Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Boxing Day Ride

I guess Santa read my Christmas Wish List because under the tree on December 25th was a GoPro HD camera!  I couldn't wait to try it out but I managed to hold off until Boxing Day. 

My friend Jason and I hit the trails starting in Mill Creek on December 26th.  We rode some of the east Canada Cup trails, over to Conner's Hill and back through Mill Creek.  Here is some of the video I managed to capture.  Being a noob, I wasn't able to capture the first half of the ride as I had the settings wrong.

We also stopped by the river boat fire pit for a while to work on our skillz.  Apparently they still need some tuning...

Here is the updated, high quality (720p) version as promised.  I combined both videos into one and added music, as requested.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Alpine Ridge Riding

It's Christmas and I have company invading my house so I am going to be lazy and post another video for your enjoyment.  I searched for some info on the location for this but I was unable to come up with much in the way of details.  The following blurb from the film description is all I could find, other than it is somewhere in the Alps.
Short clip filmed end of October 2010. The spot is really high alpine and there is no margin for mistakes.

The riders are Harald Philipp, Martin Falkner both riding a Liteville 301 and Max Schumann on a Fatmodul ANT.

Gear used for the shoot: Canon 7D, Canon 50mm, Canon 135mm, Samyang 8mm, HDpro 1080p, carbon tripod and Manfrotto 701 fluid head.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Take Action: Parks Canada Survey

Do you live and ride in Canada’s beautiful western provinces?  Are you interested in accessing more trails within Parks Canada?  If so, Parks Canada wants to hear from riders like you!  Parks Canada is conducting a survey on cycling in Western Canada and in Mountain Parks such as Banff, Jasper, Mount Revelstoke, and Waterton Lakes National Parks.

There are many ways that visitors enjoy their national parks and Parks Canada is continually striving to improve these services. In recent years, there has been an increase in interest in bicycling of all types, including the various forms of road riding and mountain biking. Parks Canada is interested in better understanding the quality of its current offer and how the cycling experience might be improved in the future.

Please take a few minutes to give them your feedback.

Fill out the survey before January 24, 2011 and you’ll get the chance to win one of three sweet prize packs, valued at $250 each.

Help get the word out and invite your contacts to take the survey.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Life Cycles

This is not your typical mountain bike movie; Life Cycles is a film about bicycles.  The cinematography is stunning, the editing is phenomenal, and the story line and narration makes this film a one of a kind.
You haven't seen Life Cycles yet?  Seriously?  If you are waiting to see if you get a copy in your stocking for Christmas but you can't wait 10 more days, iTunes might be the answer for you.  You can download Life Cycles in HD for $9.99 or the get the standard definition version for $6.99.  If you are just being lazy then it's time to get off your butt, go to your local bike store and pick up your very own copy immediately - you don't know what you are missing!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Potential Olympic Exclusion?

In a recent article on, UCI President, Pat McQuaid, stated that mountain biking risks being excluded as an Olympic event if it doesn`t increase its appeal to television viewers.  To avoid the fate of softball and baseball, mountain biking must significantly improve its image. 

According to Peter Van den Abeele, UCI`s technical delegate, mountain biking is the most difficult and most expensive event to produce for television due to the nature of the sport.  A significant change to the traditional presentation is required to ensure mountain biking is more attractive prior to the 2013 evaluation which will determine if it should remain an Olympic event.

Hadleigh Farm has been selected as the mountain bike venue and the course has been designed with spectators and television audience in mind.  If you haven`t seen the plans for the XC MTB course at the 2012 Olympics in London, it is not what would considered a traditional mountain bike course.  The distance has been reduced to 5.1 kilometers and mainly works its way up and down an open hillside with only a small wooded section.  Don`t think that it won`t be technical though as there is a considerable amount of work being done creating several rocky drops which are expected to challenge even the best racers.

I am all about trying to maintain tradition, but if a change is required to retain mountain biking as an Olympic event, I will support it.  If this change helps popularize mountain biking and brings more people into our sport, then it will be worth the effort.

There is an excellent article from British Cycling that talks further about the past, present and future of the course at Hadleigh Farm.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Alp Style

This video was filmed in one of the eastern-most areas of the Austrian Alps.  This is different than most of the mountain bike videos you see floating around, most of which feature Danny MacAskill doing mind-blowing trials stunts.  Almost none of us can even contemplate how difficult MacAskill's maneuvers really are since most of us can't even perform a manual.  That being said, there are some serious skills on demonstration in this video, but at least it is something I can more realistically aspire to.  I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did!

29er-alpine from on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Wish List

It's that time of year again.  The stores have been pushing Christmas since Remembrance Day but I refuse to acknowledge that the commercialism of Christmas is upon us until the calendar switches over to December.  Since I feel I was a good boy this year, I decided I would make a list up for Santa (in the odd chance he reads my blog) and see if I get anything under the tree this year.  I'll keep the list realistic and to items I could actually use or will likely purchase myself in the next year or so.
1. SIDI Diablo GTX/Northwave Celsius GPX

Unfortunately I am still using the slip on winter booties over my summer shoes.  When I posted about winter cycling shoes last week, I was pumping the Lake MXZ302 shoes.  Even though the Lakes have come highly recommended for warmth and traction, I have heard issues of construction and durability.  When making purchases I prefer that I am getting a product with a good history of quality workmanship.

SIDI has a really good reputation as a high end shoe, but I have heard that the SIDI Diablo GTXs are not very warm.  So why on Earth would I put the SIDIs on my list?  Simple - SIDI is the only brand that fit me properly.  Having a long, narrow foot makes shoe buying extremely difficult.  I found out over the past few years that it makes shopping for cycling shoes even more difficult.  SIDIs are the narrowest fitting shoe I could find and it is the only shoe I don't have any foot movement in the shoe once it is fastened.  Also, I am not planning to ride when the temperature dips below -15 degrees Celsius so I am sure that the SIDIs would be able to keep me warm enough.

The only other brand that comes close to being narrow enough for my feet is Northwave and they also offer a winter cycling shoe - the Celsius GPX.  With a name like that, how could they not be appropriate for a Canadian winter?  The Celsius has had some solid reviews online as well as recommendations from the good folks at River Valley Cycle.  The Celsius is definitely a beefier looking boot than the SIDI and the cost is much less.  If you are looking for something really warm, the Celsius GPX comes in an Arctic version as well.

2. Truvativ Stylo OCT 1.1 Crankset

The final piece I need for my single speed! There are very few good single speed cranksets available with reasonable prices. The Truvativ Stylo OCT 1.1G crankset just might be the best value on the market. They have hollow-forged aluminum crankarms to reduce weight, hardened aluminum chainring, and an anodized aluminum outer guide. It also includes a GXP external bottom bracket which is one of the only zero-preload systems on the market. The complete Truvativ Stylo OCT 1.1G assembly weighs a claimed 820g.

3.  GoPro HD Helmet HERO MegaPack

This camera is all kinds of awesome.  In addition to being able to film some cool rides and relive vacation moments, having a camera like this would enhance any of the trail reviews and race recaps I am planning to do on this blog.  With countless mount options including helmet, handle bar, seat post and chest, there is no limitations to what you can attach this camera to.

Here's some info on the HD HERO from Point of View Cameras:
The Helmet HERO is world's first wearable sports camera to film in true 1080p HD format at 30 frames per second. The HD HERO captures crystal clear footage for playback that puts you right back in the action, while the wide angle lens, eliminates the chance of cutting off important bits of the scene, so you never miss a lick of the action.  Our Exclusive HD Helmet HERO MegaPack includes GoPro's HD Helmet HERO Camera System, plus a 16GB SD Card, an extra Li-Ion Battery, USB AC and Car Charger Adapters, Ride HERO clamp and Tripod Adapter.

If the cost of the 1080p is more than your budget, the 960p HD HERO is a great option.  Missing from the HD HERO 960 (besides the obvious 1080p video) are 720p at 60 fps and the HERO BUS expansion port in the rear of the camera that will let you take advantage of GoPro's forthcoming BacPac accessories.  Unless you are serious about your videos, the 960p should be more than adequate at a much lower price.  This is the model I would most likely buy for myself as I doubt I would be taking advantage of these extra features of the 1080p model.

If you are heavy into videography or you need to have the latest technology, you will be interested to know that, according to the GoPro website, the 3D HERO kit will be available soon.  There wasn't a price or expected date for release, but I would be very interested to see how the videos look!  Maybe with 3D video we can finally see just how technical trails really are?

4. Park Tools Deluxe Bench Mount Repair Stand

I have a decent set up in my garage for working on most things.  I have a great bench, a plethora of tools, but what I lack is a bike repair stand.  Although the thought of having a portable stand to take with me in the event I need to work on my bike wherever I travel is great, the reality is I rarely ever work on it anywhere but home.  For the few times that I would need something portable, the convenience of having a stand mounted to my bench outweighs the convenience of being able to take my stand with me.

Well, that sums up my needs and wants for items that I would actually put to use on a regular basis.  If Santa doesn't deliver this year I will most likely purchase at the shoes before the calendar turns to 2011 and the crankset before the snow melts.  I trust that the jolly, fat old man in the red suit will not disappoint me this holiday season and I will find at least one of these items when I look under the tree on Christmas morning.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Do You Single Speed?

So what is it that is intriguing about riding a single speed?  Is it the simplicity of having only one gear?  Is it the clean look with no derailleurs, shifters or cables?  Maybe it makes you feel nostalgic, bringing you back to the days of your youth or perhaps it is the lack of maintenance required.  Regardless of what drives someone to ride a single speed, we all see them out on the trails and most of us have praised a rider as we ourselves are gasping for air at the top of a tough climb, "Wow - that guy just cleaned that section on a single speed!  He's hardcore!" 

Improving Efficiency

As I am building up my first single speed mountain bike and getting in the mindset to pedal in just one gear for the first time since I was riding a BMX in 1992, I can't help but look for the benefits that riding a SS will provide me when racing my geared bike.  Single speeding forces you to work and improve on areas where you can 'cheat' with a geared bike and still remain competitive in a race. 

The first thing that comes to mind is the increased strength required to ride a single speed as you can no longer drop your gears and sit and spin up the hills.  You better get out of the saddle, mash your pedals and start tossing your bike side to side if you are dreaming of making those tough climbs.  I think I have that part down.  I prefer to stand up to climb and I typically try to push one gear under the tallest I can handle.

Another key to single speeding is carrying momentum.  The more you can maintain your momentum, the less you need to accelerate.  Less braking into the corners will reduce the amount of hard pedalling you need coming out of the corner to get back up to speed.  I have been working on this, but there is room for improvement.  For me, this comes down to trusting that my tires will hold.  I had my front tire wash out on me a few times last year trying to increase my speed this way.  I have since changed my front tire from a Kenda Karma 1.9 to a Maxxis Aspen 2.1.  With a little bit more bite on the side lugs the Aspens have helped me keep the rubber side down.

You also need to carry more momentum into hills otherwise you will burn yourself out on the climbs.  This means you will need to pedal hard into the hill as well as hard up the hill.  This is definitely something I don't do.  I generally try to recover going into the hill and then start hammering when I get to the base of the hill.  This worked well for me as I usually passed quite a few people (in my category) on the climbs around Edmonton, but I am certain carrying more momentum into the hills will only make me faster. 

The big change for me will getting out of my comfort cadence zone.  I typically ride with a cadence between 80 and 90 RPMs.  I have no problem dropping to 50 RPMs and powering up big hills, but where I fail miserably at is on the flats trying to pump out a cadence of 110+ RPMs.  My heart rate skyrockets and breathing gets out of tempo, which is a real bad combination.

Taking it To the Next Level

It's bad enough that people think that trail riding on a single speed is fun, but then there are those who take it to another level: racing.  That's right, people purposefully choose to handcuff themselves into one gear that is rarely going to be the most efficient ratio for the circumstance that they will be in.   Races can be short with XC races being 1.5 to 2 hours, or considerably longer with a marathon race such as the 24 hour solo events.

In case you don't think it's difficult, here is a graphic quote from a single speed racer:
Single speeding is the art of harnessing desperation. You are constantly backed into a gear ratio corner, down to your last match; wolves of anaerobic threshold, mockery by your peers, and personal defeat constantly circling. The gnawing oxygen debt, the vacuous gasps of one's lungs, the sudden deafening roar of gravity and the heaviness of everything without air. Breathe like your car has plunged into a lake and hopelessly sealed inside you gulp vast breaths, each fearing to be your last, that each might be the one breath you will have to bring you back to the surface.

You must learn to claw, eyes bulging, lungs aflame, raw metallic taste in the back of your throat to the top of climbs, and make all these things secret. The world at large must only see a crazy man, a mutant, a cyborg atop a bike with only one impossible gear. And they will stare and shake their heads and wonder how you got to the top first, never knowing, never understanding that it was the only way up, that you could not have made it any slower, that all the drive train handicaps they presume you to burden yourself with are the very advantages that have made you fast and hard as coffin nails.
Sounds like good times, sign me up!  Others who race single speed don't think it is quite that difficult.  For every one person who feels like racing a single speed is death on two wheels, you get other people like this:
I’m a fraud. I’ve been riding and racing a single speed mountain bike for many years and thinking I’m pretty cool. I’m not.

I’ll be the first to admit that I love passing someone on a geared bike and having them say, “Damn! Dude, that is hardcore.” It feels great. there is no denying it. Here’s the thing though, it’s not hardcore. I have suffered way more on a geared bike than I ever have on a single speed. Yep, it’s true, single speeding is easier than gears. You get more breaks and recovery time on a single.

It’s time to abolish the single speed category at all mountain bike races. I think you should race whatever category happens to be your ability but race it on your single speed. There doesn’t need to be a separate class for single speeders. It’s not a handicap nor a badge of honor. We need to get over ourselves. It’s fun and we know it's special but we don’t need our own class. That’s just dumb.
And this:
Pretty much every race I’ve ever raced, a spectator or fellow racer will comment on the fact that I’m on a single speed. I just kind of smile and cruise on by. It makes me feel cool and like a fraud all at the same time. The dirty little secret is that in a lot of situations it’s actually an advantage to be on a single speed.
Maybe it's not that hard?  Now I'm confused.  I plan to try my hand at racing my single speed in one of the local Tuesday races but I already think the first quote is more likely to be what I will be feeling rather than the latter two.

Races to Keep an Eye On

The upcoming season will bring the spotlight to single speed racing in my neck of the woods as Edmonton will be hosting the 2011 Canadian Single Speed Championships, which will be a part of the existing Edmonton Canada Cup on July 23, 2011.  The Edmonton Canada Cup is already a hugely successful event organized by Mike Sarnecki and Evan Sherman of Alberta MTB Racing and it attracts many of our country's best XC mountain bike racers.  The addition of the Canadian Single Speed Championships will only enhance the excitement on that day. 

The cream of the crop for those who race with only one gear is the Single Speed World Championships (SSWC.)  This is not a sanctioned event but there is a lot of pride in winning this race.  But this is more than just a race, it is an annual party on two wheels where shortcuts are available if you chug a beer and the winners are scarred for life, literally.  The winner is actually tattooed with SSWC, the year and a design chosen for that year.  This fits perfectly into a quote from The Replacements, "Don't do anything great if you can't handle the congratulations."  There are some familiar names sporting ink work due to winning this event, including Carl Decker, Adam Craig and Heather Irmiger.  Check out the results and highlights from the 2010 SSWC and you will see just how much fun the SSWC is.