Spencer Paxson

Spencer Paxson’s PROgram

Adventure team rider Spencer Paxson is no stranger to punishing days in the saddle. Last year’s monster 32,000 feet of vertical in a single day proved exactly that. Paxson’s drive to elevate his base fitness so he can handle the big days comes with a ton of training. Recently Stages Cycling profiled one of his workouts to show just what goes into his training practices.

 

Imaginary Domination Under the Eye of Stravaman

After suffering a mishap 15-miles in to a 54-mile day, Adventure Team rider Spencer Paxson shares his experience of what possessed him to keep riding real hard through the forests of the Black Hills.  

On the penultimate day of March, spring seemed preterm in the Black Hills (Capitol Forest) outside of Bordeaux, WA. Just shy of 200 bike riders gathered in the chilly, misty fields of the Evergreen Sportmen’s Club, set at the edge of the forest. Named for its border with the Black River, which is named for the “dark water” of Black Lake, the woods of the Black Hills did not hide their sinister nature. Indeed, the Eye of Stravaman loomed over all who pedaled through.

Spooky woods

Bordeaux, WA circa March 1903. Not much has changed except that there are bicycle races here on the weekends.

This was the sophomore year of the Cascadia Super G, put on by the Race Cascadia crew, which is best known for its regionally popular Cascadia Dirt Cup Series. This event was intended as a blend of enduro-meets-road-racing, or what these days we popularize as “gravel racing”.  At 9:30am we set out on a 54-mile course (shortened by 1 mile due to logging activity) to see just how we would fare. Unfortunately, the enduro timing system (which was supposed to record special downhill segments along the way) had been stuck in customs, so aside from the clock ticking at the finish line, we were all left with the Eye of Stravaman to decide the (unofficial) champion of the “race within the race”.

They say few can endure its terrible gaze, but for better or worse, with the Eye staring down, it didn’t matter so much when I suffered a nasty gash in my sidewall just 15 miles in, which I proceeded to have trouble fixing. After a few false starts of plugs, CO2s, boots, pumps, and even a nice helping hand who pulled over to see that I was alright (thank you, kind Sir!) I had lost around 18min. The race was rightly over, so it was time to go in to TT mode and let the Eye see what I was made of.

Blazing through moody clearcut vistas and spooky woods, I got to say hello again to most of my fellow bike racers who had passed me while I dealt with my mishap. For the next two hours I carried on with the Computer of Power weighing ever heavier on my handlebar. Lured by the Eye, I saw just how fast I could sustain.

With cracks beginning to show at the seams, I crossed the finish line a bit over 3 hours since I’d left it. According to the the clock I was 5th, but according to the Eye, I’d logged the fastest times on the major climb and descent segments. Be that as it may, the Eye grants no real dominion, only imaginary domination. And thus the ride was done and we left the Black Hills behind for another go some other day.

Chris Mcfarland

Racing against myself after getting rolling again…flat-out from mile 15 to 54.

Relive ‘Morning Ride’

 

Spring petals and pastels. Super Jake dressed pre-race like it was ready for an Easter egg hunt (it was Easter Weekend).

Super Jake with CX/MTB gearing combo (46/36 front, 11-40 rear) was the ride of choice for the 2018 Cascadia Super G

Super Jake, super gravel style. It was just an unlucky matter of physics and statistics (okay, and probably rider error!) that got the better of an otherwise burly tire setup.

The Computer of Power, displaying some heavy numbers from the day. It was “flat out” despite “flatting out”.

Crown Town

Spring Ahead(set)

Praise be the longer evening light and lifting of the dark, dank veil of the northern winter. Not only do we northern-hemisphereans have an extra hour (and building) of daylight at the end of the day, we also (hopefully) have several minutes less of bike washing to do after our rides. That is assuming that conditions where you live will dry up a bit… Regardless, if you live anywhere north of the 39th N. parallel, chances are you are thinking about more ride time, dry or wet, and therefore a much needed ‘spring cleaning’ for your trusty two-wheeled friend who ushered you through the last four or five months of muck.

The best option for a spring clean is your favorite bike shop. Second to that, some of us have the time, interest and ability to do the full deep clean of every single moving part. If neither of those apply to you, then it’s likely that your simpler D.I.Y. checklist will include: a little polish (mmmm), fresh set of cables and housing (for sure), drivetrain parts (that fit the budget), and brake pads (if you haven’t changed them a few times already). Here’s one more, especially for you mountain bikers (and anyone else who doesn’t ride with full wrap fenders): Replace your headset, too!

Headset, new & used

If you are riding the same headset that you rode in all of last summer, give it a test to see if it is worn out. To test, remove your front wheel and place your bike in a work stand, or balance vertically on the rear wheel. Rotate the fork by gently holding one hand on one end of the handlebar. Do you feel any crunchy-crunchy? How about a “notch” when your handlebars are facing straight forward? If you feel any of these things, then your steering and bike handling are being affected. This is likely coming from the lower bearing, which gets blasted with gallons of filth all winter (not to mention higher loads). Some servicing is certainly possible (clean out with solvent, re-pack w/ new grease, etc.), but if it’s been as long as most people go without servicing their headsets (12+months), then $40-ish+ will be well-spent on a new one, and it will have your bike feeling extra nimble and precise for spring. Think of how good a “new” bike feels. Much of this comes from all of the bearings/pivots being at the lowest friction state of their lifespan.

Extra nimble you say? Consider this: the headset is what actually allows a bicycle to be balanced. Take away a bike’s ability to steer and it becomes unrideable. All of the micro-steering (rotation) in the headset is what enables controlled riding at any speed. Therefore, any crunchiness in a headset, or worse, pitting or notching, takes away from a bike’s innate stability, agility and precision. A bicycle is balanced by steering in a left-right direction while rolling forward (even with no conscious steering input from the rider). This steering accelerates the support of the bicycle laterally, enabling the gyroscopic force of the rotating wheels to change heading and stay upright, thus assisting a rider to balance.

So, there you have it. Add a fresh headset to your “spring cleaning” repertoire, a small cost for a (likely) big improvement in that “fresh” bike feeling. Happy spring riding!

 

 

Winterized: Tips from Spencer Paxson

In this special edition of Winterized, our cold-weather riding guide, we hear from Kona Adventure team rider Spencer Paxson. Spencer grew up in the Pacific Northwest and has been dealing with cold wet winters his entire life, so he’s got some creative ideas on how to make your winter rides a little more tolerable.


During the winter I am riding a wide range of bikes, either MTB trail, cyclocross, or a road bike for winter training. Setup is a little different for each, so here are some of my go-to’s:
In general, layering is key. I live in a place that is really wet but doesn’t get super cold (by midwest or Alaskan standards, anyway). I find that for anything where you actually get your body temperature up, as long as it is above 35deg F, a combination wind resistance and fleecy/wool insulation is best. I rarely ride in waterproof anything since I just get wet from the inside with condensation. My most heavily used winter riding items are: wool arm warmers (I can pull down on hot climbs and pull up for cold descents), wool socks, wool base layer, windproof lightweight vest, fleeced nylon long-sleeve jersey, trousers for MTB or fleeced nylon leggings w/ windproof front for road, and neoprene booties for road.
Dennis Crane

It’s not snow… but it’s wet and cold, so that counts for something.

Keeping Feet Dry and Hands Warm: 
On the mountain bike, I’m a huge fan of riding in trousers, especially on the dank, cold days. They’re not waterproof, but they are windproof, at least on the front, with good ventilation. Pants need thick enough fabric that they hold a tiny pocket of air against your legs. They keep puddle splash off of my shins and keep more stuff out of my shoes. Plus, they look way better than tights and make a lot more sense than shorts in the winter. I also ride with an extra set of regular weight gloves in a Zip Loc bag, and use trail shoes with a thick flap over the laces, like the Shimano ME7. I hate riding with thick gloves on the MTB, so I keep a few extra dry pairs around and just plan to get warm on climbs and not linger too long at the top.
For cyclocross I just deal with being cold. It’s cyclocross! Usually no gloves and definitely no shoe covers. It’s race pace, so warmth usually isn’t an issue. I warm up in similar stuff to what I wear on the road.
On the road bike wind resistance is way more important here since speeds are so high, so wind chill is a HUGE factor, even on mild/warmer days. For cold/wet conditions, I wear neoprene booties and gloves, with good wind-proof coverage on my arms and legs to keep circulation working…otherwise the warmest gloves or shoes do nothing. My faves are thick Overshoes by Endura, and “Glacier Gloves” if it’s wet, or thick wool gloves if it’s cold and dry. A little neck buff is also good – keeping the back of your neck warm makes your whole body feel warm.
Best Tires to run:
MTB: Very personal preference, but if you live in a wet, soft ground, rooty place like I do, I’m a big fan of a tire that has aggressive, wide-spaced knobs, but can also run well at low pressure for deformation and traction over roots. This season I’ve been a fan of the WTB Vigilante 2.3, soft compound in front, hard compound in back. Depending on what I’m riding, I run anywhere from 14-18psi front, and 15-19psi rear. For reference, I weigh around 155-160 kitted up with a ~30lb bike.
Cyclocross: Very conditions dependent, but I’ve been doing well with the WTB Cross Boss 35c at around 24-25psi front and rear. For less sloppy days, I’m a fan of the WTB Riddler 37c – fast rolling center for road transfers (training) with aggressive side knobs that hook up on turns.
Road: Something thick and very puncture resistant, because the worst is changing a flat on the side of the road with cold hands. I run the WTB Horizon or WTB Nano 40c so that I have options to go off-road or deal with winter crap on the shoulder of the road.
Best Winter Snacks:
Hmmm…well, CLIF product is my go-to, especially the chocolate-peanut-butter bars, but to keep it toasty and pleasant I’m also a fan of:
bear jerky
landjaeger sausage
Costco muffins…the poppyseed or maple nut
Sin Dawgs by Dave’s Killer Bread
For really big, gnarly rides in the cold, I’m a huge fan of the Mountain House freeze-dried backcountry food. bring a camp stove and enjoy an almost real food meal.
A little flask of rye whiskey for the summit
A thermos of hot tea or coffee with something in it to warm the fat furnace, like butter or coconut oil
Random tip – Ride with a 3-pocked “XC nerd” jersey so you can put your phone in one of the pockets and use your body heat to keep the batter from dying prematurely in the cold. 

Support Your Local Trail Association

Mountain bike trail organizations are the bread and butter of trail sustainability and mountain biking advocacy throughout international bike communities. Locally in Bellingham, we’re super fortunate to have the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition leading the charge for more trails, facilities, and access to land that has been previously denied to bikers. It doesn’t go without a ton of work from WMBC members and volunteers. Kona athlete Spencer Paxson was recently featured in a promo video for WMBC’s fundraising drive.

No matter where you live, it’s important to support your local trail association. Singletracks has compiled an extensive list of groups that are hungry for your support. Donate. Volunteer. We are still a young sport that needs to be dedicated in order to grow.

Keeping it Real – Spencer Wins at Woodland

In the not-so-quiet corner of the world that is the Seattle cyclocross scene, the Woodland Park Grand Prix is regarded by many as the prestige cyclocross event. It’s the race to hit, and the party to be in. As such, 948 racers and many more fans made their way to the popular venue in the heart of town this past Sunday afternoon to experience a day at the races.  As the perennial finale to the MFG Cyclocross Series since 2008, Woodland Park buzzes with an extra level of energy, extra cowbell, extra Nutella on the waffles, and extra bubbles in the foam party. In the Elite Men’s division, this year saw the series overall title on the line with a tight battle between Kona team rider Spencer Paxson and curly-bar sensation Steve Fisher.  The “Woodland Park Bout” was fast and tight, but not so much that there wasn’t time for a little revelry on the SSCXWC-esque “Slip-n-Slide” bonus line mid-race. Spencer went on to win the day aboard his Super Jake. Read on for a few of the highlight moments. 

Dennis Crane

A little bit prestige cyclocross, a little bit SSCXWC shenanigans, the infamous Seattle Hodala Crew put on a serious party on the back end of the course with a Slip-n-Slide A-Line, where riders had the choice of vaulting over a pile of wood palettes and sliding down the hill through a wave of foam. “This is sort of a metaphor for my career as a cyclist”, said Spencer, speaking of the foam party line mid-race. “Fast and fun…we may look all serious in our coordinated spandex suits, but it doesn’t mean we don’t look forward to getting loose and having a good time in the process. Top racing moment right here.  Thanks, Hodala Crew!

Dennis Crane

What’s a race without a bit of fun hype before the race to highlight the tight duel between the two Bellingham riders Fisher and Paxson? The Series Overall was on the line going into the 6th and final round of the MFG Series, with Spencer trailing in second by a scant four points.  Fisher, a graduate of Kona’s prestigious Rad Racing Northwest program, is an accomplished North American professional road racer and ‘cross racer, known for a sharp sprint, serious power, and savvy tactics. He and Spencer had dueled all season, with “The Fish” taking several sprint finishes by a hair. As for Spencer, he says, “my edge is actually on the runs, or when it gets really gnarly and cold.” With mild conditions slated for Sunday, the stage was set for an exciting race.  With a tight points bracket, Spencer would have to win, with “The Fish” in 4th place or worse, in order to take the series.  While a win for Spencer was in the cards, a low finish for Fisher was unlikely. Regardless, it was gentlemanly, high-class, gloves off racing from the gun!

Dennis Crane

Grabbing the holeshot off the start line, Spencer sports the new pink-on-black-on-blue and the new Super Jake. Conditions were tacky and fast on Sunday. “With high speeds, the margin for getting out ahead is tighter, so the start was pretty hot,” noted Spencer.

Dennis Crane

A tight and exciting duel all day between Spencer and rival Steve Fisher, along with 2013 Masters World Champ and Seattle legend Russel Stevenson. Spencer would emerge victorious with a decisive last-lap attack on a steep run-up around 600-meters before the finish.

Dennis Crane

Tech notes from Spencer: “I’m running a 54cm Super Jake frame with a 90mm, -17deg stem and 44cm bars, 2×11 Shimano Ultegra Drivetrain, 172.5mm cranks and XTR 11-40 cassette in the back (40t limited out). For tires today I ran the WTB Riddler 37c at 24psi and 25psi front and rear, respectively. For reference, my system weight is approximately 170lbs/77kg (rider and bike combined). Conditions were fast and tacky with only a bit of need for some bite in the high-speed corners, which made this tread profile and supple tubeless feel a good option.”

Spencer took the win on the day, and Fisher would retain the series lead by a couple points.

With the traditional North American cyclocross season winding down in most parts of the US (for Europeans, it’s just getting rolling, and will go until February!), riders are either preparing to give the bikes a rest, or keep up with their local series, and maybe even thinking about plans for the next season already. In Washington, there is still a State Championship on the line, as well as other series to wrap up, including the Seattle Cyclocross Revolution and Northwest Cyclocross Cup, and Bellingham’s Cascade Cross Series which will go into December and January. The cyclocross scene, while already hot in the Northwest, is sure to heat up even more as the 2019 Cyclocross National Championships approach – taking place in Tacoma, Washington. When asked about future plans for a deeper pursuit of ‘cross, Spencer alludes to considering a “long game” for ‘Cross Nat’s, but for now, time for a beer.

Dennis Crane

Hard Tales, Light and Fast, The Tools for 140-km of Slack-Country Shredding

What do you carry for big rides in your back yard? Here at Kona, exploring the rituals of “the big ride” is an evolving year-round job, and perfectly fitting to our Kona Adventure Team, to whom the term “off season” does not apply. No matter the time of year, our riders are ever scheming, ever exploring, and ever testing proof of concepts for outings that touch just beyond the realm of…sensibility.  Plain old, no-frills, leg-torching, trail-devouring good times. Consider this early winter: while Barry Wicks may be single-speeding down the coast to then paddle across the San Francisco Bay and then climb to the top of a mountain and back, Cory Wallace is 4-days deep and 15,000 feet up in the Himalayan backcountry getting charged by angry yaks. Meanwhile, emerging from “paternity leave” in the Pacific Northwest, Spencer Paxson is blithely linking together a series of backyard mountain trails to see just what is possible to get done in a day. Here, Spencer checks in on his tools for one of his recent outings, a 140-km (90mi), 5,000-m (16,000ft) vert mountain bike ride across seven summits above the Salish Sea. Read on for tidbits on his bike and setup, and a few notes from the ride.  For more details on the ride itself, be sure to check out Spencer’s blog.  

The Tool for the Job: Honzo CR, size Large. For long distance days with a mix of steep, technical, satisfying trail and long “transfer” sections (think big climbs), the Honzo has been my steed of choice, particularly in winter time.  I appreciate a return to the hardtail any time of year, but especially after a summer of riding primarily full suspension on increasingly dry trails (either the Hei Hei Race or Process 29). Once the trails get slick again and force a re-education of every line, the hardtail forces, for me, a deeper “tune-up” to my skills. Lines that worked so effortlessly in the summer time are suddenly way harder by virtue of the slime, and if I have to re-learn the terrain again, then I might as well get to the core of it and ditch the rear squish.  With that mentality, why don’t I just go full ridid singlespeed, you ask? Well, I am bit of a sadist, but I like to stay reasonable…

Light and fast: For long rides, it’s important to “bring the picnic“, as they say. I like to balance the load on and off the bike. For these long “slack-country” rides, a pitstop is usually feasible, and the ride starts and finishes at home, so there’s not need to carry an extensive backcountry kit.  Still, for a full day out, efficiency and preparedness still include sufficient hydration, calories, and safety precaution. Experience, terrain and weather conditions all dictate the limits to how “sleek” you can go. As for my own testing, I’ve used a combination of MTB stage racing and multi-day enduro racing to hone my “slack country” kit.  It includes small carry devices on my bike (totaling about 0.75L), and the rest on my hips, either in a snug-fitting 3-pocket XC jersey, or a fanny pack. Above is the kit that worked for me on the most recent sadist ride, where a friend and I put together our own “7-summits mega-enduro”: 90 miles and 16,000 feet of descending (and climbing >;) across seven mountains in our back yard. A 3D recap of the ride is below and the title is full of inside jokes, so don’t ask. As for gear geeking, game changer items for me have been mini water filters (Sawyer Water Filter) and freeze-dried backcountry food packs (Mountain House Foods, Adventure Team Sponsor).

Pedals to round and round: With all of the options available, and with all of the varying concepts of a “big ride”, gearing is a personal preference. For the last two years I’ve been running a Shimano drivetrain. On this particular setup, XT 175mm cranks and 34t chainring up front paired with an XT 12-42 cassette and XTR derailleur in back. For enduro competition I typically run a 36t and will vary the cassette depending on terrain and surface conditions.  I ride almost exclusively clipped in, primarily for the pedaling efficiency provided by stiff-soled trail slippers.  Go-to kicks for me have been the Shimano XC7 shoe paired to the XTR M9000 pedals.

Sip, sip: A bottle half-full at all times, or as much as possible. I keep a bottle with mix on the bike for ‘quick-grab’, but also carry a collapsible water pouch (at least 1L) on my hips, and fill as a reserve using a mini water filter…or a stop at a gas station.

Traction control: Okay, so a little suspension is prudent.  We Adventure Teamers have been running MRP suspension for the last two seasons.  The new Ribbon has been a fantastic fork, highly adjustable and, more importantly, very reliable for huge days. The biggest single day I have done on my MRP ribbon is 100 miles and 33,000 feet of descending, and my hands didn’t hurt…so that is evidence to me of a few things, including the fact that the suspension is doing its job.  Ground contact has been the WTB Trail Boss 2.25″, either light or heavy casing depending on how fast I need to go. And if it’s sloppy, I throw a Vigilante 2.3″ on front, or both front and rear.

As for a snipped of the latest ride…

Relive Lazer Heavy and Dr. Wetzel, the Bear Meat Entree or How Logan Earned His PhD

View my ride Lazer Heavy and Dr. Wetzel, the Bear Meat Entree or How Logan Earned His PhD

It was a good day…

Me (left) and co-conspirator Logan Wetzel of Transition Bikes all smiles afterwards.

2 for 2, Thoroughly Gnarly, Totally Balmy – Spencer Paxson Checks in from a Weekend of Kona’s Backyard ‘Cross Scene

Barreling down through the mud and the snow at the ever raw and rugged Cascade Cross Series. Photo: Matt Curtis

Team Rider Spencer Paxson checks in from a messy weekend of local cyclocross action in Kona’s back yard in western Washington. While our cyclocross superstar A-Team of Helen Wyman and Kerry Werner tear up the international and national ‘cross season, Adventure Team rider Spencer has been keeping his racing craft sharp (and flying the Kona flag high) at the epicenter of Washington’s cyclocross scene.  Spencer claimed back-to-back wins amidst brutal conditions, one aboard a Private Jake, the second aboard our new Super Jake. Read on for a brief recap and on how you can get your bike to look this good.

It’s not always pretty!‘ That’s what I thought as I pedaled back home after Saturday’s race at the Hannegan Speedway in Bellingham. Round #3 of the Cascade Cross Series.  It was 33 degrees, squinting as huge flakes of snow pelted my face. We had just spent the last hour racing through a horrifyingly muddy yet amazing track on the outskirts of town.  I kept the pace up to retain the dwindling warmth in my extremities. I could feel the thick mud caked across the front of my clothes begin to stiffen and freeze.  ‘Even after all these years…it’s remarkable that we do this kind of stuff.‘ But that’s part of the point, perhaps.  The bewilderment combined with the exhilaration keeps you coming back for more because it’s all just a mystery. Or maybe that’s only for crazy people like me…

‘Squish, squelch, squash, plosh’ – the real sounds of ‘cross. Photo Matt Curtis

But finally, cyclocross conditions worth reporting on! Until this past weekend, each race I had done was warm enough for bare arms and legs.  This weekend was deep, deep in the opposite direction.  One degree above freezing, with snow and rain mixed into a marrow-chilling breeze, as if there were such a thing as cold steam.  And hundreds of bike riders keeping the mud churned all day long.

Cascade Cyclocross promoter Kip Zwolenski marveling at the carnage from Saturday’s course. Photo Matt Curtis

Sunday’s race brought me south to Tacoma and Round 5 of Seattle’s flagship MFG Cyclocross Series.  I’ve been in a hot (now cold) off-season “battle” with friend and fellow Bellinghamer Steve Fisher for the series overall this year. Of course, I’m sitting second, and all statistical analysis points towards me sticking in that spot (the perennial Bride’s Maid!). But on Sunday I edged closer with a win (Steve wasn’t there). It was not without drama, however, as shortly after the start, while taking a strange line with a big bump, I dropped a chain and fell to dead last.  Ever experienced from weathering setbacks, I was able to slither my way through the field, back to the front, and hold a lead through the pelting snow and claim a discreet victory…it was snowing so hard, I don’t think anyone could see.

“Snow-Aero” – It was coming down so heavy during the MFG race on Sunday that a thick coating formed on the leading edge of all surfaces. After an early mishap, Spencer fought through these conditions and the field to take the win.

lofi cross

Crappy picture? “That’s the point,” said Spencer. In conditions so wet and cold that fingers could barely work to use cameras, “a crisp-looking ‘Insta-perfect’ shot just wouldn’t do it justice.” Here channeling his inner Erik Tonkin and Team S&M spirit, thus loving the conditions.

Stay tuned for more updates from Spencer’s “B-Team” cyclocross action, and some even more unappealing “off-season” activities.

Lost Trails Found, Trans Cascadia 2017

An adventure in the woods. Rustic trail. Real fast. Part race, part revelry, part trail stewardship, the Trans Cascadia is all about uncovering ancient trails, creating a valuable resource for those who like to share good times amongst friends going self-powered through the woods on two wheels.  Our own Adventure Team rider Spencer Paxson takes us inside a distinctive journey to the Old Cascades of central Oregon as part of the third annual Trans Cascadia, where he partook in four days of riding racing uncovered trail.

Daniel Sharp

A long time ago, before any so-called mountain bikers roamed, a wide web of trail was built in these here hills…the Old Cascade Crest…in a land called now Oregon.

Trails once upon a time meant to move through the forests in order to skirt the flanks of fearsome mountains, to be with the land and to trade things like huckleberries. Later on, to move wagons and pack animals, or to spy forest fires. Eventually, trails just to have trails, to experience nature, and move through the forests. 

Leslie Kehmeier

Eventually the trails were lost, or forgotten. Signs marking the way had become one with the trees, and the path through the forest was no longer.

Mike Thomas

Until, one day, a party gathered in the woods to uncover these old trails and clear their way through the forest again.

Dylan VanWeelden

“Mountain bikers”, they were called. These new trail stewards, those who value a certain way of going through the forest. Many came to rebuild, and then the rest came to ride the handiwork.

Mike Thomas

The goods are best when shared, yet kept secret enough. Undisclosed until the night before, queue cards are handed out in camp and studied under headlamp.

Mike Thomas
Nate Johnson

Like the operators of the old Santiam Wagon Road, the hosts treated their people very well and looked to every detail to make their stay comfortable. Much food is prepped for 100 people spending five nights in the forest. Special ingredients are added to stave off the inevitable loamatosis, which afflicts those who consume lush trail with such gluttony.

Nate Johnson

…and after dinner ceremony, neon dance revelry…

Mike Thomas

…and after neon dance revelry, neon sleep in the woods ritual…

Lyden Trevor

…and come morning, the wheeled stables bring the steeds and their riders out the paved road and on to the primitive trailhead.

Chris Hornbeck

The ride begins along an old way through the forest. The trail is barely perceptible through the thick green moss. Walking.

Mike Thomas

A delicate balance across the creek to the next path. No pole vaulting required, just bike balancing.

Mike Thomas

Eventually out of the thick forest and up into the mid-alpine meadows, kept open long ago for living and hunting, the trail is barely perceptible through the golden grass. Old stone cairns mark the way, and clouds float.

Chris Hornbeck

Across misty, huckleberry-strewn ridge tops they go.

Leslie Kehmeier

As the descent becomes ever closer, the excitement builds.

Mike Thomas

Dropping down through the fiery fall foliage.

Dylan VanWeelden

Travelers were obliged by the swiftness of the trail to join in a train of shred. Unlike covered-wagon routes, these trails are as serpentine as possible.

Shimano

The author foot out, flat out

Mike Thomas

A section of trail ripe with Loamatosis shredarensis

Lyden Trevor

Airborne, peak sustained speeds in the section: 33.6 mph

Leslie Kehmeier

Returning to covered-wagon speed, back uphill again, across the next section of the pass.

Mike Thomas

Trail snacks galore since 1873…

Dylan VanWeelden

Along the Old Cascade Crest…

Mike Thomas

Really, it was like a dream. Repeat.

 

Joe Lawwill

The author and his steed. Spencer ended up 7th overall aboard his 2017 Process 111, snagging a few 4th & 5th stage placings across 16 stages in four days, and over 25,000 ft of descending. Check out more of Spencer’s outings on his blog, or follow along his Instagram account @slaxsonMTB

 

 

 

Process 111 Swan Song & Trans Cascadia Tech Talk with Team Rider Spencer Paxson

Kona team rider and endurance/backcountry specialist Spencer Paxson reports with an in-depth bike & gear check as he preps for the 2017 Trans Cascadia, a renowned 4-day blind format, backcountry enduro event taking place somewhere deep in the mountains of Oregon’s Willamette National Forest on September 28-October 1.    

Just as my 2017 event season began in April with a mountain bike stage race (Pisgah Stage Race in North Carolina), it will conclude in October with another multi-day mountain bike event – the coveted Trans Cascadia, a 4-day blind-format, backcountry enduro race through Oregon’s Willamette National Forest. It’s the sort of event that eager-beaver MTB folks save up for all year in their piggy banks and vacation hours in order to capture a gourmet, catered, well organized wilderness experience with friends, and the remarkable autumn riding conditions unique to the Cascade Mountains.

After a 2-month mid-season break from travel and competition (“parental leave!“), I’m looking forward to representing at this special event – a showcase of trail stewardship, eco-tourism, high-level competition, and plain old good times riding bikes in the woods. One of the special aspects of this event is that it is the impetus and fulfillment of reviving forgotten Forest Service trail networks, expanding high quality recreation resources and bringing them back into the fold for others to enjoy. See a more in-depth write-up from our friends at Pinkbike.

In keeping with the inner geek in most of us mountain bikers, below is a rundown of the gear I’ll be taking along, and my rationale for using it. As I’ve said of previous gear-related posts, hopefully you know to never listen to a sponsored professional, as they never provide unbiased advice…;)…but they do come from experience…

The 2017 Kona Process 111 w/ Team Spec – size Large. Indeed this will be the swan song for this trusty steed, as the new Process G2 platform (released earlier this month), is bringing on a new generation of trail machines well-suited for events such as Trans Cascadia. From my perspective as a team rider, the new bikes are better off selling like hotcakes and going into the hands of Kona customers asap…me, I’ll get my turn eventually.  In the meantime, lets give this horse one more good run through the mountains.

I am 5’9.5″ (1.75m) but with a relatively long torso, so the reach of this bike (475mm) suits me well, especially in a gravity & speed-oriented scenario.

I balance the long reach with a short stem (35mm Pro Bikegear Tharsis Trail Stem), 740mm bar (Pro Bikegear Tharsis Trail), and a 46mm fork offset (MRP Ribbon 130mm), which provides 5mm longer mechanical trail compared with the standard 51mm offest.  In my experience, this combination provides a pleasant balance of quick steering axis with slightly increased high-speed stability and consistency through corners.  It’s a bit different than my XC race bike setup, but not wildly different (see other post on the 10,000-meter ride setup on Hei Hei). I keep a grip with WTB’s Padloc Commander grips (30mm diameter). Shimano XTR M9020 Trail brake levers can handle a bit more abuse than the light M9000 brethren, plus the additional stopping power and reduced fade is noticeable. Those brakes are using a 180mm rotor in front and a 160mm rotor in back…and metallic pads in the calipers for longevity.

Critical to any “long” bike setup (or really any MTB, for that matter) is a dropper post, ideally one that drops all the way to the seat collar. Back on the handlebar, I run the small KS Remote lever on the left side pointing downwards so my thumb has easy access while the rest of my hand stays safely positioned for handling and braking. I run the KS Lev Integra paired with a WTB Silverado saddle on top.

Suspension – The front end is held up by MRP’s new Ribbon fork, highly adjustable and reliable, which I’ve enjoyed to great success across a diverse range of trail conditions, from marathon XC racing to aggressive trail riding. The rear end is held up by FOX’s Float DPS Evol shock.

This fork is set at 130mm. I weigh around 155 pounds (70kg) hydrated without riding kit. For fast riding I typically run a firm sag around 15%, with the positive chamber filled to 95 psi (~10psi higher than factory recommended for my bodyweight) and the negative chamber filled to 102 psi or just under 110% the pressure of the positive chamber. I have the Ramp Control knob set to 14 (2 clicks from fully “ramped”), rebound at 11 (from closed), and low speed compression is a quick flip switch at the top right leg, which at this firm setting stays open most of the time. This setup works for me because it feels very supple and progressive, and for my riding style works well for moving proactively along the high-speed, velvety, high-traction conditions of many of my favorite trails in Washington and Oregon…but of course may take some tweaking once we get to these new trails at TC.

I run around 25% sag in the rear with the custom Process factory tune from Fox.  This works out to 142 psi with rebound set at 10 clicks (from closed) and the compression switch flipped to “open” most of the time. Again…this may need to be adjusted for the conditions in Oregon.

Wheels and Tires – WTB tires and wheels go round and round.  Given the blind format racing, I plan on needing extra braking traction on the front end of the bike to keep from flying into the woods on unfamiliar turns, which is why I’m likely going to run the 2.3 Vigilante, Tough Casing, Fast Rolling compound.  It’s a bit heavy (1140g) compared with the next option, the 2.25 Trail Boss Light Casing Fast Rolling (795g), but the extra grip and security may be worth it.  We’ll see.  In the back I’ll run the Trail Boss.  And depending on conditions, either dual Trail Boss if it’s not too rough, or dual Vigilante if the skies decide to open up. Tires are mounted to the WTB Ci31 29″ rim, laced to Shimano XT hubs.

Trail Boss…a bit less bite than then Vigilante, but this casing option is significantly lighter and may be the ticket for speed on the balance of climbing and descending.  It treated me well on the 10,000m Challenger High Epic back in June.

 Tire pressure will be a day-of decision based on trail surface and conditions, but in general have been running anywhere from 18-21psi, typically the same front and back (weight distribution shifts to either balanced or more weight on front of bike while riding aggressively down). I think about “system weight” for tire pressure…bodyweight + kit + bike.  Though I weigh around 155lbs (70kg), my system weight is closer to 190lbs (86kg).Drivetrain – An MRP 1x V3 chain guide keeps things in line aboard the Shimano XTR/XT drivetrain, with 175mm XTR M9020 cranks, 36t ring, XTR M9000 rear mech, and XT M8000 11-42 cassette, and XT M8000 chain.  The front chainring size certainly isn’t for everyone (nor is anything on any bike, for that matter, all setups are individual!), but I prefer it because 1) I have the strength and power to push it efficiently, 2) there is slightly less chain-wrap around the ring so it feels a bit better and wears less in the muck, and 3) I can keep a bit more tension on the chain as it spends more time in the smaller-interval middle cogs in the back (15-17-19-21) …and if I need to cover lots of ground at a very high speed, I don’t spin out as quickly. Pedals are XTR M9000 pedals…with fresh cleats after a long summer of riding!

I spend the majority of my bike time in the more fitness/endurance-oriented world of XC, marathon, and cyclocross, and since 2012, a power meter has been an important training tool.  I use a Stages power meter mounted to my XTR crankarm in order to collect performance data from training and competitions so that I can be more efficient with training for a specific discipline, tracking progress and managing fatigue along the way.

The ride kit will include the following items tucked into a High Above Designs Lookout hip bag, and a Barrier Micro seat bag by Blackburn Designs:

CLIF product (Bars & Bloks) in a 1/2 size screw cap “snack can”; Sawyer water filter & 1L bag (there’s time to stop and refill in putt-putt enduro biking); tire plugs for quick fix + 2x spare tubes 27.5×2.3 w/ tire lever, filled by Blackburn SL Mini Pump w/ CO2 backup; emergency whistle, space blanket, compress & quik-clot, plastic baggie /w NSAIDs + antihistamine just in case; zip ties, spare der. hanger, Blackburn Wayside multi tool for a good fix; iphone + GoalZero battery pack.

Off the trail…Though Trans Cascadia will provide tents and sleeping pads a generally posh setup, I’m still planning to travel with my go-to quiver of Kona Adventure Team gear. After all, this is a backcountry adventure.  You never know what’s going to happen!  Tents from Eureka, sleeping systems by Klymit, bags and camp wear from Mission Workshop, backup camp food from Mountain House, cookwear from JetBoil (in case we need some midnight snacks), and gear bags from Blackburn Design.

Over and out for now…

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

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

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

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

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

Spencer Paxson Enters the Pain Cave and Climbs 10,000m (32,000ft)

Spencer Paxson will remember Summer Solstice 2017 for the rest of his days. A silly little idea of his came to life, to take his Hei Hei DL and make an attempt at 10,000m vertical ascent and descending between first and last light on the longest day of the year – or the equivalent of climbing out of Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. Why? The reasons are many, but celebrating the arrival of parenthood (soon!) and an even bigger adventure was at the top. Thanks to Paris for documenting.

To put that in perspective that’s climbing to the top of Whistler Bike Park and doing six and half laps of Top of the World or riding up and doing 28 laps of A-Line… WITH NO LIFT!

Look for a full report to drop on Bike Magazine soon

Photo: Paris Gore