Written by Daniel Shaw
It’s been an unforgettable season of riding and racing, with this summer being super memorable. Having completed university in the spring, meant I didn’t have to worry about reports or exams and I could dedicate time to being outside. This year, I had the opportunity to be a part of a project with the North Shore Mountain Bike Association and Metro Vancouver to bring an unsanctioned trail called Cambodia, up to black diamond standards and become part of the Mount Seymour trail network. Alongside my good friend, Henry Fitzgerald, we moved dirt, rocks, and built bridges throughout the 3km trail. We incorporated our own vision for flow and speed, in contrast to the janky rocks and roots that existed previously.
When we weren’t building, we were riding whichever trail looked best on that day. My approach to preparing for the race season consisted of a modest amount of gym training, but primarily, I spent my time enduring epic days in the saddle. I adopted the North Shore Triple Crown, or some variation thereof, as my training regimen to build the endurance required for the races. This approach allowed me to focus on each stage one step at a time. Even though it often meant riding with a backpack, this preparation turned out to be ideal for racing. I was super stoked as the first race was just a week away when our project commenced.
My Race Bike
My race bike this year was a Knolly Chilcotin 167, with a 170mm Fox 38 and a mix up of the DHX2 coil shock as well as the Float X2 air shock to match the conditions. Other key parts on my build kit were RaceFace Turbine R wheels, bars, a 210mm dropper post, and Era carbon cranks.
- Large Chilcotin 167 with the teal cosmos colour
- 170mm Fox Factory 38
- 210x65 Fox DHX2 or Float X2
- RaceFace Turbine R wheelset
- Maxxis DHF front & DH2 rear downhill casing tires with Cush Core pro Front & Rear
- Shimano XT drivetrain
- RaceFace Era 165mm crank with a 32T chainring
- Raceface Turbine 65mm Stem
- RaceFace Turbine R bars
- RaceFace Getta Grips
- SRAM Code RSC brakes with a 220m rotor up front and a 200mm rotor in the rear
- Chromag lift saddle
I chose the Chilcotin because of its long travel capability and 29” wheels. Even with DH tires, the bike pedals efficiently for long days with over 3000 meters of elevation gained. One thing I like different from most, is the longer stem. I find it helps keep my weight over the front tire for maximum traction on loose gravel and fast corners. SRAM and Shimano don’t like to get along with a cockpit set up, so I have a CNC’d matchmaker component from Wolf Tooth called the Shift Mount that allows the shifter to be bolted to the brake mount.
Race #1: Vedder (April 30)
This was my first race back since Fall 2021 and I was nervous but my excitement was high. Vedder Mountain has always held a special place in my heart because its trails closely resemble my backyard trails on Mt. Seymour. I've had the opportunity to race here in the past, and it's known for race days with scorching temperatures, often nearing 30 degrees. I consider this race to be the most challenging of the season due to the grueling road climb under the blazing sun. Fortunately, the amazing spread of food at the stations along the way keeps energy levels high and provides added motivation to get to the mountain's summit.
My first few stages were not where I expected to be. I felt like I couldn’t get in the focus state to go 100% down the hill. Maybe it was a fear of crashing, or I was just putting too much pressure on myself. As the day went on, my final stages began to feel good! I was finally able to loosen up and trust myself to cruise down the mountain. The Chilcotin had a predictable bite of rear end traction, allowing me to slide into ruts or grip through berms trying to keep the bead of the tire on the rim. It was awesome!
Race #2: Kelowna (May 14)
Smith Creek in West Kelowna was the second stop of the Series. Back in 2016, I lived here for a year in my first year of Carpentry school and Smith Creek (in my opinion) is the best trail network in the area. The trails are fast with tons of berms, jumps, and even has car doors to ride. Despite my history of riding here, the stages began to blend. I was not feeling good about my riding and my results showed that. With an 8th place finish, it was my worst result of the season. All in all it was a good day catching up and riding with old friends in the Okanagan heat. I knew there was more to give on the trails.
Race #3: Kamloops (May 28)
For anyone that’s raced the Canadian Enduro League Series before, Kamloops is the one to do. Located about 30 minutes from downtown Kamloops at Harper Ski Resort, this race is perfectly organized. The ski resort is filled with riders getting shuttle laps up and down the dirt road and my group camped in the parking lot. We used the lodge for amenities, which overlooked the grassy ski runs that featured wild horses grazing in it.
With a crisp early morning start at 7:30am, there was dew on the trails as we pedalled up to the first stage. This was the longest stage of the day (about 10 minutes) and it was a quick wake up to start the day. There were many good stages that followed, with a grass slalom finish. It was a perfect day for me as I stayed on the bike, pedaled my heart out, and finished 3rd.
Race #4: Revelstoke (June 25)
There is something about Revelstoke that I love. It’s most like the North Shore in the way they are both temperate rainforests and the trails match the landscape in raw speed. This race was the first and only two day event of the season. Saturday was in the Revelstoke Bike Park and Sunday was across the valley on Boulder Mountain. Unfortunately the race on Saturday was canceled due to lightning that shut down the lift. This included a new trail that was filled with all sorts of rocks and roots that I loved, as well as the infamous awkward corner that either requires a perfectly timed nose pick turn or getting off the bike while doing a pole dance like move around a tree.
A light rain followed the lightning and the trails on Sunday were dreamy. The hero dirt conditions for the racers meant that everyone was going insanely fast and most stages were strong for myself with minimal mistakes. The biggest struggle for me was a long road sprint that my stamina was not ready for. After the race we swam in the freezing river and enjoyed dinner at my favourite spot in town, the Village Idiot.
Race #5: Valemont (July 16)
Valemont boasts legendary trails that have always tempted me to make the trip, but I had never committed to the 8 hour drive from Vancouver. In the past, I had opportunities to build in their “bike park” but I never decided to go. This race was an opportunity to experience the town. On the way up, we ran into Yatubi English who was biking from Vancouver to NYC. He was riding a typical 3 speed commuter and had an infectious excitement for bikepacking.
We camped on the riverbed which drops significantly in the summer and enjoyed a cold dip pre and post riding. The bike park is a sanctioned riding area, with either a dirt road or climbing trail to the top. Occasionally it seemed like the trail builder forgot to build a corner and several times I flew off the trail in practice. Luckily, each trail was uniquely different, so these pinch points were easily recognisable.
On race day there was an uncomfortable amount of forest fire smoke, so we all climbed as slowly as possible on the way up. The trails have a natural flow that mostly allows for no pedalling or braking, just absolutely railed corners to make up seconds against the competition. A second place finish for me was enough to drive home excited for the next race.
Race #6: Sun Peaks (Sept 24)
It has been 5 years since I had last been to Sun Peaks for a downhill race. It’s arguably the best bike park in BC featuring fast trails, big jumps and long laps. At the top of a mountain the temps dropped below zero at night, providing frosty conditions in the morning. Practice consisted mostly of just a day of riding bike park laps throughout the trail network. The CEL crew chose a wide variety of trails that had bits of everything on them.
My favourite was the 5th stage which is the BC cup downhill course, featuring speeds averaging 40 km per hour throughout. I decided to go with a coil shock for this race to absorb the small bumps and give my hands a chance to hold on. After the race, we continued to lap the park until it closed at 5. Ten bike park laps later, we were all exhausted and ready to head home.
With one last CEL race in Bromont QB, that I was not planning on attending, I was leading the points for the Enduro Championship overall. And just after that last race, I was stoked to find out that my consistent results had put me at the top (and I was the Canadian Enduro League champion)!
This was my 6th season riding for Knolly Bikes and it’s been so great to be a part of a like minded group of riders that produce premium bikes. I am incredibly grateful to continue this relationship into next year and while my 2024 race plans are still undecided,there will be some wild and crazy adventures happening. In addition to Knolly, a huge thank you to Ride NF, Fox Suspension, and RaceFace components for making it all happen. If you made it this far in reading this, thank you for your support and don’t be a stranger on the trail!