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October 2018

Like a road race, only crunchy

DB

As the seasons roll by the motivation to enter stuff gets harder to muster.

Unless there is a damn good reason, it’s easier to just go for a ride.

The Dirty K is a damn good reason. Not only is it a ‘gravel race’, and therefore a logical outing for my latest bike, it is around the top end of Coromandel, and any excuse to go there is a good one.

The event tags on to the K2 road race, a 200km hillfest that circumnavigates the middle of Coromandel Peninsula from a different start point each year. In 2018 it was Coromandel town, so when the idea of a rugged alternate ‘race’ was hatched the route north was chosen. A 70 kilometre lap was sorted out, about half of which is unsealed. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Throw in 1350m of climbing, and it becomes an honest day on the bike.

The format was new: instead of the usual road race start to finish timing regime, the Dirty K had a timing pad at each end to make sure nobody went missing, but no ‘result’ was calculated form them. Riders all used Strava to record their own efforts on four “stages”, which could be attacked or ignored at the rider’s whim.

Format schmormat. It was actually about getting there, hanging out, riding with mates, seeing places, eating stuff, and using low gear for over twenty minutes at a time.

 

Strava

 

The variety of people and bikes that turned out on the day reminded me of Round Taupo 20 years ago, or the early days of mountain bike events. There were people on state of the art ‘gravel’ bikes, hand made ‘gravel’ bikes (that are also state of the art). There was at least one full fatbike, and mountain bikes of various stripes, including a few that were pristine examples of the breed from the mid-nineties. I saw one e-bike, with a happy owner, at the 15km mark. I hope her battery held out for the last climb - it was a monster.

In our gang we had 28mm road tyres (brave, but logical given the featherweight rider), 47mm semi-slicks, and 2.2 inch mountain bike tyres. We had carbon fibre, hand made steel, and steel stitched together in Asia.

The people riding the bikes ranged from current hitters to the likes of us - on the road to see what would happen.

Which was rolling through stunning locations, grovelling up long steep climbs, and negotiating some really hairy descents. Discomfort was mitigated by rest stops featuring electrolyte and jellybeans in one case, beer and free stickers at another.

The Dirty K is the only event we have attended where the finish arch was positioned at 90 degrees to the road, and crossing the finish line meant entering a garden bar that was already crowded with people and bikes.

If at all possible, try not to miss the next edition, or try something similar where you live.

Gayle

Nick

Volvo

 

Just when you thought you were out

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This morning Facebook dished up a photo alleging that seven years ago I was racing my mountain bike in a Whaka 100. Or 50, I couldn’t read the number plate.

Not long after that episode, I decided I would no longer strap a number plate on to ride around trails I know so well I can draw this, mostly from memory.

But annual events are like the mafia, just when you think you are out, they pull you back in.
When one of our friends was unable to make her date with the Whaka 50, she offered me her number plate and position on the startline.

A good opportunity, I decided, to test the viability of doing a 50km xc race without a backpack, and kitted out like I would be for an after work spin. Take one bottle, and the sure knowledge of where the drinking taps are. No spares or tools, proving I do not learn from experience.

An Nzo Trail T, a pair of the latest Cruiseliners, and a pair of custom Burners.

In the right zip pocket, a phone, for recording the entire sorry outing in case I can go faster on a section of the course than usual, or more importantly, than others I knew to be like me: in the race, but not in the running for the overall win.

In the left zip pocket, a car key and a squeeze-pack of high octane glucose stuff, my only other cargo a mental note stating exactly where the squeeze-pack would be ingested.

On the day, everything went as I recall it usually does for people like me: stuck in traffic for ten ks, gapped by whippets on the first climb, slowly pick some of them off on downhill bits, eat squeezy, empty bottle. Refill at tap, relinquish five places. Slowly pick some of them off on downhill bits. Do a sad wheelie that almost but not quite clears the creek crossing, finish midpack with wet feet.

I can report that the kit performed perfectly, the phone was hardly noticeable, and the squeezy came out of the pocket and the packet went back in without me losing the car key (I checked it twice).

 

Dragons Tail

Inadvertent jump

 

How to get sponsored

Obstacle

Even a small mountain bike apparel brand adrift in the South Seas gets its fair share of sponsorship proposals.

None of them offering to sponsor us.

They come from keen individuals heading for stardom, offering to wear our kit for the positive association we will enjoy when they become famous.

Which is great, we like people to follow their dreams. Even if they are delusional, which they mostly are. We know, we had our own bike racing delusions before the last ice age.

Recalling my own trajectory from future champion to ex-bike racer reminds us to be polite when we decline most offers.

But once in a while we get a proposal that kicks off the right way and we pony up.

Thirteen years ago an email arrived that started with the information that the sender already owned a full complement of our products.

Note to future champions: that goes a long way.

And she had been using her Nzo gear on a self-funded downhill racing expedition to Europe.

Respect.

She liked the gear, and wanted to represent. We decided she was good fit, and got on board.

The gravity aspect of her career was pursued to its logical end without world domination, but subsequent world courier championships (arguably more complicated to win than downhill races) fell to her unique mix of bike-riding ability and literally, street smarts.

And she is still our mate.

We can’t put a number on the extra things we sold because of that fairly brief sponsorship arrangement, but we are pretty sure we got positive vibes at the time.

What I am very sure about is that when we get to ride together, like we did all day Sunday, our ex-team member is still in love with bike riding, and does it better than most people, including me.

Blurry photo at the top is our Sunday buddy demonstrating how to tackle an obstacle - blurred on purpose to protect her identity - not just because it was me behind the phone taking the picture.

 

It's a whole new sport

green Lake Trail

 

Mountain biking is full of new stuff. Even after thirty years it is amazing how each year brings fresh developments.


Right now the thing that strikes us as new is the sport itself.


On the weekend the Rotorua Trails Trust opened a new trail.


Named Te Kotukutuku after the native fuchsia flowering on the small peninsula near the exit, it is a Grade 2 trail that drops riders from the heights above Lake Rotokakahi, which marks the southern end of the Whakarewarewa Forest, right down to the lake’s edge on flowing, easy singletrack.
The new trail will be part of a big loop right around the outside of the trail system, planned for completion this summer, and made for everybody.


A loop that can be accessed piecemeal in a variety of ways, and also tackled as an all day adventure, it reflects what has happened to mountain biking lately.


It’s a big, complicated project to execute, and it’s aimed at everybody, not just “mountain bikers”.
Our lap of the woods on Sunday included the new trail, and what we found would have been hard to imagine just a few years ago.


Not long ago, if you were in the woods on a bike you were a “mountain biker”, and a recognisable member of a tribe. That group has gradually become much bigger, looser and more diverse, but they are still identifiable.


The only common factor among riders we found on Te Kotukutuku was the number of wheels on their machines - two each.


There were little kids on bikes with no pedals. Middle sized kids on BMXs. Grown-ups on brand new e-bikes. An older couple on commuter bikes with mudguards and carriers.


It was great.


Some of these people will grow out of their bikes, and not get around to replacing them. Some will park their bikes after a while, and the tyres and batteries will go flat.


But some will wake up in a few years with a variety of bikes crammed into the garage, piles of related bits and pieces, and enough accumulated experience and scars to call themselves mountain bikers.


And that simple trail was their first step.

 

UCI NEWSFLASH

eBikeHeader

 

UCI Announces a World Championship for E-Bikes

The 2019 mountain bike racing season will culminate as it always does at the World Championships. This time though there will be a race for e bikes. As you may have guessed, the rules are complex.

Further details have been leaked from the UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland this morning.

The event will be a XCO race format, and will be open to the following athletes:

• anybody over 55 years of age at the start of 2019.
• Any athletes recovering from an injury (must not be self inflicted, unless it was suffered in a bicycle crash).
• Athletes recovering from any condition requiring hospitalisation for longer than three days in the 12 months prior to the event date.
• Partners of elite athletes, who don’t ride more than once a month
• People who have a day job, or are self-employed, and just don’t have time to you know, get out on the bike as much as they would like.

The UCI confirmed that there will be no drug testing for entrants in the e bike event, because the drug regimens they are likely to be on due to lifestyle choices, old age, or straight out bad luck will make decisions around TUEs too complex.

However, the technical specialists employed to make sure non-e bike competitors don’t have motors in their bikes will be on hand to ensure the e bike competitors do.