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A Snippet of Singletrack: The BC Bike Race

August 8th, 2013

Eagles soar overhead, and I fixate on countless coves I wish to build my dream cabin on as we sail across the scenic Strait of Georgia to the isolated northern Sunshine Coast on the BC Ferries Queen of Burnaby. Powell River is a town that has ridden the tumultuous wave of boom and bust for years, starting when the first pulp mill was built there in 1908. With the last downturn in BC’s forestry industry, the town saw significant job cuts, and another cycle of depression. More recently, Powell River has turned to other forms of industry, such as eco-tourism. The BC Bike Race is the perfect fit, as proven by our reception upon arrival. We depart the ferry on foot, walking up the main street toward the start line, crowds of locals cheering us on. Tiny cheerleading squads toss each other in the air while teenage boys smash out rhythms on drums. Storeowners hand out watermelon to racers, while bagpipers stand at attention on a street corner. We make our way to the start line, which is also our campsite for the evening, located right beside the ocean on the green grass of the town park.

The singletrack of the day’s stage proves to be equally welcoming. We quickly dive into flowy singletrack winding through the temperate rainforest surrounding Powell River. The riding demands full concentration, but whenever I raise my focus from the task at hand I am rewarded with a beautiful view of a pristine lake, river or some other natural wonder. The community spirit overflows onto the trails as well. On the first of two timed Enduro sections of the day, hundreds of people line the freshly-built track called Death Rattle, yelling encouragement and smashing cowbells. There’s even one fellow railing out rock anthems on his guitar and battery-powered amp. The energy is electric as I rail turns down the mountain, carving up berms of dark coastal dirt, cascading my way through some of the most enjoyable trail I have ever ridden. The stage ends right where it began, next to the ocean, and many racers take advantage of that fact, soaking tired muscles in the cool waters of the Pacific.

That evening we convene for dinner at the local sports complex. The hockey rink is devoid of ice, and now features cloth-covered tables and silverware, complete with candles and decorative white lights adorning the sides of the rink. Girls on rollerskates float around serving local craft beer and wine while we dig into barbequed pork roast, shrimp and asparagus pasta, local organic veggies and caramel-glazed cake for dessert. While we loosen our belts and sit groaning from the herculean amounts of food we have just ingested, local talents hit the stage for the evening’s entertainment. The night is capped off when an awkward, chubby teenager shuffles on stage to sing. He starts off with Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You” and has the crowd on its feet cheering incredulously after the first few pitch-perfect notes, like a scene out of an American Idol audition. Later, as the sun sets over the ocean, and I fall asleep to the sound of waves on the shore, I marvel over how this was just one of seven amazing days of this race. Each day is an experience unto itself, and the whole week an incredible adventure.

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I Hate Road Trips

June 20th, 2013

Das Rad Haus owner Christine ripping on Xanadu in Leavenworth

I hate road trips. Especially trips to awesome new zones to go bike riding. They are a blur of teases: quick, sneaky peeks into great scenes that you previously didn’t even know existed. One short day of checking the area out, maybe a few if you’re lucky, and you are on to the next spot, fantasizing about pulling up stakes, quitting your job and moving to your new-found riding center of the universe. And if the road trip is anything like the one I just got back from, the next little haven you pull into will have the same effect, making you wonder just what life would be like if you never left this freshly-discovered Shangri-La of bicycling.

My girlfriend Rachel and I left from our home in Vancouver on a trip into Washington with four bikes and one goal: ride a lot. The plan was to minimize the driving by staying in one small corner of Washington State, and riding our road bikes and mountain bikes everyday in a new area. The loop we planned took us through the North Cascades National Park, through Winthrop, down the arid and beautiful Okanogan and Columbia River valleys, up over to Leavenworth, detouring over Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie, and finally back up to Bellingham to end off the six day excursion. No one day did we drive more than two hours, and every day we got in a scenic road ride and a sweet mountain bike ride (or two). In other words, six days of being teased and tantalized by some amazing areas in this part of the state.

The Loop

The path of most resistance.

Our schedule was simple: Wake up in our new locale, go for a morning road ride, eat breakfast, go for a mountain bike ride, eat a late lunch and head off to our next destination, usually making plans for the next time we found ourselves passing through that area again.

The roads in America are great, often much better than in Canada. Where we have a decrepit, pot-holed forestry road, Americans have a smooth winding strip of asphalt through some amazing country. We took advantage of this fact on the uber-scenic North Cascades drive, and on some memorable road rides through miles of orchards and vineyards in Chelan and Leavenworth, and along quiet country highways along the Methow and Snoqualmie Rivers.

Tuscany?

Nope, the rolling hills and smooth pavement of Lake Chelan.

Rachel is relatively new to mountain biking, and I have had mixed success with introducing her to the joys of riding. One decent pedal in Squamish is quickly overshadowed by a horror-fest of technical roots and rocks on the Shore, or a crazed B-Liner running her off a berm on his personal race to Strava glory. Washington gave up the goods for her, with a variety of trails that were a lot of fun for the both of us. Highlights included the Sun Mountain trails in Winthrop, the amazing variety of the Duthie Hill Bike Park near Seattle, the long climb but epic descent of Fruend Canyon in Leavenworth and the flowy goodness of Galbraith Mountain in Bellingham. I got out on a couple shreds as well, on a super cool ridgeline DH off of Chelan Butte, and a sweet rip down Xanadu in Leavenworth with some locals.

The towns beguiled us with their charms as well. Winthrop has gone with the Western theme, but pulled it off in fine style. As we walked up the main street taking in the views, Rachel noted: “Even the gas station is adorable!” Can’t argue with that. We had a quick peek into the potential of the Methow Valley, but barely scratched the surface. The fellows at Methow Cycle and Sport (a fine Kona dealer) alluded to many more singletrack epics up in the surrounding hills above Mazama and Winthrop. But, like any road trip, we shelved those ideas for later, and carried on.

Taking in the views on Echo Ridge, Chelan.

With my F.O.M.O. (Fear Of Missing Out) disorder going into overdrive from all the epic spots we were merely sampling, I almost blew a gasket once we arrived in Leavenworth. Two weeks, let alone our two days (actually only one night and a day) would not be enough to experience everything this town has to offer, once you look past the kitschy Bavarian theme that pervades every element of the main drag, including the McDonalds sign. It would take me at least a few days just to get through the menu at South, an amazing Mexican restaurant in town. Trails abound here, leading out of every corner of this alpen town. Rivers cascade out of the tight mountain valleys, climbable rock spires reach for the sky, and friendly locals (like the ones at Kona dealer Das Rad Haus) point visitors in the direction of the singletrack goods (while probably saving a few secret nuggets for themselves).

Ridge Ride

Taking in the views from the top of Xanadu

Fantasizing about our new lives in Leavenworth, we carried on our way, spoiling ourselves for a couple nights at the fancy Salish Lodge and Spa near Snoqualmie (thanks Groupon Getaway deal!) and riding the very unique and super fun Duthie Hill Bike Park, which is located just minutes from the Lodge. Coming to terms with the realization that we could not live in the Lodge full-time, we drove up to Bellingham to end off the trip with some fun exploration of the Galbraith Mountain trails, with a side trip to Boundary Bay Brewery for some eats, and Trader Joe’s to stock up on some cheap cheese and Two Buck Chuck.

So, like I mentioned, I hate road trips. Especially when they are as awesome as this one was.

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Swiss Chalet: Eight Days of the Finest Swiss and French Downhill Mountain Bike Gems

May 22nd, 2012

Head buzzing from wine, stomach full of cheese, meat and bread, I careened haphazardly down the mountain, the Rhone Valley far below and a group of howling bike riders in the exact same boat as I following closely behind.

We were mid-way through an eight-day sampling of some of the finest Swiss and French downhill mountain bike gems. Some days took us to established bike parks, and other days to obscure trails hidden to the general public, and only discovered through a combination of bribing locals, studying maps and some good ‘ol fashioned luck.

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Protected Singletrack in Jasper National Park

October 19th, 2011

Some mountain bike meccas have their “mecca” designation handed to them with ease. All of the elements are there for them: the ideal topography, a dedicated bunch of locals with a vision, and the freedom to ride in the aforementioned hills.
Jasper mountain bikers have never had it easy. The town is situated in the middle of a national park, which presents many obstacles on the road to becoming a mountain bike destination. Parks Canada, which was formed exactly 100 years ago in 1911, has never held mountain bikes in high esteem, shutting them out completely from vast areas of national park land. Jasper, however, is a living, breathing anomaly in the Parks world, with mountain bikers slowly carving out a niche for themselves in the middle of the Canadian Rockies.

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Homecoming

June 30th, 2011

Jason Remple looking out over Kootenay Lake

There is a certain comfort with the trappings of home. The familiar nooks and crannies of a house that one has grown up in, the hiding places, the comfort that is bred through this familiarity. The trails I grew up on evoke similar feelings. My travels take me all over the world, but my roots run deep into the dark forest loam of the Kootenays, my first home. I recently visited my hometown of Nelson for a few days, and managed to get out for a few mountain bike rides.

More than just the trails themselves, the feeling of re-immersing myself in an environment that nurtured me from a young age was a comfort in itself. The stoic and silent mountains that I grew up in seemed to welcome me as I climbed up the logging road towards the first Kootenay trail of my return. Even the scents of the forest seemed familiar, reminding me of my youthful adventures on the very same mountain.

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Where’s Your Adventure? Win an Osprey Raptor and Adventure Cycling Association Membership

May 2nd, 2011

It’s the month to celebrate cycling! May is National Bike Month and to get you excited about getting out and riding, we’re partnering up with one of our favorite causes, the Adventure Cycling Association.

Where’s Your Adventure? That’s what we want to know.

Give us your most adventurous cycling photo; it can be from a gnarly section of single track or bombing down an urban hill on your single speed. Just upload your photo to our Flickr pool and tag it with “adventurecycling.” Every week during the month of May we’ll be picking our favorite to win an ACA membership and a Raptor 6. At the end of the month we’ll leave picking the winner up to you, getting our fans to vote and choose our People’s Choice Winner.

Note: Osprey will retain the right to images for future use in blog posts. And please note that we can ship to U.S. addresses only.

Image: notfrancois

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Raptor: The “Bee’s Knees”

January 3rd, 2011

We’re happy that the Raptor was considered the “bee’s knees” by bike site 29 Inches. “Something I found incredibly useful, sturdy, comfortable, and impressive during my riding time in 2010.” Cheers to that!

Read the whole review here.

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Interbike 2010: Cyclingdirt Takes a Look at Raptor Hydration Pack

September 28th, 2010

Thanks to Cyclingdirt for coming by the booth last week at Interbike and interviewing our Bike Marketing Manager Jeff Fox about all the bells and whistles of the Raptor hydration pack.
Visit cyclingdirt.org for more videos.
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Thoughts from Interbike Outdoor Demo

September 24th, 2010

Recently, I read an article that stated “the number of bikes one should own can be expressed using the formula:

N+1 where N= the number of bikes currently owned

This equation can also be expressed as:

S-1, where S= the number of bikes you can own without your spouse leaving you

As a first time exhibitor at the Outdoor Demo segment of Interbike, these equations have taken on a whole new meaning. My shed is already jam packed with more bikes than I could ever ride (I think it is 12 or 13), however this show has made me realize how many gaps there are in my riding arsenal. The primary purpose for my attendance at the Outdoor Demo was to staff the Osprey Packs booth and demo the new Raptor hydration packs to parched riders who braved the 100+ degree temps to hop on the latest in mountain and road bikes for a ride in the desert of Bootleg Canyon. As these thirsty riders hung out at the Osprey booth and maybe even took advantage of the awesome deals we offered as a fundraiser for the 88bikes Foundation, it gave me time to drool over the coolest innovations the bicycle industry had to offer.

Fortunately, I have not found the exact number equal to S (where your spouse leaves you) but may push the envelope in the near future. Surely my wife will understand that I absolutely need a carbon fiber, geared, 29 inch hardtail for racing 24 Hours in the Sage next year as my current carbon fiber singlespeed will no longer suffice. With Cyclocross season upon us, there is no way I can survive without one of the wicked fast 2011 model upgrades. And then there were all of the super cool cruisers that would make my evening pub commute so much better than my red steel townie that is a dozen years old. The myriad of new road bikes was so overwhelming that I could not possibly limit my purchase to just one.

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Bike DealerCamp Park City

July 31st, 2010

The Osprey Packs bike team is in Park City, UT at Bike DealerCamp providing free Raptor demos for some of the country’s top bike dealers. This event allows dealers to spend the day riding around the beautiful trails and roads in the Deer Valley/Park City area testing the latest in new bikes, apparel and accessories. Osprey packs is offering each dealer a new Raptor hydration pack featuring the revolutionary Hydraform reservoir filled with ice cold water to use on their test rides. Response has been overwhelmingly positive and it is obvious that these packs are going to be a real hit.  For details on the new Raptor series hydration packs, check out the Osprey web site at: www.ospreypack.com

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