Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Nordegg riding

Nordegg is well represented in Doug Eastcott's "Backcountry Biking in the Canadian Rockies", the Bible of mountain biking in the ...Canadian Rockies. Like that other bible, it is outdated but still somewhat relevant.

Frontier Lodge in Nordegg (also supporters of that other bible) is responsible for much of mountain biking development in the Nordegg area. Having passed through the area years ago, I never realized how small Nordegg is. Like other front range towns such as Hinton and Bragg Creek, the lack of National and Provincial park red tape has allowed the sport of mountain biking to flourish.

My first stop was Coliseum mountain. Get on the Baldy road and eventually you will come across signs direction you to the trailhead. A well graded pack horse trail leads up through some rock to an awesome summit ridge and to the summit. Most of the first part of the climb is rideable, but there will be a lot of pushing. There was some freshly cut deadfall, so thank you to whoever is keeping this wonderful trail going! This mountain was commonly ridden by helicopter, but save your pennies, the entire ride took under 2.5hrs.

GPS track here

View from the summit, the trail travels along the ridge on the left, then descends to the right across the face in the background.

Coliseum Mt. was the home of Alberta's first fire lookout. The lookout is no more, but there is a  modern lookout on  the adjacent Shunda (Baldy) mountain, but is accessed by a road :(

Yours truly

A nicely benched trail through the rock field.

The trail down has some fun rock sections to keep you on your toes.
In classic Peter Knight style, 1 ride wasn't enough for the day, so I headed out on the other ride in Nordegg for which I had some information on. Children attending the Frontier Lodge bike camps rave about the 12 level DH, and there are some directions to the goods in Eastcott's book.

A video by someone else:
twelfth level, Nordegg on Pinkbike

While I was able to find the trail using the guidebook descriptions, there were times when it felt like I was guessing. I could type out directions, but it is easier to link to my GPS track. To all of you shuttlewhores, the gate at the bottom is locked, so raise your seat and prepare to pedal. Keep an eye out for singletracks leaving the road. Eventually, you end up at the "Telus Tower", and the entrance to the singletrack is obvious.

The first section is some awesome loam and takes you back to the road. Cross the road, and the trail drops down a coal bank. Berms and small wooden stunts welcome you as you cruise along a fast doubletrack section that spits you back out on the road. The next section starts on the left side of the road, you will see some jumps below the road to the left. The final section (well the last one I found) starts at the tip of one of the road switchbacks and spits you out on a quad trail and back to the road. From here, I dropped into some fun, loamy singletrack that I spotted on the way up. Near the bottom, there is a flat quad trail that goes across to the east. I did some exploring here, but not far enough. There is a singletrack that drops off that quad trail further east, used in the 2008 MTB marathon race.

Anyways, I kept following singletrack down and eventually got brought back to my vehicle on gravel roads. I enjoyed the steep loam sections a lot. I did find the fast "12 level" sections to be a little boring probably because I wasn't hitting the stunts. Lots of doubletrack and gravel road. 

The main 12 level section starts just above this point, and drops down a black coal bank similar to that one there. Maybe it is the same one...

Coliseum mountain, where I was earlier.

The Telus Tower, aka the top. The trail entrance is out of view on the left.


The mine closed "recently "in the 1950's. Lots of the old buildings and infrastructure is still intact.

So overall, a nice way to spend the day taking the long way from Edmonton to Canmore. There are many more Nordegg rides described in Eastcott's book but I would like to know a little more about their current condition before committing to the drive. The Black Mountain Challenge and Landslide Lake trails are two such trails that pique my interest. The latter is designated as a recreation trail by the AB government, so I hope that it sees some love. I have also heard of the "Get er Done" downhill trail built by Frontier Lodge staff, but I did not have much information on that.

A short GoPro video I made.

Frontier Lodge sells a guidebook for $12.50 describing trails around Nordegg and the Kootenay Plains area. It would be nice to see more information online to help people plan trips and convince people that there is good mountain biking in Nordegg. Being based in Canmore, Nordegg is around 3hrs away compared to trails from the house (0hrs), Bragg Creek (1.5hrs), Golden and Radium (2hrs), and Jasper, Fernie, and Revelstoke (4hrs). But for someone based in Edmonton, I think Nordegg is actually closer than Jasper or Canmore, so definitely worth it. Frontier hosts an annual biking festival with competitions and group rides as well as bike camps which would be a good opportunity to learn the trails.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Heck Yeah and Muck Yeah

I have been looking forward to these races for some time, the long climbs suit me and even if I do lose some time on the long descents, at least I am having fun!

Heck Yeah, the XC provincials was set on a slightly different course than last year and I was a huge fan of the changes. The removal of a climb shortened the laps up, bringing my finishing time to about 2:15, and although the long descent from previous years was fun, it was getting rougher, and I can't complain about 3 laps down High Froehler and then that awesome, loamy collector!

I had a great race: I was feeling awesome, and I took 4th place on the very last kick up to the finish and maybe only a minute off of 3rd. Riding in Canmore has really helped both my fitness and my technical skills and I think I have improved from last year.

Camping was fun, especially because I got the best sleep out of anyone because I was in a hammock.

Muck Yeah saw some changes as well. Lap 1 was the same as last year, difficult only because the rising sun made it hard to see the trail! Lap 2 was the same as the lap from the race the previous day, AWESOME. Lap 3 had a tough climb after the course split off from the Lap 2 course, but led to a fun descent that eventually connected to the main descent from provincials in previous years.

Although a hard effort the previous day took a lot out of my legs, I settled in with a slower start and was feeling good...until the last lap when I just ran out of gas. It was quite a hard bonk! I think I finished 5th.

The map to the goods. L2/L4 and L3/L5 are ALL TIME loops. The singletrack  (dotted line, ride left to right) above "Important Intersection" is the provincials course from previous years and is also pretty good.
What a wonderful weekend of racing. The courses blew my mind, I think I almost started to cry while pumping through the loam as it is very rare to ride a trail so beautiful and fun. Lots of good draw prizes, but the post race food was a little lacking. I feel sorry for you if you missed this one!

After, I checked out the Hinton Bike park. Hinton is going to have some talented freeriders in the future!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Kootenay Krusher

Why do all of these events have to live up to their names?

Skip this paragraph if you don't want to hear excuses. Well probably my worst first 1/4 of a race ever. I was not aggressive enough off of the start and so I got the privilege of watching the leaders ride away while getting stuck behind someone. When I did get by after attacking hard on a double track climb and rejoining with some riders ahead, I dropped my chain on a short descent. It made 2 loop de loops. I was confused. And I got passed again while fixing it. And my chain started jumping around on my cassette. I got stuck behind someone who was using a tree for balance so he could clip in. When I was done passing people, I followed someone down a wrong turn (weird, but I somehow saw flagging tape down there). Fortunately, it took us right back on the course, but not after getting passed again by some slower riders. Finally, near the end of the first half of the first lap, I had passed all of the slower riders and had sorted out my shifting issues.

The next 3/4 of the race was awesome. I was riding by myself through the wilderness! Rough singletracks through clearcut meadows and rolling along the edge of a steep cliff above a very blue Kootenay River. Beautiful.

In the end, my 2nd lap was only 2mins slower than my first lap, and I don't think it was because I was paced well... I finished in 9th, almost 40mins back of the winner. Disappointing, but I was glad that I was able to keep the gas on the whole race.

Overall, great event, and I would definitely think about doing it again next year. I think if they smoothed out some of the dirt just a little bit, they would have a world class riding destination rivaling the Chilcotins. Now some advice for those considering this one:

-Leave the hardtail at home. People aren't kidding when they say the course is rough. I was definitely wishing for more than my 4" fully.
-I think there were 3 feed zones around the course stocked with gatorade, water, bananas and chips. There is also a cross-over section dividing each half of the lap. I think I would pass by this every 45-55mins, so one could leave their bottles there. I didn't know this, so I raced with a hydration pack.
-The first singletrack is LONG, make sure you are seeded well off the start loop, don't be that guy (or girl) who slows down people behind you. However, your race isn't going to be ruined in the first 2km until you can finally pass on the bigger doubletrack climb.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The cappers

My riding is feeling good lately, here I am on Mt. 7 last weekend.
As much as I have been dreaming of ripping down more trails in BC, it is hard to forget the amazing backyard I have available here in Canmore. Most of my summer was spent riding the trails that you can ride right from home, which is awesome for training. However, in the last week, we widened the scope and started some rides with a short drive (not necessary for some of them, but we were feeling lazy).

We brought the GoPro along for a nice loop on Barrier Mountain. 4 fun descents!

All Over Around and Down the Mountain on Pinkbike

I don't know what we have done to displease the tire gods...


Later in the week, we drove to Banff to ride Stoney Squaw. This can be thrown into a great ride from Canmore (Rundle Riverside to Banff, then to Stoney Squaw, back to Canmore on Goat Creek, Rundle Riverside, or Legacy Trail depending on energy levels), but it was after work and we were feeling lazy.

I finally cleaned all sections of the climb. Maybe it had something to do with having "I Believe" stuck in my head?
Just a dropper post in the "trail" position away from being a full blown "All Mountain" poser

Nice view off the top before a sick descent.
Finished off the day with a quick rip of the tunnel mountain Toe trail before sunset. Hardpack, fast, and I'm pretty sure there was some paved singletrack in there too.

We kept up the fun with a nice ride on Powderface Ridge. A nice climb into an alpine meadow that gets ridiculously rocky and hard to ride near the top. The initial descent off the top was fun, with deadfall, mud, and climbing up to another meadow interrupting it. 

The final descent back to the car was just straight down through the trees, like a DH course. Brakes were hot after that one.

PF ridge is a sub 2hr ride, so we headed to Moose Mountain to ride Pneuma to Special K, a classic line that  is the final leg of the Bow 80 race. I love this climb, okay, maybe it gets a little too ridiculous for me in some sections after Race of Spades, but I enjoy it. The front range of Kananaskis has some incredible riding, and I have just barely scratched the surface. Much of it is at least an hour from Canmore, but easily doable for an evening ride coming from Calgary. It certainly would not be the end of the world if I ended up there...

If these cows weren't so delicious, I would have more of a problem with the damage they do to wet trails.
The mind blower: I've heard this ride described as "life changing". It involved riding and hiking up to an abandoned fire lookout, with some short scrambling cruxes thrown in there for kicks.

Not much of a view today
The final 150m vert to the top was steep, so I didn't bother bringing my bike up. When I got back down to my bike, we took a "practice run" and it was just like skiing powder! I could feel the tires sliding, but I was in perfect control. We then headed down, following the cairns that led us to the top.

I'm so pissed I forgot to turn my GoPro on!
The playful meadow led into some steeper, looser, rock trails towards the first crux, which we downclimbed. Then a really cool benched sidehill section to the 2nd and final crux.

After the downclimbing was done, we descended the last part of the alpine, which was drifty and fun trail, leading into a steep pitch which was not loose whatsoever. Amazing.

It was as if someone had shoveled out the line down to the firmly packed rocks!

Here's me, glasses in a visorless full face with a gopro and elbow pads looking like a total gorb. Fortunately nobody was around to see it!
The final section of the old pack horse trail was through the trees. It was mostly climbable on the way up, and it promised to be a fast rip down. It did not disappoint.

My GoPro died part of the way down. Whatever. Life Changing? Well the only thing that will be changing is that I will have to ride that trail, and others like it more often!
Mind Blown...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dark Horse Enduro

Legs were pretty cooked after a tough weekend, but I still managed to have some fun rides at the Nordic Centre with some good time spent riding behind Bill.

I was leading the Kicking Horse Cup series, so I definitely had to head to Golden again to try to defend my series lead in the Dark Horse Enduro. Plus, we had so much fun riding Mt. 7.

The Dark Horse enduro was 3 hr lap race on a short 5km, 250m gain/lap loop. A long road climb led into a single fast descent. In the warmup lap, I was definitely worried about eating shit HARD, but on my first lap, I was able to pin it hard and built my confidence.

No real big names, but definitely some local rippers, so I sent the first lap pretty hard to get the prime, then settled in nicely into an even pace. The road climb suited me, but there were some riders on the same lap as me, so I had to keep the gas on to take the win.

Overall, a well run and chill race. Having short laps and Brett Tippie and live music in the plaza area kept me pumped each time I lapped through. Breakfast and a well stocked prize table were great cappers!

The next day, we did a couple of laps up to the 5km on Mt. 7. I love that trail!

Next up is the Kootenay Krusher and the Hinton races. In the coming weeks, I'm pretty excited to ride some awesome local trails that I just haven't had the chance to ride this year, while dreaming about the trails I can ride on road trips.