanda

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45NRTH Fatbike Triple Crown Round 3 is ICED (Cancelled) | Feb 4, 2016

Unfortunately, due the the serve icy conditions on the course caused by the January rain, we are forced to cancel the final round (Feb. 7th) of this year's triple crown. Too much of the trail is ice, and even the paved trail, although sanded, is too slippery, in our opinion, to race on. It will be dangerous to go a race speed, dangerous to ride without studded tires, and dangerous for a less experienced rider. We are sorry to deliver the bummer news, but we hope you understand and we hope you will keep having fun riding your fatbike the rest of this winter season.

Cheers,
Mike Sarnecki

Race Organizer

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the answer is always more bikes | Jan 27, 2016

Last year about this time, I thought I had found the bike that would accommodate all my biking needs, from a mountain biking perspective at least. Simplifying the arsenal down to one ride seemed like an excellent idea in theory: less bikes to take care of, less time deciding which bike to ride, more room for the cat in the condo, etc... This bike, which I will refer to as "Ricky" from this point on, was a bike I was extremely excited about, as it seemed in theory to have all the aspects of a mountain bike that would make it a perfect do-all riding/racing machine.

 

Well, occasionally I'm okay with admitting I was wrong. This fancy-dancy steed, fully blinged out with Shimano XTR Di2 and more carbon than most bike owners see in a lifetime, was indeed an amazing bike and a boatload of fun to ride, but I quickly came to realize that trying to cover all the bases with one bike (especially when you're talking the gamut of mountain bike disciplines) was not the best strategy. It probably didn't help that I received a bit of a literal lemon, and I had to deal with a bunch of initial issues before getting the bike working to its full potential - we started off on the wrong foot Ricky and I. However, even once Ricky was all fine tuned and dialed in, Ricky was still never as good as I wanted Ricky to be at any one thing. Really, exceptional and excellent at a lot of things, but not the one everything I wanted it to be. It's not you Ricky, it's me. So, clearly the only answer was to put Ricky up for sale (side note: BUY MY BIKE! GREAT DEAL!) and get multiple new bikes to replace it.

 

I'm sorry Ricky. We're breaking up. You're just too good for me.
I'm sorry Ricky. We're breaking up. You're just too good for me.

 

Where I found to be most limited by Ricky was on the XC racing circuit, so I knew one of the replacements would need to be a carbon hardtail. Alberta racing tends to be of the smooth, generally buff and fast type, and a light, efficient hardtail fits the bill perfectly for our province. You think after 10 years of trying out this racing thing I would have had this all figured out by now, but I honestly thought a light-ish full suspension bike would be competitive. Wrong. Regardless, and coincidentally just in time to fill my hardtail desires, Devinci has released a 27.5 carbon hardtail race bike for 2016, the Darwin. With a name to steal my science geek heart, the stock spec of full Shimano XT 1 by 11, and a few aftermarket upgrades of the carbon variety (e.g., wheels. bars, seatpost, seat, etc... you know, just the essentials...), the Darwin should be a bonafide rocket ship when it comes to hitting the race circuit this season. I'm especially excited to see how it looks alongside our new redbike race kit.

 

Darwin! Survival of the fittest! XC race machine!
Darwin! Survival of the fittest! XC race machine!

 

One thing I have learned for certain is a short travel carbon hardtail is not the sort of ride ideal for all day trail riding. So, at the other end of the spectrum, I'm delving into new territory and roping up a Salsa Pony Rustler to use for fun, all-day, all-weather, all-seasons, dedicated trail riding. The bike is among the recent crop of the new "plus" category bikes - not fatbike tires and not mountain bike tires, but somewhere in-between, generally around the 2.8 to 3.0 inch mark for tire width. Just right in porridge temperature terms. For those that know me, I have been severely resistant to jumping on the fatbike train, even to the point of becoming vocal on occasion. I have some arguably good reasons for the resistance, such as I really have fun on non-fatbikes and don't feel the need for a fatbike to ride in the winter, and also some less tangible reasons for my position, such as just hating the term fatbike as it generates flashbacks of my tortured childhood as an extremely obese kid. Why am I so willing and eager to go plus then? Well, for one thing, plus-sized just seems a lot kinder and doesn't make me tear up. Seriously though, noted benefits of the plus tire are increased traction, ability to roll over obstacles and descend down gnarly sh*t with wanton disregard, and added float for snowy, winter riding - not the extreme amounts of a fatbike tire, but enough to make trail riding and exploring a lot more fun. I'm certainly game to give the plus platform a try and have some fun testing out the claims.

 

Not fat. Plus-sized. Perfect for this big-boned, always part fat kid lady.
Not fat. Plus-sized. Perfect for this big-boned, always part fat kid lady.

 

Will I be satisfied with my decision? Will two bikes be enough? How many years will I need to work at redbike to get out of debt? Will the cat even let me bring these two bikes into the condo? Stay tuned to find out and for reviews!

 

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Proudly announcing the redbike race kit | Nov 30, 2015

We've been rocking the classic redbike kit for a number of years now, and although I have no qualms about the design and think it's one of the more tasteful designs out there, we thought it would be fun to have a more "race-oriented" kit for those of us in the club that do that sort of thing. Especially fit-wise, we wanted a fit that would be a bit more "race-y" and streamlined than the classic relaxed club-fit kits in current rotation, and so, with the help Stephan Couture and the fine folks at Louis Garneau custom wear, we are proud to announce the first iteration of the redbike "race" kit that will be using the Mondo jersey and Course bibs.

 

The classic redbike club kit
The classic redbike club kit

 

As I've mentioned previously, kit design is a hard one to get right, but as with anything, if you're properly inspired and don't go too crazy you have a better chance at ending up with something that isn't hideous. I'm not ashamed to admit that the inspiration for our design actually came from some existing sources, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all - stolen ideas and bits include the classic redbike colours and font off the club jerseys, some layout design from the kokanee redbike kit, and patterns off of a recent design from one of my favourite sources of t-shirts and good-looking jerseys: Twin Six. Their The Wound Up jersey caught my eye when they first teased it on social media, and I made sure to quite forwardly suggest it as a possible design idea for the new kits.

 

Inspiration courtesy of the fine folks from Twin Six
Inspiration courtesy of the fine folks from Twin Six

 

With our race fit jersey/bib style chosen, Mark and I met over a series of coffee dates to try and agree on what would look best and how and where to place all the elements we wanted on the jersey. While we both came to the table with different ideas and preferences, we eventually came to an equitable compromise that included neither Smiths quotes or kittens, hugged it out, and prepared to approach Louis Garneau with our design demands.

 

Compromises had to be made. No Morrissey or no cats as part of the design.
Compromises had to be made. No Morrissey or cats allowed as part of the design.

 

The next step, and probably the most important one in my mind, was to make the initial contact with the custom department at Louis Garneau to see if what was in our minds could be turned into not just a kit design, but a kit design that didn't look garish and awful. As I typed up the first email to describe what we were hoping to end up with, I realized how hard it is to describe something you have pictured perfectly in your head in just words. So, with the most well-intentioned effort, I took it upon myself to open up Paint on my computer and mouse-draw our ideas and dreams in sketch form, and as you can see below the result was certainly a "rough draft". It's okay to say out loud that that's the ugliest and poorly drawn kit you have ever seen; I'm the first to agree with you. However, it was actually a positive turn of events since even in this horribly shakily drawn form the design seemed to have some real promise and flare, and we started to get really excited about how the design would turn out in the hands of an actual talented professional designer.

 

Go ahead. Laugh. I certainly did.
Go ahead. Laugh. I certainly did.

 

I can only imagine the howling laughter as the design department opened up that initial drawing, but luckily I must have done a decent job of communicating what we were looking for as the first design they sent back was definitely on the right track. I was super nervous about what that first design was going to look like, so I made Mark look at it first to ease my nerves, and then we met up to discuss what we liked and what we thought needed a bit of work. The first iteration was good, but we decided one of the red tones in the beams wasn't quite right (yes, I'm the one that thought it was too pink), the beams felt a bit wide in their overall extent, and we felt some of the placement and sizes of other elements could be adjusted a bit.

 

First jersey design and edits
First jersey design and edits
First bib design and edits
First bib design and edits

 

We sent back our edits on the design and waited for round two of the design, which when it came offered a number of options for us to choose from as far as "redbike" logo placement and left/right orientation of things. Once again Mark and I hashed out what the final demands would be over coffee at Rosso, and once more we sent off our desired edits. At this point we were both getting quite excited at the look of things, and it became hard not to fly off the handle and send preliminary sketches to everyone to show off our new race kit design.

 

Almost there... Round 2 edits
Almost there... Round 2 edits

 

After this last round everything became finalized as far as design goes, and now we are keenly awaiting for the fitment kits to arrive so everyone in the club interested in buying the race kit can try on the jersey and bib style and figure out what size they want. If you're interested in jumping on this bandwagon contact Mark ASAP so you can get in on the order and the fitting party. We are getting these pro-level, super high end kits at an amazing price (thanks to the amazing Stephan!), so treat yourself right and don't miss out on the very first run of our new redbike race kits.

 

Ready to race!
Ready to race!
Matching bibs!
Matching bibs!

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The Ultimate Commuter Pack - Chrome Bravo Night | Oct 22, 2015

Last Spring, as I rode through a typical early May snowstorm on my way to work, I was reminded how awesome the Chrome Industries Bravo backpack really it. Let me tell you why…

 

Battling the May Snow Storm

I have searched long and hard, high and low, for the perfect bike commuting set up to get all the things I need to and from work on a daily basis. I’ve tried panniers, to messenger bags, to other brand backpacks, but nothing ticked all of the boxes on my demanding wish list for a commuting pack. Panniers didn’t suit my aggressive riding style, messenger bags were not up to task on the heavy load, and other backpacks did not withstand all weather conditions.

My friends, the Bravo Night is it - It completes me!

Loaded up and ready to head home

The Bravo Night is Chrome’s urban rolltop bag, equipped with a 3M reflective panel that provides instant coolness while stretching my visibility out to 100m for the dark riding season. The main compartment is a welded-waterproof material that keeps my office job clothes dry in the wettest snowstorms and can expand from 20 to 40L via the ripstop nylon extension. Cleaning is a breeze too. After a day of dirty commuting (spring and fall in our fine city) I just spray it down with the garden hose, still fully packed from the day. Give it a quick hang to dry and it’s ready to go out into our YEG urban jungle the next morning.

Large reflective 3M back panel is just as safe as it is cool

 The ergonomic shoulder-strap with EVA foam back panel keeps my load comfortable and minimizes my sweatiness while the cross compression straps to secure large haul items. I once rode home with my Fox Fork strapped to the outside of my back after the fork had been neatly serviced by Mr. Chipping himself.

I have often wondered why bag designers, whether it is a messenger bag or backpack, put the laptop sleeve / compartment at the back of the bag, up against your back. Laptops are hard – they don’t conform to your back. It’s uncomfortable! The Bravo’s laptop compartment is on the outside providing quick and easy access while keeping the hard structure of the information machine away from your spine. The outer compartment is no-nonsense with lots of space for your smaller valuables and provides holder for pens and a zippered compartment for keys and a multi tool.

The Bravo is comfortable to ride even with a full load

Classic Chrome styling completes this bag with a mini buckle for the sternum strap. Black by day. Reflective at night – rad twenty four seven. Guaranteed for life. My friends, search no more…this is as close to perfection for a commuting pack as you’ll get.

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Ladies and Gentlemen | Oct 12, 2015

After the first four ABA cyclocross races, these were the weather conditions that the racers and spectators had to deal with: In Ototoks, there was constant wind and rain creating the racers with slick grass and endless mud. In Cochrane, there were near freezing temperatures, howling winds and threatening clouds/tornados throughout the day. At the School of Cross, it was scorching with 28-degree temperatures. At the redbike redcross, there was slick grass and mud from the previous night’s rain in the morning, then sunny clouds with a fast dry course in the afternoon. Classic Alberta cyclocross conditions.

 

What can I say about cyclocross that hasn’t been said before; for some, road and mountain bike racing is just foreplay for the real race season: Cyclocross. Maybe it’s the frustrating melancholy of autumn that makes us crazy for some last minute fun on the bike before the snow falls and the temperature drops or it’s just an excuse to buy another bike and ride it incessantly in circles whilst others try to chase you down. Either way, people just go crazy for cyclocross.

 

 

For 2015, I was very excited to get a Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie to race this season, and while I was delighted by my Opus Stelle with the fantastic Ultegra DI2, this was my opportunity to get my dream bike. I always liked having and supporting boutique bike brands, so when redbike became a dealer for VD, it was a no brainer to order a bike which Shantel, Shaun, Mike V and the current Canadian cyclocross champion, Mike Garrigan have been riding and raving about. Plus, the new version has this amazing matte patterned carbon with silver Van Dessel/Full Tilt Boogie adorned on the frame and red highlights. It is pure sex on carbon wheels, my friends.

 

The hardest part of building my FTB was whether to go with the well-tested Ultegra DI2 or with the new Sram Force CX1 drivetrain. It’s so hard to try something new when the status quo had been so fantastic. For the exception of a dropped chain due to an icy slide out, the Shimano DI2 was infallible in its performance. But, I’ve always been one to try the newest and coolest stuff on the scene, and so with my complete dedication to 1x systems, I decided to go with the Sram CX1. When you order bikes from Van Dessel, it shows up in boxes and inside the boxes are all the little bits and pieces you need to build up the bike, and I mean all the little bits because nothing is pre-built at all. So to spare you the details of my summer of broken cyclocross dreams, it was eventually built just before cyclocross season started and the anguish was mostly assuaged. It was absolutely stunning to look at, but that was just the beginning. I decided to go with the VD carbon tubular wheels that came as Reynolds rims and DT Swiss 240 hubs; it was an amazing surprise to get such a light and reliable wheel build as an option directly from VD. With Derek’s tutelage, I glued Clement MXP tires on the wheels as they had a solid reputation as a great all rounder tire and they didn’t need the sidewall proofing like my old Dugast tires. Plus, I really like that the sidewalls were black to complete the full stealth black look I so desperately love.

 

With my new cross bike built and ready to ride, I decided the best place to test it out was on the first mid-week Wednesday night cyclocross race. The mid-week races are always popular with 100+ people showing up to race so I thought it would be fun to show off the new FTB, and it didn’t disappoint. The acceleration out of corners was instantaneous which can make or break you as a cross racer, but the straight-line speed was also amazing. Overall, this bike is just fast and well balanced, and it didn’t need any “breaking in” because it felt that I’ve been riding this bike for years. When you spend so much money and time into a bike and it totally sucks to ride, it can be tremendously deflating to your self-esteem and confidence. But, when it rides like a carbon Pegasus and you feel like Harry Hamlin pre-LA Law Perseus, you know that all your hard work came to fruition.

 

The simplicity of the CX1 is its best benefit. You just shift to an easier or harder gear without the worry of a stalled front derailleur or a dropped chain, and it just looks super clean. But, I have to admit that I miss the crispness and effortlessness of the DI2 electronic system so I am giddy at the thought of an electronic wireless CX1 system down the pipeline.

 

With a 16.5 pound full carbon FTB bike at my disposal, the first 5 weeks of cross racing has been exceedingly fun and successful (for my expectations). I have been able to con my way into the Open Men’s division after the first two weekends, and I’ve been able to survive the Open races so far. There have been some hiccups along the way like a bent derailleur hanger, a loose BB and a wonky axle dropout, but the most disconcerting problem has been the chipping of the carbon fiber on the drive-side chainstay. It occurred after the third weekend of racing as I thought it was chain slap or a rock impact, but it became evident that it was neither and that the chipping was due to a defect in the frame. It doesn’t look structural and perhaps it’s just the exterior layer, but in any case, VD was contacted and they immediately issued out a new frame. That’s what I love about Edwin Bull and his company, they are there to make and sell great bikes, and if there is a problem, they will immediately remedy it.

I like to think that cyclocross brings out the best in people, and that it really is a special type of racing in Alberta. There’s always this festival type of feeling with the team tents, costumes, coffee, beer, chainsaws, bells and heckling that it reminds me of going to my first Lollapalooza festival in 1991….without the nipple piercings.

 

 

 

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Hit and run | Oct 8, 2015

Every cyclist I know has had some unfortunate car-bike encounters over their life. Experiences range from close calls, to shouting matches, to minor collisions, to the very worst outcome, and yet many of us accept this as a day-to-day possibility during our excursions out on our bikes. Although close-calls and shouts have been regular occurrences for me throughout my years as a cyclist, I have (correction: had) only been hit by a car twice in 17 years of regular cycling. I can add one more hit to that tally as of last Friday, but really, those are remarkably low numbers all things considered – I’ve logged up to 12000km on a bike in a year, and I’m on the road on my bike almost every day. With the last hit about seven years ago, it’s no wonder I’ve felt like my name was floating somewhere near the top of the hit list, and with the increasing number of close calls I’ve managed to avoid as of late, I begrudgingly admit it was probably my turn to test fate.

 

 

As with my first two hits, this collision was completely driver error – I was proceeding through a traffic circle in the outside lane, and a lady entering the traffic circle failed to yield (dare I say bother looking at all), and since two bodies in motion will continue to do so until they collide, we did just that. As it was happening before me, I prepared for the worst. With the speeds we were both going, I was certain I was about to get t-boned and grilled and be dealt some serious bike and body carnage. As I exclaimed all sorts of creative expletives, my blessed disc brakes on my cross bike did their work exceptionally well, and I somehow managed to run into her more or less parallel, sideswipe and bump her car heavily, and even more amazingly stay upright, unclip, land on my feet, and lay my bike down without too much impact onto the pavement below. I wish someone watching had a dashcam running. There I stood, in the middle of the lane completely in shock and dumbfounded that I had somehow come through mostly unscathed. I looked towards the offending car that had briefly paused up ahead, a lady’s head poked out, and seeing that I was apparently okay, rolled up her window and carried on her merry way without even bothering to survey the damage. wtf.

 

 

Despite her hasty departure from the scene, I and a good citizen both managed to score her license plate. Although urged by friends and family to report her and the accident, I was, and still am, quite hesitant to do so. My bike was only slightly scuffed and the bent derailleur hanger fixed fairly easily, and my own injuries were limited to a few bruises from the bumping and a stiff shoulder and neck, no doubt from barely maintaining control of my bike and keeping it upright. Thank you to bike racing for imparting skills in argy-bargy. It would ultimately be somewhat satisfying for her to have to deal with the police and a charge of leaving the scene of an accident I guess, but on the other hand, the cyclist’s chip on my shoulder is large, and I assume that the blame would instead be shifted and adjusted to point at me – shouldn’t have been on the road, should’ve been wearing brighter clothing, shouldn’t be where you don’t belong, shoulda woulda coulda. How does this change? When will I not feel like the scourge of the earth when I’m riding my bike on the road? I’m not certain it ever will change, but at least I can take comfort in the size of the dent I left in the side of her shitty, import sedan.

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