With rainy season in full swing at the moment it smells and looks suspiciously like a MF boring week here at Global Hub HQ… In fact, this is how it looked at 5.51am:
And, with guest reports thin on the ground and a few weeks until the DN Summer Tour kicks off, I have decided to mix together a retro throwback post and some opinion on current affairs… Interest snared? Read on for part one…
I can still remember the first time I quit Cross Country Mountain Bike Racing, in fact, I can remember the exact 30 seconds that cemented in my mind in 1998 that it was time for a change. I was coming off an awesome 1997 season in the Under 23 Sport category in the NZ Nationals series, which back then was actually a REAL series and Sport grade was actually decent, this was MTB hey day territory we’re talking about, with massive fields and great old school courses.
Given I had podiumed in every round and come 2nd for the series, for 98 I had to step up to Expert (fart noise), so, I set about vigorously overtaining for my big Expert debut (see a pattern here? OCD perhaps?). Round 1 was in Nelson and I arrived aboard the most potent hard tail mountain bike that I have ever owned, and, as it turns out – also the last one I ever owned. The Scott Endorphin was a masterpiece of Carbon technology and back in a time when Scott was still (just) cool:
Well, that’s not the actual one, but same frame etc – The DN Photo archives are yet to be digitised, that’s a future project. Anyway… I turned up for Round 1 of the Nationals in my fresh Jville Cycles kit (sleeveless riding top and all!!) and relatively exhausted from trying to do too much volume, but I had been racing for 6 years at this point, so would be fine!
Errrr… Wrong. Stepping up to Under 23 Expert was like being put in a washing machine covered in jellymeat with a honey badger on heat and put on high spin for 2 hours. Sure, the 30 deg heat on the Nelson Centre of NZ course didn’t help, but I can’t really blame that… I went to pieces and just tried to get through the 7 laps of an incredibly hard course. Then, on my 6th lap as I started the downhill back to the start/finish area to start my last lap, I heard the cheers of the crowd:
“Go Alex! GO!!! Come on Alex, awesome!!”
My brain instantly registered the fact that it was Alex Chronis, favourite to win our race they were cheering for, but then in a millisecond it also dismissed the notion under the impossibility that there was no way he could be on his last lap. Ignore it my brain said, it can’t be him and any way, you’re on the downhill now and you’re so quick on the downhill that he won’t catch you to lap you!
Oh dear… My brain was right and wrong. It WAS Alex Chronis, he WAS on his last lap about to win the U23 grade and he WAS about to lap me. Halfway down the final DH, I pulled over and gave way to the meteor that was about to vaporise me. At that moment and in the 30 second window from realisation to resignation as I watched him flash past, I realised that it was time for change.
This thought was brutally reinforced a few moments later when I arrived in the start finish area. Being the hey day and the BIG time, the Nationals of course had an MC on the PA system who, seeing my number plate, announced me as the 2nd place finisher… My frantic throat cutting hand gestures went unnoticed and he continued to horrifically announce my faux 2nd place finish – As I got closer I had to summons my last vestiges of dignity and yell out “I’ve been lapped out”… Cue awkward silence and the worlds most embarrassing retraction. I pulled out and found the nearest ditch to hide in, leaving my Scott Carbon fibre wonderbike somewhere praying it would be stolen by bogans.
So, it was as we sailed out of Picton harbour heading back to Wellington later that day that I turned to the Lizard and said: “That’s it mate, I am pulling the pin… No more Nationals for me, I am out and am going to buy a Foes Weasel”. This was a monumental decision and change and here is what I ended up riding, the Foes Weasel 2, except mine was blue, but you get the idea:
Everybody thought I had lost the plot – Both in terms of pulling the pin on racing, but also buying what was at that time considered a downhill bike and building it up for cross country and trail riding. I did it in style too, Marzocchi Bomber forks, Johnny T Magura rim brakes, downhill bars… It was EPIC and I quickly grew to love it like no other bike I had ever known… It was a game changer. To be fair, going to such a format wasn’t really my idea, credit needs to go to the real trail blazer and first man on a Foes Weasel for trail riding: Spanky. Yes, I think the first time I ever conjured up the word ‘Shred’ was when I was riding behind Spanky… He’s a legend on a bike and was the first to go BIG travel, a pioneer if you will. Interestingly, he was a driver behind the DH track in Niseko, how’s that for a Dirty Coincidence!
So, some dirty copycat work and with this freak bike in hand, my riding style started to change. I went to all the rest of the National rounds with the Lizard over that summer and spent the weekends riding the courses and forests and having a blast, it was awesome. Sure, I would ride/sift slowly to the top of the climbs like a sloth that had just had a whole batch of hash cookies, but coming down I was shredding like a late night session at Enron.
I even started to enter some local XC races on my Beast Bike and whilst the climbs were a struggle, my ability to massacre XC Nerds on the downhills was startling and ultimately resulted in weird Yo yo races of being passed or dropped on the climbs, but then mowing fools down “On your left” or “On your right” all over the show. People pointed and stared, what was I doing riding that bike at this type of race?! It was nerd horror. I began to think, “Why can’t there be a race format where we’re only racing on the downhill parts?“. Sure, there were Downhill races, but this was entering the phase where courses and bikes had started to get out of control, so again it was a different end of the spectrum.
So – I was left in a dilemma… I didn’t want to race full noise Downhill or XC, but I loved riding my Mountain Bike around and still wanted to race. What was a mini Dirty Nomad to do? Well, unfortunately for me I was stuck in the 90’s, but, fast forward 15 years back to the future and finally the solution has been properly ‘invented’ (as you will see, I use that term loosely) and implemented…
If you have got this far, you will be thinking “What the fuck is he on about and what is the point of this post FFS?!”, well, this is a massive fat, juicy and dirty scene setter… It will all make sense in Part 2! I hope…
Yes, finally, a Dirty Opinion Mini Series… You know you wanted one…