Unpretentious – that’s the word that comes to mind when I think about my introduction to Nelson’s riding culture. Three big mountains to climb, three certified gnarly descents, and nobody gave a shit about what bike you were riding or how old your riding gear was. Now its 12th year, NRG‘s Triple Crown puts the focus on riding and camaraderie – perfect.
With a 50-strong group from clock-watching whippets to downhillers doing it dumber, it was a guarantee that you’d find your place at the Triple Crown. Extra points were given to the solid contingent of hardtailers and an ongoing contest for the heaviest bike kept the vibe low-key, but make no mistake: the group off the front was out to finish quickly, and I lost sight of them even before we’d left the pavement.
Powerslave. The Vein. Paper Bag. Three classic Nelson descents, none of which I’d ever laid rubber on. Why not ride them all at once? A big group ride always sorts itself out on the first climb and ours was to the infamous Powerslave, 1100 metres above Kootenay Lake. The shadier route was steep and new friends were made while we slogged our way with no shame in walking.
After 12 years, the crew at NRG has figured out how to run this thing. Coffee and donuts greeted us at the top of Powerslave and a bluebird late September day made for a great start. The feed zone which we passed through before each of the next two major climbs was well stocked with lots of water, electrolytes, BBQ’d meat, fresh fruit, candy, chips, pop, and brews.
This ride was no walk in the park and for those of us riding these trails for the first time, it was quite the memorable introduction to some of the Nelson classics. With new friendships forged and stories to tell, I can’t help but think I’ll be back for some more ritualistic suffering.
With a scheduled start time of 7:00, the alley was bustling by 6:30.
NRG’s neighbours roast everyone in Nelson’s coffee. Thankfully they opened the doors and got things brewing before joining the ride.
Warm fire, hot coffee, and trading stories before setting out to write some new ones.
Coil sprung dual crown bikes were proudly hoisted on to the scale to see who would take the title of heaviest bike on the day.
NRG’s own Mike Seniuk was to take a handicap of his own on this day, but at 37 pounds the freshly churned Surly Ice Cream Truck was nowhere near contention for heaviest or least practical.
But this ride isn’t about winning, and everyone who shows up gets their name emblazoned on the trophy. Sweat equity.
Walking was the name of the game for those of us merely hoping to survive the ride. With no idea what was to come, I kept my pace conservative early in the day.
A fresh clearcut offered views of Kootenay Lake below and the peaks of Kokanee Provincial Park to the north.
At the top of Powerslave we were treated to donuts and coffee with Baileys. Now we’re talking!
The heat of the day had yet to set in, and chilling was at a maximum.
My bike found a friend and its owner, Sean, turned out to be a rad dude who I would spend the day co-suffering on the hardtail with.
One more punch and we were on to our first descent of the day.
Mike was shredding the Ice Cream Truck, to which he mounted a 120mm RockShox Bluto. The heavyweight wheels didn’t hold him back as I didn’t see much of him on the latter half of the ride.
A modern suspension bike is, of course, a sensible idea on such a big day.
Long head tubes welcome at the Triple Crown!
I had the “sweater poorly knit” song from Life Cycles pop into my head as I rode Powerslave’s signature rollers. These are WAY bigger than they look.
Huge cedars with stringy bark. Pretty neat.
Back at the feed station we picked up a pair of cards for our poker hand.
And after the demoralizing climb to the Vein, we stamped our booklets to show where we’d been.
Something about all-day suffering makes junk food taste really good. Well-deserved cheezies and an apple.
The abundant Kootenay moustache tree.
I hit a second wind for the last bit of the climb and ended up descending the top section solo. Butt-puckeringly steep and loose. A fair number of hairy moments and more to come.
Run what ya brung.
Mitch Forbes, North Shore local and NRG’s interior rep, stuck with Sean and I while we plodded our way through the route.
Sean isn’t afraid of the steeps.
Riding in a dust cloud on the Vein is not really a great plan.
Only part way down a descent that never seemed to end.
Another stamp, another card for the poker hand.
Top of Paper Bag. Burnt pines.
By the last lap we’d picked up Renan, who had slogged his Devinci Wilson all day on a corn cob cogset.
It was a good day at the office.
Sean drops in on one of Paper Bag’s many rock slabs, which boasted amazing traction in light of the dust slides on the Vein.
Something about starting a band. Maybe we were a bit delirious.
We couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a swim when our final descent was in the bag.
The beer stashed from the feed zone came in quite handy.
Five Tens. They grip.
When all was said and done, I’d climbed 2661 metres over 58 km.
My trusted Rootdown.
The sun disappeared as the last riders trickled in.
It took a 43-pounder to win this year’s bragging rights.
Half pound burgers and a couple of kegs. Afterparty done right.
Not bad for a shakedown ride…
Ever climbed 2600 metres on a downhill bike?