You missed Part 1?!
What's the matter with you!How about that bike?
This is not a bike test whatsoever, just an introduction to the new Remedy and a chance to put some miles in on it and form an early opinion. The days of entirely new suspension designs being thrown at us every year are gone and it looks like most manufacturers are staying with and refining systems that work well. That is good news for you as things will get lighter, work better and last even longer. That's not to say that everything that can be thought of has, it just means that we're past using designs that are new just because they are new
. That is why I was excited to ride the new Remedy with the ABP system. When a succesful company like Trek rethinks and retools their full suspension bike line, I'm fairly confident that that means they are on to something.
Photo: Sterling Lorence
Despite the amazing views and gorgeous scenery, I don't think Trek made it any easier on themselves by choosing Creel and Copper Canyon as the first place to let a bunch of picky journalists loose on a brand new bike. The terrain is challenging, the ground unforgiving and the dry loose rock over hard pack made traction a guess at times. I loved the area and hope to go back, but I know that I would not have had half the fun I did if the bike was not up to par. Trial by fire I guess you could say!
Photo: Sterling Lorence
It had been awhile since I'd spent any real saddle time on a all-mountain bike so I was a bit apprehensive about the quick handling and longer 70mm stem then I was used to. I know that sounds funny to a lot of readers in other parts of the world but let me put it this way: a lot of the "XC" riders in my neck of the woods run 50mm stems, over 6" or travel and run goggles with their XC lids!
Looking the bike over on the work stand gave me some reassurance though. The solid spec of Avid Juicy Carbon brakes, SRAM running gear mated to proven XT cranks and a light Bontrager Rhythm Elite wheel set made for a worry free build kit. Before I installed my pedals, the Remedy 9 I would be spending the next 3 days on weighed in at about 28lbs. Pretty good for a 150mm travel bike. As far as components go it's tires that can have the biggest effect on a bike's weight and how it will ride. All three Remedy models will use Bontrager Jones ACX in a 2.35" width which are a light high volume tire.
This trip was all about earning your turns and earn them we did. There was some sustained climbing but a lot of what we rode was shorter, steeper climbs that forced you to put the power down and get 'er done. I managed to pedal my chubby self up and over a bunch of stuff that I really hadn't expected to clear which was a pleasant surprise. I was not impressed with the tires when descending (more on that later....) but the big foot print of the Jones ACX rubber and active suspension kept me trucking on the steep power climbs even when I expected to be on my side. I'm sure it didn't hurt that the bike was well under 30lbs either!
Photo: Sterling Lorence
I started to get a good feel for the Remedy once I was pointed in the opposite direction. I was more eager to ride the bike then tinker with suspension settings so things stayed as I'd set them up on the first day. Sagged about 35% into the travel to squeeze a bit more traction out of the rocky ground and slacken the bike out a bit more really worked well the entire time I was in Creel. Looking at the Fox RP23 shock after each ride told me I was using all the travel at some point in the ride but I couldn't recall where. That's a good sign and I think that I would have like to try going even a bit softer to see what would happen. I was also impressed with how well the air sprung Fox shock felt combined with the falling rate suspension. None of the air sprung bikes I've ridden in the past would have held me back, but when you really get down to it, most don't feel quite as predictable as a coil sprung unit. The bigger air can on the Remedy's RP23 and falling rate eliminated any sudden spikes and really made the rear of the bike feel far more fluid than any other air sprung system I've been on. The Remedy wanted to absorb the bumps and looking back, it made other air sprung bikes feel like they were fighting the trail. I was impressed. Trying to pin it on unfamiliar terrain can be asking for trouble if you get off line but I never ended up going ass over tea kettle once!
Cam McRea making short work of a tricky rock face. Photo: Sterling Lorence
There is not much to say about Fox's Float RC2 that hasn't been said already. It is a proven fork that works very well and if you know which adjusters to turn and when, you can really get any of the RC2 forks to be anything you need them to be. For better or worse, I tend to not follow the clearly printed instructions that come with suspension forks and end up going my own direction with things. I set my RC2 up a bit stiffer then recommended, opened my rebound and low speed compression knobs only a single turn and headed off into the bush. With a similar feel to my Fox 40RC2 I felt pretty at home. This is solid fork without the E2 steerer system so add in the 1.5" lower section and I'm sure it helps. Honestly I'm not a huge guy and didn't really feel a remarkable improvement in steering but I'm sure it is there and bigger riders will benefit.
Photo: Sterling Lorence
It's easy to get jaded with companies forcing acronyms and abbreviations down our throats every time you pick up a magazine or brochure, so having to know what two or three more of the them stand for is not doing anyone any favors. On the other hand I guess they need to call it something. ABP seemed to do what it was built for. Like I said above, the air sprung rear end seemed far more capable than any other I've been on. The Remedy felt quite forgiving, especially near the end of rides when I was tired and not picking the smoothest lines. There were a few times when I deserved to go down but ended up pulling through. Whether it was luck or the bike , I can't be certain but I was reminded of getting over my head on my DH bike at home and having all that extra travel to bail me out. Except that the Remedy had 3" less suspension and an air shock instead of the coil over unit I'm accustomed to. A good thing indeed....
Photo: Sterling Lorence
The bike felt so capable that it was a bit of a let down as to how poor the tires performed. Granted the terrain of hard packed with loose rock on top is really the hardest of any for a tire to shine in but the Jones ACX did not add to the bikes confidence inspiring ride in any way. Not knowing what to expect on the hill I decided to be safe rather then sorry and rolled out of camp with 35 psi in the tires. Within 50 ft of entering the first singletrack of the trip I knew this was far too much. As I gradually let out more and more pressure I was rewarded with more traction but eventually I ended up in the low 20's and was having too much sidewall roll to corner hard. After a few strokes of someone else's hand pump I was back in action.
Tires are almost too condition/terrain specific to include with a bike but you can't really sell a bike without tires can you? There may be a place where the Jones ACX tires shine but the dirt and rock in Creel is clearly not one of them. The light weight of the Jones tires must of had a hand in the bikes playful manner but I would take the penalty and install something with a more aggressive pattern. The Remedy would be unstoppable on my home soil with a set of 2.35 single ply Maxxis Highroller's!
On my first two days in Creel I was treated to some of the sweetest trails I can remember and couldn't get the shit eating grin off my face even if you told me my plane home would be grounded just before takeoff due to a jet fuel leak
and that I'd be home a full day late. While I was pumped on what we had ridden so far Shandro just kept telling us the best was yet to come.
Sometimes "the best" involves a really early morning! On our last day on the Remedy we all rose just after the crack of dawn and staggered our way down to breakie. Some of us (er, them actually) looked a bit worse for wear due to margarita overdoses while celebrating the Mustache Competition's finale. I was purely a spectator as most 10 year old girls have more hair on their arms than I have or ever will have on my face!
Regardless of bed times the night before we were all wide awake with noses pressed against the windows on the drive to our drop off point in the Canyon. The views on the twisty two lane road into the Copper Canyon gave us a hint of what to expect. The final gas powered bit of our transportation took us down a fire break and we finally emerged out into the open and into the sun. I will admit I am spoiled from here on in now. At home I have to pack my own lunch's and *gasp* even fill my own water bottles (the horror!). The boys at Big Mountain Bike Adventures looked after us all like we were their own offspring. Meals were packed, fluids were brought and Tyler even applied sunscreen to my back. Ok...the last bit never happened but they did have my pale ass covered by bringing some SPF 50 for the only albino on the trip. Thanks guys!
Big Mountain guides. Photo: Sterling Lorence
On our two previous rides we were split in to 2 groups decided by our fitness and how hard we felt like pedaling. Copper Canyon posed a more challenging ride and it was decided that we would all stick together. The guides, Arturo, Alejandro, Ryan, Tyler and Big Mountain principal Chris Winter would be dispersed throughout the group with the goal of keeping us from riding off the canyon edge and into oblivion. 'Pro' would be one of the words used to describe Big Mountain. Besides packing both meat and veggie meals and downing post ride beers with the crew they also kept in touch during the rides with walkie talkies. Not that the trails closer to town were not challenging enough but riding in Copper Canyon brought with it a few more risks and we were all briefed on not riding over our heads followed by stories of guides using a needle and thread to stitch themselves up while biting a pine cone. Point taken.
The first break had everyone reaching for their cameras
Everyone was chomping at the bit to get rolling so we may have all started off about 2 gears too big! No worries though as it was only a quick minute ride and we were all forced to dismount for one of the steeper hike-a-bikes of the trip (although I heard group 1 had it beat on the 2nd day!
). It seemed like the hike took us all down a notch and once regrouped at the top everyone rode at a more relaxed pace. We were not into the actual canyon yet and everyone was having a blast taking different lines and playing about before the trail began to hug the mountainside. Parts of the trail into the gorge were double track with tall rock sides that made for some great high lines above other riders before being spat back down to earth. The group was large and a lot of times that equals trouble but everyone handled themselves like pro's on the very, very high speed track down into the canyon. We were like a flock of dolphins gliding gracefully through the ocean.
It was not long until those uber-light Jones tires started to catch up with us though. The same tire that made me feel like a XC king on the ascents was soon providing some of us with practice on our flat repairing abilities. The extremely rocky ground was having a go at the poor 'ol Jones tires. To be fair some of the shale on parts of the trail would have been great for dicing tomatoes and would have had their way with any tire. I was the first to flat in the group and even though I spend entire days fixing flats back home my nerves got the best of me while performing in front of the large group and I managed to drop the end of my quick release. I watched in horror as it rolled into the rocks and out of sight followed by my pulse doubling and many four letter words. We had covered a lot of ground at high speed and the thought of walking out, besides missing the rest of the ride, was not too pleasing. Thankfully I managed to rummage through the loose rock and find it before anyone noticed and therefore saved myself from ridicule and a massive hike.
It would have been quite a sight from the opposite hillside to see our large group of riders making our way down into the dry wash that eventually lead out onto the exposed hillside. At one point on the ride we crossed paths with a small group of hikers who must have thought that they were the only souls out there let alone a group of nearly twenty mountain bikers all on the same bikes.
R.C. off the singletrack and into the wash. Photo: Sterling Lorence
Back at the trail head the guides had given us all the speech about exposed trail and how we needed to concentrate on the trail and not the views unless we were stopped. Despite the spiel I wasn't expecting how exposed the trail actually was and how amazing the view turned out to be.Around one corner the world seemed to open up in front of us, going from tight pine trees and rock to being able to see forever in just a matter of seconds.
Photo: Sterling Lorence
We all rolled along for a few more minutes and then came to a stop as a group, no longer able to concentrate on the trail without sneaking some glances of the canyon snaking its way out of our view. Within seconds all of us had out cameras out and were happily snapping away at the panorama in front of us. I was happy for the break also as the riding was challenging and the temperature was hot. I wouldn't say that the trail was descending or gaining altitude as we rode but there was some difficult sections as it traversed the hillside. Now that we had entered the canyon the large majority of the route was singletrack that had been cut out of the hillside and seemed to flow no matter if we were climbing or descending. Maybe that is why no matter how steep the short pitch in front of me was, or how tired I felt, there always seemed to be a little more fuel left in the tank. Good thing as this was still early in the adventure and despite the feeling of traversing we were actually loosing elevation as we rode, meaning that even though I didn't know it yet this was reverse to most rides that I do.
Photo: Sterling Lorence
Like the other trails we had been on so far in Creel, Copper Canyon had similar traction. Or maybe lack of traction would be a better way to describe it. The bare rock was very predictable (as it should be) but the dirt itself was parched and dusty. The boys from California looked at home on the "soil" but I'd be lying if I said I felt comfortable on it straight away. That is what made all the rides I did in Creel so much fun, especially Copper Canyon. The dirt, heat and the fact we were all far from home made it all seem so epic. I don't know, maybe I don't get out enough but at the time it all felt to be special time on our bikes.
Photo: Sterling Lorence
Most of the trail so far was a middle ring affair that wound its way along the hill's contours. Every few hundred feet the single brown ribbon would branch off into two, and sometimes three, separate trails. They would always stay within a few feet of one another but one line would head off lower while the other two would take the high route. The main trail itself, while exposed, was always flat and the safer line. The other options tended to be off-camber and dusty but
were nearly always the more direct and therefore faster choices. It soon became a fun game to play: how long could you stay up high until being deposited back down on safer ground? I felt a lot more confidence in those same Jones tires that I was grumbling about earlier and I'm not sure why to be honest. Hindsight is always 20/20 and looking back it may not have been the smartest moves to be making considering the amount of time I would be spending in the air if I ended up going completely over the edge, but at the time the thought didn't cross my mind! The thought process must have been over rode by the amount of fun I was having while drifting about the trail with my feet up where they belonged.
Photo: Sterling Lorence
Soon enough we were spat out onto a large plateau that looked to be a giant cement cone that was hundreds of feet high. Obviously not cement but rock, it was just one more unique shape that nature produced and was not to be seen anywhere else. This seemed like as good a spot as any for lunch so we all clamored about looking for a good spot to relax while we demolished our bagged lunches. I don't ever remember juice box's tasting this good in elementary school! As an added bonus the chip bags in our lunches contained mini trading cards of soccer players coated in salt 'n vinegar or if you were lucky, nacho cheese!
The extended lunch break came at an excellent time as the remaining trail out to our destination (and turn around point) became much more aggressive. It was obvious that at some point we had passed a sort of border where the path went from flowing while we hooted and hollered at each other as we rode, to a rock strewn technical gauntlet where the only hollering you heard was when a rider managed to come unstuck from the mountain side. This was a whole different ball game
. I was having just as much fun as earlier in the ride but now the fun came from successfully clearing rocky outcrops that looked un-clearable and picking the smoothest lines through rock gardens possible. The group consisted of riders from differing backgrounds, be it company men, writers, full times guides, and even Mega Avalanche winners. Everyone on the ride had the skills to pay the bills but even so, some of the sections were so hard that portaging was the only option. You know it's a good ride when even the hiking is dangerous!
Big Mountain's Ryan with his eyes on the prize. Photo: Sterling Lorence
In all we had maybe 10 minutes of hike-a-biking, but it was some gnarly work and if I wasn't a man before I certainly became one on our journey out to our final destination, the view point. Just like before, we climbed a small rise and rounded a corner and before I knew it we were sitting atop the canyon wall that we had been traversing for the last three hours. I've seen some pretty good views in my time but this takes the cake by far. Upon my return home I tried to explain to people just how amazing it actually was but I couldn't seem to get the point across.....Words can't really do it justice and as amazing as the picture below is, it was ten times more amazing to be there in person.
Sitting on my perch I could see the canyon snake off and disappear into the distance, making no less than eleven or twelve turns as it vanished into the horizon. The only thing I could do was sit down and take it all in. While I was happily seated on my behind, Sterling Lorence was scrambling away higher up above us to get 'the shot'. The guy's bag was easily 3 times the size of mine (or anyone else's) and he had spent most of the ride getting so far ahead of us to take photos as we passed so I'm not sure where he found the zest to go rock climbing. Sterling is officially half man and half photo taking machine! His work never ceases as soon enough we were all on our feet again for the obligatory group shot. I think we only did two takes as 3 hours in the sun and dust had us all smelling of quite foul and I don't think we wanted to be near each other for too long! I could have camped on that ridge for days I think but soon enough it was time to get a move on. No one really wanted to depart in a hurry, partly because of the view and partly due to the heavy feeling one gets in their legs after a break extends too long. It pays to keep moving even while resting.
Photo: Sterling Lorence
Paul managed to tip the wrong direction after stalling out on a short climb. He ejected to the left while his bike took the low route to the right. It was about twice a steep as this picture shows and his Remedy managed to thankfully snag a tree a few hundred feet down. It was so steep that to get it up Travis Brown carried the wheels while Paul shouldered the bike itself. It would have been near impossible with the wheels on. Paul picked a good spot to do this though nearly anywhere else on the trail his bike would not have been able to be retrieved from its resting place thousands of feet lower.
As it turns out we had been spending most of our saddle time descending as we put more distance between us and the trucks. This was quickly realized by all in the group as soon as we returned to the smoother trail on the opposite some of the ridge. The closer we got to the vehicles (and the post ride beer), the steeper the trail got. I felt like Sisyphus, except instead of a rock I was relegated to toil for all eternity with my bike. Ok, it wasn't that bad at all but it was tough 'work' regardless.
mmmmmm, Cheeze-its. Photo: Sterling Lorence
My riding partner for most of the return trip, and most of the time in Creel, ended up being Richard from Mountain Bike Action. We both seemed pretty content to pedal in a gear easier than was needed and enjoy the terrain and great weather. About 45 mins from the rides conclusion I could feel my reserves waning. It was pretty obvious that while I would make it, the last big climb of the ride may finally wipe that perpetual shit eating grin off my face that I had since starting the ride. R.C. was far more prepared than me and came to my rescue with a single aspirin. What a difference! I rolled back into the trail head with my head held high and my cheeks cramping up due to my ear to ear smile. What a ride!
Once everyone arrived intact the beer was passed about and I swear that was the slowest I've ever seen a group load their bikes. Someone in the van I was in revealed a secret stash of tiny snickers bars. The left over Halloween treats didn't have a chance, I don't even think I had a opportunity to taste the chocolate before I swallowed it nearly whole.
What was intended as a introduction to Trek's new Remedy in Mexico ended up being that and much, much more. The entire group was treated like royalty by everyone at Big Mountain Bike Adventures when in reality we were just a bunch of stinky mountain bikers. I had always had an aversion to the idea of a guided tour, but it was just an uninformed opinion. Now that I have had the opportunity be led by Chris and his Big Mountain crew I am desperately squirreling away my pennies in order to jump on any one of the far away tours they offer.
Three days on a bike does not equal a bike test whatsoever. Having said that the three days I spent on the new Remedy were quite revealing. Trek could have picked some other locale with tamer terrain, shorter rides, or more dirt then rock, but they ended up debuting the bike in Creel instead. I think that says a lot. The bike performed far above my expectations and was never overwhelmed by the terrain. I hope to jump on a new Remedy soon for an extended test on more familiar ground as soon as the snow melts. The bike, the guides, the Tarahumara people, having Sterling snap away, the dirt and rocks, the food and post ride beer, it all added to the ambiance of my entire time in Creel. We are mountain bikers riding mountain bikes that were made for this exact sort of thing, and we were all doing it far from home and having a blast doing it. Even now, months later, 'epic' seems to be the one word I would use to describe that ride into Copper Canyon.
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Photo: Sterling Lorence
:Trek Bikes Big Mountain Bike Adventures Sterling Lorence