Smoke Room - Interbike Alternate Reality Check

Oct 5, 2011 at 12:41
by Johnny Smoke  

Smoke drops his rendition of an alternate to the trade shows we just showcased for the past month or so and we have to say that in an ideal world, his version would win year after year!

Ahh yes. The end of summer has arrived, and with it the usual round of trade shows and industry product release mayhem. This is the reality of the bike industry. When the promise of long dusty days in the saddle beckon, everyone packs off to some godforasaken spot in the desert to wilt under artificial light and processed air while pretending to drool over the “new” bits and bobs that Pinkbike already previewed on the site weeks before. In an alternate reality, could we not do something like this in a more bike oriented community? Is there not a convention center in Vancouver. Does not Whistler have the greatest bike park in the world? Is there not an option?

NRG - Retallack - Day 2

Interbike in another dimension sure looks like the Interior of BC.


Why yes...yes there is. And like so many great alternate realities in the fat tire realm, it’s centered in the Kootenay region of BC. It just so happens that there’s a small yet influential distribution company in Nelson that felt that the time was ripe for a bit of a change in the program. So instead of the usual booth that tries to re-create a bit of artificial forest in some industrial building someplace, it was felt that it might work better to import some of the industry to recreate in the forest and at the same time have a look at some of the offerings on tap for 2012.

NRG Enterprises was founded a couple of decades ago by another former Cove resident by the name of Ramin Sherkat. Distributing such core product as Chromag, Maxxis, Hope, MRP, Surly, and many others including some in-house staples, NRG wields a lot of clout in the Canadian market. Ramin also happens to be one of the senior winter guides at Retallack Lodge. This year, Retallack just happened to partner up with Riley McIntosh for mountain bike operations So it was a natural progression to invite 20 of their key accounts to the lodge for a special pre-Interbike preview of the new kit.

NRG product launch 2010 - Retallack Lodge

THIS is a dirt demo.


I've got the inside on this one simply because I scored some guiding work with Retallack this summer. I'll be throwing down some more stories about the lodge later in the winter, but for now it's suffice to say that this is the first "Real Deal" backcountry lodge in the immense world that is Canadian Freeride. This was to be a bit of a bigger crew than would be usual though. With all the guides and staff, we were looking at a group of 27. Which meant that much of the usual terrain wouldn't be practical. Not to mention that not everyone in attendance would be that solid on the steep terrain typical of the Kootenays.

Luckily, Ramin had a cool plan for the weekend. In between product knowledge sessions and truly epic amounts of ale, he lined up some excellent routes for us to negotiate. Ramin is now a Kootenay guy, but like me he traces his roots back to the Cove, and those roots are showing. He has a hard time with the whole shuttle concept, so in the spirit of the old school we had a route plan that looked more like a mountain stage at the Tour de France than a typical shuttle fest in the Koots. With some massive slopes all around, to do a full marathon route under our own power was kind of ambitious to say the least. Instead we did some "shuttle assisted" climbing. This meant that we would use vehicles to get up some of the elevation, but would still pedal the more worthy parts. So the first 4500' or so was done while sardined into the vans.

NRG - Retallack - Day 1

The peloton crying out for Dave Watson to jump them.


Even with the van support, the initial climb was pretty stiff. Straight up, it was steep enough in spots that riding it was counter-productive. While it would be a bit dull as far as riding goes under normal circumstances, with such perfect weather and enough riders to form a peloton things sharpened up briskly. I knew many of the riders personally already, as the NRG network just happens to closely mirror my own (check the sponsor list below for similarities). I assumed that the new faces would be just as entertaining. This crew is a veritable 'Who's Who" of OG BC bike shop proprietors. As is usual in a group like this, friendly competition soon ensued.

NRG - Retallack - Day 1

Pete "Pack Filler" Dorrey at the road gap on Reco.


As I mentioned in the last story, a group ride isn’t a race. Except that it always is. Props go to Mark Holt of The Sacred Ride in Nelson for being the King of the Mountains all day long. Kind of an unfair advantage for the local boy, but damn can he climb. The first summit was actually a col between Reco and Texas peaks called Hollywood Ridge. If you’ve seen Brandon Semenuk’s segment in the last New World Disorder, you’ve seen this spot before. We weren’t really up to that calibre of riding though, so we contented ourselves with some gawking at the huge lines they built up here for that project, and took a bit of time to light a candle on a cupcake for our man Shreddie’s birthday.

Your last birthday as a non-parent. Cheers

"Papa" Shreddie, Williams Lake icon and now the proud father of a baby girl as of October 3rd.


The descent was not particularly exciting as far as the standards of trails go. It’s an old mining access doubletrack, but what it lacked in technical challenge was made up by the astounding views and the staggering amount of vertical drop. 28 switchbacks at full speed make for an interesting 45 minutes. The road also intersects a wide array of mining history in the form of abandoned shafts, adits, and many ruined mining structures. I can only dream of this road having a big berm on every corner and three big tables on every straightaway. If it wasn’t for it having a fair amount of quad traffic, that dream could be realized fairly quickly.

NRG - Retallack - Day 1
Does this look like it could be a killer gap to you?

After passing through the ghost town of Cody we took a lunch break in Sandon at the local museum. We presented a bit of a spectacle with nearly thirty dusty riders arriving en masse. Keep in mind that the permanent population of Sandon is a robust 5. They are somewhat used to the presence of the two-wheeled warriors, and even boast a former resident with some impressive riding credentials like a silver medal at the Worlds and several Canadian DH medals (anyone care to guess who?).

NRG - Retallack - Day 1
I still don't know what they're looking at, but it must be good.

The post-lunch programme was another ascent, this time on the lower reaches of Idaho Peak. The main route up gets quite busy with tourist traffic heading up to the lookout at the top, and as such is insanely dusty and not terribly safe for a large group. Instead we tackled the alternate climb up H-Road, which is surprisingly pleasant. Keep in mind that I’m not all that excited about pedalling up mountains that have perfectly good roads. You know that if I’m OK with it, that it’s not a real lung buster. After a couple of thousand vertical feet, we ran out of suitable trail however, so we piled into the vans for the next couple grand.

NRG - Retallack - Day 1

Kurt marshals his forces for another big up.



Apart from some clueless tourists not clear on the concept of leaving appropriate space for large trucks to pass, we got to Sundowner without incident. Oh, and we did run into a dust covered Rudi Schneider (another pro cyclist from a former age) on the way up, but we had no room for him in the bus. He didn’t know about the alternate climb, and was consequently a bit dusty from the experience.

NRG - Retallack - Day 2

Eat my dust, Schneider!


As it was going to be simply too busy up at the top to unload nearly 30 riders, we skipped out on the Wakefield and opted for the less traveled ‘Choices,’ so named for its many intersecting options. This led to some interesting moments with a large group getting split up, but all the lines do lead to a few common choke points, so it was easy getting people back together.

NRG - Retallack - Day 2

Are you sure this is the way?


Of greater importance on this part of the ride was the degree of steepness, or the angle of repose as it were. The lower slopes on Idaho Peak have some moderately serious grades in places, and if you are from less mountainous regions of Canada (like Ontario or Newfoundland), you might just be out of your depth here. I really wish I had a headcam on at times like these, because it’s harder to share the images burned on my retinas without one. Picture if you will several middle aged, slightly out of shape, badly out of wind shop owners upside down in the rough, some of them still moving, looming out of the thick dust clouds raised by the multiple impacts.

“Don’t stop!” someone screamed at my as I came through. Yeah well...not here I’m not going to. But I damn well did just down the trail to try to get some pics of the carnage.

Ah well, none of them turned out, but I did manage to capture the historic moment when one guy came through on a Salas 29’r with sweeper bars. That would be a first on Choices, that’s for sure.

NRG - Retallack - Day 1 Titanium moustache bars
Titanium handlebars and wagon wheels; perfect for Idaho Peak.

The final trail treat for the day was the Old Sandon Road, which parallels the historic Galena Trail, but on the south side of Carpenter Creek. Many people are familiar with the Galena and its famous cable car ferry, but not so many folks have ridden the Old Sandon Road. Which is a shame as it was in many ways the highlight of the day. It’s the original wagon road from New Denver up the valley, and passes through many old mines. It’s been hacked from the side of the mountain and over the years has been partially covered in many spots by rockfalls and the like. It also passes by several old mines. It’s got lots of great sidehill sections, some awesome exposure in places, and even a couple technical parts. Mainly it was about some great flow. We were like a runaway train, with the end in sight the crew picked up lots of momentum in their rush to the cold beers awaiting us on the beach. Well, that and a bunch of flat tires, but it was a long day.

NRG product launch 2010 - Retallack Lodge

The Seal Club, a bunch of pale fleshy mammals on a beach.


Is that the answer to the apparent stagnation of industry trade shows? Honestly, probably not. There were less than 30 people on that beach at the end of the day, an improbable number of beers went M.I.A. However, it was a great alternative to the usual, and although I don’t know how it went for sales, it was certainly a worthy experience.

Oh, you want to know about the gear? Hey, it all looked great, but you can look up that stuff anyplace. Instead, I’m gonna give a shout to some lesser known equipment that I run. I don’t normally do product reviews, but in the spirit of the thing, here we go:

Bonus Gear Review:
I get well taken care of by some great sponsors. Rocky Mountain hooked me up with a couple of great bikes this year. If you're paying attention to this site, you'll know that the Flatline and Slayer are getting rave reviews around the web. Likewise with Maxxis tires, anything Chromag, DT wheels, and MRP guides and cranks. I'm not gonna talk about those things, or even the amazing rebirth of Marzocchi as the 888's have risen from the ashes of the debacle of the past to regain their rightful place as the fork of choice in the gravity set.

Nope, let's look at some unsung heroes. We’re talking about low end upgrades here, where the performance per penny is the best that it can get.

We all know about the 5.10 shoes now. Sticky rubber, burly build, a bunch of new options. Heard it before. Well, they also are kind of wide and have a bit of a flat feel to the bed. As someone with seriously dainty hooves, I’ve never found them suitable.

Beat up gear that works in the real world.

Smells like victory, and a dash of blue cheese.


Enter the Specialized footbed. They come in three different arch profiles, are stupid easy to fit, and also have some custom shims available if you're really picky about your foot support. I can tell you that they work as advertised, and are a steal at less than $50 at most Specialized dealers. I am now a 5.10 convert in no small part to these footbeds. I would guess that just about any off the shelf footbed would give anyone a performance increase with their riding, but these are the ones I tried, so I'm telling you about them first.

Another thing about the 5.10's is their incredible stickiness. While that sticky rubber is one amazing selling feature, it's also one of the few criticisms of the shoe. In a nutshell, if you miss your foot placement on the pedal, it can be almost impossible to correct when you're trying to deal with rough terrain. While often not a big deal, it can be infuriating when you're trying to get started in a technical section, or downright dangerous if you're running full speed into the gnar with the stance of a crippled duck.

Beat up gear that works in the real world.

Think fast, hippy.


The answer is in the pedals. By request, I tried out some plastic low profile pedals from NRG that go by the amusing misnomer of "Hippy Killers." They are slightly convex, which flies in the face of conventional pedal design, but when paired with the 5.10's they allow a near perfect blend of stickiness while retaining the ability to re-adjust your foot position without having to lift your foot from the pedal. Admittedly, this is a very personal and preferential feel, and I have a feeling that it's niche enough that we may not see these pedals around for long, but I for one thought they were awesome. I rode them on both my XC rig and my big bike, and never had to think about my foot placements. Big thumbs up.

After pricing out all the bits and bobs on my Flatline, I think it would retail in roughly the $6500-$7000 range. Have a look at this headset:

Beat up gear that works in the real world.
Seventeen bucks, a bargain at twice the price.

Yup, that's right. I run an FSA PIG with plain old ball bearings.

"Why," you may ask?

Simple. After years of abusing high end cartridge bearing headsets with complicated tensioning systems I've gotten bored with all the creaking and crackling noises and the associated problems with servicing them. The PIG is simple, cheap, and damn near maintenance free. Not to mention cheap. I picked this one up on sale for SEVENTEEN BUCKS. So I bought two of them. Oh, and you also configure the PIG to fit just about any headtube/steertube combination. I'm running a 1.5"-1-1/8th" stepdown, but they make retro kits to fit any taper/headtube combo you can think of. Even at $50, these are still my headset of choice.

There you go. A few time tested products for you that really work. Although if I'm to be perfectly frank, I'm secretly stoked to see fluorescent colours return for next season. I'm hoping to have one LOUD bike for next season.

Chromag 2010 colours
Plus, they come with free Jolly Ranchers!

After all the Interbike hype, some reality check for you. Oh, and since we've been getting all those pics of tarted up females that could never even pick up a bike, let alone ride one, I thought I'd leave you with this shot of Lorraine shredding Toad Peak in the Kootenays.

Cat s Ass Retallack - 2

Girls that can actually ride a bike are infinitely hotter than any Interbike arm candy.


Take that, Vegas.

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40 Comments

  • + 53
 "Girls that can actually ride a bike are infinitely hotter than any Interbike arm candy.

Take that, Vegas."

truer words were never spoken.
  • + 18
 even girls who try to ride bikes are pretty hot too
  • + 11
 haha there`s nothing that turns me on more than a cute shredder chick
  • + 2
 except the desensitization factor.....freakin' saddle sports huh?
  • + 1
 werd
  • + 2
 cute chick, sexy bike & cleavage -- love it! I should work on my riding cleavage (although it's pretty much impossible with the leatt on....).
  • + 4
 Nice way to say Ontarians and Newfoundlanders might not be able to "hang" on these trails.The East always gets disrespected for some reason especially ON.The fastest guy on the CCup series has been from Ontario for the last two years.The fastest junior in the country is also from here.The general ignorant lack of knowledge from industry people about riders from our area is what makes it so hard for them to get recognized when searching for sponsorship opportunities.No matter how fast and talented they are.
  • + 3
 I think your missing the point. The context of that comment was directed more towards the flatlander bike shop owners that were on that trip, not the handful of guys out east who can actually kill it. Having spent the first 10 years of my riding life in ON, I can tell you first hand that until you experience vertigo, you don't really know what your talking about. Even whistler doesn't really count unless your dropping down to creekside. Out here, you make one mistake and your not going home..it's big country. To the NF guy that boasts about 2600' mtns, we trails down ridge lines that drop you that much vert in under 15 min at a 60deg slope. We aren't knocking you guys or the places that you live, it's just soo much bigger here. A 2600' decent is an evening shuttle with beers at the beach afterwards. Go ride mt 7, tko, trespasser, iron mtn, the monster and any of the bigger stuff in the kootenay area you will understand where we're coming from.
  • + 3
 The only problem is that Interbike and Eurobike mostly aren't about riding bikes and having fun. They are there to give industry bigwigs a place to meet and do business as well as showing off the newest products. It is pretty difficult to discuss margins and dealer terms or supplier contracts and lead times while puffing up a hill or screaming back down.
  • + 3
 I found it quite funny how on the Interbike articles, some people commented that they would give their left nut to be at the trade show. It is weird that they would rather be walking around a convention centre than going out and riding... I mean, given a week off, I would probably ride those exact trails on my way to Nelson...
  • + 1
 Back when I worked in a bike shop, interbike was great, because as a lowly employee with no buying power, it was my job to check out all the new stuff one day, while picking up free stuff, then going out and riding 10 different bikes in the desert the next day. Then head home and get back to work. Two days I will never forget. There are plenty of two days of riding that I have forgotten.
  • + 6
 I would love to see/hear more about that girl on the last picture Smile
  • + 1
 Hahha, yeah, when does her "edit" come out?
  • + 4
 That girl in the Race Face gear is the one and only Lorraine Blancher. Super hot rider and great gal! She loves the shred and sends it too!!! We love LB!
  • + 2
 Excellent. Smile
  • + 2
 hahaha thats the creepiest reply lol
  • + 2
 The fifth pic in here should answer all your questions (if you are interested in how much of a badass rider she is, which I presume is what you are curious about): www.nsmb.com/4140-lorraine-blancher-interview.
  • + 2
 Roger- Thank you. Good article on her. She rides crazy!
  • + 2
 Good stuff. Maybe the BC based frame and component manufacturers could get their own "Cascadia Bike Expo 2012" together, that would draw most of the Pacific North West region together. I'm sure Seattle and Portland would represent. But try pulling the more mainstream industry fat cats away from 'Merka - betcha can't tempt them over the border ! Maybe mix industry days with days open to the wider riding public. Perfect mix of xc/am/om/dh/fr trails on the shore. The point about new parts being reviewed months in advance of the industry gig is spot on. It all becomes a big tiresome whatever sort of goonfest with a few lame girlie pix to sate the needs of the 32 y/o Pinkbike massive.
  • + 2
 hey this is rich down in oliver. Just wanted to give you some props and say thanks for the trail work you and your friends did down here in the spring. When we ran into you guys years ago we weren't sure of your intentions but in the last couple of years you showed us your commitment and passion for the life style of mtn biking. Phil and i rode tko on sunday and its in great shape. Hobo mike is stoked to know that people like his trail and are willing to make the effort to keep it alive. Thank you.
  • + 2
 Barb & Smoke did fine trail work when living in the Cove and does a lot of good work where he lives now in the Okanagan. Shout out to trail guides who give back to the trails! Hugs & kisses ---- lee & sharon
  • + 1
 TKO is unbelievable this year. I rode it a couple of weeks ago and it was probably the best I've ever seen it. Brant and Andrew are interested in doing some new stuff down there sometime. Hit me up if you've got some suggestions. We might even do a quick build session in the next month or so.
  • + 1
 How about 3-4 more trails?!!
  • + 1
 Senor Smoke, I do agree! Just as SIA left Vegas 2 years ago for the exact same reasons... There is no skiing in VEGAS! I agree that having the convention in a rider centric location would only make sense... Heck Denver wouldn't be a bad place for Interbike as well! Tons of Bike parks within an hour as well as XC and all that jazz.. Vegas is done... Besides half the people attending can't remember what happened over the 3 days...
  • + 1
 This is true. I was there for 5 days. I remember having a lot of headaches, and I got woken up in the hallway by security more than once. On that note, I do believe they should re-locate, especially for the demo days. Sure Bootleg is a techy, rocky, gnar-garden all the way down, but it's hard to tell what a bike is really doing when you're having to hang on for dear life just to get to the bottom. Needs to be a place that's got everything; rock gardens, berms, roots, steeps, big doubles; some place where you can throw everything at a bike...say Jackson Hole!
  • + 1
 those Specialized footbeds are not for everyone. They have different arch heights, but I was sized up for the blue ones (the middle arch height), and oh boy, did my feet cramp up and it was so painful, I could hardly ride. Superfeet FTW. I'm sure some riders will benefit from the Specialized footbeds, but make sure you can exchange them (for Superfeet of course) if they make your feet hurt
  • + 1
 My buddy was in vegas on his honeymoon. He said it sucked. He couldn't get into the trade show, and everything is too expensive and ugly on the strip. Then he rented an suv and explored the nearby mountains. He said he wished he had his bike when a guy cleared the road gap of the road they were climbing. But his wife would not have liked that. She doesn't ride and for some odd reason wanted to spend her honeymoon with her husband . . . Vegas itself is lame, but the mountains down there aren't all that different from Moab. BC is sweet and I hope to retire there, but give Nevada her due. There is great biking to be had in that desert if you know where to go. And besides, Park City is less than a day a way. If you ask me that is where the show should be. Every type of biking in a beautiful little resort city. PS great write up. Sounds like a blessed life to get to go to that sort of thing.
  • + 3
 Great article! Loving the part about the FSA Pig headset, doing it the same way for many years now. In your face, CK fanboys Big Grin
  • + 1
 Cane Creek is where it's at. Those pig headsets shouldn't be mentioned in the same sentence as a good quality headset. I've had my fair share of headsets, and the pig and chris king are by far the worst. Cane Creek has quality that makes you never want to go back.
  • + 1
 That's funny, I had more problems with my cane creek headsets than I ever had with my Pig and Pig DH Pro headsets.
  • + 2
 That's why Cane Creek offers the longest warranty in the business, because they are the best bar none.
  • + 1
 well it would actually be CC fanboys...proud to be one...*sigh* i love my 110...
  • + 1
 Had an FSA PIG, upgraded to a Cane Creek S8. So much smoother, never looked back, I love it. I'd also love to try a Chris King, but they just cost so much!
  • + 1
 always have had problems with the sealed cane creek 1.5 headsets. i run a pig loose bearing 1.5 lower and a 1 1/8 sealed upper and it has been trouble free all season.
  • + 1
 Bag on the convention hall all you like but leave bootleg canyon and the dirt demo out of it. That is amazing riding. The desert has a lot more to offer than you might think.
  • + 1
 Sorry, but Newfoundland actually has some fair sized mountains 2600ft max, much larger than any in PEI, NS, SK, MB & ON.
  • + 1
 Glad that someone mentioned this, there is definitely some gnar in western newfoundland. pay attention to the tourism ads! chadpelley.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/tablelands-trail.jpg there's some lines there.
  • + 2
 Epic as always. Would love to see/hear more about Retallack too!
  • + 1
 I think that can be arranged...but you'll have to wait a few months.
  • + 1
 Nice write up Smoke, always intrigued by your stories, Cheers

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