By Ambassador Nigel Ching
As a bicycle enthusiast living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, I have had a difficult time balancing the cost of rent, medical bills, and grocery bills with the cost of the two-wheeled machines that enable me to feel purposeful and powerful in this life. I see $8000 dream builds on the internet and think, “damn, wouldn’t that be nice?” I fantasize about owning such bikes, but in reality, in my attempt to acquire a rig for the purpose of shredpacking, I needed to settle for something more modest, second-hand, something in my price range.
This past winter I methodically pieced together my budget monster-cross bike, part monster truck, part cross country. I knew I wanted a bike that would comfortably descend a soft double black like Boogie-Man, while at the same time, could comfortably and efficiently pedal all day long. This bike would be my jib bike, my xc bike, and my bikepacking bike. After acquiring, testing, and selling two different bikes that didn’t work for me, I landed on a 2016 Process 111 DL Medium and I couldn’t be happier.
I found this rig on marketplace spec’d with xt brakes, an xo drivetrain, Raceface turbine cranks, Pike RT3 fork and a Monarch RT3 rear shock. The bike still had the original grips which was a tell tale that the bike hadn’t been used heavily. For $2000 I bought the bike and then proceeded to spend some extra fun tokens on some important upgrades.
“What is the most worthwhile MTB upgrade?” is a question I often stumble upon. For me, having a reliable hub is essential so, I went with a DT Swiss 350 that I sourced on marketplace. I had this hub laced to an I9 Enduro. The sum of these parts cost me roughly $200 CAD plus the build and spokes, which brought the cost to about $400. The star ratchet engagement system in the DT hub provided me with the peace of mind that my hub would not fail while pedaling in remote locations.
In order to allow my seat height to range from optimal pedaling position to optimal descending position, I went with a 210mm One Up dropper and I couldn’t be happier.
To increase the shredibility on steep and deep terrain and decrease hand and arm fatigue, I kitted my cockpit out with a Chromag Fubar OSX 35mm rise bar at 780mm and Chromag Squarewave XL Grips.
As far as the tires go, I have been rockin’ a 2.4 Exo+ 3c Max-Terra DHR up front and have swapped between a 2.4 dissector, Rekon and Minion DHR in the back. I definitely prefer the Minion at home here on the North Shore.
I went with a medium frame because I’ve learned that riding a slightly smaller geometry allows my lats, and triceps to engage which then takes stress off my lower back while climbing. It also allows me to pedal in the saddle from a more upright posture, alleviating stress from my neck. The culminating result of the sizing allows for many hours of comfortable pedaling. For reference, I am 5’11 and the reach on the rig is 435mm.
Since then, I’ve taken the rig on some slab trails that no 110/120mm bike should have any business on and I’ve also taken it on a bikepacking trip, or dare I say shredpacking?
Here is what I brought with me.
Bags:A Bedrock bar bag, an upcycled top tube bag made by me, a pencil case, several Voile straps, an EVOC 3L hip pack with a 1.5L bladder
Sleep system: a MEC sleeping bag, a Thermarest mat, a tent fly, and some pegs
Electronics: Iphone 8, 2 portable battery packs, 2 iPhone cords, 3 night riding lights from Amazon
Food: Seven hard boiled eggs, cookies, 10 cliff bars, my debit card for resupply food in Sechelt
Kit: spandex, polyester MTB shorts from amazon, a road jersey from Value Village, Under Armour compression shorts, a POC Trabec helmet, 100% polyester socks, 5/10 Freerider pros
Spare clothes: a light jacket I traded for a 27.5 wheel last summer, a tech wool/polyester long sleeve from Value Village Boutique, wool ski socks, a buff and an emergency balaclava
Rationale: Cotton kills. Polyester, spandex, and wool for the win. The extra batteries were essential because I couldn’t let my phone die so I could flex my strava ride to the MTB world. I needed access to Trailforks too, that is kind of important. I packed the eggs because fatty foods mid-ride taste amazing.
For its maiden voyage, I took the ferry from Vancouver to the Sunshine coast to do the South Sunshine coast Bikepacking route which is roughly 106km and 2600m elevation gain one way and consists of 70% single track, 20% service road, and 10% pavement.
Ten minutes after getting off the ferry, you enter the rainforest, and don’t exit for 32km. The initial ascent up sidewinder, Hwy 102 and 103 up and across Mt. Elphinstone is some of the best climbing I’ve ridden as it boasts mulchy single track and snippets of descents to keep you inspired. Accompanying me for the day was my friend Mike who later led me down a steep, loamy unsanctioned trail that followed a ridge at the top of a micro valley. I thought that I would be underbiked on this one but surprisingly the Process 111 was more than capable. The amount of rear-wheel traction, balance, and control geometry offered me was incredible.
Shortly after, Mike pedaled back to the ferry while I continued to navigate the labyrinth of single track and forest roads down to Wilson Creek, and then to Sechelt where I proceeded to buy two footlongs from Subway and some sweets from the gas station. A lowkey reason I ride is so that I can eat whatever I want. If you know, you know. Through endurance riding, I’ve also come to learn that eating at least 200 calories per hour is essential in order to keep the fire stoked and the cranks turning.
From there I pedaled into the West Sechelt zone and continued North bound not knowing where I’d sleep or how long I’d pedal for. What I did know was that I brought my riding lights and that I intended on doing some solo night riding in riding zones far away from home. Let me tell you, the night riding was spooky! Chills were sent up my spine when I stumbled upon a field of candles leading up to a decrepit, dark trailer in the middle of nowhere on this service road. I felt like I was in the Blair Witch Project and immediately hammered down on the pedals as fast as I could in an attempt to escape the perceived threat. In hindsight, I’m sure the squatter had lit the candles to illuminate their doorway but at the time my imagination ran wild.
After 3 hours of night riding, at midnight I was roughly at the 3/4 point and decided to pitch my sleep system on a ribbon of loamy singletrack. I harvested a few handfuls of moss for my pillow, blew up my matt, and tucked myself into my sleeping bag. There was no other way I would want to end my day of riding, safely posted up, with no mechanicals surrounded by the rainforest, sleeping on a ribbon of loam.
The next day consisted of navigating southbound back to Sechelt, then up back into the B&K zone which lead to my final 600m descent back down to the ferry terminal. While riding, I was continuously reminded of how the logging industry on the Sunshine Coast gave way to the development of the maze of forest service roads that allow for routes like this to be possible. Still, sludgy green pools of water, mangled trees, and clear cut areas reminded me of this industry’s toll on the natural world. There is a juxtaposition embedded in the land; The industry that created off-road access to these special remote locations in the rainforest is also the one that has destroyed it.
Endurance mountain biking has continuously allowed me to tap into a flow state that derives from the repetition of continuous forward motion. It creates a space for me to experience the absence of distraction, something that is hard to come by in my life. The culminating effect of this makes my pulse as still as a lake and it gives my body and soul an opportunity to go into airplane mode. It teaches me to be calm in the face of adversity. These transcendent experiences have become possible because of the modern mountain bike. Thank you to the engineers who have advanced mountain bike technologies and geometries which allow these machines to travel such a wide variety of terrains. Dare I say sacred geometry exists in my Process 111 due to its specific set of angles and measurements which culminate in a machine that can comfortably pedal yet bomb on the downs.
I will continue to stare at the baller dream builds on IG and PB while remaining content with my monster-cross 111. It’s safe to say that the 111 has seen some shit and it will continue to be on the receiving end of abuse for a summer’s worth of heavy riding.