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Rambling... 'Bout Arizona

04 June, 2015

 

Our mothers would be ashamed at the mess we made of our outdoor room... if only the real side of bikepacking were pretty.

A lot of people like to start trip reports with a carefully laid out, folded, photo perfect arrangement of all gear taken on the trip.  The background tends to look strikingly similar to a photo studio, things are so neat, tidy, and arranged.  I swear the items they take with them are numbered, alphabetized, and cataloged away in an immaculate spreadsheet where all the columns contently follow commands of flawless formulas and nothing ever reads ***ERROR cell after cell.  I imagine these people fully unpack their suitcases when traveling, even if staying in a hotel room for a mere matter of hours, shelving away crisply folded items of unyielding perfection.

I'm not one of those people.

 Bikepacking for me follows a pretty foolproof formula:

1. Get frumpy.  Leading up to any trip lasting greater than two days, I get this rising sense of inner panic in knowing that yes, I really am going out there, yes it's out there, and yes, something could go wrong out there.  I frown over what I look so longingly forward to the entire rest of the year.  It's weird.  The longer the upcoming trip, the longer the pre-trip frumpy period.

2. I figure out some way to kinda, sorta, politely ask my wife what region of floor space I may occupy for an indefinite packing period.  The pile grows higher.  Small zip ties lurk beneath various rain shells, mounts for oversized GPS units, too many dry bags, camp gloves, this, no that, well whatever it's all in there.  Food goes there too.  It's a feverish state, nothing's where I left it last... which water purifier?  A friend called me on it once, told me I was emotionally packing.  Correct.  I emotionally pack.

3. The pile gets too big.  It angers me seeing the physical size of what I'll be lashing to my bike.  The departure date tauntingly teeters forward.  I continue looking in the same place I've already looked four times for the same thing I don't need.

4. I'm outta time.  I cram, push, heave, zip, buckle, grab, fill, and hoist things into their bags and cubbies.  Somehow, that mountain is packed away.  P.S. it's heavy.

 5. I'm out there.

Then it doesn't matter.  I've probably done some heinous drive, not gotten sleep, and chances are, I'm at elevation.  It's a great way to start.

Then the heat of the moment stress wears off.  The bike is oppressively heavy.  Each pedal stoke is like moving cinderblocks.  What is going on with my steering?  I swear I'll never be able to lean this thing.

But just when it feels like that unrelenting tyrant of weight and stress will never ease up, it does.  I look up.  I realize where I am.

And it's beautiful.  I am where I wanted to be.  All that stress, fidgeting, and irksome behavior is somehow worth it.  I've waited months for this.

Photo credit: Spencer Rathkamp 

So when Clayton from Mountain Bike Action told me he was soon to be testing the Rocky Mountain Sherpa, we both agreed that he had to test it proper[ly.]  No overnight pretend to take it bikepacking staging, this thing needed time out there.  It needed a real trip.  So we discussed it.

 

We settled on the Coconino 250 connecting Flagstaff to Sedona in a big clockwise loop, throwing in some climb everybody seems to whine about called Mingus Mountain and a bunch of really good looking singletrack.  I'd wanted to do it for years so I promptly committed to it wholeheartedly before having any idea how I'd make it happen.  It didn't help that we discussed it late into the evening during the Throwdown at Weir's house.

The ploy was pretty straightforward.

He had to test this:

Rocky Mountain Sherpa, one awesome overland bike loaded to the gills with WTB goodies and Porcelain Rocket bags

Which in case you didn't notice, comes equipped with this:

WTB Trailblazer 2.8 27.5+ TCS Light: Fast Rolling tire tubelessly mounted to WTB Scraper i45 27.5+ TCS rims... let the horizon be your guiding waypoint. Photo Credit: Clayton Wangbichler

Allowing us to do this:

 

Even bikepacking doesn't slow down Spencer Rathkamp. He hips, airs, styles, sends and wheelies everything with too much speed. Particularly wheelies. He's a roadie too. Yep, a real one. Plus, he's 20. That means he's invincible. Not fair.

And this:

Clayton tested it properly. You'd be hard pressed to find somebody who has a deeper sense of purpose for exploration than Clayton.  He lives to get out there, and you couldn't find a more upbeat, calculated, hilarious, and rad guy to go out there with, you really couldn't.

Though I'll never admit it, I think he just maybe could have tested those things without me.  And somehow, in some sort of master negotiating moment for me, a terrible negotiator, I traded coverage or something... for going on this trip.  Whatever I traded, I sure hope it pans out.  The trip certainly did.

It involved a lot of this:

Photo Credit: Clayton Wangbichler.  Location: Over the Edge Sedona.  Amusement level: High

Wandering about and coming across people who would peer down with wonder and amazement and utter, Holy smokes! You sure you're going to ride that far carrying all of that? Wow. How much's that hub weigh?

Lots.  And we didn't necessarily ride that far too.  We cut a nice little bit out from Sedona to Cottonwood called Lime Kiln or something like that that trip reporters, after first posting their manicured gear list as photo one, lamented they would never ever make the mistake again.  So we figured we wouldn't make the mistake the first time.  Instead, we'd make sure we make the Mingus Mountain mistake, which there's even a gps file specifically routing people around.  But first we had to meet up with Richard:

 

Richard rules.  Old school real touring at it's absolute finest mixed with an insatiable thirst for singletrack meets modern day non-rack, sewn bike bag style newfound understanding.  No chamois.  No froo froo cycling clothes.  No overpriced freeze dried food.  No GPS.  No smart phone.  No texting.  No worries.  I watched him cook a pile of ham with a square shaped piece of yellow cheese over a fire log.  No hipster allow myself to woods myself tomfoolery here either - it was, I have food, here is a means of cooking it. He brought a sleeve of bagels.  That's like, heavy dude.  Clayton even started doing some small whimpering about how nice it must be to have real food when Richard whipped out avocados from his backpack and sliced a large dollop onto his bagel, ham, and yellow cheese heaping concoction mid ride.  Richard is real, a good dude who owns Moustache Cycles and I believe referred to himself as a vagabond journeyman during a stint of trail babble between all of us.  Why babble?  We had to go up Mingus:

 

Richard powering up Mingus Mountain. No gloves, forgot to mention that.  Photo: Clayton Wangbichler

Richard had no problem with Mingus - how do I know?  Easy, I didn't see him.  I was in the back having many breaks and is it really worth it moments.  The kind where you can't hear because your heart is pounding so loudly in your eardrums.  The trail got a lot worse than what's pictured above - ridiculously sharp rocks with really high side narrow singletrack rocks perfectly aimed at ideal shin scraping height while ahhhem, pushing a loaded bike up overly tight switchbacks.  The worst part was, it kept looking like there should be water - green vegetation, this curious feeling of water in the air, damp earth.  No water.  I really wanted some water.  It didn't help that we saw a bunch of these:

Photo credit: Clayton Wangbichler

Those are bear tracks.  I was convinced that bears weren't allowed in Arizona.  Eventually, we were rewarded with singletrack:

Not necessarily order appropriate but this definitely describes the fun descent had as Spencer Rathkamp owns it.  Photo credit: Clayton Wangbichler

More singletrack:

Varied terrain - pines, red rock, desert brush, rock, brush, pines again. Photo: Spencer Rathkamp.

We passed ruins:

WTB Trailblazer, Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion seat bag, ruinous backdrop - all surefire ingredients of success.

Saw a lovely sunset:

And made a mess:

There's something about a long day that makes things spring out of bike bags in great haste.  Then the bike bags sit there, deflated, and make the repack task seem all the more insurmountable in the morning.  That day I don't think we ever stopped climbing but made it to Williams in time for their Western show, which makes me think it was actually Memorial Day:

We stashed our bike bags in the hotel lobby with plans to grab them that night - yep, we wussed out and grabbed a hotel in Williams thinking we'd nail some singletrack in a lighter fashion with bags left in the lobby during our last leg to Flagstaff.  Part of it worked out anyway, a simple plan:

Setup:

Then send it:

Anybody who says you can't get rad with plus sized tires just plain doesn't get it.  Spencer definitely gets it.  Sends it too.

Then it was on to hauling ourselves back to Flagstaff.  

First fire road:

San Francisco and Humphreys Peak.  No, not the riders, the mountains. Photo: Spencer Rathkamp

Then double track:

Photo credit: Clayton Wangbichler

Then rad:

 Spencer Rathkamp, Photo credit: Clayton Wangbichler

Perfect gentle downhill Arizona Trail led us to Flagstaff in a haze of banks and turns by 11pm, exhausted.  We threw our things about, step one of arriving anywhere, threw real clothes on ourselves, jumped into Clayton's van and pinned our way to the bike bag pickup back at the hotel in Williams.  A very curious Western-esque standoff between the hotel owner, hiding behind his window, and the dirty bikepackers, hoping for their bags, resulted in cops and a suspicion arousing $30 bag retrieval fee.  I was just happy to have our bags.  We lumbered our way back on I-40 and thundered through the desert night, somehow energized through cops, singletrack, and surviving the whole affair.  I arrived back in just about the same state of mind I left in, though forever thankful for the journey, friends, work, and family that all made it possible.

Bikepacking rules.

So buy some WTB 27.5+ tires and Porcelain Rocket bags or better yet, buy a Rocky Mountain Sherpa, it comes with WTB TCS 27.5+ tires and rims and I'm quite certain Porcelain Rocket bags will fit on there.  See you out there.

 

 

Throwback Thursdays: 2007 Riddler... Ahhhem... Vulpine 2.1

14 May, 2015

The 2007 Riddler, inspired by WTB professional athlete Nathan Riddle, boasted...

Fast rolling micro center tread combined with cornering side knobs:

Was lightweight, a new breed of tire, never before thought of...

Wait a second... this isn't a Riddler, what are we talking here?

Kissing cousins?  My, they look similar:

And that's just it.  For those out there who thought we just looked at what others were doing, Nope.  We uh, yeah, had kind of done this thing before.  So when Nathan Riddle kindly and rightfully requested a tire that hauled yet cornered like a demon, it resonated with us, resonated big time.  Brought us back to 2007 perhaps, a time before semi-slick's re-resurgence.  And guess what, you can go further than that and also find a time when semi-slicks had their own little cycle of popularity too, and... wait for it, another little cycle and time of semi-slicks before that.

So here's to good ideas from the start, we like our good ideas.

The 2007 Vulpine catalog description:

And the 2007 WTB Catalog cover, this one was Chris' and for those that know Chris, the extra S makes total sense.  Happy Throwback Thursday, here's to a new resurgence of good old ideas.

Hoedown at WTB's Throwdown

12 May, 2015

WTB Employee Alex Hodson getting some at Weir's pump track. Photo: Abner Kingman

I guess I could see it all evolving from almost a longing, selfish jealousy - Weir's got, like, all that cool stuff... lucky.  Kind of like that childhood friend that obtrusively invited himself over, we inserted our necessity to invade his land of irrefutably rad things.  The land of Weir, the land of the Ranch.  We devised a ploy, an extended excuse of justification based on a lofted request from our European office: to tell the California story.  Our caring cousins from the European Union had visited Marin for global meetings and before they were lectured to lethargy, they identified that need, to tell our story.  And we did, through the world of Weir, and we really couldn't have been luckier.

It started here:

 

Photo: Abner Kingman

Now you'd think that that European media would show up to understand what we're all about.  Not so.  You'd guess that at the very least, our European office would attend, document our Fest de California, and returned armed with our story of roots, origins, trails and triumphs.  That would almost make sense.  Nope, somehow we, WTB USA, and our friends, US media and fellow Throwdown sponsors, got to have the time of our lives at the private trails of the Novato Ranch and gluttonously fun backyard of Mark Weir.  But before we got to do that, school, was, in, session:

 

Jason Moeschler and Francis Cebedo of MTBR enjoy the Trail Boss' tale. Photo: Abner Kingman

The Trail Boss tells it.  He's seen it, he's lived it, he's ridden it, and he's certainly cleaned it - un hunh, I'm talking that sketchball section of trail, the Trail Boss has definitely cleaned it.  Mark Slate also kindly helped walk us through WTB's product history:

Photo: Abner Kingman

And of course we talked about tires... We ride in the dirt, therefore we talk about tires, that's undisputed, right?

Photo: Abner Kingman

Then, it was time to sign waivers.  Waivers?  We don't need no stinkin' waivers.  Come within 20 miles of Weir's place and it's time to sign some fine print:

I, the aforementioned, understand that mountain biking and WEIR are inherently dangerous, and am hereby releasing all liability...

It actually made some sense, promptly upon arrival to Novato, media were hurled down this:

Ben Cruz, riding too fast to tell it's Ben Cruz. Photo: Abner Kingman

I think they (shredders of the Ranch) call it something like terminal velocity or an equally menacing name referring to foolish speed that I'd always been equally wary and skeptical of, hearing about it for ages.  It just completely drops off a hill.  One second you're captivated by the beauty of what appear to be gentle ridge tops, then the trail falls out from under you before you know what you're in for.

Clayton from Mountain Bike Action approaching the impending singletrack waterfall with aplomb. 

 Yet somehow, they loved it.  Rachelle from Pinkbike couldn't hide her smile:

After hurling off the top, the trail snaked its way into a maze of Bays, berms, stutter bumps, and tables. Photo: Abner Kingman

Nor Jon from NSMB:

Jon Harris of NSMB.com putting his WTB Breakout 2.5 27.5" tires to the test.  Photo: Abner Kingman.

It was simple really, shuttle:

Fox Racing Shox and their SVT Raptor were a huge hit.  Photo: Abner Kingman

Then send it:

Photo: Abner Kingman

I'm getting ahead of myself.  Fun was had by more than just media.  Weir showed us how it was done on the trails he's the master of:

Photo: Abner Kingman

Jason put the big tires to the big test:

Trailblazers are also made for schralping. Proper schralping. Photo: Abner Kingman

Jeff Kendall-Weed effortlessly aired things:

Photo: Abner Kingman

Marco skimmed stutters with alarming speed:

Low. Marco Osborne always looks low over his bike in pictures when jumping.  It makes complete sense in real life, he's going sooo fast, I don't think there's any other option than a low dart across things. Photo: Abner Kingman

And Ben moto'ed his way through things with the sheer force and strength only he seems to have:

Ben Cruz knows this turn well. Really well. Photo: Abner Kingman

Jerome took a brief pause from shaming people on the descents and redirected his attention to shaming people on the rock crawling course:

Photo: Abner Kingman.

 And Nathan Riddle pushed his Riddlers to the brink:

THE Nathan Riddle of the Riddler tire, cornering as the tire, and Nathan, love to do. Photo: Abner Kingman.

 And that was just the riding part.  Then it was time to clean ourselves up, pretend we hadn't been pummeling our way down hillsides plagued with poison oak, take a shower, put on a fresh shirt, try to be classy:

Photo: Abner Kingman

The Weirs' beautiful home was only almost eclipsed by the feast of overwhelmingly good food.  So much meat, Weir threw out some statistic about the quantity of meat consumed that was a rather alarming pound per capita ratio.  It was all the good kind too - you know the happy life, live in Novato kind (I'm talking meat here, btw.)  He, Weir, gave a deeply heartfelt and sincere welcome, thanks, and toast to everyone as we were digging into the scrumptious food on his fine lawn.  It definitely had that ring that hung in the air and was so far from fake.  It wasn't rehearsed, it wasn't long.  It was real, it couldn't be more real.  He said thanks and he meant it.  The more time I'm lucky enough to spend in proximity to Weir (after signing liability releases, mind you) the more I realize that's just Weir, he's real, like it or not, but it's pretty hard to not like.  The next morning, as I was detangling myself from the confines of my truck camper across the street, he approached with a smile and open threats of fresh coffee as I was scampering about, trying not to raise neighbor's suspicions.  He didn't have to do that.  Why was I sleeping in the back of my truck?  Simple, because of this:

Mix free beer, too much good food, pump track, way too many RC cars, a bonfire and it starts to seem normal for mechanized things to fly past your head at speed. Photo: Abner Kingman

Yeah it was fun.

I am fairly certain it is impossible to not have fun here. Photo: Abner Kingman

Jeff Kendall-Weed taming the pump track in front of Alex Dunn's amazing mural - stay posted, more to come on the mural soon. Photo: Abner Kingman

I'd say too much fun but I think it was just right.  I expected a lot of hurt feelings and scraped appendages, purely from the evening but things seemed very... controlled... or I don't know if I'd go so far as to say behaved, but certainly not the level of total meltdown that I think many feared.  I'm even fairly confident to say that I think all had a good time, that's huge, I witnessed no squabbles, people were downright happy.

And though you won't believe me, we did climb, well, a little bit, as Cushionbury of Dirt Rag kind of sort of proves here:

Actually, this just looks like he's climbing.  We did climb though, I swear, and man was it steep. Photo: Abner Kingman

And the party didn't stop, it just moved venues:

Photo: Abner Kingman

On to race tape and tacky red dirt as Ron from Bicycling shows above, then sloppy red mud as you can read about HERE.

Here's to the inaugural Throwdown.  We were the kids that invited ourselves over and didn't leave.  We had more fun than we thought possible and couldn't be more thankful that all our friends put up with us during our seemingly imposed and extended stay.  It was a blast that didn't stop, we couldn't be more fortunate for the opportunity.  A huge thank you to all media that attended and gave us the excuse, to Eugene Power, the finest chef you'll find, Tony Rissotti who raised the meat we gluttonously thankfully ate, the entire Weir and extended Weir family for hosting and graciously accommodating all of us, to all the sponsors that helped make it possible - Smith, Cannondale, CamelBak, Fox Racing Shox, Stages Cycling, Royal Racing, GU, Kali Protectives, Axial, Chico Bag Horizon Hobby and Blackburn.  Plus our athletes that made it happen: Lauren Gregg, Nathan Riddle, Jeff Kendall-Weed, Jerome Clementz, Ben Cruz, Marco Osborne, Jason Moeschler, of course Mark Weir.  A big thank you to Lisa and Heather in marketing for nonstop, tireless planning and orchestration.  How's that for an unwarranted grammy acceptance speech?  How's this - see y'all next year for more fun than you can imagine having.

Here's to the Throwdown and good times.  Too much fun is just the right amount of fun to have.

Photo: Abner Kingman

 

All Rights Reserved WTB and Abner Kingman Photography 2015

When Bikes, RC cars, a Fire Pit, The Ranch, & Beer Converge... WTB's THROWDOWN

30 April, 2015

 

WTB Throwdown 2015 from WTB on Vimeo.

 

The plan started simple: invite media who are already attending Sea Otter up to get a little taste of the real WTB after the event.  You know, show them our former and still garage of an office, then off to the land of the WEIRdo for whatever shenanigans we'd then have to later very carefully talk our way out of with members of importance.  Target European media, tell the California story.

Well, the Euros wimped out and the plan got out of hand.  What you see in the video is pretty much what happens when nobody tells you to slow down and think about things.  We need demo bikes.  Cool, entire truck fulla Jekylls and Triggers.  We need shuttle vehicles.  Great, FOX SVT Raptor.  Scary trails.  Ok, The Ranch.  Beer.  Kegs of Lagunitas...

I wish somebody had told us to stop.  Too much.  Too much good.  Enjoy the video, it tells a glimpse, that I'm still feeling...

And stay tuned for more coverage... we'll do a full recap, when we recover that is...

The Dirtiest Dirty Sanchez

29 April, 2015

Photo: Abner Kingman

The Dirty Sanchez Enduro, probably one of the most polarizing names given to an event.  Many will not even make it to this second sentence due to outright offense at the naming convention of the first.  Somehow, this is the fourth iteration of the event that has slowly, yet surely, become everybody's favorite who's been lucky enough to race it.  Invite only, The Dirty Sanchez harvests only those already known to handle indecipherable wet rocks, red berms, wood lips, unrelenting mud, and an endless sea of Poison Oak.  That's only the riding part.  Mix in top heavy spattering side-by-side shuttles, the incessant sawing whine of motos, resistant shuddering generators powering stadium lights, an all-too-big campfire... Mark Weir, an RC course, RV trailers, media, haphazardly strewn Sprinter vans, racers, and nobody in a five mile radius to call in a noise complaint and you have one hell of an extended weekend.

So how does this fest brimming over with all too much good tucked away in a nebulous undisclosed location happen?

Simple.  One man:

Ron Sanchez, the nicest gruff guy or gruffest nice guy you'll ever meet.  The face of TDS.  Photo: Abner Kingman.

Well really one family actually, the Sanchez family - yep, hence the name, makes it happen.  You won't find a single racer that doesn't feel fortunate for their hard efforts either, I kept hearing cooing about not even a single lip feels sketchy, duuude and it's like I'm back in BC, only, it's better.  Even the rain couldn't keep the accolades at bay.

Chris Ravina, toilet paper, The Dirty Sanchez, and a whole lotta sloppy brown mud. That's inappropriate. Photo: Abner Kingman

Mud.  Eat your drivetrain whole mud.  Lauren Gregg even paid for a wheel chair accessible hotel room with a generously large shower so she could give her bike the soak down it deserved after day one.  We were all astounded, it's not allowed to rain in California anymore, what happened?

Sticks and stones will clean my bikes but mud will always hurt me.  Why?  Photo: Abner Kingman.

 But even mud didn't stop the shredding, there was business to attend to, a race to be had, as Jason Moeschler properly exemplified in a motion blur of delight:

Jason Moeschler ran a wisely chosen Warden / Vigilante tire pairing to a respectable 9th place finish despite the slop.

 Perfect hits kept Jeff Kendal-Weed happy:

11th aboard a Vigilante / Breakout combo, way to go Jeff! Photo: Abner Kingman

 Dane Peterson conquered rocks with his Vigilante tires:

Rock, wet, grime... Dane and the Vigilante conquer it all. Photo: Abner Kingman

And Ben Cruz seemed to alarmingly gain speed with every berm he exited, zinging him to a third place finish:

Ben gets it done, he isn't afraid of the rowdy lines either. Photo: Abner Kingman

But what's a race without heckling and where was the chief heckler himself?  Reveling in the delight of others' misery of course:

Mark Weir.  100% in his element, this photo is sooooo Weir.  Photo: Abner Kingman.

Yet his antics didn't seem to faze the master of poise and calculated smoothness, Jerome Clementz:

Jerome Clementz, calculated champion.  Photo: Abner Kingman

And the serious officials and serious rules couldn't seem to shake Cory Sullivan from suicide no handers:

Whoever said you can't live vicariously through racers must've been crazy.  Or wearing a mustache.  Photo: Abner Kingman

Cory Sullivan adding style to Day 1's runs.  Photo: Abner Kingman

But it wasn't just Cory that added style to what he was faced with, Rachel Throop awed all with her elegant style through even the most technical sections:

Rachel seamlessly puts lines together, it's incredible to watch.  Photo: Abner Kingman.

And Rachelle Frazer kept it together with keen concentration through the high speed sections:

You can tell Rachelle's spent plenty of shore time, steep wet rocks don't faze her one bit. Photo: Abner Kingman.

Yet despite the concentration and competition, fun was had - Lauren Gregg took fun all the way to a fourth finish:

Who said races can't be fun?  Well, this was practice, but it's impossible not to smile when trails irrefutably invoke delight. Photo: Abner Kingman

Wall rides usually help with the smiles too, Marco aggressively seared his way through this one:

Speed and power - Marco is absolutely fearless and there's a sheer strength that seems to hang in the air as he churns past. Photo: Abner Kingman

 Notice how over the front Marco rides, he shameless wants to go faster, until something like this happens:

I can't believe Abner was able to capture this but he did, incredible. Photo: Abner Kingman

Marco rode this out.  Ab-so-lutely crazy, it went on for what seemed like forever - pinging, bouncing, bucking, jumping slamming and finally back on the pedals, planted, pushing faster downhill.  Amazing.

John Waldron slapped a 36 on the front of his 120mm 29er and called it good.  No matter how rowdy the course got, Johnny made it happen.  Photo: Abner Kingman

Local ripper John Waldron had a similar bout with defeat, or shall I say de-seat, that he too triumphantly righted and maintained his composure.  Johnny is a junior at the high school two blocks down the street from us and is a stand up kid, who more than held his own with the pros atop a 120mm travel 29er, way to go Johnny.

And then, before we knew it, the race was over.  Time for side-by-sides to turn their lights on:

The Weir guided tour. Photo: Abner Kingman

Time for revelry:

Photo: Abner Kingman

And oh yeah, I almost forgot, time for podiums too:

Photo: Abner Kingman

Fast ladies - Joanna Petterson, Rachel Throop, and Teal Stetson-Lee, 1, 2, 3.

Photo: Abner Kingman

Men of menacing speed and mischief - Jerome Clementz, Marco Osborne, and Ben Cruz, way to go.

Photo: Abner Kingman

Somehow it happened again and we were all left in a state of wonder as to whether we'd really experience something so real.  High fives, high revs, mud, and good times - The Dirty Sanchez happened again and we couldn't be more thankful for being able to take part.

A huge thank you to the Sanchez family, all generous and kind volunteers for their tireless efforts, and fellow sponsors for making this event of brimming proportions possible.  It doesn't get more real than this.

See y'all next year.

All Rights Reserved - WTB & Abner Kingman Photography 2015

 

 

 

Throwback Thursdays: Before Enduro Was Cool

23 April, 2015

Once upon a time in a faraway land, the man referred to as the Godfather of All Mountain went racing.  It was real.  Super real.  The time is thought to be 2004ish, the place France, and the man referred to as the Godfather of All Mountain?  That's Weir of course.  A time before enduro, or, enduro before enduro.  Either way, Weir kindly took a moment from his busy schedule in New Zealand quickly fixing rental car flat tires to write some thoughts to accompany the pile of photos above and below.  As you can tell from the words, the man has seen it all.  Enjoy.

From Mark Weir:

Enduro so new how could we know it could be so cool.

This was my second trip to Fred Glo's Enduro race in France. It was as pure as it gets.  Show up on Friday race Saturday/Sunday. It's all on-sight no practice on 6 different tracks with huge drops of elevation.

As this sport has grown I think the purity of the ride has leaked out a bit. No longer can you work all week and show up on race day and feel the playing field is even.  I'm thankful for pictures and the ability to just go for a ride.  As so I don't forget where I came from.

Fred's events are still going in France, if you really want to smell what I'm stepping in... Times I will never forget and never give back.  

Choose your own line, this is something we can all still do.  

M

Throwback Thursdays: Sea Otter - 95 til Infinity

16 April, 2015

Sea Otter Classic turns 25 years old today.  Old enough to rent a car.  So it only seems fitting that we do a throwback post in the whoa it's been a ride style of Sea Otter's past in a tribute to its birthday and future.  The oldest photo I could find came from the 1995 XC race start, appearing in the 1996 WTB Catalog:

Can't really make anybody in particular out unfortunately but you can see a proud old school Grip Shift logo and the Sea Otter logo itself happily touts turquoise as its primary lettering with perhaps purple accents, hmmm... can't quite see well enough to discern.  On to better things, IT being SENT:

Terrible photo quality but at least they're on WTB product.  You see a lot of photos of the Dual Slalom, must be something about a bicycle skying over a car racing track and being such a showdown, here's a better one:

 

 Kirt Voreis, takin' care of bidniss, on a lovely Intense Tazer HT.  There was nothing lovely about the Tazer HT, it was an M1 without the fun massive shock that let you luxuriously case landings.  Ok, speaking for myself here.  The Tazer HT was definitely a Ferrari of slalom bikes - tight, taught, nimble and unforgiving.  There were other treats tucked in the folds of the Bicycle Retailer throwback to 2003:

Pretty sure they're long gone so I can openly make fun of them.  Yes, there was a time period, un hunh, 2003ish, where bikes looked too much like moto bikes and not in the good way.  See how high that BB is - it's almost as tall as the kid (it's at least higher than his theoretical belly button) grasping the Double Track, the cheap OEM version of the truly expensive heavy misunderstanding, the Double Wide, which I wanted because Bender had it, but had to settle for the Single Wide.  Depending on who you talk to, this was either the best or worst period for mountain bikes.  Notice I didn't even mention the Super Monster fork - yep, everyone erased that from their memories... 40mm stanchions, heavier than children, known for tearing off their 1-1/8" steerers, and lowers that extended so far beneath their axles that it wasn't a matter of if but when an unruly stump or upset root would slingshot you over the bars.

Somehow, at the same time, this occurs:

The zing of angry freehubs, a whole moving irksome mass hurtles past on the speedway, leaving the aftershock of something sweet lingering in the air... hmmm.... roadie perfume?  Don't they know that thing's designed for race cars? They can't be fast enough for it.

It's a unique time, that's for sure.  This perhaps intentional, perhaps not titling of the photo from the 2003 Vol 12 No 8 Bicycle Retailer probably sums it ups best:

 

 Yep, no idea.  Not sure I want to know.

But I do know that amidst the fluttering flags, blowing dust, uncertain weather - are we sunburned and parched or soggy and unhappy?  Somewhere in the middle of all that, set up, take down, sneak beers in, act professional, there's a real sense of community.  Too many people come together, even more race, and it's all for celebrating bikes.  That's a good thing.  So here's to another 25 to Sea Otter, the most cycling merriment you may or may not wish to experience.

The Story of the Riddler

14 April, 2015

Nathan Riddle and his son, Ripley Riddle during an interview in 2014  about the Riddler tire's development.

Anybody who's been lucky enough to meet or hang out with Nathan Riddle will quickly agree, the UBI (United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, OR) Professor sure is a nice guy.  And, sure is fast.

I think the first time I met him I was working a Downieville Classic race weekend and he had driven down from Ashland.  We were atop the deck of the house WTB rents year after year (I don't know how they willingly continue to rent to us) situated oh-so-conveniently close to St. Charles' Place bar on the one main intersection the mining town boasts.  Nathan had just generously tuned the rear derailleur of our Marketing Manager at the time's bike.  In return for Riddle's kindness, our manager was trying to persuade Riddle that he didn't have to sleep in his truck again that night, that there was plenty of room in our downtown overlook.  Riddle was having a hard time accepting the offer, I think he kept mentioning that he'd be invading our space.  We tried to shame him into accepting a bed but Nathan flat out refused, he wouldn't even take a couch.  So, he laid his Thermarest over the balcony's green astroturf and that's where he slept.

I remember watching him quickly cross the finish line the next day and marveling to myself that he was the first pro to be wearing baggy riding clothes.  Scratch that, he was the only pro to be wearing baggy stuff.  It left an impression - the real rider somehow seemed all the more real as a result.

His calm, easy going, modest, and unassuming demeanor is only eclipsed by his bottomless knowledge of all things bike and his natural talent aboard a bicycle.  Finding him standing atop podiums, particularly in Oregon, is a very common sight.

 

4th in Pro ain't so shabby but this soft-spoken man of speed likes first, like all professionals.  He seems to particularly like it, first that is, in Ashland, his home turf.  It's as common an occurrence as winter rain in... well... I guess Oregon, not California.

 

 Mark Weir, Nathan Riddle, Marco Osborne.  1, 2, 3, WTB.

So when Nathan found himself in 2nd on the DH, standing next to Weir at the 2013 Ashland Spring Thaw Festival, he must have thought something might be missing.  Jason Moeschler, pictured below, also racing, had just given Riddle a peak at the new proposed WTB tire line.

Nathan had raced his Bee Line 2.2's to a speedy second place... but something must have been left somehow wanting more... he must have wanted something to knock Weir off that top spot at Ashland's podium, his home trails...

So Nathan identified a hole in WTB's tire lineup.  There needed to something foolishly fast like the Bee Lines but something that also sank its teeth in with the tenacity of Vigilantes... something for sure.  Jason Moeschler heard him out, agreed and put him in touch with Evan Smith, WTB's product design engineer.  Before he knew it, early iterations of Riddle's request were bouncing back in the form of e-mails from Evan:

 

And samples came, and samples were happily ridden, in Ashland, by Riddle:

And that's the Story of the Riddler, named after the nicest guy in the biz, Nathan Riddle - from racing alongside friends, to talk of tires, to direct feedback to Evan Smith, our product design engineer, to tires to Riddle, dirt tested, shred approved.

So enjoy the Riddler 2.4, like Nathan, it sure is fast.  And guess what, it's available now.

Jay P Closing in on Arizona Trail Race Home Stretch

10 April, 2015

WTB athlete Jay Petervary is currently hiking across the Grand Canyon, his bike disassembled and strapped to his back, on the home stretch of the 2015 Arizona Trail Race starting at the Arizona / Mexico border and ending at the Arizona / Utah border.  This is just 3 weeks after Jay P won the Iditarod Trail Invitational in an awesome finish with Jeff Oatley.  You can read about it HERE.  Jay P went from -40 degree temps in Alaska aboard a fatbike trying to avoid freezing, to dealing with tyrannical Arizona hike-a-bikes over scraggly remnants of trail riddled with thorns and cacti.  Here's a quick sampling of the flora from Jay P's Facebook:

Whole lotta thorns...

This race has been quite a showdown too.  Aaron Denberg and Jay P were neck and neck seemingly well ahead of others until recently as Jay P pulled ahead and Denberg has reportedly gotten some much needed rest and food.  Now, Dylan Taylor of Bozeman, MT is just entering the Grand Canyon as Jay P hikes his way out.  These guys are nuts.  The Arizona Trail Race 750 is a single-stage, unsupported bikepacking race following the grueling, draining, and demanding Arizona Trail.  Trackleaders kindly posts and follows the racers' locator beacons, monitoring and constantly updating their movements.  No outside support is allowed and many push through on little to no sleep.  A 300 mile option also beckons racers to the brink.  Last year, Salsa rider and Prescott geology professor (who teaches a course titled "Geology through Bikepacking") Kurt Refsnider reset the 300 record in fewer than 48 hours at 1 day, 21 hours and 7 minutes.  Kurt also holds the AZT 750 mile record at 7 days, 6 hours and 35 minutes.

These people are crazy.  And awesome.  Really awesome.

So, peep http://trackleaders.com/aztr15 and watch a momentous finish of herculean efforts and tonight when you're restless, awake in bed trying to fall asleep, just think, all those racers are still out there, still racing, probably not sleeping.

Here's to the beasts and heroes of bikepacking, long live the Arizona Trail Race.

Check out more about the Arizona Trail Race HERE.

WTB Unveils Minus Sized Tires, Undersized Overdelivered Performance

01 April, 2015

Contact: Det. John Kimble

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

GUADALAJARA, MEXICO – April 1, 2015 – WTB unveiled a comprehensive line of minus sized tires during day one of the month of April. Minus sized tires combine the traditional overall diameters of standard sized tires with non-traditional, narrower widths, fitting within the dropouts of existing bicycles in the market without the need for proprietary or custom modifications.

“Minus is more,” stated Willy Loman, WTB’s former top outside salesman. “It proves that with less, you really can do more. Why lug around extra grams when you can have the same overall diameter at a lower rotational weight? This means the same rollover characteristics available in a more sprightly package, ensuring faster Strava times.” 

You said Schralpability twice... I like Schralpability.

Though the industry seems in a state of flux as to what width minus will collectively settle on, most tire manufactures are following suit in the 29 x 1.0 to 1.15 range.

“The math actually works,” stated Holden Caulfield, WTB’s chief cynic. “Believe it or not, a 29 x 1.0” is the same overall diameter as a 27.5 x 2.5” but go any lower than a 1.0 and you run the risk of entering non-ETRTO compliance and unsanctioned usage. Due to the undersized nature of this emerging category, rather than overall diameter, we are now referring to it as underall diameter,” furthered Caulfield. “Remember,” cautioned Caulfield, “two minuses make a plus.”

High levels of Weight, Boring Factor, and what is referred to as the wuss out Factor are observed in normal tires.

“This poses a remarkable opportunity to frame builders and OEM brands,” stated Alotta Unitz, WTB’s European OEM sales manager. “Your quiver killer has arrived. Where else can you get pitted through seven stages of Enduro then throw on some bike bags, rando your way to a hashtag moment? We’re at a point of carbon fiber and suspension where bikes are light and efficient enough that yesterday’s EWS winner is today’s #adventurelifestyle selfie star. It’s limitless really. Spec our tires, it’ll change your life.”

By contrast, Minus Sized tires show markedly higher levels of Endurability, Schralpability, the Send It Factor, and whatever Legends of Gnar Gnarnia signifies.

WTB Minus Sized tires will be available in three tread patterns. The LaserDyno combines heritage with new school design, blending decreased rolling resistance with enhanced cornering through a bald tread pattern. The Pitted-o-Saur, designed primarily for Enduro usage, features regressive side knobs and is intended for you know, the type of riding we all do. Details are scarce on the third tread pattern, thought to be named the #Mysterious, though referred to by others as the WolverHampton and though WTB representatives have been tightlipped about its application, those that, know, and revel in obscurity, have proclaimed it to be a randonneuring tire. WTB Minus Sized tires are projected to arrive on the 12th of Never with a MSRP of A.Q.

 About TCS

WTB’s proprietary sealant tubeless system, TCS (Tubeless Compatible System,) revolutionized rims and tires in 2009 when combining ETRTO, ISO, and UST standards with light tubeless rotational weights. Never before had a standards-based tubeless system weighed so little. Certified as the first sealant-based tires for the UST system in 2012 by Mavic, TCS continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible through purpose-built tires and rims tailor-made for every discipline of cycling. Learn more about what’s possible at wtb.com/tcs

About WTB

 Founded in 1982, WTB was formed in the birthplace of mountain biking to design better bicycle products. Renowned for saddles, tires, rims, and grips, this rider-driven company continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible through an unrelenting spirit of innovation and passion for two-wheeled adventure.

www.wtb.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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