Late to the Party – Part II
A Hardtail Summer: Shifting Gears and Shifting Priorities
I’m always up for a ride. You know the way your dog knows you’re putting your gear on? Well, my enthusiasm is more like that of the dog. Part I of this story ended with the retirement of my three-month-old steel Brodie hardtail frame. The bike that had originally been intended to introduce me to XC racing had seen me through many great rides, as I forgot about most of my other bikes and explored the North Shore trails that had been in my back yard my whole life. My enthusiasm to get out on the trails was higher than ever as I returned from the Catalyst’s successful retirement race in the BC interior.
Air Catalyst on Mount Seymour. Photo ~ Billy Jackson
Back in Vancouver, my regular riding buddy Khaled mentioned that he’d lined up a loaner frame: a big 2002 Kona Chute that would take anything you could throw at it. While it was slightly heavier than the steel Catalyst – and all this extra weight seemed to lie in the rear end – it was a great bike to continue my hardtail freeride adventures. Admittedly, I’m a bit of a geometry nerd, so the chance to transfer all my parts to a frame that was willing to take a bit more abuse was a good thing.
The 2002 Kona Chute. Ugly, but the price was right.
Riding an almost decade-old bike did crush some of the aesthetic ideals I’d held. No longer would I look down at that poppy metallic blue paint, but a top tube worn and beaten from years of North Shore shuttle runs, with remnants of duct tape. Fortunately the 140mm Talas was running perfectly, and I continued to explore and push my limits.
Every time I ran into Digger last year, he liked to talk hardtail. Photo ~ Billy Jackson
Soon after getting the new ride together, I made a few shore-friendly changes: a 70mm stem, 8″ front rotor, and a bash guard all made their way on to the bike. As a build evolves toward an ideal, an ancient philosophical question arises: is a bike still the same bike as all its parts are changed over time? If not, where do we draw the line? At a frame swap? A major fork change? There is no doubt that a continuity exists, but with changes resulting in such varying personalities, it’s a difficult question to answer.
As soon as I installed the 203mm rotor up front, I wondered how I’d lived without the increased honk power.
A photo I shot on that solo ride in June ended up winning a contest through nsmb. Different Bikes ran a “Blooming Photo” contest, and amongst a great selection of alpine wildflowers and other bits of captured lushness, I decided to submit a truly North Shore take on the blooming requirement.
Glide into this fern gully on Mount Seymour with a bit of speed and the scenery will just blow you away.
Riding multiple times a week, I watched the forest change from winter to spring, and with it came a few surprises. The ferns and deciduous plants explode into life, and all of the greens become more vibrant even if just for a short time.
Who could complain about fresh Salmonberries?
The Kona’s stiff rear end was very obvious. My bike no longer climbed like the steel goat that was the Catalyst, and getting those heavy stays up and over rocks and roots was a chore. There is a lot of talk about the forgiving nature of steel and, moving to the Chute, this was quite apparent. There’s a lesson somewhere in this about making the most of your situation, though. I rode Fromme most of the time, as its non-technical fire road climb is still a great way to spend time in the trees. With the FIT cartridge, my fork was on-the-fly adjustable for anything I could throw at it.
Hitting up the wall ride at Burnaby’s Mountain Air skills park. Photo ~ Nick Berry
It was on this bike and with a new Minion DHF 3C that I first rode the straight through line on Upper Skull’s Big Stupid rock face. My high school shop teacher would say that tire “sticks like shit to a wool blanket.” This is a shore proven tire, with the only downside being its weight. If you can deal with a little more rolling resistance, this tire will give you the confidence to ride bigger lines. Once over that obstacle, a whole new realm of unridden territory opened up for me.
And of course, as team Kona hardtail, Jodi and I continued to hit up our old favourites on Fromme.
The Kona’s big day out was my first encounter with Squamish’s amazing trail network. I convinced Khaled and our new Scottish friend Roger into two laps down the freshly machine-built berms and whoops trail, Half Nelson. With my BMX background, the trail was a dream come true.
Khaled getting rad as usual. It took some time, but I got fast enough to keep up with him.
Beyond Half Nelson, we found ourselves on many trails that actually featured dirt as a riding surface – a quality I’d come to live without on many of my regular rides. We did about 1500 metres of climbing that day, shared a lot of laughs, and came out feeling thrashed but good.
Good times on the trails is the name of the game. Photo ~ Khaled B
On the way home from Squamish, I found out Lyle had just finished building his Kona Unit and was riding out to Burnaby Mountain with Brandon, who had not been on a mountain bike since his teenage years in the Kootenays. There was no way I could miss this momentous occasion, and joined them for another couple hours on the bike. My distance riding past pays off on days like this, though I’ve learned to avoid the serious technical sections when I’m tired.
Gettin’ down and dirty for the first time in over a decade.
Having shown Billy and Andrew the photo that was eventually to win the Blooming Contest, I was able to convince the Handsome Gentlemen to do a shoot at my favourite spot on Mount Seymour.
Handsome Gentlemen Weekly Prospectors.
We scouted and scoped, got eaten by mosquitoes, and rode the section a dozen times to get the timing right with the flashes.
Billy Jackson: “a little to the left.”
After pinch flatting my hardtail on a badly-landed warm-up jump, I was happy to take a few runs on Andrew’s Zealot and Billy’s BottleRocket. It’s always nice to try out different bars, brakes and, of course, frame geometry.
Mr. Summers never stops smiling. Photo ~ Billy Jackson
Since I’d never owned a full suspension frame, every time I got on a friend’s bike I was sure to take note of what I liked and didn’t like. The shoot was declared a great success.
Never pass up the opportunity to thrash a friend’s nicely dialed bike. Photo ~ Andrew Summers
Throughout the summer, Digger continued work on Ladies, adding more and more smile-inducing curves. As Jodi recovered from a back injury, where else would she want to go for her first ride?
Last year if you spent a couple months off the mountain, Digger would have changed complete sections on you!
While his older work is still as gnarly as ever… visiting the natural tech of Fromme’s old school trails. Rider ~ Justin Shufelt
Some prefer to spend all of their time on the bike going downhill, and with local access to shuttle runs on Cypress and Seymour, I can’t blame them. As always, though, if you’ve got a positive attitude and don’t want to rush too much, I’ll ride anywhere with you. My friend Jeff has been shuttling the Shore since the beginning of time, and loves to hang out on the trails.
Exploring Cypress with Jeff aka Ghostrider
He was there when my long-tenured Chute was new, and sported a 7″ dual crown fork. While he never has come to trust my car to hold his 45 pound bike on the way back up the hill, Jeff and I spent many a quiet weekday in the woods in the middle of summer.
Even the most “played out” trails still have their beauty. It’s all about your attitude.
If you don’t stop to look, you might race right past these massive Cedars.
Looking down the log ride that would have to wait for another day…
Jeff puts out an annual calendar for his bike courier company, Ghostrider Messengers. In our outings in the summer of 2010 I shot a good number of photos that I was happy with, and when Jeff asked to use one of these for his 2011 calendar, my answer was “of course!” What I didn’t know at the time was that his calendar has all the months on the same page; my photo would star in his clients’ (and my mom’s) offices all year long!
Ghostrider on Team Pangor – later used for his 2011 calendar. It’s always nice to see your work in print.
The shuttle fun was not limited to the Shore, though. My Mighty team mate Haley grew up in Rossland, and we arranged to stay at her cousin’s place for a few days in early July and check out the local terrain. She had seen Billy’s photos of the Seven Summits at the same time I did, and was intrigued by the riding she’d been missing out on in her home town all her life.
My little Mazda at Keremeos; it went to the interior five times this year…
When we arrived at Jason’s place, we were immediately handed a beer and shown their collection of bikes. We talked late into the night about riding and the trail Jason built that drops right into his back yard, and were invited to do a shuttle run with his roommate Eric and their squishy bikes in the morning. Never one to back down from such an offer, I was stoked to try out Jason’s Demo 8 and Eric’s A-Line Park Edition. The bikes, trails, and hospitality were amazing.
Rossland Shuttle action – bike and truck provided!
From there we headed to New Denver, where my aunt lives on a beautiful lakefront acreage. I was excited to take my disc brake machine to the tame-but-awesome Galena Trail. Not short on encounters with bears, the Slocan Valley is as much fun with suspension as it is without. When I finally get enough free time to spend a summer up there, I’ll definitely be bringing more than one bike.
Haley on the Galena Trail cable car. (And an update: Haley bought herself a nice little Santa Cruz Blur late last year and has been conquering the Shore with it since cyclocross season ended.)
Back on the Shore, I hooked up with Roger and his LaPierre. We both like grueling long days on the bike, and I introduced him to Fromme with a double run past the 6th switchback and all the way down.
Roger would follow me into basically any technical feature, where I was waiting with my camera.
Sometimes Roger would put me to shame, riding a feature I’d chickened out of numerous times previously. Of course, riding with people who push your limits is a proven way to get over it.
It looks scarier from the top, I swear.
Sometimes you need to give these allstars a real handicap – like finishing a ride without a chain. Roger lost his derailleur hanger on this one, so it’s a good thing the photo turned out.
We continued to ride and shoot, getting to many of the trails I’d heard about but hadn’t found yet. Sometimes intentional, and others by a fluke, I continued to build my mental map of the North Shore’s trails.
The fern-covered log ride over a creek that had called my name since I saw Khaled’s photo of it.
As summer went on, I studied geometry charts and tried to decide on what would be the best frame to suit my developing riding style and travel-adjust fork. It was fairly obvious based on my riding habits that it would have cost less money to go with the Holeshot in the first place, but I wasn’t unhappy with the evolution of my hardtail.
Just before sending it on an old classic on Cypress. Photo ~ Billy Jackson
One sunny summer day, a white Santa Cruz Chameleon frame popped up on the nsmb buy and sell. It was a bit smaller than both the Catalyst and the Chute, which seemed just fine. I put on Boston’s More Than a Feeling and raced over to pick up my new machine. The Chameleon, with its 22.5″ top tube, fit more like a BMX than either of the other frames.
With a short rear end and a bit of weight loss, I had found my ideal Shore hardtail. Of course, its stellar good looks didn’t hurt…
That very weekend, Andrew and Billy had planned a return to Rossland and the infamous Seven Summits Trail. What better way to break in the new bike than with the IMBA-designated Epic? Packing all of our gear into my car, Billy and I drove up after work on Friday, camped in Jason’s yard, and woke up early Saturday to get ourselves to the coffee shop to meet Andrew, Andrea, and Chris.
Billy’s re-enactment of his enthusiasm in the same spot a year previous
With overcast skies that threatened rain (but mostly held off all day), neither Billy nor Andrew wanted to risk bringing an expensive camera along for the ride. This usually wouldn’t be a problem as I’d been carrying my little Canon all year long – except for the fact that I’d misplaced my battery charger! Billy was nice enough to let me take his point-and-shoot along. In good company, we traversed the summits – not without our fair share of flats – and celebrated with a round of beers back in Rossland. This was true Type-1 fun: the kind that makes you giggle like a little school girl. We will be back.
Traversing alpine ridges on a freshly built bike… does it get any better?
And an idea of what it looks like to pack two people and all their gear inside a tiny hatchback…
Finally realizing that I’d forgotten my camera charger in the cabin in New Denver three weeks earlier, I was feeling a serious lack of creative outlet. I but the bullet and bought a digital SLR. My photos were good, but I knew the camera was a limiting factor in the dark forests of the Shore. Where else would we go for the camera’s first shoot but the old favourite on Mt. Fromme?
New camera day! It was also Billy’s first ride on his new Slayer SS.
Jodi’s bright colours go well with Digger’s fresh cedar rungs.
The smell of fresh cedar pervaded Fromme all summer long, as the District of North Vancouver’s crew refreshed many trails. While their complete rebuild of Bobsled garnered the most attention, the crew put major efforts into many of the mountain’s beginner and intermediate trails. Knowing I’m not the only one out there on a hardtail, these trails are a great place to put your skills to the test.
The DNV crew’s work was much appreciated, even on the less popular trails.
Of course, whenever I came across new work, I was excited to document it. Taking chances in the rain with my new camera, Andrew and I ran for the hills one day to get some shots that ended up being used on the 2011 Brodie site.
Even in summer, the rain is never far off on the North Shore hills. Andrew takes in some of the DNV’s new work.
The North Shore’s trail network is more diverse now than it ever has been. This year a major shift occurred: a short, but sweet machine-built downhill pumptrack was put in on the lower elevations of Mt. Fromme. Bobsled is easy to access, easy to ride, and fun for riders of all skill levels. For the first time in years, there were regular lineups at the top of a trail on Fromme.
Bobsled opened, and was marked as a downhill-only trail.
With the District of North Vancouver’s Half Nelson-esque rebuild of Bobsled, the door opened for riders who would be intimidated by most of the trails I ride regularly. I did my best to facilitate as many people as possible coming to experience the forest with me, from complete newbies to busy parents.
We continued to facilitate riders getting up on the trails, organizing rides and loaner bikes.
I really felt at home on the Chameleon with its flickable feel. As the long summer days began to shorten, my hardtail rose to the occasion time after time. The short cockpit worked great for Fromme riding, and while this isn’t necessarily an advantage on technical climbs, the nimble Chameleon was as adaptable as its name implies.
Gettin’ squirrelly on some fresh cedar. They say the trails will find you when you are ready. Photo ~ Lyle Vallie
Riding Fromme and the Seven Summits on a stiff aluminum hardtail was one thing, but Whistler Bike Park was a whole other beast. Here the braking bumps seemed to swallow up the entire bike at times. Somehow we rode A-Line before riding Crank It Up, and on the latter I overshot a landing, bending a crank arm. My hands exhibited “the claw” after numerous runs from the top of the gondola, but I was stoked to keep going. I took the wrong bike to Whistler, but I still had a ton of fun.
One of many rock faces at Whistler, where Maxxis Minions are your friend. Photo ~ Lyle Vallie
Having checked off so many points on the “must do” list, the time came when many riders hang up the bike and pick up a winter sport. Not me, though; riding bikes has been my winter sport since 2006. When I realized you didn’t need to drive to the top of a mountain and pay somebody to sit on a cold chairlift to enjoy a rainy day, I was hooked.
Beautiful North Shore winter…
Everyone has their own ideal of beauty, that thing or place that just does it for them. To find that beauty right in your back yard – there every day, no matter what the weather or your state of mind – is a beautiful thing indeed.
If part II didn’t get you stoked for the upcoming season, I don’t know what will. I can almost smell the scent of Digger’s fresh cedar through those pics. Are you a late bloomer? Have a similiar story to tell? Speak up…