Hi, I’m Joe V. The V is for Vadeboncoeur, but no one ever really calls me that (except my business card). That card also calls me the Global Director of Product Development, Marketing and Creative Design for Trek Bicycle. Yep, I am sometimes not really sure what all that means either. I do know that I dig bikes, oatmeal, motorcycles, burritos, the weird things I see along the way, my family and my job. I get to travel the world helping make great bikes, so it’s a pretty great gig.
Today is your day. You're off to Great Places! You're off and away!
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.
You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care. About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there." With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any you'll want to go down. In that case, of course, you'll head straight out of town.
The celebration is ready!
It's opener there in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don't worry. Don't stew. Just go right along. You'll start happening too.
OH! THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!
You'll be on your way up! You'll be seeing great sights! You'll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.
The Waiting Place!
You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed. You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
A big stage
Except when you don' t Because, sometimes, you won't.
I'm sorry to say so but, sadly, it's true and Hang-ups can happen to you.
You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You'll be left in a Lurch.
You'll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump. And the chances are, then, that you'll be in a Slump.
And when you're in a Slump, you're not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.
Past is Past
You can get so confused that you'll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place. The Waiting Place...
...for people just waiting.
NO! That's not for you!
Somehow you'll escape all that waiting and staying. You'll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.
Its all a blur now.
With banner flip-flapping, once more you'll ride high! Ready for anything under the sky. Ready because you're that kind of a guy!
Except when they don't. Because, sometimes, they won't.
You'll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You'll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.
98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.
And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
An embrace from Dad after the race.
Staff celebration after the race. We will miss these Jens moments.
So... be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Voigt or O'Shea, you're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way!
Yip Yip. Back in Chatel again. Mountains, good friends, Pizza, Mountain bikes, Cookie the dog - acting like I own the place.
Its great to be back in Chatel riding with my friend Lloyd. We mostly stayed dry, in spite of that sky.
On last year's trip to Chatel, when we were coming back after the last ride, I said to Lloyd, superguide extraordinaire, "I'm coming over for a whole week next year so that I can learn to handle steep switchbacks better." "Practice" said Lloyd. I did not. Unfortunately, I also could not stay for a whole week. Work just gets in the way of having fun. But, I do love Nutella.
So, I am here again, and I still suck at tight steep Alpine switchbacks. I am still really excited about a nice bit of singletrack high in the Alpine backcountry. I am still in love with Chatel. I still love being with my friends Lloyd, Louise, Ben, and Daisy here. So what if a high alpine switchbacks are kind of a wiff for me?
Lets get started.
Welcome to Chatel.
In the morning, I had to drive from Friedrickshafen (where the Eurobike show tempted me with all manner of baubles and shiny objects) to Chatel. Driving in Europe is not the same as driving in the USA. Smaller roads, speeds are not consistent (which is why Europeans are not so bothered about cup holders in their cars), and no Pearl Jam on the radio (the last part is the only really difficult part of driving there). It is about a 4 hour drive, and it took all of that (of course I just played some PJ on my phone, I am short - but I am not left handed).
You get off the big roads in Monthey Suisse to get onto a smaller road over to the French side of the mountains. That is where the adventure begins. You will see a sign announcing the Porte du Soliel and when you drop over the pass into Chatel, you will imediately understand why you made the trip. As I tooled through the town, I remembered my wife Liz' words, "make sure you bring me some Chatel dotted pottery", so I whipped around and ran into the pottery store to get that done. Six espresso cups made mine. The salt shaker is another story altogether that Louise will need to come clean with.
When I arrived at Chez Grace, Lloyd already had our bikes ready to go. I did a quick change, and after a brief stop to press my maw against the glass at the salon to startle Ben (not sure that his boss appreciated the spot I must have left on the glass), we were out on the trail for Day One. Up a chair lift, and we were into the backcountry, just like that. We dropped down into the goat village and over to Morzine and life was good. It felt really great to be out on the trail with my friend Lloyd and back into the Alpes.
Somewhere along the way, Lloyd said something to some other guys to give them some advice "Go left and it is a nice little bit of single with a road out around the steeper bits. Go right, and it is death defying steep." Of course, we were going right. When we got to that bit, I wasn't sure if it would be safer to ride or walk. It was that steep. When we got to the bottom, Lloyd said "Oh, that is not that steep - no rope was required to get down it." (Yes, it is pretty much like that)
I cannot remember exactly the trails we rode on that day, but there were many. We hid behind buildings while dodging rainstorms and snaked our way from one valley to the next. The riding there is always an adventure. There were some absurdly steep sections that even without the slippery wet stuff we were on, I do not think I could ride. Did I mention that the Alpes are steeper than other mountains? Lloyd crashed hard into a bermed turn, smashing a helmet and his hand, and we feared the worst for our first day. In the end, he was fine.
We finished up our day with a couple of runs at the bike park in Chatel, where we saw all the super large jumps and gaps - but we rode like old guys and just looked for the flowwing trails with some steep and berms.
Apparently you drive your McClaren to the bike park in Chatel. Damn, I would have driven mine there had I known.
I'm so serious!
I'm up early, I cannot sleep. Could be jetlag, could just be I'm hungry, couldn't possibly have anything to do with I am in the Alpes and I am going on an epic all day adventure on my Slash! Nah. We breakfast-ed it up with some oats.
Lloyd knows that I need oats to start my day. After all, it is a grainy goodness that does a nice job scrubbing your innards and powering you up for the intergalactic space jumps. If you have not checked it out, do it now. Dig up the recipe for #joetmeal - it rules. Or, check the post out by following here or here. (check them both - its worth it.)
After breakfast we head out directly, as it is going to be a big day. We are meeting up with a couple of guys visiting in town who are also in Europe for Eurobike. We all converged on the main lift in town, and headed up from there. At that time, I did not know that we were going to be on quite the adventure that we were about to take on. Rest assured, it was big.
Up a lift to the top at Super Chatel, across a ridge trail (big fun) and down to another lift, up, a hike a bike on a trail that was bike over the shoulder stairstepping up a bunch of rocks over a peak that got us above the clouds and had huge exposure on both sides, down to the village of Vionaz in Suisse, transport to Champery, lunch there, up the tram to the top of that area, down a kick butt series of trails to a double track climb that was long and mostly pushing for an hour or so at that altitude, to the most killer ridge trail (known to Lloyd and I as "Hanna's Trail" as my yougest daughter, Hanna, rode it before me), back down to Champery, back up the tram, down some really fun singletrack to Morgin, up over the pass back to Chatel. Holy crap.
Wow, what a day. Nine hours out on the bike. We finished at a pub in Chatel where we had a beer to celebrate, and then we had dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the world - Le Fiacre in Chatel. (In the future, I will probably put up a whole list of great restaurants. Keep tuned, I am sure that you just cannot wait for that.)
Above the clouds.
We are heading over there.
Sometimes we had the lifts to ourselves.
Hanna's Trail. She rode this long before I did, and now finally I have as well.
I cannot wait to do another ride like this one. I have become such a huge fan of the big day out in the Alpes (I know, I am soooo Enduro.) Regardless, it is amazing fun. A few years ago, I only wanted to ride buff singletrack (that was before I was an enduro hack - so enduro you know). Now, I cannot wait to be out in the Alpes with a pack on looking for great singletrack with a huge view. I am a convert.
Artsy, but dang is that thing a machine.
For this trip, I shipped out to Lloyd's place a new carbon Slash with a custom color thrown on it. It is sexy. Equipped with XTR shifters, brakes and rear der, an XT crank, New Bontrager Line wide Enduro wheels, a 160mm Fox 36 (sweet - sweet - sweet) and a ReAktiv rear shock that is just the bomb. There is no bike that I have ever ridden like this thing.
If you have not yet checked out the Slash Carbon, you really need to. (Yes Lloyd, you need one of these not just a longer travel Remedy)
Ben is living with my bike now, and he took this picture of it yesterday. My bike is happy, I am happy for my bike, but I am not there with it any longer so I am not happy for me.
A sweet bike park.
(I know, I could pretty much just stop there)
Pila bike park outside of Aosta Italy, might just be the most glorious riding area in the world. Unlike most bike parks, it is not just jumpy jumpy trails. They have those, but it is actually filled with a ton of really cool singletrack through the woods. Kilometer after kilometer of singletrack that just keeps on going and going. If you stack the trails from the top all the way to the bottom, there is about a 20km long ribbon of trail laid out in front of you. (That is a big number, if you are having trouble with the math at home.)
In the middle of the ride, Ben's brakes went away. So, we took it to the shop at the lift. It was a cool quaint little set up. Two old Italian guys working under the lift building and repairing bikes for people to keep them on the trail. They struggled with trying to bleed Ben's brakes and spilled mineral oil all over his bike. It made it so that the brakes really didn't work for the next run. Ben flew off the trail into the weeds, I was right behind him. It might have been the most funny thing I have ever seen. Later on the lift, Ben made the famous quote "I don't want to make it an issue. It's not really an issue... It's just that I cannot stop! What a bunch of Monkeys." We never laughed so hard.
The brakes came around after he burned off all the mineral oil and washed it off so he could hold on to the bars, but it made for some good comedy along the way.
We rode as a group, and we got faster and faster by the end of the day. Maybe it was just me that got faster, as Ben and Lloyd are both much faster than me to start. But, by the end it was a freight train down the trail over and over. I hooted and and had a giggle of a time all afternoon.
I felt like I never wanted it to end. I wanted to keep riding and riding. I wish that we could have had another day there. I just do not want to stop riding my Slash in the Alpes.
Ben's favorite bike shop.
Ben was born with the Wheelie Gene. It just pisses me off that I missed that one. I pretty much blame my parents.
#Trekworld. It has come and it has seen and it has gone. Another year, another extravaganza of presentation, lights camera and action of all kinds. You see every year, we sit around and ask ourselves, "Self, should we have Trekworld this year and if we do what should we do to make it more fun than last year, and can we have pudding?" This year we did, and we do, at least if your memory serves.
It is a collage kinda thing.
This is the Apocalypse, whoa.
I want to start us off with this. It has nothing to do with the title nor anything to do with the first statement, but it is a video. I have come to feel that everything should start off with a video, even lunch.
Many people have asked me how to operate a big bike company..., well it is actually easy. You just design some bikes and socks, put together a nice trade show booth, invite some customers, go and build up a race team, then make some frites. It is all pretty simple actually, at least that is how it comes across.
But seriously, it is a really big deal to us. If you were here, you know. If not, well lets just dive into some pictures and such - things that will make you feel like you at least knew someone who was there.
I do have a family name, just that no one uses it. Even in my company.
That is the new brand book/catalog for this year. It is big, like 230 pages big. Full of everything bike. Get to a Trek dealer and get yourself a copy. Oh, that is Julien Arredondo from the Giro this year on the cover.
That is the Leatherman tool of bikes. The Carbon Remedy. It is everything from Bike Park to Enduro to Trail Ride to 24hr Race. Comes in dedicated frame platforms 29 or 27.5, oh ya and it totally rips.
To go along with your new Remedy enduro machine, you will need a new lid. The Lithos with click in super clean camera mount is going to be my rig. Comes in sweet colors that I did not photo - just imagine.
How many parts does it take to build a Lithos helmet? Lets count...
We are kinda really into CX at Trek. There was a really cool display that included Katie's first Trek CX bike and Sven's bike for next season, Belgian beer on tap... There is even a CX race on Trek's property next month, you can sign up for it here.
Katie and Fabian getting ready in the race shop to take a bunch of dealers for a bike ride. Trekworld makes for some interesting combinations. (Sorry about the blurry photo)
Your new handlebar will make your road bike so sleek.
Road bike product manager Ben Coates, me and Finance Manager Chad Brown. We didn't leave the CX area very much (free good beer) and we were hoping that Sven or Katie would come by.
If I needed a get around town city bike - Chelsea and District!
Look closely there folks. That is a bike equipped with the new XTR Di2. Yep. It is real, and it is badass.
I don't really do rigid bikes, nor do I do SS. But, if "His Purpleness" will allow, damn. Dearly beloved...
Domane Disc. Enough said.
Demo Ken, doing what he does so well. The demo is a big dealeo at Trekworld. Always was, always will be. Who doesn't want to ride a sweet new bike on primo single track? photo credit to Hansi Johnson.
So stoked, as I write this, it is only 340ish days till Trekworld 2015. Schwing! The whole thing somehow makes me think of this story.
I remember the neighbor telling me a story once about his kids when they were growing up. One of his sons was talking about the crusty things that come out of your nose. His dad told him they were called boogers, and that it was natural. The kinda thing that just happens to a body. Sort of the same thing as earwax, everyone has it.
His kid thought about that for a bit, and then looked his dad, thought about it some more looked at his Dad, looked at his hand, then looked up at his Dad and then said, "but they taste different than earwax."
Oh, by the way, I'm radioactive.
Next years Trekworld booth will be something like this.
I am really certain that the Hobbits's live in the Shire. I am not really sure if the Shire is a real place or not, but I know that Hobbits's are real. I know, trust me, I know. Of course I have not been to all of the places that Hobbits have been, but I am pretty certain that even though we all know that Mordor exists - clearly Rivendell is made up. I mean come on, isn't it unlikely that elves would live in a place that is so easily found by Hobbits?
I mean seriously, what is a hobbit? With those feet, they cannot possibly fight off Orcs. Of course, that is not really expected of them, just carrying things on chains.
But, I think I have found what is probaby the place that the Shire resides. I have not found it yet, perse - but I know it is there. The actual Shire is somewhere in Yorkshire, in the north of England. You know, the place of weird English and really good pints of ale. The place of driving on the wrong side of the road (which is of course the left side, as right is right and left is wrong. It has to do with the whole lefthanded thing.) Oh, and those pints are glorious by the way. It is all a bit Dr. Suess you know - Oh, the places you will go.
In the USA, we have free range chicken and beef. Apparently Yorkshire has it's own views. Hobbits's beware.
I mentioned the Pint, didn't I? I had my share.
Even the pubs were into it. I overheard one of the people there say, "wow you cyclists really do spend money." When it comes to beer baby...
Yorkshire is an incredible place. Beautiful, green, full of charm, historic etc... The tour was an amazing experience there. Every single village came out to see the tour. Every single village was decorated to the 9's, and manicured to look amazing. If you have not seen all the photos, take a look here.
Every village had yellow banners up, and bicycles painted yellow everywhere, and hand knit jerseys on a string draped across the road, and "Welcome Tour de France" hand painted signs, and names of roads changed to French etc... Yorkshire loves the Tour de France. It was really inspiring.
And wow did the people come out. As my friend in London says, "English people just love a day out". That may be so, but they do not come out for a bike race like this anywhere else in the world. It is estimated that about 9 million people saw the Tour de France from the side of the road in those 3 days in Yorkshire. Think about that - 9 million people! Cycling is alive and well, that's for sure.
It was exciting to be there on that first day and see the old man take the Polka dot. He really burned every match he had that day to try to get that jersey. Jens took the Polka Dot jersey in his first tour, and then again in his last tour.
Jens looks good in Polka dots. People say that mountains are afraid of Jens. It will be tough to see him retire. "Don't even talk to me about 18, Joe"
Jens got to ride with this cool dotted SRM unit also. I just wonder what kind of numbers Jens puts out while trying to take the jersey. Ha.
After the Tour de France stages left the UK, Liz and I moved on to the REAL reason we were there. On the 8th of July, we went to the Pearl Jam concert in Leeds. Oh, it was pretty good. Ha. You know if you read this occasionally, that I kinda like Pearl Jam. I mean, I guess they are pretty good. If you have not seen them live, you owe yourself that. I have made it a habit the past years of trying to see them somewhere in the world. This year, I am kinda going overboard with 3 different shows. But, that is just my view as some people say there is no such thing - you cannot see them too many times.
The band (as they are known now at my house), puts on the most amazing show you have ever seen. They never play less than 3 hours. This night they played for 3 hours and 40 minutes. I think I read somewhere afterward that they played 39 songs. Towards the end, Eddie's voice was nearly gone. At one point the band conferred and Eddie said they had been asked to stop, but they were having too much fun and "f..k it", we are going to play a few more songs. Brilliant.
The line to get a tshirt or a poster was stupid long. I would have loved to have one for history, but instead I just have a photo of the poster. Pretty cool, eh?
They played some epic versions of songs that I had not heard before. Sirens was beyond good, the version of Evenflow was incredible, Porch rocked as it always does. Stone sang don't give me no lip. Lightning Bolt was stupendous (I cannot believe I did not care for that song originally). At one point, Liz said "OMG, they are just killing it tonight." They were. But, unfortunately they did not play Yellow Ledbetter. It felt like it was going to come at the end, but instead I think that was when they broke out Alive (I am not sure, it is such a blur - 3.4hours you know). Wow.
Oh well, here is to hoping The Band sees this blog entry and plays Yellow Ledbetter at either Milwaukee or Minneapolis. I mean, come on guys it has been a couple of years since I have been able to hear it live - wtf?
Next up was 2 days of mountain biking in the Yorkshire Dales.
Riding in the Dales of Yorkshire is pretty cool. I had done it once before, about 10 years ago - it was Liz's first time. You are riding on ancient Roman roads/paths, lined by hand built stone walls that were built hundreds of years ago by who knows who. You stop in a pub along the way and have lunch (along with another handcrafted ale). You climb walls and ride across fields on bridal paths. You link up bits of singletrack along the river or up on the Moors (beware the Moors, just like American Werewolf in London). And then do it all again the next day. There is something really cool about it all.
In the USA, mountain biking is all about finding killer singletrack. Doesn't really matter what kind, scenic - technical - flowy - steep - flat. But, it is all about singletrack. The trail is what is important. In Europe, I have now found that it can be really more about the destination. There is a huge vista, or a pub or a castle or... You do need to give it a try though. Good fun.
I am not sure you are paying attention though, as they are called chips here. Chips in America are what come in a bag and are fried and crisp. Frites or Fries are what is a fried potato. In the UK, they are eaten with just about everything. They are not the same as Belgian Frites, but do not even get me started on that. Frites are just about the perfect food, afterall - (They actually cannot rival a Burrito, but you really cannot get those in Europe... Seriously).
That is some good stuff right there. Hobbits's and the Shire in the background, Orcs somewhere in area, old roman road to ride... great fun.
Feels a bit rickety, but it was cool that this was all available via bike. We just do not have this stuff in USA.
That would be the Red Lion, pub where we stayed. Upper right corner room was pretty cool.
Picnic dinner with the Kes clan. That would be the shire out in the distance there. Click the photo.
Then I moved on to the sales meeting in the UK, not much to report there so we will move on to getting back to the 1st rest day at the TDF with Luca and the TFR team. (at this point it is starting to feel like I have been there forever).
The highlight of that was that I got to go for the rest day ride with the team. Just a simple little 40k affair, that was done at a similar pace to the lunch ride at Trek. Yep, even easy days for a world tour team are harder than I sometimes want to go. It was great fun to ride with a follow car though. I told Liz that from now on I want a follow car on my rides. I think she is planning that.
This is brilliant, as this is the way it always is for me going for a ride. Bikes professionally prepared and set out ready to go, bottles filled, tires filled, follow car with a route already chosen... NOT!
We introduced a new sponsor and a new cause with the team this past week. Samsung global came on as the mobile sponsor, and that has been crazy fun. I picked up a new Galaxy S5 phone, and Gear watch. Holy cow, is it cool. I did not know what I was missing. I took all these photo's with it this week, and I can tell you the camera completely rocks, and the phone has so many features it will take me a while to figure it out. And do not even get me started on the watch because it is...wow.
I think we were in the Enchanted Forest or something, or at least the 100 Acre Woods. Marti and Stella bounded through the tall grass collecting all the ticks they could in a short period of time.
Liz: I don't like this forest! It's — it's dark and creepy! We probably need bells or something to keep away the beasts.
Me: Of course, I don't know, but I think it'll get darker before it gets lighter. That is usually the case with night time and day time, but hey - who knows.
Liz: Do — do you suppose we'll meet any wild animals?
Me: We might, and they will meet us. When you say Wild, do you mean like the Game of Thrones wild?
Liz: Oh ... Will they be like, dangerous animals?
Me: Some — but mostly lions, and tigers, and bears.
Me: Some — but mostly not.
Liz: And tigers?
Me: Some — but mostly not. Oh, but definitely bears.
Liz: Oh! Lions and tigers and bears! Oh, my!
It goes on from there, but you get the picture. I do not think we will go to Camelot, it is a silly place.
If I allow my mind to take me back to the beginning of the week, it all started there. (It seems so often that these stories start at the beginning.) A monday evening flight was meant to get me, and my gear, to NC to attend the global media launch of the new Fuel EX and the new Re:Aktiv suspension technology. It wa going to be a ripsnorting affair, complete with Oskar Blues IPA (thank god it is served in a can, because then I do not have to listen to people tell me that it comes in a glass why do you need a glass?), Burritos, Brevard NC, a boy, a bike and a trail. Bike and trail are key to all of this of course, although you know that a bike and trail are most often followed by a burrito. It is all wrapped in tortilla goodness after all.
Of course United decided that I did not really need all the gear I had brought with me. In fact, they decided I did not need any of the gear I had brought with me. I think they sent my gear to Croatia or somewhere afar like that. It came back stinking of cigarettes and speaking some sort of language I could not understand but my olfactory kinda recognized.
Nonetheless, a tour of Penske racing facilities started out the trip. Charlotte - they call themselves race city or something like that. The whole NASCAR thing is a pretty big dealeo there. I get it, I tend to make better left turns on the motorbike than I do right. I always prefer a first turn that is left. But seriously, Penske racing is something worth seeing. You cannot believe how many chassis that it takes to keep one racer going all season. Before you come to racecity, you want to quote Cal Naughton - "I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo T-shirt. 'Cause it says like, I wanna be formal but I’m here to party too. I like to party, so I like my Jesus to party." After you have been there, you will think differently. (At least about NASCAR, maybe not about religion.)
The reason Penske is involved is actually the suspension arm of their company. They make suspension for Formula 1, and they have some of the coolest technology anywhere. We borrowed some of their technology and worked with Fox to put it in a suspension damper. We call it Re:Aktiv, I call it through and through superscrandangiousness.
If you follow this link to Vital MTB, you can get the whole lowdown on the bike. Formula 1 Meets Mountain Biking. While there you will see pictures, and get graphs and stuff. They are all telling you something, and if you follow along it probably makes sense. But, I decided to boil it down even further.
If you really want to know much more, you can follow the link above in the text and get much more technical info, if you are so inclined. But, if you remember nothing else, just remember my graph. Re:Aktiv makes riding your MTB more fun. In fact, not much room for something to be more fun.
Its a jelly donut!
After all of that, it was time to go ride. We made our way up to Brevard NC - 1. Because the riding there is awesome. 2. Because the Oskar Blues brewery is there. 3. Because the name is Brevard. There, we took a beyond awesome 4 hour ride on the new EX and the Re:Aktiv boingers. I promise you, you have not seen anything yet. After all, schnozberries taste just like schnozberries.
In all seriousness, you really have not ridden anything like this. (Unless you were at the launch and have ridden one now.) Suspension will never be the same. Plus, it is yellow.
On top of it all, it's yellow!
This is a picture of a guy taking a picture of a guy riding.
If you have not ridden in Brevard, you should. Even if you have ridden there, you have not yet ridden a bike equipped with Re:Aktiv suspension parts yet. You should. If you could do both, then that would be even better. Follow that up with a trip to Oskar Blues and you will be complete. Tell them Joe sent you.
When I got home from Brevard, Liz and I hopped in the car and blasted up to Hayward. I had not had a chance yet to ride the really good flowy trails in Hayward yet this year. The winter was amazingly long, and it has been a long time coming. The trails have only been open for a few weeks, so not much was missed just yet. I did miss the Mt. Borah Epic, but that is all so far this year that has gone on up here.
I had snagged a Re:Aktiv damper from the launch in Brevard (somewhere there is a bike saying - hey, where is my shock?) When bolted up to my existing Fuel EX 29 that is in my garage, the same silky crazy fun performance was translated over to that bike. Holy cow - are cows really holy or something?
Anyway, Liz and I did a big 4hr-ish ride ALL on singletrack on Saturday. It was glorious fun. Fast, flowy, super buff trails. These trails make you feel like a hero always. Not because they have a lot of vertical, but they just keep going forever. If you have not yet ridden here, you should because until you experience 100 miles of flowing singletrack, you just do not know what it is like.
There is a sign on the trail somewhere along the way that claims the CAMBA trails are the longest piece of singletrack in the midwest. I do not know if that is true or not, but it is on a sign.
The best of midwest singletrack.
You cannot tell from the photo, but the Re:Aktiv equipped Fuel EX becomes a trail gobbling machine.
Late in the ride, Liz was in front of me and we were just gabbing about the trail, the cabin, the dogs what the bike was doing, where the kids were and what they were doing, how to use the front brake through a turn, where we hope CAMBA would build a trail next, how we were going to get out and do Rock Lake trail or not on this trip etc... It was all just basically the stuff you talk about while on a MTB ride. (We managed to avoid talking about bodily functions though.)
Suddenly, while I was in mid sentence about if Sculpin, or Deviant Dale or Resin was the better IPA (these are all important theories after all. In fact, the world does not turn most days if those kinds of things are not answered. Stock prices and politics really do not make the world turn - beer opinions or in my case facts - really do make the world turn after all. Life is too short to not have good beer, after all you have a limited amount of burritos that you can consume in your life.) Suddenly, Liz came to an abrupt halt, screeching Bear! There he was, right in the trail. Big, black, scared looking and smelly. I nearly smashed into the back of her, and nearly went right over the bars trying to stop and avoid her. The Bear, he had had enough. He bounded off through the woods, crashing through bushes and trees like they were not even there. Out of sight in a flash.
The bears are there. Just beyond the edge of the forest. Waiting for just the smallest of mistakes, and they will pounce. Just beyond the bears - Lions and Tigers.
Out - Joe
Watch these 2 videos below. In a nutshell they show what is dorky about cycling and what is cool all at the same time. It shows how your hairstyle matters, how the piano by itself is in fact a solo instrument, and how we all can get a little bit full of ourselves.
Please try to hold down your gag reflex while watching the first video. Do your best. I promise, the next video makes it all worth it.
"Made of corn and dog". I just wish I could do that wrapping.
Oh, by the way my bag never did show up in NC. But, as a bonus they called me and told me that they would just have it meet me back in Madison. So I had that going for me. Avoid Chicago.
There are two doors. The door to your right leads to the Source and the salvation of Zion. The door to your left leads back to the Matrix, to Moab and the salvation of your species. The problem is choice. But we already know what you are going to do, don't we? - Duh, go for a mountain bike ride...!
Over the years I have done a lot of riding in different places around the world. Moab, Utah, Park City Utah, Boulder, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, California, the Midwest, the eastern USA, North Carolina, Texas, Mexico, Taiwan, China, Australia, Canada, the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Japan, Malaysia, etc. It's a pretty long list. Somewhere along the way, you literally get lost and really cannot remember how you got into all of this. It is all 2 wheels, but it starts to get a bit numbing. More roads, more trails, more bike parks...it all blurs. It's a great life, but somewhere in there it can start to loose its grandeur and its significance.
I have been proud to proclaim along the way in my life a bunch of different announcements about how important things with 2 wheels are to me. Some of these I am still proud of and others not so much.
- I love racing my bike.
- I love riding my 2 wheelers.
- Any day racing a motorcycle is better than a day not.
- If it has 2 wheels, I either own one or want one (not as proud of this one as some of the others).
- The perfect bicycle cannot be built.
- The perfect ride cannot be had.
- My butt hurts
- Lets go for a ride
- Odd that penguin being there
- Can I have that piece of fruit
- Go for a ride
In the end, it is about a boy and his bike. There has been a girl involved through most of it, sometimes a dog, but always a bike.
The road to Zion (or in this case Moab)!
It is that constant that has worked so well for me. Yes, you can call it a one track mind – or in my case a 2 wheeled mind. Ha.
I am here to tell the story of finding my soul again, unplugging from the Matrix for a bit and getting my Mountain Biker back on.
Moab. Just the name says it all. Never have 2 vowels in the middle of a simple little word, ending with a b no less, been so significant. Makes it all even more exciting. Just say it aloud now. That’s right…
Mountain bikers love this kind of scene! A trail, a view, leading to sweet singletrack.
Moab is where it mostly all started. When I was just getting into riding my mountain bike, some time around 1984, I made my first trip to Moab. That trip was done with a steel rigid hardtail Ritchey. I think it was a Ritchey Ascent. Tig welded steel that came with a really bitchin' all in one bull moose handlebar. A rigid steel fork and a set of brakes that could only at best slow you down and with considerable hand effort at that.
Back in those days, a trip around the Slickrock trail or a day coming down Porcupine Rim was an all-day affair. You see, you couldn't ride very long. Your tail end would be killing you. You had to pick your way around all the rough stuff, as your only way of absorbing anything was with your body. Your hands would be so destroyed that on any downhill they would cramp up, forcing you to stop entirely once the ability to squeeze the levers had gone.
Reset – Moab trip May 2014.
2.5 days, 3 rides.
Where have you been my mountain biker self? Wow, I love this stuff.
So, if you have not been to Moab lately – you need to go. The old jeep trails that we used to ride a long time ago have mostly been replaced with sweet singletrack. The terrain is still burly, but with a bike like a Slash or Remedy you will be amazed at what you can ride that was a challenge back in the day (it was all uphill – both ways back then).
I landed in Grand Junction and hightailed it to Moab. Colorado and Utah highways have a speed limit of 75, which is already way faster than at home. But, then you combine that with the propensity for people in the area to drive 10 over and you have a damn fast highway. My bags were late, and I was just a wuss, so was about an hour or so late getting to Moab. Once I arrived, I assembled my bike and headed out with the crew to ride Amasa Back trail. The number of times we have done that over the years can almost not be counted. It is a way way better trail now than back then though. We topped that evening off with a visit to the Moab Brewery. Unfortunately, they did not have their Belgian on so I burned the place down (not really).
The next day was a testing day. We did a bunch of smaller loops and then another trip on a different loop on Amasa Back. Pizza and Moab Brewery were on tap again, as this is all just leading up to the Enchilada.
Yep, that is right, we had plans to do the Whole Enchilada. But neigh, we could not get up to the top. Ugh. Foiled again. Oh well, ¾ of the Enchilada is still a darn good meal. Fast sweeping descents, lots of techy stuff and some dang fine scenery. It was about a 5 hour ride that day – so big big fun was had. I cannot wait to try to get back there in the next couple of years.
I want one of these. This is the coolest camper, mountain biking, motorcycling thing ever.
When in Moab...
It is an amazing place.
So, now it is my mountain biking year. A bunch of mountain bike trips and outings planned.
The USA, Europe, my first Enduro, a Whistler trip, a big Alps rendezvous. The problem is choice. In this reset of the matrix, it is the mountain bike that will rise from Zion. I do it all a lot slower than I used to, but the grin on my face is bigger than ever. I hope to do it all and reconnect with the group of people that I have maybe ignored over the years, but not forgotten. Now, if I could just get myself one of those cool long overcoats with the stand up collar…
I think this says it all. Occasionally, the Matrix needs to be reset. The problem is choice.
Have you ever wondered what it feels like to be underwater and not be able to breathe? Or to have someone punch you in the stomach so hard you cannot catch your breath? Or to have a whole pile of ants dropped in your pants? Or to bungee jump upside down towards the rushing water below you? Or to own so many converse shoes that you cannot get anything g into your closet? Or to eat a complete German chocolate cake in one sitting? Or to be the tallest person in the room on a Wednesday? Well, I really cannot answer most if not all of those things. I can tell you that watching the nail bitter that Flanders was, from the fan club, while being the owner of the team that was attempting to win it and then did win it is really really hard to breathe through.
Liz enjoying a couple of Westvleteren's
You may not realize it yet, but you are here to find out what what it feels like to own a cycling team and to win the Ronde VanVlaanderen. (Soon you will be wondering what the air speed velocity if an unladen swallow is). I can tell you this, it does not feel anything like the 2nd coming of Zog. I think it very much feels exactly like Arthur Dent felt like when he accidentally missed the ground.
In all seriousness... We won frigging Flanders! I do not think I was able to breathe for at least a day afterward. If you know me, you know that my love affair with cycling is all based on the first Sunday in April. The first Sunday in April is by far the best single day of bike racing all year long. The granddad of them all is the Tour of Flanders. To me (and to you, you just have not come to realize it yet), Flanders makes all other bike races pale. Sure Paris Roubaix is a great race, sure Liege is a crazy hard race, sure the Giro is amazing, sure the TDF is long and beautiful, but nothing tops the Tour of Flanders.
The Kwaremont is a very special place! The week before the race you will see all kinds of people making their pilgrimage there.
Firstly, Flanders takes place in Belgium. All races in Belgium are more exciting than races that are not in Belgium. The crowds for a race in Belgium are not like crowds for other races. There is just something in the water in Belgium. I think people are born with an innate knowledge and love for cycling. I think if your genetic lineage did not like cycling, your ancestors were ran off to America a long time ago. The cycling gene in Belgium is a given.
Secondly, Flanders has all the great stuff that makes a bike race great. Unpredictable weather, crosswind, crazy steep climbs, skinny little roads, cobbles sometimes flat but often pitched up, frites, Belgian beer.
Thirdly, real hardmen win Flanders. Guys with beards that can put out 1500 watts and can suffer. Skinny little waifs tremble at the thought of racing Flanders.
Fourthly, at the bottom of the Kwaremont, about 18 kilometers from the finish, there are still 20 people that could win. It all comes down to positioning and who has the gas at that point after racing 5 hours to get to that point. This leads to the best single hour of bike racing all year.
Fifthly. Eddy won it, but still says it was the hardest race to figure out. His name is Merckx by the way.
Sixthly. Belgian beer. Don't even try to tell me you do not like Belgian beer. And at the risk of offending my Belgian friends, don't think that Belgian beer is represented by that crummy Stella Artois you can buy at the supermarket. Real Belgian beer comes in a great glass and has a wonderful head on it and makes you feel like your name is Mueseuw. Belgian beer also goes really well with frites.
Lastly, they do not even have a government in Belgium. And you know what, they do not actually need one. How cool is that? So no Roger, you should not run for president, it's unnecessary.
This is what it feels like when you win Flanders!
On this years first Sunday in April, I was lucky to be the team owner on site for the most important day of our young team. The day when Trek Factory Racing conquered the day. I always say that owning a team you will loose wy more races than you will win, but if you are going to win one, make it Flanders. As I said, it is after all the race of races.
I watched the first 4 hours of the race from a few different places along the course. I watched the last hour of the race from the fan club event of the big screen. I was a complete nervous wreck for the entire hour. Fabian and Dirk turned out to have nerves of steel and the balls to risk not winning to make the race. It was an incredible moment, and one I will never forget or top for the rest of my life.
If you do win Flanders, afterward the bus is turned into a disco.
But you do have to watch out that Jesse Seargent doesn't try to steal the trophy.
The 2014 Flanders race ranks as one if the best races in the history of bike racing. At the finish there was a lot of hugging and I could not breathe nor could I hold back the tears of joy. I called Luca and to him I loved him. I drive immediately to the finish where the bus was, and made a compete spectacle of myself by hugging anyone there.
After when Fabian returned to the bus there was champagne and dancing. At the hotel I filmed Fabian on his daughters scooter. At dinner with the team I could not hardly give a speech of congratulations, so choked up was I.
When it was all said and done I know that I had way too many beers. I could not really function the next day.
And that was how my Flanders went this year. Only 11 months till Flanders again next year. In the mean time, I do not know about you, I need some frites and a Westvleteren.
Liz found Elvis living in Flanders.
Even scooters in Belgium have a beer theme.
Wouter built a really cool model copy of Fabian's bike and was able to present it to him. Very cool.
One of the displays at the Flanders museum shows that if you win, you will probably have really bad hair.
The crush outside the bus in Oudenaarde
I can tell you what it is like to go to Brown county and ride your mountain bike, but that is not really why you are here. And now, a man with 2 noses.
Eickenberg, Paterberg, Taaienberg, Kwarmont, Koppenberg, Molenberg. OMG, riding in Belgium in April is Heaven...Heaven.
The climbs of East Flanders are tough. They can be impossibly steep and sometime with the absurdity of cobbles thrown in. You will need your smallest gear and it hurts. Your legs scream at you to stop, but do not be tempted. If you do stop, you will never get going. You also cannot stand up, as you bike tire cannot retain traction if you do. So you push a way to big gear and your speed goes down to impossibly slow. You will just not believe how much faster Fabian and Tom can do this climb.
If you have not yet been there yet, you need to go. Get a map, get a bike, get some friends and head out in Flanders. You can follow signs from one of the many races that use these roads. Ride 50 or 60 or 70 miles and you will find you are now in the galactic center of cycling. You will see hundreds of other cyclists along the way. Buckaroo Banzai would approve, because there you are.
We started our day at the restaurant on the Kwaremont, and traced along 105 kilometers of the 2013 E3 route. If ever there was a road to ride segment that the Inner Ring could write about, it is here.
On a beautiful spring day, riding in this part of Belgium is certainly the equivalent of a pilgrimage to Mecca for a cyclist. It is great fun seeing other large groups of cyclists tackling the same hills and routes that you are. All of you experiencing the same elation.
This Sunday is going to be an epic day. I have never actually seen Flanders in person. It is my absolute favorite bike race, yet I have always watched it on the internet and never in person. It is the grand daddy of all the races out there, and I will finally get to see it in person. I cannot wait.
Shazbot nanu nanu!
My steed for the trip. A team edition Domane!
We started our trip at the Galactic Center of beer. Westvleteren
Did you know you can get Beer and Frites in Belgium? Even the Gluten free girl is willing to relax that a little while here.
Chad in front of the coolest mural ever.
The Kwaremont has it's own beer, and of course I had to buy a Go Fabian scarf.
Yep, I am bringing it all. I am heading to Belgium, you know. The land of frites and good beer and cobbled climbs and crosswinds and winding roads and everything good about cycling. I plan to eat frites every day, ride my bike a ton, try not to fall down on the cobbles, drink a lot of good Belgian beer and cheer my head off for the race on Sunday.
I will need a lot of gear for that. As I was packing I thought, "Holy Cow that is a lot of gear." I stood back and took it all in, and sure enough I can verify - that is a lot of gear. I do have a bag big enough to swallow it all up - it even has my name on it (dork).
I do have a bag big enough. It is BIG!
Swallows lots of gear.
When I laid it all out, I thought "I have just got to catalog that". So, for your pleasure...This is what a guy going to Belgium for Flanders brings with him. Go ahead laugh out loud now.
Without further adieu, her it is, the whole list.
Oakley Racing Jacket glasses – prescription lenses
Shimano Dura Ace pedals
Bontrager Profila Race windshell gloves
Bontrager RL Fusion Gell Foam full finger gloves
2 Bontrager windvests
2 Bontrager long sleeve jerseys
2 Bontrager arm warmers
2 Bontrager knee warmers
1 Bontrager winter bootie
1 Bontrager spring bootie
1 Bontrager RXL winter fitting shoe - I have more than one shoe, and this is the medium last so that I can fit extra socks if I need to.
3 Bontrager RXL short sleeve Jersey
3 Bontrager RXL bib shorts
1 Bontrager RL winter bib short
1 Bontrager hooded base layer
1 Bontrager B3 base layer
1 Bontrager B2 base layer
2 Bontrager B1 base layer
Bontrager Neck gaiter
Bontrager Waterproof Breathable packable jacket - it will not rain
Bontrager Lightweight Packable windjacket - it will rain
Trek Factory racing rain jacket - The surest way to have it race on Flanders race day is to not bring a rain jacket.
Magic sleep aid (This is my combination of Melatonin, Magnesium and Zinc). Works magic for Jetlag induced insomnia.
Various Honey Stinger
Skratch Labs drink mix
Trek Factory Racing wash bag - Don't know if I will do laundry or not, but even if not it is a good bag for the dirty gear.
Gore tex hat for under the helmet
Starbucks Via coffee
Raffa Paris Roubaix challenge cycling cap
TFR Bontrager hooded base layer - if it is cold on race day
Raffa Chamois crème
Bontrager Velocis helmet
Helly Hanson helmet under layer
2 pair levis 514 jeans
2 Prana long sleeve shirts
1 North Face pullover sweater
1 TFR Patagonia hoodie
1 Leather Belt IMBA.com belt buckle
5 pair Bontrager Profila cycling socks (5” minimum – non of those silly short socks)
2 pair of Bontrager Profila compression socks
Nike work out trainers
Work out shorts and shirt
6 pair of underwear
Ok I know you are laughing now. I am laughing as well.
I am not sure if that was my exact words or not, but it pretty much sums up how I referred to FatBikes two years ago. I had good reason. They are goofy, afterall. If you said that everyone in Belgium grows up with one and that is what makes them all great cobbles riders or cyclocross riders, of course I would have to have one - just because. Afterall, short of burritos (Texas), coffee (Italy and Handlebar Coffee in Santa Barbara), #Joetmeal (my kitchen) and Pearl Jam (Seattle) - all the other really excellent things in life come from Belgium (beer, frites, cyclocross racing, Classics, beer, Atomium, chocolate, Eddy Merckx, beer, etc...)
Getting back to FatBikes, they are just goofy. Big. Pigish. Bouncy. Slow. All of those adjectives can be applied. I mean, look at the size of the tires! They are so large. If you think 29'er tires look large, take a look over here, it's like they have their own zip code or something. Holy cow. Makes me think of this movie clip.
That always cracks me up. There are about 5 different versions of that clip on YouTube. Do yourself a laughfest and watch all of them. Great stuff.
But back to this Fatness thing. They really are goofy. Turns out though, they are a riot. Holy cow, they are fun. You will find yourself bouncing along on a tiny bit of trail with an absolute ear to ear grin on your face.
What's amazing to me is how the cycling world has taken to the things. This was a thing that only Surly was doing a few years ago. Now, every self respecting bicycle company has one. Some are great, some are not. But the point is that there are just a ton of choices now. Once you have one, you learn a lot about what they will and will not do.
Here is my summary of what's required for snow riding:
- You need a trail. Contrary to what the bike looks like it will do, you cannot just ride the thing anywhere. If it is going to be singletrack, it will need to have been packed down by snowshoes or other riders at a minimum. The best trails are the trails that are being prepped specifically for Fat Bikes. Groomed just like ski trails are groomed, only with something not much wider than a normal ribbon of singletrack would be.
- Falling is not that big of a deal. Rest assured you will fall, you are riding along on frozen water afterall. You will be riding along, your front wheel will veer over into the soft snow and poof, into the powder you plop. But, you are falling into snow. Generally, you just create a mangled snow angel.
- They are bouncy and you go slow. I think there are probably people that can make these things go fast, I am just not one of them. Seems like a whole bunch of work. But, you will not mind going slow. In fact, you will finally find yourself enjoying the woods and the silence of being in the woods when covered in snow. It is fun to ride along following deer hoof prints from the night before.
- Dogs love snow bikes. Dogs like to sniff around and eat dead stuff in the woods. Normally, on a summer mountain bike ride they miss out. It is just an all out chase and run for them. In the winter, they can sniff and eat dead stuff all ride, because you are not dropping them.
It appears to me, that here in the upper midwest the concept of Fatbiking is growing like crazy. There are race series developing, many new trails that have sprouted up, lots of blogs and people talking about things, cool movies, a new national championship (Ned Overend who won his first MTB race about 62 years ago won - geez). Take a look at a few of those things here. And get out on your Fat.
Check out Hansi Johnson's blog site. Hansi is the upper midwest IMBA rep, and a FatBike fan. Also a great photographer.
This film is about as inspiring as you will find about Fat Bike riding. Watch it all the way to the end, and you will get the inspiration about the whole thing. (Almost makes it so that winter could be something looked forward to.)