Science tells us that traveling changes your brain and its ability to think positively. Getting rid of bad moods and reconnecting with your inner child and creative mind can be as simple as traveling to a remote location, turning off your brain and being surrounded by nature. If the recommended one-and-a-half hours per day of wandering in the woods can increase positive thought by a small percentage – imagine what four days of charging through the backwoods of Oregon on two-wheels could do for you!
The trans-Cascadia experience ticks all the boxes (and then some) on the scientific quest to expand horizons, connect with our inner child and increase positivity. So, with science in mind – and the recent inspiration of returning to my roots in riding and racing bikes – naturally I determined it was my duty to accept the opportunity to take part in this year’s Trans-Cascadia race, to prove science, and myself, right!Traveling to remote locations…check.
In fact, our destination was more like a secret location; reserved only for those willing to part ways with technological conveniences. Despite my best efforts to figure out exactly where we’d end up, I was unsuccessful. Somehow, though, not knowing exactly where we’d be calling home for the next four days made me giddy with excitement about the ensuing adventure and only added to the whole “blind racing
” factor. Many of us laughed at the fact that on day-one we resembled more a trusting herd of cattle, ready to be wrangled than a group of high-calibre riders. Without a clue or care in the world, onto our respective buses we trotted, eagerly anticipating being transported to our first unknown destination; it could have been green pastures or the slaughterhouse.
From the get-go, everything about this race was blind and seemed more reminiscent of a mountain biker’s ultimate treasure hunt rather than a race. As we arrived at our first base camp, 100 riders [and countless volunteers] convened for dinner under the stars, as we eagerly awaited the next clue on our quest to ride the ultimate single track…and we would not be disappointed.Turning off your brain…check.
It seemed no expense was spared through the whole weekend and that everything you could have needed was organized for you. As we turned up to each base camp our gear was waiting for us and there was always snacks and beer flowing to keep all of us campers happy after a long day of riding and camp set-up. Having a pretty hectic life back home, it was nice only to have to think about the necessities: coffee, food, bikes, and beer. Turning off your brain really was an easy thing to do!
Each night Nick, Alex and Tommy (the Founders of Trans-Cascadia) would give us a brief run-down of any ‘need to know’ points for the next day’s trails, along with elevation maps. The maps were a nice touch as it prepped us for how much climbing we’d be in for on any given day, as well as a general idea of what to expect for the descents.
As a DH racer, I’ve become accustomed to taking notes and drawing the race course during track walks, and knowing every rock, root and turn on the trail by race day. Trans-Cascadia is on the total opposite end of the racing spectrum. On day one I quickly figured out I wasn’t ‘in Kansas anymore
’ when Nick began to explain a couple hazards to watch out for. I looked down at my, poor excuse for race notes, and soon realized that my regular approach to racing wouldn’t be of any benefit here. It was time to turn off my brain and just have some fun reveling in all of the new surroundings and new people I’d already made connections with.Being surrounded by nature…check.
One of the best parts of being in such remote locations and being one with nature was the fact that we had NO CELL SERVICE! We all agreed that this was key to the whole Trans-Cascadia experience and to connecting with nature. The opportunity to drop the phone and connect with people on a more personal level, without the ‘pressures’ of overloading social media with instant imagery, was refreshing! Yes, we took photos, but those would be saved for our post race reflections allowing us all to relive the moment with great emotion and memories attached to each snapshot in time!
Meal times and the fireside dynamic were always buzzing with conversations of how each person’s day unfolded out on the trails and it meant that people were actually interacting, face-to-face, on a human level – imagine that! Being out, in nature, cut off from some of our life’s conveniences, did in fact, seem to put everyone into positive moods and definitely reminded me of my early days on bike trips, rather than my more recent experiences in stressful competition settings. It was clear that science and I were proving to be right.
As each day got underway we were treated to the most amazing singletrack and scenery that could rival any picturesque postcard. Overall the riding was, for a lack of better words, f*cking amazing and a completely different style to my home trails in Squamish, British Columbia.
The timed stages ranged from high-speed bench cut singletrack on narrow side hills to steep chutes, tight switchbacks, scree fields, and some of the best loam you could ask for! You just couldn’t help but have a ‘shit-eating grin
’ on your face and laugh most of the way down. There were big climbs within the stages, but those were easily forgiven when you were rewarded with another fast and zesty section to drop into when you reached the top.
The quality of riding and seamless organization of every day is a true testament to the hard work and relationships that the Trans-Cascadia crew have developed with local forest services and trail advocacy within the area. It’s no small task to coordinate everything that goes into an event of this magnitude and thanks to all of the crew’s hard work, this year they could add two new zones to the menu, allowing us all to experience several new or refurbished trails, giving even returning racers the same element of surprise! Four big days in the saddle meant there were some epic transfers, with not a road in sight or the sound of vehicles within earshot. We were totally immersed in nature and it was easy to be humbled and awe-struck as we rode through lush green forests and high alpine terrain. Proving science right…
Seeking out adventure in remote locations, turning off your brain (and your phone) to build new friendships, connecting with nature, and shredding some amazing trails – these are all things that made me (and probably most of you) gravitate to riding bikes in the first place. After the four-day Trans-Cascadia experience, I think it’s safe to say that it was easy to prove science right! Everything we love about riding helps connect us with our inner child and ultimately make us much happier people. In fact, it was hard to find a sad face in our close-knit group of 100 riders on any given day, and even when you were suffering, just taking in your surroundings made it easy to find a reason to smile!
Despite Trans-Cascadia being loaded with some big racing names, it still manages to have an ‘anti-race’ atmosphere; more reminiscent of ripping through the forest on a rad bike trip with your closest friends. Yes, there were big days and yes, it was hard work, but it was all totally worth it. There was such an organic feel, void of any attitude, and a real sense of community.
Our four-day quest for the ultimate adventure finished and copious amounts of freshly tapped beer flowed in celebration, inhibitions lowered and we danced around the fire pit, in what resembled a scene from ‘Lord of The Flies
'. It was the perfect ending to the perfect bike trip. My only regret was not getting a little more ‘lit-up
’ on some of the first nights at camp, but then I’m not sure I would’ve survived all four days!
When I returned home, a buddy of mine asked me if it was worth it, to do the Trans-Cascadia next year and my response to him was, “if science has taught us anything, you should be asking yourself, can you afford not to?
Images by Leslie Kehmeier.