My posts on bike races are pretty formulaic. "I did this race. These are the reasons it was awesome. You should do it. Thanks to the organizers." For the Merritt Crown I have to add a "this race might not be for you if" section. It's still an awesome race. I still think you should do it. I'm still grateful to the organizers for putting on such a fun event. To make the best of the Merritt Crown, at least the 2020 Merritt Crown, you need either more preparation or more patience than most cross-country mountain bike races usually take.
The course signage is minimal, which is understandable for a small grassroots event with a long course. The organizers are very clear about this in the race description and in all communications leading up to the event. They urge all riders to carry a phone with the route loaded on it so they can follow the course that way. Even riding with a phone in your pocket you are likely to make some wrong turns. This means you have to be patient or you have to be prepared. Being patient in this case means accepting that you'll go off course …
Squamish's Valleycliffe trail network is a dense tangle. It's easy to get lost and easier still to miss the area's steep rocky hidden treasures. The annual Beyond the Valleycliffe of the dolls is a guided social ride through some of these delights. The trails are intimidating, but the atmosphere is positive, encouraging, and most importantly low-pressure.
The 2017 installation of the BVOD was attended by 30 or 40 riders. The group moved at a leisurely pace. At any particularly technical section we would stop to scope out lines, cheer each other on, chat, and get some tips on how to ride that particular bit of trail. The casual pace to the day meant there was always an opportunity to take a second or third run at a feature if it was too much fun to do only once.
Whether you know Valleycliffe or have never ridden there, if you like riding steep rock lines you should do the BVOD next year. It'll be one of the most purely fun days you'll have on your bike.
Cheers to the volunteers and organizers!
There's no better place to see interesting bikes than at a race where the rules limit which bikes can be ridden. The inaugural Boneshaker bike race on July 29th in Squamish limited bikes to anything without suspension; and the bikes didn't disappoint. There were mountain bikes from the 80s, bikes cobbled together specifically for the Boneshaker from pieces of other bikes, one frankensteined cruiser, a very capable-looking knobby tired touring bike, and other beautiful oddities.
Conditions were dry and loose, which gave wide tires an considerable advantage. The fastest man and woman of the day were each on fat bikes. Loose conditions may have also scared off a few would-be participants. There were no cyclocross bikes in attendance, despite rumours of a gang of cross riders on the trails on Friday evening.
The course started at Alice Lake and headed down Jack's Trail and up 50 Shades of Green. The first timed stage was Leave Of Absence, which was probably the most technical stage of the day. After the first stage riders rode The Mashiter to the Northside Connector to get to Tinder. The second stage was all of Tinder except for the climb at the end. Dry marbley conditions …
For a while it looked like 2017 might be a year without long cross-country mountain bike races in Squamish. In 2016 Test of Metal Inc. organized the last run of its four iconic races — The Ore Crusher, The Test of Metal, The Gear Jammer, and the JABR (Just Another Bike Race). I'd be saving a few dollars in race registration fees and I'd have a few more summer Saturdays free, but I was going to really miss these events. They were always incredibly well-run. Spectators came out in droves making all the racers, regardless of speed or athleticism, feel like champions. For those of us lucky enough to live in Squamish it was nice to race on our home trails.
Thankfully the Sp'akw'us 50 was announced, backed by a non-profit society called the Squamish Mountain Bike Festival whose name hints at larger ambitions in years to come. Many of the key people behind the Sp'akw'us 50 had also been involved in the Test of Metal series of races. The Sp'akw'us landed on the same weekend that the Test of Metal was traditionally held, making it clearly a successor to the Test.
The race started with a loop through a defunct …