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Month: March 2015

Give Me Something Simple in My Mid-Life Crisis

Give Me Something Simple in My Mid-Life Crisis

Life is complicated. Simply put. I don’t yearn for the days of a simple lifestyle as I get older because I like the rewards of having an complicated lifestyle… Its hard to put that into words, but for some things I do wish for less complicated things to keep me happy.   Take cycling for example; I ride both road and mountain bikes – I like riding on the road, its simple, my mind can drift off and I can enjoy the view (when not on a busy road).  I like when its done, it’s clean, clothes aren’t muddy and bike is put away dry and as new as the day I got it.  But riding on the road is boring, and if I didn’t have music, I would be falling asleep at 50 km into the ride.
I also like mountain biking, the trails keeps me concentrated on my balance, my skills and on the flow.  But my mind can’t drift and to be set into auto pilot to solve work or life problems.  50km into a mountain bike ride, I AM EXHAUSTED.
My bikes are complicated – Double tap, carbon frame, hydro formed aluminium, booster valving, dropper posts,  high volume tires, tubular tires – 20 years of fiddling with bikes doesn’t make me any more comfortable breaking these parts open for routine maintenance.
So what’s it going to take to push me into enjoying the simple things?  I think that I may have the answer – 29er hardtail.  It’ll be a custom made fillet brazed bike.  The bike will be simple and I designed the bike to be simple.  The oxymoron was that my journey of designing the bike was very complicated when trying to understand what are the best bike qualities I like the best.  Head angles, chain stay length, reach, stack, stem length, bottom bracket drop all play a role in building a bike. Not having an appreciation of their effect on bike could mean that the bike could suck in one regard but be stellar in another.  I just wanted that goldilocks of bikes to be justttt rightttt!  I discovered that riding a bike is based on set of compromises and one bike CANNOT be the only one in the quiver.  I thought so with my TCR road bike – it was fast and light, but 5 hours on it has your back screaming ‘uncle!’ I thought that my Cove was an one bike slayer but its too heavy for climbing hills fast or it’s not a Whistler Bike Park DH sled.  So I think its about having a bike to suit the majority of your everyday trails and not heavily investing into other bikes that may or may not use 6-10 times/year.  Oh you should still have those bikes on hand just in case you want to ride outside your everyday riding comfort zone.  Gosh I’m complicated!

Long-travel Hardtail 29er 

My solution is a bike that I can take on an adventure ride or short XC ride on the Sunshine Coast. Single chain ring up front (no derailleur). Short chain stays to be fun in tight twisty trails, but can be lengthen to provide that 29er straight line stability when carrying a load (Chilcotin). Dropper post? Are you kidding? I said simple, not to go back to the stone age. Will this be the bike to help me on my mid-life dream of simple life?  Maybe – I do know that it will definitely be a ride that is simple to ride and that’s a step in the right direction.


There’s Trails in Those Santa Monica Mountains!

There’s Trails in Those Santa Monica Mountains!

Driving up Topanga Creek Canyon

For the past month or so I’ve been building trails and bridges on the Sunshine Coast and it wasn’t til I flew into LA, I didn’t know if riding a bike was on the agenda.  Really, I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I brought my road biking gear figuring that  I may rent a road bike and go for a tour.  It didn’t take me long to realize that LA does an awesome job in managing the flow of the daily commute of 12 million cars…12 MILLION CARS!  However, riding bikes on these roads would have been a quick trip to the hospital. (Actually during my time down there, instead of hitting a tourist attractions, my son and I drove the Freeways (101, 405 and Hollywood freeway) for shits and giggles.  There is nothing like driving 65 miles/hour in bumper to bumper traffic 8 lanes wide).  Great roads for a car but not for a road cyclist – perhaps the seasoned LA cyclist but not for this country bumpkin! So, I decided to see if there was mountain biking; googled the internet and Topanga Creek Bicycles showed up.  I wasn’t hopeful, but thought the drive would be worth it anyway.  Their shop is about a half hour from Santa Monica, up the Pacific Coast Hwy towards Malibu and nestled in Santa Monica Mountains.  My buddy said that these mountains were big and steep so why not?

Turning on the GPS, I followed the sweet sultry voice of SIRI up into the canyon. The road wound its way up the canyon and into the town of Topanga Creek. A mile left to go and I started to look for a store front and coming to last 100m or so, SIRI says arriving at your designation. I look around and saw only houses. Just as I mumbled ‘waste of time’ I notice a little sign ‘Topanga Creek Bicycles’. Oh oh and drove up and park on the side of road.  Cautiously, I opened the driveway gate and there before my eyes was a full on bike shop house.  Bikes like Pivot, Lynskey, Surley, and Niner where all displayed and there was a bike wrenching station set up outside in the front yard.  Gotta love LA weather! The staff were instantly likeable and very helpful.  I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do, except I really wanted to ride!

Unassuming from the road, but open the gate and its site to behold!
Brooks Saddles and Adventure riding setups? Topanga’s got you covered!

The staff gave me two bikes to choose from – a Niner EMD or a TCB Xaayy (labelled as Topanga’s own shop brand – similar to Lynksey’s Ridgeline 27.5)   – Ummmm easy selection – give Ti or nothing! The Ti bike was set up with SRAM components and a 100mm Trace fork.  Much steeper head angles compared to my 6″ travel Cove free ride bike, but the staff said anything more than 4″ travel was overkill.  We’ll see…

They set me up to ride the TCB Loop with a map and great instructions and off I went.  Up a couple of streets and onto double track.  A cactus marked my new surroundings and I knew I going to have total different experience to back home.

The trails were dry and fast – mostly double track, but I hit a couple of single track trails with great flow and fast.  I found myself hitting lips and berms with a big grin on my face. I guess the one thing I wasn’t used to is the many other people walking, riding, horse riding on some of the trails and roads so I had to be careful to not totally go insane and out of control. At home, I can ride some world class trails without seeing a single person.  Here, sharing trails is part of the culture and everyone seemed super friendly and respectful.  I didn’t care that I rode without reckless abandon – it was sunny, the trails were awesome and I was having a great time.

Starting the climb up out of the canyon
My task is to ride the whole ridgeline you see in the background

As you can tell I like taking photos of cactus

I rode up to the HUB which allowed me to grab my breath, converse with the locals and enjoy the view.  The last little climb was to Eagle Rock before descending down a pretty tricky rocky trail –  Cheney Trail down the shop.  The Topanga crew had baked muffins and an espresso waiting for me.  Wow!  A great ride, great service and well worth the rental.  I actually received a certificate too!

SO what was the bike like?  Actually super fun!  It climbing really well and hooked with up the terrain to give me forward rocket like momentum.  When it came to going downhills, the bike liked the seat post down and a balanced, but slightly aggressive stance rewarded me in controlled smooth flow.  The Trace fork was weak point for me – too bouncy for my liking and would upgrade the fork to a 140mm Pike for my trails in Canada, but thats just me.    While I’m at it, I would add a dropper post if my trail route included more downhill. Everything else was well sorted – like the SRAM componentry.  Truly a well thought out bike spec and great bike for great trails!

I can’t express my appreciation in TCB making my LA trip most memorable and they always have standing offer for a free tour guide if they ever find their way to the Sunshine Coast.   Now if you’re a mountain biker visiting LA, look them up . They have great trails right from their front gate, fresh baking and high end rentals to make your visit well worth it.