Friday, September 30, 2011

what I did on my summer vacation


Student’s co-op work experience could lead to new treatments for heart patients

September 29, 2011
By By Richard Cairney
Biomedical engineering professor and researcher Richard Thompson, left, supervised mechanical engineering student Peter Knight as he designed and build an exercise ‘bike’ that attaches to an MRI machine.
Edmonton—If he isn’t in class or studying, you’ll find mechanical engineering student Peter Knight pushing himself to extremes in mountain bike races—it’s an extremely demanding sport that causes your legs to scream and forces your heart to beat at speeds nearing 200 beats per minute.
It’s somewhat ironic, then, that Knight has spent the past several months designing and building a type of stationary bicycle for patients who are suffering with cardiac disease.
A mechanical engineering (biomedical option) student in the faculty’s Co-op Engineering Program, Knight is wrapping up a work term in the U of A Department of Biomedical Engineering designing, building an exercise device that can be attached to an MRI machine.
Richard Thompson, a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Knights supervisor for his co-op term, develops new MRI methods for imaging the heart and other organs and applies these methods to study diseases such as heart failure.
Knight’s new device will enable heart disease researchers to use MRI to generate images of a patient’s heart working and “see” how their blood flows and circulates while under physical exertion. The images will provide unique information about the nature of  an individual’s  heart disease.
“The most common disease in North America is heart disease—and it is often exposed only when you exert yourself,” said Thompson. “What’s interesting is that in some patients, their heart might not be the primary problem.. There are many heart failure patients whose hearts look like they are pumping normally but its possible that their skeletal muscle or their brain aren’t getting enough blood during exercise, which may be the factors which then define their disease . . . no one has looked at all of these factor together and if we can identify the weak link, it will open up new potential methods to treat this common disease.”
The device Knight has been building, he says “will be an important add-on” in the research. There is a commercial version of the MRI stationary cycle that costs tens of thousands of dollars, but Thompson, an alumnus of the U of A Faculty of Engineering, was happy to put Knight to work on the project.
Knight says designing the device was tricky. For starters, there were physical restrictions to consider: he needed to be sure that patients laying on their backs pedaling in a circular motion wouldn’t hit their knees on the MRI machine.
“Because your range of motion is somewhat restricted traditional cycling wasn’t an option,” said Knight. “What we decided to do instead is use a linear reciprocating motion where your leg moves straight back and forth—it’s similar to a piston in a car.”
Patients would push their feet against rods connected to a large flywheel with adjustable resistance.
Knight also had to consider what materials he’d use. At the core of an MRI machine are magnets so powerful that people with pacemakers are not allowed too close to the machines. Knight couldn’t use metal in the device.
As a result, Knight’s stationary bicycle is made from wood, held together with stainless steel screws—its molecular composition make it virtually immune to magnetic forces. The flywheel is made from plastic and the wheel’s hub—from a mountain bike, of course—is mostly made of aluminum.
Knight says the co-op placement was a natural fit for him not only because he’s a high-level cyclist, but also because of the impact it could have in health care. His previous Co-op placements have included the Canmet Energy Technology Centre in Devon, Alberta, where he examined ways to separate more components from oilsands tailings; another was working with Dean of Rehabilitation Medicine Martin Feguson-Pell on sensors that would monitor a hospital bed’s physical condition, to prevent patients from getting bed sores.
“I don’t want to pigeon hole myself into one particular area,” said Knight. “Being in the co-op program you have a chance to try a lot of different things out, so that’s what I’m doing.”

Sunday, September 25, 2011

CX weekend #1: Bad race, good race

The ERTC School of Cross and the Hardcore Hop 'n Hurl were the first 2 stops of the AB Cup, and came after a couple of hard Tuesday night races. It was hot on both Saturday and Sunday.

I always seem to race better in the heat as it seems I am less affected by it. That doesn't mean that I enjoy the heat, I just ride relatively better in it. I actually find that I usually fare well in tough weather conditions (not tough course conditions) like rain, snow, cold, hot, etc. It's like those "mountain bikers" (riders with amazing technical skills and riders who want others to think they have amazing technical skills) who hope for monsoons before their races so that they will do better. You would have to be a very sadistic person to enjoy ruining your bike, ruining some trails (I'm talking biblical monsoon, not just your average rain) and risking serious injury, but those tough course conditions allow them to finish higher.

Saturday's race (School of Cross) was going good (relative to the other riders of course), I had passed some people who had blown up in the heat and had my crosshairs on more riders ahead and was sitting around 10th, then on A CLIMB, I heard the psssssssssssss, flat rear tire, and I had to run the rest of the way to the pit (double pits are awesome!), and I didn't have a spare wheel, but fortunately Tracy hooked me up with one of his EC90SLs.

"Anyone have a less expensive wheel I could use?" 

I was well back by the time all that running and wheel changing stuff was finished, but I rolled the rest of the race pretty hard and came in DFL @ 1lap.

photos: Gord Brenner

Sunday, I was looking for redemption and boy, did I get some of that stuff. I had another good (again, relative to the other riders) race and saw some fantastic explosions. My turn for an explosion came with about 3 laps to go, but it was a small explosion and I only lost 2 positions. I think I finished around 8th or 9th.

So next weekend is the Dark Knight, Cross for Kids combo in Calgary but I'm not sure if I will race due to school. MT mentioned "Waiparous" an area I have been ogling as of late due to a certain hike-a-bike descent.... (I'm sure he was thinking more along the lines of 4 wheeling or climbing...)

photo: not mine!

Monday, September 19, 2011

bow 62.5 (80ish)

Good to see the organizers have a sense of humour after the race was cancelled last year!

I signed up for this puppy a couple of months ago. Fortunately, the weather was perfect, a little cold in the morning, but no precipitation!

Course: To be honest, the first part of the course was not very exciting. I enjoyed the rolling terrain of the Elbow Valley, Prairie Link, and Prairie Creek trails though. The Sulphur Springs climb is a classic from the Summer Solstace race, but I don't really enjoy the fast descent with loose, non-bermed corners. The link from the end of the Prairie Creek trail to the feedzone was pure character builder with mud bogs, small creek crossings, and where the trail was dry, it was chewed up by cows. After the feed zone and the gravel road section, I enjoyed the course more. The Powderface Creek trail was fun, and I enjoyed Pneuma and Special K.

Technique: After a super fast start, I was super jittery going into the Sulphur Springs descent and took it pretty slow on the loose, off camber, switchbacks. I felt better on the Powderface descent and shralped up the Special K descent.

Engine: I started a little out of my comfort zone and paid for it, but fortunately, not too badly. I settled in after the feed zone, crushing the final climbs, battling some cramps, and made up some positions. Only 2 feed stations but they were well stocked, so I made sure I fueled up!

TSN Turning point: After I recovered after a hard start, I started to work my way back through some of the people who passed me while I was recovering. Unfortunately, the legs started cramping, and I had some chainsuck issues so I couldn't duel with one last rider in my cross-hairs. Funnest moment was definitely destroying this one sketchy guy who didn't want me to pass him. He stopped/dabbed in front of me multiple times and blocked me from riding through on the Pneuma climb! When I finally did pass him, he was no where to be seen. What a guy!

It was my first real long race without frequent access to feed zones. Because the race was in Bragg Creek, I didn't want to rock a 2nd bottle cage on the bottom of my downtube (cow shit is not good for you). I didn't have a hydration pack bladder, so I loaded up a small backpack with some bottles, but I would lose time swapping bottles. Hydration bladder or hardtail with 2 bottle cages is a must!

So, I rolled in top 20 overall I think, 4:46ish, and 5th in the 20-30 category. Although during the 1st part of the race, I was questioning why I was racing, I really enjoyed the 2nd half: Powderface was a fun climb and descent, the rolling terrain of Elbow valley, the technical climb of Pneuma and the technical Special K descent were all so much fun and make me want to ride more trails in the area. I'm not sure how well I would enjoy this race in more adverse conditions, so I don't know if I would gamble on the 2+ months in advance registration date... We were very lucky this year!

Thanks to Cody for splitting gas on the ride down, sharing some awesome bike stories, and to Ryan for offering us a place to stay!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Specialized Trail Crew application

My name? Peter Knight. I am 21 years old and just starting my final year of my Mechanical Engineering degree at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. My primary goals are race related, but there is no better way to become a faster mountain biker than to spend lots of time on my mountain bike. While at work or at school, I daydream about riding my bike. Problems are mysteriously solved when I have a couple of hours to myself on the trails.

My quest to become a faster racer has me improving both my fitness and my technical skills while keeping things fun. I like to embrace a wide variety of riding, from steeps at the bike park to long singletrack loops, and even gravel paths and roads. I don’t believe in specific riding styles. The words “all mountain” “cross country” “freeride” don’t mean anything to me. The labels “Roadie” or “mountain biker” only represent a preference of a type of riding surface. I believe that the trails I ride are dictated by how comfortable I am on a certain bike.

Through racing, I have met many great people and have been able to enjoy thousands of kilometres of trails with different riders. I have progressed steadily up to the Elite category, and have raced for the provincial team on some occassions. The community in Edmonton is awesome. For a big city, the riding here is unreal. Where else can you host a Canada Cup in the middle of the city or find a group willing to ride on snow in the middle of winter?  And it is so easily accessible. I can go on short mountain bike rides straight from my door! I can ride trails on my commute to school or work.

My club, the Hardcore Race Team, along with many other clubs have adopted sections of trail in our wonderful river valley. As a club, we help maintain the trails by improving drainage, limiting erosion, and trimming branches. The group rides are always adventures, and sometimes, I even get to lead. My club also organizes the midweek mountain bike races in the city and a couple of provincial series races, and I help set up the course, marshall the races, and clean up after the race. For many of these provincial series races, members of my club make up more than half of the elite men’s field! I see these grassroots events as extremely crucial to bringing more people (most importantly more youth) into the sport as they are inexpensive, and don’t require suffering for long periods of time. I have raced pretty much every Alberta Cup XC race in the past couple of years as it is important to support the series.

So why me? Well I, like anyone, could list a million subjective qualities about myself and use action buzz words, but I would prefer to boil it down to a few simple and more objective qualities:

Visibility-I am pretty active in the cycling community; I show up to group rides, trail days, midweek races, Alberta Cups, movies, and other cycling related events in the city. I also spend a lot of time riding my bike in the Edmonton river valley.

Good role model - I believe that it is important to respect the other riders, whether they be other racers in race situations, or just the general riding public. I am also at an age where some people, for whatever reason, quit cycling, while others discover a new activity. As an elite racer, many people will look up to me when they are just starting out, or will be inspired because I have been able to compete at a high level, even while studying Mechanical Engineering in university. Stress is simply no match for time on the trails!

Racing is fun and all, but I find the real reward comes when you crush sections of trail with the friends you made, or when you discover awesome singletrack in an unfamiliar area. Specialized makes some fine bikes (I love my Stumpjumper HT and my Tarmac), will one find it's way to me for next season?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Zest Tour days 9, 10, and 11: Kelowna, MacKenzie, CNC

Kelowna: hot and dusty as expected, but once I quickly acclimatized, it was not that bad. We rode in the Myra-Belleview Provincial Park, where there are actually some sick trails for those who don't just like riding down.

We climbed and climbed, all the way up to the Kettle Valley Railroad (WTF is it so high up above Kelowna for!). But by that time, my rear hub was starting to not work properly (it would later turn out to be a broken hub axle, possibly tapered Maxle Lite related), so I had to take the descent chainless. It was a fun descent with some pretty gnarly rock sections, and through some burnt forest from the fire of 2003

I was pretty bummed about the axle failure, but luckily I got to take Bill's Ibis back to Canmore and he gave me permission to ride it. After listening to him complain about it wheelie-ing on steep climbs, but raving about it on the descents, I was eager to try it out. I took a quick stop in Revelstoke on the way back. I really enjoyed our 2 days earlier in Revelstoke and there was still lots more good trail that we had to ride (and there still is!). I opted for a quick ride on the ski hill side, and found some steep rocky trails, with flowy sections (I know, a pretty common theme on the Zest Tour). The Mojo was not wheelie-ing THAT bad. Sorry Bill!

Oh yeah, I picked up my skis/boots/bindings. 
New gear, guaranteeing it won't snow until December for sure. I'm not sure if that is a good or bad thing!

I decided that I still needed a little more time on Bill's Ibis, so I went for a quick rip at the Canmore Nordic Centre with the GoPro, riding a bunch of the old classic trails that real riders love

Canmore fun on

After being spoiled riding some awesome trails for the previous week, it is extremely clear that the trailbuilders at the Canmore Nordic Centre are not very experienced. I know I have been harsh on them, but the vibes I am getting from them is that you cannot build fun AND sustainable trails, but after riding Revelstoke, that is simply not the case.

Finally back in Edmonton, I participated in the Hardcore Bikes trail day. Low turnout as some people were racing the first CX Tuesday nighter (SHAME!), but we got some good work done.

Zest tour: Lots of riding, lots of km's, lots of vertical m's (I GPS'd it all with my Garmin Edge, but I did forget to start it on occassion, so I don't have complete totals). I rode my super vesatile Marin Attack Trail with 2 wheelsets: Stans Arch/Supercomps with Maxxis Advantage 2.1 for more of the XC stuff, and the stock Mavic 321/Champions with Kenda Nevegals 2.35 for the rougher stuff. Bill rode his Ibis Mojo for the XC stuff, and his Santa Cruz Driver 8 for the rough stuff. All vertical descent was earned, EXCEPT Frisby Ridge DH for me (Bill drove the vehicle down), and Bill missed out on a short climb that I did to pick up the vehicle after Sale Mt.

Last year, we did Rossland (Red Top then 7 Summits and a short Kootenay-Columbia loop the next day) and Fernie (Roots-Hyperventilation-Extension-Ridgemont then Fernie provincial park, and the FAR trails the next day). Awesome riding either way, but this year worked out better: shorter travel times between towns = more time to ride. 

Currently my Garmin maps are private, but if you want me to make them public (so you can study my heart rates and learn how to beat me) then feel free to leave a comment below.

Zest tour day 8: Sale Mt./Martha Creek, Frisby Ridge

A nice sleep in the hammock was only interrupted by the GREASIEST coughing dude. Fresh off our Mt. 7 up and down slay, we decided to give Sale Mt the similar treatment. It was a little longer (16km, 1500m elevation gain for a 9.3km descent!), but Bill had his Ibis today, so he was up for it. A couple of hours later, we were at the top. 5000 ft UP AND DOWN on the Marin Attack Trail (and Ibis Mojo)

Nice views 1500m up at 2000m!

Just as we got to the top, a group of shuttlers arrived at the top as well. I asked the head honcho who was wearing a jersey bearing the logo of a certain alcoholic beverage that is popular with those who are from the province directly to the east of Alberta if he had a socket set so that I could tighten up my suspension linkages.

"Hey, would you happen to have a socket set in your truck?"

Yes, I actually apologized for asking a question...

The descent was super rocky at the top, the kinds of rocks that eat tires and rims for breakfast, and spokes for desert. Eventually the rocks eased up and led to some steep corners, bridges, and flowy sections further down. Fun descent and we and our bikes survived unscathed (I almost ate shit really hard on a steep section before a road crossing), but we were both wishing for some thicker tires for some piece of mind...
Plenty of descent done

Plenty of descent left

A note on trail etiquette: "TEAM PILSNER" were on DH bikes, full armour, etc.. and they were pretty good riders, so we let them go ahead of us. But they kept stopping for a long time at each intersection and we would catch up. Should we continue onto the next section ahead of them where they will eventually have to pass us again and again, or do we wait and drop in right after them? We chose to wait, but it definitely got annoying near the end...

Well that wasn't enough for us. Although we didn't have enough time to ride up to the trailhead of Frisby ridge (so that we could both ride the DH back to town), we drove up a gnarly logging road to a BUSY parking lot. Wow, this new trail is popular! As it was in the afternoon, most people were on their way back down, and by that confusing  IMBA rule, we could climb interrupted!

"Frisby Ridge is pretty much wheelchair accessible"

During the climb, I was honestly a little worried that these super buff trails would be the future of mountain biking. What will happen to steep and technical riding? I was having nightmares that involved the shitty new trails at the CNC. Well after some beautiful views up top, we headed down the SUPER FLOWY descent: contours you can pump, berms you can rail, smiles on our faces. And at the bottom, Bill was done, that he let me do the DH to town while he drove the vehicle down. (muhahahah, my plan worked to perfection!)

Even more flow, some steep sections, maybe the funnest trail of the trip. Sorry Bill!

After crushing some Micky D's, it was off to Kelowna to drop Bill off at UBCO

Zest tour day 7: Keystone Standard Basin and Mt. Macpherson

Rain all night confined us to our tents for the night, but it cleared up in the morning. We set out north from the campground, and a further 15km up a logging road to the trailhead. It was chilly, and still a little damp, but we soldiered on and quickly emerged into the alpine, where we were greeted with...SNOW! WTF??!?!?!
Revelstoke: Where it rains in the winter and snows in the summer

We were the first group out on the trail, and the snow forced us off our bikes in some sections and made our feet cold. When I realized that we were only halfway to the hut, we actually turned around, until we encountered another group who convinced us to finish off the trail. I led the rest of the trail to the cabin, sometimes through 1 or 2 inches of wet snow, where  someone from the other group was thoughtful enough to bring a lighter so we could get a fire going. After spending some good time in the hut warming up, we set off for the 11km back to the car (the full 18km is rarely done, rougher, lots of hike a bike apparently, maybe for a nicer day!).

The snow had melted a little and there were lots of other riders heading out to the cabin. It was actually quite tacky near the car, and the fun descent was over way to quickly!

So much room for activities!

Although the cold, faux turn back, and time at the cabin made this ride take longer than expected, we still headed the short distance to Revelstoke to ride a short loop at the Mt. Macpherson trails. A quick look at the trail kiosk, which included recommended directions of travel for every trail (super clutch), I was able to piece together an awesome loop. We also ran into the super fit Mel B, who gave us some suggestions (which I actually ignored, sorry Mel!).

We climbed up, and rode this super fun and flowy awesome trail. Bill challenged me to not pedal the whole trail, and it was easy to rip up the trail by pumping the contours. Picture Soft Yogurt, but much flowier, and without the BMX track look.

The second small loop we did had some more technical features: rocks and roots, which became challenging as the daylight faded under the dark tree canopy. Back at camp, we were pumped to spend a clear night in the hammocks!

Zest Tour day 6: Mt. 7 and Mtn Shadows

With nice weather, we were stoked to get in a big day of riding.

We started by pedalling up (yes, pedalling up) the Mt. 7 FSR, 14km and 1100m vertical to the top of the paraglider launch site. Bill  rocked the climb on his 40lb 8" bike like a champ. With 4km to the top, we were offered a ride, but Bill declined as he wanted to finish the job himself.

Deaddog was a little too gnarly for me, we opted for a different descent from the top

It was still a little damp up top, a little too damp for Bill the desert dog. but things tacked up as we got back on the main DH, and we were able to rip the super flowy descent.

The final section (snake hill) down to the parking lot at the bottom is SUPER fun. Super smooth and fast berms snaking through a small valley.

After grubbing up, we set out to ride the Mtn Shadows trails which were also nearby. After much exploring of a confusing network with many different intersections, we found a super fun line with lots of rock up high and flow down low, and it eventually funneled back down to snake hill. If you have ever ridden Rock Garden at Kicking Horse, there was a section like that (ladder bridges onto and off of rocks) but in the middle of the forest! Unfortunately this area is on someone's woodlot, and some rogue builders have fallen green trees. A lot of the ladder bridges had been chainsawed, and some deadfall definitely looked like it was placed across the trail. Uh Oh. Otherwise a fun area!

unfortunately, we didn't have time for a rope swing session as we had to head off to Revelstoke for the next leg of the tour.

Uh, are you sure you don't want any tent poles there Bill?

Zest Tour Days 3, 4, 5: Baseline, G8, Moonrakers

Bill joined in for the trek out to Baseline Mountain in Rocky Mountain House. I had scoured teh interwebs looking for beta on the trails there, but the biggest help came from Barry at Hardcore Bikes who provided me with a hand drawn map and some instructions. We managed to only get a little lost before finding the goods. The mountain has a certain mystique about it: a locked gate at the bottom, tales of conflicts, rider protests, Canada Cup and Alberta Cup battles, floods, logging, and cancelled races along with very little information on the intertubes.

Holy steep! Barry wasn't kidding

We knocked off 3 laps pedalling up the road and descending down the old and new DH, and Bearded Lady. The Lady and the new DH had their steep sections that put a smile on Bill's face, and some flowy sections lower down that we both enjoyed!

Bill in his natural element: steep

The next day, we had planned to ride at Moose Mountain, but it was raining HARD in Canmore. We hit up a weather window and rode G8, a super fun and short ride that I haven't done for a couple of years. FUN! And a good test of the Attack Trail with the lighter XC wheels, below 30lbs now!

The next morning, it was still raining as we headed out to Golden. It must have just started raining in Golden because the trails were still dry, but by the end of our 3hr ride around the Moonrakers area, we were drenched and puddles were already forming.

Super buff trail network and we rode the new CBT Mainline trail up and down.

We were lucky enough to get to stay at Ian G and his wife Shauna's beautiful house in Golden to get us out of the rain, and howl with their dogs, and get some more beta on Golden's trails.

Hinton Races. Zest Tour days 1 and 2.

Okay, so I am a bit behind, and I have lots to catch up on, so let's get started! A super fun weekend out in Hinton racing on some awesome trails, taking a dip in an awesome lake, and sleeping in a tent. I was super pumped to ride the trails, I am considering these races to be the first stops on the road trip known as the Zest Tour.

Both the cross country and the marathon the day after played out very similarly

Course: Awesome. Fast and long descents, long climbs. The long climbs suited me well. There was a fun descent in the marathon race: the most perfect berms that I have ever ridden in my life, and some gnarly rock sections. Kudos to the builders (who also happened to be the organizers!)

Technique: There were some timed downhill sections in the marathon race, but there was some climbing in the timed sections, so my losses did not look as severe. While I was within the top 10 fastest racers in both races, I was mid pack on the timed downhills. Obviously room for improvement.

Engine: The engine did not let me down. I ended up doing a lot of riding with my teammates, but was able to outlast them by the finish line by crushing the climbs.

TSN turning point: No real turning point, except maybe catching and dropping riders who had blown up in both races. I had to battle back after the descents, and I had to made sure I put enough time into my rivals on the climbs.

Anyways, a super fun race, awesome course, awesome organizers, shame there wasn't more people there...

Both races. I have to figure out how to separate the workouts!