Thursday, August 31, 2017

Snow hitting me in the face last year.

Pick on someone your own size, stop slaying beginner trails

Arguments about whether the "uphill rider has the right of way" are pretty silly if you think a little deeper about it. Downhill riders argue that they don't want their flow interrupted and that the uphill climbing rider could use a break. I believe the reason for the rule is that it is harder for the climbing rider to restart after stopping. In reality, the climbing rider can likely hear the descending rider and gets out of the way. The rule keeps the descending rider aware that they might have to stop and yield, just as they would for other trail users.

For a trail to be climbable, it must not be too steep or sustained. It must be fairly smooth and devoid of overly challenging rocks or roots. Hardly rad enough to claim an uninterrupted descent. If you don't want to yield to climbing riders, how about riding a trail that is un-climbeable?

Which brings me to another discussion: You could accuse IMBA trailbuilding guidelines of sanitizing trails, but one result of their implementation is a widespread increase in beginner singletrack that is fun for a range of skill levels and introduces new riders to the sport in a way that doubletrack never could. Hordes of people unload their bikes off their Kuat racks attached to their Subarus to ride these trails. The grade of these trails is also within the possibilities of climbing. Surely a nervous beginner should have no problem yielding to a climbing rider? And what a good place to introduce them to that etiquette.

But these trails have also been taken over by more advanced riders. I can imagine them being fun at speed a couple of times, but to continuously ride these trails, given the other options available, one must be uninspired. Maybe you are not feeling at the top of your game. Maybe you don't want crash. Maybe you don't want to beat up your bike. But going at speeds at which clipping a pedal or a tree would be catastrophic on a trail shared with beginner and climbing riders is not responsible. It intimidates beginners on trails that are purpose built for them. Pick on a trail your own skill level.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Thoughts on E-bikes

eBikes, like eCigarettes, are currently at the center of a heated debate about trail access where battles with other user groups and land managers over trail access are still fresh in the mind of mountain bikers.

First we must understand the eBiker. I can think of two distinct types:

A rider who due to injury cannot pedal . In this case, I wouldn't expect an eBiker to provide much issue, and this type of use should be encouraged. But I saw an argument from a French rider who claimed that due to injury, he would not be able to ride without a motor assist and that it enables him to finish enduro stages within 30 seconds of world class local pros like Nico, Barel, and Loic. Think about it. The fastest shredder on your local trails likely cannot finish within 30 seconds of Nico. If someone can ride that aggressively, they aren't injured significantly enough that they need to ride an eBike, or they shouldn't be riding that aggressively! Strap a heart rate monitor on for a descent and if you are gripped, your heart rate can be as pinned as it was on the climb!

A rider looking for the easy way. Part of the widespread disablization of society that has brought upon us health issues like obesity. Accessibility for people who shouldn't need accessibility. Things like parking as close as possible and using the elevator even for short trips. Why don't they just ride chairlifts, shuttle, or ride motocross trails? But those trails are steep and challenging or blown out, full of braking bumps and holes, and require heavy bikes with lots of suspension and advanced skills to maneuver those bikes. These types of eBikers are looking for the shortcut to riding soft fresh cut loam or buff flow on cross country loops, and get more laps than they would be able to do under their own power.

Trail advocacy:While I find the whole argument about the ability to get oneself in over one's head elitist, I think it is a legitimate concern to worry about more remote trails that were never built to handle increased traffic. On the other hand, I would hope that the mountain bike community would embrace having increased traffic on remote trails that are slowly being taken back by nature. Clearing logs, brushing the overgrowth and providing trail conditions updates. In a way eBikes could replace equestrian users. Increasing the number of mountain bikers is a good thing, but when do new school beginner trails become too busy?

Ultimately on multi-use trails, eBike access is not up to mountain bikers, it is up to the other trail users: hikers and equestrians! Mountain bikers have spent decades fighting for trail access under the premise that we are still a non-MOTORISED user group. The way they are currently sold with 30km/hr limits and 500W is just at the limits of human performance but it is not hard to imagine that the future will bring us lighter, more powerful motors, larger capacity batteries and ways to override those settings.

All that said, I think there is a place for e-bikes on select mountain bike trails:
-Trails accessed, by chairlift or truck that are commonly shuttled.
-Durable surface trails, with the blessing of other user groups including hikers and equestrians
-Under utilized trails that could use more traffic to remove logs, overgrowth, and provide conditions updates.
-eBikers with a legitimate disability who cannot ride aggressively.
-eBikes being used as they are sold, that is with the 500W, 30km/hr limiter.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Wrapping up the season with a pair of 2nd places

It feels a little ridiculous to be wrapping up the season already in early August, but I guess people are really pumped for cyclocross. Now that I have to think about more people in my life than just myself, I can understand that there are more ways to spend one of the limited summer weekends than just racing, recovering, and training. The Hardcore Cycling Club was originally planning on hosting a longer distance event as a double header with United Cycle at Sunridge, but we couldn't get the venue because a colour run had booked it earlier! Good to see that one type of racing is not dying.

After a humbling ride at Nationals, I was back in the groove with some racing on my home turf at Terwillegar. Typical start line chatter "this is pretty much a cyclocross course". "it is not technical at all". Probably coming from people who took B-lines the week before at Canmore. The course still claimed a collarbone and some skin when things were all said and done. I welcomed not having to risk injury 2 times per lap. Embrace the lack of tech!

Great legs from Nationals continued and I was able to ride away from a chase group into a podium position, but the leaders were already out of sight. I was gifted a 2nd place when MVDH's seatpost blew up.

But wait, there's more. I managed to squeeze in another race, a BC Cup at Silverstar to kick off my week of summer vacation on the way to visiting my brother. The loop was short, but had a good mix of newer machine built singletrack, old school rolling trails, and one steeper descent. Conditions were dusty! I was worried about passing opportunities, but that was not much of an issue with only 6 racers starting in my wave. I ended up riding myself into 2nd place, within sight of 1st at a couple of spots, but I had to stop and pump up a slow leak in my front tire. Legs felt great and I enjoyed the rolling terrain that felt similar to Edmonton's trails. Off to vacation!

The lack of racing on the calendar is starting to make me want to put on a race on a great course (Hinton Nordic Center, Nordegg). Throw away the rule book and forget about this 20min lap, double tech/feed zone, spectator friendly, A-line/B-line nonsense. No finish line arch, no U2 blasting at the finish line, no finisher medals,but just a great course with passing opportunities and long singletrack descents that you would ride anyways if you were to spend a weekend in Hinton or Nordegg. Hopefully get a club to back me in the likely event that nobody shows, but at least then I've found out how many people like racing on a course that I would find fun.