Axialfest 2016: It's Okay to Leave Your Bike at Home
15 August, 2016
Over a mile.
If you were to stack up all the rechargeable battery packs that were depleted throughout the glorious weekend of Axialfest 2016, the impressive monument would be over a mile high. To put it into perspective, that's more than three Empire State Buildings balanced on top of each other...equating to over 16,000,000 mAh of energy! Nowhere else in the world is the amount of nerding so highly concentrated for a single weekend of scale RC crawling.
Scale crawlers of one-of-a-kind uniqueness are flown in from all over the world as their drivers attempt to navigate the seemingly endless trails and obstacles amongst a community of likeminded others. Though there was a record-breaking 1200 participants this year, it's apparent that many were repeat offenders of the Axialfest experience, as getting to the trail often involved stopping by a few camps to visit with trail comrade from previous years. Crawling before breakfast, crawling through brunch, crawling through the midday heat, crawling past sunset, crawling with scale-size headlights leading the way. It's a weekend of the usual camping activities, except stories are shared on the trail rather than at a campfire. Trash talk is guaranteed if you try to take the easy line, but you won't receive too much heckling for flipping your truck on a challenging route.
Mark Weir...you're familiar with him crushing unforgiving descents with understated finesse and obliterate unsuspecting corners while also establishing himself as an animal when the trail points back up, but have you seen him do this:
It's quite the spectacle. Not only due to its contrast from his two-wheel limelight, but primary because those who witness it are unsure if he possess more skill on two wheels or four. Think there can't be vast differences in skill level when it comes to wheeling a scale crawler through the woods? The difference is astonishing.
The standard weekend banter of mountain bike discourse is replaced with terms and jokes of man-toy obsession. Dialing in pressures on our mountain bike tires was replaced with venting RC tires. Chain lube is left at home, though we're sure to hit the course with the proper weight of silicone oil in our shocks. Anodized headsets may be making a comeback, but have you seen anodized steering linkage?
Let's talk about crossover. The elephant in room...why are so many mountain bikers now standing stationary, as a motorized vessel has all the fun? They simply mesh with each other too damn well. First of all, we as mountain bikers spend countless hours exerting ourselves all in the name of enjoyment, often to the point of cracking. The slow pace of RC crawling at the end of a long day, or week, of riding can be quite the relaxing contrast. Legs are spent, back is feeling it and feet are happy to be cozy in sneakers. And of course, we hope it never happens, but testing and pushing our abilities on two wheels will periodically leave us laid up for a period of mending. Unable to get out and pedal, it ain't all that bad spending the period of recovery out in the sun with a group of buddies.
Second, it's fair to say that mountain bikers tend to be gear-focused. We're techy. We geek out on our bikes, whether it be reading magazines, donning our whips with personalized bling, custom tuning our suspension, or making sure our valve stems match our grips. RC crawlers are simply another outlet for allowing the inner geekiness to show.
Axialfest is a production...providing far more than simply a place in the woods for likeminded folks to get together. Numerous members of the Axial Racing crew spend weeks leading up to the event making sure that everything is up to snuff. Six trails, each with a 150 markers, create a massive network of crawling that is difficult to conquer in a weekend. Here's a taste of all the scale creations that exist for a single weekend of the year:
Ron Koch, tech editor at Bicycling Magazine, left the bike at home and joined us for the spectacle as well. Nice hat, Ron. That's him dual wielding a beer and remote on day one. Scale traffic jams provide scale frustrations. That's when conversations regarding crawler modifications and techniques come into play.
All the speak of nerding is in good taste...as I'm one of them: