Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Local rides & my first Thanksgiving

Sunday I popped over to Banff to ride with a mate, Dale, I met construction temping at the Banff Center.  Dale was just back from some time in England visiting friends & family & was keen to hit some local trails.  I, of course, was up for that & we first rode part way around & up Tunnel Mountain to check out a new trail - Star Warz.  It's not a particularly long trail, but its all downhill & the local MTB organisation had built a lot of structures on the top half (they are still working on the bottom half).  Dale managed to quite spectacularly stack it on the first, & easiest, trail feature - a flat low bridge like structure.  It was a quite a sight, unfortunately I didn't have the camera out.  This was followed by a series of tight berms that I couldn't quite get right, but fun all the same.  Further down the trail, as we passed a group of riders pushing their big DH bikes up the trail, I popped over a little jump on the side of the trail & was immediately confronted by a stump that my front wheel was determined to make its acquaintance with.  Somehow I managed to jump off the side & down the bank & grab on to a small tree with only my pride injured.

Straight after these little incidents there was a nice wall ride that we rode a few times - it doesn't require a lot of speed to get up high, but I'm not sure that I ever got the line completely right.  It was quite fun to able to ride the same feature a few times as we traded my camera & tried to get decent photos.
 Here is Dale

 And here is me

Shortly after leaving the wall we found this jump.  For those with sufficient skills, it was pretty easy to clear and land on the other side - while I could still get a little air and land on the horizontal platform.  Here's Dale showing me how it's done:

And here I am getting about the amount of air I am comfortable with (that said, we both had some rather interesting landings).

From here we rode through a few berms that had just been built the day before - they were pretty soft & loose, as one would expect.  Then it was time turn up the hill back to the road that would take us back to town.  Riding through some sort of holiday camp, I was amused by this sign:
Is this for obese children that spend all day in the living room playing video games?  I'm still unsure.

Cruising back down the hill to Dale's place we loaded up his car, jump-started it & drove up to Norquay to ride Lower Stoney Squaw.  We rode both the Upper & Lower trails back at the end of August - this time due to time, fitness & motivational constraints we bypassed the steep climb to the summit & rolled in to one of our favourite downhill trail sections around Banff & Canmore.  Dale, with his big DH, bike was pushing on the slightest hint of a climb - suits me, finally someone taking photos, on my camera, of me riding trails.

I had a lot of trouble remembering any of the trail, even though it was only about six weeks since I first rode it - due in part from joining the trail from a different direction.  Nonetheless, it was a blast riding down here & there were plenty of little rises to launch off - although, I did, somehow, keep landing right before rocks I would've preferred not to hit.  Just before the end of the trail there is a nice easy jump that one can get a little or a lot of air off - compulsory photos stop.

Crossing the TCH, we battled a headwind back in to Banff & I split quickly to get back for my first Thanksgiving dinner - I was quietly excited by this prospect.  We had enough people around in the evening to take a fair chunk out of two turkeys & all the other food our guests brought.  Steve had some how managed to wangle himself a complimentary rotisserie for the barbecue - so one turkey went on there, while the other, wrapped in bacon & stuffed with pork sausages went in the oven. 
 James sniffing & trying his best, I think, not to lick this turkey delight.

 Steve basting this bird of goodness - I think mostly with beer; whatever, it was brilliant.

Thanksgiving didn't disappoint my preconceptions - masses of great food with good friends & (pseudo-) family (that's you Alex & Megan [& Finnian - although I suppose he can't quite comprehend it yet] - thanks, I'm pretty sure Canmore wouldn't be what it is to me without you).  For some reason, I'd scheduled (yet) another ride on Monday morning with a random on the forums at mtbr.com - so it was an earlyish night for me.

Dragging myself out of bed, breaking the fast, loading & de-icing the car I headed out to meet Jeff at the trailhead at nine o'clock (he came in from Calgary) so I could show him Razor's Edge.  The first bit of the trail along the highway was good fun & in nice condition with no other users around - it was bloody cold though, the clear skies lulled me in to a full sense of warmth.  What was I thinking riding in short sleeves?  The ride up to the pass warmed us up a bit - I was particularly pleased to finally clear a steep, rocky section in which you have to choose your line carefully as the rocks are loose & send you in directions you really don't want to go.  This photo doesn't show just how much difficulty I have had in clearing it the previous half-dozen times (it's steep, I promise you - & it comes in the middle of a tough, long climb).

After somehow missing the unsigned turnoff, we were finally on the new trail.  There is lots of cool moss & general undisturbed growth.  The first half was OK, but being a new loose & moist trail it became increasingly difficult to get any sort of rhythm to make the climb to saddle.

Before long we were riding along what I assume the trail is named after - the exposed jagged rock on the ridge line that you have to transverse.  Sometimes, it's difficult to see how one could ever get the front tire to negotiate such a narrow path; but you do know that if you can, it will grip like crazy.  Unfortunately for Jeff, he had left his helmet behind - so he had to walk a lot of obstacles that he would have otherwise ridden.  There are no man made features on this trail, but the rock provides more than enough great drops & drop-offs.  I was pleased to ride things that I avoided last time I was up here - & perhaps even more pleased to have a willing photographer to capture me pushing my limits.  As always - I assure you it's steeper & trickier than it looks (at least for me, especially the first feature [the next two images])

Just before the annoying hike-a-bike section up a hill & after negotiating more of the jagged rock there is this cool wall ride (I suppose about a forty-five degree angle) that is so grippy that it doesn't really matter how much you stuff up the entry (I should know - damn chain dropping a ring on bumpy descents), you can still ride along this slope with a lot of confidence.

Getting back on the bikes after the push up through the trees we were on dirt for a change - a very steep plunge had us walking briefly before blasting down (stopping briefly to look out over towards the prairies) & then a short little climb before on the slick rock.  It can be quite difficult to spot the trail as you drop many metres towards the road - & this particular spot is a wind funnel.  For the second time in as many days I was struggling to negotiate tricky trail with the wind buffeting me incessantly.  Still, it was greatly challenging & very fun.  Down one part with particularly loose rock & then a sharp drop off my front tire & some rocks decided it was time I had a little rest - I firmly planted my butt on a very hard rock.  Shortly after we turned the hard left to avoid riding off the cutting on to the highway & were heading back to the parking lot. 

Four great rides in one long weekend & a lot of turkey - I love it.  Although, the end of the riding season can't come soon enough for that big buy up - my rear tyre & drive chain are decidedly sub-par.

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