Kris Sneddon

Nostalgia-Free: Pizza & Bikes at the 2017 Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Festival

Our Endurance Team is deep into the 2017 spring season and this weekend are in Grand Junction, CO for Round 2 of the Epic Rides triple crown. They’ll be putting their Hei Hei DLs to the test across the rugged terrain of the Grand Mesa. Leading up to this weekend, team rider Spencer Paxson clues us in on a fantastic event held close to Kona’s home in BC, with some special heritage dating back to Kona’s founding individuals. Stay tuned for more action from the Endurance Team as this weekend unfolds. 

Words by Spencer Paxson. Photos by James Lissimore and Scott Robarts.

Before there were trails at Vedder Mountain, there was pizza and mountain biking. The year was 1984 and it was the first “unofficial” Canadian MTB Championships, comprised of a group of cyclists from Deep Cove and the BFJCC, including the eventual co-founder of Kona Bicycles.  The winner was Alex Stieda, who would go on to become a 2-time Olympian and, in 1986, the first North American to lead to Tour de France.  The route began in Yarrow and finished near Cultus Lake with après celebrations planned at Beethoven’s Pizza off the Columbia Valley Highway.

Today there is still pizza and mountain biking at Vedder Mountain.  Beethoven’s has endured and the trails have evolved.  In fact, the mountain bike community in the Fraser Valley (Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association) has grown in the last three decades to create a trail system that may be as timeless and pleasurable as a hot slice of pizza pie.  And so on the weekend of May 6-7, 2017, hundreds of cyclists and their friends flocked to the lakeshore for two days of mountain bike racing.  Day 1 was the Vedder Mountain Classic, a historic marathon cross-country race birthed from the original event held in 1984.  Day 2 was the Fraser Valley Enduro, a multi-stage downhill trail race and part of the more recent BC Enduro Cup and North American Enduro Tour.

During the post-race interview on Saturday, I was asked what is special about racing in this part of world.  My on-the-spot answer spoke plainly to the sense of fun, community and great trails that are so abundant in BC.  After the interview I had a further thought.  I’ve only been racing mountain bikes since 1998, around the time when the Vedder Classic went on a 16-year hiatus.  That said, I’ve raced all around the world since then, and have grown up with this sport and lived and breathed its evolution as a core participant.  What’s special about racing in this part of British Columbia is that there is no nostalgia around it.  The heritage and the heroes are still there, some are still fast as hell, all are still stoked, and some even share podiums with their children.  There’s no pretense to riding or racing here, no matter your skill level, and no need to waste time on reflecting on how it used to be, because in BC, mountain biking and racing just is.  It’s a f*@#% good time!

So, thirty-three years after the first event, it seemed fitting that a few of us representing the now globally recognized Kona Bicycles brand could collect a few accolades.  I took the win in the marathon XC ahead of rising star Rhys Verner in 3rd, long-time Kona Legend Kris Sneddon smiling from mid-pack, and second-generation Kona Employee and core newcomer Seth Cox.  On Sunday, young Rhys showed us all how the new-schoolers get it done with a top-10 overall in the enduro, while I donned my goggles-and-a-half-shell to earn second fastest overall time in the XC + Enduro combined.  It was worth a few extra slices from Beethoven’s, and with specks of Vedder’s loamy trails and pizza grease on my face, I headed home happy and ready for more.

Kona Adventure Team: Double Century Sandwich

The Kona Adventure Team is an extension of the Kona Endurance Race team in 2017. We aim to expand the repertoire of our endurance athletes, embarking on adventures that inspire, both us personally and hopefully you as well. Our athletes all love the bike, and these trips are our attempt to show a shared passion not only for riding, but also for living a full and meaningful existence. 

For the first Adventure Team story, Cory, Kris, Spencer,and Barry took on a double century on the California Coast, sandwiching a race in the middle.

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Words by Barry Wicks. Photos by Patrick Means.

The plan was simple. We’d ride from Pacifica, CA to Healdsburg, CA on Friday. On Saturday, we’d race the Grasshopper Adventure Series race called Old Caz. On Sunday we would ride back to our starting point.
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At what point does a course of travel become an adventure? What makes it turn into something else, like a journey? Are there clear metrics that make it so, or is it just a matter of perspective? Whatever the case, the Kona Adventure Team had around 17 hours and 330 miles of bike riding ahead of us – plenty of time for engaging in some trifling handlebar philosophy.
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107 miles. That’s how far we had to go one day one. That didn’t seem that far to a seasoned squad of professional bike athletes, but as the hours ticked on, and the destination remained distant, the remaining hours of daylight became a concern. The selected route, while heavy on dirt – and climbing and views in the first half – gave way to silky pavement in the last 40 miles.
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Here we are, there’s were we are going. Distance and time compress and expand in rhythm with our bodies’ need for food, water, or for the climb to come to an end.
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At times, pulling off in a muddy gravel lot to stare at the water and share a king size bag of peanut butter M&Ms is the entirety of one’s world.
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Then you find a strong Canadian to drag you those final miles into the arms of a waiting burrito, cold beer and camaraderie.
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The Grasshopper Adventure series is a longstanding race event, with its foundations firmly in the grassroots camp of “lets all get together, do an awesome ride, and try to smash each other to bits.” In this, its 19th year of existence, it has grown from the rag tag group of about 50 riders to a swollen 450+ hearty souls up for the challenge.
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The gathering and swapping of tales at the finish line is the ritual by which the ride legend grows. This gathering of the athletes, watching their fellow riders struggle to the line, is the birth of the legend that each and every Grasshopper race has created.
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By the book, an adventure is “playing a game of chance.” As a term, it is rooted in the unknown and a risk of loss. On an adventure, there ought to be a tension between something that is about to happen and whether you’ll arrive at the other side.
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The return journey always seems easier, but at the same time bittersweet. The destination is known, it means the end of the journey is near, and the escape is coming to a close.
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For us, the essential element is the experience of the place and the time spent together. Up and down the coasts, across long valleys, through the woods and over the mountains. We carve out our own version of finding happiness and bring that to the banquet to share.
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In the end, we are left with tired legs, dirty bikes, large smiles and the memories we created together.kona_norcal2-85

Wherever your next adventure may take you, we hope you find all the things that you are searching for.
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Into the Valley of Skulls – The Kona Endurance Team and The 2015 Whiskey Off Road

image1“Ah-ka-ma-nah” – valley of skulls – is the name the Yavapai (Apache) Native Americans have used for the past century or more to refer to the small river valley twelve miles west of Prescott, Arizona. Long ago, an enduring drought precipitated a battle for resources and retribution between members of the Yavapai and Pima tribes.  Centuries later, the small town of Skull Valley is the half-way point of a much more friendly battle amongst competitors of the Whiskey Off Road, a long distance mountain bike race. (more…)

Kona Four Corners – Part 2 – Zone

Designed for the road rider or racer who wants the freedom to ride wherever and whenever they want — without the big cost. The new Kona Scandium 69 frameset mimics the geometry and ride features of our carbon Zones and includes a carbon fork with a tapered steer tube. It has features like internal rear-brake and derailleur cable routing, fender eyelets and room for up to 32c tires without fenders.

For more information on the almighty Zone head here now.

Transylvania Epic, Day Five – Sneddon Now Second Overall

Stage 5 of the Trans-Sylvania Epic offers a unique formula to the stage racing format. Originally conceived as a Super-D contest, it morphed into what’s referred to as a “Mini-XC Day.” Riders roll socially on a 28-mile loop that has four special sections. Classes line up and race sectors of trail that average about 13 to 14 minutes. Each one begins with a short climb and runs into ultra technical flat and downhill singletrack and times are tallied and totaled with the lowest combined time for all four winning the day. The concept was created to upset the status quo and produce a new podium. This year, besides being one of the more fun days for all competitors it produced a new winner on the day for the open men.

Bryan Fawely’s (Orbea USA) consistency riding a carbon hardtail gave him the overall over Kona’s Kris Sneddon and Jamis Captain Jason Sager. Fawley won section two and four (with Sneddon in second both times) and ended up tied with Sneddon on time but by virtue of winning two sections compared to Sneddon’s one, he got the top podium position and the Super D winner’s jersey. Cannondale’s Jeremiah Bishop snagged the third section just ahead of Sneddon and Sager. Bishop now has just a 2m:06sec lead over Sneddon and 7m:09sec over Sager on GC.

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Transylvania Epic, Day One – Wicks and Sneddon 3rd and 4th

Kris pretending to be Demo Dave. He tried to rip his sleeves off, but ending up tearing his whole shirt off instead.

Day one of the TSE is in the books. Today we had a late start allowing for a relaxed morning and check in. The course today was an 11.11 mile loop of pretty much every possible type of terrain. After the dust mud and sand settled Jeremiah Bishop had open up a can of ass kicking on all of us, but Kris and I were able to continue our inseparable ways and finished 3rd and 4th on the stage, 11 seconds apart, with in half a minute of second place. Tomorrow is the longest stage of a big week of riding. Hopefully we can continue to ride together, but this time ahead of everyone else. Time now to put the legs up, eat some plate sized steaks and dream of sweet single track.
Over and out.
Wicknasty

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BC Bike Race Day 3

Before the third stage of BC Bike Race was even underway today, event organizers were dealt a potentially show-stopping challenge this morning on course: sabotage. The course had been completely flagged for the third day and racers were lined up in the start chute ready to ride when the word came in over event radios.

Without hesitation, course director Jeremy Grasby jumped on one of the safety team dirt bikes and blasted onto the course to replace the critical missing flags while riders fidgeted on their bikes in the start chute. Sabotage is not uncommon during races like this; community members opposed to using the land for mountain biking make their point by removing flagging, placing obstacles on the trail and more. Beyond being a huge inconvenience for race organizers, such interference can be downright dangerous for riders. Incredibly, less than 8 minutes later, the flagging was fixed, the start gun fired and racers were off, spinning through the Village of Cumberland streets enroute to the trailhead.

The slight morning delay did not slow down the action on course. This was another lengthy day of almost all singletrack and riders appeared to really enjoy flowing with the trails, many of which were purpose built by local mountain bike enthusiasts or this segment of the BC Bike Race. Local course designers also conduct trail maintenance and preservation in an attempt to keep the trails active and open for riders. Again it was a battle royal for the top spots on day 3.

A fierce battle, indeed. Today, Team Jamis/Santa Cruz, Seamus McGrath and Chris Sheppard, blasted through the trails in a blistering 2:51:53, with rivals Team Kona, Kris Sneddon and Barry Wicks literally on their heels at one second later. McGrath and Sheppard retain the coveted leader’s jersey for the GC but will have to work hard to keep it, with Team Kona only 73 seconds behind overall.

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