NEW & DIFFERENT
Best of 2021 - Pete's List
It's funny to look back on some of our Year in Review articles and see how they've evolved over the years. At first, 'best of' was taken pretty literally within the MTB media genre and these articles were very gear-focused. Although this sport and this website can put a pretty fine point on the significance of gear, it's become obvious that moments, events, and especially people are what really matters. I like to reminisce about certain bikes as much as the next person, but as I look back over photos and events from the past year, it's clear that bikes were - once again - one of the principle ways I make memories and spend time with people. They're tools, or toys, and important ones at that, but they're also just that, and it's a lesson I appreciate learning over and over.
For me, 2021 will be remembered as a year of New & Different, and while I've had a lot of years like that in my life, they come a little fewer and farther between now than they did last decade, and the one before that. But 2021? Stuff happened. Lots of it. Covid might have overshadowed the good parts, but I feel fortunate that as I look back over the last 12 months, that isn't the case. And the best stuff from the past year all fits into New & Different.
Moving to loamier pastures on the Sunshine Coast
My wife and I had been contemplating a move for a few years. We both dearly love North Vancouver, but we also wanted a house with a big yard, and that wasn't going to happen on any kind of schedule we could tolerate given current real estate prices. We looked far and wide throughout BC and finally settled on the Sunshine Coast, and then found the right place in Sechelt. The riding over here has a long and storied history, the trails are incredibly varied, there are great builders and ideal terrain. Living a ferry boat ride away from the North Shore means it takes a bit of effort to ride with my friends back in my old home - and that didn't happen this year as much as I would have liked (but it's almost time for resolutions) however it also means that loam lasts a lot longer over here. Nothing compares to the North Shore for riding for me, but I've come to enjoy calling this new place home, with new trails to be discovered and learned, new people to ride with, and a completely different pace of life. The trails are faster but life feels slower. North Vancouver will always own a piece of my heart, but the Sunshine Coast has a piece of it now, too, and I feel very lucky to have landed in such an incredible place.
Keeping it Fresh: BCBR and re-learning how to eat an elephant
For me, it was always the 1,000m of climbing per day at BCBR that felt daunting, but as the first stage approached, and for every one after, I would just remind myself of a lesson I learned many years ago: big climbs on the bike are just like eating an elephant. Take one bite at a time, and eventually you'll get through it.
In and of itself, BCBR was a good exercise in doing something new and a bit uncomfortable. I'm not into running but I can appreciate the importance of having a marathon or two to train for and look ahead to every year; without goals it's easy to just settle into comfortable rides and not stretch your boundaries. In the past there were always steep rock faces or chutes to master, or gap jumps to contemplate, but it had been too long since I had a MTB-related goal that involves fitness or discomfort other than fear. And confronting fear of physical harm is healthy, but I'm grateful for the variety, and it makes me want more of it. The process of getting ready for BCBR was fun to focus on, even if I spent more energy on the gear side than the training. If I do it again I'll know a lot more about what I need to do to get prepared, and this time I'll train properly.
There's a footnote to this entry of Best Of: the organizers and volunteers of BC Bike Race deserve special mention. It was an absolute coup for them to pull off the race in a year when so many other events were cancelled or not even contemplated. This was supposed to be the year the Ironman returned to Penticton, but it didn't happen, and it wasn't the only Covid cancellation. In the face of myriad challenges, the people that put on BCBR did an incredible job of it, with smiles and grace, and on top of it all, BCBR started the day after BCBR Gravel ended. To all of you, a huge thanks for providing such an incredible experience.
Keeping it Fresh pt 2: Santa Cruz Blur
Some years go by in a Blur. This one went by while riding one. I wouldn't have thought to do BCBR the year I also moved to a new place and settled into life, which also happened to be the year after BCBR was cancelled due to Covid. I wouldn't have, except our good friend Seb from Santa Cruz called me early in the year to ask if I'd test their new bike at BCBR. Double win. Whether it was deliberate or not, Seb cornered me into doing BCBR in the best way possible. I got the new Blur a few weeks after arriving in Sechelt and it became my constant companion on exploratory rides throughout the trails close to my home. I got very comfortable on that bike, and it reminded me a lot of why I fell in love with mountain biking in the first place. On some rides I would push hard, sweating like a fat man doing burpees in a sauna, but on others I would simply settle into a rhythm and let the Blur's easy handling manners and efficient climbing carry me on longer rides deeper into the trail network, farther from home. Those are the rides that got me really hooked on MTB - when I was young enough to ride without constraints dictated by the clock or my physical capabilities. That's a very different type of riding than the patterns that often dictate my rides on the shore, which often feels very 'Up then Down'.
The Blur also gave me a very different perspective on modern XC bikes, and the verdict is that there's something about them that gets me excited. This was a revelation but also a reminder that as much as I love the adrenaline that mountain biking provides, I also love the endorphins, and the latter are a lot easier to access on a cross-country ride, or maybe it's just easier to separate the two, because the Blur was the source of plenty of pulses of adrenaline, but I learned all over again that I also love rides that I feel afterwards in my lungs and legs, and not just ones that make my brain tingle.
Small, Local, and Awesome: Beating Heart Brands
WeAreOne released the Arrival: a made in BC carbon bike. ENNEF continues to make killer apparel - including best in the business riding parts - right in Vancouver. Whistler Performance Labs is re-defining the ecological standards we apply to the different fluids we rely on to make our bikes run well by creating bio-based products that work as well as the toxic ones we've been using forever. Chromag took a giant leap from being a famous hardtail brand to one that makes dualies - but they released a kids' dual-suspension bike first. North Shore Billet finally had time to market a few of their own products rather than going flat out to make stuff for other (awesome) companies, and their Daemon pedal is a winner.
These are just a handful of awesome brands that have remained small and local, and these are just ones based in BC. I could mention Outbound's amazing lights, Guerrilla Gravity's innovative frames, or the sweet shorts from Abit in Seattle...and I'd be leaving out a ton of other worthy mentions.
Mountain biking always had a rich supply of small, local brands - in fact we wouldn't have a sport without them - and as long as they are thriving, it's easy to be optimistic about the future of our sport. There are countless others I haven't written about here, and we intend to shine a light on as many of them as possible over the next while. Please celebrate and support them.