1 September, 2006
Fakawi Represented @ The North Shore
Checked out through Immigration, headed towards the arrival hall, and walked out heading for the Airporter (bus service toward downtown) that took me to my final destination, i.e., the International Hostel downtown Vancouver.
September 2, 2006, Saturday 0700. The weekend ride adventure begins.
Time to freshen up, pack up, and check out of the International Hostel. 45 minutes later, Andrewawi arrived to pick me up (Andrewawi: The sun was already up, clear skies, and weather made for biking. I was thinking about how to maximize the 2 days of riding. Obvious choice will be the North Shore, and the other would depend---maybe Eagleridge, maybe Burke mountain).
The journey begins. About an hour 15 minutes drive to Chilliwack – the place where two Cannondale Prophet 4X team replica bikes were up for sale. Armed with printed out Google Maps of our destinations and the local map of Canada, we headed down Highway 1 – eastbound. We arrived at Chilliwack right on time, checked out the first bike, went to see the second bike, and then went back to the first one (better condition) to seal the deal. A bargain too, if I might add.
Saturday 1030. We started heading back to Vancouver. I noticed that the spring rate was a little too soft for my weight. We then started calling every bike store to try to get a Marzocchi Roco 2.0” stroke spring with a 650lbs spring rate. Turns out that no one stocks them and the only way to get them was from Marzocchi’s Canadian Office (which of course happens to be located in North Vancouver) – was closed for the weekend. We made the first stop at Blak Dog Bikes, close to Eagleridge, to see if they have the spring in stock. The kind mechanic at this bike shop recommended that we check out another bike store close by. Off we went and to my luck, they had a 650lbs Manitou spring that would somewhat fit the Roco. At $32, even though it’s just to get my “new” bike running for the weekend, wasn’t a lot to pay for. So we left the bike there and went off to grab a quick bite before heading to the trails.
Saturday 1230. Returned to the bike shop to find out that they found a 550lbs Fox spring and fitted that in instead of the Manitou because it was a better fit. I sat on my bike to try it out and to everyone’s horrid amazement, a rather unexpected (and “painful”) screech was heard. I immediately jumped off my bike to see what was wrong. You should see the expression on the mechanic’s face--- a how dumb am I pale look! He installed the rear shock upside down!!! With the reservoir on top, and barely a few centimetres of clearance, it just dug into my frame as I sat on it. (Andrewawi: Very very painful!!!) Close up inspection revealed a nasty deep scratch at the bottom of the top tube on my “new” bike. The aluminium frame was very much intact, but a huge chunk of the paint and sticker had been taken off. Without hesitation, the very pale looking mechanic apologized and very quickly said that the 550lbs Fox spring wasn’t suitable while started to fit in the 650lbs Manitou spring. I was quite speechless by his blatant screw-up and my mind was too occupied to get my first ride in Vancouver down as soon as possible (can anything get worse that this, all I want to do is rideeeeeee!!!!), so I let him make the change, paid for the spring, and left the shop---feeling disgusted. The owner was there and he apologized too, stating that he wouldn’t charge labour for the spring change due to that mistake. Well, I wanted to hit the trails so badly that I just nodded and left.
Saturday 1400. (Andrewawi: Riding Eagleridge was out, and since it was Yishawi’s first time here, I figured and since we were close to the area---we ride Burnaby mountain. I also wanted to introduce to him “bus shuttling” using the public bus---all we have to do is load our bikes onto the bike rack, get to the top of Burnaby mountain, unload the bikes and ride down while having to put Yishawi’s replacement spring to the test.)
Arrived close to the take-off point, i.e., Production Way/University, and hopped on bus no.145 that goes directly up to Simon Fraser University (SFU) on Burnaby Mountain. For $2.25, we could ride the bus for and hour and a half. Couldn’t ask for a better deal. Nowhere in the world could you find shuttle service for $2.25 – a steal deal indeed. One could throw in 2 to 3 rides on a single fare.
We got into our Fak jerseys, and were prepping our metal steeds for the ride when a phone call came (Guess who? It was from the guys at the bike store whom I bought the spring from). The mechanic was on the line, apologizing again for his mistake and then he gave me quite a bit of a shocker when he said that he forgot to put something called the “retainer” back on my shock. Then he goes on saying that the retainer does not – in any way – affect the shock’s performance. Fox and 5th Element shocks do not have this thing called a retainer, so on, and so forth. Sick of his excuses, I just asked what time they would close shop so that I could pick it up after my ride. 1700 was the time we had to be back in that bike store to get my retainer back, which leaves plenty of time to ride Burnaby Mountain. I could tell than Andrewawi was a little annoyed by now, and so was I. However, I wasn’t going to let that ruin my debut in Vancouver.
Saturday 1430. Finally at the trailhead entrance into Mel’s. All set and ready, with my Camelbak filled , we were off! First heading to Mel’s Trail (blue diamond – intermediate level) .
Anxious for lots of downhill action, I lowered my saddle all the way down – this proved to be a mistake as there was some pedalling action required. Mel’s trail looped around SFU, and the single-track was buffed more for XC, though there were technical sections. With Andrewawi leading the way, I was in hot pursuit behind him but had to back off a little bit because I was eating too much of his dirt. It has been a dry summer in Vancouver, and the trails are indeed as dry as bone ash. Our fat tires, and aggressive threads just dug into the dirt and would kick-up dirt and dust. Following the jingling of Andrewawi’s bear bell, I coasted along to the trailhead of Mel’s trail. At the end of this trail, Mel’s would spit us out onto the University Drive road.
After a quick rest and some pictures, we started off and continued into Mel’s trail. This part of the trail was rather smooth with a few technical sections, wooden bridges and minor drops – all very manageable and enjoyable for the regular Malaysian mountain biker (me). There is a section of steep uphill right after a stream crossing which required some pushing. I learnt that our legendary Patawi cleared that climb not only once – he went back for seconds. I didn’t feel too left out because Andrewawi was pushing up too. Soon enough, it was time to exit Mel’s and cut into Nichole’s trail.
Here I am. At the trailhead of my first ever black diamond trail. I have to admit that I was feeling a little nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. Nevertheless, I was anxious to find out. Off we went with Andrewawi leading the way as usual – his Nevegels kicking up dirt as he blasted down the first section of Nichole’s. Apart from being the host, there’s a cynical reason why Andrewawi always takes the lead – well, I wanted to follow the same lines that he used. Say whatever you want, but this is a proven way – at least for me – to avoid from unwanted surprises when riding a new trail. Good thing also, as he was about to ride into a couple of tourist’s from China hiking up Nichole’s, and he yelled out to me to slow down.
Nichole’s is an entirely different animal from Mel’s. Now I’m faced with slightly bigger drops (maybe 2ft or so) and they come continuously, which adds to the difficulty level significantly. Then there are the skinnies in the forms of bridges and log rides – much lengthier than the ones in Mel’s. Nichole’s also features several tight switchbacks – none that are nearly as tight as the ones found on Kiara’s Carnival loop.
Half way down Nichole’s, disaster struck! I realized that I was losing air from my rear tire. With enough to still roll, we hurried down Nichole’s with hopes to fix it at the end of the trail. Andrewawi raced down with me trailing behind trying to keep up. I was really losing air, and loose dirt made it quite a challenge taking on the tight corners. Before long, I could hear and feel thuds as I go over rocks. Time to start pushing to save my rear rim from further damage. I couldn’t help but to observe in awe the amazing trail building features that had taken place along Nichole’s – wondering what it would be like to ride and clear them. Unfortunately, today would not be the day. Redemption shall come at a later time (tomorrow!). Close to the end of Nichole’s, I could hear Andrewawi calling me out and asking if I was fine. I replied in true tribal manner, walked out with my injured deflated steed where we immediately got to work on the rear tire.
First the spring, now the flat – what else can one ask for? This was when things started to get really tricky. First up, the rear of the Prophet 4X doesn’t come with you’re the regular quick-release lever – this came with a 12mm thru axle secured (very well) by 4 bolts. Once the bolts were out, pulling the axle out proved to be quite a challenge in itself, but we got that out of the way quickly. Armed with tire levers, we popped one side of the tire wall to find the greatest surprise (and amusement) of the day. I’ll let the picture do the talking for this one.
The previous owner had the rear tire set up tubeless – and mind you without any form of sealant. It wasn’t a UST rim or tires either. He just used a cut up old tube to serve as the seal/lining between the rim and the tire at the sidewalls – ingenious!!! yet stupid!!! Andrewawi and I started to fit the tire back in with much difficulty aligning the rubber strip inside and tried pumping it up with air to no avail. Being completely deflated, that tubeless system just doesn’t hold any air. Last resort, wait here with my crippled Prophet while Andrewawi headed back to the van.
I guess riding was done for the day. While waiting to be picked-up, I pondered on today’s events and also felt that, while going down Mel’s and Nichole’s I realized that the spring was a little too soft for my liking – too much ass rubbing from my rear tire (maybe that’s what caused the loss in air). So, I made the decision to return the spring to that store for a full refund. This means leaving the Prophet alone. Well, we got to the store, swapped the springs back, made sure the retainer was put in, asked for a full refund, got my money back, and left – never to return again, ever.
Andrewawi had a back-up plan since morning. If by some reason, I was not able to get the Prophet, he had enquired about places that would rent out bikes. Cove Bikes does this, and so we headed straight for Cove bikes at Deep Cove to get a rental for tomorrow’s ride at the North Shore. My ride for tomorrow was to be a stock 2006 Kona Stinky 16.5”. Rental fees + taxes came up to about $90.00, a little steep, but Andrewawi did some math to convince me that it wasn’t too bad – taking to account the amount that I saved from getting the Prophet earlier in the morning.
By now it was circa 1700 hours. With 3 bikes loaded in Andrewawi’s Dodge Caravan, we headed back, washed up, and went for Malaysian assam laksa in Steveston.
September 3rd, 2006, Sunday 0630. Day 2 – Fakawi assault on the North Shore-Mt. Seymour.
After breakfast and a quick fill up, we were on our way to catch the Huck Wagon – a bike + biker shuttle service to the top of Mt. Seymour. The shuttle service starts at 1000 hours, and we arrived at the Old Buck parking lot (shuttle-point) with plenty of time to spare. Unloaded, geared up, and then just as the Huck Wagon arrived, my bowels decided to have a go at me. Maybe it was the leftover curry I had in the morning, maybe it was the sheer anxiety of the North Shore, but then again…maybe it was both. We biked down to the Parkgate shopping mall and I ran into the Lazy Bay café to use a toilet. The Huck Wagon was long gone when I was done. The next trip would be at 1100 hours, and as we were cycling around waiting, some guy came up to me and asked if we needed a ride up. The deal was that he would shuttle Andrewawi and I up along with our bikes, and we would have to drive him up to his car once we’re all down at the bottom. Without hesitation, our bikes were loaded onto the rear of his Volvo V70 and I was on my way to the CBC parking lot. No idea what CBC stands for, but it’s certainly not Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (the RTM of Canada).
I was ready, another Nichole’s style of riding. Oh! By the way, the entrance into CBC also acts like newbie filters. The drop and sharp turn is there to discourage newbies from riding this trail. Fresh and early in the morning, fully alert – shouldn’t be a problem. Or so I thought. First minute into the trail, and I learnt my very first lesson on those trail difficulty level ratings. They’re only valid relative to each other on the same mountain. Meaning, the black diamond rating on Burnaby Mountain, is not necessarily the same rating as the black diamond on Mt. Seymour. CBC would’ve been rated double black diamond on Burnaby Mountain – or maybe triple. Holy smokes, this was a tough one. Even with 6 inches of travel front and rear, it was a challenge for me to clear some of the drops. I think I barely lasted 2 minutes before stopping to take my first break. Andrewawi had his hands full too (note: that he’s riding a Brodie Hurricane). My rental bike wasn’t equipped with a chain guide, and neither was Andrewawi’s Brodie. This posed a real problem as we kept stopping to put the chain back on before continuing on.
I do not know how to describe CBC with words. The best I could think of right now is “simply magnificently awesome”. The man-hours put into this trail is just mind-boggling. The attention to detail, the combinations of drops, skinnies, launches, tight switchbacks, log rides, etc. were either carefully planned, or incredibly lucky in a random way. Challenging as it may be, being able to clear half of what CBC had in store was quite a feat. The greatest one would be the long log ride followed by a bridge to a drop. I remember myself grinning ever so widely in progression and topping it off with a loud “YEAH” when I was done – something Andrewawi might remember hearing (Andrewawi: Oh! Yes I heard him alright, and it sounded like he nailed the log ride down). I enjoyed the bridges the most. Rather technical, but very forgiving should a rider mess up, and to my joy, CBC ended with something just like that.
Next up was Incline (black diamond). Despite its difficulty level rating, I found it slightly easier than CBC. The main factor on this trail was…well…no points for guessing…its inclination. By far the steepest trail I’ve ever ridden. The brake levers become a throttle on this trail, whereby ‘letting go = accelerate’. Much shorter than CBC, I was soon faced with my third black diamond trail in a row – Corkscrew. As before, befitting to its name, Corkscrew was a rather twisty trail, with tight switchbacks. We managed to whip out our cameras to collectively take a few shots of each other in action. After all, actions speak louder than words.
The following sequence of events portrays Andrewawi in action:
So I survived three black diamond trails in a row. By now, my fitness level was really getting to me. You might think going against gravity is tiring, in this case, going along with gravity proved to be quite a challenge too. In true Fakawi tradition, the following scenes took place.
No, we weren’t lost. Andrewawi was just charting out our next assault on Mt. Seymour. Keeping my fitness level in mind, a forth black diamond trail would be suicidal. So we opted for the next best thing – a black/blue (advanced-intermediate) trail – Pingu. As we were rippin down Powerline trail, Andrewawi spotted a deer up ahead, not a bear but a deer. I got off my bike to try to catch a picture of the deer but it was quite fast and elusive. If I may, take a break and try to ‘Spot The Deer’.
The Pingu trail was a really fun trail. All I could remember was having a blast going down Pingu and wanting more at the end. I don’t remember getting off to push through a single part.
Time was running short – we were supposed to meet the-guy-who-gave-us-a-ride-up
(Randall) at the bottom in about an hour and a half to drive him back
up to get his car. We decided to take it easy down from here on. Baden
Powell was the name of the next trail. This one was insanely
fast down straight rocky terrain. Not baby head rocks, but lose large
rocks. There were a few mini-jumps that I had real fun with, until one
that featured a jagged mini-boulder after the jump. I thought I managed
to avoid it, but was proven wrong when I realized that I was losing
air up front. I was able to ride it out to the exit of Baden Powell
where Andrewawi and I worked on my second flat of the weekend.
I was going to replace the entire tube when Andrewawi said that a quick patch up would do – since it’s a rental. So we detected the leak source, patched and pumped it up and were ready to roll again – well…not quite. The front was still losing air. Repeat the above steps (discovered it was a snake bite flat) and we were off…down another green circle trail – Old Buck.
Andrewawi warned to take this one slow for it’s a shared trail with hikers and joggers. Barely half way down, my front tire started feeling wobbly again. Frustrated, I didn’t bother fixing it. I just stopped to pump it up, and then continued until the pressure was too low to ride; I would pump it up again. I stopped a total of 3 times before rendezvousing with Andrewawi at the bottom and he, in turn, was wondering what on earth happened to me. One more pump up and we exited Old Buck heading to the car park. We couldn’t find Randall, and proceeded to patch up my front tube again. Andrewawi saw him a while later and it turns out that he doesn’t need a ride up anymore.
After covering over 700m of vertical drop, gnarly terrain with roots everywhere and wicked looking rocks, I was pretty beat and had doubts that I could survive another run of CBC – let alone the entire ride down. Hunger began to kick in at this point too. After the patch job, we loaded up and left Mt. Seymour. Andrewawi suggested that we should head over to “The Other North Shore” a.k.a. Burnaby Mountain to finish Mel and Nichole. But first, lunch! Grabbed some Turkish Donairs and we were off – once again – to SFU.
Took the 145 bus, and I was off on my second assault on Mel and Nichole. Slight disoriented in directions had me lost at the first corner coming down on Mel’s. However, I managed to find my way back to Andrewawi’s tribal calls.
Enter Mel. Everything went on smoothly until towards the end, right before University Drive --- the road crossing, I hesitated on a bridge ladder. Got off to push up for another attempt…that’s when an oriental chic, with a full-face and pads passed by (note: neither Andrewawi nor I could remember what she was riding), cleared the bridge ladder and disappeared down the drop-off. Awkward, looks easy, and I’ve done this before – not a problem! Cleared the bridge ladder, lifted for the drop at the end, but tumbled on the wooden staircase. Finally it happened. My first major crash in Vancouver – resulting in a gash below my right knee, several scratches on my calf and arm, bruises on my shoulder, and a deep ding on the top of my helmet. That’s for being too cocky thinking that pads weren’t required for Mel’s and Nichole’s. (Andrewawi: I actually saw the man endo---like in a real slow motion---do a somersault over his full-face, and for a moment though he might suffer a dislocated shoulder seeing how he landed. I ran up to him to check for those signs, and was relieved to see that nothing dislocated or broken. He was ok---banged up, dazed and shaken--- but ok.)
With battle wounds, I limped across the road and settled by the shady trees while Andrewawi administered first-aid to my wounds. That crash really took the wind out of me. I was ready to go home at this point. Never in my life have I ridden so much in a day. Perhaps fatigue was taking its toll, or it was over-confidence having done CBC & co. that I figured Mel’s would be a walk in the park. Whatever it was, I was ready to wrap up my weekend of riding.
At this point, there was still Nichole’s to clear. After a good
15 to 20 minutes rest, I was up and ready to roll again. Took my time
going down Nichole’s – which appears to be a lot more of
a challenge compared to yesterday. I made it out in one piece, and some
attitude to spare.
That was it. My weekend of riding in Vancouver – wrapped up in a very orderly fashion if I may say so. One more stop to make was Cove Bikes over at Deep Cove to drop of my rental bike. All that’s left now were memories and lessons learnt.
Since my first full suspension bike, I’ve grown lazy and tend to sit through everything along the trails. This was not possible at Mt. Burnaby and Mt. Seymour. Despite having plenty of inches of travel, the trails at these places were not as forgiving as those I’ve ridden back in Malaysia. I had to recall everything that I’ve learnt and put it to good use on handling my bike, setting up for the angle of attack, etc. In my part, it was like a wake up call on how to ride a mountain bike. I also found it a lot more satisfying – and got a better work out too – after the rides.
I left Vancouver for Edmonton the following morning with a banged up body but an ecstatic mind. Dragging my luggage along and with the Prophet in the bike case, my mind was working out the possibilities of returning to Vancouver again.
This was indeed an incredible experience. After three and a half years
of being in the shores of Canada, I have finally ridden The North Shore
and The Other North Shore. I will definitely be making an effort to
return to Vancouver to ride again in the near future. Many thanks to
Andrewawi for making this from a mere possibility to reality.