First trip up north is just about to happen, and I am getting well excited. Hopefully there will be good weather, a stable snowpack and a bunch of messing about pretending to be a real alpinist.
I also look forward to putting all the new OR gear through the proverbial grinder, my expectations are high.
I got the best x-mas present ever this year, a trip to visit Andreas’ sister with family on Gran Canaria. Yea, I know, I’m a lucky sod.
Off course we took the bikes with us, hanging out on the beach for a week is not our idea of a holiday.
Off we go!
Well then, time for the fun bit.
A whole lot of tarmac climbing later…
A whole lot of tarmac climbing later…
Well, being down at the dirt track, now we just roll gently down to the cafe for a beer and seafood dinner, right? Right?
We still had a bit of climbing to do, and then…
A seemingly very long push later…
Oh, and the Marzocchis, the gear nerds ask? Well, to put it bluntly, they work and work well. I was more than a little bit apprehensive, since the Bos shoes they would be filling are very big indeed, but my worries were unfunded.
I spent a while fettling around with air pressure, since mine are lowered to 150mm I had to go surprisingly low. At 160mm I thing the recommended air pressure in the manual is pretty bang on, but I had to take out 15-20% to be anywhere close to using full travel on them at 150mm. Damping feels great, supple but supportive, and stiffness under braking and cornering is more than enough for my 75kg. This is also the biggest change I have noticed so far when compared to the Devilles with their straight steerer. Oh, and the axle is more fiddly (and heavier I think) than the beutiful 20mm unit on the Devilles.
As far as damping goes, it is hard to really pick out big differences without riding them back to back, which I have not done. There is a slight difference in feel I think, the Bos forks have a “dead in the parking lot, great on the trail” feel to them that is hard to put in words. The air spring might also be a bit more progressive in the Marzocchis compared to Bos at stock oil levels, but the difference is i think easy to overcome by just adding or subtracting a bit of oil in the Bos.
The biggest difference I think is in the adjusters. The Marzocchis have a more traditional, very wide range on the rebound for example. It goes from pogo to almost not extending at all, with a bunch of useable clicks in the middle somewhere. Bos on the other hand does not seem to give the option of a bad setting, all 22 or whatever clics are good and useable, at least for my weight.
In summary they are two awesome forks, and I like the Marzocchis right now for the stiffness, great damping and cool brown stanchions (yea, I’m silly, I know). Big thumbs up to Fillariosa for providing punters like me with gear that is way better than they deserve.
Finally, a shout out to Andrea is well in order for giving me this trip as a Christmas present, and of course to her sister with family for letting us stay and being super cool company.
Here I am getting excited again. I will tell you all about Gran Canaria and how buttery the new suspension was in just a little while, when I get all the pictures straightened and processed. Right now, I just wanted to say give Outdoor Research two big thumbs up for helping me out with gear this summer.
Yeah, I know, it’s great. OR makes gear for climbers, alpinists and skiers. I think it will do for mtb as well. Nice looking, minimalist no BS stuff, just as I like it. I look forward to putting it through its paces.
I am beyond chuffed to be able to say that I am a part of the Fillariosa Team. As such, we will be working together on my suspension, which incidentally is the part of my bike I like to tinker with the most, and that I am most particular and nerdy about.
With their long experience of not only selling bouncy bits, but also service and custom tuning (YAY!) I am convinced they will prove an awesome partner. As I understand, the expansion to Sweden has just started. About time in my opinion, we really needed options closer than the usual suspects in Britain.
To start off, I got to try the on paper very promising Marzocchi 350ncr. The Bos Deville left some fairly big shoes to fill, and my expectations are set very high. First impressions are just that, first impressions. Not much one can say really as long as things are not awful, and they are not. Let me get back in a week and I hopefully will have logged some time in more serious terrain on them. While it might look nice and dry on the pictures, mind that composition is all about not showing things. Snow and ice in this case, but soon I will be in bigger, dryer and warmer terrain to test things out proper.
I have been feeling like winter came and went without me. I was just standing on the platform, passively looking on as the season passed by.
From my all time low in January recovery has been so slow that it was almost unnoticeable. But it was there. It turns out I was not really stuck on the platform, I was ever so slowly moving in the right direction. At glacier pace, mind you.
In the last month things have started to come together a bit. Two weeks ago I left the mind dulling comfort of the city for the first time since Christmas. Andrea and Jen gently dragged me to the mountains of Borgafjäll and we did a couple of short tours. Weather and snow conditions were passable, my strength far from it. Walking uphill at snails pace was fine, but my riding was weak to say the least. Never before have I felt fatigue after riding a line on my board, but this time, oh yes. The board felt like hundreds of kilos, little ollies turned into massive efforts and there was no power on those edges whatsoever. Despite all this, the weekend was a great success, as it showed me that at least I could be outside and enjoy the mountains again.
Fast forward two weeks, a few very short bike rides and a rather uneventful weekend and me, Andrea and Jen are again on our way to the mountains. This time, Marsfjällen, a massif of summits characterised by long, mellow approaches and beutiful views, in one of the wildest parts of the Västerbotten mountains.
Accomodation is usually scarse around Easter, but we lucked out and one of Andreas friends put us in touch with a little cabin. Rudimentary electricity, no running water and so on, but good enough for us.
Jen immediately upon arrival celebrated by starting to clear of a seasons worth of snow that had accumulated on the roof.
After a lot of digging, food and sleep we woke up to a sunny but windy day. As I hinted, the approaches are long around these parts.
200m of elevation gain over several kilometers took us up into the alpine valley, from where the proper climbing starts. Incidentally, it is also where the riding ends and the slog back home starts, but now I am getting ahead of myself.
Once in the valley, we dug a pit to escape the wind, took a snack and discussed our options. There was a couple of potential objectives off of Gahkan, in the far end of the valley. One of those felt too steep and risky for a first day out, and the other included climbing over the mountain and riding down the other side, making it impossible to assess the line before committing to the climb. And there were some looming clouds, possibly making visibility up high an issue. With me also feeling a bit tired (as always nowadays) and Andrea still with very few days on snow after the avalanche last year, we opted for the easy and safe option, which would also minimise slogging on our way out of the valley.
The climb was mellow enough, and the snow better than it looked from afar, especially considering how the wind did its best to wreck havoc everywhere.
The creek we skinned along ended in an alpine lake and the landscape opened up. The snow still looked good and we had a bit of shelter from the wind so we figured we might just keep going all the way to the summit.
Up there, it was of course windy and quite unpleasant, but the feeling of making it there more than weighed up for it. Doing a quick transition we started our way down. The first bit was over a blind roll-over, and since we skirted around it on the way up there were no tracks to follow either. On riders right there was a fairly big cornice that I was keen to avoid as well, so this was a good opportunity to practice a bit of navigation by feel. All went well and the snow was not too bad, settled pow with the odd hard patch thrown in to spice things up.
Further down by the creek there were some really nice turns to be had, mixed up by some more challenging turns as usual. Some high clouds came in for a bit and treated us to a fantastic light that I was not even close to capturing despite trying my best.
Coming into this weekend I was a bit hesitant about my riding, since my experience in Borgafjäll was less than thrilling. Now, however, it was a different ball game. I was not merely a passenger on my admittedly quite stiff and heavy Odin, but could at least to some extent actually ride it. I felt at least ten times stronger, which was a really cool feeling, and I also was not exhausted at the end of the run. There is still a long way to the power I had in my riding last spring, but at least this really shows that I am getting there.
Happy that we made it to a summit and everything, we made our way back down to the cabin. This was actually not too arduous a task, since the creek feeds out practically where the valley transitions from being slightly uphill to going absolutely flat, so we made it to the bottom without even having to split our boards. Oh, the joy!
Then we got home and finished clearing the roof.
After dinner we fell asleep at 9pm, just as it should be in the mountains.
On the day of Easter the sun was still out but the wind had died down, and we were chuffed. Boosted by the success and stable snow of the day before, not to mention the promising weather outlook, we aimed higher. The plan was to climb Gahkan, which guards the far end of the valley, and poke around a little on the objectives we passed up on the day before.
The slog over the wetlands and up through the forest felt faster this time around. I don’t think we moved that much quicker, but familiarity and good weather are powerful drugs.
We also had word that Henrik and Cilla would be joining us, but since our 9pm bedtime gave us quite the head start we had plenty of time for long lunch breaks and chilling in the sun. Just as well, because I went through one of those crappy phases I seem to be plagued with, when it feels like I am more or less dying. Luckily, it passed after a while on the skin up to the summit of Gahkan. By the way, I can’t remember ever passing more false summits on such a short climb before. Gahkan is severly convex, something we would experience properly on the way down…
From the summit we had three options. Riding down the other side into the great vast nothing that lies on this side of the mountain, or ride down into the same valley we came from either the same exact way we skinned up or a steeper option taking us into the really far end of the valley.
After seeing the view of the severely wind scoured snow on the “other side”, our options narrowed down to going the same exact way we came, which was a very mellow slope covered in rime, sastrugi and the odd patch of settled pow, or going for the steep and exciting option.
The day before we had been eying this steep exciting option from the the summit of Rovpen, but the fact that Rovpen is several kilometers away and we had no binoculars limited what information could be gathered. And now when push came to shove our mental images of the line were as fragmentary and conflicting as one could expect.
After much debate, we decided to go exciting, but in a careful way. We would skirt around the steepest bit and try to get a good visual of our line from the side before traversing over and dropping in, thus also giving us the opportunity to pull the plug and climb back up safely if we didn’t like what we saw.
After a lot of feeling around, traversing and conferring, we found something that looked rideable and safe enough. Most of the line was one big long roll over, thereby limiting vision to what felt like just a handful of meters ahead. And since there were rocks and cliffs sticking out here and there, I started down quite carefully and with big margins for error. After a couple of tentative turns showed that the snow was really nice, fast and bouncy, and I could open it up as much as visibility allowed. I was properly thrilled when I reached the bottom, and I think the girls were too when they came down. Finally, a proper line and not just mellow cruising. Not that I mind low angle cruising and playing around, but there is nothing a bit of steepness and a touch of gentle exposure to make me feel properly alive!
From there, there was nothing more to do than to turn around and walk out the long, flat valley.
What about Henrik and Cilla, asked the observant reader. Well, we waited for them at the summit and met them just before riding down, but they had to go back the way they came due to time constraints, Easter celebrations and all that.
Too bad, but we made up for it the following day by going over to their neck of the woods in Grundfors. The weather was a bit more iffy, and given that our objective was the sparse birches of Gemon it suited us perfectly. Thanks to Lennart we got a tow across the lake with his old snowmobile, and saved ourselves a couple of kilometers of flat approach work.
Gemon is a low, long mountain, reaching just above treeline. Those woods hold plenty of nice, mellow riding with a few little natural features here and there to keep things interesting.
The snow was really nice, despite low elevation. North faces is where it is at, that’s for sure. Everything below treeline even slightly south facing was crusty and horrible, but on Gemon we were treated to creamy, soft snow everywhere except where the wind had done its thing.
Half way up we dug a pit. Not because it was strictly needed, in the trees and on such a mellow slope I was not worried. But it is still fun and interesting to see what is going on in the snow, the little scientist in me just cannot resist.
We found fairly solid 1f wind slabs resting of sandwiches of facets and ice from the various rainstroms we were “blessed” with earlier this year. It looks very similar to what we saw in Borgafjäll, and might turn out to be a problem when temperatures rise later in spring. Last year was plagued with similar ice layers and we saw big avalances in a lot of places.
Anyway, we kept going uphill and eventually reached treeline, where we called it quits due to increasingy wind affected snow turning into sastrugi and just general windyness.
On the way down I caught an edge just at treeline, where the snow went from buttery to chalky to buttery and catchy again, all over just a few meters. First proper crash of the season, throwing me properly over the bars into full tomahawk and eventually planting me head down in the snow. Nothing torn, nothing broken but a sore neck for sure and a bit more cautious for the rest of that lap.
Of course I needed my revenge, and the laps are fairly short anyways, so we went up again.
In the end, we did three laps and I rode if not at the level I am used to at least not embarrassingly bad. Finishing the day with sauna and dinner was just perfect, and then straight home to bed. It was 930pm after all, an almost ungodly hour for us in the sick and tired club.
Big thanks to Andrea and Jen for putting up with me even when I was tired and whining about everything, and of course thanks to Henrik, Cilla and Lennart for a great day and evening in Grundfors.
This Easter showed me that I really am moving in the right direction, and soon bigger things might be on the horizon!
It’s a long time coming, but at last I am slowly getting better. While I work on a longer post about Easter, snowboarding, getting better and all that, in the mean time let me just say that today (and yesterday) I got to ride my bike. Even if it is just for an hour, it is a sure way to make any day a better day.
Yep, still not well. But I am making progress I think, it just happens to be painfully slow.
Last week I was able to ride my bike all 2km up to the garage four days straight, an unbelievable feat! I cannot describe how good it felt to get out and roll a bit, even if it is the most boring riding one could possibly come up with.
In the garage I busied myself with the bike belonging to a certain hungry hen, a 2012 Stumpy Evo if I recall correctly. Lots of trails have been ridden since 2012, and the bearings in the frame were due for a change. As anyone who ever attempted to change bearings in a Specialized FSR frame surely knows, the pivots below the rear axle are a pain to work with. Each of those pivots contains two bearings, pressed in one from each side so that there is no way of actually pressing them out, and since there is a washer in between they are also very hard to bang out with a screwdriver or something. After cursing for a while, I turned to google for answers and manufactured this:
Essentially it is an M10 screw with a split in it. I put it in the bearing at just the right depth and then bash a screwdriver in the split to open it up, thereby grabbing the inner race of the bearing. Then it is just a matter of getting the whole thing out, I do it by using a socket of appropriate size and a nut to pull out the bearing.
Outside of the garage the snow is melting fast now. The weather is unseasonably mild, but since I can’t go skiing anyway I’m not the one to complain. I have actually been able to do a couple of short sessions on the little bike, practicing track stands, hops and wheelies. Damn it feels good to be on a bike again! And today, for the first time in what feels like forever, I rode an actual trail. Granted it was 20m long and i was exhausted afterwards, but I did it! Now I just hope my health will come back in the same pace as the trails start to become rideable again!
That little bike is so much fun, it surprises me every time. I really look forward to the coming season, especially with the move up to Tromsö in the making. There might be other big news coming shortly, stay tuned!
Yea, so a month has gone by with me practically wearing out the couch. I have finished off Command&Conquer, Red Alert, Civ2, Theme Hospital and the best part of Age of Empires 2 (that’s a damn hard game, by the way), and have now started with Red Alert 2. That’s about as fun, or not, as my life has been.
In the mean time we have had the weirdest winter ever, scary snowpack and 75 dead in avalanches in Europe so far. In Sweden there seem to have been a few truly fantastic (but oh so sketchy) days and between them lots and lots of crappy riding. If I got to choose one winter to not be able to ride, this one is a good candidate.
Today I was at the hospital (again) and the latest word is that I might suffer from post myocarditis. In pure English, this means that I may have had a light inflammation in the heart muscle (not as bad as it sounds) and now my body is healed but cannot really believe it and gives me all kinds of symptoms (way worse than it sounds).
Good or bad, at least for the first time I have some kind of educated guess about what is wrong. And the good thing is that it’s not dangerous, just tedious. And I think i just maybe possibly might be on the way towards recovery, today I even managed a proper walk in the sunshine. I cannot stress enough how good it felt after not being able to drag my bum off the couch for more than a month. YAY!