New bike, new adventures, same old airports

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Ok, so here I am, sat in the shade on a balcony in Monachil, Spain, looking out over dry and dusty hillsides. I have had worse Wednesday mornings in my life, that’s for sure. Guiding season starts now, and I’m well excited about it. I will be at Ride Sierra Nevada, in case anyone is up for some (obviously) awesome guided riding.

Sloppy cell phone pic of my view this morning

Sloppy cell phone pic of my view this morning

The trip went well, but airports are as always tedious. If it wasn’t for the whole flying to good places thing, I would be a strong proponent for the idea to just replace all airports with BMX tracks. That would be sweet. At least they should have BMX tracks and loaner bikes at the airports…

Well..anyways. Returning to a bit of reality, I managed to get a hold of a replacement for the dented Five at the last minute, and thanks to good friends and a bit of luck I am now owner of a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Evo (puh, what a ridiculous name). Well, it’s got all the new press fit carbon mumbojumbo going on, but more importantly it has a sorted geometry, very similar to the Five in fact. Slightly shorter reach, slightly shorter chain stays, and with an offset bushing it is probably half a degree slacker in the steering department. Having built it up with all the same parts as on the Five, save for back wheel and cranks due to compatibility issues, and geometries being so similar, it is a perfect opportunity to geek out on the differences in suspension action. I will do that in due time, but for now let me just say that it rides great, and very differently from the Five, which also rode great.

Trying out the new frame, with one day to spare before departure. Picture by Andrea

Trying out the new frame, with one day to spare before departure. Picture by Andrea

Bye bye…pink bike

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Dented swing arms and shocks that need service. That is not the way to start a guiding season. Hence, new steed on the way in, and the lovely pink orange got what could well be its last ride today.

Last ride, I'm going to miss you buddy!

Last ride, I’m going to miss you buddy!

With a bit of mixed feelings I also bid the wet roots, rocks and deep green colours that our sudden and early autumn has brought farewell. And even if I do like the damp, slippery and colourful part of the year probably more than most people, I can’t deny that it feels good to have yet another ”summer” in front of me. On that note, for those of you who did not catch it in the title, bye bye my bird. You will be missed!

Vacation randoms no. 2: Dinged aluminium and podium positions

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Last weekend me and Andrea did a small tour of the Norrbotten inland and coastland. Starting off with a very nice 30+30 year party for Aron and Emmy in a tiny village outside of Älvsbyn. Summer heat was peaking with temperatures above 30 degrees, no wind and even warm water in the river. Crazy stuff. Mosquitoes and other blood sucking insects where also booming unfortunately, making it a bit hard to sleep.

After a great evening and morning we left for Piteå to meet up with Micke and Carro, hang out on the beach and ride a bit in the night when temperatures were a bit more mellow. Just below 30C that is, instead of above. We rode a Piteå classic called Råberget that I have done twice before and still enjoy coming back to. It is a small mountain with lots of rock slabs and a few tricky rock gardens, both on the way up and on the way down.

Me and Micke flowing down Råberget slickrock. Photo by Andrea

Me and Micke flowing down Råberget slickrock. Photo by Andrea

It was when trying to ride through one of those flattish rock sections that I stalled out and fell on the side. No biggie for me, but the clanging sound of aluminium against rock gave me shivers. Upon closer inspection it turned out as I found a big ding in the swing arm that those shivers were well motivated.

My poor dinged up Five

My poor dinged up Five

Fortunately the Five is a sturdy beast, and it was still in shape to finish the ride. However, a more in depth damage assessment shows that the ding actually has affected the alignment of the dropouts, since the Maxle now needs a bit of persuasion to screw or unscrew. Bummer, I really liked that frame.

Anyway, on our way home on Sunday we stopped by in Skellefteå where Stojje was arranging a Bike rally, which is like a mini-enduro format. There were three stages, the first and third of which were downhill with pedally sections and around 2 minutes in length. The second stage was more or less flat on a twisty lumpy trail, about 5 minutes of pain, suffering and swearing.

Pedalling my hardest on the start of ss1. Photo by Andrea

Pedalling my hardest on the start of ss1. Photo by Andrea

These kind of races are always really fun to participate in, the atmosphere is very friendly and everyone is just there to have a good time, but when the clock starts it is all forgotten and everyone is pushing themselves to the ragged edge.

I felt like my riding was O.K, but not more. I think everyone struggled with flow on the second stage, it was just too lumpy and twisty to get any sort of speed going. On the first and last stages I felt like I was not pushing hard enough, and since my derallieur was bent I only had my lowest five or six gears, not ideal. Therefore I was a bit surprised to come home with a shared third spot in a pretty competent field, not bad.

 

A quick swim to cool our overheated bodies and off we were. Back home to mend the bikes and recharge the batteries for new adventures.

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.

 

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