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.
"Man, those bikes are goofy."
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.
Wisconsin race series (although I am still not sold on racing one of these things). www.wisfatbikeracing.com/
At Wisconsin Fat Bike, you can find links for trails and other info.
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.)
Going for a ride.
A person has to have goals. Like, drink more water, or ride your bike more or try not to curse. I have tried to tell people that goals are important. Without goals, what are you...dead! One day, when I reach the end of the internet, maybe I won't have any goals. Mostly people just glaze over when I talk with them about goals. Hmmm, maybe it is just me...
It will be odd, and require a red hand letting the gas off and adding 2 numbers together while taking a shower ski racing while on the way to work eating an orange. But, in soccer they have goals - so does hockey. For crying out loud, that means the Canadians have goals. If the Canadians can do it (the happiest friendliest people in the world), I am certain I can...I mean for real, they have more winter than the rest of us and they're still happy. It's due to this that I will have goals every year from here sideways. Given how cold it is outside later, we will take some time with this.
Last year I published my goals. They were exhaustive, and I was exhausted. I have always had goals, just never linked them to this blogsite. I have always wanted to see the Grand Canyon, and I have never done that, either. I have spent a lot of time in Belgium though.
So without further hesitation and build up, here they are. A pile of really well considered goals. Um, sort of well considered. If not well considered, they are at least spelled right, as I ran them through the spell checker.
1. Go to Hawaii Ironman. I have never been, and Hanna's boyfriend qualified. Seems like the perfect time to go.
2. See Pearl Jam. Duh. I am not even going to explain this one.
3. Ride Flanders citizen race. The best road bike race of the year. If you can only go and see one race, make it this one. The course is incredible, the Belgian crowd is incredible. Riding it the day before the pro race is an unforgettable experience.
4. Visit my father in North Carolina.
5. Visit my mother and have her come to Wisconsin.
6. Make a decision on our property in Hayward.
7. Ride Whole Enchilada. Duh. Check it.
8. Make a decision on our house. Keep or sell it.
9. Ride Whistler. Duh. Check it again.
10. Do a MTB trip with Lloyd. Here is the link to the last trip I did with Lloyd. Read it, and you will know why I cannot wait to do it again with him.
11. Learn to take tight switchback turns on my Slash. If you read the story on the previous entry, you know what I am talking about.
12. Wave at all cyclists that I see.
13. Drink more water. I should be drinking 116oz per day. Typical goals entry.
14. Trim the number of bikes in my garage to:
2 MTB (Fuel EX 29, Slash 27.5)
1 Road bike (Flanders Domane)
1 Fat Bike
1 Cyclocross Bike
1 Jump/Pump track bike - Really, does a person need more than that? Some people would say yes (normally I'd be one of them), but I am going to do my best to pull it down to those.
15. Do a road bike trip. I do like riding my road bike, and more importantly it is what Liz really really likes.
16. Master small and medium double jumps on my slopestyle bike
17. Learn to wheelie on both my favorite mountain bike and my motorcycle. I have said before that this is a genetic skill. I am going to take the year and learn to wheelie, or at least just about kill myself trying. By the end of the year, I will either wheelie or it will be a lost cause.
18. Take Liz and girls to NYC Liz has been all over the world, but not to NYC.
19. Change my bikes to tubeless. It is 2014, it is time to move into 2010. Now that I can do all my bikes, I am going to go there full time.
20. Ride Copper Harbor
21. Ride 3 MTB Enduro races
22. Ride a race with Noah
23. Ride a race with Russel
24. Make the Gravity MTB project in Wisconsin a reality.
25. Drink more beer. (Belgian of course)
26. Do at least 8 CX races.
27. Win a CX race.
28. Read 3 personal books.
29. Read 3 professional books.
30. Get more involved with my community. Give time, get involved with a local cause directly.
31. Find a good charity that we can align with.
32. Fix my garage floor
33. Preseason training camp in Feb/March – St. Joe or Georgia
34. Win a GNCC in my class. In 2011, I was 4th at Ironman GNCC, then 5th at the first Loretta’s and won the 2nd Loretta’s race. This past year I got a 6th at Ironman and then 5th at Loretta’s. Close, but not quite there.
35. Win WIXC old guy class. I have become a huge fan of the WIXC series. They are the best races in Wisconsin. I plan to do most if not all, and hope to win my class.
36. Learn to use the rear brake while using the throttle on my 250F. I am still struggling with this skill. I think it is imperative for me to get this skill if I have any hope of winning a GNCC race.
37. Master flat corners on my 250F.
38. Buy Aztalan membership and get better at jumping my 250F.
39. Get one of those really cool Bluetooth phone devices that allow you to walk along in the airport talking to yourself out loud. You look so cool while doing that.
40. Shop more out of the SkyMall Delta magazine. They are such wonderful gift giving sources.
41. Get a Bablefish installed.
42. Put together the plan to climb Kilimanjaro with Liz.
There are 8 more, but they are work specific, so I can't tell you those. You know the drill, if I tell you I would have to blah blah blah...
Right now it's snowing outside. December 31, in Wisconsin, it's snowing. Who'da thunk it? Snowing means I am not riding a bicycle or a motorcycle right now. I know that probably surprises you as well. Someday I am going to live somewhere that I can go out for a ride on December 31. (All you people on Facebook, stop taunting me.) Most people would say that I probably have to live somewhere other than Wisconsin to make that happen - I am not convinced yet.
(I just had to go outside and move cars and shovel, as we were starting to get to the point of no return on the driveway.)
Regardless of all of that, I am here to tell you that 2013 was a barnstormer of a year. It came, it went, it partied, now good riddance. Who wants to live in a year where 13 is the number? Doesn't that automatically make it unlucky? It feels good to have it in the rear view mirror. But, before we leave it behind, it is always good to look back (If for no other reason, than to know what I jacked up last year and try not to do it again...). It is also good to get an espresso while you are doing that. I really do hope there is pudding.
I had some goals, and I gotta admit that I did not do very well at hitting them. If you don't remember, here they are again. I hit about 50%, but that isn't a great score in life - unless of course you are a weatherman. Geez, what is up with that? They don't seem to have to do much better than 25%, and they are stars on TV. I know I've ranted about that in the past, but I do really think that is the case. When I come back as a full time cyclcocross racer, after I retire, I am going to be a weatherman.
Best of 2013
I have decided again that I'm going to change the rules to this game. I do own the game, so why can't I change them? Who makes that decision anyway? So, instead of just one thing being the best, I am go to say that multiple things can be the best. I know that breaks all the rules of logic, but there it is.
January - The first serious team conversations between Luca and I happened in January. Sure, we had talked about the team for a good 2 years before, but this is when it became reality. I am not going to rehash all of that, but you can refresh your memory on how it all came about here. We have definitely counted down those 41 days now, and a lot of great stuff has happened. But, it all comes back to January.
February - St. Joe ride camp. I really had a good time kicking off my motorcycle season with a training camp. The race teams all do it, why can't I? This was kinda my first effort at it. It really works. I am going to do a bigger one this year. I would encourage you to do a training camp for whatever your sport is. They are really great fun. Check a couple of notes on mine from last year, here and here.
March - Georgia GNCC. I surprised myself, and even after it being winter where I live, and the guys down south having racing under their belt already, I did ok. It was a good indicator of how my season was going to shape up.
March/April - Fabian's romp through the spring classics. Unless you were away on another planet, you certainly know about Fabian's dominance in the spring. It was finally the spring that wasn't just maybe but it was. It started way back in Strada Bianchi when he was so on top and went all the way through to Roubaix. I was lucky enough to be at Roubaix, and I am so glad that I did not miss that. Wait, if you were off planet, I might want your job.
April - Brown County Indiana MTB trip.
After some time in Wisco winter, you just cannot wait to get out and ride.
June - Ft. William World Cup race trip/seeing my Dad in London. Liz and I were going to our first WC DH race and we got a chance to meet my father while he was in London. We detoured there on our way, had dinner together and spent a fun day just knocking around maybe my favorite city in the world together.
Then we went on to Ft. William and chased Nessie around. It was super fun, check it here, I cannot wait to get to another one this year.
July - MTB riding in Hayward.
I posted up about 3 different stories about this trip, so it must have been really good. It was.
Sept - MTB riding in Switzerland/Italy with Lloyd
October - Getting hooked on cyclocross. I have to admit it, I am a cyclocross convert now. I thought it was a stupid sport just a couple of years ago. I mean, who would ride such the wrong bicycle on that terrain? I still think it is not the right bicycle for what we all love to follow, but that is exactly what makes it cool. It is the "IPA in a can" of cycling. It is just the best and the most honest and hardworking bike in all of cycling.
Also in October was the Pearl Jam concert in Charlottesville. This will probably be right up there on the top, in the end. It was Liz's first time at a PJ concert and she came away a fan. Didn't hurt that we did a killer MTB ride in Virginia as well. Check the story here to refresh. Lightning Bolt actually does rock.
November - New Trek Factory Racing World Tour Team coming together for the first time in Belgium.
December - Going to Singapore for the 1st time in my life. Singapore was cool, but what about the dancing?
Worst of 2013
Hanna's surgery. If you are a parent, you know how it feels when one of your kids gets sick. I can tell you that it does not change when they become adults. Hanna is fine, but for a while we were all pretty worried.
Not doing enough races in WIXC or D16 to win the overall series. I won a lot of races this past year, and I had way more good races than bad. But, I didn't do enough races in either series to win the overall. Too bad, right? I don't expect much sympathy there.
Liz busting up her knee on the way to France, so she couldn't ride. I'm not sure that she was going to ride much anyway, but we were heading to one of our favorite places in the world to be with some of our very best friends. Chatel is a beautiful place, but not much fun to be there with a bum knee. Louise helped nurse her back and now she is fine. Next year will be better for her there.
That is it really for bad. None of it is actually all that terrible. I mean so what, Liz is fine, Hanna is fine. That is my point really, I live a really charmed life. I am super grateful for that. I hope to be safe and healthy in 2014. I hope that all of you are as well.
2014 is going to be great fun.
This past week, I had the opportunity to go to a spot on the map I had not been to before. Well, I guess it is a bit more than a spot. In fact, I actually never had a map out so I can't say that there really was a spot on it the map. Who knows, I bet on some maps there are a lot of spots. Which isn't the same as saying that a map has chicken pox. I don't really know what all the other types of chicken served in Singapore are, but they at least have chicken on a stick. I didn't see any corndogs, and well...the world needs more corn dogs, listen to Kid President - it is number 18 on his list.
The weather in Singapore is pretty much a flatline. It never changes. The quote below is from Lonely Planet.
"To paraphrase Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam, Singapore is ‘HOT and WET. That’s nice if you’re with a lady, but ain’t no good if you’re in the jungle…’. Practically on the equator, Singapore’s temperature never drops below 20°C, usually climbing to 30°C during the day."
What is really interesting about Singapore is that it receives pretty much the same amount of rainfall every single month of the year. A graph of the rainfall is amazingly a perfectly flat line.
None of this has anything to do with a chicken dinner, but it is a nice meal afterall. Funny, I didn't see alot of dancing while I was there. I found that I needed to export some sweet dancing. You can find evidence of that in the final video.
Coming from a place in the world where we have wildly varying seasons, I am completely facinated with a place without any real difference in climate. Wow, just how would that work? When do you go out early to beat the heat? When do you ride the trainer because it is just too cold? I guess with all that rain, cyclocross season would always be with muddy races. Kind of interesting to think about eh?
We were invited to come to Singapore to visit with Shimano in that part of the world. They have factories in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. We visited all 3. They were amazing places, building the most hi tech components and hi quality components. The people there were all amazingly friendly. The food was really interesting. The jungle was always right there, being held back with weed wackers and landscape efforts.
Wikipedia says there are more than 137 languages spoken in Malaysia. I thought that was incredible. Then I looked up Malaysia languages in Wikipedia. Brace yourself...there are 700 languages spoken in Malaysia! Holy crap! 700 languages! You would think that no one could even talk to each other. Somehow it works though.
They eat some amazing things in that part of the world. I had a curry something or other that almost sent me to the hospital. Wow, was that hot. I could not actually talk for a few minutes after downing it. Ouch.
Singapore skyline from the water.
Not too long ago, I was quoted as saying "Cyclocross is dumb." Why would I want to ride a road bike off road? In fact, you do not want to ride a road bike off road. That would be dumb. But, if you can get your hands on a good cyclocross bike, that could be a different story.
I will come right out and say it. I still think cyclocross is really silly. But, it can be fun. It can especially be fun if you have the right bike. I will also admit that I am a freak for nice bikes. I am a geek for technology. So, I grabbed the opportunity to ride a cyclcross bike with REAL brakes - not those rubber chums rubbing against the side of the rim and making you think that maybe you should drag your foot, as that might actually slow you down before you run off the side of the wet grass golf course. Oops.
Ben Coates, the road product manager here at Trek, convinced me to give CX a chance. So, last year I did and I actually had a ton of fun. The races are short, so old people (like me) don't have to be very fit. They can be techy, and that allows an old unfit guy like me to actually do better than my fitness would say I will - as I can actually make a bicycle turn.
So, I targeted 5 for the year. I know it's not that many, but it is a start. I am actually going to end up getting in about 6 races. I don't know if I will do any when it gets really cold and snotty, but I will try. I think I need to do at least one so nasty one so that I can have a few photos of my bike all wrecked.
I have been lucky enough, or maybe old enough, that I am in a class that doesn't have that many participants. It has allowed me to get on the podium in all 3 of the races that I have done this year. Some people say that I should maybe be racing a harder class, but hey wait.
1. I am 52 (almost 53) racing in the +45 Cat 4 class.
2. It is my first year of doing any CX races.
Unfortunately, I really am not that fast. In fact, different people have beat me each week. If they all showed up on the same day, I would NOT be 3rd. Sad, I know.
There are a few things I like about cyclocross racing.
1. The races are short. I always say, you can do anything for 30 minutes. My races are just 30 minutes long. I am used to doing things that are alot longer - 3 hour GNCC races, 6 hour MTB rides, Century rides, 12 hour solo MTB races etc...
2. Maybe it is where I live, but there is a CX race only an hour or so from my house every weekend, it seems. Given that my job has me traveling all over the world, and much of my other racing is alot farther away from my house, it is kinda nice to be able to race and still be home in the afternoon.
3. The bike is actually completely the wrong bike for what you are doing. But, everyone is on the wrong bike. Mine is great, because it actually has brakes that will stop you vs. old canti brakes that maybe dragging your foot will stop you just as quickly. (I love technology). (I think I mentioned this already.)
5. Did I mention my bike? You have seen the pictures...duh.
6. The total mishmash of riders out on the course. Roadies, MTB racers, freeriders, motorcycle racers, runners. It is great, it has become the great melting pot of cycling.
7. I have always wanted to rip up a golf course on some sort of two wheeler.
I will give a final review of CX season #1 for me at the end. Hopefully I will be alot smarter and much whittier by then. If not, at least I will be alot colder and possibly more muddy.
See you at the races. (What is this off and running around corners thing all about?)
Why does a city need that many names? Oh ya, I forgot. The city actually doesn’t have that many names. It only looks that way, because we people from other languages insist on changing a city's name into something that we think sounds better in our language. Just how presumptuous is that? And it is not only us Americans that do it…no way. The Dutch do it, the Germans do it, the French do it, the Spanish do it, etc… Geez that gets me (I feel a rant coming on, and this one has nothing to do with burrito’s – although a burrito would certainly go well right now. For that matter a burrito, an IPA and some Pearl Jam – but that would be acting all middle America). Why can’t we just say it the way the original version is said? If you told me your name was Jack, and I started calling you John - that just would not make sense. You probably would think I was daft. (Of course this is not related to someone telling you that you do not know Jack. In this case, they would be right. You wouldn't. You would know John, who was actually Jack. But it would be best to just admit you only know John as it just confuses things further if we get into the whole 'named Jack, but answering to John' thing.) But we all just live with it when it comes to names for cities and countries.
If the name of the city is Firenze in Italian, and the city is in Italy and the locals call it Firenze, then the rest of us (who are not from there, but may be named Jack or John) need to respect that and call it Firenze. Not Florence or (??).
Who started this whole thing anyway? My guess it was the English, as they do not really like the name Jack in the first place. It would probably have been done in the name of the Queen (which was made up). I hope they have pudding at lunch.
That settles it.
So after the barn burner time we had in Chatel, being all
Big Mountain Alpey and all, we decided we needed culture, Italian food, the
worlds best coffee and bad ass bike racing.
(What do they call Italian food in Italy?). On to Firenze it is. Unfortunately, there was no Pearl Jam to be
had and I did not have a good outfit for it at all. One Dopio Machiatto to go...
We arrived on Friday and headed out to a meeting with the directors of the new Trek Factory Racing effort. Luca runs a tight ship, and I just wanted to start to get acquainted with how things go. It is going to be a dynamite effort – just wait and see what we have in store… More on that later.
Saturday was walk around the city day and then we watched the women’s race from a little bar along the street in the old part of the city. The women’s race came down as I thought it would. Last lap Vos the Boss took over and brought it home. Of course there was way more to the race than that, but that pretty much summed it up. Women’s racing has arrived, though. It is much more exciting than it has ever been in the past. Congratulations Mademoiselle Vos, you are amazing.
The men’s race was nothing short of apocalyptic. Rainstorms more suited for an ark, and 270km took its toll and made it so only 61 riders even finished. Whole teams were left on the side of the roadway in tatters. It made me glad that I was not a pro bike racer (not that I ever could have that kind of ability on a bicycle). The finish was super exciting, and Rui Costa was a deserved winner.
Here is a little video taken from the Shimano support car. It gives you a feel for just how treacherous the conditions were out on the road. Wow.
What really amazed me the most was that the city of Firenze really rolled it out for the race. The streets were marked off all week, writing on the streets everywhere, signage up on all the places that they could be. And talk about a historic and scenic course. Wow. Around the Duomo, past Ponte Vecchio, through the small streets in the city, etc.
On top of that, it seemed that almost every shop seemed to have something up in its windows about the race. They were just a ton of different types of decorations for businesses that were cycling themed. Some of the displays were really professionally done and others that were just thrown up in support. Nonetheless, they were all impressive in their own way.
Here is my photo essay about the city and how one small aspect of the city embraced its race.
Cannot wait until the Worlds in Richmond. Not sure they will be able to top Florencja though.
I have woken up to strange days. I have fallen down the worm hole. I have no clapper and I may not be able to get up. Who stole the tarts, because I actually do not even care what the dormouse says?
For three great days
I had no obligations
My mind was a blur
I did not know what to do....
For three great days
I couldn't stop a smile on my face
So I dressed me up in mountain bike clothes
And took me somewhere else
(kinda School Of Fish)
I used to really not like mountain biking in the Alpes. Seriously, I was dead set against it all. I disliked even the idea of mountain bike riding in the Alpes. You see, I grew up on buff prepared American singletrack. In the USA, we quickly have moved beyond the old deer trail, to something that has been manicured and made perfect for mountain bikes. Berm turns, pump rollers, table top jumps, small step ups etc... Really, a nice little ribbon of mountain bike goodness, made all sanitary and easy so that any level of rider can ride it. (We like that in the USA, being all inclusive you know.) Plus, we hate it when people get hurt.
I used to ask my friend Lloyd Grace in Chatel, "Why does it always have to be so steep that if I screw it up I will die?" His usual response has been, cock his head sideways and look at me as if I was speaking a foreign language. (which is kinda true, as he is English after all.) He would normally snicker and say something like "I like so steep that if I screw it up I will die", with a completely dazed look on his face. At that point, we would both just walk away shaking our heads thinking - well, I kinda like him anyway.
After alot of buildup (about 3 years worth really) I took the plunge and shipped over a bike. I knew the bike would have to come down some steep crazy stuff, yet have to pedal it up long tough climbs. I imagined that I would have to push up long climbs and even carry it on my back at times. Given that, I sent over a Slash and sorted it for what I feel was the perfect set up for 3 days worth of Alpine shredding.
I have owned or ridden many bikes in my life, and a new one is always something cool to have. This one is no exception, and in fact proved itself out to be an incredible ride. I am in love with my Slash. I feel a bit wimpy that I needed such a burly fork on there, when you see what other people where riding, but that is just me.
Have I mentioned that the Alpes are steep? If you missed it, they are. If you think your riding area is steep, think again. Not much is as steep as the Alpes. That is tough for a guy from the flat-lands to get his head around, especially if that guy is me. It is steep - trust me.
Lloyd was originally going to start us out with a more pedaling focused ride for the first one. Something a little less steep to allow the flat-lander to ease into the Alpes steepness thingy. But, he had suffered a wasp sting on his foot the day before and was worried about not being able to walk and pedal too well on it. So, we went straight to the shuttling day. So much for easing into the steepness of the Alpes for me.
Until you ride in the Alpes, you really cannot imagine how steep things are. (Have I mentioned that things get steep there?) You also cannot imagine just how many people go up into the mountains to ride, to hike and to picnic. Little towns have their own cog train that take people up into the high mountains to spend the day up there in the sun and enjoying the scenery. Hikers mix with Mountain Bikers and mix with horses and mix with picnic people and mix with farmers that allow trails to cross through their fields etc... It all just works.
We took the train up from Montreaux. Montreaux is where the jazz festival is. It is a big music town on the north edge of Lac Leman. There is a big statue of Freddie Mercury in town. I always thought he was English, but I guess he had some great connection to Montreaux. Or someone in town just really likes Bohemian Rhapsody.
All in, we did 3 separate shuttles up the mountain and about an hour long descent each time. Full face helmets and pads were the order of the day. The scenery and the trail was incredible.
There is an interesting progression that happens while you are riding. You start the day or trip with one set of goals and understanding about riding a mountain bike and your home trails or the new trails and end up in a completely different place. For me, that progression goes something like this.
- This is really epic.
- This is really beautiful.
- Where are the berm turns.
- Wow that hairpin turn is really steep and tight, there is no way I can get around that. That’s just stupid.
- Wow, we are riding right through this farmers field.
- Who built these trails? Why?
- I cannot believe they let people ride their bikes on this stuff.
- Wow that hairpin turn is really steep and tight, there is no way I can get around that. That’s just stupid.
- This is really kinda fun.
- I still do not like trails that are so steep I will die if I get it wrong, but just short of that is getting fun.
- Wow the scenery is impressive.
- I really did not know that I liked sausage and bread and cheese that much.
- Wow this is really cool riding.
- Who needs a berm turn.
- Flow schmo
- I cannot wait till I am back.
- Wow that hairpin turn is really steep and tight, there is no way I can get around that, but I hope some day to figure that out.
Grand St. Bernard pass into Italy, then back up into Switzerland and down to Osiere.
This was meant to be our first day, but ended up being the 2nd. A much more pedaling All Mountain day. About 1000 meters climbing and 3000 meters descending.
Louise and Liz dropped us off at the top of the St. Bernard pass. We descended down into Italy, then started a big climb up over and unnamed col. This was absolutely just a hiking trail. No bike was ever meant to ride up, as the altitude was too high and the trail was not rideable in most spots. Occasionally you would cover a section of trail that would be rideable, but because it was really high and tough to breath it was not worth pulling your bike off your shoulders to try and ride for a bit.
But, the payout was just incredible. Probably 2+ hours of descending on the most incredible little trail you can imagine. Pinch me - am I really doing this (?) kinda stuff. Towards the end of ride there was about another 45 minute climb up a gut busting, I think I am going to puke, little paved road that could not have been more than 1 car wide. Tiny gear, big bike, makes for a grunt.
All together it was the best riding day of the 3. Just truly unbelievable little bits of trail that we linked up to give us an amazing day of riding and adventuring. Wow.
The Aletsch Glacier.
"We are defo riding with a World Champion on Wed" that was the text Lloyd had sent me over the previous weekend. So on our way over into Switzerland, we stopped and picked up Tracy Mosely in Martigney. She was staying with friends there and being the guest instructor there for Bike Verbier. (How would that be to learn to do the impossibly tight Alpe's switchback turns from Tracy?) She and her friend Phil from Bike Verbier loaded into Lloyd's van and we all drove to Friesch were we hopped the Ski Tram high up into the mountain toward the Glacier.
After riding for a bit, then hopping into another lift we were exposed to the Aletsch Glacier. Words really cannot describe how tiny you feel when you first come around the turn and see the glacier. Wow. The Glacier is kilometers long and 500+ meters thick. No picture can really show how big the thing really feels when you get close to it. Loss for words kinda feeling.
We rode down towards the glacier for a long long time, over the rockiest terrain imaginable. Sometimes it was just too much for me and I had to walk over the tough and exposed parts. There were steep stair step rocks with what felt like a tumble to your death off the edge if you got it wrong. I was freaked out at times, something about the exposure of it just gets to me. No worries for Ben, Lloyd, Tracy and Phil from Bike Verbier though. Maybe when you ride this stuff all the time, you just get immune to it or something like that. When Liz worked at a climbing store in Boulder, they used to have a saying "Only 2 climbers in the world, young ones and dead ones", I kinda feel like that about riding in the Alpes. There are only 2 kinds of riders for the Alpes, those that can handle the exposure and those that cannot. Not sure about me.
We then climbed back up and over another section to a little chalet up high and then dropped back down to Friesch on the typical steep Alpine trails with 178 super tight switchbacks that I cannot make it around on my bike. (I really do need to learn that nose wheelie turning technique - yowza).
Of course all great trips come to an end. I really wish I was lying about that part, but I am not. It was a crazy fun 3 days. If you get a chance to do a trip like that, take it. Better yet, contact Lloyd at Professional Transfers and book up a trip to the Chatel area and have him guide you.
I know I will be going back, so do not book up my weekend though.
The ultimate loser move. We did not go anywhere, so therefore we did not go to Copper Harbor for the Fat Tire Festival. Ok, it is only the best riding in the upper midwest, and we had nothing to do this weekend, and there is the Fat Tire Festival there, and there was an Enduro event there that I have been dying to do. We did not go. Why...who the heck knows?
There really isn't any reason for not going, other than it is 7 hours away and I just did not have the motivation. Next year, there will be no excuse. I am going to rent up a cabin for the weekend now.
We did make the best of it with a mountain bike ride on Saturday, a good hilly road ride west of Madison on Sunday and then a trip to the Kettles for a MTB ride on Monday. In the end, those are all weak substitutes for the real thing. There is even a new DH trail there at Copper Harbor that I am dying to ride.
We did have a fun weekend.
Rides, Taste of Madison, back yard BBQ, dog walks... It just really did not compare to going to the Fat Tire Festival in Copper Harbor.
I will not fail again.
If you follow this blog, and you have not been on a remote island without any wee fee, then you know that Trekworld just happened. If you were here, you are probably just finishing your 72nd cup of coffee afterward and finally feeling that you are ready for the rest of your life - or at least Wednesday.
What you may not have been paying attention to, is that there are numerous versions of Trekworld spread around the world. Some are real, some are imagined (I usually imagine that I am Brook Mcdonald and do not love IPA - neither of which are true either. Although I do play Ricky Carmichael on telly.) I suspect there is a parallel universe out there where Wookies are practicing their Trekworld growls and getting their all mountain on or ripping around in lycra with shaved legs (I have always wondered what that would look like - Odd that Penguin being there...)
Regular world happens all around you, each day. Traffic, breakfast (you should have had #joetmeal, by the way. I hear that is a new fast growing religion), never enough burrito's, a good mountain bike ride, a headwind on the way home, the goofiest dog of all time, mozzies, etc... You know, regular world. Sometimes regular world is dynomite. But, all the time Trekworld is.
Just think, oodles of shinny new things on display, Great Athletes Ride Trek in attendance, Madison dreaming of being in Belgium, bike rides on new bikes, new helmets, new shoes, new, new new... Who doesn't like new? (Get rid of this old wine, let's splurge - bring some new wine. OK, maybe that one doesn't work.) Either way, here is my sort of photo's that I have seen from the shebang here in Madison.
Enjoy, it tastes great!
Booth Pictures to start.
Great Athletes Ride Trek. Every year we bring a bunch of athletes who are Trek athletes, and have them hangout with dealers and Trek employees. It is great fun, and I think they enjoy it as well.
It is not all serious. Here are some of the fun things I pulled off of twitter.
There is usually a big party at my house during #trekworld. Athletes, and trek employees and music and beer. Sometimes someone ends up in the pool.
Only 240ish days until #Trekworld comes back around to the USA.