Ryan Gardner

Finding Winter In The Sierra Nevadas

Words by Ambassador Becky Gardner.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG


They say the only constant in life is change, and the seasons are the perfect reminder of this. Once we get all cozy and comfy with one season the weather quickly rips the rug out from under us reminding us that there’s always something better ahead. For the past few weeks, I have been out in California racing and working, which means hanging out a lot with my brother, Ryan. He conveniently lives in Oakland, CA, and only about 30 minutes from one of my offices, which means a work trip doubles as sibling shred time. Although Fall is right around the corner the last week in Northern CA has been miserably and unusually hot. Typically the Bay area is a steady 75 degrees with pleasant crisp nights. However, all week Oakland was a blistering 95 degrees making us and everyone else in the city feel more than a little cranky. This was highlighted during the three hours we were stuck in the house due to police activity down the block. As the helicopters circled around the neighborhood, it became clear that we needed an escape plan. It seemed like higher ground was required, and the Sierra Nevada mountains were calling.  With one of California’s quirkiest races of the year, the Grinduro gravel race, going on in Quincy CA we had our first destination in mind. 

While we hoped for a little respite from the heat, little did we know driving up to the mountains we would be saying goodbye to summer and fully embracing winter. About halfway through the Grinduro race, the skies clouded over, cold winds blew in, and sleet and snow started falling on the ground. After a long cold day of winter conditions, Ryan finished his curly bar race aboard his Major Jake a little chilled. While warming up, the topic of the next day’s ride came up.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

With the snow starting to fly, it seemed like this might be one of the last opportunities to summit one of the lost sierras most epic peaks, Mt Elwell. The plan was to camp out and get an early start to the epic bike adventure we had plotted out. There would be abundant hike-a-biking followed by one of the most ripping DH’s that still flies under the radar in CA. About halfway through our drive from Quincy to the Lakes Basin, we realized that we had officially lost summer and found winter. It was absolutely dumping snow. The roads were covered, and we could barely see a few feet in front of us. Not only that, but we were surrounded by thunder and lighting. The skies crackled with electricity illuminating the snow-filled skies and increasingly white landscapes. The snow got so bad we ended up split up from our buddy who, being a few minutes behind us, could not make it over the pass. With our cell phones out of service and feeling like we were in the early 90’s, we made a plan to search for him in the AM.  

Becky Gardner

After a night of a pretty epic drive in some two-wheel-drive vans, we woke up the next morning to a frosty winter wonderland. We made some coffee, went and found our friend that was stuck, and re-planned our ride to fit the new weather conditions. Ryan, who rides up in the Downieville area often, put together the best ride I have ever done in Northern California. The trails were rocky, technical, and the snow and mud was the cherry on top for two East Coast-born bikers.  We both were riding our Process 153 which over and over again prove to be the best overall bike for these adventures. Easy to climb and fantastic for descending. We know that no matter what the terrain ahead is, these rigs can handle it.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

The ride started with a long climb to the shoulder of Elwell. As the terrain goes more vertical, the steep pedal becomes a mandatory hike-a-bike. From the summit, you could look out over many lakes and basins all glistening with its new coat of snow and even as far north as the 14k foot caldera of Mt. Shasta. We then descended for over an hour through every type of terrain. The top was cold and snowy which eventually turned into tacky, loamy, hero dirt. The bottom of the trail was full of bright green trees and ended with loose and steep shoots. We got to experience all of California’s riding in one epic descent. 

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

We couldn’t stop the fun there though.  The three of us decided to take our cold and tired hands back up the mountain to do one more lap on Downieville’s iconic DH run. We all have done this trail many times, but this time we had the path to ourselves, and it came equipped with some of the best dirt we have seen in these notoriously dry mountains. After a pinned run down through the snow, mud, and tacky dirt again, we finally called it quits on one epic day. We started driving back to the Bay with high fives and smiles, knowing the summer heat is over, and fall and winter’s crisp air and ideal riding conditions are here to stay. 

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG


The Honzo Time Machine

Words and photos by Ambassador Ryan Gardner.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

It’s been a long time since I started showing up to my first ever cross-country races on my early-2000’s Kona Stuff. Back then I raced in skate shoes, a bucket helmet, and baggies, and my bike was a conglomerate of borrowed parts. Yet, it was those early local races and barely functioning bikes that hooked me on the buzz of racing and the good fun you can have on two wheels. These days bikes like my Process 153 are made of space plastic, have brakes that work, and suspension that makes all but the rowdiest trails feel like a bike path. Don’t get me wrong, I really like having bikes that make going fast easy. It’s downright awesome and kind of the point of racing. Maybe it’s the pace of life right now, or maybe nostalgia, but coming into the Downieville Classic this year I was suddenly struck with the urge to turn back the clock and kick it old school. I wasn’t quite ready to kick all the way back to skate shoes and flat pedals, but my no-nonsense, all-aluminum Honzo that’s usually relegated to after-work rides seemed like the perfect time machine to bring me back to the early days.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

Similarly, Downieville is the perfect destination for heading into the past. The rocky trails of the classic were once cut by industrious gold miners and the town hasn’t changed all that much since. A great bike, a favorite destination, and a classic race, the stoke was at an all-time high.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

Now, Downieville isn’t a standard XC race. The “XC” starts with a 40-something minute climb from Sierra City to Packer Saddle. The hardtail shined out of the gate and as the pre-race jitters worked their way out and I worked my way through the crowd I congratulated myself on how awesome an idea it was to race the Honzo! Fast! Responsive! Awesome.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

These feelings continued even as the sun beat down and the arduous climb sapped the power from my legs. This was all to be expected. It’s Downieville after all. But as the trail left fire road and entered singletrack, I realized that the areas where I usually rest now took a lot of energy. Rocks and braking bumps continued to wear me down until I found myself thinking that it was an absolutely terrible idea to race Downieville on a hardtail. I pushed on, and after hitting some of the smoother faster sections of the course, my morale improved, but the beating continued. Turns out, there is a reason most people don’t race hardtails anymore, especially at Downieville. By the end, I started thinking about an old friend who wore a kidney belt when he was riding and that I sort of wished I had one. Crossing the finish line and collapsing into a folding chair was a thing of beauty. I may not have put down my fastest time, but I held my own and even passed some fancy space-plasticky-fully-suspended bikes in the process.

After the race ends, everyone convenes at the confluence of those once gold-filled streams, cracks open a beer and settles in for some much-needed leg icing and river jump spectating.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

That leg icing is absolutely key because that’s just day 1! The next day was the downhill and another 50 minutes of kidney rattling. Making it through the weekend with no mechanicals, no cramping, solid finishes, and heaps of type 2 fun was exactly the result I was hoping for. I even had some extra time for a few meditative casts and hooking up with a few small Yuba trout, about the only shiny thing I’ve yet to see in these rivers. My trip on the Honzo time machine was, in all honesty, a little rougher than expected, but the destination was exactly what I hoped for—a trip back to simpler time amidst a seeming ever more complex world. It’s nice to know that type of escape still exists and its always just a few pedal strokes away. 

Go Big, Then Eat Donuts!

Winter is not a particularly difficult time for bike riding here in California. With our mild temps and hero dirt it’s hard to really call it a winter at all. But, there is one thing that even a Mediterranean climate cannot provide: enough daylight hours to do a silly big ride. Not just a long ride, but one of those rides that you sketch out on paper and wonder, will this actually work? Between a full work schedule and an ever-growing list of races, early summer offers a short window of time where conditions lend themselves especially well to epics. This year, longer days, no races, a huge stretch of beautiful California coast, and good friends all came together in the form of a 176-mile adventure from Santa Cruz to San Luis Obispo. Taking the iconic California 1 through Big Sur over the course of 12 hours was just the thing to kick off the summer.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

There is just something special about starting and ending a ride in the dark with a vast distance checked off in-between. However, it can be daunting locking yourself into a ride that just might be too big for your britches. One way to ease yourself into a big ol’ ride like this is to plan an escape route. For this particular day out we set ourselves up with a sag van filled with all the snacks, beers, and parts needed for a well-supported cruise down the coast. This not only allowed for frequent fuel stops, but also allowed easy bailout points so everyone in our diverse crew could dial in their preferred level of mileage. As for me, I had a hankerin for suffering that only a full-pull of coastline could satisfy.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

While most of my favorite rides require a bit more travel, my trusty Major Jake fitted with some nice wide slicks was the perfect vantage point for 12 hours’ worth of views like this.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

The Route, although mega, is fairly straightforward. Start yourself in Santa Cruz, make it to the legendary Hwy 1, and head south. There may be a few hills and all-time vistas in between and like any good day-long ride, this one ends with donuts and exhausted smiles. With the solstice right around the corner, it’s the best time of year to get out there and go big!

Relive ‘Morning Mar 30th’

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

Kona at EWS Ainsa Spain

Last weekend members of Kona’s enduro team hit the Spanish countryside for a weekend of heated (literally) enduro racing. With temperatures topping out near 9oF/32C, racers were battling the intense sun, extreme heat, and a whole lot of challenging terrain.

Swede Alexander Kangas finished up the two days of racing with a 46th place.

American Ryan Gardner raced in his first EWS of the season and was amazed by the speed of the pack. Gardner finished in 87th place on the weekend and is looking forward to testing his mettle in the final round in Finale, Italy this weekend.

Becky Gardner, also racing in her first EWS of the season pushed through the heat to end up 28th.

 

Under 21 racer Leah Maunsell of Ireland is fresh out of high school and ready to put the pedals down hard. She finished the weekend with a 2nd place in the U21 class.

 

Next up: Finale Ligure- perhaps the most beloved course on the EWS circuit. Riders are looking forward to the tracks and race. Practice starts tomorrow!

 

 

 

Ryan Gardner Reports from Mammoth

Words by Kona enduro racer, Ryan Gardner.

 

2018 marks my 10th year of racing mountain bikes. During this time I have had seasons where everything seems to go as planned and the flow just came naturally. Others though required a bit more work. This season started off as the latter. With each race came a new hurdle. Mechanicals took me out of contention in Mexico and the TDS and a tough race in New Mexico had roused those little voices in the back of my mind that suggested that I might not have what it takes this year. As I continue to grow at my 9 to 5, the responsibilities there have become more demanding, personal relationships all require time and energy, and the number of hours in the day seem to disappear quicker each year. But despite all the fits and starts of this season, the effort it takes to rally after a 10-hour work day and get out for a training ride, and all the other little sacrifices it takes to be competitive at racing bikes, I keep coming back. It’s the little tastes of success, of progress, that makes all the work worthwhile. So after three lackluster races, it was time to pack up the van and head to my first California Enduro of the year, Mammoth Bar.

Mammoth Bar is not my favorite race of the year. It’s really pedally, really dry, and often really hot. But the racing is tight and it’s a good chance to get into the swing of things. After working three-quarters of a day I ducked out early and got a practice lap in on each stage Friday night for Saturday’s race. With only four stages of racing, each stage required 100% effort. I did my best to remember the stages, stay off the chicken levers, and put power down wherever I could. When it was all said and done I was able to round out the podium in 5th place. Though not the result I was aiming for, it was a step in the right direction; no mechanicals, improved riding, and a podium spot. I even got a feel for my new Satori which has been surprising me with its quick handling and snappy feel. It’s a much different bike from the Process, but its well suited to the fast and flowy singletrack found at many of the CA Enduro Races.

With the season moving into full swing, I’m going to keep focusing on finding the flow, enjoying the ride, and savoring those small victories week after week. Sometimes things don’t come easy. But that’s exactly when the most progress can be made.

THE DIRTY SANCHEZ (TDS) RACE REPORT

Ali stopping for a mid-run beer with encouragement from Mark and Heather.

The Dirty Sanchez: the gnarliest enduro out there. Broken & bruised limbs, mid-run whiskey shots, hundreds of hecklers, the rowdiest bike trails… sums up to my idea of an epic weekend. The Kona crew made an appearance in full force with Ali Osgood, Becky Gardner, Hannah Bergemann, Ryan Gardner, and Scott Countryman, and put together a race report from the weekend.

Becky, Ali, and Hannah on day 1

Hannah B. – Through an Instagram contest submission I was granted a “golden ticket” to race in the 2018 TDS enduro. A month later I was flying with my bike down from Bellingham to Northern California, not quite sure what I was getting myself into.

 

Perry, Chelsea, & Hannah; the 3 Golden Ticket contest winners

Friday was practice day which involved riding as many of the trails as possible, with shuttles to the top after every lap. This meant riding until my arms felt like they might not work anymore.

Dropping into the steep rock garden section of stage 3

Saturday was race day 1, and started off with 3 of the gnarliest trails. My goal for the weekend was to keep it upright and I was (barely) able to make that goal! Stage 6 brought us through the infamous and gnarliest stage, Vigilante, which runs through a steep, dried up creek bed of loose rocks. Hundreds of Hecklers lined the gully, hollering as all the racers wobbled and tumbled their way down the trail.

Trying to stay high on the wall rides among the hecklers

Sunday was day 2, and we endured another 6 stages of gap jumps, loose rocks, and off camber steeps. I finished each stage completely gassed but with a huge, cheesy grin on my face.

The whole weekend was amazing. I landed in 7th in a large field of ladies and was happy to have relatively clean race runs. The Sanchez family and friends are one incredible crew of people, and I’m so grateful they let me come experience all the glory of the TDS.

Until next time!

Hannah B.

 

Ali Osgood:

When I rolled up to the Sanchez Compound for my second TDS I had 2 goals. The first was to not repeat my first year at the event by getting injured in practice, and my second goal was to be the first woman to win the Spirit Leader Award.

Ali getting steezy on a step-up

(side note: The Spirit Award goes to the racer who meets the spirit criteria of TDS legends like Mark Weir and Ariel Lindsley. That racer must improve the experience of all TDS goers, be it on the race course, during pastimes, or, especially, round the campfire into the late hours of the night. Every year in contention for the coveted award voices are lost, beers are chugged, trails are slayed, and many laughs are shared.)

I picked up Hannah Bergemann from the airport thursday night, we settled into our camp, and woke up to a chilly Friday morning of practice. As always, the trails didn’t disappoint. Imagine a trail system that somehow manages to feature unparalleled flow with gap jumps, massive wall rides, and deep berms, steep rocky gnar, spongy fragrant loam, rooty chutes, and high speed tech. That’s what makes up the 13 stages of TDS. But the mtb wonderland got the better of me and by my fifth run in practice I managed to scorpion over my bars and punch a rock, rendering my pinky both broken and dislocated (I would discover days later after finally getting an x-ray).

The result of Ali’s crash during practice.

So I managed to fail my first goal, but the trail side doctors seemed confident I could still ride with the proper ratio of booze to ibuprofen and a firm buddy tape system. With my grip and general bike control being more compromised than I anticipated, I found myself crashing in the first few stages on Saturday. So I reorganized my goals and decided I didn’t care how slow I had to go, that I would still finish the race smiling.

Yep.. a pantsless run was in the cards on day 2. There’s a reason Ali earned the spirit award

After that, my weekend took a hard left turn from a bike race to a beer chugging, bar humping, break dance fighting shit show that I somehow survived with minimal bodily harm (besides an array of bruises and a pissed of left pinky). I made a lot of new friends, improved my beer bong skills, rode with some of the raddest pro women on the West Coast, and learned how to stay positive when things don’t go my way.

Getting the spirit award takes commitment…

While I failed to walk away from TDS uninjured, I somehow found myself accepting an impressive spread of prizes after winning the spirit award. I’v had some good wins in my race career, but this one takes the cake. After navigating the wild waters of TDS weekend, I finally understand what it’s all about and I am grateful to be apart of it.

So what’s it all about anyway? Come out next year, and you’ll find out…

Ryan Gardner:

Becky and I have attended the TDS enduro for several years now and have had the pleasure of watching it evolve from a couple guys in the woods to an elite enduro with hundreds of racers. Every year we head to Grass Valley eager to race on some of Northern California’s best terrain. I made the trip over the mountain from Oakland and was stoked to see what my new Kona Process 153 could do.

 

Ryan keeping it pinned through the hecklers

After ripping practice laps and remembering just how awesome the tracks are, I was ready to send it into day one of racing. Unfortunately, the first day of racing was not in my favor. After a crash in the rock garden, a flat tire, and a few more less-than-ideal runs, I didn’t find myself where I’d have liked after day 1.

Vigilante took more than a few people down, unknown rider.

Thankfully, the best part of racing TDS is not just the riding, but the festivities and like-minded people that make the Dirty Sanchez. After some bike repairs, having a few Hey Buddy beers, I was ready for more races, and day two brought a way better day. With clean runs and no mechanicals, I was able to put some top ten runs together against a stacked class of riders.

Becky Gardner:

After finishing up another winter in Telluride, Co, I made the trek over to TDS. After a winter of skiing, and recently recovering from a broken rib, my game plan was to ride consistent, smooth, and in control, especially after a history of injuries at the race. The first day of practice at TDS is always interesting coming from southern Colorado where the only trails available to ride all winter are more fitness-oriented and the rocky, gnarly trails lay beneath the snow.

 

Becky looking stoked after a day of practice.

By the end of the practice day and practicing all the features, I was feeling good going into race day. The weekends sunshine brought perfect dirt and tacky berms. Feeling super confident on more pedally stages, it took a bit to warm up to the more technical stages, but by the end of day 1, I was feeling strong on my Process 134.

Becky tackling the nasty rocks of Vigilante

All 12 stages went well, except for a few mishaps on some of the earlier stages, but the whole race was mechanical free and I was stoked to sit inside the top 10 against some very strong riders.

-Becky

Ryan Gardner reports from Mexico’s Trans Puerto Vallarta

With the major portion of the enduro race season still a few months away but a month or two of training already on the books, Becky and I decided to head south for a few days and check out the Trans Puerto Vallarta. The Trans PV was new this year and included some awesome trails we had already ridden in the little mountain town of Mascota Mexico. We were also treated to some new trails in San Sabastian and mountains surrounding Puerta Vallarta. The whole race took four days with travel to Mascota and included 15 special stages. It was the perfect opportunity to test new bikes, dial in suspension, and shake off the cobwebs from a few months away from racing. Plus, it’s hard to say no to warm temps, tacos, and those chill Mexican vibes.

After flying into PV we built up bikes including my brand new Process 153 29”. I only had one day on this monster before I crammed its big wheels into my Evoc bag, but I had already set a few PR’s on my home trails. This bike breathes fire.

 

After a bike building session, 5-6 tacos, and a margarita (It’s ok to go full gringo) we were off to bed and excited to travel to San Sabastian the next day.

 

The trails of San Sabastian (and neighboring Mascota) are old. Really old. Most of the trails we raced are leftover mining trails and roads from the 1700’s. Even the estate where we camped for the first two nights was built sometime around 1750 and was the center of gold and other mineral mining for the surrounding areas. From here, mules carried the valuable metals down to the Puerto Vallarta so they could be exported. From these ancient paths, the riders of Mexico have reclaimed (sometimes very) narrow single tracks. This, coupled with the dry season, made for some exiting blind racing as riders struggled to find speed, traction, and flow throughout the day. Ryan had a solid day placing second behind good friend and training partner Cory Sullivan by just one second, and ahead of the rest of the field by over 30 seconds. Becky crushed the first four stages before taking a big crash, splitting her knee open, and taking a stem to the sternum. Even with the crash, she finished the day in first place.

Once back to camp, riders were treated to cervecas and a mountain of carnitas. This particular combination results in near instantaneous sleep. Not even the snoring of racers and barking of extremely photogenic Mexican dogs could keep us awake.

Day two of racing saw us move to the steep and fast trails of Mascota. The tracks here are varied and include some wide open sections, some incredibly tight switchbacks, and some pretty gnarly rock gardens. It was in the latter that I made a critical error. My Process 153 had been egging me on all day, seemingly frustrated by my pace. The whole bike comes alive at speed and it’s a constant battle to keep things under control on a trail you have never ridden. I got just a little too excited in one gnarly rock garden and instead of rolling a 4ft boulder, I pulled up and hucked out towards a side hill hoping to keep some speed. Unfortunately, I landed juuuuust a bit to the right and clipped a knife-edged rock which put a 2.5-inch slice in my tough casing WTB vigilante. It was an immediate flat for me and a 30-minute time loss as I finagled a fix to get me back to town. After some Mexican ingenuity and the incredible durability of my Vigilante, I was able to get it patched up and win 3 of the 4 remaining stages including a super tight trail on which my “dinosaur bike” was supposed to be slow.

 

Becky, denouncing stitches which would have taken her out of the race, soldiered on to the amazement of everyone in the field. Rocking last season’s Process 134 and fueled by ice cream stops and adorable Mexican puppies, she rallied through the day only losing one spot on the timesheet by day’s end.


That night we set up camp at a beautiful ranch outside Mascota. There was only one cold shower, but the home-cooked food and late night pizza delivery made up for it. Talking that evening with friend and event promoter Alvaro Gutierrez Leal, he confided that the next morning’s transfer to the stages was what he was most worried about. It was a three-hour drive through 4×4 roads, in two-wheel drive Toyota vans. Turns out he was right. After a few sketchy river crossings and putting some serious wear on the clutch plate, we arrived in the coastal mountains above Puerto Vallarta.
Where the first two days were loose, these trails were on another level of negative traction. No front breaking here. Every stage of the day was wide open with almost no traction, some sand, and scary off-camber corners. We were also given some “Mexican surprises,” like a trail that enters a backyard, loops around a house, and then exits through the front gate. A flock of chickens presented a few opportunities for nose-bawks.

After finishing on a steep and sandy track known as El Scorpion we gathered together for a chill ride back to the ocean, buckets of beers, more tacos, and a bit of Raicilla (the traditional liquor Mascota made from wild agave and brewed in backyard stills). Due to the tire fiasco, Ryan finished off the podium. Becky finished the race in second place, injury and all!

 

 

Photos by Nico Switalski

Words by Ryan Gardner

 

 

DHARCO/WTB Rider Ryan Gardner Receives a Novelty Check at CES China Peak

The Golden Tour is a “series within a series” representing the most technical and difficult races of the California Enduro Series. The first stop of this year’s Golden Tour brought me to China Peak resort, deep within the Sierra Mountains east of Fresno, California. The terrain at China Peak has become well known over the past few years as both the California Enduro Series and the Pro GRT DH series has made stops here. The entire hill is made of granite in various stages of decay testing racers with steep, rough tracks and minimal traction in the dusty corners. This year the late winter added a new feature, mud bogs which seemed to grow exponentially from practice to race runs, dotted a few of the stages. I for one was called out on Stage 1 and found myself running with bike in hand after trying to take a sneaky line around said bog.

For some reason, China Peak is always a tough race for me mentally. It falls in one of the busiest times of year for me work wise and I can never seem to get to the race with a clear head. This year was no different. I got up early on Thursday, flew to Los Angeles for work for the day, landed at the Oakland Airport at 9pm, hopped in the van, and made the 4-hour drive directly to China Peak. I did what I could to get my head back in the game during practice on Friday, but the pop just didn’t seem to be there. My suspicions were confirmed during the first few stages of race day. I was riding well and my Process 153 was feeling perfect, but I just couldn’t summon the power to make up time on the long pedally sections. Lucky for me China Peak kept my favorite stage from last year, a long, rocky and mostly downhill track that includes some long open sections of exposed rock slab that are just too much fun on board an XL 153 with a 170 Fox 36 up front. The thing just eats it up! After making up some serious time on stage 4 and crawling back into the top 5 it was time to take on the much talked about stage 5.

This stage was new for 2017, lovingly cut by hand by fellow racer Evan Turpin earlier that week. Everyone agreed this track was the hardest yet raced at any CES event. It was steep, rocky, and completely blown out by race day. I knew there was only so much you could push in the upper section which had steep chutes into tight corners filled with light fluffy decomposed granite. There was no traction to be had. I took it clean and consistent and then opened it up a bit towards the bottom and was stoked to take the second fastest time of the day and moving myself up to 4th overall.

I was more than happy to take home some points and some confidence at a traditionally tough race for me. Plus, I got my first novelty check which will be proudly hung in the garage. Now it’s time to take a few weeks to tune the motor and get ready for the next race of the series as I make the move south to Big Bear Lakes in a few weeks.

 

 

Ryan Gardner and Alexander Kangas take on Round Three of the EWS in Madeira

Kona had two of its enduro riders attend Round Three of the Enduro World Series on the small Atlantic Island of Madeira this past weekend including Alexander Kangas (SWE) and Ryan Gardner (USA). This was the first EWS stop held on the remote island and riders could only speculate on the conditions that would await them. After two days of practicing the nine stages that would span two race days, riders were forced to come to grips with a veritable cornucopia of trail conditions. The island, it turns out, is a gem of many facets. Stages started at over 6,000ft on the ancient volcanic island (one of the oldest in the world) and dropped from wide open alpine feeling meadows into deciduous forests which could have been somewhere in the Northeast of the United States. Other trails fingered down ridgelines with sheer drops to the ocean on one side and 30 million-year-old forests filled with prehistoric cycads on the other. Still, other trails dropped riders down treacherous rock strewn paths and ended in wide open eucalyptus groves. All of this was mixed with around 4k feet of climbing per day and stages which stretched to 9+ minutes. To say this EWS was a test is an understatement. The worlds best battled through the four days of riding and broken bikes and bodies were not uncommon.

During the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal.

All Photos: Sven Martin

Alex had a bit of a tough start to the weekend taking a header into a very stout pine whilst hucking a big line on a slick and root strewn section of stage seven. A stage which would go on to take more than a few riders down. When Alex “woke up on Saturday for the first day of racing, I honestly felt like shit, I had a headache and felt dizzy, I hate making excuses but honestly, I wasn’t feeling that good! But I felt like I was gonna be able to ride my bike.” And so he soldiered on through the most pedally and possibly most technical stages of the weekend and wound up 61st on the first day.

During the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal.

Ryan Gardner made the trip from California to Madiera for his first EWS of the season. Coming off a podium in CA the previous weekend, Ryan was looking forward to seeing where he fit in amongst the world class crowd. He was quickly introduced to some of the slickest and rowdiest trails he has had the good fortune to ride. “Some of the tracks were honestly a little intimidating to race” he said. Day one started off with an incredibly physical track which seemed more uphill than down and lasted a solid 10 minutes. After this, the tracks stayed slippery and wet, but went increasingly downhill. “I had a tough time getting used to the icy red clay after a winter of riding hero dirt in CA, but managed one of my best stages of the day on stage three which had been giving me anxiety all week”. Two crashes (one each on stage tour and nine) put Ryan back in 82st after day one, a position more than a few places lower than he had hoped.

On Sunday Alex continued to improve through the day and started to attack the track on his Process 153 in a style more fitting to his abilities. He ended the day with a solid 44th on stage nine. His day two stylings bumped him up in the overall to a very respectable 56th in the stacked 200 rider deep open field. Alex heads on to Ireland in two weeks looking to continue building momentum.
Day two also saw Ryan improve on his performance clawing back nine places to finish 73rd overall and the fourth fastest American at the race. “I was really happy to have a clean race today. Stages five and six were really wet and I was having a hard time finding the pace. These were some of the most slippery trails I have ever ridden!”. As the day went on the tracks dried considerably and Ryan started gaining back some confidence on the bike and avoided any major mistakes, helping him in the overall. “This was the hardest race I have done so far and I learned quite a bit about what you need to be successful at this level. It seems like every year the pace is increasing and the tracks are getting harder! I’m really happy to put together a big two-day race without any major crashes or mechanicals!”.
Both riders finished within the top 80 and will, therefore, receive those coveted EWS points.

Got Mud? Ryan Gardner and Alexander Kangas Embrace Yet Another Wet EWS Round in Madeira

During the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal.

Alexander Kangas chases Ryan Gardner down one of Day 1’s slippery stages during the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal. Photo Sven Martin

California-based Kona enduro pro Ryan Gardner and Swedish Grassroots rider Alexandre Kangas have made the trip to Madeira, Portugal for round 3 of the Enduro World Series. The pair headed out today to practice on stages 1 through 4. “It’s crazy how different each trail is as you work your way down the mountain.” Ryan is not alone with his statement here, as both riders note that every stage is like an entirely different ecosystem, each containing differing terrain as the race drops from the alpine to sea level.

During the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal.

Alexander uses his tires to soak up that pesky mud during the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal. Photo Sven Martin

It seems like every Enduro World Series event of late has been battling the elements. Riders who were early to arrive to stop three in Madeira have been enjoying dry weather and riding this past week. But it seems as though the EWS might just be cursed, the moment the official practice kicked off earlier today, the rain arrived.

Looking at the forecasted weather though, it does look like we will see a reversal of the first two rounds, with overcast and sunny days on the horizon. Always looking on the bright side, Ryan was quick to point out that it wasn’t wet all day. “First day of practice was full on! We had a good bit of rain on the higher elevation stages (1+2), but the sun was shining on and off once we made it down to the lower ones.”  Alexander echoed his sentiment “I’m very happy with how the day went, I felt fast and strong all day, the rain made it tricky here and there, but I think it will make for some good racing come the weekend!”

During the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal.

Ryan Gardner finds off camber gold/loam. Photo Sven Martin

After today’s practice, both riders are pumped for the weekend’s race days, stages three and four in particular. As Ryan puts it “Stage 3 is super gnarly with slippery rocks up top and high speed rough sections down below. The final stage of day one (stage 4) is completely different with deep ruts and good dirt. My process 153 is doing a phenomenal job eating up the chunk add I’m looking forward to seeing what tomorrow’s practice brings! So far this island is incredible!” Alexander agrees “The first day of practice was great but challenging, we had rain showers on most of the stages today which made things super tricky! Stages 3 and 4 are in my opinion the best, but they are also the most challenging ones!”

During the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal.

Photo Sven Martin

With tomorrow’s practice looking it might be free of rain, things should go a little smoother for the two Process 153 riders.

During the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal.

Alexander

During the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal.

Ryan.

WTB Profiles Ryan Gardner in this cool little video

Ryan Gardner, WTB athlete and EWS shredder, was looking for a way to keep the bills down while racing the EWS last year. The solution: van life. That alone shows considerable commitment, but he also did so while tying a tie as he jumped out of the side doors each morning to get to his desk as a sustainability consultant full-time. Not many can stay true to van life while still keeping it clean cut and driven. It’s one of Ryan Gardner’s many skills. Only rivaled by his shredability on two wheels.

 

Kona Super Grassroots riders finish the California Enduro Series on the Podium

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The Kamikaze bike games were the final, and largest, stop of the California Enduro Series. Over 450 participants made the trip to the volcanic soils of the eastern sierra. For those of you who have not been to Mammoth Mountain, perhaps you have heard legends of the “dirt” that one finds here amongst the barren mountains and hot springs. Dust doesn’t quite capture the essence of Mammoth, pumice gets you closer, but really kitty litter is the closest physical form that explains the physics of the dirt here. Now picture that kitty litter strewn over tons of square edged rocks, obscuring their presence to varying degrees, and you have an idea of the conditions that tested the Norcal Cooperative this past weekend. cx0r4119To add to these tricky conditions, the last race of the year brought with it a season’s worth of wear and tear on equipment and bodies alike. The morning of the event, racers were met with another foe, a forest fire had started the evening before and was now draping the mountain in thick smoke. As some questioned whether the show would go on, others prepared for the day with some early morning practice runs. By 9am the smoke began to clear out and the race was officially underway.

cx0r2637Ryan Gardner had high hopes coming into mammoth after a big win here last year. Eager to work his way up the overall rankings, he gave it his all, and managed a 9th place in a strong pro field despite a few mechanicals. The challenging courses were anything but forgiving. Nineth place was not exactly what he was hoping for, but it was enough to secure a 4th in the Golden Tour overall and a 2nd in the California Enduro Series, a huge accomplishment for the full-time office jockey.

cx0r3489Derek Teel finished off a killer season fighting off some late season injuries. His day at Mammoth was more of a victory lap as he cruised to a fifth-place finish overall for the season. Derek made huge gains this year aboard his Process 134 landing his best enduro finishes to date! First year on Kona’s and best results. Coincidence? I think not.

cx0r3586Arianna had a bit of a rough go when some errant course tape led her off track and resulting in a DNF. Her season went well though, and she made the switch from DH to Enduro look easy landing a 6th overall.cx0r3171

And with that, the 2016 Enduro season has come to an end. In our inaugural year, the Norcal Cooperative put a Kona on seven of eight podiums. Overall, the team didn’t disappoint landing in the second and fifth spots in California’s Premier race series. Now it’s time for a little recovery, some long, sweet, soul rides, and maybe even some skinny wheeled suffering.