Spider Lake MTB 1996

Tony Case from SlickRock Cycle organizes a loose event/race series, with a few of them slated for the winter months. Local weather has been very unpredictable the past month, and the intent was to get a day with lots of snow, but after a few cancellations, Sunday, Feb.11 was chosen, come hell or high-water, or in this case...ICE!


Up until this last summer, I have had no interest in mountain bikes. My commuting and bike touring was keeping me quite happy. I couldn't understand why all these people bought fancy MTB bikes and then road them around town, walking the little hills. Some neighbours started searching out local trails to take kids for a bike ride, and Norm and I went out to Spectacle Lake behind Burnside. Nice idea.

Somewhere, I read that the Canadian MTB nationals were being held at martock. Seemed like a nice way to spend the day, so I convinced the family to come along for the day. After a few false starts with the car having oil pressure problems (NOT), we borrowed Norm's car and made the trip.

It was a nice day, and there were lots of people at Martock, but mostly racers. Found out why later. Saw a few faces that I recognized. Not easy to get around one of these sites. Lots of slogging through the woods, or god forbid, up the course. Kind of confusing at first, with randon people zipping by us on a dirt road. Looked really scary. Everyone going VERY fast.

Once we got to the top and headed for a technical section in the woods, the concept of downhilling started to make sense. I couldn't believe that people could or would do this. Tight turns, lots of trees and stumps, impossible turns, scary speed. I was excited enough to want to come back for the cross-country. Emily came with me, and we ended up walking the entire course (people not going as fast as those down-hillers) and seeing everyone once at least, including Alison Sidor. Between the rough uphills, a slower version of the technical woods, and screaming through easier wooded sections, I was literally blown away. It all just filled my head.

I have no desire to race bikes on a road, moslty due to the miles/time constraints. I like road-running a lot, but really can't get into the 5 day a week workouts, as they wear me down too much and don't allow for much else. But this MTB racing looked like it had a mix of Endurance and technical skill, along with a great speed buzz. Suddenly, I understood what was holding me back from spitting out good money for a better road bike. I really wanted a mountain bike.


This was lots of fun. I knw that a decent bike was $500-$600 and didn't want to spend that, so I looked around for a used bike. One of the first hits was a used racer, which was right up my alley. The parts were older and more beat up, but the frame, gears and tires were good and I could indulge my bike maintenance hobby keeping it current. On top of this, it had a front shock (Rock Shox Mag 20). A guy called Justin had raced it for a few years, and lived just by Martock.

I checked the bike out twice, kept checking around and reading MTB magazines, made an offer and picked the thing up for $320, which suited me fine.


I didn't recognize half the parts on the bike from a maintenance point of view, cantilever brakes, RapidFire shifters, an Ahead stem, etc. Lots to learn, which was really good, and I needed a few new tools, always good.

The tire on this thing were so big, I didn't even try anything on the road. Took the bike out to Spectacle Lake and took her for a spin. Lots of fun. Slam on the back brakes and watch the rear-end spin, just like winter time in a car.


OK. Now I have a bike. What am I going to do with it. Got a trail list from Trail Shop. Lists of metro rides and Metro-Ped setup. Started trying out Shubie and Portland Estates, and deeper into Spectacle Lake. Then getting into power line trails and such. Lots of fun, mostly by myself, which is fun too.

Did a group ride with the Gonzos out by GoodWood and Grayhounds out by Cow Bay. Went out in all sorts of weather by my house, practising sliding and hills on the streets and in the park.

Using the bike for comuting most days, as the weather is worse than last winter. Started using both little bags from Lynn, after putting reflectors all over the place. Roads aren't too bad. Look out for deep tire tracks. They throw you quick if you're not careful. Nice to be able to go out in all sorts of weather.


From SlickRock, I was aware that Tony was involved with metro biking, and I have n\been feeling like getting involved for the past year, so I went to the February meeting, saw some familiar faces, met some new people and was shocked at the spread of input, from local groups to city workers. Areas of interest overlap, but the spread is almost too hard to comprehend. I am interested in the advertising bike lockups (??? Hill) and getting more people informed, as we move to a big amalgamation. I suggested a comprehensive mailing list, and also a Web site, which a few other people had intereset in as well. I called David Trueman of Chebucto, and they have an ad\ministrative setup called Information provider that looks like it might be what we need to raise the conscoius level, and move towards amalgamating the local biking interest groups.


Started trying to find out what it would take to race in the winter. Talked with Tony Case at SlickRock. They are trying out car studs. I ended up buying 2 new tires and studding the older ones. Went out in a big storm, and then on some ice at Spider Lake, and the difference is amazing.

Tony runs a race/event during the winter, so I geared up for and did the race last Sunday. What a blast! I really had no idea what to expect. I had bought more lifa stuff before Christmas, which worked good sledding and riding, so I put all that stuff on, left all my tools behind, added some water and drove to the race.

About 30 people were hanging about. Most do group rides and know each other. At first I didn't see any familiar faces, but then noticed Paul (CycleSmith) from the Bike meeting. The guy from Trail Shop who sold me my light was there. Tony gave me details about the course. Most people looked pretty young (better to bounce off those nasty rocks...) but there were people there older than me. Most bikes were studded. I don't think anyone finished without studs.

I fell coming down the rocky road, just getting warmed up for the race. Nice start!. As well, my studs were rattling on my frame??? every time my front shcok compressed. An annoying noise throughout the entire race. The race started uphill, and I was at the end of the pack early.

2 people had flats almost right away, but still managed to pass me on the same loop. The course was basically 3.5 k lopp done 3 times. I concentrated on keeping my energy output constant and trying not to spill early. My fall riding had been a lot of picking my line as I moved through the woods. In this case, I needed 3 things: figure out where I was going, as I didn't know the course, or what to expect, watch far enough ahead so as to not slid into really bad stuff without even beig aware of it, anf then work on my line. I really wasn't close enough to anyone for anytime to use their line for clues. I think that this is one of the best parts about trail riding, picking a good line.

I got arounfd the first loop OK. made lots of mistakes, and stepped off one foot a few times, and walked 2-3 extremely steep/rocky areas, but it felt good, and the tires hel well, the bike, altho noisy was working great. The second loop went a lot better. Some people had stepped off for various reasons, and I got to drop some extra gear. I made one steep hill cleanly, and the power line hill with only 20 feet of walking. I knew the course better, and could concentrate on ensuring where I was and picking that line. A few people passed me, but I couldn't match their pace long enough for line hints. I was more agressive in areas that I remebered and made the 3 foot creek bed cleanly, which was a nice buzz. There was someone there taking B&W pictures. Will have to track that down.

Big surprise was 2 people passing me to go to the finish, as I started the third loop. I almost stopped there, as I was sure I was last and would be quite last, meaning holding people up, or getting hurt with no one to help. But with the bike wotrking well, and me feeling fine, there was no way I wan't going to finish. Alas, it had stated snowing, meaning the course, and all those rocks/ice were going to be slick, but I was pumped. Had a harder time on the 2 steep slopes. Even the bike walk caused some spills. Harder to follow a line as well. Should have had glasses.

The photographer cames by me the opposite way, ensuring me that 1 person was behind. I continued on and made it to the end of the loops, down the rocky road and to the finish. Of course, no one was there except the guy waiting to giveme back my clothes. Everybody gone to Timmie's. Duh.

I was pretty sure that there was someone else out there. So I warmed up the car and waited 20 minutes. Sure enough, a guy with a bent, but usable rim came out at 2 hours. I finished in 95 minutes, and wouldn't have gone quicker unless I was more sure of myself on the trail and the ice.

Nice buzz. I headed home, and decided to stop for a coffee. Lots of people still there. Really felt good to have done the thing, and especially to have finished. Will ahve to work on my tire changing technique and get it under 5 minutes.


The decision to buy a mountain bike turned out to be a very good one. The trail riding has been a lot of fun, and commuting this winter required one. The push to get into racing has also turned out well. The used racer with shocks was a sort of pre-requisite, as was the buying of 2 tires for getting a studded set. It's easy to buy stuff, then never use it, or mistake your intentions. This purchase has been worth it's weight in gold. I love the bike, the riding, the commuting, and now the racing. Training will not be stamina based, but technique based, and I have a lot to learn. the stamina will come from the current activity level, as it does for hockey and running road races. I'm quite happy with my current health, even though I still wear myself down too much.

So, the MTB has opend a new door. Riding, maintenance and racing. with lots to enjoy and learn in each area. I actually spent some money in this area, like I service the car: I use it, I need it, I buy it. Could never really get past that with the road bike.

It looks to be a good year with the Saturday road runs coming up, some races and later on some touring.

Pretty cool.