It's Friday evening & it's a nice quiet one at home recovering from the week. This has been the first week in over a year that I've worked forty hours (in fact, in two days' time I would have been out of NZ for a year) & I'm slightly tired - but they may be more to do with the extra-curricular riding. It's been more of the same temping at the construction site in Banff - the building is nearing completion, but there is still loads to do. Unfortunately, a landscaper got his foot crushed by a zoom boom (all terrain extendible boom fork hoist or some guff like that) on Tuesday afternoon. Funnily enough, a lot more attention has been paid to OH&S since then & in particular people-moving vehicle interactions. Reminds me of somewhere else - can't think where. Enough of that - it serves a purpose - allowing me to live & ride in this wonderful valley.
By Tuesday Alex had replaced the damaged seal on his brakes & we were able to go for a ride after work. This was my introduction to the Highline trail. We started out by riding down beside the river & then up to Three Sisters golf course (past the condo where James & Becca lived) - avoiding the sinkhole that had opened up in the walking path where an old mine ventilation shaft was. This took about half an hour & half way along the sealed path, it had stopped drizzling & the evening turned out quite nice. We had another good half an hour of climbing up single track - I was pleased to be going well in the middle ring & then all of a sudden it got a lot steeper & I was stuck in the granny ring (it seems to be a common feature of a lot of the rides around here) & occasionally pushing. There was a tiny bit of old fire road & we quickly went past these little structures without thinking too much about the merits of attempting to land such a feat.
The trail traversed for quite a while & there was the odd bit of downhill, but I found that nothing really flowed just so. The trail was interesting in that it would suddenly change from Rotorua/Taupo-esque packed dirt covered in pine needles to technical rocks (on both ascent & descent) to roots that would get the suspension working hard - needless to say, I was pleased to have my soft-tail (which will be celebrating its third birthday in five days). We had a few stream crossings as well - with the water in varying states - solid, liquid or absent. Riding across a big hunk of ice was a first for me. Some trooper had bothered to cut a path through the ice so that one did not slide down the hill. With the occasional view of the Bow Valley, we eventually came to the final downhill - it was tight & twisty switchbacks that were clearly designed with climbing in mind; an OK way to end the ride, but not one that I felt repaid for all the effort spent climbing. Not having had enough, we rode alongside the canal to the Nordic Center to check out a downhill from there down to town that James had told me about on Monday night (spent at The Wood watching the Stanley Cup Final game #2 & eating cheap wings). We found a couple of different trail heads & the one we chose had lots of table tops & doubles - nothing too massive, but a bit beyond me. Ended up at the power station with a really loose rocky chute down to the river & then back in to town - total trip time, two hours and ten minutes - suitably worn out.
I was keen to check out the pump track which is a very short ride from home (a few minutes at most) on Wednesday. There is a little skills area there as well. It turns out I really don't know what I am doing on a pump track - I will need to tag along with someone in the know & then I should be able to work out how to improve my riding a bit (or a lot, would be better).
I had planned on hitting the Nordic Center trails on Thursday to complete my first of mid-week rides - Tuesdays & Thursdays to enable at least some recovery. Alex had other plans - Riders of Rohan & then the Highline in the other direction. It was a long forty minute climb up the gravel road (that goes to Spray Lakes & K-Country) to Whiteman's Gap. Rounding the last corner, we were hit full in the face by gale coming the other way. That made the last few hundred metres rather hard work & riding across the dam to the other side of the gap to the trailhead was the first time in ages I have had to concertedly lean my bike in the wind to prevent being blown over (& over the dam to almost certain peril - I don't think there was that much peril). It turned out to be quite a difficult trailhead to identify with a couple of options - funnily enough, it was the the least-likely one up a steep rocky hill that led us to RoR.
We should have been a little more circumspect when we saw a group of five guys enter the trail on big-travel downhill bikes clad in full-face helmets & varying assortments of body armour. It was a steeper-than-I've-ridden-for-a-while narrow down hill, mostly pretty straight, full of rocks that made things interesting. Thanks to Alex for the photos, I've annoyingly taken to forgetting to attach my camera to my Camelbak when riding - but at least for a change there are some pictures of me riding. There were a couple of tricky dropoffs that were a bit too much for my skills & confidence, & there were others that I would approach much too cautiously & realise that I could ride - so I'd push back up the hill & conquer them. Here I am getting down a tricky part - the photo is good for showing me that my weight is far too high & far back (& I really must put my seat down a bit more). Further down the hill, I caught up to a couple of riders in the group we had seen previously (one of them had gone over the bars) & of course, with eyes on my riding I managed to completely stuff up a tricky bit & somehow ended up pulling a front wheelie for a good three seconds (felt longer, naturally), avoided flying over the bars in to a tree (not quite sure how) & then jumped off the side & landed on my feet - slightly embarrassing, but only injured pride. Shortly after this we reached the Highline trail turnoff - one of the other riders had told us that the part of RoR was well suited to our bikes with their more modest levels of travel, alas we missed it this time. Here is a video of what we rode, albeit at a much quicker pace - you can see the blue signs to Highline where we turned off a few minutes in to it.
After grovelling up the switchbacks (the very same that I noticed two days' prior were designed for going up), it was not long before I realised that riding the Highline in this direction is so much better - it flows very nicely in parts. We tried to spy Megan at the top of Ha Ling (unfortunately for her, being pregnant is not conducive to mountain-biking - but she can still hike) & had a rest & food stop at this rock. As the trail traverses the side of the mountain, no matter which direction you go, there were still a few climbs to be had. Here I am crossing the ice bridge on the latter half of the ride.Shortly after this & a little more climbing, we hit the downhill that we had struggled up for half an hour on Tuesday. It was fantastic - the highlight of my riding in Canada so far. Not nearly as steep or rocky as RoR, [Just back from an exciting addition to the "nice quiet" evening - exploding pie. Pyrex dish full of scrummy pie & a hot element is not a good combination, it turns out.] I was able to keep much more speed up & really lean in to the corners. One of the those sections of trail that has me grinning from ear to ear - over much too soon, as the best bits always are. Tried to push it a bit on the way home, but that nasty wind was down by the river too - back home in just more than twenty minutes longer than Tuesday's ride, not bad considering all the extra climbing & photo-stops.
21 hours ago