Vacation randoms no. 1, Mefjell

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This one is for those of you who only look at the pictures. Less words, more pictures, hopefully less boring.

The background: I filled a VW van with camping gear, bikes, maps and Martin, and headed south along the Norwegian border, towards where the mountains are higher and the fjords bluer, the weather more changing and the trails are steeper.

We are going sort of there...ish

We are going sort of there…ish.

Just trying to grasp the scale of the landscape. Turns out a grey day in Norway can put a big smile on my face

Just trying to grasp the scale of the landscape. Turns out a grey day in Norway can put a big smile on my face.

Sort of there turned out to be pretty cool

”Sort of there” turned out to be a pretty cool spot.

Ride out of the car park, at sea level and heading towards Fjörå

Ride out of the car park, at sea level and heading towards Fjörå.

The climb is steep but not overly so. The first few hundred meters of elevation are easily gained

The climb is steep but not overly so. The first few hundred meters of elevation are easily gained.

Road turns to gravel, got to love the view

Road turns to gravel, got to love the view.

Gravel turns to trail, keep on pushing

Gravel turns to trail, keep on pushing.

Push turns to carry

Push turns to carry.

Hey presto, a pink Five 1100m above the fjord

Hey presto, a pink Five 1100m above the fjord.

Time to pad up, have a snack and try to spot trails down in Valldalen

Time to pad up, have a snack and try to spot trails down in Valldalen.

It's wetter and more muddy then it looks, proper two wheel slide paradise

It’s wetter and more muddy then it looks, proper two wheel slide paradise.

Mandatory talking with sheep on the traverse, it's Norway after all

Mandatory talking with sheep on the traverse, it’s Norway after all.

Back to downhill, heading down to Syltefjell

Back to downhill, heading down to Syltefjell in view just next to Martin’s left shoulder.

A bit of rock slabs to spice things up

A bit of rock slabs to spice things up.

Slipping and sliding down through the woods. It's steep, wet and giggle-inducingly slick.

Slipping and sliding down through the woods. It’s steep, wet and giggle-inducingly slick.

Are we in France? Nope, look at the fjord. The locals call this part blowjob, no idea why

Are we in France? Nope, look at the fjord. The locals call this part blowjob, no idea why.

More blowjob, enjoying every last bit of it

More blowjob, enjoying every last bit of it.

Dinner time after an amazing day of riding

Dinner time after an amazing day of riding.

Smiles for miles

Smiles for miles.

Exciting news, skids and wheelies

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Least exciting news first. A couple of weeks ago I paid a visit to Flottsbro, and guided by local bike rally legend Martin I checked out the trails from the Canyon Enduro Series race they held there. Overall very impressive with some quite techy bits. Obviously more pedally then an Alps race, the hill is only 100m high but they made the most of it. After checking all the stages we took a couple of laps more to stop and take some pictures. Most of the ones I managed to snap were obviously crap, but here are the least crappy ones:

An attempt on the blurry backgound/sharpish rider thing

An attempt on the blurry backgound/sharpish rider thing.

"If you just double those rocks...", turns out the line is neither easy, nor fast.

”If you just double those rocks…”, turns out the line is neither easy, nor fast.

Straightening out corners in the Dh-track

Straightening out corners in the Dh track

Green and mossy, trying to find the BC vibe

Green and mossy, trying to find the BC vibe

All in all a great day out, even if we did the same climb at least four times. At least it was short.

In other news I am very very excited indeed to announce that I am officially a Malojan or Maloja Mountain Nomad, which means that I get to ride in sweet Maloja gear all summer long! Big thanks to Maloja Scandinavia and Utebutiken for this opportunity. I have already made blood stains on one set of gloves and slid on my ass on a gravelly french trail in a pair of shorts, all in the name of product testing.

Another equally exciting piece of news is that this fall I will ride bikes for cash. Yea, I start smiling just typing those words. Just to not get you all carried away here, it’s not a multimillion sponsorship deal with Santa Cruz or Red Bull. There will be no flat brimmed caps with monster logos or huge sunglasses, no team trucks or personal mechanics. But I will be a mountain bike guide at Ride Sierra Nevada. And that might possibly be the very best next best thing! I can’t wait to get my dirty tires on those fantastic rocky and dusty trails, hope to see you there!

Oh, and I got to make a photo shoot with Andreas Nilsson again. Portrait this time, not bad.

Malojan and future guide, trying to look the part. Andreas Nilsson fotograf doing his thing with the camera to make it happen.

Malojan and future guide, trying to look the part. Andreas Nilsson doing his thing with the camera to make it happen.

And just like that, I’m off to Järvsö to meet old friends, live in a van and celebrate Midsummers’ by doing skids and wheelies in the bike park.

More digging in fine dirt

I spent the afternoon helping Anders shaping a 180 degree berm in his own backyard dirt jumps. Why doesn’t everyone have backyard dirt jumps and pump tracks by the way, right now I cannot think of any possible way to make better use a backyard.

The dirt was great, and I think we did a pretty good job with the shovels. Cue test riding.

I try to look fast while Anders is behind the lens

I try to look fast (clinging on to those bars for dear life) while Anders is behind the lens

Me behind the lens, happy faces all around

Me behind the lens, happy faces all around

After two days of shoveling my poor arms and back, weakened by years of working in front of a computer, are pretty sore. It just goes to show that I probably need to do more shoveling. And more riding bikes. And most importantly eat more cookies. Obviously.

Crashing, digging and riding

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We have had a few rainy days here in the north of Sweden. When everyone else was either at the EWS in the Tweed valley, the Canyon enduro series in Falun or chilling in Finale (yes, I’m looking at you Spook!) I was hauling boxes from one apartment to the other. Very inspiring. Adding injury to insult I managed to crash like a bag of potatoes on my afternoon ride on saturday. In a feeble attempt to punish the trail I took the blunt of the force with my clenched right fist, which then promptly swelled up. I managed to tear up and make blood stains on my new Maloja gloves as well.

Come Sunday my hand was swollen but more or less functioning. Good thing, since there was digging to be done in Bygdsiljum Bike park. If you have never been there (as one might expect since it might be the smallest lift assisted bike park in Sweden) it is a gem. Trails range from the usual bikepark-style bermy jumpy jobs to some really awesome steep rocky awkward and technical, probably the most difficult and technical trails in any bike park I have been in Sweden or abroad. The hill is not high, but they used it well.

Equipped with shovels and a lot of dirt we reshaped the flow-trail after winter had taken its toll. Holes were filled, lips were built and landings were shaped.

Digging team getting ready for some post lunch shoveling. Photo courtesy of Nisse

Digging team getting ready for some post lunch shoveling. Photo courtesy of Nisse

After more or less a day of shoveling we started the lift and got some laps in, mainly on the more flowy trails in the park. Good fun, and nice to actually do something useful for a change. Unfortunately, the big bike is out of commission, waiting for a new crank set. However, the Five is really capable for being a 140mm bike, a great geometry andquality suspension by Bos (where did I put the coolaid again?) makes all the difference. Of course there is not the same margin for error as on a full on DH bike, but if one can just keep it tidy it’s still a damn fast bike.

Trying to log a bit of air time on the flow train "Banan". Thanks Anders for pushing the button

Trying to log a bit of air time on the newly reshaped flow trail ”Banan”. Thanks Anders for pushing the button.

Chased down Mosquito. Again, Anders behind the lens.

Chased down Mosquito. Again, Anders behind the lens.

And today, a bit of work, the more digging and more riding. Yay!

Thanks for a great day guys, see you on the trails!

Surviving Biivouac 2014, the longest one yet

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The planning was last minute, but team Martiin actually managed to meet up at Stockholm Arlanda airport last Wednesday for a continued flight to Toulouse via Amsterdam. My energy levels were thoroughly drained by a bad cold, I had been coughing for a week already. In that same week I had also dragged myself through my dissertation in a haze of sleeplessness and fever. At least I got it done, but things were not ideal for racing long days of enduro and sleeping in tents.

Anyway, we finally reached Toulouse and stuffed all our bikes and stuff in the roomy posterior of a rental Kangoo. Brilliant car by the way, looks a bit funky but big on the inside and small on the outside. We set the GPS on Millau and drove off darting through the french traffic to the mighty sound of the howling wind and the tiny diesel engine. After three hours we met team Velozine at camping Millau Plage, our base camp for the week. After setting up the tent, putting the bikes together and such technicalities we were off to sleep.

The next day we took a ride on the local trails to wear off the cobwebs and get a feel for the dirt and rocks. It was dry, sunny and windy, and the surface was dry and loose. Plenty fun, we did a couple of the marked enduro trails and ended up on the other side of the big bridge, so we got the privilege to ride under it on our way back to town. Since I was on very strong cough medicine indeed, I had to drink soda instead of post ride beer, which really broke my heart. Watery french beer on a cafe after the ride is an integral part of the experience for me, almost as much as croissants and baguettes for breakfast.

Sampling the local trails above Millau, photo by Martin

Sampling the local trails above Millau, photo by Martin

Martin climbing back up for seconds with the Millau bridge in the background

Martin climbing back up for seconds with the Millau bridge in the background

My health felt like it was improving, but I still had no power in my legs and kept coughing a lot. My plan was that i I took the next day to rest, I would be fit for the race.

I was wrong.

After a day of just hanging out in the morning, and registering for the race in the afternoon with accompanying bus shuttle to the first race campground, I still felt like shit after dinner. Hitting the sack at 9pm I was hoping for a speedy recovery, next day was race day, the first of three.

Team Martiin team picture from the race sign up. Blatantly stolen from http://www.endurotribe.com/2014/05/portfolio-biivouac-millau-2014-larrivee-des-equipes/

Unfortunately, there was no recovery. I don’t remember much of the first day of racing, it was all a blur of pain and coughing. After every special stage (and there were apparently four of them) I had to sit still or lie down for minutes just to regain some kind of composure. There is a point, especially in a long stage, where racing stops being about beating the clock, and is more about coaxing oneself to not stop, keep going and not loose concentration and go cartwheeling down the mountainside. Last time I experienced it was on the longest stage of the Biivouac 2013, a 20min stage in cold rain riddled with greasy switchbacks. The time before that was back in 2012 on Donkey Darko on the Trans Provence, which I think is around 900m of descent, a never ending technical challenge. This time I had that feeling on every stage, all day. I was really digging deep just to get my ass around the course, and all the time I had Martin in front going at 80% and still having to wait for me. That can really kill a man’s ego.

After what seemed like forever, we just had a big liaison stage between us and camp. It turned out to be a long day, I think around 8 hours total, but probably not more than 6 in the saddle since we also spent a bunch of time in shuttles or waiting for shuttles. In camp I promptly went to sleep, woke up to eat and went to sleep again. I did not even notice when Martin went to bed after dessert and standings had been presented. In the morning I found out we were 15th out of 48 teams. Considering the circumstances, really not bad at all.

The second day I felt a bit better, and at least had some energy to get through the specials. I even might have pedaled out of a corner or two. Unfortunately we lost the best part of 3 minutes going off the course due to a miss in the taping, which really sucked. I felt like we could climb the standings a bit now that I had more energy, but we lost all the time we made in the other specials and ended up 15th again. I was still off to bed at 9.

The third day I felt like crap in the morning and during the first liaison stage, but a bit of adrenaline in the first special was all I needed to get back to the same feeling as the day before. I was still coughing my lungs out during every remotely flat pedaling section of the specials, but at least my mental energy was better and I actually rode my bike instead of just being a passenger trying to survive until the finish line. We rode at a fairly fast but above all safe and consistent pace the whole day, there was a lot to loose and not so much to gain by pushing too hard. Crossing the finish line in early afternoon I was very happy to have made it through, and with at least a half decent result. We ended up 14th in the general classification, and I think if we had both been healthy and not lost time chasing up the wrong trails, we had a top ten in us. Maybe next year…

Times for the first half of the field, from from http://www.endurotribe.com/2014/05/biivouac-millau-2014-les-resultats-complets where the complete results for all teams can be found as well

Results aside, the Biivouac was as always a great event. The food is all local, everyone speaks french and it is a bit of an adventure every time. One just has to go with the flow and do it the french way, I love it. If you want detailed information in English about what will happen during the day, how the special stages will be or what is on you plate, though shit, because there won’t be any.

Logistics ran a bit more smoothly this year compared to last, subtracting a bit to the lovely chaotic feeling we got last year. The area around Millau and Gorge du Tarn is very scenic, liaisons for the most part beautiful and the specials were on really fun and varied trails. Usually they start off open, loose and rocky and become loamy, rooty and tighter with switchbacks the further down one goes. The bike worked really well with no problems whatsoever, not ever a flat. Tire choice felt good with a Minion 2,5 exo Maxxerra on the front and Onza Ibex 2,4 in the rear, both tubeless.

Big thanks to Martin for the patience to wait for some ill crippled sorry excuse for a rider, and to Greg Noce, Quentin Chevat and the rest of Enduro Tribe/Wildtrack for putting on an awesome race, hats off and I hope to see you again next year with more strength and less germs.

Back in spring

I got caught out again. Same root in the same corner as umpteen times before. Time to grow some talent I guess.

Bike on its side, rider on his ass

Bike on its side, rider on his ass

Well, at least its spring in Umeå, trails are all time and the Biivouac is getting close. I can’t wait, I just hope the weather is better than last year.

 

Still hammering

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Yesterday was very very wet indeed. Rain from zero to 600 meters, and lots of it. We made an attempt on Andersdalstind but aborted due to wind, visibility and just good old miserable conditions.

This is as much sunshine we got to see

This is as much sunshine we got to see

Today looks similar, but different. The weather has already changed at least 4 times in the last hour.

Snowfall galore

Snowfall galore

Same place, 10 minutes later

Same place, 10 minutes later

Right now I see specks of blue skies, but I know that in 10 minutes it will be all whiteout again. Perfect conditions for maybe not going all the way to the summit today. But there just might be a couple of powder turns out there for us today…

Good turns and sunshine on Kvalöja

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Yesterday we had our weather window, and we tried to make the most of it. We started by having a late morning and a long breakfast. Way to go!

Then we climbed Storstolpa.

Mattias, Storstolpa, clouds

Mattias, Storstolpa, clouds

Team Lundin gazing over the Atlantic

Team Lundin gazing over the Atlantic

Aron on the summit field of Storstolpa

Aron on the summit field of Storstolpa

Carving hard in the soft snow

Mattias carving hard in the soft snow

Then we had a snack, and climbed Buren.

Mountain number two, Buren, in the evening light

Mountain number two, Buren, in the evening light

Snow went from slushy to cold, and our legs went from fast to slow. We finished off by celebrating Marte with massive amounts of cake. Today it looks like the weather is turning again with wind, rain, snow and everything else Northern Norway can throw at us, at least if we are to believe Yr.no. Hopefully they are wrong.

Daybreak, Kvalöja

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Snow but no wind, and the sun is barely making it through

Snow but no wind, and the sun is barely making it through

I’m sitting here with the day’s first cup of coffee enjoying the silence and waiting for the skies to clear up and for evryone else to wake up. Hard to think of a better place to be right now. A storm yesterday means there will be fresh snow on elevation, and a break in the weather means we might actually get there!

Pants down, guts out

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Not me, but my trusty old Bos.

Just a pair of empty stanchions hanging there

Just a pair of empty stanchions hanging there

I am in kind of a middle period right now. Last week I was in northern Norway and stood on snow for the first time since the accident, but I am still waiting to get all the pictures before I can blog about it. What I can say is that it felt really good, both mentally and physically. The new board worked like a charm, 164 Venture Odin split with dyna toes care of Utebutiken and Phantom bindings care of…Phantom bindings. Awesome stuff!

Big mountain gun. Odin 164 and Phantoms. A board for strong legs and big lines

Big mountain gun. Odin 164 and Phantoms. A board for strong legs and big lines

My groin is still a bit weird, so I plan to take it easy until I get to meet a physiotherapist on Tuesday and get the judgement. Hopefully he will give me a few rehab exercises and I will be back up to full speed shortly. In the mean time, I keep myself busy by making the bikes ready for the season. A few small tweaks are planned for the Five, 1*10 with a 42t rear sprocket and offset bushing to slacken it out just a tad. The forks are as you can see getting a major overhaul, after 3 seasons of solid riding I am replacing all o-rings and seals. The internals still look like new, everything is hard anodised inside and the quality is second to none. Hopefully these tweaks will make the bike all rad and #enduro for the upcoming season.

Hopefully some new cool stuff will be coming up here shortly, if stars align there might be a bunch of good things happening. I just need my body to work properly first, judgement day is coming…

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