With the cold winter finally releasing *some* of its grip, plans were hatched for Easter Long. Ranger Clay promised Stuckylife’s annual gravel adventure on Victoria’s twisting Lake Roads. But what better way to start a trip to Victoria then to ride there with the Ultranaut crew and hit Sooke pot holes “along” the way. Our routing took us through Victoria before back out towards Sooke, more westerly, taking advantage of the Galloping Goose rail trail so that Matt, Justin, and Andrew could test their gear before they begin a more epic week-long adventure through Oregon. The weather proved to always be better on Vancouver Island, though our night was filled with rain. It meant for some very quick beers around camp stoves instead of a true fire, but that’s pretty common for backpacking adventures before true camp season opens. Dank lumber and no where to pack gas station logs, we make due with more beers and some solo time in our tents. The next morning brought a change of plans considering the wet. Matt joined me in my return to Victoria so that we could meet the Stucky life ride on Sunday morning. Some backyard camping, and some mild refreshments in downtown Victoria were welcome. We met Ranger Clay at Cafe Fantastico for a route that he described as mixed terrain, and the ominous “road bikes encouraged, not recommended”. My Ti Romax had been a workhorse with my bike packing gear, but with all the camp gear and accessories unloaded it was feeling quite happy for our gravel attack. A few stalwarts kept that promise to shred road bikes, though many bikes, such as mine and Clay’s SSCX edition pink Romax had been geared up for some gravel racing (Paris to Ancaster is coming up next week, and I’m hoping these rides awaken the legs from winter hibernation). Over five hours we only had three flats, one beer cash expertly placed and one completely unrideable section, with the threat that may increase if people keep bringing appropriate bikes. Post ride, some beers and pizza before the journey to the ferry and my own final leg home from Tsawwassen to Ladner before finally catching a bus as time constraints fell on me. Thanks for the rides Ultranaut and Stuckylife; getting pretty amped for adventure season.
It was the “Don’t think you can get off the couch after curling your favorite IPA for the last few months and do it” that I really should have paid attention to. But did I? No. I hadn’t been on my bike for any substantial length of time or distance since Sept. 18/2016, so said my Strava!! Oh boy. I should have know this would be tough. I mean, I did know it would be tough but this sounded like a heck of a fun idea when the boys suggested it. Ride our gravel grinder bikes for 40 miles or so, drinking beers, having a good time down in the Cascadias! Mainly timed downhills, in a sort of an Enduro format? Fully supported? YAH! SURE!
Friday morning, everyone arrived at my place around 10:15am so that four of us could load up in Logan’s big ol’ F150 and rally down south in a reasonable amount of time.
What with the snow that had fallen overnight, and the forecast for much, much more, we were questioning if we were bringing the wrong gear and going too far south into the US of A! But we were committed to this bike adventure.
The border crossing included our usual check in to the office. Travelling with my best friend who shares the name of a 60 something, 300 pound neck tattooed drug trafficker does that, nearly every time… even though said friend is maybe 140, has no tats and was 6 years old at the time of the offenses! We were in and out quick though and back on our way.
Importantly, we ate pizza.
To save on costs, we opted to stuff all four guys into a ‘family’ room at the DoubleTree in Olympia. It was actually pretty great: two queen beds, a king and a single pull out.
Wake up came at 6:30am Saturday as we had to eat something, drink coffee and get to the start line for packet pick up and rider briefing.
Tick tock, the moment of truth approached. Was I ready? Is my bike ready? Most importantly, is the aid station ready for me!? I’d likely need it.
Was pretty sure that the bike was ready: it’s a 2014 Brodie Romax Ti with uniquely curated parts. Bits of interest include Easton EA90 CX wheels, a Lev dropper and custom machined shift travel adjuster made by Colin of Dub Manufacturing so that I could run a nice wide 11-42 SunRace 11 speed cassette mated to a Shimano SLX rear mech driven by Shimano RS685 STI levers.
As for me, well… read on.
The start/finish area was at the Evergreen Sportsman Clubhouse, a 30 minute drive from the hotel. It was only about 6°C out at the time. Not ideal especially when mixed with the rain. We were in for a cold, damp event.
The four of us opted to participate in the “Sportive” category, with intentions of stopping at the top of climbs to enjoy the view and share beers. Well, neither of those things happened as it was too cold to stop for any extended period of time.
The ride had three “Special Primes” that were timed separately from the overall race. A sort of race within the race. A very cool idea taken from the mountain biking Enduro format.Myself coming from a mountain bike background, and having raced many Enduro events, I understood this concept. However, I didn’t expect them to all be uphill timed sections! Not ideal for my 220lb frame! I’m not a climber. Enduro mountain bike races, the stages that are timed are always ultimately an elevation loss.
At the top of “Prime 2” there was a wonderfully stocked aid station, complete with chicken noodle soup! A nice treat to warm us up before another descent.
I should touch on that a bit more: the roads were great! Very well maintained, not too loose, and reasonable grades overall. The descents were fast and entertaining, the climbs manageable and picturesque. Apparently there’s over 500 miles of gravel roads in the Capitol Forest, and we only rode just over 40 of them.
As we neared the finish the weather got worse and began raining even harder. The roads of the last few miles felt very spongy, everyone agreed it felt as though we had flat tires. Every little climb was painful by this time. Obviously our legs were cooked.
Finally we hit the pavement again, the indicator that we were at the end. The head wind to the finish was a nice touch, just in case you weren’t tired enough.
The event was very well done. Delicious chili at the end along with tasty local craft brew on tap.
We didn’t stick around long as the DoubleTree had a hot tub!
What was planned to be a party night out in Olympia after a day on the bikes ended up being a nap, then dinner, then bed by 9:30p! After ten hours of sleep, a fantastic breakfast Sunday morning, it was back home we went.
Overall I’d say I did ok. Was I ready? Well, ready enough as it turns out. More riding would have helped me do even better and not be as exhausted after, but even my fittest friends were bagged. The bike performed great, of course, and I’d only change the bar to something a bit wider for better control on the descents.
It’s been over a month since we donned our Canadian Tuxedos and stepped into the homeland of Freedom (eagle screech), PBR and PEOTUS to visit the host city that birthed the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships 10 years ago.
As CX season comes to a wrap across the globe, we thought we would take a look back, and see if there is anything we can remember.
Our contingent of northerners was anything but motley – with representatives in the form of Vancouver Island’s StuckyLife, the Mainland’s VCXC, VANSS, ReignInMud, Mighty/OnTheRivet and general ne’er do wells from the Brodie #bTeam permeating the bunch, the ambassadors from America’s Hat were well represented.
With us was our excellent friend (we have the best friends) Warren Fenton, documenting the debacle and spearheading Pizza Acquirement and Boosting Updates.
The event is best described as a party with a bike race in it. But before that bike race you have to get into that bike race. And after that bike race, if you didn’t get into the bike race, there are other bike races for you to attempt. Between qualifiers, dual slalom racing, the Loser race and the main events, there was no shortness of event. Also, the $1 beers helped idle away your time/sobriety.
There are others who have used more words to explain the course of events, however, it might be disingenuous to pretend I actually know what happened most of the time. Let us review photo evidence from conscientious participator, Mr. Fenton, and see what our minds eye reveals.
Thanks for another amazing year SSCXWC, and huge props to people that organize events like this.
PS. Oh yea, Sven Nys came, but he didn’t win, so whatever.
Brodie b-Team Ambassador Nicholas Kupiak has had a heck of a season in BC, and we’ll get to his palmares when he writes his season wrapup. The steed that took him to podium after podium this season, culminating in a 3rd place at BC Provincials, was the Brodie Romax. Here’s some notes on his geared build – Skeletor:
There are many nuances to a cyclocross bike that can make a huge impact on how you ride. Just like training though, it always comes down to what works best for you individually. Lessons that can only be learned through trial and error over the course of multiple seasons, equipment changes, and experiences. My last two Romax builds were prime examples of how something seemingly subtle can completely alter the feel of a bike.
After spending a few seasons learning everything I could about cross on my Ti Romax it was a difficult decision to put it up for sale. It represented my first chance to build something from the ground up and with each passing season it was slowly upgraded into a bike I was really proud of. The final iteration had everything I could have wanted, but the arrival of my SSCXWCVIC Edition Romax changed everything.
Two bikes that shared the same geometry, yet one seemed to just float beneath me and lean through corners unlike anything I’d ridden in the past. After painstakingly crunching the numbers (literally just had to load two web pages) and consulting with MEAT it was decided that the only difference was the rake of the fork, which lengthened the wheelbase of the aluminum framed single speed I had started to fall for. After three podiums in its first four appearances I knew this was a set-up that could work for me.
Choosing a drivetrain was the easy part of this build. Hydraulic discs were necessary after finally experiencing them last fall, and even with Di2 receiving stellar reviews I knew I wanted to stick with mechanical shifting for the long adventure rides after the CX race season. Cable pull Ultegra was something I felt comfortable working on and the thought of a battery dying while out on the backroads for longer than expected had me a little apprehensive.
With Easton releasing their EC90SL crankset just in time for cross season they already had my attention, and their depth in the accessory game made it seem only natural to kit the remainder of the build in a similar fashion. The technology and simplicity of running a 1x drivetrain had already proven itself to me over the last two race seasons, but this crank had taken it one step further with the direct mount chainring leaving nowhere for mud or sand to build up. My only past chain drop was due to mud accumulating from the chainring teeth all the way down to the bolts where it finally had something to press against before forcing the chain free.
Continuing with the carbon theme both the bars and seatpost are also from the Easton EC family. Having less weight near the top of the bike really gave it that sure footed feeling and offers a little extra confidence when throwing the bike into a technical line. If it wasn’t for my 4’11” equivalent legs and my 6’2″ equivalent torso then I would have opted for the matching carbon stem but unfortunately I require a -17degree to make any bike fit me properly.
The final result is a bike that handles like a roller coaster, and goes like a Lambo. Diving into corners faster than ever and even when I’m sliding around the feel and control is still predictable. It will take some time to familiarize myself with gears again but flying along wide open gravel roads in the 40×11 is a sensation that couldn’t have come soon enough. Welcome to the family, Skeletor.
Stay tuned to our fellow Vancouver friends over at CurbKit who will be launching their Kickstarter campaign near the end of this month! Featured in their video will also include one of our 2017 models, the 650b Remo steel road plus adventure #bicycle!
Growing up cycling was always my preferred way to get around. I loved my old, rusted purple bike. I used to go everywhere on it. It was my key to freedom. Then came my car, university, work… and cycling was no longer such a major part of my life. Instead of jumping on my bike, I would head to the gym and take part in a spin class, then drive home. It seems crazy to me now! It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I rediscovered cycling, and my love for travelling by bicycle was reignited. Now I can’t image life without my bike.
It was actually Michael that planted the seed for our cycle tour. One day he mentioned how he always wanted to cycle across Turkey. Initially, I thought he was mad, but as I thought about it more and more, I started to realise that long distance bicycle travel could be awesome! We started to discuss cycling across Canada. Lot’s of people do it. The roads seemed to be quite good. And, we wanted to go to Canada to work a couple of seasons, so it seemed to be the most logical place to try a cycle trip.
Sometimes other things in life pop up, and things don’t quite work out how you had envisioned. After discussing working and cycling across Canada, we started to apply for our work permits. In the meantime Michael and I landed jobs working at a ski resort in France. I was in a ski accident, I couldn’t ski, I couldn’t run, I couldn’t really do anything. The doctor however did say I could cycle… this is where the idea to cycle from France to China was born. Once the season finished, we headed off on a couple of bicycles and cycled to China.
After our first cycle tour we came to realise how great travelling by bicycle was. We still wanted to cycle across Canada, and we now had our Canadian work permits, so headed off to Canada to fulfil the dream. This time however, we decided we were going to try a world cycle tour. Starting in Vancouver with our Brodies, heading across Canada to Halifax, then continue south through the USA into Mexico, and through Latin America.
So far the trip has had its ups and downs, but it has been by far one of the best experiences of our lives, and is such a great way to explore a country. It’s all about the journey, and not the destination, and the more we cycle, the more we see that.
As a finale to summer in BC, I took my bike onto the ferry to Salt Spring Island. People weren’t kidding about the hills. I stopped at almost every farm stand on the side of the highway and filled my pannier with fresh produce. Each stand had a money box and was self serve.
The struggle was real as I lugged my squash to Ruckle Provincial Park (why did I choose the biggest vegetable possible?!). The park was a bit crowded for my taste but I managed to find the best spot by the water and angled it so that no humans were in sight. A sea otter swam by on its back and a seal hung around my campsite all evening. The gentle waves lulled me to sleep.
I don’t like putting the bike in the car to go and ride, so for me a cross bike is great. It extends my range from the doorstep, allowing me to eat up the road miles and access cross country epics. This was certainly true when we lived in South London but is even more the case since we moved to North Wales.
I just decided to rebuild my old Brodie, having managed to replace the bent mech hanger. Me and this bike have seen some action, from the Three Peaks to London League cross races and to the other day when I found myself thigh deep in a bog with the old bike on my back. Moments of elation when it feels like you’re flying, to despairing times when you wonder why you thought this was a good idea.
One boozy evening earlier this year, cajoled by an old friend (and Three Peaks stalwart), I applied for the Three Peaks entry. I didn’t get a place, but I decided to get myself fit like I really had to avoid wallowing in the mid-Peaks trough of misery. Well, I’m some of the way there in spite of a bad ankle sprain and whilst the fitness is lagging a bit what I have (re)discovered is my absolute love for the cross bike.
I’ve spent many evenings over the last few weeks poring over maps, identifying circuits of bridleway and byway that take me out over remote moors. And, when I go out the next day to track these routes on the ground I’ve been about 95% pleased with the riding. There I am spinning along an old drovers’ road, on a trail so ancient that the rocks have grooves cut in them by centuries’ of wear from cartwheels. I stop to look at the map and I see that the bridleway carries on over the mountain into the next valley and from there back down to the main road some five miles further on. I’ll be sitting down with a pint in an hour… And so I bowl down the hill and the bridleway so prominent on the map isn’t anywhere to be seen. And there you are suddenly ‘transitioning’ from firm ancient trackway to thigh deep in blanket bog. So I ask myself: is this a bad thing? And I don’t have to think long to decide that yes, it is a very bad thing and this feeling only grows as I carry my bike two miles to firm ground. Did it occur to me to turn back though? Of course not.
Then about two hours later when I’m finally sitting in the back room of the world’s greatest beer shop, I reflect that it is that familiar sinking feeling (5% displeasure) that makes so many of my rides round here great. Embrace the bog, knuckle down for a slog and then hail the grog. Exertion, stupidity, reward and REPEAT.
Like the first time I did the Three Peaks, I swore at the finish line “never again”, only to find myself in the pub a quarter of an hour later wondering how I could do it faster next year. STOOPID but FUN.
Bears, elk, small town stores, rednecks getting it on in the woods, loggers, wasp attacks, big trees, strange coincidences, hobo camps, decommissioned roads, an odd German in a rental car, epic views, hundreds of kilometers of backroads and of course vast nothingness… Just your typical three day backroads bikepacking mission on Southern Vancouver Island… photos and details after the jump.