Not to sound like a cliche machine here, but sometimes you have to let the Andean dust settle, or clean it out of your pivots, before you can see the wood from the trees (Even if there weren’t many trees). Or more appropriately, the radness from the gnar. This has never been more true when trying to reflect on and then sum up Andes Pacifico in its totality.
Funnily enough, when I’ve spoken about this event with some DN Global Collective members, they rightly pointed out that it looked terrifying and sounded exceedingly difficult based on my Race Report rantings and Gram load shooting. I assured them that they were indeed correct to draw such a conclusion, but its also not quite as simple as that either… I don’t want to say “its complicated” out of fear that the Zuck will have a wank on my personal data, but unfortunately it’s an apt description.
Now I’ve had ample time to reflect on this and purge myself of all my words through the race reports, I’m in a much better position to evaluate the event as a whole. I have no idea if anyone gives a fuck about such an evaluation, but I felt it necessary to give it it’s own air time so we can all chew on the post event cud together. Besides, its a creeping dystopia out there, so you may as well take a break from it all and get a little Dirty in your day.
On the Andes Pacifico website, it self proclaims that it’s ‘The Experience of a lifetime‘. This is an interesting premise to think about and undoubtably an extremely bold claim. I’m sure I’ve tried to use that exact claim in Jet Bar in Wellington a few times at 2am in the early 2000’s, but just because I said it didn’t mean it was going to turn into a reality; the slaps across my clean shaven face (likely the issue, no beard no disco) confirm as such.
But did the event live up to such a lofty statement? Well, yes and no… As I shall try and explain in the next few sections, I felt that if I was the AP website editor I may suggest the following tweak: ‘An amazing experience within a rad lifetime‘
I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a range of different cycling experiences over the last 5 years in particular and ultimately this is what builds a lifetime – A range of diverse experiences, different places, people, trails, disciplines and challenges. There is no king of experiences, no world champ of events and no god of adventures. But each one has a role to play, some greater than others and as I shall try and elaborate on, Andes Pacifico definitely carries it’s weight well in adding to the rich tapestry of radness. Holy fuck, I’m almost sounding like a self-help book having sex with a main stream cycling website… Gross.
1 – The Summary
As I said above, this is not a straightforward love affair and its taken some time to reflect on how I felt about it all… Including going through some phases before finally settling on a verdict.
If you’d ambushed me at the end of Day 3 to enquire about my views on potential future participation, I would have most likely mumbled at you: “Fuck this shit, its a one off” in fact, I think I even said those words out loud at Driver #12 was busy getting lost on the way back to camp.
Yes, Day 3 was seriously not normal, but as a disclaimer – The Andean terrain we were riding was perhaps the worst possible surface for a conservative rider like my control-freak self. If you like to be precisely in control of your machine and pride yourself on being neat & tidy as a rider, as opposed to ‘fucken loose-as cunt’, then you may come across the same inner horror when confronting the Chilean landscape. It can be so directly challenging to your soul at times, that you may rightfully step back and start to question whether or not its really ‘fun’, not unlike an S&M session where you can’t remember how to translate the safe word into German. #achtung
Yes, the riding surface in the first 3 days in particular is optimised for making you feel and look like a complete cunt, which I marinaded in for the opening stanza of the race (some suggestions to avoid this are below). There is no getting around the fact that this terrain is somewhat unique, the last time I have seen something so dry and loose was Perth in Australia, perhaps why I accurately picked Sam Hill to win EWS Round 1, either that or I’m the ENDURO Nostradamus. That must mean we’re about time for an irrelevant vanity shot:
However, by the end of Day 5 and in the weeks that have washed by in the post event malaise, I have to admit that it wouldn’t take much to twist my rubbery T Rex arms into a 2019 participation. Indeed, from Day 4 onwards my affection for the AP started to trend upwards at a steady rate to the stage where I can now comfortably sit back in an overpriced artisanal beanbag (yes, a real thing) and genuinely say that its a fucking rad experience.
I say ‘experience’ mainly because at times as a race it can feel a little disjointed, predominantly due to some of the huge gaps between race stages (AKA – My kryptonite). For those that need a sense of rhythm or momentum in your race, then you will have to adapt. Likewise, if you’re uptight about pristine health & safety conditions, or a nervous vehicle passenger, it may not be for you.
However, if you’re looking for something extraordinary, something new, something distinctly memorable, passionate people and above all – Dry riding, then Andes Pacifico will tickle and tick your box in the most delightful ways. This race is indeed a classic, even if you may not realise it whilst you’re working your way through it.
I guess this was one of the differences between AP and TP – For some reason every moment I was on Trans Provence its enormity was apparent to me and I knew I was living through a life defining experience, whilst Andes Pacifico didn’t quite scale those lofty heights (possibly because its shorter?), the longer I reflected on it post event, the more it impressed me and carved out it’s own niche in my affections.
There’s no one thing that swung me from being a hater to an advocate, but perhaps its just my shallowness of improved results in those last two days? Or because they were easier? Or because the BBQ at the end was so fucking delicious? I’ll probably never know – But whatever it was, it was an effective antidote for the first 3 very hard and very insane days on terrain that screams at you that you’re a cunt as its throwing a freshly restocked stapler at your head.
There aren’t many events you can do that provide this level of vastness either, if you crave some crazy back country action but (like me), don’t have the survival skills or balls to organise it, then the Monten Baik crew have you covered. Just getting out into those amazing Andes mountains with their wild endlessness and enormous landscapes are almost a business case in their own right to make the trek to Santiago.
Perhaps one of the only downsides of such an odyssey is that it can make returning to the real world, especially your local trails, seem somewhat… ordinary… I’d be the first person in the group to get eaten by the wild if ever truly lost in the outdoors, but even I felt the sting of having to return to metropolitan areas where people are slowly eating themselves to death, actually believe PowerPoint is a useful tool and think interest only mortgages are a good idea. Chile is vast, loose and relaxed, while also being oddly terrifying and mental, but my point being, you will likely miss it as you navigate the first world problem haze of the post event malaise which is always more potent after an event like this.
If 5 day blind ENDURO racing is your bag, then this rowdy Chilean beast does need to be on your ‘Must Do list’ please. With this in mind, let me dimly enlighten you with some of the specifics should you feel inclined to act on my frothing endorsement of this Andean odyssey.
2 – The Dirty tip(s)
So you’re a hot piece of ENDURO ass who wants to get anti-grip on it in Twenty19 (AKA – The future)? Well then cottontail, I have some tips for you to help you get the most out of it, because its not the cheapest race, plus most of you will have to travel a reasonable way to participate, so may as well get my dirtiness in your eyes and maximise. Behold bold font and bullet points:
Assemble the crew – So I won’t mince my words, don’t be a Tod and turn up solo to this one, unless you are a massive Spanish speaking extrovert or are happy to spend the week solo of course. You want some homeboys/girls in the foxhole next to you on this race for sure. This is also perhaps one of the ultimate races to get the crew together to head away to a race together for a number of reasons:
- Entry is easy – There’s no mad dash for selling out in 5 mins, there’s no selection process, so its actually relatively easy to enter as a race with a group, which is useful when trying to wrangle a herd of hopeless MTB mates (Yes, they are fucked at planning, otherwise they’d be roadies)
- Local rules – I was surprised by the number of locals or LATAM’s doing this race, its almost like the inverse of Trans Provence where it was odd you got fuck all Frenchies there. I estimated maybe 70% are South Americans perhaps? Most also arriving in their own groups. As such, you may want to have your own gringos with you for emotional support
- Transfer down time – There’s a fair amount of time in trucks, hiking or just kicking it during the day, so you need your crew there so you can talk at their faces and to call one another cunts or fuck with their suspension settings
- South America YO! – Its an awesome excuse to go somewhere different (as fuck) with your crew and change it up. Indeed this is one of the draw cards of heading to AP, an excellent chance to add a whole new zone to everyone’s scorecard. There’s a relative chance your crew members may not have hit South America before, so its a ready made excuse to get your arse to… Mars?
Go early and get familiar – I exercised extreme fuckwittery and suffered the consequences so you don’t have to. This is to say, rocking up the day before is to be avoided, especially when you get that second night bounce and total lack of sleep from time zone fuckbaggery.
But whilst timezone is one thing, terrain is another matter all together. You need to come and see this shit and at least have a few rides to get that initial shock to the system out of the way and rethink your tire strategy.
As such, I would strongly lobby and advocate for arriving as early as you can allow, locking into Hotel Kennedy and then doing a few day tours with the Monten Baik crew who can hook you up. Give yourself a few days to chill and prep the bike and then climb right into it. No point laying down the cash and going all that way to be an Andean zombie on Day 1 is what I’m putting down here.
Pack accordingly – I was a stoked cunt turning up to Andes Pacifico with my new Evoc World Traveller bag, mainly as it matched my bike bag and riding pack, but also because it made me look so ENDURO-slut PRO walking through the airport. I had also invested considerable time making use of the mind blowing number of compartments, clearly a bag designed by Colombian Cartel members, to OCD pack all my ENDURO fetish kit nicely into an order that even the Welsh Assassin would approve of.
You can imagine my horror then when we arrived and were promptly told we had to abandon our luggage and transfer everything into a giant cavernous duffle bag with our race number on it supplied by the AP crew. No amount of walking around looking like the horrified emoji could save me from the reality of A) how long it was going to take me to unpack all those compartments and B) how I was about to deposit all my shit into a giant unpartitioned cavern of a duffle bag. As I mumbled like rainman as my OCD’s raged, I wish I had done this another way.
So my point is, bring less shit – But pack wisely. I stole this idea from Mark who stole it from someone else, but he had each day’s riding kit all neatly bagged into separate plastic bags, sealed and with a day number on them. I almost melted in organisational envy when I heard this approach and I tried to smile as I struggled to control my eye twitch.
Oh and yes, I didn’t see a washing machine anywhere, so if you’re a hygiene freak you’ll need to bring 5 days worth of riding kit… I had to reuse some items and it was, hmmmm, suboptimal shall we say?
You Vs. The Andes – So this is a crazy fucking place if you didn’t pick that up from the race reports, but it really comes down to 3 simple things all week: Sunscreen, water and snacks. Oh, plus a hat… You HAVE to have a hat, even if it has a rapey fisherman vibe about it.
But my point is, this is some serious backcountry shit to be sure, so be prepared to be alone at times… I’m talking more lonely than a normal person in the current White House. Its also important to note that I didn’t see many 7/11’s, so if you want to rock up here with just a drink bottle, then you’re going to have the sodomitic experience of a lifetime, which as a marketing tagline sounds at odds with what you may have signed up for. Pack the back pack – Preferably one with protection:
The scary part here was that Gary let me in on a little secret that the 2018 edition had been a little bit ‘easier’ based on route selection and also it wasn’t as hot. Wait, what? That’s a bit like saying “Yeah, Normandy was tough, but it was no Iwo Jima“, its hard to think through how it could have been harder, but I will admit that we didn’t have 42 degree heat and people in drips, so yeah, there is always scope for more craziness.
Preparation – Following on from my theme above about the Andean terrain, don’t be a fuckbag like I was and choose Rotorua as your pumice hero dirt build up HQ. If you do come across dirt in Andes Pacifico, it won’t have a medal of honour for heroic action to put in mildly. On the upside, if the world is ever reduced to rubble, at least I now have experience in how it will ride.
As such, you need to head out and find the loosest shit you can get your minions on, no – Not an invite to a naked yoga party at the Rodfather’s house, I’m talking about building some trails in a shingle quarry for example. Yes, you want the sketchiest trails within your driving distance to get familiar with. You know, the shit you shy away from because it doesn’t make you feel like a rad cunt. Go out, spend time with it, surrender your inhibitions to it, let it do bad stuff to you and you’ll be thankful for it by the time you land in Chile.
And yes, this includes some hiking – Don’t bother with too much riding climbing, most of the time you’re going up it’s either in mid-range terror in a truck, or carrying your bike. Save the climbing for those hammer sessions where you’re smashing yourself on mid stage climbs. Just get the fuck out there and hike up some crazy trails to bomb back down them, preferably the loosest shit you can hunt down, scree slopes probably a good idea.
3 – The Dirty Equipment wank
Oh and fucking finally we get to release the inner bike nerd and let him vomit all over himself given he’s been in the gimp box so long. I’ll try to only focus on new stuff here, which debuted on this mission. Let’s start with the obvious shall we… The big, bad, awesome, banger, maniacal, staunch and superlative obvious. Yes, this muthafucka right here:
As far as tests go, 5 days of AP madness is right up there to both see how your rig survives, but to also get to know one another in a significantly intimate way. Whilst we were re-enacting 50 shades of grey, except with more violence and a better sound track, I got to learn that this thing is a beast and it found out that I still can’t find it’s limits as a machine.
Its been said that by fuck knows whom that the Nomad 4 is not an ENDURO bike, which is factually true if you’re attaching Mark Scott or Ratboy to that sentence. However, in my mind its a fabulous amateur ENDURO bike, especially for an event like Andes Pacifico. The additional margin it provides you for blind racing, the beating it can take and the way its sweet geo and low slung suspension saves your average ass makes you feel like you’re losing your virginity to a Cougar MILF, a very experienced and composed one at that.
We now live in an MTB creeping dystopian world where a LOT of people arrive at the trail head significantly ‘overbiked’, you don’t need this machine for local grade 2 & 3 loops, even if it can do them no issues, but not once did I want either less travel or bigger wheels. The Andes was to this bike what complaining about price is to Pinkbike.
I did however desperately wanted to run it in low mode a few times, like Alan Cooke was, but this desire was quickly checked by the realisation that I’m not AC, mixed in with the utter terror of pedal strikes, which are supplied in abundance in Chile. I’d even go as far as saying that perhaps 165mm cranks may be the go if I was to return here, which would allow the low setting to come into play. In spite of my DX pedals looking like they’d been attacked by Thor, they didn’t miss a beat all week.
The Nomad 4 has taken the radness relay baton from the 3 and picked up the pace, without question. I feel guilty that I was initially repelled and confused by it all, as now that we’re through the initial bonding experience, there’s really no other bike I want to ride. It felt like it was designed for the Andes Pacifico terrain and I’d argue these week long events with crazy terrain, blind trails, multiple times you want a get out of jail free cards and not many bike shops in sight is exactly what the Nomad is about.
I don’t consider it a park bike, it’s really a bike for the wild and the more the week went on, the more this became apparent. Aside from my cooking my Saints on Day 2, it ran flawlessly all week and oddly almost felt like it was getting better as the race went on, not unlike a Honeymoon in the Maldives.
My only gripe is self-imposed, I still don’t think I have the suspension set up nailed, mainly as a result of a lack of discipline and having no chance to harass Jordi into doing some placebo adjustments on my DHX2 and sending me on my way like a useful idiot. I still have deep state suspicions I need to go up to a 500 pound spring (from 475), but I’d have more luck finding an U21 rider on a Alu bike than I would of one of those in NZ, silly me, I thought ‘distributors’ were for distributing. Internet sale restriction rules is the fast path to mediocrity, but protectionism is SO hot in 2018, its not really surprising.
Sidebar – Santa Cruz Reserve wheels: My original plan was to bring my so-called ‘bomb proof’ Alu DT Swiss/CK wheelset to Chile, because you know, Gnar. However, the main issue with the SC Reserves is that they’re more addictive than Opioids, leaving you in the position of having to ignore conservative logic and forcing you to take carbon wheels to a place, which in theory, hates carbon wheels.
I already knew these wheels were (no Bullshit here) the best I’ve ever rolled on (like, you know, totally eva), but I can now add ‘impressive resilience’ to the list of superlatives I can spew forth from my fingers with total legitimacy. Mavic, Reynolds, Enve, DT Swiss, Derby/Flite’s, Stans/CK – All have been made to look decidedly average by these first time efforts from Santa Cruz. I’m obsessively convinced their ability to dampen gnar helped me out all week, with that much racing, the accumulative effect of their lay up goodness can’t be discounted.
Ok, so I respect that I bathe in unjustified bias here, so you may be smothering my froth in ample amounts of salt, but I fucken double dare you muthafuckas to get a set of these superb hoops and then enjoy how much better they make your life. I can’t say they made it through Andes Pacifico without a scratch, because they did get scratched to fuck, but that’s a fate which would befall any wheel that rolls into the first stage of the week. Even though I had some legit rim dings on Day 4, you know, those hideous “Fuck cunt, I’m sure that’s going to be a flat” moments where you hear the rim ping rocks, the wheels remain straighter than a Robert Mueller dinner party. They’re well on track to be the Dirty Kit of the Year winner for 2018.
Garmin 520 – I think this was my first new Garmin purchase since 2011, which points to the longevity of the 500 and 800. If you’re a closet Strava nerd, then the 520 will delight you with its Cuntphone interface and ability to upload via bluetooth, meaning you can conduct epic remote missions and still get that sweet uploading hit you so insidiously crave. It does some weird shit with randomly turning off or on when you don’t want it to do either and it will infuriate you that it looks to be touch screen, but isn’t. The Strava live segment thing is also a total cunt and has to be disabled immediately, but its the most discrete unit to reliably tell you how fucking hard the climb is you’re suffering on. Important when struggling through a liaison stage at 3,580m.
IXS Flow Evo pads – I’m not 100% sure what’s Evo about them compared to the normal Flow pads, but these new 2018 units generally feel better in all aspects. You can even take the actual pad out for washing, which is great until you work out what a cunt it is to get it back in, a First World Problem best dealt with by calling them fuckbags and just throwing them in the washing machine next time up. They’re seriously comfortable, look even better, offer more protection and you get to use the word ‘Evo’, so a good addition to my Kneepad fetish arsenal.
Some other important gear points to note for future AP editions that came up during the week:
- Shoes – I knew two people running 510’s at AP, one got terrible blisters requiring a daily trip to the medics and the famous Mark scenario, who had to perform daily emergency surgery to their shoes to make it through. However, Sam Hill just won back to back EWS rounds, so who cares. My point isn’t really on 510’s, but more along the lines of don’t arrive for AP with brand new or old shoes – Goldilocks that shit you bad hombre
- Tires – Adrian was the expert here, with more punctures than a Kelly-Anne Conway voodoo doll, his experience alone was a cautionary tale in how hard the Andes can be on the rubber. This is DoubleDown territory at a minimum, and if you’re a bit of a mental/fat cunt, then DH Casing is probably worth considering if you want to have a drama free week. But above all, start the week with brand fucking new tires… Here is an eye wateringly expensive Maxxis DHR2 DD after 5 fucking days of riding/reaming in Chile… Yes, FIVE:
So then, a massive Dirty thanks to the whole Monten Baik crew who passionately run a huge event with amazing food, insane logistics and terrain so unique you may hate it before you love it. Another overly dramatic thanks to the riding crew I was so lucky to roll with such a GC crew which really made the week what it was in my experience database, thanks boys for the fucking good times and laughs.
This is the last Andes Pacifico post, until/if I can ever be fucked trawling through 172 mins of Go PRO footage to make a Dirty video of this action, which then fuck all of you will watch because you get caught by your partner on Youtube again trying to claim it wasn’t Pornhub. Not to mention the fact you’re most likely tired of me wanking on about Chile and want to hear stories of me getting my face fucked back in local NZ races… Watch this space!