The Mountain Bike Life

With winter hitting the Canadian prairies pretty hard I was finding it tough to stay motivated to ride. I’d been making my way out on the bike a night or two a week. Sunday night rides on the indoor track and the odd night on the studded tire steel beater bike to tour around the park with the dog in chase.

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Thankfully with winter comes my other favorite sport, snowboarding. This season I wanted to get into it a bit more seriously, it didn’t take much convincing from my friends for me to pick up a splitboard and get into the backcountry. The basic kit includes a factory or homemade board that splits apart, climbing skins, splitboard bindings, collapsible poles, and avalanche safety gear. Proper backcountry and safety training is a must, and going with extremely experienced friends helps too.

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We did an early season trip to Kananaskis and an overnight hut trip to the Icefields Parkway area. We booked the Bow Hut which is about 40km north of Lake Louise, and about 2.5 hours from Calgary. The hike into the hut consists of about 530 meters in total elevation gain, the majority of the gain occurring at the end of the hike. It was roughly an 8.5km hike and skin in which took us around 4-5 hours. It was a great workout, and amazingly scenic. The we got to the hut just before dusk and set out for one quick run before dinner. Skinning up the powder covered glacier as the sunset was pretty unreal. But even better were the sunset turns we got on the way back down to the hut for dinner. We settled in and stoked the fires up nice and hot, and cracked open a few drinks and cooked some food.

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The sleep was probably one of my worst, but coffee and some cool mountain air in the morning had me wide awake. We ascended the glacier once more and were sure to rope up to one another to be safe. Our leader Colin navigated the crevasses and we all followed safely behind. We chose to summit Mount Olive, which lies along the continental divide of BC and Alberta. The peak is about 700m elevation gain from the hut and took us 2-3hrs to reach the peak with a few snack breaks. The views were unreal and the peaks made me feel very small and insignificant. We chose not to ride from the top due to the variable snow conditions and visible sliding on congruent slopes. We switched our boards over to ride mode a little further down the peak and got in some rad turns on the way back down to the hut. The long slog out of the canyon wasn’t terribly fun and my feet were in agony from breaking in a new pair of boots. Overall the trip was a super cool experience and opened my eyes to how much there is to learn about backcountry riding and ski touring.

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I’m a super stoked to get some support from a local shop @outtabounds306 in Saskatoon who went out of their way to set me up with their Giant rep and were able to get me on the Giant Bikes ambassador program. Christmas came early when a brand new 2015 Giant Anthem X 29er showed up with my name on it.

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Unfortunately, my snowboard and winter biking season was cut short this past weekend after a crash left me with a torn ACL. I came into a jump with too much speed and overshot the landing. Mid-air I remember yelling “Ohh, FUCK” and after that it’s all kind of a blur. It felt like my knee exploded followed by me rolling around on the ground screaming in agony. One of the first things that came to mind was “dang, I can’t ride my bike on the track tonight.” I’m now on crutches with a knee brace, bound to my desk at work and beginning physiotherapy. I have an MRI scheduled in two weeks to determine whether or not I need surgery. I’m super disappointed, but I’m trying to keep my chin up and am going to work through this. Cycling is a fairly knee neutral activity and I’ve been told in 3 weeks time I should be on the bike trainer regaining some muscle again. In the meantime, beer, swimming, physiotherapy exercises and wrenching on bikes is going to have to keep me sane.

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Enjoy the ride
Lessons from Leo

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