It’s the time of year when the chairlifts have now stopped spinning, mountain tops are starting to get dusted with that white stuff and it becomes harder and harder to fill your two wheel quota simply on your big bike. It’s time to dust off the “little” bike and start earning your thrills again.
Autumn colours in the Okanagan
For me, it means my Kona Dawg Supreme from 2006 which has basically gone through a full face lift and still rides like no other will finally get some proper love. But on this particular ride, I found myself wondering if I had made the right decision to grab the bigger and heavier demo bike from Skyride Cycle and put it through the paces for the day. They had finally received the Cannondale Claymore demo bike that had been talked about all season because of its unique rear suspension platform and the fact that it’s a 180mm travel, all-mountain/enduro bike. To my knowledge it has the most travel in this category, which makes me excited since the only reason I pedal is to get to the super awesome downhill at the top!
OK, enough already with talking about the bikes we ride. What is “Greatest Hits” you ask? It is whatever you make it, it is not just one special trail, it is hitting all those amazing trails normally rode one-a-day, but you pack them all into a one day epic! This day, it was the Markee-D special. Steep roots in the dark forests of Big Ed
Part one involved getting shuttled to the top of Big Ed which drops you 1200’. This trail is an all time favourite for any Vernon local. It has everything, rocks, steep roots, loamy red rot and it’s just a super fun, flowy trail. This drops you onto an old skid trail to coast over to Jimmy Thang for another 625’ of down. This is a single track trail built in steep terrain which means one tight, yet fun turn after another with optional high lines and roostiness everywhere! Twista is up next, I don’t know how to describe this trail besides just simply fun, especially on an AM bike. There is just little hits everywhere to pop, every time you ride this trail, you find something new to hit. It’s a Markee-d trail, so it also means skids are in play, how fun is that! This dumps you into No Boats for the final 270’ of down for this part of the day. This trail starts off with the most fun, high speed single track and then puts you back into some more technical single track with yet again more drops and jumps hiding around each corner!
Taking it all in before letting it rip to the lake
Usually at this point you keep going down just a bit more so you can pedal back out to the vehicles since you have just dropped 2550’! But today, Mark says it’s time to go back up and hit Twisted Sisters. After the fairly steep up you arrive at the signpost for Twisted Sisters. It’s time to hit all the buttons in the cockpit and prepare the bike for the descent! The Claymore seems to have hoses everywhere, there are six (yes, 6) controls on the handlebars yet it doesn’t seem to be cluttered! In addition to the normal controls (brakes, gears) there is a RockShox Reverb remote on the left and the Fox DYAD RT2 switch (rear travel adjust between 180mm and 110mm) on the right. This is the most stand-out feature on this bike, it allows you to totally switch up the bike from a downhill bike to an XC bike and it climbs quite well for a bike of its size!
S%*$, off topic again, who cares about our bikes... One of many hits on the side of Crash of '08
All ready to go down again, Twisted Sisters doesn’t know what's coming at it. This part of the ride was essentially 3 boys playing with Lego. There was a little something here and a little something there with no real order to the build. Just let the wheels roll, pop off a root here, miss a corner there, send rocks flying with back tires over there. It was pure fun! Then we hit the rockier section and AJ thought we needed a break so he released the air from this tire. Thankfully we didn’t need a break and there was a perfect rock on the edge of the trail that acted as a fun drop that Mark and I decided to play on for a few photos! No more than 10 minutes later we were back to Lego land and quickly making our way down the trail! Twisted Sisters and Crash of ’08 which run into each other seamlessly were now over and Black Powder to Cosens Bay Express was next up. The boys were done with lego and quickly running over to the sandbox. These two trails consisted of one high speed explosion after another. You would come around a corner and all that you would see is the big cloud of dust from the guy in front. Too much fun! This leads into Freaky Creeky, which totally changes up the style of riding. Picture old creek bed littered with small river rocks. Your first time through, you get a little rattled, second time through you start popping from rock to rock and it becomes the most fun, flowy, rough trail there is! Oh and if that’s not the cherry on the top, ending right on the beach of Kal Lake is!
Giving the bikes a break at the lake.
OK, time for the finale. First some food, then the long uphill slog to get to the Lookout Trail via The Wall. This long final climb is only interrupted by one very fun fast flowy downhill section that lasts a few minutes. It is all worth it when you reach the ridge and take in the view of the outstanding landscape we are surrounded by! It’s time, the last piece of the cake. This trail is outstanding, I know I have said that already about the other trails, but do you remember the title of this article? Greatest Hits, it’s all outstanding. It’s time to pull hard on the throttle and let it rip, I don’t think any turn on this trail is tighter than 30 degrees, you hardly have to touch your brakes and you go fast! Lots of drifty corners, especially this time of year with leaves, pinecones and pine needles scattered about on the trail. I almost felt bad for each tree that lined the trail getting hit by explosions of dust that AJ and Mark left behind, but I foudn myself doing the same... It’s just too fun! A few more explosions later and we find ourselves sitting on rocks. This means the end is near, the last section is called “Little Moab” and is our version of Slickrock in Moab. Riding down, connecting one slab to another, barely touching the dirt for the last few hundred meters!
AJ, Markee-D and I getting loose on the Lookout Trail! Look at the beautiful corner, expecting nothing...
Cars. Hmmm, does that mean we’re done? This time yes, beers are cold and waiting - what a ride it was! Simply great!
Oh! Did I mention this all takes place in a provincial park? All of this ride is in Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park on trails maintained by the North Okanagan Cycling Society (NOCS), there is even a pump track in the park! This is all thanks to NOCS putting in the time to combine trail efforts with the Provincial Park guys, it’s not an easy task as I’m sure many of you know, but it works well once accomplished. Big thanks to NOCS
Hmm... good spot to build trails right?
What will Greatest Hits involve next time? Only time will tell. Do you have a Greatest Hits? Do tell!
For a brief review of the Cannondale Claymore, click here
Thanks to Skyride Cycle
for letting me take out the Claymore and returning it, how do I say this, not better than before...
For a few more photos from the day's adventure, check out the album
Keep on turning!