Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Mountain Biking on Gran Canaria in December and January

Gran Canaria Mountain Biking

This was my first time ever riding on the island. So how was it? It was very nice! Lots of nice single track, downhills and big climbs.



Summary


    Total days: 17

    Sunny days / Rainy days: 13 / 4  

    Total distance:          762 km in total, 45 km/day

    Total time:              55 hours,  3.5 hours/day

    Total climbing:          22056 m, 1300 m/day

    Total crashes:           0

    Strava KOMs:             8


The Covid situation


I feel I should write something about this, sort of a disclaimer: I live alone in Sweden. I stayed by myself on Gran Canaria. No group rides. I wore a mask everywhere, except for while riding. I did a PCR test before I was allowed to enter Spanish territory. I feel I took no unnecessary risks and didn't subject anyone else to any risks.
Also, I've been home now for 2 weeks and I'm still alive :)

GC vs Chiang Mai


For the past six years, every winter, for about two weeks, I've been bicycling around the hills are trails of Chiang Mai, Thailand. This year, due to Covid-19, Chiang Mai was not an option. I did some research and came to the conclusion that the Canary islands were a good option: 1. No travel restrictions, all you need to show was a negative Covid test. 2. Nice climate. 3. Good mountain bike terrain. The islands had two good choices: Tenerife or Gran Canaria. I could only find direct flights to Gran Canaria so that became my choice.

The Covid situation was developing and the rules were changing all through the fall of 2020 and that led to a lot of uncertainty. I didn't book my trip to Gran Canaria until late in November. I used AirBnb to get an entire apartment to myself. I didn't want to be in one of the big touristy cities by the shore line, instead somewhere up in the mountains, close to the trails: The village of Valsequillo. 

My AirBnb residence in Valsequillo
My AirBnb residence in Valsequillo

The village of Valsequillo
The village of Valsequillo


Costs


Flight from Sweden (inc. bike):  €500

Apartment:                       €20 per night

Food:                            Cheaper than Sweden, more expensive than Thailand


Pros and Cons (compared to Chiang Mai):


Price: Flight is 1/3 of the price compared to Chiang Mai. AirBnb/hotel about the same,

Weather: On a good day Gran Canaria was almost as warm as Chiang Mai. However there were many more cloudy and rainy days compared to a typical December in Chiang Mai.

Time Zone: No jet lag!!!

Terrain: Same as Chiang Mai. There's both good single track and downhill to be found in both places.

Mountains: Same although the peaks are higher on Gran Canaria.

Food: Thai food is much more tasty.

People: Thai people are so much more friendly.

Traffic: The Gran Canarians drive excellently and overtake bicyclists VERY carefully. I felt 100% safe.


Arriving with a Broken Seatpost


When I had assembled my bike on the first day I noticed that the seat post wouldn't stay put after I had locked it in place. The tightened the bolt that held it in place but as soon as I sat on the saddle it would just slowly lower itself. 

The BMC Fourstroke has BMC's own built-in dropper seatpost making it a bespoke technical solution. I disassembled the whole thing, pulled it out of the frame, and did a lot of thinking, googling and analysis. After many hours I came to the conclusion that the black metal thingy and the white plastic thingy should probably be attached (as seen in the photo). They were both floating around separately on the seatpost.

I fixed it, assembled the whole thing again, and it worked!! 


The BNC 'RAD' Dropper Post

This is the part that 'broke' The black metal part and white plastic part separated


The Long Climb

Benchmark climb
The Long Climb


In Chiang Mai I have a benchmark climb that I like to do each year that I come there. It's 8.6km long and you climb 893 meters all in all. The quickest that I've done it is in 55 minutes with a 300W average.

On Gran Canaria I found a similar climb starting just outside of my village. The climb is called  Haciendas 2.0 (llanetes-caldera) and is 12.4km long with an altitude gain of 1084m


On my third attempt I got the KOM with a time of 1:08:59 and 312W average power.



Hopefully I'll be able to return to Gran Canaria in future years to try this climb again.

Benchmark Switchback Downhill


Apart from the uphill benchmark climb that I mention in the previous section I also found a nice technical downhill just outside of the village called bajada bco. san roque. Unfortunately it took an hour of asphalt riding to get to the top of the mountain in order to do the downhill.

One of the switchback turns

The downhill was a series of switchbacks (180 degree turns) and going steeply downhill. It was very rocky. The first time I rode it it took 15 minutes and at the end I was down to 5 minutes. There were two places that I still had to get off the bike because I found them unrideable. In the end I was fifth out of 45 riders on that particular segment although far away from the KOM of 3.5 minutes.

My progress on the switchbacks segment



Very stony and hard to get around the turns


Kind of tricky on a rainy day



The Ravine


One of the really cool trails that I found was a ravine leading downhill and towards the sea from Valsequillo to Telde. The singletrack continued even after Telde and all the way to the beach. There were a bunch of segments going both uphill and downhill. I managed a Strava KOM on the uphill and a second place on the downhill. Neither were steep but a lot of fun. If you're in the area I really recomend you ride "The Ravine".



The Ravine


The Fourstroke in Technical Terrain


I bought my BMC Fourstroke in the fall (separate post coming on that) and this trip to Gran Canaria was my first chance to ride it in really technical terrain. I have to say that it performed excellently. It felt so much more stable than my old Trek Top Fuel due to the slacker geometry (Head tube angle is 67.5 degrees compared to 70.0 for the old Trek). The dropper post also helped immensly in sections like the switchbacks that I mention above.



Photos































Sunday, 30 August 2020

And We Are Racing Again! (first post-Corona races)

Yeah! That's right! It's on again! The last race I did, previous to this weekend, was in March.

This weekend had two races:

  • Saturday: Short local X-Cup race.
  • Sunday: Outdoor Sydfyn marathon in Denmark

Saturday - X-Cup


The X-Cup race turned out to be a wet affair. It had been raining all night prior to the race. I was pondering about changing from Conti Raceking tires to Crossking, which are more knobbly, but decided to go with Raceking anyway. It turned out to be the right decision as even though the ground was wet and there were puddles the trails never got very muddy.

Due to the Corona restriction in Sweden (max 50 people on the track at one time) instead of a 'normal' race we had a time trial. The racers started 30 seconds apart and the course was 2 laps around an 8 km course. The course was very quick and the average speed was almost 30km/h. I didn't feel very fired up and so ended up with quite a low heart rate but decent watts. My final placing was 15th overall (no categories in this race).



Sunday - Outdoor Sydfyn

I really love this Danish race and this is the fourth year that I take part in it. It has a great course with tight and twisty built singletrack and steep climbs and descents. Last year I placed third in the M40 category.

My good friend Linda joined me in travelling to this race as it's quite a bit of a drive from my home. She's always happy and that makes her great company.

Normally we start in the town of Faaborg and there's a quck road section on asphalt and gravel before you get to the actual course which you do three laps of. But as this is the year of Corona this race was also affected by the restrictions. So no start in Faaborg. Instead we start directly at the course and we do five loops instead of three. 50 km in all. This fact actually made the race much more difficult as it meant no easy riding at all, it was pretty much ALL on singletrack or on the steep climbs/descents. Now the climbing I like, as you know, but the steep twisty singletrack is not one of my strong points, even though I do enjoy it greatly.

This time around I did go with the knobbly Conti Crossmax tires. My reasoning here was that this race was so much longer and a bunch of us were going to do a lot of laps on tight singletrack and so muddy conditions were a risk. Funnily enough we also had an enormous downpour of rain just an hour before the start of the race, just as we were arriving at the location. But it stopped in a few minutes and the tracks turned out to be perfectly dry throughout the race. So I ended up making a safe choice, although not an optimal one, with the tires. 

The race went well anyway and each time I came around to the twisty section of the lap I went a little quicker as I both started to relax more and more and started to learn the track.

I finished the race in 3rd place in the M50 category. Not a spectacular result but I was happy with it under the circumstances.

The 50 km of this course took 3 hours to complete. Compare that with the previous day's X-Cup which was 15km and took about 30 minutes. 16 km/h average speed in Outdoor Sydfyn and 28 km/h in X-Cup. That says everything about the complexity of the courses.









Saturday, 29 August 2020

Mountain Biking in Croatia during the Corona Crisis


Corona vacation

My vacation came about in July and I needed to find a nice destination, some foreign country, to go mountain biking in. A country that would allow us disease ridden Swedes to enter. Slovenia, where I had gone many summers, was out of the question as it would not allow Swedes to stay for more than 12 hours (transit only). Croatia, however, I found out after contacting the consulate, had nothing against it. That's why I decided on Croatia.

I did some research on mountain bike trails and decided to visit north-western Croatia, quite close to the Slovenian border. The first two weeks were spent just north of Rijeka on the mainland and then I moved to the island Krk.


Packing the Honda

Since I started mountain biking I've had one kind of station wagon ('kombi') or another in order to be able to take bikes with me wherever I travel. Then just a few weeks before my vacation I bought a new car, which was NOT a station wagon. But it turned out to swallow all the bikes I needed (two Trek Top Fuel mountain bikes and one Bianchi Oltre road bike)



Meeting interesting people through Airbnb

I really love staying in different places through Airbnb as you get to meet the people who you're staying with. This particular vacation was a hit in that regard as I can't remember ever meeting so many friendly people. First on my stay on the mainland I stayed with Bojana Matešin who was extremely kind to me. She made me dinner pretty much every second day. Also she had some nice pets and a lovely garden.







The Corona Situation

Did Corona affect me in any way? The border checks on the Austrian/Slovenian border were very strict. I had to promise the Slovenian border guard to only pass through the country and show the booking for an apartment that I had in Croatia. On the Croatian border I had to give them my cell phone number and tell them where I was staying.

At the time that I arrived in Croatia they had actually lifted to tight rules they had about face masks in all public places but after just after a few days they reinstated them. This was because they had a bunch of new Corona cases in June. If you entered a Croatian food store without a mask the employees would get really upset and you would get a harsh telling to. I biked everywhere with a mask in my jersey pocket and would put it on as soon as I was among bigger groups of people. This was actually the first time that I used a face mask. It felt very strange at first, but became very natural after a while. Then it felt strange NOT using a mask when I came back to Sweden.





Krk

Why did I decide on Krk? Well, while I was still on the mainland I took a few rides across the bridge to the island and found the trails there rather amazing. After two weeks on the mainland I decided to search for a new apartment on the island. I found a nice place to live in the town Krk in Apartment Albert.




The cool thing about Krk is that it has all this great mountain bike terrain. It has a lot of marked courses with signs that look like this. The terrain on these official trail varies from dirt roads to seriously technical rocky singletrack and even some built downhills segments. I good full suspension bike with grippy tubeless tires is strongly recommended if you want to go fast (hunt Strava KOMs).





The north part of the island is relatively flat (well, it's not flat like the south of Sweden where I'm from. Only more flat than the south  part of the island), while the south part of the island has some major mountains with long and hard climbs. This is also where the built downhill tracks are.

I made my base the town Krk (yeah, it's a town with the same name as the island) where I found a great apartment on the top floor of a house, just 300 meters from the beach, with a lovely balcony overlooking  the sea.




Croatian Cycling buddies


I got to know some new cycling buddies in Croatia who were kind enough to show me around the island. We had some great rides together.

Marko Glusac and Danijel Turcic

Nikola Radovčić ⚡ Bike Centar Krk

Stefan Albert


Marko and Danijel are really strong riders who race a lot.  Danijel is a hill climb specialist. 

I have to mention Nikola especially: He operates Bike Centar Krk (https://www.facebook.com/BikeCentarKrk/) and gives guided rides and they also have mountain bikes that you can hire. But that's not all! Nikola  is actually responsible for creating  and marking all the official tracks that are on the island. I owe a HUGE THANK  YOU to Nikola for sending me all the GPX files so that I could ride the different courses. He's also an all-around  nice guy who speaks good English.

Lastly I went on  a ride with Stefan Albert who also happens to be the son of the owner of Albert Apartments (https://www.booking.com/hotel/hr/albert-apartaments-krk.en-gb.html) which is where I stayed. He was super friendly and helped me with anything that had to do with my bike. Stefan's dad is also a fantastic character with some great stories from the past that were fun to listen to. Stefan also has a brother, Daniel, who is always happy and helped me get the WiFi restarted whenever it went down.


My Favorite Trails on Krk


I ended up playing a lot of Strava games on the island, meaning I raced for Strava KOMs. I managed to get some 30 or 40 of them too so very pleased with that. A lot of uphill KOMs, but also some of the rooty and rocky trials were great on my Trek Top Fuel, and I managed to score some of those technical KOMs as well.

Here are some of my favorite trails on the island (Strava links):

Rudine-Voz is my absolute favorite. It should be done in both direction. It's a stony single track that follows the coast and it's bloody amazing. I have both video and a few photos of the trail.









Photo Dump