Our off season was a time of travel and transition amongst several communities that have become a favorite part of our yearly migration. It seems we have been expanding on our list of of favorite spots to the point where it often it feels like too little time in each place. Mobile continues to be our chosen way of operation, following the season, following the races and tending to the needs of our team program while forgoing many of the comforts of the white picket fence lifestyle.
The six weeks we spent in Northern California passed quickly as it tends to when the long training rides take up the majority of the short winter days. This year was the driest we have experienced in the state and although not ideal on the environmental end, it served us well in getting in the type of mileage we needed to get an early start to our mountain bike season. Riding in dusty conditions in the winter of Northern California was a strange but welcome departure from the norm that allowed us to spend the majority of our time riding where we prefer - off road.
Mary and I happily made the most of the rugged Sonoma County terrain that keeps us returning annually to this temperate coastal area. Here we experienced the winter in a time of extremes with the sun tracing it's lowest arc across the sky and the nights dropping well into the freezing range. Shaded pockets of land were hard frozen for weeks on end while the areas gifted with a view of the winter sun had already blossomed with signs of spring. Never knowing what was around the next corner (like an icy patch) on a 50-degree day made for some exciting riding and amazing scenery while out on the bike.
Mary and I got in a lot of solid training days amongst the holiday festivities - which made for some good endurance training themselves! Mary's side of the family runs deep in California with the majority of her 20 or so aunts, uncles, her parents, four siblings and their growing families all living in the immediate area. This is also where many of our dearest friends reside, so there were no shortage of ways to spend quality time. Lucky for us, many of our favorite Californians are talented riders, so we often had the opportunity for a combination of training while getting in a memorable ride together! Group rides with friends are such a pleasant change from being isolated on the road in another state, country or continent.
Just when we were starting to settle into the rhythms of the Golden State we made the move to Chile. However in our seventh trip here, in as many years, we are starting to feel pretty accustomed to life on the central coast of this long skinny country. We arrived on the first of the year to a whole new world of terrain, riding and opportunities for outdoor adventure in the height of the South American summer!
The major focus of our visit was to compete in the Trans Andes Challenge - an epic six-day off road stage race in Patagonia. Mary and I once again enjoyed the unique challenge of competing and riding together over this shockingly beautiful terrain. We were really happy to have our hard efforts rewarded with our fifth overall victory in the mixed duo category and an overall incredible experience.
It is mind blowing to see how fast Chile is growing! On the more positive side of mass development, no area seems to be advancing faster than outdoor tourism. Mountain biking and surfing have specifically been embraced by the Chileans and for really good reasons as the country has some world class offerings in both departments. Clearly though it is the enthusiasm and general warmth of the people here that really makes Chile a special place to come and see for any number of reasons.
Chile has once again given us the chance to step away from the potential of brutal winter conditions in North America so we can better focus on our training. The summers in Central Chile offer up hospitable temperatures and there is is no ignoring how handy those extra 35 hours of light a week are to get some stuff done.
Whether it's the next town or the next continent, traveling is always a good reminder of the tremendous variety within the mountain biking experience. Most every riding area has its own unique character and as a MTB rider, it is of course preferable to sample a wide assortment of terrain. It's just plain fun to ride in new places and In some little way each new challenge conquered adds to the overall repertoire of bike skills and shapes us into more complete riders.
There is also a lot of opportunity to tune and set up a bike specifically to get the most out of the riding experience in any given area. When traveling, Mary and I keep an eye out for the equipment and tune that the locals are putting on their bikes to get the most out of their trails so we can integrate the same advantages. It's now just about impossible to ignore some of the amazing new products that you can bolt on your bike and straight up re-define what is possible with a similar level of skill and commitment. If you have gotten down with a dropper post you know what I am talking about.
Variety is also something that is on the increase in the mountain bike racing experience. Back in the day it was all about cross country or downhill - both on the same bike. Now there is a broad selection of off road events on any given weekend pretty much worldwide as well as bikes that cater to the specific applications. The alternative mtb events have helped stoke up a tremendous increase in worldwide participation. Great to see the sport thriving globally and people getting out on their bikes!
Hope to see you out there too!
Mike and Mary
Team Kenda/Stan's NoTubes