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Wrap the Vanagon

The VanagonMatt’s grandparents got a Volkswagon Vanagon a couple years after he was born and it’s been in the family ever since. It hadn’t run in about a decade, but he was really excited about reviving it so after a stunning investment of time and money it now seems to be moving fairly well.

The last major issue is that it has the original paint which has seen better days. Instead of painting over it, we’re planning to put a vinyl wrap over the whole thing and looking for design ideas. Do you have some? Shoot us an email at info@conationcollective.com and we’ll get you the details. There’s no limit to submissions, and if your design ends up on the Vanagon you’ll get a fresh new Conation Collective kit (shorts, liner, and jersey)!

We’ll be putting the designs up for review in the next couple weeks so stay tuned for voting!

Prototyping

It’s time for development and prototyping again so we headed into the shop to start working on some new patterns. And new pattern drafting can only mean one thing – be on the lookout for new product updates as we move into the spring!

Sketching Drafting
Cutting Sewing

Winter Road Trip

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It’s winter time in Colorado so we’re having a bunch of fun enjoying the winter wonderland in the mountains. I’ve been trying to get the Vanagon farther and farther from home in preparation for Moab trips this spring, and a trip to Aspen for X Games and the Chainsmokers seemed like a great opportunity. But we couldn’t do just that..

Backcountry Hut

Friday night my friend was working late, so I met her around 10pm in Golden to go hike into a backcountry hut my friend Alex had reserved. We dropped her car in Empire and took our chances getting the Vanagon over its first true mountain pass on the way to Winter Park. I was a little worried about it, but the van did great until it stalled out in the trailhead parking lot. That’s as far as we wanted to go anyway so we left it there, got dressed, and started skinning/snowshoeing.

We got into the hut around 2:30 – about when we expected – and collapsed into bed. I was excited to wake up without an alarm, but less than 5 hours later we were awoken by a different high-pitched beeping as people checked avalanche beacons in the kitchen. I was unstoked.

After breakfast I went out with Alex and a friend for their second backcountry lap of the morning. I was breaking in new BC boots that hurt so bad I thought I was going to puke for a minute, but the snow was amazing! We cruised through some trees with rock drops in the middle of the run, and then hiked back to pack up the hut.

Aspen

We skied out of the hut around noon, with Alex and I hopping in the Vanagon and heading to Aspen. After a stop in Frisco for food, and battling a fuel pump on the fritz, we made it to Carbondale to meet up with Holly and Brian. We got of tour of their new house from Holly, but she said Brian was driving a 4×4 Sprinter van limo all night so we headed up valley to  Aspen to meet up with him.

We parked the whip and met up with Brian for a bit before catching a ride to X Games at Buttermilk. The Buttermilk scene was about as crazy as I expected from X Games and we checked out Skier Big Air before heading over to the Chainsmokers concert sans ticket. I’m not going to go into how we got in because it involves questionable legality, but the point is we watched an awesome show until crowd antics shut it down. So we retreated to THE pizza spot in Aspen to refuel before retiring to the Vanagon for the night.

#VanLyfe

There’s something so empowering about sleeping in a van in front of 5-15 million dollar homes that’s difficult to capture in words. I would not be opposed to sleeping in a 15 million dollar house, don’t get me wrong, but the idea that we drove our house to Aspen and had the same access to downtown, the same access to X Games and the Chainsmokers, maybe even better access because of the relationships we’ve cultivated through a tenure in the bike industry, made me feel so much better about passing out next to a crazy adventure buddy in a van in Aspen.

Sunday

In the morning we woke up, got some breakfast in town, and cruised down valley. We didn’t really know what the day would hold, nor did we particularly care. A second epic backcountry ski trip on Sopris? A day of resort skiing to balance out our dirtbag activities of the weekend? Hours in I70 traffic? We knew we weren’t doing the latter, but the rest of the trip was open to improvisation.

After a few hours or cruising along at (Vanagon) highway speeds (55mph) we decided to pull over and catch a few laps at A-basin’s infamous East Wall. I had been excited about grabbing a tee shirt supporting the Avalanche Rescue dogs, so despite throbbing ankle bones from the BC ski boots, I strapped in for another couple weekend runs. We got the shirt, skied the wall, and still caught the end of the US Men’s soccer friendly against Serbia

Loveland Pass at night

As the sun started to set we headed back to the van for a quick organizational effort. It had been a long weekend and the van was just a dumping spot for gear. Snowshoes, skins, jackets, beacons, sunglasses, everything was scattered so we took a minute to repack before continuing the journey. With the lodge closed and traffic diminishing we decided to head over Loveland Pass, the 6th mountain pass of the weekend for a 30 year old van. At the top Alex hopped out to get one last run – a moonlit solo sojourn down to a hairpin in the road where I picked him up and we rolled back to Denver.

Late season Monarch Crest

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Zac was my roommate in undergrad, along with being one of my best friends, constant training partner, and wingman. Though he was kind of a shitty wingman.

He’s been testing Conation Collective gear up in Seward AK for the past couple years, doing everything you would expect from someone who found Colorado’s backcountry too developed and civilized. Sea kayak to a couloir? Done. Guide tourists on Denali? Check. Freeride from the snow to the sea. That’s his favorite ride.

Last year Zac and I built him a new bike in 3 days in my friend’s garage in Denver before taking a road trip to Monarch Crest, Crested Butte, Gunnison, and Moab. You can read about it here. But we missed the Monarch Crest ride by literally 10 hours when it started snowing, he came back this year to finish the job.

I woke up at 5:30am and drove to Salida to meet Zac and his friend Josh in a gas station parking lot. We shuttled up to the top of Monarch Pass and began riding up the trail. Zac and Josh had skied here a couple years before, and I guess the ski route goes all the way up to the radio towers, so we rode all the way up there too before realizing we had passed the mountain bike turn off.

The trail up there is amazing – just endless views of the Rocky Mountains and no one else around – so we cruised along enjoying the scenery and trying to stay hidden from wind. Both Zac and Josh are strong riders, but when the trail started to tilt downhill Zac pulled ahead. It must have sparked something in me, because next thing I know we’re ripping down the trail, on the knife-edge of control, trading lead and chaser roles.

By the time we popped out on the dirt road I had a silly grin on my face. I hadn’t ridden like that with someone in a long time. After years of riding 4+ days a week with Zac, we knew each other’s riding style perfectly even after a couple years in different states. We could ride right on each other’s wheel the entire time, knowing exactly what line the other person was going to take even before he got there.

Monarch Crest CabinLunch

The three of us decided to stop at a sunlit hut for lunch where we found old metal chairs and a table to eat on, as well as a nice wooden bench to chill.

I don’t know what trail Zac and Josh found after lunch, but it was amazing. We started by crashing through little mountain streams in an aspen grove, then onto a screaming downhill in open single track through old pine trees. Eventually we ended up hugging ravine walls that dropped down to a picturesque mountain creek, though we were riding way too fast to enjoy it. The ravine walls went from loose scree to boulder fields to ripping hardpack and back, each blind corner offering a new surprise.

Dirt Roads

Coming out of the trail and back onto dirt roads I realized my front wheel was completely out of true. Like, tire-rubbing-my-fork-arch bent. At a bridge with some shade I took off my wheel and beat it against the ground until it was manageably straight, shrugged, and we kept riding.

The road went on forever. It was at least a chill incline, but it was late, we were tired, and the ride was becoming demoralizing. When we finally found the last single track, which was downhill (at least to start), I was so excited I completely blew the first corner and Zac almost followed.

Last singletrack

For those of you that have ridden Monarch Crest, you know the mental fortitude the last section requires. The trail basically screams down to a creek and then climbs straight back up the other side, over and over again. It hurts so bad as the last section of trail, but there’s really no other choice.

Just before the last climb I blasted through a rock garden and my chain swung into the tire, bending the derailleur cage and a couple chain links to the point I couldn’t pedal. It wasn’t worth fixing with the amount of pedaling left, so I got it into a higher gear away from the wheel and just coasted or walked the last few miles back to the road.

It was an obsurd way to end such an epic ride, but sometimes that’s what has to happen. We coasted down the highway into Salida, inhaled some Chinese food, got the other car at the top of the pass, and I headed back to Denver hoping I wouldn’t fall asleep mid-drive.

Tired of pedaling

We’ve been mixing up our riding as the season changes, using a couple lifts to get to the top of the mountain and getting a little more air under our tires than usual. And we made a quick video of the fun – check it out.


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Gociety Adventure Fest this weekend!

This weekend we’ll be at the Gociety Adventure Fest through a partnership with CO Active. They’ll have outdoor yoga, performances by a bunch of artists including The Railsplitters and Occidental, a beer garden, and gear demos, all centrally located in Denver’s downtown Sculpture Park. Come say hi, we’ll have mountain bike videos going, free stickers, and a bunch of cool American-made cycling apparel!

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