Before we'd even finished Day 1 of the Crested Butte Big Mountain Enduro, Nick had cooked up a plan to break up the long drive home...
Rally to Moab immediately after finishing the race, sleep for a short bit, then catch an early morning shuttle to do the Whole Enchilada, in order to get back to the van before it got too hot, as well as leave us enough time to get to Boise (ish) by dark.
And that we did... The Whole Enchilada was closed above Burro Pass, so we started a smidge lower at Hazard, and bombed back to the van via typical LPS, Kokopelli, and Porcupine fashion.
Recovery is important after a race, but when you're driving right past Moab, a riding mecca, you have to stop, even if your legs are shredded. Trust me, it's worth it!
Pro tip: Do not attempt to "shower" in the river at the bottom of the trail. Contrary to popular belief, it's a giant mudhole, and takes multiple washes to get off. Oops.
Crested Butte = big days on the bike, lots of wildflowers, hike-a-bikes, dry and rocky terrain, big transfers, yummy tacos, and extraordinary van camping.
On a whim, we left work late Tuesday afternoon, drove to Boise for a quick eat at "Fork", and continued on to CB in record time: 18hrs, including dog stops, and stretch breaks. We came in hot mid-Wednesday afternoon with the plan to have hopefully just enough time to get rid of the near-constant altitude headache and nose-bleeds by raceday (living at 500 ft elevation doesn't help!). Rumor has it you either need to A) Live at altitude B) Sleep in an altitude tent C) Have at least two weeks to acclimatize properly D) Come in hot as you're in the "hole" on day 4. We chose the latter, as our attempt with an altitude tent in the middle of the summer with no AC in the house failed miserably the year prior.
Why not work a 12 hour day before you get on the road?
The hardest part about race weekends as a "privateer" , of sorts, is practice logistics -- in what order to practice the stages, how to approach them (hike/pedal up from the bottom, try to find someone to shuttle with), while trying to avoid the heat, save as must energy as possible and still properly see each stage. Whether you drive 30 minutes or 18 hours to race, you want to see every track, and give yourself the opportunity to do as well as possible. Seeing said tracks helps... a lot.
With that said, Crested Butte seems to be the exception to the rule -- the distances are large, the elevation great, and the climbing significant enough to make it very energy-consuming to pedal everything for practice. Without a shuttle, you're walking the line of truly benefitting from seeing the course vs. being so beat on race day, to a certain extent. Across the two days of practice, without a shuttle, we saw 3 of 4 stages, with stage 4 (the last one) being our blind stage. On race day, it turned out to be about a two hour hike-a-bike to on race day, in addition to the half hour of pedaling....
Consensus was that we made the right decision based on our situation. Friendly reminder to bring a moto for car retrieval in the future (Kosher as long as you're not riding trails on a moto -- not cool in a race scenario. Roads only!)
Big Mountain Enduro knows how to put on an event -- super dialed registration, event coordination, timing, the works! Both days pros met at 6:30am to load shuttles for the transfer to the first stage.
Stage 1: Cement Mtn to Rosebud
Stage 2: Doctor Gulch
Stage 3: Reno Ridge to Deadmans
Stage 4: Double Top into Warm Springs
Stream Crossing anyone? On the way to Doctor Park...
By the end of the weekend, I found myself not proud of losing my pedal panties on day one, but happy to have picked up the pace on day 2, made up some time and end up on the podium in 5th.
Nick had a few lies downs throughout the weekend, and ended up mid-pack. Regardless, what an awesome time in the woods with the ladies and gents! You can never have a bad time when your on your bike with fellow shredders -- The energy is contagious and the stoke high! Thanks for another great weekend, Colorado!
See you back in the PNW!
Kim & Nick Hardin
Yes, I am Giro biased, in that I ride Giro product, and have a relationship with the brand, HOWEVER, I only choose to represent brands whose product I stand behind. So while this may seem like a slightly biased review, it's honest and to the point...
The Giro Switchblade was designed with the enduro-ist in mind, featuring the ability to convert quickly and easily between a half-shell (sort-of) and ATSM certified full face via removable chin bar.
As a two-in-one helmet, it is fairly lightweight (975g) and makes travel easy, as you no longer need to bring two helmets with you -- full face and half-shell. It is a great compliment to the Giro Montara/o helmet, especially when you're looking for greater protection, but also warmth.
Upon first glance, without the chin bar, the helmet seems big, compared to other half shells. But when you put it all together, and "switch to rowdy", it all makes sense. When I first got the helmet, I wore it more so for DH, steeps/blind racing and for the extra warmth during the winter, less so for your after work trail ride. Overtime, I've come to really appreciate the extra protection, and prefer to wear this over a standard half-lid for even the shortest of rides. After all, if I'm wearing a helmet, I might as well really protect my brain, right? Compared to a standard half-shell, it's only slightly heavier and warmer, but not really noticeable unless you've spent a solid 8 hours or so in the saddle. It's super comfortable, and its ROC LOC Air DH Fit System offers a range of adjustability to fit your head just right, securing well at the base of your skull with little to no movement while riding.
Gone are the days of losing cheekpads from pulling them when you're climbing. Gone are the days of traveling with two helmets. Gone are the days of wishing you had brought your full face. The Switchblade makes life easy, and offers the best of protection. Oh, and it's MIPS -- that stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System, which is known to help reduce forces exerted on the brain during a crash.
Cool feature: Go Pro mount hard-mounted on the underside of the visor! Just plug and play!
My only complaint: plastic screws holding on the visor. I wish these were metal w/ metal thread inserts as well for a more bomber connection. In a bomber crash, it's not uncommon for these to break.
What's your favorite thing about the Switchblade?
See you on the trail,
There's nothing like a little "Hometown Throwdown"! No matter how well you know your local trails, no matter how many time you ride them a week, the pressure of a race on home turf is intense.
Did I mention KickStand Coffee & Kitchen was also holding registration on Friday and the biggest after-party/Hip-hop show of the year for Hood River on Saturday. Not to mention the ladies' pre-ride on Wednesday and "Course Preview" shuttle from Dirty Fingers next door on Thursday. As we prepped not only to race that week, we were also prepping the restaurant -- I've never seen so many kegs of beer in one place, let alone refrigerators stocked so completely full by end of day Friday.
Hood River is for me, always the race of the year. For 2018, trails were dry and loose, full of PNW renown Post Canyon "Ball Bearings" (super slick). Last year's Eagle Creek Fire came a little to close to this backyard playground-- a fire line was introduced down one of the two ridge lines in order to save the area from total destruction. In the process, this destroyed a handful of trails, which just happened to be brought back to life just before the race this year. This was exciting as a handful of trails were brand new, or had new features, meaning a more even race across the board. The air was full of nervous energy as this was our first stateside race of the year, and a good one to see how the gym served us over the winter.
Needless to say, I found speed where I never thought I could gain speed, connected little airs and walked away with the "W" and a margin of over a minute. Stoked! Nick took the win as well, making it a good day to be a Hardin! As soon as podiums were over, we rallied to KickStand to make sure all was set for the after-party: red-carpet entry, live music, accessory outside bar, and plenty of burgers. We may or may not have ended up working until midnight, but wouldn't have done without a shuttle with friends the next day. What a weekend!
Off to the next race!
"No, no, no, don't ride there," they said. "It's not safe. I don't even ride there."
Back in Medellin, Colombia, we were struggling. Pico y Plata, a new driving restriction policy in Colombia (aimed at reducing traffic congestion), kept us from driving our truck between 6 and 9am, and 5 and 8pm on various days, making it difficult to travel outside of the city. Inner-city, traffic was so heavy that it would take an hour to go 2 miles (via car). Locals instructed us that many inner-city tracks were unsafe as they ended in the ghetto, or started in a sketchy area of town where we were told "I've been mugged there twice -- my bike was stolen, and everything of value on me." Needless to say, we weren't super inspired to check out the tracks.
We knew there was good riding in the area, and upon reaching out to the local riding community, got lucky and linked up with Sueltele Bike Tours of Medellin, as well as local ripper, Daniel Arredondo for a few days of shredding.
Turns out a a handful of other EWS athletes had the same idea, and we had ourselves a fun shuttle posse for a few days.
A few Kiwis, a few Canadians, a Colombian and some Americans at the top of a mountain...
Freestylin' Traida 1 & 2 ...."Aim for the house at the bottom of the hill!"
Somewhere near Medellin in your typical Colombian Terrain....
Creek crossing anyone? Just in time to wash off the cow-pies!
In the middle of the Colombian jungle...
Finishing up the Colombian National DH Track....
Don't forget your aloe vera...Dakine Grippers make good aloe holders.
After a couple days of riding, we decided to cap off the trip with a spontaneous 24 hour trip to Cartagena, because when in Rome... (not to mention round-trip flights from Medellin were $40). And... we needed to do some proper South America coffee and food R&D. A whirlwind of a day treated us to the best ceviche we've ever had, some beautiful architecture and lots of history.
Back to Medellin to pack our bikes, and it was back to the States!
See you in the PNW,
When we first heard the EWS was headed to Colombia, we knew we had to go. We'd raced in Chile and Argentina before, but never in the jungle proper. We'd been told to expect rad trails, steep with good dirt, but slick as hell if it rained. And rain it did...
We arrived to Medellin, Colombia early morning Monday, the week of the race. A city built straight out of the jungle, Medellin is full of rich culture, including that of Pablo Escobar and his cocaine industry. While once the murder capital of the world, Medellin is much safer than it used to be, although not quite safe enough to truly "freestyle" -- more on this later. Back to racing....
7 hours and 190km later, we arrived in Manizales, a small mountain town that we would call home for the next week. Over the next few days as we waited for practice to start (Friday), we caught up with friends, toured the city, got familiar with Colombian dirt (on a local coffee plantation), and did a little track walking.
Friday came and so did practice for stages 2-8... tracks were SICK. Nothing technical or overly steep. Just fun, flowy tracks through the jungle. Very little climbing on the tracks themselves, outside of stage 7 with a mega punch in the middle. Stage 5 was a favorite amongst racers -- a tunnel through vegetation leading to the steepest pitch of the day. So rad! Stage 4 and 6 were a such muddy mess our wheels stopped turning in practice. We had our fingers crossed that the tracks dried out over the next few days, but the weather report didn't look too promising. Especially since we were in Colombia during the rainy season.... (think afternoon downpours).
Saturday: URBAN DH Race Day!
Saturday morning came quickly -- we loaded up the car, and headed over for our "inspection" lap of the urban DH course, follow quickly by our race run. What a crazy first stage of the year -- over 20,000 spectators came out to watch the race and cheer us on. Streets were packed with people! It was the most amazing two and a half minutes, pinning it down stairs and off curbs, while experiencing the people of Manizales.
As soon as the race ended, the rain began... and it didn't stop until mid morning Sunday. Just in time for us to start Day 2.
In typical "Enduro Wet Series" fashion, Saturday started as a wet one. Stages 4 and 6 were wet enough during practice, that we couldn't even fathom what the tracks were like that day. Oh well...it's all about the experience, right? Oh yeah, and trying to go fast...
Turns out we don't ride in the mud well. We knew we were coming to Colombia in the rainy season, and generally don't ever ride in the mud (for fear of being exiled from our local Hood River community -- lots of trail damage!). And we knew that chances were we were going to be racing in the mud... we just didn't know that this mud was actually closer to "peanut butter" or "freeze thaw", think mud that sticks to everything. And I mean everything. But why stay in our comfort zones? Might as well see what we can do, be humbled, and have a rad day in the woods with friends on bikes, on some of the best track Colombia has to offer. Sounded good to us!
Needless to say, as predicted, I ran most of stage 2, and all of stage 4 as my wheels completely stopped turning too many times to count. You know it's bad when everyone clips their fenders before dropping into the first stage, and you're running/slipping/falling alongside 8 other women in your category. Normally, you don't see anyone -- okay, maybe one person, but to see 8, and to all be flailing about in the mud, is pretty hilarious and speaks to the sort of situation we were dealing with. At one point, likely whilst cursing the mud as I was trying to pick up my bike to "run" up a hill, my bike fell to the ground, about 60# heavier, loaded with mud. From the sidelines, our friend Marco Osborne yelled, "Keep a positive attitude!", while my amazing lady friend, Teal yelled to me "Stay on your bike!" and that became the theme of the day. After awhile, it became funny, and ladies and gents were passing/getting passed while seat bouncing and full-bore squidding down tracks. Key was to keep your bike moving, and keep momentum -- if you stopped, you were likely to never get started again. It was downright entertaining, and by the end of the last stage, we were exhausted and happy to finish the day in one piece before the downpour started again. Phew! While not proud of our results, we were proud to have finished the day, and put in a strong effort, despite being no bueno at riding (or running) in peanut butter mud.
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet our home on wheels!
2015 Dodge Promaster
Front wheel drive
DC Power +7 USB Ports
1 Auxiliary Battery
ZAMP solar power + extension
Custom-built to our needs by Drift Vans: driftvans.com by James Reigner, of Bend, Oregon.
For the build, we focused on functionality, and started out with just the basics: Full-sized bed, sink, water, storage, one Fantastic fan and one-auxiliary battery. We had never had such a van before, and were on a bit of a budget, not to mention weren't sure how much traveling we would really be doing, or for how many days at a time. We weren't sure what we needed auxiliary battery wise, and because of this, started simple, but designed the van to be adaptable, if we wanted to add something later (a refrigerator, or stove, second battery or AC Power (we only have DC and USB ports)).
Photos and details to come!
Helmet, knee pads, gloves, check! The three must-have's to go riding. I guess you could toss in eyewear too.... If you're like me, you're always on the quest for a pair of knee pads that not only serve their purpose, but stay up, and are comfortable even on the longest of days in the saddle.
Enter Dakine's Slayer Pads. I've been riding in these pads since February, and gave them some serious abuse. I tried to destroy them, riding over 200 days through all weather conditions, tried to ruin them with regular washer/dryer sessions (over 150 times!), one too many Technu treatments, and more.... needless to say, they are still kicking, and still as comfortable as ever.
Comfort: I've tried a number of knee pads, and the CE-certified Slayer knee pad is one of the most comfortable I've ridden in. The DK Impact pad itself is a "soft" pad, that hardens up on impact, and is pre-curved allowing for all-day comfort. Lightweight and low profile, the pads feature a super thin "AriaprenePro" mesh (w/odor control technology!), of sorts, allowing the knee pads to breathe. Silicone cuffs keep the pads in place and secure even in the roughest conditions (hot/cold weather, rain, sand) and terrain (technical, bouncy, smooth, etc). Lack of velcro makes for a non-binding, comfortable pad that stays in place.
Fit: Just like any other knee pad, the pads do stretch a bit with breaking. Once broken in, the pads are money! The combination of the fit and silicon cuffs can make them difficult to get off at times -- better than slipping, I say!
Coverage: Good coverage of the knee itself, as well as some of the shin -- Just the right amount.
Durability: After a full season of use (February - November), including international travel and the associated lack of appropriate care when traveling, some around the house gardening, and a stint in the washer and dryer after more or less every use, I'm proud to say that my knee pads are still kicking after a long season of racing. Even though the silicone has "cracked" slightly and started to peel, they are still plenty sticky, and stay right where I put them. Considering they've got at least 200 days of riding, and 150 rounds in the washer/dryer, I'd say these Slayer pads are beasts -- I've tried to abuse them, and they just keep going!
Pedaling: The Slayer's fit snug around my knee, but do not bind when pedaling -- you won't even notice them when descending. You might notice them on an extended climb, but they are not uncomfortable, nor do they hinder movement.
Impact: I've taken some solid impacts directly onto my knee(s) while wearing these pads and walked away unscathed. In the gnarliest crash, I think I got a little cherry on me knee underneath the pads, but no bruising or actual gash. The fabric covering the pad is plenty durable-- it won't tear or rip with an impact. The "soft" Impact foam gives you the protection of a big bulky pad, but in a comfortable, low-profile package.
Warranty: 2 year limited warranty... What more could you want?
While you may be saying to yourself, "You ride for Dakine- you're biased", I chose to ride only the highest quality of product -- product that I can stand behind and count on as a rider and racer. I've been fortunate to try a large number of knee pads, and these are the absolute best on the market. Do yourself a favor, and treat yourself to an early Christmas present -- you will be stoked!
Don't forget, Dakine makes a Slayer Elbow Pad as well, same construction, comfort and feedback!
See you on the trail,
With a little over five months from the last time I took to the start in Transcascadia, the first race of 2017 came up all too soon -- we had a pretty rough winter with over 108" of snow in the town of Hood River between December and February. Typically, we get about 10" a year, so you can imagine the chaos that ensued in town for those few months. And training, don't even talk to me about training. Our winter training grounds were snowed in up until about three weeks before we left for Portugal, meaning most of our training time was spent indoors this winter, leaving us with some serious nerves before the first race of the year.
We arrived to the island about two weeks before the Enduro World Series to take advantage of some much needed R&R (and warm weather!), and get to know our bikes a little. Trails in the East (EWS race tracks) were closed when we arrived, so we focused our time on the west side of the island, where the reportedly "flow" trails were. "Jardim do Mar" was our home base, the Jewel of the Sea, known for it's surf waves, and sunsets. Jeremy of Bikculture was our guide for the first week, showing us all the island had to offer: Black Line, Red Line, Avalanche, Patrica and more.
Riding on the island is other-worldy -- Madeira is very mountainous, lush and volcanic, meaning there are microclimates everywhere! About every 200m, the vegetation and weather seems to change, and with it the dirt, and the level of tackiness. We would start up high in the fog, clouds spitting rain, as we dropped into a slick rock chute of a trail. This would then ease up and turn into treeless green grass/cow pasture (Keep your mouth closed!), with chunder rocks abound. We'd then strip jackets, and drop even lower into a Eucalyptus forest with clay for dirt. This clay was insanely slick, taking riders out left and right. Yet even lower, we'd hit the tacky goods and levada gaps, ending the day at the local poncha bar (Our new favorite drink: Fresh orange juice, rum and honey).
While we're on the topic, levadas are "open canals" developed in the early 16th century to distribute water from the rainfall heavy and wet regions of the north to the drier, sun-parched regions of the South. As you're riding along, you'll come across one of these levadas and either have a fun traverse along it to the next trail, or cross it via road gap - FUN!
A few days before practice started, we moved to the East side of the island, to Machico (EWS home base) and met up with the Santa Cruz Factory Team, for plenty of good eats, North island shuttles, go-cart racing, and more. Our two days of practice came and went, as did the rain, leaving every racer questioning their tire choice, as tracks were as slick as ice. The tracks were like nothing we'd ever ridden before in terms of dirt and terrain, as they changed so quickly within each stage as well as between stages.
Day One: Stage 1 was super physical, Stage 2 short, cake-muddy, and pedaly. Stage 3, "Porto da Cruz" was an ancient single track brought back to life by the event organizers. One of the longest stages, it began with about 1.5 miles of slick rock, with significant exposure along the side of the trail -- don't even try to touch your brakes here! Stage 4 was the last of day 1, and the first real stage in which we could make a turn -- steep and sandy through the Eucalyptus Forest.
Day Two: Stage 5 reminded me of Oregon -- the most hard-packed stage of the event, puddles, and plenty of lush ferns, then it got slick as snot. Stage 6 was short and sweet, with one steep, slick, muddy section, and plenty of awkward off-camber chunky turns near the bottom. Stage 7 was amazing -- wide-open, to rocky chute, to a road crossing and into the wet roots! About the only stage so far where I felt like home. Stage 8 was mind-blowing, with the trail traversing a cliff-edge along the Atlantic Ocean. Steep, loamy switchbacks opened into a fast riverbed-like trail near the bottom of the 8-minute trail. Stage 9 was just cool -- starting in people's backyards and ending right above the town of Machico.
Race day came and went -- transfers weren't too bad, and the rain held off. Stage 8 was my absolute favorite with the highlights of the day riding with all the lovely shredder ladies, immersed in local culture, and ending the day with Nick, all smiles, having completed another EWS! Thanks for all the love and support, Santa Cruz Factory/Allan/Jim!
The Transcascadia is quickly becoming THE race.
It's an experience like no other: you're picked up and driven by bus with all your friends to some place in the woods you know nothing about, where hot showers and a gourmet chef are waiting for you (Chris Dimino of Chris King to be exact!). You're allowed a backpack, a rubbermaid, and a spare wheel set.
You spend the next four days camping, hanging out by the fire at night, dining on gourmet food, and riding the best trails the PNW has to offer, all with your closest of friends, old and new. This doesn't sound like you typical race does it?
Each day is a whirlwind of trails. Over 4 days of blind enduro racing (25-ish stages), the Modus Group takes you on the best trails the PNW has to offer: rugged fresh-cut loam, techy switchbacks, steep gravely chutes, lush-greenery lined tracks, and more.
This year, for the first two days, we stayed in the same location: Lake Timpanogas. Days 3 and 4, each night, camp moved: into Oakridge, then to McKenzie Bridge. Each evening, we were given cards on which we were told what the stages were for the next day, along with elevation profile, and stage mileage. All stages were blind, meaning we had no idea what we were rolling into as we dropped into each stage.
We experienced at least 4 trails a day, all RAD. You might be shuttled to the top, or you might climb you way to the top. In most cases, we were shuttled in order to maximize trail time. Not to mention in Oakridge, one climb transfer would eat up most of the time in the day, and make it difficult to see as much terrain. This race has the potential to be a logistical nightmare, but the fellas once again pulled it off without a hitch! (Are you getting a feel of how rad this race is? Good, cuz it's awesome!)
Day 1 : Lake Timpanogas (5 stages)
Day 2: Lake Timpanogas, MF Willamette, Moon Point, Larison Rock (6 total stages)
Day 3: Lawler (2 stages), Eula (1 stage), Grasshopper (1 stage)
Day 4: O'Leary (1 long stage), King Castle (1 stage)
After 4 days of racing, Transition's Rosara Joseph rode away with the win, followed by Meg Bichard and Kathy Pruitt. I rounded the podium with a 5th place -- happy girl for my first blind enduro....until next year!
The Modus Group/Shimano has this race on lockdown. Safety and First Aid is number 1, as witnessed by the EMS services located at key places on course, as well as at the top and bottom of various stages. Stages are well chosen, with fun, adventure, and challenge in mind. Food is delicious. Showers are hot. Transportation is made easy with good, clear communication and logistics. If you're looking to ride some of the PNW's finest loam, and have an adventure/experience along the way? Don't hesitate to register for next year's Transcascadia -- it's worth every penny!
Day 1: http://www.pinkbike.com/news/2016-trans-cascadia-day-1.html
Day 2: http://www.pinkbike.com/news/2016-trans-cascadia-day-2.html
Day 3: http://www.pinkbike.com/news/trans-cascadia-day-3-2016.html
Day 4: http://www.pinkbike.com/news/2016-trans-cascadia-day-4.html
Photo Epic: www.pinkbike.com/news/trans-cascadia-the-photo-epic-2016.html
Thank you for hosting on of our favorite races of the year!