The off-season, that is. Aside from twice-weekly jaunts down to the climbing gym, I've been doing a self-imposed boycott on "serious" bike rides since my last race in November. The polar vortex certainly isn't helping the motivation factor at all, but it's been refreshing not worrying about putting fenders back on, remembering to charge my lights, or worrying about sketchy drivers and/or black ice while doing monotonous park laps after dark. I was all set on staying off my bike until the new year, but knew I had to come out of hibernation, if only temporarily, for the second annual CXmas50.
The event is hosted by Joe and Christine up in Lynn Valley where access to a spectacular trail network is literally at their doorstep. The big question was what conditions were going to be like up in the forest given the snow and freezing weather that's blanketed Vancouver for the past week. The day's forecast called for a cold, dry, sunny afternoon, which was a (possibly) welcome departure from Last year's ride where everybody got soaked by continuous rain and then subsequently froze on the way back. The city of North Vancouver had also decided to close a good chunk of the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve trails due to downed trees, so we knew we were going to have a shorter ride for this year. No problem; it just meant more time for admiring the sun streaming through the frost-covered forest and whiskey drinkin'.
Trail conditions weren't as bad as I thought they'd be. The gravel sections contained of a lot of icy sections, but as long as you kept turning over a steady gear without any sudden accelerations or abrupt changes in direction, you were able to keep things rubber side down. Richard Juryn and Circuit 8 trails were a bit more challenging due to the crusty-topped snowpack that had been pockmarked by hikers' footprints and more ice. The challenge was to find a tire pressure low enough to afford some tractions without getting low enough to pinch flat or roll your tire when things inevitably got a little sideways. When all else failed, you simply got off your bike and pushed/carried it until you could find a spot to get back on and try again.
In the end, I was probably over-dressed for the occasion:
- bib shorts with windblock tights over top
- Craft Active Extreme baselayer (best damn cool/cold weather base I've ever tried)
- Thermo-roubaix long sleeve jersey
- Puffy down vest
- Arc'teryx Beta AR Gore Pro Shell jacket for the layering room
- Black Diamond ski gloves
- Smartwool ski socks with toe warmers adhered underneath
- Giro VR90s with Endura MT500 neoprene booties over top
- Merino neck buff and cap
My body tends to run on the cold side and based on last year's ride, we'd spend plenty of time standing around shooting the shit and swigging out of hip flasks so I wanted to make sure I wouldn't get chilled when we stopped. The puffy vest overkill given the dry conditions, but I ran with my pit-zips open for most of the day and was able to regulate well enough. The biggest problem was with the gloves: while they kept my hands plenty warm, they were too bulky, resulting in some forearm cramps as I struggled to find the least awkward grip on the levers while getting rattled over the lumpy terrain.
In summary, an excellent day of bad decision making amongst good friends, fuelled by alcohol and peer pressure. A huge thanks for Joe and Chris for opening up their home and being the gracious hosts that they are.
Only 364 days until we get to do this again.