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“Whoopsie Woodle” through Bellingham, WA

June 11th, 2009

The Osprey Brand Team, a group of 10 ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures in their own neck of the woods, checks in with bike racer and brand team member, James Whitesides. Here James describes the fantastic “in-town” accessible mountain bike trails Bellingham, WA has to offer…

The legs are finally coming around! After a few weeks in what felt like the cycling doldrums I finally had a good week of riding that culminated in a long ride on Sunday. Mercedes, Mark, Jon, Troy, Nick and I from the uBRDO Team Project went for a ride in Bellingham that exceeded all of my expectations.

Trail riding in Washington has always been great but an explosion of trail maintenance groups, Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance and WHIMPS Club among others, have kept the trails that I ride open and in great shape. The trails I rode this Sunday are some of the best town accessible trails I have ever ridden. You might ask how “in town” are they? They are so in town I wish I had a picture of the transit bus driving towards the trailhead with three downhill bikes on the front of it. The great thing about Galbraith is that the city has planned parking access well enough to make it easy to get to the trail.

Then you start going up…and up….and up…and you get the idea. The trailhead starts at 200 feet above sea level and the top of the mountain is six miles distant and 1600 feet higher; as the crow flies. Not a spectacularly steep climb but it makes for quite an interesting warm up. Since Bellingham is so close to B.C. and the Northshore scene that several of the trails are definitely down-only affairs, i.e. elevators, with healthy drops and sustained stunts that are mind blowing. Since I don’t go downhill all that fast I focus on the uphill.

With my little Talon 5.5 filled with 70 oz of water and all of the riding essentials I was a little weighed down at first but hit my rhythm pretty easily. A dry spring has left a lot of our trails perfectly tacky and smoother than normal which makes for great rear wheel traction and a much more enjoyable day on the single-speed.

The long climb is broken by quick little rollers and doesn’t seem as long as it is. A quick break just below the last pitches to the top and we took off down the most exciting trail of the day; Whoopsie Woodle. Seriously, they are going to make a great trail and then give it that name? That consideration aside, the trail is amazing. A steep and fast entry immediately takes you 200 feet lower in a flash and you fly into a series of tight but smooth switchbacks. A quick roller with a tricky log that you have to flick your bike over and the roller coaster starts again, dragging you further towards the bottom of the valley that seems really far away. Then they point you straight down what must be a 35˚ slope. After a couple of suggestions of how steep it is you traverse out into an open space where the logging companies of old denuded the side of the hill. Views of the San Juan Islands, Mt Baker, and the very tip of Vancouver Island stretch out in a huge panorama as you flow through old stumps. When you pop out onto the fire road you have but one option…up!

Two more hours of great trails, one endo, one broken chain (and bruised knee), one flat and some really hammered rear ends (most of us were on hard tails) we made it back to the uBRDO Sprinter and headed home.  In two weeks we are going to ride a long double day composed of a XC race in the morning and a trail ride in the afternoon. All of this in the name of fun and bikes!

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24 Hours of Spokane, WA

June 2nd, 2009

The Osprey Brand Team, a group of 10 ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures in their own neck of the woods, checks in with bike racer and brand team member, James Whitesides. Here James describes his team’s experience in the 24 Hours of Spokane endurance mountain bike race …

You never know how much you are going to suffer until it is too late to change your mind. About a week before the 24 Hours Round the Clock in Spokane it looked like my four-man team had shrunk to just two healthy members. Nick had a sinus/lung/generally-not-good illness going on and Jon was nursing a tweaked knee (and he rides a single speed). Despite all of this, the “uBRDO Man Bots” made it to the line at noon on Saturday and finished the race the next day in 8th, only three laps off of the winning pace.

image courtesy of www.roundandround.com

The “Round the Clock” 24 hour event is a team relay mountain bike race, beginning at noon on Saturday and ending at noon on Sunday. Teams compete for medals, prizes and bragging rights. Anyone who can ride a bike can do this. Bring your camping gear, bike gear and whatever else will keep you going for 24 hours…then come out and get dirty with us.

I “chamoised up” at 11:30 to start the race and with a Lemans start (a 400 meter run uphill to the bikes) and in a flash I was racing. I started my first lap on my singlespeed; big mistake. My run put me immediately in 12th and the first climb was short and steep, perfect for my gear ratio, and allowed me to move up a couple of spots. Then we got to the first flat section. Geared riders, most of them expert or semi-pro racers, were slowly catching me then hovering just a few feet in front of me until we would hit little downhills where they could accelerate. 12th soon became 20th after the long climb on the course proved too long for my gearing. I slowly clawed my way past a couple of riders on a technical section, and then they passed me back on another long flat. Winding through a burned clearing I could see the leaders about six minutes up on me just exiting the section I was just starting. Then I got to the pavement. I hovered in between riders and caught a couple towards the long descent that marked the end of the lap. I handed off my timing chip to Mark and immediately felt drained. With the run I clocked in at 1:01.

Night laps proved to be almost no impediment to our lap times and we had some great rides. My lap at 1 am was crazy. I had my light helmet mounted and I felt like I was riding almost in daylight wherever I looked. I let my eyes drift a little and the edge of the light was so dramatic that the woods looked pitch black. Without a moon to help light my peripheral vision I really relied on the power of the Seca 700 light to see. This was my fourth lap and I was amazed to pass so many people. I finished the lap and immediately got back to camp and into my sleeping bag for about two and a half hours of sleep. I woke up around five, kitted up, and left for another go-round. After Nick’s fifth lap I decided to go out for a sixth to keep us in the top ten. I rode my third fastest lap and felt that I could have done another had I needed to but we decided that finishing on 21 laps and feeling at least a little bit normal was going to be better than having me or Mark attempt to ride a 22nd. I finished the last lap through the timing tent with a little bit of flair and we all felt good about our race.

Our team did pretty well: I learned that my Osprey Talon is absolutely awesome (I was the only one who didn’t complain about my pack) and that I can push myself longer than I thought (91 miles on six laps to be exact), Mark learned that eight Coors the night before is not a good idea (he was still the fastest on the team), Jon learned to stick with what he knows (but that he can also ride four laps missing most of the skin on his left hip), and Nick learned that he should not let himself get sick (and that he is, after all, a redhead).

If you never considered racing your “thing” or thought that in order to race you had to be super fit you should come to a 24 hour race in order to see that the best part about racing is not the race itself but the people you get to meet and the sheer fun of being sleep deprived and giddy. Despite spending all of last week in a fog we are already planning for next year. Endurance racing is a bug that is hard to ignore!

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