Last night River Valley Cycle hosted its HUGE customer appreciation night, and announced Kokanee as the new sponsor of the RVC XC mountain bike team. It was a very cool night. The store was decked out with wall-to-wall deals on TLD gear and rides, from Santa Cruz, Kona to Rocky Mountain. For a long while there, the place was so packed you had a hard time getting around  to check everything out. Not to worry though, the RVC staff served up a choice open buffet and there was lots of Kokanee to go around!

This summer, RVC is launching its cross-country mountain bike club, and race team, and it’s shaping up nicely already. With experienced racers like Syd Jacklin, Kirk Hamilton and Mike Sarnecki around to help out by leading group rides and offer up coaching advice to new racers like me, it’s going to be really cool. By the sounds of things, the Club is going to be pretty laid back, focusing mostly on just getting out on Monday nights for good group rides. And with several ride leaders, they’ll be able to break the group off into skill levels so beginners, avids – like me, and even the hardcore riders will all find a fit. I’m looking out the window at the snow-covered valley right now, but it won’t be long before those trails are ready to go. You can sign up for just the Club rides, which are going to be accessible to any skill level, or if you want something more intense, you can also sign up for the XC race team. We’re going to be hitting as many of the ABA races as we can this summer. Good times! For more information on the new XC race team and Monday night Club rides, check RVC’s site in the coming weeks, or just give Syd a call at the shop. We’d love to see you out there!

Personally, I’m looking forward to riding with a shop team this summer for several reasons. Last summer, I essentially rode as an Independent – a ronin, haha… that is, when I wasn’t riding with my buddy Ken as team Bikeridr. With Ken ‘still’ living in Calgary (I figured he’d have moved back by now) sadly I just don’t get to ride with him that much. We’ll still see what the summer holds for us in way of epic racing adventure; I’m sure we’ll get in our fair share. But, for the week-to-week riding, being part of an organized team is going to be nice. I’ll have people to ride with for one thing. I’m excited for the Monday night rides to get going. As fun as it is to ride on your own, riding in a good group is way better and way more fun. You’ll push a little harder, ride a little longer, and learn way more. Riding with others, and just watching the lines they take, the way they ride sections of trail, climb, or downhill is probably the best way to get better. I know if I see someone else ride something, I immediately think I should be able to ride it too. It doesn’t always end up being true, but often enough, it does. You just have to see that it’s possible, then at least you’ll give it a go. I remember it was the end of the ’09 fall riding season and I was out for a group night ride. I was following my buddy Sam on a section of trail down by Emily Murphy Park. The trail spits you out into this gnarly, rooted and steep drop off that’s always wet and mucky. I’ve tried to ride this many, many times over the years and I don’t know if I’ve ever made it down with any ‘elegance’. Sure I’ve managed to sketch my way down it before, escaping a crash by the skin of my teeth, but riding behind Sam that night, he picked a line I had never considered, and just like that we both rode it out, and it was suddenly the easiest thing in the world. Thanks for that one Sam! I hope I can remember that line come Spring.

Other reasons I’m looking forward to riding with a team this year is the riding and coaching advice from Expert and Elite level riders. Where else is a guy like me going to actually get to ride with racers that good and that fast? On Sundays I meet up with Interclub at DaCapo and I hang on to the group for a while, but drop off the back sooner or later. With a bike shop Club ride, you all stick together. No one gets dropped. So you can actually ride with people like Kirk Hamilton and learn. That’s going to be sweet. Lastly, the ‘at race’ support. RVC will have their team truck and trailer there with ready-to-go gear, spare parts, tools, tents for shade and rain cover, you name it. You forgot to pack energy gels – the team has extra. You break a chain on your warm up lap, there you go. You snap off you rear derailleur, toss your bike up on the tool stand and wrench on a new one. Having that kind of at race support is going to go a long way toward having a more enjoyable race season. Lastly though, in the last year, I’ve found bike-folk in general to be some of the friendliest people around. The race itself is fun, sure. I love riding fast. Who doesn’t. Burning legs, searing lungs, awesome! But just hangin’ out before and after the race with everyone is probably more of a highlight for me than anything else. I’ve met some of the coolest, down-to-earth people this year. I’m looking forward to more of that.