Monday, December 21, 2009

Ventana trio tame mystery mountain

Three intrepid Ventana riders embarked on a crazy four hour 'hike a bike' up the slopes of a mystery mountain. Planed by expedition leader Ollie who chose to ride the monster of his Ventana fleet; the El Terremonto. Two other braves comrades followed in pursuit; Chris Harte a local pro mechanic and private Speck, who rode with vengeance on his workhorse the El Commandante.
The trip consisted of 1000m vertical ascent done largely with the bike over the shoulder, followed by a relentlessly thrilling descent peppered with an aroma or roasted Juicy brake pads.

After the grueling climb to the top a quick lunch including Chris's crackers and vitamin B-winegums allowed us to catch our breath. Zealousness quickly grew in anticipation of what was waiting for us below.
The ride started of with 'twist plot' style ride down the moderately steep tussock clad ridge from the summit. Tussocks make harsh mistresses, and a wrong turn left me with a hockey puck size bruise on my inner thigh. Brushed this off, the track became more defined and we continued along the open ridge trying to maintain ourselves on the track as the strong westerly threatened us with its presence. This quickly subsided as we reached the shelter of the bush whilst navigating down a string of rock gardens that can only be described as nuggety.

The bush offered an action pack 90 minutes of undulating descents ranging from semi-steep to 'F*^K did I just ride that?!' steep. The track had a continuous mix of tree roots, rocks and fast fine gravel tracks leading to technical chutes. The steep loose section midway through the descent required a combination of 1, then 2, then 3 finger braking to reduce the strain in our fingers.

A quick rest before a suicidal drop allowed our fingers to regain their strength and the sizzling brakes a chance to cool off, before the next crazy installment. Towards the end the slopes became flatter but sky grew dark with an approaching storm. A frantic dash back to the car ensued when I ripped the rear tire off the rim in a tricky up-hill root huck. With his mechanic hookups Chris's offered up a 26 inch tube which was duly stretched around my 29er wheels. Frantic pumping from Ollie failed to dispel the clouds which lost their grip and let plump raindrops fall to the ground.

The track changed from dry to soaking in the blink on any eye, forcing us to push harder into the pedals and enjoy the complimentary shower. On the home straight with 200 metres to go I pinched flatted, and in an ironic full circle I ended up like I had started the climb with the bike over my shoulder.

As I'm writing this now I have gained a sense of empathy for methamphetamine addicts; as I now too share an addiction for the expensive body numbing exhilaration of speed. The only real difference is that my addiction for speed is legal and will not result me having to share a cell with some guy called big Jim.

Words by guest writer and Commandante captain, Michi Speck. Photos by Rico.

Auckland XC Champs Round 3 - Woodhill

The day dawned cool and fine for the hotly anticipated final of Auckland's XC series.

Racers converged on the much loved riding hub of Woodhill, where a twisty but fast course was put up for racer to get stuck in to.

After a solid 6th place in Elite at Christchurch's Festival of Cycling the day prior, Ollie's legs were less than fresh. With a carrot as big as the Auckland crown he was amping to race, however an adjustment to tactics was required in light of the marshmallows that had taken the place of his legs.

The usual furious start still made an appearance, although settling into a rhythm came much earlier than usual after cresting the sandy pinch climb after the start loop.

By riding at a steadier pace than usual Ollie could take advantage of the narrow tracks and force the tight lead trio to ride slower than they'd like. When it came to the road, it was into the biggy and smashing it, ensuring he'd keep his place at the front of the pack for the next narrow stretch.

And so the race unfolded, with Ollie's conservative tactics becoming the source for some good-hearted sledging between himself and a local pinner (and windsurfing champ) JP Tobin.

A promising young rider Tom Fox was in the mix at the start, and the three traded places as the laps ticked over. Riders were afforded great spectator support, with Ollie cheered on by boisterous cries of "Put it in the biggy" by Pete Fyfe; Ventana rider and recent receiver of a hip-op. Ollie and JP snuck in before the 5 lap cutoff and therefore enjoyed an extra lap on the swoopy trails. Endurance came to the fore here and Ollie extended his slender lead, coming in a minute or so ahead of JP.

So with the win and Auckland Championship title in the bag, Ollie reflected on the tactical battle which had been just as enjoyable as a race with fresh legs. Despite lacking the full arsenal of power he'd adopted a devious strategy that favoured endurance and pulled out a win!

Double high fives to the Auckland XC club for a great series on some fantastic courses.

Mountain Pedaler out...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Auckland XC Champs Round 2 - Slater Road

Ollie smashes the start.

A private farm just north of Helensville was the location for round 2 of Aucklands XC champs. Starting with a fast climb to a tight singletrack loop, Ollie was gapped by Auckland rider Brad Tilby when a young rider hit the deck on the first stretch of singletrack. Fortunately the needles made for a forgiving biff, and the rider was not hurt. Unfortunately the damage was done to Ollie's race, and despite digging deep he wasn't able to match the furious pace Brad was laying down. Settling into a rhythm he pulled a gap on 3rd and held 2nd to the end of 4 laps.

Pine forest made for singletrack bliss

Being sand based the course was murder on the bike, and as the race drew on, corners became loose and focus shifted to staying smooth. Keeping upright in the shifting sands became an enjoyable challenge.
Again Pete Fyfe made the race but some hip surgery meant he was resigned to bottling and cheering duties. Cries of "Turn that frown upside down" did wonders for Ollie's morale!

A rare smile on the race face.

The final round is at Woodhill where a Ollie will need every ounce of nous to keep in touch with local riders who will know the tracks like the back of their hands!
Mountain Pedaler out...

Auckland XC Champs Round 1 - Hunua

Ollie gets worked by Patrick Avery (Clinton's bro!)

October spelt a change of scenery for Ollie, moving to the big smoke of Auckland to ply his other trade. And what better way to get to know a city and its people than a play in the mud!
The race was dominated by the Rotorua boys, with Scott Green and Patrick Avery setting a furious pace which Ollie could only hold for a lap and a half.
The tracks themselves were uber-fun, and Ollie settled into a good rhythm to carve the slippery descents and power the puzzling climbs, bringing home a solid 3rd in Open.
One aspect of the course that Ollie quickly learnt was the proximity and ferocity of the course-side trees. Cutting it fine on the second lap he hooked a tree with his bar end resulting in a monster tank slapper! Safe to say caution was exercised after that.
Local pinner and El Toro rider Pete Fyfe also made the trip out and pulled off a solid 5th in the singlespeed field. The Fyfe clan were also most generous with pre-race feast, transport and a bed for the night. Bring on round 2!
Mountain Pedaler out...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Commander Sherman reports for duty

When one imagines a tank, flow and finesse are probably the last images that come to mind, but the latest Ventana to join the Mountain Pedaler NZ test fleet oozes these belt drive enhanced charms.
Dubbed Sherman after the bad ass freedom crushing tank it shares a colour scheme with, and utilising the latest Carbon Drive technology, this bike blasts into a new world of riding simplicity.
Pundits claim the belt lasts almost 20,000km with no lube required over its life. The prospect of such low maintenance has at least one bike obsessed person fizzing at the bung.

Spin (or rather grind) legs here...

Cog turns here.... not a chain in sight.
Sprocket eye-view

Belt drive in action!

Based on an El Commandante frame with Sherwood Gibson's masterful sliding dropouts, the rear driveside dropout can easily be split to allow a belt to be used.
Rolling on big wheels sans gears is a new concept for the Mountain Pedaler, but early indications are that the innate rollability of the 9ers enhances the SS experience.
Sadly the faithful El Toro (Migel) is being retired from the fleet, but has been farmed out to greener pastures and there is no doubt that he'll give as much joy to his new owner as he has to myself and a number of long-term testers.

Military issue Hope X2 brakes round out the stacked build kit.

Sherman is available to anyone wanting to give the Carbon Drive a burl. As always we'll keep you posted with his adventures around the land (once his missions have been declassified).

Mountain Pedaler out...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Jo's El Saltamontes

Hot off the workstand is this unique concoction of form and function. Jo has in recent times been drifting through life as a bikeless soul, and in an effort to change this collaborated with the Mountain Pedaler to spec and build a new El Saltamontes, resplendent in metallic blue.
The base ingredient of this white hot creation was Ventana's own Shimano XT build kit, complete with a sprinkling of Thomson and Chris King. Add to the mix a custom wheelset using the venerable Hope Pro 2 hubs on white ZTR 355 No Tubes Rims, and things started to get a bit racier. 2010 Fox F100 forks and the new boost valve equiped RP23 shock keep things plush in the gnarl. The finishing touch was a set of Gore Ride-on fully sealed cables in white. Proven in the muckiest of UK conditions these cables should see Jo with slick shifts slicker looks for years to come.
In what has been a recent theme of builds into the wee hours of the morning, Ollie and Jo assembled the bike with care, fueled by the bike building wonder food of fish and chips. Building from the ground up to Jo's dimensions resulted in a great fit, while and Ollie's technical recomendations produced a race ready bike that matches her aspirations for versatility and low maintenance.
Jo hit the hills for a maiden ride today, and if the post build spin was any indication, her new El Saltamontes will have rocked some socks!

Mountain Pedaler out...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Adventurer Al's latest epic...

These spectacular vistas can be found in the South Island's Dobson Valley

Ventana owner and intrepid adventurer Alistair Brown has just sent in these pictures of Dobson Valley, the latest mission in a series aboard his El Rey.
He reports his big wheeled machine is still charging some 2-years since its maiden ride. The big wheels and plush suspension chew through the miles on multi day epics with ease.
I would say keep your eyes peeled for Al, but the fact is he'll probably be out in the middle of Nowhere (or Erewhon?) exploring remote parts of our country in a way that puts riding on local trails to shame.

Mountain Pedaler out...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bikeasaurus Lives!

NZ's newest Ventana aficionado, Jeff has just this week taken delivery of a slick Ventana X-5, specced to fill the difficult bike category (thrashed by marketers) of an 'ultimate-all-mountain-freeride-trail-racing-everyday-machine'!
The melange of categories comes as no surprise given Jeff's unique riding style, and the personalised build fits his multifaceted choice of disciplines like a Troy Lee.

After a bad experience with a bike from a certain dale of medieval artillery, Jeff sought to hang only the nicest parts of the Grinch Green canvas, the result being a who's who of bike bling oozing performance and style.

Highlights include hot-off-the-boat brown Chris King ISO hubs on No tube flows, Fox Talas 36 RC2s, a King sotto voce headset, Thomson seatpost and stem and the crown jewel, a set of Hope Tech M4 brakes.
The attention to detail on this later item is amazing, and due credit must go to the slave CNC robots that whittled the block of billet alloy into the masterpiece of hydraulic control that adorns Jeff's bike.

Jeff is fortunate enough to be leaving the soggy NZ climes for British Columbia, Canada, where the technical riding is sure to blow his mind. Whether stage racing or shredding the nuggety trails of the North Shore, Jeff's new Ventana should see him climb and descend in both comfort and style.

Mountain Pedaler out...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Give it heaps for the Heaphy!

Nydia Bay. If the Heaphy is even half as epic it is well worth fighting for!

The Heaphy track in North-West Nelson has long been forbidden fruit for New Zealand's mountainbikers, with a bushell of premium singletrack off limits due to the tracks location within the Kahurangi National Park.

The track begins near Rockville in Golden Bay and traverses some of this country's most picturesque and ecologically diverse areas, largely due to the geological buffet that forms the park's ridges and valleys. After 80km of bliss the tracks ends in Karamea. Riders of the older school were allowed access before the status of the park was changed, and recall memories of riding the track with a twinkle in their eyes.

T-Dog on the Nydia. This could be you on the Heaphy!

Given this, it is no surprise that mountainbike access to the Heaphy has been the subject of much campaigning to the Department of Conservation (DOC). A decade or so of concerted effort is finally bearing fruit, with a revised draft plan allowing seasonal access between May and October now out for comment.

In stark contrast to earlier interactions with government departments, DOC have made the process as easy as pie!
What better way is there to exercise your democratic right than voicing your support for the changes to the management plan. The plan itself can be found here, with an easy online submission form and guidelines for voicing your views provided. Section 4.1.A (Page 76) is of concern to mountain bikers with details of the proposed access arrangements provided. The deadline is the 4th of September, so be sure to put a submission through before then.

So give it heaps, and we could all soon be riding the singletrack jem that is the Heaphy!

Mountain Pedaler out...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ventana's juicy new treats from Sea Otter

Sherwood and the crew from Ventana are regular attendees at the season opening Sea Otter Clasic in Monterey, California.

It is a great chance for customers to meet the crew behind the brand, and sometimes they even tempt the crowds with developments to be rolled out in the next year's range.

The 2010 offerings have left this Ventana aficionado amped for the official release!

First-up, the El Chivo. Ventana's 69er offering that mirrors the party-up front, business in the back stance of the full suspension El Chucho (available now).

El Chivo 69er hardtail - New for 2010

The combination of wheel sizes should offer a truly unique mix of roll ability and acceleration.

Even more exciting are the single speed developments. Pioneered by Spot brand several years ago, the Carbon Drive Belt system is among the most exciting development in bicycle transmission since the advent of the chain (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth!)

Carbon drive belt equiped El Commandante for 2010

Hopping aboard the revolution, Ventana has developed a fantastically functional sliding dropout system that allows this technology to be partnered with the stiffness and superior handling of the El Toro and El Commandante for a amazing single speed package!

Close-up of the drive cog

Mountain Pedaler NZ hopes to secure an early sample of the belt equiped Toro for the test fleet, allowing the system to be put through its paces. Touted benefits include no required lubing and a belt life of over 10000km!

Singlespeeding will never be the same again!

El Toros and El Commandantes will still be available with the dependable Bushnell EBB, but the new sliders will also be offered as well as an optional belt kit to take full advantage of the exciting innovation.

Mountain Pedaler out...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bluey takes a Naseby holiday

Bluey in trail mode as Craig contemplates a backflip

This from Ventana test rider Craig Tregurtha who has been riding the pants of an El Saltmontes test bike dubbed Bluey. He hit the North Otago riding mecca of Naseby for their infamous 12 hour race, with some great results!

Actually, it wasn’t much of a holiday as poor Bluey got pushed pretty hard. There were 156 teams and the magnificent Bluey helped us to get 2nd overall, just 4 minutes from Ryan Cull’s Cycle Surgery Team. A brilliant all day battle where 1st place was swapped backwards and forwards on several occasions till their team did a couple of flying laps at the end to secure their gold medal position. This race was the test for me for the Salty. She was heaps of fun on the Port Hills and the West Coast but I wanted to push it hard in a race, and the result? Big thumbs up from me, that’s what. I was really impressed and felt like I stayed in touch with the track at all times and never felt loose or on edge despite pushing it harder than I have ever pushed my hardtail. And it still climbed well too. We then went out yesterday for a 2 hr blat around the more technical trails and I fell in love with mountainbiking all over again. The fun trails helped a lot, but the way I feel on that bike in that sort of terrain is better than eating boysenberry ice-cream on a hot summer’s day.

Craig Catches makes some G's on the Naseby's famous dipper

Look for Craig aboard Bluey at this Sunday's Yahoo Challenge, the final of the Canterbury XC Series. Oliver will also be dusting off his El Fuego for a final late-season fling.

Mountain Pedaler out...

NZSSC 2009: Andrew T survives the madness

Andrew was shell-shocked post race

The New Zealand Single Speed Chamionships are one of the Mountain Pedaler's all time favourite events, and while Oliver was gutted to miss this year's festivities, the Ventana crew were well represented by Andrew Torrens; Kawarau local and El Chiquillo riding pinner. This from the man himself...

I thought I would let you know that the single speeds was super fun. I had a blast at the race, using the beer shortcut a couple of times to finish 84th out of 117 in the open mens. I had a crap start though, they reshuffled all our bikes while we were out of sight for the le mans start and I could’t find mine for some time, then got caught in the ensuring bottle neck to get into the single track. Never mind. I think I had too much fun though, cause I’d quite like a cosmic orange toro with a chris king SS hub now...haha!

Sounds like Andrew had some good times making it through the race with all limbs intact. NZSSC clearly lived up to the hype, and is without a doubt the single best mix of bike bling, beer and excercised induced exhaustion ever.

Mountain Pedaler out...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Backyard Events ride Ventana

Craig ready to ride

Half of Christchurch's Backyard Events is Craig Tregurtha, a trackbuilding legend and all round nice-guy.

I have personally witnessed the man take a boulder to the chest (with resulting rib injury) in the name of crafting the perfect singletrack corner, so there is no questioning his comittment to the cause of improving mountianbike riding in Christchurch.

As you'd expect Craig is also a keen biker himself, and has been rolling on a well loved Kona hardtail for some years. With a test El Saltamontes becoming available, we jumped at the chance to have a local hero jump aboard for a long-term test.

Bluey enjoys the view

Having not ridden a full suspension frame the comparisons with his antiquated hardtail are pretty interesting. This from after his first ride...

I did a good solid 3 hr ride today up and down all the trails out the Eastern end of the Port Hills (Captain T, Greenwood, Godley, Anaconda etc) to test out this new puppy on some good rocky stuff. I was blown away with how at home I felt on it. It just felt so good! Was doing lots of testing with the 3 rear shock settings to see what is best for climbing different sorts of trails. Riding down trails like Greenwood the bike just soaked up the rocks and bumps like I have never experienced before. It was fantastic.

Check out the Backyard Events website for frequent updates as he explores the trails in around our fine country on perhaps the ultimate all-day trail machine!

Mountain Pedaler out...

Ventana Factory Price Drop!

As you are all aware, we are trapped in what the mass media refers to as a 'crisis of economic confidence', and this very reason is spouted as justification for all manner of price rises.

Despite the tough conditions, the team at Ventana are a shining light in the economic gloom, and Mountain Pedaler NZ are proud to announce they have recently dropped their 2009 prices to match those in 2008!
This represents a huge saving across all their frames, making the pinnacle in handmade mountain bikes significantly more affordable.

To sweeten the deal even further, these price drops also include frame upgrades that were made stock in 2009. So now customers c an pay the cheaper 2008 price, but also receive for example an upgrade to the Fox RP23 shock and Quad bearings on the El Saltamontes and El Ciclon. These upgrades are recommended by the Mountain Pedaler, and widely chosen by customers.

Coupled with the recent lifting in the New Zealand Dollar, which is now nudging the US $0.60 mark, the phenomenal ride and build quality of a Ventana is now much more affordable.

Cheers Ventana and thanks for giving us a reason to turn the economic frown upside down!

Feel free to get in touch for a quote and to get your build underway.

Mountain Pedaler out...

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Ventana riding Gorilla wreaks havoc!

The weekend of the 28th of March, Christchurch riders were blessed with fine weather, and some of the region's keenest racers swarmed to Living Springs for some XC racing action.

Another gem in Backyard Event's crown, the Living Springs course is the culmination of more than 1000 hours of volunteer labour producing a twisty and universally rated circuit.

The morning race was a mass start XC event, the third of the Canterbury XC series.
In a recurring theme, Oliver pounded out a lightening fast start, and took Auckland pinner B. Tilby's wheel into the first singletrack, just ahead of the young phenom Anton Cooper and the equally awesome B. Hudson.

Brad's unfamiliarity with the course produced some sketchy moments on the descent, but when it turned upwards he peeled off, letting Oliver and Anton shred the climb.
Power to weight triumphed on the day and it was the last Oliver saw of the young pinner who went on to post some scary fast laps including a 13:11 final lap!

A crash put paid to Oliver's plans of a good finish, but he rallied on the final lap to pull of third in the Open Men grade.

Less than an hour to recover and it was in to the afternoon's events; the South Island Single Speed Champs (SISSC for short).
After deciding to focus on the morning's events, Oliver opted for some fun antics in the afternoon, and chose to ride the ace in a fully fledged furry Gorilla suit.

Struggling with visibility through the tiny eye slits, Atilla the Gorilla (Oliver's afternoon persona) battled though the start loop to the amusment of the rowdy crowd.

After stripping off the asphyxiating rubber mask, gloves and gorilla toes Atilla proceeded to shred the course, stopping only to pick fleas from his fur or to chow on particularly enticing bananas, howling like a gorrila all the way.

3 laps and in and the extra 2 inches of fuzz was beginning to take its toll. Dehydration hit this gorilla like a punch to the face and it took an effort from some of the more altruistic crowd members to strip back the furry opressor.

In a cruel turn of fate, organisers forced Ollie to snack back on the worlds dryest snack; a Weet Bix. Safe to say that any moisture left in his body was used to devour this dubiously labelled breakfast 'treat'. Check the You tube footage for some ravenous munching.

The winner of the afternoon's antics was a scarily fast beer drinker/bike rider in the form of a PJ wearing B. Sharrat. He will represent the CHCH SS massiff with pride at the Rotorua nationals.

Oliver reports that completing the race in a gorilla suit satisfied one of his life long goals. The resulting levels of exhaustion will likely ensure he stops short of such nonsense in the future.

Mountain Pedaler out...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bog snorkling at the Karapoti Classic

While event organisers claim the Karapoti Classic is the Southern Hemisphere's longest running MTB event (at 24 years), the 2009 edition could have also laid uncontested claim to another more dubious title; NZ's unofficial bog snorkeling championships.

Rain overnight left the 50km course slick and damp, with tire choice a bone for contention amongst the riders.

Oliver opted for Continental Race King Supersonics in 2.2" width. While not suited to loose conditions, the massive width provided just enough grip to keep his El Fuego in check on the infamous parts of the course including he Rock Garden and Big Ring Boulevard. Race Kings roll fast and their out and out speed in a straight line made them an ideal choice.

The race began with a full on swim through the Akatawera River, with riders crossing up to their shoulders through the rain swollen river. As the bunch regrouped on the other side, Oliver was well placed in the lead group, pushing the pace all the way up the Gorge and even staying in touch with the leaders past the first climb, cruelly dubbed the 'warm up climb'.

As soon as the climbing began in earnest he lost touch, the furious pace of NZ and Australia's star riders proved too much to bear. Understandably a bit demoralised, it took him till the Rock Garden descent to get back in the zone.

Those lucky enough to have ridden it will know that this single descent is enough to justify entry in the race. The 1km stretch of gnarl strewn with boulders, drops and baby sized rocks left Oliver grinning like an idiot, providing ample stoke for the hike-a-bike grovel up the Devil's Staircase that was to follow.

It was big ring Boulevard where he made his move. Dropping his Fuego into the 44 -11 and pinning the high speed corners, he ended the descent in a comfortable 10th place, with only the final Doper's hill to climb.

Determined to smash the final climb, Oliver dug deep into the receptacle of hurt, holding off a hard charging group right on his heels.
From Dopers it was only a long downhill stretch to the finish, with more of the same pace seeing him pull in several riders within sight of the finish.

A splash and dash across the mighty Akatawaera followed by sprint to the line and the race was done, Oliver securing 8th place in a quality Pro Elite field and finishing right on his goal of 2:40.

This year race organisers appear to have adapted to rider feedback regarding finishing the race in a filthy state. Crossing the raging torrent that was the Akatawera gave punters a complimentary high-flow pressure-wash for both bike and person.

A fantastic race despite testing conditions, with post race atmosphere and festivities rivalling the best in NZ. It is easy to see why the race is dubbed 'the classic'. Despite the odd bog to throw riders off, not one rider finished without a grin (or grimace) of some description.

Mountain Pedaler out...

Monday, February 16, 2009

SI XC Cup Round 3; Conquering the Peak

Oliver puts the hammer down in a lightning fast start
Photo: BikeNZ