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Squeezing in Kenosha Pass

The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder, but this weekend we really thought we could get one more ride in the high country. Super Dave and I plotted a Kenosha Pass adventure and even kicked around the idea of making it all the way to Breckenridge “if we were feeling good.” I had to jump start the Vanagon since it had been sitting while I galavanted around the world, but with a little juice it fired right up and we were on our way.

I don’t know why I thought I was making it to Breck – I had spent 3 weeks at sea level without a bike, I probably wasn’t going to make it 40 miles and over the Continental Divide. Dave on the other hand had recently gone to visit his grandfather in the Italian Dolomites and ridden nearly every day. Luckily for me weather was the great equalizer and after skipping through a couple ice-filled rock gardens and nearly sliding off a snowy wooden bridge, we both decided to abandon the mission. The clothing though was on point – we looked like twins running the Merino Wool Bibs, Black Riding Shorts, a Merino Wool V-neck Jersey, and the Plaid Western Shirt. It may have been silly to look so similar, but we were both very comfortable from the warm climb to the cold descent and that’s what matters most.

The ride back to the car was fun but we both wanted to ride more, so we crossed 285 and explored the other side of the Colorado Trail. We built a little wedge over a fallen tree where we ate some lunch, which rode surprisingly well. But as we continued riding it really felt like we were descending. Gradually. But continuously.

Unfortunately I was right, and the last 6 miles of our ride back to the Vanagon was almost completely uphill. Ugh. Not the welcome back to Colorado mountain biking I was looking for. It did motivate me to get back in shape, but that seems like a longer process than I’d hoped.

The only thing left to do was to get lunch at one of the strangest Colorado restaurants.

moto in Lebanon

Exploring Lebanon

Boulder, Colorado has an awesome little Thursday tradition of getting a couple hundred people together to ride bikes, ring bells, and wish everyone they pass a “Happy Thursday.” When I was in undergrad at CU Boulder this was the only place to find me on a Thursday night, and I met a lot of awesome people during the circle-of-death dance parties that usually wrapped up the evening. I hung out a fair amount with a lovely young woman named Amelia, and after school she left to go make the world a better place. I don’t mean that in some general complimentary way, I mean she moved to Khartoum, Sudan and Dushanbe, Tajikistan and Beirut, Lebanon, and a handful of other places I had to look up on a map. I’ve been saying I was going to visit for some time but a litany of excuses always got in the way. Now that it’s fall and Conation is chilling out a bit I decided to finally make good on my promise to visit. So I hopped one of the worst flights of my life on Pegasus Air, and after a short layover in Istanbul arrived in Beirut in the middle of the night.

I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to dirt-bag traveling, but I got the same butterflies wandering around Beirut that I had when I first started exploring Ecuador years ago. I woke up slowly the first day, taking my time to stretch on the blown-out mattress that was held off the floor by shipping pallets. I got dressed into the Plaid Western Jersey, thankful for its lightweight fabric, and a pair of jeans because despite the climate everyone still wears pants. I spent Monday and Tuesday cruising through the neighborhoods and getting much more comfortable with the culture, ticking off a couple police as I tried to take pictures, and staring in awe at the bullet holes that graced nearly every building. (It’s important to tell more than just the civil war narrative about this country, but I also felt overwhelmed by the violence this society lived with for decades and I feel it’d be disingenuous to omit its mention.)

My main goal on Wednesday was to go surfing in the only surf spot the internet knew of in Lebanon. The original plan was to ride Amelia’s cute Suzuki cafe racer there, but after seeing the city traffic and realizing that splitting an Uber with a Norwegian guy in the hostel would cost us $10 each, we decided hiring an Uber was the best choice. The waves were perfect for my rusty surf skills and after a couple hours of floundering around the Mediterranean in the Black Riding Shorts I came in to return the rented board. The Norwegian was practicing his Arabic with two locals on the beach and we all hung out to watch the sun set. Ahbed, one of the locals, invited us up to his family’s house and after a quick glance at the Norwegian we decided to go. Ahbed had a really awesome spot up in the mountains where we listened to the coyotes howl along to the local mosque’s call to prayer. Afterwards they took us back down to Beirut’s posh district where we smoked some hookah, but since they don’t drink alcohol for religious reasons we all enjoyed some fruit juice.

The next morning I met up with Sam – a British photographer who I had met the previous day at the motorcycle shop – for a ride. I had slept through my alarm, and my tardiness meant we had to navigate Beirut rush hour at it’s peak. It honestly felt like a video game – there’s no traffic rules, only suggestions, and you just have to pretend you’re invincible or you’ll never get anywhere. Eventually Sam led us out of the city and up some mountain roads. I was pretty surprised by the temperature dip, but the green Merino V-neck Jersey is an awesome variable temperature piece and with a flannel over top I was feeling pretty comfy. We rode over the mountain range, past a ski resort in its offseason, and even through Hezbolah strongholds. A motorcycle is such a great way to see a country, and I was so appreciative of having a tour guide who knew the fun roads.
On Friday I found out that when I arrived back in the States I’d have to fly directly to San Francisco for an important meeting. It seemed like the only responsible thing to do was to make sure I wasn’t jetlagged for that meeting, and the best way I could think of to do that was to party until the sun came up in Beirut. Luckily Amelia’s husband owns a bar in the city so I got dressed up in the only collared shirt I had – the Plaid Western Jersey – and set out for a Friday night on the town. We went to Amelia’s husband’s spot, then a cool rooftop deck restaurant, then an after hours jazz club, and finally around 5am I picked up my bag and headed to the airport. Another night of dancing in Copenhagen, an early morning run around The Lakes, a trans-Atlantic flight, and by the time I arrived in SF Monday morning I was ready to talk business.

Icelandic Horse

Hitch Hikers in Iceland and Pedaling Around Copenhagen

I got the opportunity to attend a conference in Copenhagen this fall and to make it even sweeter the flight there had a long layover in Iceland. That’s the kind of thing I sign up for immediately. Packing was a bit difficult as I was planning on hiking around Iceland, going to a professional event in Copenhagen, and then exploring Lebanon. I would encounter cold and wet weather, hot and dry weather, a beach, a business-casual event, and I wanted to bring running gear so I could maintain some semblance of fitness.
Of course I reached for some Conation apparel. A merino wool v-neck fit into a lot of circumstances. I could wear it under my sport coat for the “creative professional” look, go for a run or hike in it, it could even double as a towel if needed. I also packed the plaid western jersey – casual enough to wear walking around Beirut but the collar made it fit in at the business dinners. And Conation’s black riding shorts are perfect for lazy lounging in a hostel or running, and they dry fast enough to double as board shorts for surfing. I had some other clothes, but Conation apparel is versatile enough that it made up most of my wardrobe for a month.

Iceland
I landed in Iceland at 6am and quickly made my way to the car rental place, through a cold, misting rain with gusty winds. I only had 19 hours in the country and I was looking forward to exploring, but I was also excited about having a warm car.

About 5 minutes into my drive I passed someone walking along the side of the highway. He was clearly prepared for bad weather with his hiking rain gear, but it still looked rather miserable so I pulled over and offered a ride. He introduced himself as Lukas from the Czech Republic, and he was setting out to hike through some of the backcountry. Since neither of us had much of a plan we agreed to drive around together for a while.

I feel like I did just about all that I could have with the amount of time I had there – pet a couple horses hanging out along side the road, found someone’s drone for them, watched a couple geysers go off, drove a bunch of dirt roads including one that looked like it’d be washed away by the sea at a moments notice, and ate some simply wild food. And we got absolutely soaked hiking around a couple waterfalls, which let me test out the merino jersey’s ability as a towel. I dropped Lukas off at some hot springs so he could go find a camping spot for the night and headed back to the airport for a 1am flight to Copenhagen.

Copenhagen
When I arrived in Copenhagen I made my way to a small yoga-based hostel in Vesterbro. Their small cubby-style beds made it the perfect place to take an accidental 5-hour nap. At least I wasn’t jet-lagged anymore. I spent the first two days walking around the city, exploring random nooks that looked interesting as I walked by without any plan or direction.

The conference was being held way out in the industrial dock area of Copenhagen in a way-too-hip-to-be-cool converted warehouse so it felt like the perfect opportunity to pedal across the city. I ride my bike every day on the streets of Colorado, but I was still very intimidated by the rush hour commute of the Dutch. There’s so many people it’s imperative to have signals and right-of-way established, and I was pretty worried I was going to mess it all up and crash out a horde of school children or something like that.

Copenhagen selfie

Not the best selfie but it gets the point across.

I made it to the conference without incident, but on the way home I did end up getting completely lost and found myself on the beautiful waterfront as the sun was setting.

The rest of the week in the city was taken up by exploring and learning, my two favorite things. The green Merino V-neck Jersey was equally suited for looking reasonable under a blazer or wandering through the weed vendors of “the free city of Christiana,” and the Plaid Western Jersey looked at home at the conference business lunch and celebrating Octoberfest with liters of beer at the hostel. I even wore the Black Riding Shorts on runs along the Kalvebod Waves boardwalk and an area that fittingly called “The Lakes.”

Kalvebod Waves boardwalk

Christiania bike shopAfter a week of traveling through Iceland, Copenhagen, and even a day in Malmo, Sweden, it was time to get a little further from home and head to Lebanon.

Monarch Crest Morning

#RIMBY – A Pallet From GoWesty and a Monarch Crest Ride

Colorado’s Monarch Crest ride is a perennial favorite and consistently ranked as one of the best rides in the country. And there’s no better time to do it than when the fall colors are coming in across the Rocky Mountains.

Though there was a crew headed to Moab for the weekend I couldn’t quite commit to a full weekend of traveling. With 3 weeks on the road coming up a Moab trip was too ambitious. When Super Dave said he was headed to Monarch Crest with some friends, and then Colin committed to joining after a couple margs at his own birthday party, the decision was made.

To make the weekend even better, a literal pallet of parts showed up for the Vanagon on Thursday. We’d been running without a spare tire since one of them exploded after the last Winter Park race, and there’s a lot of other little things that were just waiting to go wrong. GoWesty.com hooked us up with a bunch of new goodies, including a set of wheels and tires that got here just in time.

GoWesty partsEveryone’s told me that wheels/tires are one of the best and simplest upgrades that can be done to the old vans, and as we hit the corners on 285 out of Denver the difference was apparent as it no longer felt like we were going to kick up onto 2 wheels and then flip over.

After a quick dinner in Buena Vista we found some camping outside of Salida on BLM land. As soon as we opened the car door though it sounded like a rave was happening 100 feet away. Colin and I went to investigate. We found glow sticks in trees along the road so it felt like we were on to something, and after walking about a half a mile we finally came across the mini festival which consisted of a largely ignored DJ tent, and a bunch of seemingly super high people sitting around a bonfire. Less lively than we had hoped for, we walked back to our campsite at least glad to have settled the mystery.

The next morning someone made the mistake of checking the weather and found out we were in for a really cold morning and possibly snow. Seemed like the perfect excuse to get breakfast burritos at the trailer/restaurant near the shuttle point.

The ride itself was definitely cold to begin with, but as we got down below treeline and it got later in the day we warmed up. Colin’s really good at pushing my comfort level on the descents but we traded some pulls off the top of the ridge and got appropriately sketchy though a couple rock gardens. Unbeknownst to us, there was actually an organized ride on Monarch that day so we had perfect trail directions.
As always, I bonked hard on the last section of Monarch – those descents and climbs into and out of the creek beds always kick my ass.

We got back into Denver almost exactly 24 hours after leaving which was the perfect mountain bike camping trip for my weekend. It’s awesome when we can just throw cares to the wind an peace out for days of riding, but between owning a business and other life responsibilities it’s great to take time that’s available and get out with the guys to rip some trails.

Rocking out on Monarch Crest The Crew A quick break

Winter Park Elk Creek

After racing the Winter Park race series for years, Conation Collective is now an official sponsorship partner. You can find us at the base area by the bungee trampolines after every race in the brown Vanagon. Come say hi!

This weekend was Matt’s first time racing as an event sponsor, so of course there were a couple hiccups. Below is his experience.

I made it to Winter Park around 2:30am Saturday morning and found a pull off camp spot. Sometimes I get frustrated driving a slow van around Colorado after the WRX, but the ease of posting up and camping anywhere is pretty amazing. I haven’t had time to sew some blackout curtains, so after 4-5 hours of sleep the sun came blasting through the 30-year old sun-bleached shades waking me up. There’s no use trying to go back to sleep so it was time to head to the startline/expo area.

As I pulled in I immediately ran into Doug from Feedback Sports. Doug was actually one of the co-founders of Chrome messenger bags who left to work for, if I’m remembering this correctly, Schwinn/GT in the 90’s. I got to talk with him before the Conation Kickstarter and it was great to see him again out at an event.

One of the interesting things about this race is that the start line is miles away – in another town – from the finish. By the time I had gotten everything organized and took off for the start line, I was already way behind. Pedaling my single speed on a slight downhill grade from Winter Park to Fraiser took just short of forever and I was alarmingly alone on the bike path.

As I neared the start line I knew I was late. I hopped in with the Expert Men start wave but couldn’t get a good gap because the fireroad where we started kept leveling out and I’d run out of gear. I blew myself up a bit and cracked hard on a technical single track climb before regaining some composure and pacing that I should have had from the beginning and starting to claw back spots.

The race was going as well as it could considering a missed start so I was feeling good. So good that when I came to the one unmarked intersection on the whole course, I chose the flowy, buffed-out downhill trail. That was the wrong choice. Long story short, I ended up having a blast ripping to the bottom of a hill I had just climbed. So I had to do it again. By the time I finished climbing the second time, I was toast. To really drive the point home to me, my kidneys were hurting. It’s been a long ride on harsh terrain when your body’s bouncing starts hurting the kidneys.

I finally made it to the finish line, claiming DFL in the single speed category. After my rockstar time at the Firecracker 50 I was definitely disappointed, but it was expected considering I missed the start and got off course. The next race is in two weeks, and I’m hoping it’s much less eventful.

Another Wednesday – CU Short Track and Prototyping

CU Shorttrack

Held every Wednesday, the CU Short Track is a great way to support the local university team and come together as a cycling community in Boulder. It’s 20 bucks, staffed by volunteers and students, and it’s so low-key they even accept IOUs. I know, because I only brought a credit card last time, which incidentally, they don’t accept.

I went up there yesterday for a dose of leg-burning, nostril-searing, lip-and-nose-tingling masochism. Boulder – where’s everyone at?

Back during the Research Park days there were spectators and announcers and like 40 deep in each field. Now there’s hardly anyone. Whatever the reason, let’s get people back out there!

The race went as well as it could have without regearing the single speed – at 32×20 there’s not much top end speed. Luckily the Corkscrew jumpline was part of the course, benefiting the bike handlers in the pack. As if jump trails on a 29er race bike aren’t hard enough though, the sprinklers automatically turned on during the second lap making the basic act of seeing fairly difficult. There was one sprinkler in particular that would hit me in the face either mid-air or on the landing of this one jump so I’d have to simultaneously close my eyes and set up for a large left-hand berm. Twice I almost rode off the back of said berm by the time the water stopped hitting me in the face and I opened my eyes.

There weren’t many people to race against, but I got second. Afterwards I headed out to George’s place to finish sewing a new prototype we’ve been working on. A couple of his neighbors came by, I got to check out some early 20th-century denim sewing machines, and we did some Wednesday night prototyping. Once we got all the pockets sewn on with appropriate hems it turned out they were a little smaller than I expected, but it was all good because I got to hang out in a garage for a couple hours doing something besides wrenching on bikes. One of the coolest things about doing your own prototyping is the ability to immediately test it, so I’m excited to try the new proto at the Winter Park race this weekend!

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