Well, it has certainly been quite some time since I have been on the start line at a cross country mountain bike race. I quit racing XC a long time ago. I lost the fire. You see, you just can’t fake it if you don’t have that burning desire to crush it on the race course.
But don’t get me wrong, I live to ride my bike.
These days, I race Enduro from time to time (it’s just way more fun than XC) and I enter a Gran Fondo here and there. Most of my time is spent coaching and teaching mountain bike skills to kids and adults here on Vancouver Island through the Cycling BC iRide School Program and my business, The Cycling Co.
But recently, no XC.
This weekend, however, the temptation to race has become too strong.
What’s the opposite of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard)?
You see, there’s this race…
This race is on home turf. When I say it’s on home turf, I literally mean home turf. I can see the start/finish from my driveway. The course runs right past my backyard.
But it’s not just any old bike race.
The thing is, this race is the Canada Cup XC season opener. And I am a former Canada Cup Champion. Not just that, but the Canadian National Team is here training. And I was on that team in years gone by.
So I am going to race.
Does that mean I am trying to hang on to some part of my past? To regain my youth? Or deny the fact that I’m in my mid-forties?
I don’t know. I don’t really care. I just wanna race my bike.
Now sometimes you hear about riders having their “hometown” course, or a race close to the area where they grew up or a course where they learned to ride. Some might say they have a hometown advantage. I hope that counts for me.
I ride these trails at the beginning… and at the end… of almost every ride. I walk my dogs on these trails. I have helped to build many of these trails. Over the last few weeks, I have watched our national team training on these trails. I think those young riders have inspired me a bit. Ok, maybe a lot.
But the decision to race was only made as of last night.
As I write this, it is Wednesday. The race is on Saturday. Not a lot of time to prepare.
Ya, ya. I know what you are thinking right now. You are thinking to yourself, “Adam, how long have you known this race was coming? Why did you wait so long to decide?”
The truth is that I was feeling pretty lukewarm about racing cross country.
The (Previous) Comeback
I had a comeback of sorts a few years ago. I kept having these bike racing dreams at night. Over and over, every night I was shredding trails in Whistler, or at a world cup in Napa, or on the start line at a qualifier in St. Wendel. I decided it was time to give it a shot after many years of just riding for fun.
It was hard. Cross country racing is tough. It is unforgiving. It requires a lot of fitness, which means a lot of training. That takes a lot of time.
Now as a guy who was once a pretty fast dude, I must admit that it’s possible that I expect a certain level of performance. “Why bother racing if you don’t have a shot at winning?”, was my attitude when I was younger.
Now that I’m older and oh-so-much-more-mature, I realized I hadn’t really evolved much.
I wanted to win, dammit. I could talk the talk like I’d mellowed over the years. As though results didn’t matter. “Maybe I have mellowed a bit. Maybe I can just race ‘for fun’” I told myself. But racing isn’t fun. It’s brutal.
Winning. Winning is fun. Man, when that race starts, I’m out there to lay it on the line. Eye of the tiger, you know? But after I had ridden a few races, won a couple local Wednesday nighters, finished with all the young bucks in a local Island Cup XC, I started wondering what the hell I was doing. There were times when I was thinking to myself, “Why am I racing again? I’ve already done this in my life. And I had enough of it. This hurts!”
So I spent the next couple of years just having fun on the bike, racing the odd enduro event and ripping local trails.
Last year the Canada Cup XC race was here too. It was the first time it happened here at Bear Mounatin. I was considering racing, but I became completely laid out with a serious cough and cold in the weeks before the race. Watching the riders rip around on my trails made me feel very proud. But I also felt like I’d really missed out. I kicked myself for not doing it.
‘Next year!’, I told myself.
The race in my yard started to get closer. But I was busy with work, coaching and life. I wanted to ride more, maybe even really start training. But that seemed like a lot of work.
And the race got closer. And closer. Despite the coldest, snowiest winter we have had in years, I was riding more and more (mostly coaching), hitting the gym, teaching some spin classes, and even getting out on the road when the weather was good (ok, I’ll be honest, only three road rides).
The race was right around the corner. I still had not decided if I was going to do it or not. Everyone I talked to was asking if I would race.
And then something happened.
I received word that I would have a new bike for race day! The 2017 Norco Optic, decked out with carbon wheels and Sram Eagle bits.
Now, the Optic is a rad bike. I’ve ridden one a couple of times. As you might imagine, I’ve ridden a lot of bikes over the years and I consider myself a pretty good rider. After riding the Optic, I have to say that this thing is a trail weapon.
With just a little more travel than an XC machine, but not as much as an all mountain or enduro rig,(120mm up front and 110mm in the rear end on the 29er), this is the perfect trail bike for Vancouver Island. I took one out for a few rides in the fall and not only did it climb effortlessly, I went downhill faster (and Strava doesn’t lie. Ever.) than on my Norco Sight with 150mm of travel.
Was it the 29” wheels? The geometry? Just the right bike for me? Who knows. But I decided that day that I was getting one and that was that.
I digress. I’m sorry. Just stoked.
Damn. Nothing makes you want to ride like a new bike.
So when you have a new bike, a race in your backyard, and you seem to have forgotten exactly how much XC racing hurts, it’s pretty easy to say yes when everyone starts asking you if you’re doing the race. It’s like saying yes to that next beer even when you know you shouldn’t. Like taking that extra plate of food at Thanksgiving dinner. Like that classic ‘one last run’ in the dh park. Nobody EVER regrets those things. Right?
So I’ve registered. It’s gonna hurt.
I really hope that home turf advantage comes in handy. I’m gonna need it.
Come ride with me and let’s smash a lap of the new 2017 Canada Cup XC course at Bear Mountain!
Get ready for a guided tour of my backyard trails that have become the course for the 2017 Powerade Bear Mountain Canada Cup XC Race.
As a guy who was Canada Cup Champion a few (ok, many) years ago, I can’t even begin to tell you how much it means to me to host the entire nation here in my neighbourhood at Bear Mountain. The start/finish line is literally at the end of my street. Cool!
This whole process began way back in 2011 when mountain bike trail development was first proposed to Bear Mountain Resort. It has been quite a ride since then. I mean, having the Cycling Canada Mountain Bike Team Training Centre and a Canada Cup race course in your backyard is, well, pretty rad. This event is living proof that with hard work and perseverance, great things can be accomplished.
Thanks to the hard work of many, the 2017 Canada Cup XC Race at Bear Mountain promises to be a fantastic course. Bear Mountain Bike Park staff, the Nature Trails Society, Dan Cammiade, Alex MacKinnon and countless volunteers all contributed hours upon hours of hard labour to build the singletrack that you’ll be riding on March 4th. Plus, I’d also like to thank Jon Watkin, Scotty Mitchell and Drew MacKenzie made the decisions on the route of this year’s course.
The 2017 Canada Cup XC Race Course
This is a true riders’ course, with tons of sweet, loamy, west coast singletrack. There’s some great flow and some punchy climbs, but watch out for those wet Vancouver Island roots and rocks too!
So come along for a rip. Watch this video and get stoked for race season or set up your trainer in front of your screen and do some intervals while I punch it up the hills and shred the descents. If you have yet to “#ridethebear”, let this be the motivation (and invitation) you need to come up to Bear Mountain and hit the trails.
Canada Cup XC Race Prep Coaching
Please contact us with any questions about the race course or to book race prep coaching to help you crush the Canada Cup on March 4th!
Enjoy the ride!
The Cycling Co. and Bear Mountain Resort have partnered to offer a free kids’ Discover Mountain Biking program on Sunday February 12 (Family Day Weekend).
A child’s bike is their first taste of freedom and we want to make that experience as fun and awesome as possible! Kids feel their first sense independence when they learn to ride a bike. Remember that feeling? Burning around the neighbourhood, ripping over to your friend’s house and just knocking on the door; then riding all day until your parents made you come home for dinner, “when the street lights come on.”
DISCOVER MOUNTAIN BIKING at Bear Mountain with The Cycling Co.
This free session (1.5 hrs for the little rippers and 2 hours for the pre-teen shredders) is designed to introduce kids to the love of riding in a fun, safe, controlled environment with PMBI certified Professional Coach, Adam Walker.
Kids can bring their own bike and helmet or use one of Bear Mountain’s Rocky Mountain Bicycles rental fleet. Pleases note: Bikes and space are limited.
“Hey Adam, thanks for sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm of mountain biking with our kids this weekend. They both had such great learning sessions with you and are excited to put their new techniques to practice!!” ~ January 2017, Naomi K. (kids aged 11 and 13)
- 10:00 Greeting, safety check
- 10:15-10:30 Warm up
- 10:30-11:00 Skill IDEAs (Introduce, Develop, Experiment, Apply)
- 11-11:30 Ride, bike games, review
Skills we will present will be:
- Position and Balance
- Braking control and shifting gears
- Straight line riding
- 12:00 Greeting, safety check
- 12:15-12:30 Warm up
- 12:30-1:15 Skill IDEAS (Introduce, Develop, Experiment, Apply)
- 1:15-2:00 Ride, bike games, review
Skills we will present will be:
- Position and Balance
- Braking control and shifting gears
- Cornering at higher speeds
- Terrain Awareness – Choosing a line
- Beginner trail riding techniques
For more information and to register, please contact us at [email protected].
Part art, part science is what it takes to dress for riding in the pacific coastal winter.
Now, we have it pretty good here on Vancouver Island; I grew up in Calgary. Not only is Calgary quite a bit farther north, it sits at about 4000 ft above sea level. I spent months riding in below freezing temperatures. Relatively speaking, riding here in winter is a cakewalk. But we can get a lot of rain, which leads to lots of cold puddles, resulting in cold spray to soak your feet, legs, and butt.
I should also mention that dressing to go mountain biking differs significantly from dressing for riding the road. If you come from a road riding background and you dress the same way to go for a winter rip in the woods, you will roast.
What to Wear For Winter Mountain Biking
There are some big considerations here. When we are off-road, we are moving relatively slowly (compared to road riding) and we are generating a great deal of heat. Slower speeds mean less windchill. Coupled with the higher heart rates (usually), it means that one does not need quite as many layers when hitting the trails as you would if you were heading out on the skinny road tires. Think of how you might dress if you were going for an aggressive hike or trail run.
I always start with a proper pair of cycling shorts and a thin base layer for my upper body. Cotton underwear and T-shirt is a big NO-NO! You will need wool or high tech fabrics to wick sweat away from your body keep you warm and dry.
What to Wear on Your Lower Body
Next, I layer a baggy short over top of the lycra short, with either my knee pads (which also offer a bit of warmth) or a pair of knee warmers or leg warmers. I usually steer away from full tights unless it is below zero (celsius). Most of the time, I find tights too hot and a bit bulky between the legs.
What to Wear on Your Upper Body
Up top, I choose a long sleeve jersey to insulate my upper body. There are varying weights of jerseys, from thin DH (downhill) style summer jerseys to thermal jerseys that are really designed to keep you warm. Use your discretion here. If it is close to freezing, wear something a bit thicker. If the mercury has risen to 5 degrees or above, choose something very light.
What to Wear as Your Outer Layer
Over top, I will throw a windproof/waterproof layer. I just picked up an Endura MT 500 jacket from Oak Bay Bikes Westshore. I highly recommend this jacket if you are looking for a something new. I have also had a great experience with the Race Face Chute jacket over the past few winters. There are many many options in this category in many price ranges. Pick something that fits your budget and riding style.
For really hardcore xc rides, when it’s not raining, I will often opt for a vest rather than a jacket. Vests are very versatile, keeping your core insulated while offering a much higher degree of breathability than even the most ventilated of jackets.
What to Wear On Your Hands & Feet
Now let’s talk about our extremities. Hands and feet are THE biggest challenge in cold, wet winter weather.
For gloves, select something that has a bit of insulation and perhaps wind/waterproofing. This can be tricky, as often waterproof gloves are way too hot for mountain biking. If it is not raining when I am leaving the house, I will generally opt for a thinner glove and stash a pair of heavier, waterproof gloves in my pack or jersey pocket.
On my feet, I have chosen the Shimano Gore Tex lined MW81 boots. These things are life-savers! With a neoprene cuff around the ankle and a gore tex lining, these shoes keep your feet dry and toasty. There are also great options from Specialized, Mavic, and Louis Garneau. I will usually use a slightly thicker sock in winter, but be careful not to choose something too bulky. That added thickness can actually make your shoes too tight and may end up cutting off circulation in your feet.
Now… not everyone is going to go and drop $300 on a pair of winter riding shoes. So how are you gonna keep your feet warm and dry? Well, back before Gore Tex, we all used to use plastic bread bags over our socks inside our shoes. Pretty low-tech, but it works! There are also Rocky Gore-Tex socks.
I used these for ages before the Shimano winter boots came on the market. They are great and won’t break the bank!
What to Wear on Your Head
So how about the ol’ noggin? Well, protecting your brain, while keeping your ears and head warm, can be a challenge. That helmet that you bought because of its’ amazing ventilation that keeps your skull so nice and cool in the summer, has now become FREEZING!
A thin headband, skullcap, or even a bandana comes in very handy. That trusty ol’ bandana, if not used on your head, can also work great tied around your neck to cover your face if you have to ride the road for a little while to get to, or home from the trails.
Stay Warm Out There!
So there you have my advice on dressing for the elements in our pacific northwest winter. With the right gear and a little improvisation, riding in the winter can really be quite a lot of fun. Plus, there’s hardly ever anyone else out there on the trials!
On a final note, and for a good chuckle, check out The Rules from Velominati. Please refer to Rule Number 5 and Rule Number 9.
Interesting linksHere are some interesting links for you! Enjoy your stay :)
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