Sunday, July 8, 2012

Civic Field Dirt Jump Park in the Bellingham Herald

The dirt jump park is in the Bellingham Herald! And it's on the FRONT PAGE! Thank you T (my loving wife) for making this possible!

We still need donations for the rebuild! To give money to the park go here.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Civic Field Dirt Jump Rebuild - Day 1, June 22, 2012

Today was the day! We had the last construction meeting with the Parks and Recreation. This was the final meeting before the start of work and the last chance for something to go truly wrong that would prevent this project from starting today as planned. Amazingly enough though, nothing went wrong! After multiple delays that pushed the starting date back again and again, I had gotten to the point where I live in abject fear of any delay which could cost another day, a week or more. Because of this, even after work began and the machine was running, I just couldn't believe it was actually happening. All the hard work writing e-mails and working on plans or paperwork until late into the night was finally paying off.- this thing was actually happening!

Machine work begins at Civic Field Bike Park last Friday. View from old starting mound. (southwest corner)
Notice damage done to the jump on the right by "vandals" the night before.

View of the old park from the starting berm (southeast corner).

I guess I didn't look too excited though. Andy asked me more than once if I was stressed. I guess I was a little, but mainly, I was lingering in some measure of disbelief. The work had begun. There were no more conditions to satisfy - at least none that had to be satisfied before work could begin - but mentally I still hadn't caught up. I was somehow stuck in the same mindset that I had developed over the last 8 months, since taking over as the coordinator for the bike park. Still worried that something would come up at the last minute to keep it all from happening. There have been so many ups and downs for me with this. The original date that I had in mind to start the machine work was March. But for one reason or another, it kept getting delayed.

If you've worked to get approval to build trails or jumps on public land then you know what I mean. There is always one more paper that needs to be signed, one more meeting to go to, one more assurance that the city won't be sued or left holding the bag if halfway through the project you flake out and end up not completing the work. I had hoped that I would have some time to enjoy the feeling that the rebuild was approved by all concerned before work was scheduled to begin. Alas, this was not to be. Last minute changes to the insurance as well as the storm water permit inspection ran right up to the day before we were scheduled to break ground, which for me meant that it was a nail bitter right down to the very last minute.

 It wasn't until Spencer was about 2 hours into tearing the old starting mound down that it finally sunk in. We were doing this thing! We're really doing it. It was at this point, that I started to get into the spirit and started cheering as Spencer clawed off 2 plus feet of dirt off the top of the starting mound. What a sight. It would have taken me a week to do that and the excavator did it in 15 minutes! Amazing. In a month, the park would be completely changed, reshaped into a vision of what I had dreamed it could be. Then I got excited.

There certainly was no doubt that Andy was excited about the machine work starting. He talked more in the first two hours than in the past year and a half combined. He told me that he was so worked up about starting that the night before that he couldn't sleep. He felt like a kid at Christmas. He just laid in bed and dreaming about all the amazing things that we were going to build over the next month.

All was progressing a planned as Spencer worked on the starting mound. In about an hour and a half the rough shaping on the mound was done, complete with two earthen platforms (one higher for the advanced riders, one lower for the beginners), with a walk up that I christened  "the wheel chair ramp", because it circles around the mound in such a way that it looks like a wheelchair accessible ramp.

Spencer even roughed-in the drop-in from the mound into the big line. Things were really moving along at a rapid pace. On our timeline that I put together gave us a day for the mound alone and here it was done in under 2 hours! "We might just finish ahead of schedule if this keeps up", I thought.  No sooner did I think that, of course, than it began to rain. Light rain at first, then turning into a downpour. I'm not kidding, a frickin' downpour in Bellingham. The home of the lightest piss rain imaginable that  lasts for months, but never amounts to much. Really! What the F?!!

View of the starting mound 15 minutes into work. (Notice the rain threatening sky.)
Starting mound getting machine packed.

New starting mound roughed in. (And the rain has begun.)

 The earth moving continued as planned despite the rain. Spencer worked his way counter-clockwise around the outside of the park. The huge platform of dirt which was the elevated entry berm in the old park was dug down to surface grade. This was necessary to: 1) provide adequate drainage for the south side of the park, 2) to lower the massive starting hill to a reasonable level so you didn't need "Avalanche Certification" from AAI to climb to the top and 3) to reclaim enough dirt to create some the new features that we will be adding later in the rebuild. As encouraging as the work on the starting mound had been, taking out the corner berms was not going to be as easy.

Easy for the excavator I mean, because up to this point all I got to do was stand around and look stupid. Something that I'm good at for sure, but it certainly doesn't get much work done. Of course, there wasn't much that I could do. There was no buffing to do at the beginning of the day because some serious dirt needed to be moved first, then later in the day the rain started coming down hard enough to so there wasn't much I could do. All I managed to do in the rain was to get completely soaked. By 5pm, I was soaked to the bone, very cold and thoughly irritated. It took an hour plus long lunch break, a change of clothes, a turkey burger and a glass of wine to recover the scraps of my latent enthusiasm. I did recover it though and when I returned the guys were back to and it was time for me to get to work. 'Bout damn time.

The freshly dug, relatively dry dirt turned over by the excavator made it possible to do some shaping. Greatful for something to do, I happily started to work on packing and roughing in the shape of the berm from a loose pile of fresh dirt dropped by the excavator, into a hand packed form that roughly resembled a berm. Andy continues to stand around.

About an hour after to our return to work, Spencer yells out the window at Andy, "Why don't you F&%#ing do something?!"
"I did do something" Andy responds, "I made you lunch."
"Well, if you're just going to stand there, go back to my house and start on dinner, because you're not doing us any good here."
They were joking around of course. Just the kind of thing, friends do, hassle each other and talk shit. I had to laugh.


More pics from Friday:

Andy and Terry smoothing the top of the new starting mound.

The excavator taking out the Pro-line filter jump.

Diggin' it out.

Spencer at the helm.

The beginning of the new Civic Pro-line.

Starting mound

Friday, June 29, 2012

Civic Field Dirt Jumps Rebuild is NOW!

Last Friday (June 22, 2012), work began on completely rebuilding the Civic Field Dirt Jumps (aka the Bellingham Bike Park) on Puget Street! The rebuild is headed-up by myself and local BMX'er Andy Grant, with the help of Spencer Baldwin as equipment operator. After months of work planning, securing preliminary funding and getting approval from the Parks and Recreation and the City of Bellingham, we were finally given the go ahead to start machine work at the park! Everything will be completely new and, more importantly, totally more awesome! Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself.

Here is the rendering of the park as done by local artist Joel Esselstrom.

If that doesn't make get you amped to ride, I don't know what will! Amped, I tell you, AMPED!

A HUGE thanks goes to the WMBC mountain bike club for providing the preliminary fund as well as Oceanside Construction and United Rentals for providing the machinery to make the rebuild possible! 

Please help us pay for this! The WMBC currently does not have all the funding needed to cover the cost of the rebuild. The club has covered the initial costs, but we need fuel to keep the machines running. Please help by donating!  Mark Peterson will try to stick me with the tab, if you don't! Not really, but we still really need the money.

Click here to Donate!  (See the top of the linked page for the donate tab.)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Get on the Snake

I have a bogeyman that haunts my cycling dreams... and that bogeyman's name is Snakeonia. I first heard about the Snake (as locals refer to it) 2 years ago from some teenage boys at the dirt jump park.

"Have you ridden the Snake yet?" they asked.
"No, what's the snake?" I responded.
"It's a trail just outside town. And it's burly! It's really steep with lots of granite to ride. And there are jumps too...BIG jumps."
"Oh, really?" I said, not entirely impressed.

I've learned not to take people too seriously in general when it comes to talking about trails or riding because many are prone to exaggerate. It seems like most are a fish story, where every time it gets retold the fish gets a little bigger until the story no longer resembles the fish. It wasn't until I heard the Snake come up a number of different times from several people that I started to take note.

Some respected local riders told me that the trail was nothing to laugh at, and if you went out to ride it, you had better take it seriously or you were going to get hurt. Even the people that didn't like the trail had nothing negative to say about it's legitimacy. One guy I met told me, "It's too hard. There is something coming at you every second, with no time to recover. If you screw up there's no saving it. You're going to get hurt and that's not what I call fun." So, by all accounts this trail was a high skill level ride... a steep, techy trail with little margin for error. In short, an honest to God big bike trail that you need at least 7 inches of travel for. "Wow." I thought, "Now I have to go see it. I may not be able to ride it, but I at least have to see it."

Once it became apparent that this trail was indeed a high skill level downhill trail, I did an internet search. At the time, there wasn't much video of the Snake out there, just a few pictures and a couple of hand-held videos. It's important to keep in mind that when viewing video, it is usually hard to tell much about the size of things. Everything tends to look considerably smaller and flatter than it actually is. With this in mind, I viewed the pictures and video with no small amount of amazement. It looked big in the in videos, did it really look bigger in person? I couldn't be sure. I knew from experience that that was typically the case, but I watched feeling that if it looked huge to me now, how big would it be close up? I couldn't be certain, but this was getting interesting. Scary as hell - yes - but interesting nonetheless.

Watching videos was enough to give me an idea of the personality of the trail, enough to say it looked like fun if you had the confidence and skill to ride it. It did have plenty of trees and did indeed look steep. How steep? This was hard to tell (because of the phenomenon I mentioned earlier) but I could tell you that there was very little pedaling and spurts of rapid acceleration as the riders made their way down the hill. The trail looked pretty flowey though, meaning that there was plenty of carrying speed and each feature seemed to blend into the next without the need for abrupt braking. Gravity and numerous small, properly-placed berms connected the features, making it possible to clear each drop or jump and yet control the speed so the rider did not ride off the mountain. At this point, I was thinking that this definitely was looking like my kind of trail. What can I tell you? I love jumps and berms!

In addition to the videos, I also found pictures. A picture of one jump in particular caught my eye. It looked to be a sizable step-down jump with a large stump sitting in the middle of the gap. Actually, from the picture's perspective, it looked like the stump was a good bit higher than the take-off. This almost certainly meant that the rider could not see the landing as he approaches the jump, and worse, it looked like you would be launching the take-off directly into the stump - with little chance of achieving the height to clear it. It is possible to clear the stump of course, there were enough shots of guys caught mid-air hanging over the stump, styling out tabletops and other tricks to prove it. But studying the picture of the jump without anyone on it, it looked potentially undo-able and definitely scary. 

Shortly after finding the scary stump picture, I found a second one. (By the way, there are now many pictures of this jump out there. If you find one you'll know it, because the location of the stump makes the jump unmistakable.) It was a complete action sequence of someone riding the jump. The image was a composite of several photographs taken in rapid succession, and layered on top of one another so you could see the action frame-by-frame. In the first still, he's pedaling in. In the second, he's setting up getting ready for the take-off. In the third, he safely cleared the stump. And in fourth still of the sequence, you could see that the attempt went terribly wrong.

The rider's body was compressed violently into the bike, as if all of his downward and forward momentum had come to a sudden, crumpling stop. His head was down, as were his shoulders. His elbows were pointed out and back, his knees were bent and his entire upper body was locked into this unnatural looking forward-weighted position on the bike. He had come up short reaching for the landing. He had full-on sprocket-cased the jump and had missed getting his rear wheel to the landing by 2 and a half feet or more. He had gone 20+ feet to land at the top of the landing, 8 feet down. And with the force of the poor guy coming up short, his fork (a dual crown downhill fork) had bent at least 3 inches forward from it's original position. In the fifth frame, the last of the sequence, the bike was tipped up on the front wheel with the rider fully over the bars, arms out bracing for impact with the ground. Here it was, right before my eyes - the visual proof of what was waiting for anyone who came up short and did not clear this jump. I can only imagine what was waiting for the guy at the bottom of the landing after casing this jump. Maybe it wasn't that bad, but that initial touchdown at the top had to be painful - both to the rider and the bike, and it gave you some idea how unforgiving this jump was if you were to come up short.

The idea of this thing just seemed like sheer bravado to me, jumping this huge gap by riding directly into a flat take-off in hopes of getting enough loft to skim over and clear the stump at a high rate of speed, and then touch down on a landing pad that could not be seen as you enter the jump. Wow! It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up just thinking about it.

In addition to the stump jump, there were other obstacles that looked equally daunting. There was the massive hip jump immediately after the stump gap. There was the 2 foot wide, cribbed-in, side-hill jump with a two foot wide run-in and run-out. The jump didn't look terribly big, but the smaller size was offset by the fact that there is little margin for error. The run-in and run-out were both very narrow and not hitting the jump right meant falling down a steep slope to your left and rolling into a tree. There was also the "road" gap which crosses over an old jeep road. Most road gaps are a step-down to a long steep landing with little chance of overshooting. This one was a 20+ foot gap to a short landing followed by and incline.You don't want to overshoot into an incline. It tends to be really painful. All of this adds up to a jump that requires just the right amount of speed. Too little and you go splat on the face of the lander, too much and you go splat on the face of the incline after the lander. Either of these possible outcomes would leave you with potentially serious injuries. The thought of being the first person to try this jump made me feel physically ill. If you see someone do the jumps, then you might be able to gauge the speed required to do it right and not get hurt. But if you are doing it for the first time, guessing and playing Russian Roulette with your body.

The topper for all of this were the rock rolls. These were slabs of granite that were near vertical (yes, even on video they look that steep) that the trail led up to and over. The idea here is that you roll up to the top edge of the granite, and as soon as your front wheel touches the rock, you let go of your brake and roll completely unable to check your speed in any way until you reach the bottom. At the bottom of the rock (where the dirt starts again) there is always a chopped out hole, where everyone who has done this before has hit their brakes. You cannot under any circumstances hit your brake here, even though this is the place where your fear of losing control has made your brakes seem irresistible.. Oh, no! This is the worst place of all to try to stop. If you DO touch the brake, your front wheel wheel will dive into the very bottom of the hole at the bottom of the granite slab at the point when you have developed the most kinetic energy. This will cause you to lose control, veer off course and slam into the tree just to the right or just to the left of the narrow path of safety that you are aiming for -the trail.

You can choose to ride around the rock rolls. There are routes around most all of them. You could stick to the jumps, impressive in their own right. But the trouble is, people don't go to the Snake to hit the jumps or ride the steeps. The Snake without the rock work isn't the trail that everyone talks about and few actually ride. If you want to claim that you conquered the Snake, you can't skip the parts that give the trail it's character. This is what facing your demons is all about. How much of the rock I will ride is in question, but what I can tell you is that I can't stop thinking about it.


More to come...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Civic Field Dirt Jumps Progress

(This post was originally written on Sunday March 6, 2011)

David told me that the dirt jump work crew got a lot done yesterday and he wasn't kidding! It turns out that David had a small, but committed group of guys that came out to sling dirt. Because it's early in the season and ground conditions are still very wet, the dirt was soft and easy to work. This made it possible to get an astounding amount done. The first three jumps for the large tables and the small doubles lines have been totally reworked. Both of these lines have also been moved closer together and to the 2nd doubles line. This should make it easier to transfer between jumps. Since the large tables and the small doubles lines now have exactly the same shape, it will also make it much easier for riders to go from jumping tables to jumping doubles. If you feel totally dialed on the tables, but you've never hit a jump, this will remove a lot of the variables to hitting a gap. You will be riding exactly the same jumps as the tables line (take-off, landing and length all the same) - only with now a gap in it! This should huge help with riders that have commitment issues with doubles jumps.

Also this week, Andy Grant put in some time on the big doubles line. This line had shrunk in height from settling over the past 6 months. My guess would be that we lost at least 6 inches off the top of the take-offs and landers for the last 3 jumps in the line since last season. These jumps got quite a bit of work in the spring last year, so some of the dirt was still a bit loose. (It's amazing how much settling you get even after thoroughly packing the jump by hand when it is built.) Anyway, the first jump after the turn got more dirt thrown on top as did the third after the turn and the last jump in the line (the "trick jump"). Andy also did some rough shaping to square of the tops of each jump. So now, you get some idea of how the final line will look, even though they're not smoothed out yet. The conditions are still too wet to do finally buffing, but with some dry weather and a bit of finish work they'll be good to go.

Thanks for all the hard work out there Andy, David and Saturday's work crew volunteers! And for those people that are interested in helping out, there will be many more opportunities to do so. There are a total of 23 workdays scheduled work days for Civic this year, with lots of different days and times to fit everyone's schedule. Come out and show your support for a fantastic park. I mean, how many towns do you know have their own dirt jump park with no fence around it, in the middle of town! All the work at the on the jumps is totally volunteer. So, we do need your help!

Check here for Civic Field Dirt Jump Work Schedule. 

Drew Vandergrind admiring work at Civic Field Jumps.

Right now conditions at the the dirt jump park are soft and wet. This makes working out there really easy, but it also makes the park vulnerable to damage. PLEASE DO NOT RIDE THE JUMPS THAT HAVE RECENTLY HAD WORK DONE TO THEM. PLEASE DO NOT RIDE THE JUMPS WHEN THEY ARE WET. This includes the all doubles jumps and the big tables line. When the jumps are ready, you'll see it here. If you see anyone out there riding these jumps, please ask them nicely to stop and politely explain why. 


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Those Amazing Kids

Today I met the proud father of a 3-year-old little girl that was learning to ride a bike. She spent this past summer riding her Strider walk-bike (a small bike for kids that doesn't have a crank or pedals)at the local dirt jump park. He was telling me about how great she had been about falling down, when he mentioned what they had been using for inspiration. It's a short video of a kid from BC, Canada that is truly amazing on a walk-bike. Given that this blog is about progressing as a rider (and this kid has definitely done a lot of progressing), I just had to share it here.

This video reminded me of another one that I had seen years ago of a North Carolina kid named Noah.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Introducing the completed Specialized SX! (SX Part 2)

This is it gang! The completed Specialized SX. Or should I say, completed but not finalized, Specialized SX. The bike is together and ready to ride, but I still  have a few details with the drivetrain to sort out. Namely, installing the new cranks and the new red  (or maybe gold) 34T single chainring up front. (And yes, Joey. I'm finally going to grind down the Truvativ Stylo crankset, so I can run it with the E-13 on the SX).) But these are refinements that can wait till later. For now, she's ready to ride!

The bike weighs in at 34.5 pounds in it's current configuration, which is a little heavier than I anticipated it being. That weight, by the way, is the same as the 2011 Enduro Evo out of the box. And the Enduro has coil suspension front and rear, a double chainring with chainguide and 170mm of travel compared to my 120/100mm of air suspended travel. That's fine by me though because I don't build primerily for light weight, I building for durability and reliability. Of course, I am hoping to get closer to 34lbs even when I've made the last of the changes.What can I tell you, 34 just sounds better than 34.5.

Here is the build as it is now:
1) 2011 Specialized SX Frame with 100mm of travel
2) White Fox 36 RLC Float 160 with Kashima Coat and tapered steerer (Lowered to 120mm)
3) Fox RP23 Rear Shock (Comes stock with the frame from Specialized)
4) Red Hope Pro 2 Hubs with White Sun Ringle Equalizer 31 Rims, DT Swiss 2.0mm Straight Gauge Spokes
5) Specialized Clutch Control Aramid Bead 26x2.30 45/50 Tire front
6) Specialized Eskar Control Aramid Bead 26x2.30 55/65 Rear Tire
7) Sunline VOS1 711 Handlebar
8) Oury Rogue Lock-on Grips
9) Cane Creek S3 1 and 1/8th Headset Upper Assembly
10) Cane Creek XXII 1.5 Headset Lower Assembly
11) Thomson X4 50mm Stem
12) Thomson Elite Seatpost (Comes stock with the frame)
13) Silver Avid Elixir R Brakes (203mm Rotor front and 160mm Rotor on Rear)
12) Red SRAM XO Rear Shifter
13) Red SRAM XO Rear Derailleur (Med Cage)
14) SRAM PG951 Chain
15) RaceFace Diabolus Crankset/BB with 32T Chainring (Soon to be changed)
13) White E-13 LG1+ Chainguide
14) 12-36T Shimano Cassette
15) White Striaghtline Platform Pedals
16) Specialized Avatar 143 Saddle