hei hei

Pisgah Punishment: 5 Days of the Pisgah Stage Race

This is year 4 for me and there is an obvious reason why I keep coming back. At least It’s obvious to me and, I am sure, all the others that take the plunge into the Rhododendron covered, bench cut, old school woods of Pisgah. Over the course of 5 days you get to ride the most iconic single track the Ranger District of Pisgah has to offer. You can do it at pace or you can tour it. You can stop for snacks or blow right past the aid stations looking for new PR’s. Either way, everyone has FUN and this year was no exception. 

We all congregated for stage 0 on Monday night. Dinner and packet pick-up was followed by an intro into the first stage, what was expected, and thus the initial injection of butterflies/nerves.

From years passed, I knew that stage 1 was the fastest. Having Spencer Paxson in town for the race last year saw a new course record of about 1:45 for 24.7 miles and 4130’ of climbing. The competition was a little deeper this year so I was expecting the pace to be pushed even harder.

Sure enough, by the time we hit the first single track selection the lead group had dwindled down to 5 riders and the gaps were already wide open. I didn’t give enough thought to my positioning into the single track and got stuck behind some bobbles and then held up on the descent. 

Tristan Cowie got away early, which had Travis Livermon, Tristan Uhl (TEX), and I chasing the rest of the day. 

After stage 1, It was obvious that Tristan C. and Trav were on another fitness level. Therefore, I pushed aside my hopes of GC glory and settled in for the task of maintenance. 

Stage 2 started much the same way. Trav was on a mission early and Tristan C. was forced to join in. In the wake, Tex, Stephano, and I were stuck playing our own game. Tex and I separated ourselves from Stephano on Squirrel Gap and kept the pace high in hopes of staying ahead of Stephano for the enduro section at the end of the stage. 

This is when I consciously decided to go for the Enduro overall. After a second day of watching Tristan and Trav ride away, I knew I wasn’t going to put a dent in their time gap so I shifted perspective and decided that getting pitted on the enduro sections was my best card to play. 

I managed to go into first in the enduro overall after stage 2 and was excited to push the pace over stage 3 and 4, as they are some of my favorite trails in the forest. 

Stage 3 is dubbed the queen stage. The most climbing and the most technical climbing throughout the race. Heart rates surged early, as we started uphill right off the line. We ascended Black Mountain, which was built for going downhill, not up… and hit Buckhorn to Club gap and into the enduro section of the day, Avery Creek. 

By this time the gaps were big enough to land an airplane in so there wasn’t much concern about getting held up on the enduro. Thus, it was throttle wide open and smiles from ear to ear. 

I got 1st on the stage and extended my lead in the enduro to 30 seconds over Tex. However, stage 3 wasn’t all peaches. I did lose time to Stephano, cutting the time gap from 4:20 to 2min between 3rd and 4th in overall. That’s the difference between one mistake!

I was dreading stage 4 from the start of the week… The climb up Laurel Mtn is a 50 min+ grunt, at pace. That meant I needed to come into that climb with a big buffer to hold off the climbers and hope for a clean run on the enduro, which dropped off the top of Laurel and turned into Pilot Mt trail.

Stephano pushed the pace from the gun and I was forced to follow. He gapped me some but I gritted my teeth and kept it manageable to the point where I was able to pass him just as we hit Squirrel Gap. 

I pushed the pace on the narrow single track opening up a gap and hit the gravel climb up to Laurel mtn seeing red and on a mission. 

The next 1:15 was a struggle but it passed soon enough, at least looking back on it. I crested the top and held on as my Hei Hei bounced down the chunkiest of the descents that Pisgah has to offer. 

The top of Pilot is comprised of big massive rock slabs with tight loose switchbacks. The trail opens up halfway through but the rocks become smaller and they seem to multiply like bacteria in a public bathroom. The speeds get higher and the arm pump becomes a real issue. By the bottom, my arms were the limiting factor. I struggled to pull up over some curb sized water bar obstacles but pushed on through to the finish. 

I missed out on the enduro stage win by 5 seconds to another Kona mate on a Process. Understandable, Kona’s are the bike of choice when trying to fight the signs and symptoms Pisgah punishment. 

Going into stage 5 I had 1 min on the Enduro overall and a solid gap to 4th in the GC overall. The theme for stage 5 was smooth sailing, which is easier said than done when Farlow Gap is looming in the near future. 

I held my own pace up the 20 min + climb to the Farlow descent. The boys at the front were on fire and I was trying not to blow up. The enduro section was at the end of the day so I needed to save some matches. T. Cowie, who had second in the enduro knew the section much better than I. A fewslip-upss could cost me the top step. The enduro was the longest of all the others at 22 min and the most pedally, more like a super d. (do ya’ll remember those?)

After ripping down Farlow and rejoining the lead group, we ran into a cheer squad handing out bacon feeds, which really elevated my mood. Then I missed a bacon feed, which was the biggest bummer of the whole week.

The lead group split apart on the climb up to the back of Bracken. T. Cowie and I sat back and enjoyed a nice party pace into the enduro while the others traded blows. 

I was gassed pushing my way through that final enduro. It was obvious as Tristan put 20 seconds into me closing down the gap from 1st to 2nd in the overall to only 45 seconds. 

Wiping sweat from my brow I was all smiles, but even the muscles to help me smile were sore. After 5 days of pushing the pace with my comrades, I was feeling it. I hadn’t done any efforts prior to the race except for training races. It’s crazy to look back and think that I just got back from the Euorpean CX racing scene 2 months ago. 

A few beers were had to celebrate… 

My little dude came into town with Emily to check out the end of the race and explore Pisgah Forest. He even helped me look good on the podium.

We capped off the night with s’mores and passing out before 10pm. Until, next year. Cheers!

Cory Wallace’s Nepalese Winter

Kona Adventure Team Rider Cory Wallace knows a thing or two about high altitude training. This past winter, Wallace spent five months pedaling his Kona Hei Hei around the Hymalian mountains and the surrounding cities. His experiences ran the gauntlet from peaceful and extraordinary, to stressful and frustrating, exactly what true adventure should be. Wallace took the time to write up this recap of his trip. Check out some of his tips on where to visit and where to avoid- especially if you’re someone who appreciates sleep.

You can read his full write up here. 

 

Bike Love

It’s Valentine’s Day. For lots of people that means romance, fancy meals, and way too many heart-themed things.

At Kona, we also want to share the love of our favorite bikes with you. So from the bottom of our sappy little hearts, this is an ode to the bikes we are currently loving the most.

Amanda Bryan, Sales: I love the way the Process 153 sucks up the trail and pops around. It boosts confidence in the steep chunder and loves to get sideways and rowdy.

 

Jordan Sembler, Sales: This is my “One that got away” Valentine bike: “I miss my sweet baby blue Sutra LTD. She stood by me for more miles than any other bike I have had in recent memory and what did I do? I sold her for the next hottest thing… Looking back is always hindsight. She is truly the one that got away and I have to live with that. I just hope that she is happy with her new partner and looks back on our time together as fondly as I do…. I sure hope my Rove LTD doesn’t read this…”

Product Team members Justin Clements and Ian Schmitt: Justin says, “Me and my friend Ian riding a rock roll together in Squamish BC at the MY17 Kona Launch. He’s riding a Big Honzo and I’m riding a Hei Hei Trail CR.”

Product Team member Mark Allison: I love the Operator because who doesn’t love riding big bikes down gnarly terrain? It always means you’re in the woods with your buddies.

Molly Joyce, Sales: This is my Process 111. It was a party! What a sleeper of a bike. It had a way of getting you into spicy situations and at the same time see you out like a champ. I had some of my favorite rides on that bike.

Kona Adventure Team Member Spencer Paxson: My Hei Hei and Process 111 in foreground. Valentines big and small, and bikes of all kinds. Bikes + love and families + bikes = love.

Kona CX Racer Kerry Werner: My “Kona Valentine” is the Superjake. First, and foremost, it is fast as hell on the cx course! Enough said. Secondly, it is so versatile. As the CX season was winding down I was planning as many different bike packing adventures and big gravel rides I think of. Basically, this bike gets me excited to spend copious amounts of time in the saddle.

Scott McKay Sales: Gotta love a Wo and Fireball Whiskey on a cold afternoon like this. Wo+Whiskey= Love

Garry Davoren, Distributor: Who doesn’t love a Ti Honzo?

 

Kona Athlete Hannah Bergemann: The Honzo climbs with ease, which encourages me to ride longer and further. It’s insanely confidence-inspiring and stable, yet still super playful on the descents, and it has me wanting to hit all the jumps and features I can find. I can pack it up with gear for an overnight bike packing trip, or rally it down some of my favorite downhill trails. I’ve been riding the Honzo for a few months now and have taken it to most of my favorite trails in Bellingham. I’ve had a blast riding long XC routes in Mazama, WA and descending technical, rock-filled trails in Squamish. The Honzo made me reconsider my opinion of hardtail bikes, and I feel like I have yet to find the limits of this bike. Looking forward to many more miles on this bike!

Lacy Kemp, Marketing: My Process 153 CR DL is always up for diving into the steepest pitches. The steeper the better!

Kona freerider Graham Agassiz on his custom Operator: This is my favourite bike for a lot of reasons but the two biggest ones would be it’s 26″ and it’s a rainbow trout!

Happy Valentines Day to you and your bikes, from all of us at Kona!

Winterized: Part 1

Let’s face it. If you live north of the equator there’s a decent chance you’re stuck in this weather phenomenon we call, “winter.” Perhaps you’re a skier or snowboarder and have hung up your rubber shoes in favor of wooden plans. More power to you. But, for those of you who just can’t quit your bike, we feel you. We feel you because we still have sensation in our fingers from years of trial and error of keeping our bodies somewhat temperate in cold(er), nasty weather. In fact, we have so much wonderful advice for you that we’re launching a series of posts called Winterized. Winterized features tips from Kona employees, partner and pro riders on how to best survive the winter. So grab a cup of your favorite toddy, throw another log on the fire, and soak in the advice. We’ve suffered so you don’t have to.

Name: Kevin Rutherford
Kona gig: Canada Sales/Small Parts
Bike of choice: Process
How Kevin gets Winterized:

Fall/winter is my favourite time to ride! I generally ride my Process all year long, regardless of weather and I run Minions year round.

The key riding gear I find is:

  • Warm, semi-lined base layers
  • Moto/DH/long legged pants to keep my legs clean, and avoid the mud ‘tan lines’
  • RaceFace Agent jacket
  • Bag for wet gear after the ride. Anything from a garbage bag to a dry-bag to keep the slop contained and the car dry

A couple dream gear additions would be:

  • 5×5 pop-up canopy for changing underneath
  • Mini pressure washer, either battery or cigarette-lighter powered

Name: Pat White
Kona gig: Long-time Product Manager and floral verbiage connoisseur
Bike of choice: Roadhouse and Hei Hei AL
How Pat gets Winterized:

Wool
Fenders (road) Open lug treads (MTB)
Wool
Microfleece helmet liners
Wool
Booze
Wool


Name: Molly Joyce
Kona gig: Inside sales support,
Bike of choice: Honzo
How Molly gets Winterized:

  • Best Drink: Thermos with hot Skratch Green tea electrolyte mix.
  • Snack: 100% pure Maple Syrup – the electrolytes and low glycemic sugars give you a more steady boost of energy and it just tastes like the holidays. Untapped has them in shot size packets, or if you are more wary of lots of trash, then a hip flask with maple syrup in it – just make sure you refrigerate it after your ride so it doesn’t go bad.
  • Mucky Nuts fenders.
  • A vest (Troy Lee Design, Giant, Pearl Izumi etc)– keep the core warm for sure!
  • A bandana wrapped around your neck – great for keeping you warm but more importantly for protecting your face on the bitter cold descents, and blowing all those runny boogers out.
  • Hand warmers: again, a good trick for warming up your hands if your fingers are frozen.
  • Studded tires! Mob around the trails or your frozen streets with nobby, studded tires! The most fun commuting around. Schwalbe Marathon Winters and the Ice Spiker are all rad.

Name: Kevin Thornton
Kona gig: Graphics
Bike of choice: Whichever one has fenders
How Kevin gets Winterized:

Just like everyone else, I’ve tried every type of clothing, layering, combination possible and nothing stops the rain from getting me wet. But there is one thing I swear by…gore-tex socks that I wear inside my shoes. Not the boot things that go over the shoes…those are a hassle. In my experience…dry feet = warm feet = nothing else matters.

That’s it for round one of Winterized. Stay tuned to the Cog over the coming weeks for more cold weather riding tips!

 

Cory Wallace Defends His Title at the 2017 Yak Attack

Every now and then we hear about events that make us feel so totally mortal. Things like the Tour de France, or an unparalleled athletic feat that has us scratching our heads wondering how on earth people can actually be in such good physical condition. For Kona Adventure/Endurance team rider, Cory Wallace the bigger the suffer the bigger the gain. Wallace is no stranger to mega marathon racing but has just returned from one of the world’s burliest events: the 2017 Yak Attack race, heald around the Annapurna Circuit and into the Forbidden Kingdom of the Upper Mustang in Central Nepal. Over the course of 10 days, riders battle wild weather, extremely high altitude (most the race taking place between 3000 and 5416 meters), and treacherous trails to complete the 9 stage race that traverses nearly 500km. Wallace became the first foreigner to win the event in 2016 and was able to successfully defend his title this year about his Kona Hei Hei CR DL, the perfect weapon for big days in the saddle. For the full, fascinating recap of the race be sure to head over to Wallace’s blog for all of the adventure details.

 

MBR Magazine give the Hei Hei 9 out of 10 in latest review “Kona has taken the Hei Hei to another level”

Alan Muldoon from UK magazine MBR recently requested our base model alloy Hei Hei for review, the bike retails in the UK for £2,399.00 ($2499 in the USA and $3499 in Canada), we were pretty excited to see what their verdict would be on a bike that we absolutely love and are immensely proud of! Well we weren’t disappointed, as the brutally honest MBR magazine (a magazine that pulls no punches) gave the bike a 9 out of 10 rating.

“The Kona Hei Hei is on another level. Tight responsive ride. A fast efficient bike. None of the twitchy-ness associated with short-travel rigs.”

You can check out the review published in full online here.

What It Takes to Climb 10,000 Meters in a Day on a Kona Hei Hei

Uphill. 10,000 meters. 32,000 feet. It’s become a bit of a theme for cyclists to base their attempts for higher heights on the world’s highest mountain – Everesting, they call it – seeking to climb 8,848 meters in a day.

Long time Kona rider Spencer Paxson, always the geographer, sought to base his attempt on the deepest depths of the ocean: the Challenger Deep, part of the Mariana Trench at more than 10,000 meters.

On June 24, 2017, taking advantage of the maximum daylight of the summer solstice, Spencer set out to ride the Challenger High with his trusty Kona Hei Hei.

Head over to Bike Mag to read the full feature written by Lacy Kemp with photos by Paris Gore.

Kona Endurance Team Completes Epic Rides Triple Crown, Spencer Paxson 5th Overall in Series

This just in, Spencer Paxson set out to climb over 10,000 metres in a day on the longest day of the year. Check out his Instagram stories while they’re live for the next few hours, and read on below for his report on this year’s Epic Rides Triple Crown…

Words by Spencer Paxson.

Yes, I still own a skin suit! Amidst all of our backcountry adventuring, we members of the Kona Endurance Team have also been busy doing some good old fashioned bicycle racing. Last Sunday saw the conclusion of the 2017 Epic Rides Off Road Series in Carson City, Nevada.  The three-race series began in late-April through the cactus of Prescott, Arizona, the slick rock of Grand Junction, Colorado in mid-May, and wrapped up under the hot blue skies of the the Sierra Nevadas.

Painface on a knobby-tire breakaway for two laps before being caught by the pack. Photo by Brian Leddy c/o Epic Rides

I can speak from experience that within the realm of endurance mountain biking, the Epic Rides Series has come to be the most distinguished race series in North America, attracting the entire tribe of top-ranked endurance racers this side of the Atlantic (and in some cases a few Europeans, too), all vying for a piece of the prestige and $100,000 prize. This year I managed to log consistent efforts and earn 5th overall in the series.

A podium finish eluded me this season, and snagging a top-5 overall admittedly had more to do with luck. I finished 9th in Carson City, and was a subpar 14th in the other two events.  Going into Carson City, a few riders in the top-10 were unable to contest the final event due to injuries, and there were some mechanicals in Sunday’s marathon that shifted things around even more.  Not exactly how you want to earn your marks, but then again, consistency and luck are a reality of the sport.

The Pro men start the Capitol 50 race Sunday morning. Photo by Brian Leddy c/o Epic Rides

While the racing is serious, one of the greatest things about the Epic Rides Series is that it proves how well-done events go far beyond the racing itself.  Each event consists of a 3-day festival atmosphere where beginners, seasoned amateurs, and the world’s fastest pros come together to enjoy mountain bike culture, live music and world class singletrack.  A pro fat-tire crit kicks things off on Friday night (it’s all about putting on a show!), followed by great music and beer gardens Friday and Saturday nights. Amateurs race on Saturday morning, and the pros race on Sunday. Over a thousand racers partake in the events, and thousands more come to watch and experience the weekend.

Barrington Levy headlined the music festival on Saturday, providing mellow reggae tunes for the crowd. Photo by Brian Leddy c/o Epic Rides

Each stop of the Epic Rides Series places a rewarding spotlight on its host communities, helping to promote community health, outdoor recreation and making a real boost to the local economy. As the Executive Director of the Carson City Visitors Bureau was quoted in the Nevada Appeal, “Epic Rides is more than just a good fit in Carson City. It has made an impact in our rebranding and we are seeing a dynamic change.” According to the Carson City Visitors Bureau, Carson City’s revenue in tourism increased 64 percent over the last four years, from $12.3 million to $20 million.

Racers take in a flowy descent on the Postal Run trail Saturday. Photo by Brian Leddy c/o Epic Rides

Out for food on Friday night, we noticed that several new restaurants and other businesses had opened up in Carson City since the first event in 2016 thickened their circle on the map.  Significant buy-in from sponsors and host cities provides the largest cash purse in endurance mountain biking (split equally for men & women) along with a strong media platform.  That in turn attracts major industry players and their top professional riders to participate in a world class set of events.

The momentum is unquestionable, and the series plans to expand in 2018 and beyond.  Meanwhile, Todd Sadow, President and visionary of Epic Rides, looks to support groups within the host communities to build and maintain trails of the Off-Road series. The fundraising goal in 2017 is $30,000, and 100 percent of the funds will go to repairing, maintaining, and expanding existing trail systems — evenly split between the host cities.

Proud to be keeping Kona Cog a strong presence at the Epic Rides events since their inception as a noteworthy pro-am series. Photo by Patrick Means

It is a great series to be a part of – as an elite-level racer, as a member of the mountain bike tribe at large, and as someone who appreciates the value of a healthy, local community.

Needless to say, I’m stoked to come back for an even bigger and better series in 2018!

In the meantime…time to head into the mountains.  Stay tuned for the next installment of the Kona Adventure Team’s “Cooldown Adventure”…somewhere in the mountains above Lake Tahoe…

Blazing through the streets of Carson City in Friday night’s street race. I nearly held off the pack for the win despite racing knobbies! After all, it is called a FAT tire crit.

The Kona Adventure Team, aka The Prairie Dog Companions and the Kokopelli Trail

Photos by Patrick Means.

No, The Prairie Dog Companions and the Kokopelli Trail is not an indie band name, but it probably could be.

Rather, it is the latest installment of the Kona Adventure Team, connoisseurs of two-wheeled outings, and their recent trip to the rocky trails of Colorado and Utah. There, they competed in the 50-mile Grand Junction Off Road, followed by a two-day, 165-mile ride along the Kokopelli Trail all the way to Moab.

Aboard their Hei Hei DLs (and one aboard a carbon Honzo), they endured hot sun, spotted dinosaur tracks, and fueled up on hot dogs. Read the full account as published on the front page of Pinkbike.

Long and rugged climbs through sandstone and desert sage give way to eventual singletrack and alpine shredding.

Cory Wallace Gunning For the Win at the 2017 World Solo 24 Hour Championships

After his win at the Nimby Fifty in Pemberton, BC last week, Cory Wallace is now over in Europe for the World Solo 24 Hour Championships. Just a hair off the win last year, he’s hungry! Read on below…

Words and photos by Cory Wallace.

The World Solo 24hr Championships are taking place this weekend on a scenic plateau above the Italian Riviera near the border of France.  After coming within 3 minutes of the title last year in New Zealand I’m grateful and excited to be back for another shot this year!  It’s shaping up to be quite the battle with riders from over 30 countries showing up to Italy, including 7 time World Champion Jason English, USA Champ Josh Tostado, a number of Europeans and some dark horses.

My friend Leighton Poidevin will be managing the Pit area with help from Hiran who is here with bags of Radical Lights to make sure the night riding is brighter then the day.  Leighton and I have been racing each other for years at 24 hour races around the World. He’s one of the most accomplished riders to ever come out of  North America and one hell of a friend to volunteer to come over to support this effort.  For this year I’ll be running 2 full suspension Kona Hei Hei’s which should help soften the blows on the rocky and short 8 km course.

Huge thanks to my friends and sponsors who have supported me over the years and have enabled this trip back to the start line at Worlds for another shot at the title.  Kona bikes has always had my back, local bike shops Freewheel Cycle in Jasper, Straight up Cycles in Victoria, and a huge thanks to Hiran at Radical Lights for flying over with the brightest and best lights in the game.

Live results from the race can be found starting at 10 am on Friday Italian time:  which is  2am Friday morning mountain time in North America on the www.tds-live.com website.

Off to work…

Kristien Achten Wins Transvesubienne on Her Kona Hei Hei

Kristien Achten of Swooth MTB Shop in Belgium has found redemption on the course at Transvesubienne. Kristien found herself in 2nd place at the end of the 2016 race and, setting Transvesubienne as a main target for 2017, took her Kona Hei Hei to victory in both the Prologue and the main race. While XC races are usually won on the climbs, Kristien notes that her carbon Hei Hei also lets her ride away from her competitors on the descents. For the rest of us, that stacks up to a competition-ready bike that is a lot of fun on the trail! Congrats Kristien!

Photos courtesy Art Reflex Photography.