Leaving the rain and gloom behind to spend three days in Mexico on Trek's latest all-mountain steed seemed like a good way to close down 2007 in style. Ok, so it was actually a few months ago now but the sun and singletrack is still fresh in my mind. Actually, I think getting to ride the new Remedy 9 with Shandro may have been my last dry ride!
For a lot of riders in a lot of places around the world "all mountain" bikes make the most sense. I know that I no longer have any interest in racing anyone up a hill, but what I am interested in is pinning the downhill that I just earned. Sure you can do that on any bike but it is a whole lot more fun on something with a bit more travel, some bigger tires and handling somewhere in between a twitchy xc bike and a dh big rig. There are a lot of variations on the "all mountain" theme so I was pretty pumped when Trek
invited me to Mexico to spend three days riding their version of an all mountain bike, the 2008 Remedy
[PI=1623898 size=m align=c]Remedy 9 Photo:Sterling Lorence
The trouble with the term "All Mountain" is that it can mean so many different things. From the riders in Australia to the boys in Southern California, to the shredders in Europe, to the groms in B.C. , AM is so many different things. I can't imagine it being easy to be a bike company these days. They need to come up with an AM bike that will work for different riders, riding different terrain in varying conditions. An AM bike today not only has to be able to feel inspired under the rider after 3 hours of climbing and portaging but it also has to have a darkside that comes out to shred the downhills. That is a tall order to get right but it's not impossible.
[PI=1600583 size=m align=c]Remedy 8 Photo:Sterling Lorence
From a distance the Remedy of years past and the new '08 version do look similar. Well, it actually would have to be quite a distance because although both versions strike similar lines, the 2008 Remedy is an entirely new platform that incorporates a number of new features and advancements. The skill level and courage of the average rider seems to be always on the rise. It does not matter if it is sending that jump a bit farther, setting a personal best on your local mega-climb or completing that 8 hour epic loop, riders are progressing and bikes need to do the same. The boys at Trek know this and the new Remedy is claimed to have made advancements in a few critical areas which are vital to performance. Scrolling down a bit you can read all about the trip and some of the most amazing riding I've ever done but for now put on your thinking cap and let's run through the new Remedy!E2 Technology
If riders have more skill than ever before and bikes are going faster over more challenging terrain then frames and suspension need to be built accordingly. To meet those demands Trek has introduced E2 to the mountain bike world. E2 is a system that incorporates a larger and stiffer 1.5" diameter steerer that tapers to a traditional 1 1/8" at the top. While there are drawbacks to both standard and oversize head tube systems, E2 may be the best of both worlds. The larger 1.5" lower bearing will last longer and creates a stronger front while tapering to 1 1/8" negates two drawbacks to a complete 1.5" head tube/steerer tube. Those problems being a slightly heavier total weight and the necessity of having to run a 1.5" stem which narrows down your options quite a bit.
E2 head tube
The top end Remedy 9
will come with an equally top end Fox 36 Float RC2 with an E2 tapered steerer tube and Fox's new slick 20mm QR axle system. The Remedy 8
will sport a Rockshox Lyric 2-Step while the Remedy 7
will be rocking the Lyric Solo Air, both with E2 steerers. On paper the E2 system makes a lot of sense. The steering accuracy should be excellent even with longer forks but the extra weight will be kept down to a minimum. The biggest advantage of E2 may be the ability to run a 1 1/8th stem though.
Full Floater suspension
E2 steerer tube
Most rear suspension designs will have one end of the shock rigidly mounted to the frame while the opposite end is attached to either the linkage or the swingarm. Trek's Full Floating suspension actually mounts the shock onto two moving linkages (the EVO link and the lower chainstay) which gives the engineers at Trek the advantage of being able to fine tune the leverage ratios more precisely. Air shocks can be a tricky thing to control on a longer travel bike given the inherent rising rate of an air spring and the changing damping curves but the floating shock design makes this much easier to control.
[PI=1622287 size=m align=c]Full Floater suspension. Take note of the upper and lower shock mount locations.Photo:Sterling Lorence
The rear suspension relies on a Fox RP23 XV which has a larger than stock air can to combat the rising rate of an air spring. The Remedy 8 uses the same damper and the 7 runs the RP2, also with the XV air chamber. By building a slightly falling rate into the Remedy's linkage and taking advantage of the larger volume air chamber you should avoid the harsh spring curves common with longer stroke air shocks. The goal is a bottomless feeling without the quick ramp up associated with air shocks.
ABP Active Braking Pivot
New one piece EVO link
Lower shock mounted to chainstay
Regardless of how much you feel it affects your ride, braking does have an effect on how your suspension reacts to the terrain. Whether a design will tend to squat or extend as you apply the brakes has less of an effect than the actual stiffening up of whatever travel you have left. If you think about it, you are usually grabbing the stoppers if it's getting rough or coming into a corner....Exactly when you'd want your suspension to work the best right? Right!
In order to explain ABP it will help to explain what is actually going on down there when you grab some brake without ABP or on a less active bike. Picture yourself ripping up a sweet single track full of rocks and roots but hold up, there's a sharp corner coming up ahead. You brake late, hard and right over some big 'ol 4" tall root. As the wheel passes over the root, the rear disc caliper will want to rotate forward in relation to the rotor. Because you are braking for that corner though and are clamped down hard on the rotor, it obviously won't pass through the caliper. It all happens very quickly and you as the rider will feel it as stiffening of your rear suspension and a loss of traction.
By placing the pivot in line with the axle ABP lets the brake caliper remain at a nearly constant distance from the rotor which in turn makes for a far more active bike. The ABP system should work especially good on longer travel bikes as the caliper to rotor distance stays close no matter how deep into the travel you are, the opposite of most mid to long travel designs.
Early ABP prototypes were designed around a thru-axle system to make running changes easy but the production system had to be more user friendly and have a rear wheel that drops out without any tools needed. Trek has really thought things out as it is pretty slick in use. It takes a standard quick release rear wheel and does not have any of the wheel centering issues of thru-axles due to employing standard vertical dropouts. The only proprietary part is the slightly longer than average QR skewer. When you do need to remove the wheel all you need to do is open the QR lever and unthread it from the nut on the drive side. Slide the skewer out from the dropouts and the wheel comes out just like you are used to. One nice touch is the QR nut on the drive side is actually captured so it won't roll away on you while you fix your flat.
How about the riding?
The timing of this trip could not have worked out better. The B.C. rainy season was under way and I was already getting tired of the looks the seniors were giving me and my muddy bike in the apartment's hallways. Even though we were only penciled in for 3 days in Mexico, I was looking forward to this trip more than any others in recent memory. What should have been under an hour drive to the airport turned in to a nearly three hour journey of self discovery fueled by Monster energy drinks and beef jerky. I may have been a disheveled mess running through the terminal but I made it and that's what matters. Sketchy counts!
After a few connecting flights we finally made it to our first destination, Chihuahua, Mexico, where we spent the night before driving about 4 hours to Creel early the following morning.
Chihuahua's Cathedral just around the corner from our first sleep in Mexico
The convoy consisted of two full size vans and a big red suburban. It came down to picking a rig at random but I made the right choice as I heard later that the other two vehicles were pumping out the Mexican country music for the entire journey.
Now, the average tourist may not have been that impressed with Creel as they drove into town but none of us were here to sun bath or buy souvenirs. The goods we were after surrounded the town on nearly all sides and were dotted with pine trees and martian-like rock features. A few houses dotted the slopes but for the most part the area looked both unforgiving and beautiful.
The accommodations for our stay in Creel were some of the best I've stayed in. Small log cabins with two comfortable beds, a big gas heater and a swinging bench on our mini deck. I would be happy living in one of those things for the rest of my life I think, especially if it had amazing trails so close as these cabins did!
After four hours jammed into the back of a suburban I was on a bike within twenty minutes and struggling for breath as the group climbed out of town and into the surrounding hill side. Due to time constraints, the first day's ride wouldn't be the big days that we would have on the rest of the trip but I think most of us were pretty thankful for that. We must have been quite the spectacle for the locals as twenty-something dudes blasting through town is most likely not a daily occurrence. We got some strange looks and a lot of hoots and hollers, hell we even got chased by a few chihuahuas at the edge of town!
[PI=1632930 size=m align=c]Out of town and into the hills Photo:Sterling Lorence
After 10 minutes of dusty fire road climbing we regrouped at the trailhead to catch our breath (mine was waaay behind me) and split into two groups. Although nothing was ever officially a race it was clear that there were two kinds of riders on this trip, those who wanted to open it up on the downhill and those who wanted to give'er on the downhill and the uphill!
This time of the year I clearly fall into the first category and therefore was more than happy to bring up the rear of our slower group. Although I've been to Mexico before, this was the first time I've had the chance to pedal a bike on Mexican soil. I wasn't sure what to expect but what I found on the first ride was some sweet flowing singletrack. Instead of the dark brown ribbon of dirt I was used to railing in B.C., I found myself rolling along at a much faster clip than expected along an almost gray thin slice of Mexican earth. Near the end of the hour long loop we found ourselves traversing a super fast singletrack the had been cut into the side of the mountain. I think I found more flow on this 20 second sampling of trail than I've managed to string together in the last 6 months, what a hoot!
[PI=1632611 size=m align=c]It's always smoother in the air Photo:Sterling Lorence
After hours of pedaling off into the bushes one of the last things I would have expected to see is people walking on foot, but that's just what we would come across. The Tarahumara are the indigenous people of northern Mexico and are quite renowned for their running abilities, mind you it's not the speed but the distance that they are famous for. In the past their running prowess was used for communications between villages or evading the Spanish explorers of the 16th century. [PI=1632688 size=s align=c]Photo:Sterling Lorence
[/PI] The Spanish threat is long past but the large distances between villages still necessitates the need to be quick on their feet. The Tarahumara people also practice "persistance hunting" which basically means that they chase after their prey, often deer, until it becomes too tired to continue. Although these people are tough as nails any Tarahumara that we came across was happy to see us. They still live a somewhat nomadic existence, often changing the cave or cabin they call home for greener pastures of another location.
I'm not going to lie to you guys, even though day one was a slightly abbreviated ride I could still feel the 2500m of elevation the next morning. Despite that, the comfy beds and warmth from the turbo-powered heater I was still more eager to rise at 7am than I could ever remember being. It may of had something to do with the dirt sampling of the previous day I'm sure, as up until now I didn't even know there was a 7am! After jamming ourselves full of breakie and dropping the kids off at the pool I was ready roll.
Some steeper climbing out of town was followed by a quick false flat along a rusty 'ol barbwire fence. Nothing like rusty barbwire to keep you in line! By this time I was starting to get the feel of Creels single track. The ground is dry and fast which really allows you to let it roll and keep your speed up without to much work to be done. That's great and all but it was real easy to get in over you're head and end up a bit loose and possibly pointing the wrong direction! I think this was the exact reason that I had so much fun and pretty much had a permanent smile on my face for the 3 days I spent in Creel. Nothing is more fun then overcoming whatever traction you have and letting it hang out a bit. It seemed like I was counter steering through every other corner or choosing lines a bit off the beaten path and giggling like a 13 year old school girl the entire time.
[PI=1632661 size=m align=c]Photo:Sterling Lorence
After some heavy breathing and a bit of pushing all of group two was together again at out pre-lunch lunch spot (you don't want to take a break w/o first taking a break as you may pull a muscle). Our first rest stop was more than amazing enough to be the final destination of anyone's multi day adventure. We all stood at the edge, 8000ft up, with a view to kill for. I'm sure the elevation helped but the beauty of this place left us all speechless for bit. Word was that our actual lunch location would be even more scenic.
Even with the herding of our guides we were all a bit slow to pack up and leave. We wouldn't be coming back to this spot and it seemed like we all wanted to soak as much of it in as possible. Pictures were snapped, cameras were stowed and energy bars were polished off before we all slowly pedaled away from the plateau's edge. We ended up backtracking for a bit and then all of a sudden and without warning the terrain changed from a dirt and rock mix to what can only be described as the biggest skate park I've seen yet. The entire area seemed to be one gigantic piece of rock with gentle curves, steep walls and massive pillars. I think all of us were feeling the miles we had put in at this point but there was no way we were going to let Shandro have all the fun. We all took turns at rolling up a neat cone shaped feature, watched Shandro send a rock to rock gap and held our breath as Big Mountain Bike Adventures
guide-extraordinaire Chris Winters rolled away cleanly from an impossibly steep rock face. Good work Chris!
[PI=1632612 size=m align=c]Photo:Sterling Lorence
I'm sure I could have stayed there for hours but lunch was calling our names and the promise of pasta, deviled eggs and fresh apple pie was not to be resisted.
You ever have one of those rides that when you get home you feel justified in eating pretty much anything you want. Bring on the cream cheese and pop tarts because you are celebrating, you're alive! Well, we'd only been out for a few hours but that's how pumped I was to emerge from the bush and see the brown Toyota Townace and more importantly a huge spread of food. Two kinds of pasta, different breads and cream cheese's (but no pop tarts!), salad, ice cold lemonade and the desert that makes me weak in the knees: fresh homemade apple pie. Even our lunch was epic. The location that had been chosen for our food stop is known as the Valley of the Monks and was just as spectacular as promised.
Valley of the Monks
Hordes of huge rock pillars, some had to be over 100ft tall, seemingly popped up from nowhere as the surrounding ground was just as rocky. The amount of time and forces needed to create these columns must be enormous and they made for quite the back drop as we discussed how great the food was and how the new Remedy bikes under us were performing.
[PI=1632679 size=m align=c]Photo:Sterling Lorence
Sitting in the shade while stuffing myself and downing cold lemonade is exactly what I needed and I think we all felt like new men once we remounted and were on our way. The route back into town seemed quite a bit more tame than what we had been riding previously and gave as all a chance to ease up on the pedals and enjoy the scenery. The mountains were amazing with their strange rock features and built-in steez but the valleys had that great wide open feeling to them. Blasting through huge fields of tall brown grass surrounded by hills on our sides made me feel like I was being filmed for the next Collective movie.
[PI=1632652 size=m align=c]Photo:Sterling Lorence
That Collective feeling may have also had something to do with Sterling Lorence
. Sterling is a trooper! While I was struggling to keep up he would motor ahead, set up for the shot, snap some bangers and then reload his gear and do it all over again. The camera bag on his back was bigger than the suitcase I brought for the entire trip!
[PI=1632682 size=m align=c]Photo:Sterling Lorence
I know it was only 3 days in Mexico but there is just too much info to slam into one article. In Part 2 you'll get to read about my impressions on how the bike performed for the 3 days, discover how the guides at Big Mountain Bike Adventures managed to keep most of us
from falling off trail side cliffs, and the beautiful views and amazing single track in the Copper Canyon. Stay tuned.....
Don't want to wait for Part 2? Click here to see more pictures from the trip.Big Mountain Bike AdventuresSterling Lorence Trek Bikes