4-8-09 // Adam Craig: Redneckin’ in SoCal

This will be a good story for those who don’t think being a Professional Cyclist is full-time job.  Not to be confused with a full-time job that isn’t sweet, of course…  In my old age I’m trying to broaden my value in my chosen field while also keeping myself entertained by doing new things and meeting new people.  This balance of racing and new stuff was achieved perfectly over the last week in California.  First up was some good old-fashioned bike racing, albeit with a face-lift, at the first stop of the new US Pro Cross Country Tour in Fontana.  From there Carl and I headed up the coast to the Santa Ynez Valley for Fox Racing Shox’ ‘o10 Product Launch at the Zaca Station MX Track.  Kick ass.

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Monkey dropped by to slide us some Troy Lee/Honda Supermoto Team practice tires and show off his sweet new trailer ball…

Racing was fun last weekend.  I was a bit concerned over my indifference to it in Chile but things came together.  Maybe it was the familiar faces (like Northwesterners Spencer Paxson and Eric Tonkin) and location (Southridge Urban Park) or just the fact that the cobwebs were out and the mind was reset, either way, good times were had.  Even if they involved Carl smoking me in the Super D finish sprint just like Barry did last year…  Fortunately, Kelli didn’t have to sprint anyone so Giant was victorious in both Super D events, which you can gauge the level of D involved by their winning bike choice- the XTC Advanced Hardtail…  Maybe we should go to Europe and race some proper Enduro DH sometime, where you would actually DIE if you rode a HT, as opposed to winning… It was still a good way to pass an otherwise quiet Saturday afternoon though, and there’s something about a person, any person, saying “GO!” that makes you get some pretty good exercise until you cross a finish line of some type.  I might have to get my roommates to start saying GO when I leave on a snowy training ride and scratch out some kind of finish line in my rocky front yard to end at, I’d totally be in shape in no time…

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Right, on to proper XC racing.  Holy crap, there were 120 Pro Men on the start line in Fontana.  Combined with a generally large crowd of amateur racers and curious passers-by it was looking to be a solid afternoon of racing.  It’s a good thing that some of the backside trails we’ve always used and hacked into even more oblivion were shut down over the winter and the resulting revamped course was super friendly to the casual onlooker.  Straight up a bit of a gut-busting climb, down a cool techy descent which included a “Pro Section” at the bottom for us to strut our, um, stuff?  Then up to the water tower and back around the block via the Super D course, we were lapping in twenty-odd minutes and having a generally good time along the way.  Team Sho-Air manager Ty Kady was following us on a Kawasaki Dirt Bike with a Helmet cam and doing a seemingly good job of capturing the action first-hand.  I was actually able to see some action first hand for most of the race as somehow an extra week of training had me racing in the mix.  I rode around in the top five after the first lap, having a genuinely good time roosting the Anthem X on the descents and trying to ride smooth and fast on the techy climbs.  It was almost like being on a fun MTB ride that happened to be a race.  Perfect.  Highlights included hitting some sweet jumps while Ty followed on the moto without crashing in the kind of karmic slap you could expect while showboating and getting solidly punked by the Subaru/Fisher duo of JHK and Sam Schultz on the penultimate climb battle for third place.  5th for me, some Canadian guy won…  Carl was 12th I think, he must have been too in shape from all the “training” he’s been doing in San Diego to pull off his usual accidental 6th at the first one of the year…

We stopped at the Giant Intergalactic HQ in Thousand Oaks on our way to Fox Camp to catch up with all the folks we didn’t see at Woodward.  Which was the entire product department.  They’d been in Taiwan for a couple weeks putting the finishing touches on the 2010 Giant line.  I’m not really at liberty to say, but we’re going to have some cool stuff, from subtle refinements to complete overhauls and a few things that have been a long time coming.  Keep your eyes peeled this summer…

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Fox Racing Shocks makes cool stuff.  For lots of fun activities involving wheels.  From Desert Racing Trucks to Quads and Dirt bikes, even Snowmobiles and Jet-Skis, Fox has you covered.  For the first time ever, they held the 2010 product launch for all of their lines (except snowmobiles) in one spot.  This gave the media an opportunity to  see the kind of cross-pollination that makes their designs so unique and effective by actually experiencing each of the segments back-to-back.  Translation-  I got to shred on a bunch of rad motorized stuff in between going for some entertaining bike rides in the hills.  The first night we all had dinner with some informal presentation of products and Fox’s approach which culminated in founder Bob Fox taking us through the early history of the company he founded with Poker money to produce Motorcycle Air Shox in 1975.  Some good anecdotes about racing (and winning) the Indy 500 and entering the Snowmobile market gave us some entertaining insight to where the current company got it’s start.  Nice guy, that Bob Fox.  The next day everyone had an opportunity to learn about the suspension product in their area of expertise and then play with whatever other toys they needed to glean product parallels from…  In our Bike world we sent editors out on 2009 product for a spin around a fun loop including an old DH race course and some flowy meadow singletrack for session #1, then switched to the ‘o10 product during lunch for the same ride in the afternoon.  This let them feel the difference first hand between the current product and new Boost Valve rear shock and FIT damper fork technology, which I’ve been riding very happily since last fall.  It’s good stuff, making flipping lockout knobs and switches even less necessary is a huge step in the right direction.

But really, who wants to talk about bike suspension when there are a multitude of options for motorized fun.  Lunch time was long enough for quick spins in the Ford Raptor pickup or Side-by-Side ATVs, and after the second ride session it was a free-for-all with Motos and Quads ripping around piloted by your average bike rider.  Perfect.  And nobody died.

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Wednesday was the highlight day for us Fox Team members as there were no media folks to muddle our motorized experience.  Fitzy and I did community service first thing in the morning on quads, mud bogging our way around the heavily watered Motocross track to work the moisture into the dirt.  Once it was passable, Neezer set me up on a brand new Kawasaki KX450 MX bike to reap the fruits of our quad labor, and, er, learn about the parallels between Moto and Bike rear suspension…  I spent the next couple hours riding the beautiful hillside track, remembering all those childhood MX techniques with a dozen others who were kind enough not to land on my head.  I got the hang of it eventually, at which point it seemed prudent to stop before I started trying to figure out just how close to the top of fourth gear you needed to be to jump the 90’ step-up on the hilltop…  Holy Crap riding motocross is fun.  And HARD.  Carl and I left the track with adrenaline in the red and did a sweet road ride up Figuroa Mountain to cap off the day.  That was yesterday.  Today I’m the sorest I’ve ever been in my entire life.  I guess I should start riding MX all the time, who needs to go to the gym when you can just fluidly control a  240 pound, 60 horsepower bike for a couple hours and get the same thing, plus have one of the best times ever. 

Anyway, looks like preparation for World Cup #1 is almost complete, I head to South Africa on Monday to find out how alternative winter stacks up in the grand scheme of things.

AC