2017 California Enduro Series

Ryan Gardner battles it out in Ashland at the California Enduro Series Finale

Ashland, Oregon is a bit of an oddball in the California Enduro Series, mainly due to its location outside of California. But the town and its trails, just a few minutes over the Northern California border are just too good to pass up. This year, due to some logistical issues, Ashland was made the CES series finale which was fine by me. Ashland is possibly my favorite race of the year and I have traditionally done well there. This is in no small part due to the trails being particularly well suited to my favorite bike, the Process 111. It was also to be the deciding race in the California Enduro Series overall, a heated battle between myself and two good friends Evan Geankoplis and Cory Sullivan. All three of us within striking distance of the top spot.

After cramming in my 40 work hours over 4 days, I left the Bay Area in its typical rush hour crawl and began the five hour drive north. Once I was able to get my wheels in the dirt it became clear that the long hot summer had not been kind to the usually grippy Ashland dirt. What racers found this year were high speed trails made exponentially more difficult by dusty corners and marbles over hard-pack. The trails in Ashland are not particularly difficult. They are not notably steep, or rocky, but what they lack in tech they make up for in the sheer speed top racers are required to carry if they are looking for a podium spot. This coupled with long (10+ minute) stages results in a blur of high speed delirium. It’s what makes Ashland awesome.

After squeezing in a run on each stage (over 30 miles of riding) it was early to bed for Saturdays 7am start time. With a quick breakfast and a shuttle to the top of Mt Ashland I dropped into the longest stage of the day. I tried to pace myself as the first track is exceptionally long and pedally, and may have done just a bit too much flowing and not quite enough pedaling. I made it back up on the second stage, the new Jaberwalky, taking third right behind Ashland locals Nathan Riddle and Cory Sullivan on only my second time on the course. On the third stage, BTI, I broke my chain pedaling out of a corner and pumped my way to the bottom, still near the pace.

After some lunch and shit talking it was time for an eight mile pedal back up Mt Ashland to race HornGap, a pinner little trail with some tight sections and super high speeds. I put down a solid run taking second on the stage behind Cory. At this point I was sitting in third place (well behind Riddle and Cory) and second for the overall. Dropping into the final stage, Hitroad, I was riding wide open. Last year Riddle took it to me on this stage, turning the tide of the race and dropping me into second. So this year I was going to give it everything. I hit all my lines and was carrying great speed as I neared the finish. Then it happened. About 150 yards from the finish I dropped a chain. The first chain I have dropped all year, in years even! No problem I thought, ill just coast to the finish. Then “SNAP” the chain sucks into my wheel breaking spokes, flatting me, and sending me sideways at 30 mph. No problem I thought, Ill just slowly cruise to the finish, no big deal. Then “WHAM” the chain sucks into the cassette and locks up my rear tire, nearly sending me over the bars. I had no choice, it was time to run for it. Sprinting at gait, with my 111 in one hand dangling behind me, wheel locked up, I gave it everything I had and finished up the 2017 season on foot.

Ashland Mountain Challange Pro Podium

This fiasco dropped me 2 spots into fifth, but I was happy to stay on the podium with two mechanicals and bit of cx practice. I ended the season in third overall to two great friends and I can’t ask for much more. It’s been an adventure for sure! Now it’s time for some surfing, fly fishing, and cross racing. Thanks for tuning and I’ll catch everyone next year!

2017 California Enduro Series Overall Podium

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Ryan Gardner’s California Enduro Series Round 3 winning Process 111

The California Enduro Series went north this weekend to the rugged coasts of Mendocino County. After two short races on the dusty fast single tracks of Auburn and Monterey, a visit to the redwoods of Northern California was a welcome reprieve. The Wildwood Enduro is also a substantially longer race than most of the California Enduro stops. With over 45 miles and 7k feet of climbing over six physical stages Wildwood promised to test the fitness and concentration of even the most seasoned racers. The race itself was held in the Jackson Demonstration Forest, a green swath of redwood trees and deep drainages less than a mile from the coast. The trails here are a pattern of high speed bench cuts across steep faces followed by shut down corners which all seem to contain overhanging redwood trunks. The result are physical stages requiring dozens of short sprints throughout each race run to get back up to cruising speed as quickly as possible before the next shut down. 

My weapon of choice for this event was my perennial favorite, the Process 111. After a few years of building up this frame I think I have come across the perfect part spec and just look at it! This bike is just a ray of sunshine.Up front I have increased the travel to 140mm with a Fox 34 Factory stuffed with the maximum allowable air tokens which gives me a super progressive feel and keeps the front end from diving too much in the rough stuff. A Fox Float run on the plush side does the work out back.

With all this aggressive geometry and suspension this 111 can get up to speed quickly. Slowing down again with a 200lb rider on it however, takes some doing. This year I upgraded to the TRP Quadium four piston brakes with a 203mm rotor up front and a 185 out back. Being able to slow down quickly means I can break later and is well worth any weight penalty.

For this race I went with my go to tire combo from WTB. A tough casing fast rolling Vigilante up front provides tons of bite for my over the front end cornering style, while a tough casing fast rolling trail boss keeps everything rolling fast. It’s the mullet of tire combos, business up front, party in the back!

Ethirteen provides the only plastic components on this bike with their carbon TRSr cranks and wheels. I have had incredibly good luck with these parts and they have really changed my mind about how durable carbon parts can be. Plus, having some light stuff is ok sometimes too I guess… I have also come to rely on their TRSr cassette to get me through big days. With over 500% range I can always find the gear I need. At the end of a 7k foot day of climbing, it can really make a difference on those last few stages.

VP’s VX Adventure pedals have been my go to for the past few seasons and like most of the other parts of this bike I have sacrificed a bit of weight for a nice big platform that provides comfort and stability worth much more than a few grams.

Being comfortable on my bike, and knowing that it can handle a tough situations (like rider errors) gives me the confidence to get way more loose than I have any business being on a 4” 29er. Throughout the day I had more than a few close calls weaving through the redwoods. Riding out of the forest towards the finish area with a group of great friends, rehashing the days moments of glory and mishaps, I was suddenly hooked on racing all over again. This event was exactly what I had needed. When we all dipped our chips and the times started rolling in it was an added bonus to see that I had laid down a good one and took the win by just five seconds after 28+ minutes of racing. Now it’s time to break out the big bike again as the CES heads back to the Sierra for the DH oriented China Peak in two weeks!