8-8-07 // Catching up with the Bike Crew

Okay, so maybe starting up a blog during our busy summer season wasn’t the greatest idea. Between being on the road and juggling deadlines there hasn’t been a lot of extra time for this sort of idle blather. That’s the bad news.

Good news is there has been a damn lot of bike riding going on in the last month. In fact, after laying down 300-plus miles of backcountry singletrack racing at the B.C. Bike Race earlier this month, managing editor and resident endurance racer Kip Mikler has been holding it down all by his lonesome back here at the SoCal mothership.

As per my last post here, the tour of the Wasatch range went well. We had a great crew and covered a good chunk of the range over 160 miles and some 28,000 feet of climbing/hike-a-biking over five days. Weather was triple digits in the valley but we spent most of the time well above the one-mile mark, so we didn’t fare too badly. We’ll have a story with way better photos than this one, from Day 5 from the Utah trip. Timpanogos mountains in the background, about the only ones still holding snow.

Day 5 on the Wasatch Traverse

As great a trip as Utah was the highlight of the riding rap sheet from the last month has to be Whistler in British Columbia, where most of the staff spent the last week or two, first at Crankworx and then, for a few of us, at the Bearclaw Invitational at Mount Washington on Vancouver Island.

Most of us flew up to Canada, like normal people, but Lou Mazzante decided to take the scenic route and spent three weeks driving from damn near Mexico up the coast and into Canada, where we met up with him in Whistler.

Here’s a shot of Lou’s road trip co-pilot, photographer Stephen Wilde along with Nathan Riddle, stopping to harvest blackberries on a ride in Ashland, Oregon. And just in case you’re tempted to make fun of Nathan for rocking the goggles and XC helmet combo, keep in mind he took third in the Downieville downhill last month, so he’s probably a lot faster than you:

Stephen Wilde and Nathan Riddle, stopping for blackberries in Ashland, OR, en route to Whistler

If you haven’t been to Whistler, you should seriously think about going. It’s been a week since I rode there and as of last night at the grocery store I’m still checking the firmness of avocados with my left hand because my right arm is still totally blown from trying to hold onto the handlebars while simultaneously working the brake.

Everything you’ve heard about Whistler is true, and I’ve gushed as much to anyone I’ve talked to about it since I got back. The progression, the quality of the jumps and trails all over the park, the grade-A dirt, the terrain—everything. The place will scare the ever-living crap out of you, but everyone seems to leave with a much-improved skill set and confidence level.

One of the coolest parts about the whole experience was just how nuts Whistler is for mountain bikes. Sure, Crankworx was going on and they had some 20,000 people watching events like the slopestyle, but Crankworx or no Crankworx people are up there riding all season. The summer season at large is now busier for Whistler than the winter, which for a 2010 Winter Olympics venue is really saying something. Everyone in Whistler seems to get it, from the cute concierge and the bellhops at the hotel to the visitors from all over the world to the locals from nearby Vancouver like a grandfather/grandson team in full face helmets and body armor I shared a gondola with.

Whistler Village

After four days in the park, and after surviving four nights of Whistler after hours, Bike’s resident lumberjack Mitch Scott hooked a B.C. heli drop. We were joined by Bike contributing photographer Sterling Lorence and a few of the athletes who so often show up in the pages of the magazine—standout riders like Matt Hunter, Wade Simmons and Thomas Vanderham. The shuttle vehicle de jour was a chopper commissioned from Omega Aviation to take a break from toting around grumpy loggers and take nine of us from sea level to 6,000 feet.

Heli Drop in Disneyland

We’ll have a more complete web post with photos coming up soon, but suffice it to say it was an epic ride of amusement park proportions. The ride also was Sterling’s first ride as a proud daddy—his daughter Marley was born just a few days before.

More pictures and details on the last few weeks of riding and traveling to come… promise.