This past winter I spent some time pretending to be an adult and quickly discovered that it really wasn’t for me. I’d first set up camp in the frosted back woods of Alberta where I’d found a new job with a pipeline company. The job wasn’t entirely terrible – I wasn’t expected to work all that hard, we spent the majority of our days outdoors, and a generous amount of free coffee was at my disposal each day. But soon after realizing that my coworkers didn’t enjoy smiling or talking about bicycles, the dollar-bills no longer seemed to be a fair trade for my frozen toes. Read More
I woke up with a shiver this morning and closed my bedroom window and couldn’t believe that summer was already over. I drank a coffee in the cold, slow sunrise and it felt like just yesterday I cruised down the highway to hang out at Crankworx.
I slept on a couch at night and ripped laps all day. I saw a skateboard burned carefully to look like an amazing owl and I filmed a cool video with Bike Magazine. I drank some beer, did some whips, and cheered for friends in new movies and huge contests. It was chilly and foggy and rained a little bit and I felt like I was in wonderland.
Then I drove back up the highway to Sun Peaks. I caught up with friends and surfed waves of dust. I did some big skids and filmed another video (coming very soon) and clipped a stump and sprained my wrist. So I started relaxing like a tourist. I wandered aimlessly and watched a fox who liked to chase deer. I wrote some stories and made some plans. It was hot and dry and felt like home.
Now I’m riding lots again. It was sort of nice to take a break from shredding on the daily. I feel recharged. Bradley built us a new pump track and I fell in love on first lap. I think I’ll be pumping lots of pump track laps and pedaling through the hills for now, but soon I’ll head down to the Utah desert to cheer for some friends and hopefully get nasty on a film trip shortly after. I can’t wait for the leaves to turn yellow and the bon fires to start burning.
I did it. I solved the riddle and found the missing pieces of the world’s most arduous puzzle. I still get tired and I still get sore, and time still passes by me at an alarming rate. But I really think I’ve finally figured out how to maintain my balance. Let me explain…
One of the most amazing things I’ve ever witnessed was a helicopter pilot operating his machine as we began to take flight. From the passenger seat I watched, awestruck as his hands navigated the endless wall of switches and dials that sit before him. There were seemingly hundreds of variables for him to consider and each appeared as important as the next if he was to keep the meters out of the red zones and prevent our chopper from exploding.
Keeping the balance of everything on his dash appeared as a daunting task, but I imagined that after practicing for so many years he likely had little use for the meters anymore. I bet he operated with an acquired feel for his machine and that is what allowed him to carry us safely and smoothly through the sky that day.
Some time later I imagined the various passions and affairs of my life to be re-organized into a clever dashboard – much like the controls of the chopper – where I could monitor everything and try to keep it balanced. Perhaps it would create an ease when it came to flicking the switches between working and riding or shooting and shredding – finding the time to chill and just keep everything level without hitting the red zones and burning out.
As much as I tried to look at things that simply, something always felt abrasive. Inevitably, something always got left behind or forgotten about. So I decided one day to stop worrying about it and accept the whirlwinds of trying to keep up with myself.
Suddenly this spring, things feel different. I’m riding everyday and it feels like nothing is ever forgotten. I can finally switch from bike to bike with an instant sensation of confidence and I’m squeezing everything in as if I’m stretching time and making it mine. I don’t know what I’m actually doing differently, but it feels like I’m striking the perfect chords.
Perhaps I’ve just been flipping these switches for long enough now that the meters are as obsolete for me as they were for that chopper pilot. Maybe I’ve acquired that special feel that I always needed to circumnavigate the daily gnar and fly myself more safely and smoothly through time than I’d ever imagined being possible.
I was twelve years old and sprinting along the edge of the Yukon River when I first listened to Sum 41’s “Does This Look Infected” album. That was my first taste of punk rock music and it felt like I had caught a virus. I listened to that album a lot back then and the fast tempo was overpowering. It was the soundtrack to running away, sprinting down single tracks, wheelie dropping picnic tables and poorly extending three-stars.
Sum 41 played a stellar show in the Loops just recently and I couldn’t believe how rowdy they were live. Their instruments were faster and vocals more aggressive as they selectively shredded tracks from “Does This Look Infected.” They were the same old songs but they somehow sounded so fresh and exciting.
After the show I pondered that perhaps the inquisitive album title was less about the gory artwork depicted on the cover and more introspective of the band members themselves. Watching them on stage, it was easy to see that they were indeed infected, and by something much bigger than themselves. Something so overpowering that it has taken control of their lives and steered them in the direction they have traveled.
I’ve been pretty fired up this spring. I had the chance to work on a funny hardtail video with Lone Wolf Productions and spend a week shredding my Process with Reuben Krabbe as we made deep cuts into my dream-list of trail photos. What’s more exciting though, is the time I’ve been spending charging single track on early mornings. I don’t know if it’s a change of habits or just the spring stoke getting the best of me, but I feel like I am riding harder and faster as I shred toward the sunrise. They are the same old trails but lately they have been feeling even more exciting than usual.
I’ve realized that early in the morning when I am sprinting along my favorite ridge-line and I can’t feel my fingers or my toes, when the frozen strip of dirt I follow is crunching loudly beneath my tires while layer upon layer of frosted sage passes through my peripherals, I don’t feel any need to ask others about the situation I’ve found myself in. It seems pretty clear to me that I’m infected by something too.
It was 8am onValentines Day when I saw the craziest sight of the cold season. A stubborn sun refused to shine and the entire world appeared grey and without a feature worth noting until a small roofless yellow car roared passed me on my left. The driver was a monster of a man who occupied not just his own chair but most of the passenger seat as well. His waist length dreadlocks were flapping wildly behind him in the cold morning wind and small white clouds emerged periodically from the skinny cigarette he left hanging casually between his lips.
I was only granted a short few seconds to witness this character before he weaved in and out of other motorists and gradually faded from sight. I was excited by this wildman and his careless journey to who-knows-where. I felt like he was really jumping the gun on spring, but it was clear to see that as of that morning it was already summer in his mind.
Just a few weeks later I ventured off to attempt my first trail ride of the season. Spring felt as though it were still several months away and conditions would be less than favourable, but if roofless sports cars are capable of early February highways than I insist that mountain bikes must be capable of late February singletracks.
On the trail I found puddles, ice and snow as I got to know my new Process DL. It certainly wasn’t riding season just yet but the large man in his small yellow car had left me missing the ecstasy of weaving in and out of sagebrush on my own careless journey to who-knows-where. So I smiled as mud freckles dotted my cheeks and cringed as pedal pins slashed at my shin. I felt like I was really jumping the gun on spring, but as of that ride it was already summer in my mind.
“Woah! Winter already, eh?” I’ve been exclaiming each morning as I roll from bed and make my sticky-eyed march to the coffee machine. There has been snow outside my living room window for nearly a week now but it still catches my blurry vision off guard. Only after a few caffeine hits to the head does my eye sight clear itself up and I realize that we are halfway through November now and these sort of weather conditions should be expected. But regardless of what my calendar supports, I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face about this year having had less days than all the years before. It simply went by much to quick.
In addition to the progression of time, I also remain in slight disbelief toward the amount of shredding I managed to squeeze out of myself this season. Looking back on the first Rio laps we were crushing back in March and remembering how fresh the trail was feels like I’m reminiscing of rides from several seasons ago. Imaging the lengthy list of events that took place between those first shuttles and the short edit I just complete with Barham, it seems overwhelming, but I am excited to do it all again, and perhaps even more next summer. I sailed away to the other side of the world to compete in a nasty big mountain contest. Flew to the Yukon to sample fresh trails and co-host exciting new cycling events. Put my moto-whippin and camera-clickin skills to the test at Crankworx. Hosted a number of camps and clinics in between. Got more photos published around the world than I’d ever imagined possible and kept a monthly column running on the front of the biggest bike page we have.
And now the single-track is covered in snow and all I can think about is the next time I’ll be pedaling off into the warm sunset. I’m diving headfirst into the details of what I hope will be another fully pinned season. I’m looking forward to all the new trails I’ll ride and towns I’ll visit. The people I’ll meet and the beers and trail-side tails we’ll share. And it excites me beyond words to know that I’ll be fueling all that stoke again without the stress of wondering weather or not I can pull it off. Thanks to everyone who helped me out, hooked me up, ripped a trail or made me laugh along the way to having the greatest I can remember.
Sometimes I wonder if I could lose my mind driving tired through the mountains at night. Long and broken yellow lines chasing me on the left, occasional reflective eyes startling me on my right, never another vehicle in sight. Drifting off in dreams of days gone by and fantasy’s of what tomorrow might bring. I was cruising home from Crankworx and watching the road roll away beneath my truck. That whole week takes a toll on you and this year was even more taxing, having competed in a few events and spent the rest of my week crushing dusty laps in the bike park under the most violent sunlight I’ve seen this summer. It didn’t really feel surprising that after nearly 9 weeks of either riding, flying, or road tripping everyday for various bicycle expeditions, I was ready for few days off my bike.
After returning home from the Yukon in late July I went straight to Sun Peaks Resort to host a few rounds of camps. Helping young rippers to find their confidence and do so with style and safety in mind is such a privilege for me. As always, I may have enjoyed myself even more than the campers did and everyone went home with a few more tricks stuffed up their sleeves. The riding at Sun Peaks was spectacular at that point. Sticky trails, mellow lift lines, low temperatures and great company. So it was almost killing me to leave home and set up camp at Crankworx this year, but I had some exciting new opportunities awaiting and they worked out to be well worth the sacrifice of local laps.
This year I was invited to participate in the Deep Summer Photo Challenge alongside Seb Kemp and Paul Stevens. We would spend three days slaughtering Whistler in pursuit of bicycle photography genius with Jon Hayward on the lens. Working with Jon was a huge risk. He hadn’t shot MTB in the past and I didn’t even know the plans for our slideshow until the night before shooting commenced. But I was feeling like a gambling man and after the event was over I was proud for taking that chance. We didn’t win the event, but we won the applause of a 5’000 person audience with a light-hearted show. Shortly after, I was shocked to see our images circulating beyond the confines of typical mountain bike media. We’ve had photos displayed in the L.A. Times, N.Y. Times, The Guardian and the Huffington post. Those are seriously sized mainstream publications I would never expect to see my photos printed in. In addition to such splendid surprises, I came home to find a new two pager in Freeride Germany and some sweet photos from the Unofficial Whip Off World Champs.
And now it seems the Summer season’s gone. With Crankworx now in the bag I’ve got nothing on my plate for the rest of the summer and that’s alright, cause I’m feeling full. Its been a long, crazy summer on the road. Sleeping on couches, chasing sunsets and scraping together dimes for double doubles. I’m happy to be home and relaxing for a few days before I dive back into hot laps in the loops. I’ve got a lot of digging to do in preparation for slaying photos in the fall light. And I am really looking forward to a long fall of shredding leaves and loam all day followed by campfires and beer cans at night. I’ll be checking in again when the weather is less warm and the red lettered license plates have left town.
I was having an average, mellow summer. Shooting some stuff here, working a bit there. Riding as much as I could and keeping it real every day. That was until the storms came rolling in. People from near and far suddenly excited to work together on all sorts of projects. Everything seemed like a lot of commitment, but also like a lot of fun. The first of the frenzy to come my way was the invitation to help shape a story about Kamloops to be printed in DIRT magazine later this year. This would mean working with Seb Kemp and Reuben Krabbe, a pair mountain bike wordsmith and lens men who’s work I’ve admired for eons and felt honored to collaborate with. They had me out of bed and sideways as early as 4am, dodging windstorms and raindrops like the end of the world was soon to come. Having just recently seen the final gallery, I am now shaking in anticipation of the printed article.
Next up… capture a burly corner photo with Margus Riga for Raceface to use in an upcoming add for the Sixc carbon downhill crank I have been riding. A very tight time frame was issued but thankfully I had the perfect dusty turn lined up midway down a nasty cliff only a few minutes away from my house. Once we were in action, Margus and I both surprised ourselves with what we produced. Margus is a man with a keen eye and extremely creative vision. I couldn’t have been happier with how our add printed. And to my surprise, the add was to be run in the Bike Magazine Photo Annual. To say the least, I am flattered to have a two page add fitted in amongst the most stunning collection of images presented to us in print this year.
Leaving dusty berms behind, I was on route to the Chatel Mountain Style. I’ve never felt to warm with the idea of competing on my bike but an invitation to the Mountain Style really roused my interest. It would be my first trip to Europe, a big mountain event, a chance to chill with friends like Aggy, Sorge and Semenuk, and a world of new experience. All the components seemed to add up to something that felt right. The entire trip was a blast and although the contest became rushed and rained out, I still made it out alive from one of the gnarlier events of the year in an alright space of 11th place. I wish I could have done more, but I think all the riders are on that page. I’m just stoked that everything went well, the trip rolled along smooth and breezy and I’m already itching for my next trip across the pond.
The final stop on my recent list of riots to attend was back on my own side of the globe and back to the great white north from which I came. AFD, an Alberta based fuel company extremely dedicated to the youth of our sport, put together a fun oriented race in my hometown of Whitehorse, Yukon. Attending the race as a special guest to smash turns with the younger fella’s, judge a small dirt jump event and tip back Yukon bottles with the organizers and old friends was effortless work and a total honor. Brett Tippie, Geoff Gulevich and Harookz were my wingmen so you’d have been hard pressed to find a quiet moment north of sixty that week. The event and the whole trip was a great success. Seeing riding develop to such new heights in the small town I used to call home was nothing but a pleasure and I left town feeling a heavy desire for more Yukon adventure.
I’m finally at home again with a couple of days to myself and I expected to feel some sort of relief, having been so busy. But I am wound up and ready to charge. I want back out in the wild. Next week I have a round of camps followed by photos with Sun Peaks Resort and then a short while later I have the chance to compete in the Deep Summer Photo Challenge at Crankworx in Whistler. I’ve been eying up that event for ages now and always hoped to participate. With so many new friends and so much gnar still to come, this summer has no end in sight.
I feel like I’m living on the coast. From the past two weeks, all I remember is rain. Bubbles babbling along the roadside and cars smashing over puddles. Windshield wipers scraping coarse above my music and the scent of soaking wet sagebrush. The rain is actually ruining everything right now. The number of rad rides resulting in rain cancellations this past while has simply been pathetic. There have been a couple of epic tacky hero dirt days in between, but that’s only 3-4 days a week. And I’m not even just being a whimp, this isn’t the typical Kamloops rain that I thoroughly enjoy. It’s actually so wet that the trails feel like mud puddles sinking into the center of the earth. Pretty over it with the rain right now…
Just about all that has been getting me stoked this week is day dreaming about summer. I guess it was good timing for Sun Peaks and Bike Parks BC to finally release all these photos filled with summer shredding from last season. I’ve got a lot of traveling, shooting, and bike camp coaching coming up over the next little while. Lots of action and adventure to look forward. But what am I really excited for? Hot dusty laps in the bike park and cold beer cans cracking on tailgates. Racing from one town to the next in the middle of warm summer nights and finding the end of the day with a sun setting over the lake. I’m growing increasingly less and less trusting of the weather man, but if he has anything to say about things it looks like summer is right on the horizon. I can’t wait.
Allan McVicar is a name that mountain biking never heard enough of and for the past couple of seasons probably heard nothing at all. His photography of other Kamloops locals was basically the reason I felt inspired to start working with photographers in younger years. And I’ve been fortunate enough to spend enormous amounts of time collaborating on different images with Allan, but for the past few years he hasn’t been around much.
He must have been missing mountain bike photography to the same extent as I missed working with him, or at least that’s the impression I got when he started uploading older images to Pinkbike.com recently. Since he has started uploading all these images titled as “the good old days” he has been gaining a lot of exposure. A few photo of the days, full screen shots on front page articles and images boosting views exponentially. It seems like all that positive feedback has Allan stoked on shooting again and I don’t really have words to explain how excited that makes me.
I also feel like it’s pretty bad ass that although some of these shots are from as far back as 2006, I still had a bike kitted out with Raceface parts. Back then it was all about Diabolus bars cut to 26inches so X-ups were easier and Evolve DH cranks so I would never have to worry about bending them.
Brett Tippie sometimes reminds me, “THESE, are the good old days,” and often times I have to agree. But these photos from “the good old days” certainly represent some amazing times too. Personal milestones and memories I’ll never forget. And with the amount my phone has been buzzing lately, bearing excited messages from Mr. McVicar, I can’t help but feel like the good old days are still to come.