Spencer Paxson

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.

Spencer Paxson Waxes About his 2-3 Finish with Kerry Werner at the Pisgah Stage Race!

Spencer Paxson and Kerry Werner went 2-3 at the Pisgah Stage Race on their Hei Heis. As usual, Spencer’s trip report is super thoughtful and interesting! Here goes…

Words by Spencer Paxson. Photos courtesy Blue Ridge Adventures and Icon Media Asheville.

If the Bible had been written in the Pacific Northwest, the expression “shake the dust off your feet” would go something like “scrape the moss off…” At least that was my thought as I hummed out of town in my moss-covered truck early one April morning for my first race trip of the 2017 season. It had been a long and wet winter in Bellingham. The longest in recorded history. I had let the legs go good and fallow since my last race in November, and then spent all of December off of the bike (on account of the snow). For the past three months I had been riding the magic carpet of loam on the trails around town to get back in shape. Now it was time to put it to the test and wake the senses from hibernation with a trip to the Pisgah Stage Race in North Carolina.

Needless to say, I was keen to get out and stretch my legs in the old crumbly Blue Ridge Mountains and rhododendron groves of western North Carolina. The objective was the Pisgah Stage Race, a 5-day humdinger of a mountain bike stage race based out of the town of Brevard. This would be the 9th edition of the famous event and my first time racing it. Along the way I’d link up with new teammate and North Carolina native Kerry Werner and the good folks at Tennessee Valley Bikes (TVB) in Knoxville.

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There was no lacking in fine Southern hospitality as soon as I landed in Knoxville. In no time I had tossed my bag into the back of a big truck and was driving down the highway with a Nikki Lane song twanging on the radio as the sun set over the Smoky Mountains. A big dinner of hole-in-the-wall Mexican food with Scott and Eric from TVB and the road warriors from Kona Bicycles Demo Tour had me feeling fat as a tick. With a happy post-travel coma fast approaching, I passed out that night to the sound of the local crickets and katydids.

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We shook our legs out at the Kona Demo Day at the new Knoxville Urban Wilderness trail system, followed that evening my some official pre-fueling at TVB’s new shop grand opening. Kerry and I were elected as chief judges for a “guac-off”. We sampled 14 different kinds of guacamole scoring on 8 criteria each, then topped off on street corn and sausages before bidding farewell to Knoxville and caravanning down the Blue Ridge Highway to Brevard. We weathered a flat tire on the RV and made it to the Pine Ridge campground and my first night in the Pisgah Forest. Just before midnight I had pitched a tent on a little grassy nook next the Davidson River with the blue light of the moon shining so bright I could read a book without a flashlight.

Coffee, pancakes, and NPR News in the morning would begin the routine for the coming week as Kerry whipped up a mighty fine breakfast before our first day pre-riding some of the Pisgah trails. The weather was looking prime, with sun and short-sleeve temperatures forecasted for the week, maybe a frogwash or two along the way, but otherwise uncharacteristically dry for spring. Despite the warm temperatures, the trees had not bloomed yet, and the only green in the woods was the dark evergreen of rhododendron groves. The absence of leaves gave the forest a brisk and flinty appearance. I kept an eye out for the famous white squirrels of Pisgah and imagined old-time Civil War era history as we rolled out to the trails.

“This one’ll get a little loose,” noted Kerry before we dropped into the first descent of the day. I had expected Pisgah to be rough based on the stories I had heard, but that said, I was caught off guard after four months of riding the luxurious loam carpets of Cascadia. Yes, our trails in Bellingham can get rough and wild, but there’s a nuance to everything. The trails of Pisgah are refreshingly raw, rocky and rooty, ungroomed and unapologetic. Riding fast here requires a smoothness akin to the prolonged vowels of the Southern drawl. Managing traction and speed are as different here as the accent. Fundamentals are the same, but the expressions don’t work without the subtleties. I felt like I couldn’t carry my speed if I had a bucket with a lid on it! Let’s say my Yankee rigidity would hold me back through the first half of the stage race, but I eventually adopted a smoother Southern style.

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Racing arrived soon enough, and on the morning of Stage 1 the air was abuzz as the crowd of 200 racers from 11 countries lined up for the 5-day, 140-mile journey. We plunged through an icy stream and into the rhododendron forests. A group of four, including Kerry, a local elite rider named Tristan Cowie, one Mystery European and myself, quickly separated from the masses and soon we were all seeing double as we navigated our way up and away into the forest. The battle was on.

Kerry was the defending champion of Pisgah and bringing the thunder after a career best cyclocross season in 2016, not to mention a long history as one of the top MTBrs in the country. Tristan Cowie was no stranger to the top-level of mountain bike racing himself, having been a regular on the US National Team in the 2007-2009 period. And as a local, he knew each of the trails like a tree knows its roots. The Mystery European turned out to be from Spain and was an ex-World Cup dominator. With fast conditions and good legs, we blazed through the stage setting a course record a whopping 20 minutes faster than the year before! Midway through, Tristan launched a perfect attack into a long descent, placing the Spaniard between him and myself. Spaniard’s skill going down was not as good as it was going up, and Tristan began to float away. I eventually snuck around Spaniard, but I wasn’t riding very smooth either, and though I was reeling Tristan in, there wasn’t enough of the day left to close the gap. I came in second on Day 1 by 19 seconds, a gap that would ebb and flow through the week. Kerry rolled in third.

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Meanwhile, Kona Grassroots rider Jena Greaser was dominating the Open Women’s category, and would go on to do so through the week. Jena is beginning to rack up impressive results, with a top-3 finish a few week’s prior at the TransRockies Moab Rocks stage race in Utah. Desert to Appalachia, she is a Canadian force to be reckoned with. In the Open Men’s field and just a possum’s tail behind us was Super Grassroots rider Cory Rimmer, a young and rising star from North Carolina. Cory put the hustle to the enduro sections like a fart in a fan factory and would go on to take second overall in the Enduro portion of the race.

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At the front end of the field, the days at Pisgah are relatively short at around 2-2.5hrs each. The upside is that the fatigue doesn’t stack up the way it does in longer death-march style races where each day is over 4 hours. The flip side is that the short days make for very intense and fast racing. The pace each day is faster than green grass through a goose. Course records fell left and right as we stormed through the hills, beating times set by previous legends of the sport Jeremiah Bishop, Thomas Turner, Sam Koerber and Adam Craig. Was it the trail conditions, the modern equipment, the legs, or all combined?

Whatever it was, it made for a tight battle between Tristan and me. It turns out we were well-matched. I won three stages and chopped the gap down to as little as 9 seconds, while he won the other two stages. My advantage early on was in going uphill, a metabolically expensive option. Tristan was already strong as an ox on acid on the climbs, yet his advantage was in going downhill, a much more energy-efficient option. Each day we logged at least 10 minutes worth of sustained 6 watts-per-kilogram efforts, interspersed with plenty of digs so hard they could make a preacher cuss, and long descents that left the arms feeling like a pair of arthritic snakes full of hot sauce. By day 4, I was going downhill on pace, but just couldn’t close the gap. Despite my best efforts, I finished my now customary 2nd place by less than 0.2% after five days of racing. That’s tighter than a pair of pants on a bloated elephant, and something like my 6th consecutive stage race that I’ve finished as bridesmaid.

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Kerry wrapped up the week in third overall, and took the win in the Enduro, the race within the race, comprised of a timed segment of downhill trail on each stage. Kerry rode over those rocks, ruts and roots faster than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking competition, and was still there with a cheery smile to make breakfast for us every morning. When it was all said and done we basked in glory and downed several beers, sprawled under the sun in a grassy field at the after party listening to Nikki Lane live in concert serenade the crowd, grinnin’ like possums eatin’ sweet taters. It was a damn fine week.

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Check Spencer’s blog for the full article, and follow him on Instagram !

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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Spencer Paxson Update and Arrangements with the Weather Gods

Kona veteran Spencer Paxson returns in 2017 for his seventh year with Kona Bikes, and provides an update after a long but productive winter. After the last few years dancing around the globe, Spencer has a refreshing “homecoming” season planned with his Adventure teammates Wicks, Wallace and Sneddon.

His aim is set on high profile North American marathon and stage race events, with many peculiar backcountry and frontcountry adventures in between. Amidst all of that, he also provides an explanation for the heavy winter that befell Western North America, starting his own small business, what it’s like to evolve with the maturation of the sport (and himself), and more.

Head over to Spencer’s blog for lots of great photos and stories from his eventful 2016 – and his requests of the meteorological powers that be.

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Getting to Know Spencer Paxson with Pinkbike

Spencer Paxson’s weakness? Fresh homemade bread. His favorite trails? Anywhere in the Cascadia Zone.

As we’ve come to expect with Spencer, his answers to Pinkbike’s Getting to Know interview questions are full of great tidbits – lots of comments that answer the question indirectly and get at some much bigger topics. It’s a great read!

Head over to Pinkbike for the full interview, and since Spencer brought it up, we’ve posted the Process Challenge video below.

Kona Riders Test the New Shimano XT Di2 at BC Bike Race

Knowing that Kona Endurance Team racers Cory Wallace and Spencer Paxson went one-two at this year’s BC Bike Race, it’s clear that their equipment also went the distance. For the seven-day stage race, Cory and Spencer were given the chance to ride Shimano’s new XT Di2 electronic drivetrain – a proper race test which turned out for the best.

Check out the video and a few more photos below, and head over to Pinkbike for the full feature from Shimano.

p5pb14177369Cory Wallace in the BC trees. Photo by Dave Silver.

p5pb14177365Spencer Paxson has a tendency to ride when others push. Photo by Dave Silver.

p5pb14176460Paxson, second step on the podium at BCBR. Again. Photo by Margus Riga. 

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Cory Wallace, your 2016 BCBR winner. Photo by Margus Riga.

Spencer Paxson Tops the Podium at the MFG Woodland Park GP!

Last Sunday was the grand finale of the MFG Cyclocross series, which saw close to a thousand racers and even more fans flock to Woodland Park in Seattle. Kona Endurance team rider Spencer Paxson took the win in the Elite Men’s division after a close duel with Olympic MTB runner-up Stephen Ettinger, and Northwest ‘cross juggernaut Steve Fisher.

Perhaps Spencer got the edge from the good vibes and extra course practice after leading a course preview and clinic for new ‘cross racers at 8am. Spencer wrapped up the MFG series in 5th overall, and is now cringing at the thought of going to lose at the single-speed cyclocross world (non)championships of the irreverent in Portland, OR next month.

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The Last Wave – Spencer Paxson

We roared across the land like a spandex-clad apocalypse, the leaves whirling into the air in our wake, for we’d sucked the air out of the forest and into our own little vortex, into our lungs to fuel our legs to push harder, and harder still, chests heaving like bellows, and we weren’t so much on wheels as we were just flying, gravity an afterthought, and still we pushed for more, like we wanted to burn our tires clean off our bikes, which shuddered and hissed and left arched slashes through the sandy soil. Behind us the leaves settled back down onto the dirt path and the orange and red Michigan forest was still, finally. We were the last wave of the day.

The square red signs with white numbers counted down the what couldn’t come quickly enough, or was about to arrive too soon, the finish of this race, the 27th Iceman Cometh Challenge. We started as a group of 92, local heroes and characters, Olympians and World Tour demigods, keeners all of us. And now, a short 80 minutes in, just 5 km to go, 38 km behind us, and there were ten of us, following the same track that 5,000 other racers had done earlier.

One rider was off the front and out of sight, the rest of us chasing and racing for second. One of us would be the first to launch a final attack and it would be too soon, too soon before the line where it counted to cross first, and the rest would scurry around the miscalculation and, like pinballs astray, we would zigzag up the final steep hill, squinting out of pain and the afternoon sun glinting through the trees, the scent and sensation of beer particles spraying out of the mouths of the screaming crowd. Across the line, we’ve finished in some order or other, screeching to a smoldering halt. Any longer and we would have been spewing blood out our eyes.

Released from our manic state, we’re suddenly all smiles and high fives, catching our breath, talking about this race, unique and bigger than any other mountain bike race in the country, all the way up here in northern Michigan in November. I was the one in the lead group who had gone too soon, and the cold beer was dulling the sting of my misjudgment and missing out on a larger portion of the $32,000 up for grabs amongst the top-10. In just under 85 minutes of racing, the winner had just made around $70 per minute, me around $4.16.

But money mattered less with each recounting of the day, and this weekend spent with new friends from Traverse City and the Einstein Bicycles shop. Over more beer and pizza and day-old scones back at the shop, we joked and talked bikes. The day was already good history, a good notch in each person’s own folklore. It felt good to be a part of it and this buoyant sector of the cycling community. From the first wave to the last, it’s what it’s all about.

Spencer Paxson is a Kona Endurance Team rider. Follow his daily updates on Instagram and his longer pieces on Blogspot

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Post-race reflection. Photo by Cody Sovis of Einstein Cycles.

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Spencer raced the Iceman Cometh on his Honzo CR Race. Photo by MarathonFoto.

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Spencer Paxson Takes His Private Jake to the Win at Woolley Cross

On October 8, the second stop of the 2016 Cascade Cyclocross Series saw 150 racers take on the soggy fields of the Northern State Recreation Area in Sedro Woolley, WA. Known for being a small town cyclocross production with a big heart, fun atmosphere, and great courses, the crew from Cascade Cross and Team Racepace developed a truly Belgian-level challenging track through old dilapidated barns, sweeping views of the Cascade foothills, and lots of deep mud.

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Kona Endurance Team rider Spencer Paxson piloted his mud-devouring Private Jake to a commanding victory. “It’s hard to ask for more in a local race series where the community is so great, and where I can have an outlet to keep my skills sharp in the off season,” says Paxson, who regularly focuses on mountain bike events during the spring and summer.

“It may be a local series, but the population of resident elite-level athletes in Bellingham and Seattle makes every weekend a good, challenging race. Not to mention that the courses are wildly entertaining and challenging… in a good way! It’s also great to have friends come out and race – I can vouch for several friends who have now done their first ‘cross race because of the support that Kona provides at the races. It’s great to see more people catch the ‘cross bug.”

Indeed, Kona Bicycles has been flying the flag high at the series by providing neutral support and free Private Jake demo bikes.

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Paxson has been building steam on his cyclocross campaign, with a 3rd and 2nd place finish at the last two MFG Cyclocross Series events in Seattle, and now a win at the Cascade Cross Series. Up next is the penultimate round of the hotly contested MFG Series in Tacoma, followed two weeks later by the MFG series finals “Woodland Park Grand Prix”. Meanwhile, the next stop on the Cascade Cross series takes place on November 5th in Ferndale, WA at the DeltaTech industrial park.

Thanks to Sarah Paxson for the photos. Follow Spencer on Instagram for racing updates and general nerdery.

Kona Endurance Team Racer Spencer Paxson Crunches Data with Graphics from Big Rides

Kona Endurance Team racer Spencer Paxson’s most recent update is a data-rich look at some of the big rides he’s done this year. Beginning with some philosophy from Hegel as a setup, Spencer looks at stats and ride information that puts his season into perspective. Is he in control of his own destiny? Depends whose philosophy you subscribe to…

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Pre-Ride Thought Experiment #81: Once upon a time there was a German philosopher named Georg W.F. Hegel who promoted the notion that the only true picture of life comes from the outside looking in. Amongst the pretentious crowd it may be referred to as Hegelian Absolutism.

According to this view, life unfolds from one age to the next, where one trend inspires the next (anti)trend, which begets the next as a mix of that before it, and so-on. It’s a constant process of problem>reaction>solution, but the catch is that there’s nothing you or I can do about it.

Inside looking way out! The end (almost) of a 24-mile through-run of the Enchantments in the North Cascades, circa late-July. An aggressive shake-off of the race season, to say the least. I could barely walk for three days afterwards. Photo: Sarah Paxson

Inside looking way out! The end (almost) of a 24-mile through-run of the Enchantments in the North Cascades, circa late-July. An aggressive shake-off of the race season, to say the least. I could barely walk for three days afterwards. Photo: Sarah Paxson

It will simply unfold, and all we may do to process it, according to this view, is to look down (or in) from afar and enjoy the ride, calmly interpreting and accepting our role in it. To me it sounds like a fairly passive view on life, just connecting the dots from the scatter, with not much navigating in between.

Before going further, I should establish a context, which involves a process of imagination: reading a map (preferably a paper one), charting a route, and then executing that route. This is without fail one of my favorite things to do, whether it is planning a wild ride across the land, charting out a race season, or, more figuratively, navigating the scatter of life and the “career path.”

Sure, since Hegel’s ideas, several heavy thinkers came up with this thing called existentialism to address this issue. But in my experience, the outside-looking-in versus being-in is still a puzzle that ought to be recognized.

Why let the washed out roads stop you from getting home over the old mountain pass and spending a weekend with friends and family? Ride the bike! Encountering a break in the road on a 3-day backcountry tour through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, about 12-miles outside of Randle, WA. Photo: Spencer Paxson

Why let the washed out roads stop you from getting home over the old mountain pass and spending a weekend with friends and family? Ride the bike! Encountering a break in the road on a 3-day backcountry tour through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, about 12-miles outside of Randle, WA. Photo: Spencer Paxson

It crops up in so many moments of modern life, like blankly guzzling through social media feeds to find your place amongst the day’s trends, which most of the time is like opening the fridge to look at the snacks when you aren’t actually hungry.

It’s like taking a pause from going dot-to-dot along the status quo, maybe thinking about going in between on a more customized path, but never actually going… which akin to looking at that map of back roads and trails, contemplating the whole presentation of paths and topo lines, place names, borders and histories, then rolling it up and setting it back on the shelf from the comfy perch on the proverbial armchair (says the Armchair Philosopher!).

This is certainly a valid way to contemplate the world, but I’m not sure how I feel about it leaving room for charting adventures using said map, for example. Shouldn’t we, who are able to, do more traveling between the dots from time to time, and be so daft as to think we can determine our own destinies?!

Charting a 40-mile trek through the Chugach Mountains in Alaska. Photo: Sarah Paxson

Charting a 40-mile trek through the Chugach Mountains in Alaska. Photo: Sarah Paxson

Anyway, back to Herr. Hegel; I appreciate his idea not because I agree with it (or fully understand it), but because it got me thinking about how I manage my own outside-looking-in versus being in. After all, what does the former say for really experiencing the things that make our own worlds go round?

To hell with being steamrolled by the unfolding of time. How about going between the dots and carving out a bit more of our own time? Outside-looking-in seems like a good reciprocal to keep in mind so that you are spurred to keep doing things while still reflecting on where you’ve come from.

Connecting the dots over and around the contours. Photo: Spencer Paxson

Connecting the dots over and around the contours. Photo: Spencer Paxson

In any case, I digress. This is just a drawn out preamble to sharing a few superficial examples of my adventures between the dots over the last season. These are the types of things that reassure me when I face the angst about navigating the scatter.

Connecting the dots on some fun statistics:

Since January I have spent about 7% of my time training on bicycle, excluding commutes and other non-training rides. That’s about 34,500 minutes, or 625 hours.

At an average power output of 200 watts, that equates to approximately 128 kilowatt hours, or enough to charge my iPhone, MacBook, and Garmin every day for an entire year, plus some extra to run the cable modem for the internet. That is also enough energy to have kept my house running for about half a month.

Based on an average cadence of 83 revolutions per minute, my legs have done 3.1 million circles.

My heart rate during bike training has averaged 133 beats per minute. That’s nearly 5 million heartbeats.

My biggest day on the bike was 102 miles, 14.5 hours, and 29,064 feet of climbing.

Step-by-step goes the bear. Photo: Spencer Paxson

Step-by-step goes the bear. Photo: Spencer Paxson

Stats from a big vision-quest - a capstone effort to honor the effort of an Olympic campaign. Graphic: Spencer Paxson

Stats from a big vision-quest – a capstone effort to honor the effort of an Olympic campaign. Graphic: Spencer Paxson

The outcome of a recent map-charting - 280 miles with dear friends, riding through some amazing parts of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest around Randle, Trout Lake, Mt. Adams, Underwood, and Indian Heaven. Graphic: Spencer Paxson, Google Earth Pro

The outcome of a recent map-charting – 280 miles with dear friends, riding through some amazing parts of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest around Randle, Trout Lake, Mt. Adams, Underwood, and Indian Heaven. Graphic: Spencer Paxson, Google Earth Pro

An aggressive day - testing ground for the Kona Private Jake's gravel grinding capabilities, followed by testing the mental fortitude on the Class 4 scramble to the top of Twin Sister... then riding back for beers and burgers to calm the nerves, of course! Graphic: Spencer Paxson

An aggressive day – testing ground for the Kona Private Jake’s gravel grinding capabilities, followed by testing the mental fortitude on the Class 4 scramble to the top of Twin Sister… then riding back for beers and burgers to calm the nerves, of course! Graphic: Spencer Paxson

Why waste time driving around the lake to the trailhead when you can paddle? A great late-summer evening out across Lake Whatcom to Stewart Mountain. Graphic: Spencer Paxson

Why waste time driving around the lake to the trailhead when you can paddle? A great late-summer evening out across Lake Whatcom to Stewart Mountain. Graphic: Spencer Paxson

Crocodiles, Dark Horses and Donkeys: Spencer Paxson puts Cairns in Context

UCI MTB World Cup DH XCO

Photo: Sven Martin

Traveling 7,000 miles from home just to go to a bicycle race might seem like a rather crazy thing to many people. But when put in context of all the passion and devotion that goes into pursuing the adventure that is bike racing, a trip half way around the globe for the World Cup of mountain bike racing begins to sound half way rational. Four short years ago I finished my first spring World Cup campaign as a first-year rider for Kona, drawn to the challenge of international competition and a dark horse (try dark donkey, even) campaign for the US Olympic team. Using up all my vacation time, traveling with my bike and set of wrenches on a personal global safari, I became hooked to the pursuit, all despite being punched in the face, or getting consistently shat out the back of the field finishing 2 or 3 laps down and one of the last Americans in the race. I hung on to the notion that if I came back four years later, I might still be a dark horse, but I would be in the race like I belonged there…maybe not the winner of the world, but ‘in it’, leaders lap, top American, top-30, top-20, leaving an mark.

UCI MTB World Cup DH XCO

Photo: Sven Martin

Thus, Cairns, Australia is over 7,000 miles from home and I traveled there for the opening round of the 2016 Mountain Bike World Cup, in the running for the US Olympic Team, and thrilled to be pursuing the craft that I love most at the kind of race that tests it the hardest. Perhaps I suffer from some competitors’ version of Stockholm Syndrome, or other delusion toward the World Cup. It is such merciless, fast racing, all compressed into such a short time where so much more can go wrong that right. In four years, I’ve improved much about my game, except for my position on the starting grid. For several reasons, I’ve failed to amass the “compatieconomic” status that would earn me a starting position near the front of the race. (Read “more UCI points”) When the gun goes off, I’m clamoring from the pauperous trenches and charging headstrong toward the proverbial castle wall. Winning the race is like capturing the throne at the top of the tallest turret. To have any chance of that, you’ve got to be standing at the bottom of the spiral staircase with sword drawn when the gun goes off. In my situation…I still need to cross the moat full of crocodiles.

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UCI MTB World Cup DH XCO

Photo: Sven Martin

I didn’t see any of the famed crocodiles of the Gold Coast, but the analogous “crocodiles” I dealt with were the violent crashes and dust-filled air as the pack of some 87 riders hurtled down the start-straight at a breakneck, 1,200-watt sprint. Sprinting and throwing shoulders for every inch in the back, then stopping like a herd of delirious wildabeast at the first sharp turn, back into a dogged sprint up to the top of the hill, stop, go, stop, some riders going so hard they turn into Mr. Gumby on the bike as soon as we hit the first technical section of trail, bikes flipping over and hurtling through the air down the first descent as riders loose control…there’s no chance of capturing the throne from here…but somehow there’s still some beauty in navigating this melee and making your race happen. Eventually it did happen for me on Sunday, in a version that few can appreciate. I finished assertively on the leaders lap and 2nd for the U.S. But only 54th next to my name on the results sheet, a result that says so much, yet so little at the same time. It’s not a good result, but it wasn’t a bad race. That’s the World Cup, and round 2 is in Germany in four weeks. There’s room for improvement, the quest for Rio is not yet a fantasy, and I’m hungry for more. Maybe by that time I’ll be starting just from the base of the castle wall.

UCI MTB World Cup DH XCO

Photo: Sven Martin

UCI MTB World Cup DH XCO

Photo: Sven Martin

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Photo: Tim Bardsley-Smith

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Kona Process Challenge Teaser

Welcome to the inaugural Process Challenge! For this premier event we gathered XC Beast Spencer Paxson, DH Destroyer Connor Fearon and FR Animal Graham Agassiz and started them atop Retallack Lodge’s Reco Peak for an all out blitz to the bottom. We placed each rider aboard a skill specific Process and awarded points for cross country power, downhill steeze and freeride flair to determine a winner. With a mountain of singletrack ahead of them, who emerged victorious at the first ever Kona Process Challenge? Find out when we release the full video at 12:00 PST Monday January 18th.

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Retallack’s Reco Peak is not the worst place to start a race. Spencer Paxson, Connor Fearon and Graham Agassiz get ready to drop in on a race for the ages. Photo: Blake Jorgenson

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World Cup DH rider Connor Fearon follows Graham Agassiz off one massive natural stepdown. Photo: Blake Jorgenson

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Spencer Paxson finds himself all alone on one seriously stunning piece of singletrack. Photo: Blake Jorgenson

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Spencer Paxson uses Retallack’s flowy singletrack to hold off an attack from Connor and Aggy. Can he hold the pole position? Photo: Blake Jorgenson