ROTOR IN THE WORLD
Mini-Adventure with the ROTOR crew
I can’t lie, when the Stay-at-Home orders came through, I was initially excited to have a little time off the road. My normal schedule from March to June is about 75% travel, and every year I miss the early season riding that we wait for all winter. Spring felt imminent in the Utah mountains, and I would be here to enjoy it for the first time in years.
Cut to the third month of limited cycling road routes accessible from Salt Lake City or the same handful of tired, low-elevation trails, add in the fickle nature of Utah spring, complete with surprise snowstorms and unexpectedly freezing days, and I found myself reminiscing about last May’s trip to the Italian coast for meetings and mountain bike trails, or the subsequent week at a conference in British Columbia, which presented the opportunity to explore trails there, as well. Staring into the chilly weather from my sofa and lamenting my waning fitness became a daily pursuit in early April, as did the second evening glass of wine, as I slogged through the ever-diminishing list of Netflix shows I’d consider streaming.
The nadir of all of this wallowing came on the Friday evening before Memorial Day: I was supposed to be back in Whistler, working and riding with friends, and the no-end-in-sight nature of the Coronavirus pandemic hit me full force. ROTOR owns a couple of Sprinter vans outfitted for #roadlife, so why not avail myself of one, escape the late-May snowstorm headed for the Wasatch range, and head down to do some exploring in the south of Utah? My key adventure companion (also known as my husband, the ever-patient Jeff,) consulted with me, stuck with the unenviable job of walking a fine line between advising caution, as we all know that travel is how the disease spreads, and actually telling me NO, which, given my truculent mindset and generally obstinate personality, would likely have resulted in a more reckless pursuit of catharsis.
The net result was heeding caution, albeit with a fair amount of resentment, and the compromise that we’d take an adventure bike on some unknown roads closer to home over the holiday weekend. Here’s the thing about the Wasatch Front where we live: trails dry out in layers, so early spring means low elevation trails are dry - and currently packed, with the general population’s newfound flexibility in working hours and enthusiasm for bikes - great for my work in the bicycle industry, but inconvenient for keeping socially distant. This means in spring everyone is funneled onto a few dry trails close to the Salt Lake City valley, all the busier because of cycling’s emergence as a responsible activity with limited contact. I’ve never been a fan of road cycling in the valley; even if every ride of distance didn’t include climbing a mountain pass, the more egregious flaw is the limited number of roads going through these passes, forcing cars and bicycles onto the same few thoroughfares. My joy in riding across the beautiful countryside is in reverse proportion to the amount of traffic passing by me, continually making me fear for my life.
The solution we happened upon was Groad. For those unfamiliar, this is gravel road riding, best done on a beefed-up, road-style bike with fatter, knobbier tires, and the flexibility to efficiently go on or off-road, and explore. We found a promising loop east of Park City, and pinky swore that we’d do it on Memorial Day.
Monday morning comes and I’m excited about our mini-adventure, as I have taken to calling it. It’s just exploratory enough to sate my desire for novelty, but respectful enough to suit the current situation. The first challenge we meet is my tires: I’m all about rallying some fat road tires on gravel roads, but I had sustained a particularly nasty flat a couple of days home, and my front tire had a one-inch slash in it, still booted by the dollar bill that was in my pack. Riding anywhere on that thing was asking for trouble, and riding off road on it would lead to a sad end to my ride, for sure.
I consult with Joel, the technical trainer at ROTOR, and he reminds me that our office has some wheels with narrowish, knobby tires, perfect for today’s exploration. It also comes up that the technical trainer and a couple of other employees are bound for the same stretch of groad, however while Jeff and I are starting the ride in Park City, giving us us a respectable five thousand feet of climbing over sixty miles, on and off road, the intrepid crew at the office are riding from Salt Lake City, bringing their count up to a hundred and ten miles with nearly nine thousand vertical feet gained, on and off road. That zips right past my fun threshold, so we agree to try to meet up en route.
It’s a short ride across the neighborhood, so we hop on the bikes and head to the ROTOR office. Something we’d not accounted for were the brake rotors missing on the borrowed wheels, so we set about swapping those out. Next was the cassette, so we find the cassette tool and get that swapped over, as well. And just like that! We’re back up and running and my bike has new kicks and is ready for whatever comes our way.
We drive to Park City and leave the car in an elementary school lot, to head up the backside of a trail. Within a couple of miles, we’re on a dirt road, winding up the hillside, little creek flowing on the left. We encountered a few picnickers as we leave the pavement, sallying forth with their backpacks and totes, but we are alone as we leave the easier access. The sky is the technicolor blue of acid trips, deep and electric, the kind of blue that looks photoshopped in pictures after the fact. We keep a steady pace up the mountain and descend the backside, popping out on smooth tarmac. We’re now looking for the guys from the office: this is where our paths will intersect. We spot someone waving in a red uniform a little ways up, so we turn right and head into the wind. Within seconds, Michael comes whipping past me, eliciting a shriek, as he’d come up so quickly. The guys had just descended the road on their route in, and were cruising down the mountain at fifty miles per hour, so the timing of our meet up was amazing. It turned out the figure we had originally seen was an older lady, stopped to put on her jacket, thus the perceived wave as her arms flagged in the air.
TO BE CONTINUED!
Victor Campenaerts - Zwifting with 2INpower
The Belgian cyclist/world hour record holder is back at it again, this time showing us how he's training during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Catching up with Crankworx Pumptrack winner, Tommy Zula
We got Tommy's thoughts after his hard-fought win at Crankworx Rotorua.
Absolutely buzzing after my win in New Zealand. This will be my third consecutive pump track win on the global stage, first with the rainbow stripes and first with Rotor bike onboard the carbon Kapic cranks in 165mm. I have been running these cranks since January can’t explain how stoked I am on the feel , efficiency and durability of these new cranks from Rotor Bike. They have given me extra confidence in my bike and feel like its really showing in my riding.
This off season I have been putting all my focus on preparing myself for the Crankworx world tour and the red bull pump track races. Those events have been such a good time with some of the most intense racing I have ever experienced and that keeps me motivated for the everyday training grind. I came up a little short in some of my goals in other events like dual slalom and speed n style so excited to get a few weeks at home getting the body back to one hundred percent and pushing my trick list and stepping up my game in Austria this coming June. This has been one of the best starts to a season ever for me so super excited to keep pushing and see what we can accomplish.
Thanks so much to everyone checking this out and can’t wait to get back to the races! -- Tommy
Keep up with Tommy on IG @tommyzula !
ROTOR in Rotorua
Words and photos courtesy of Dylan Crane, ROTOR shredder extraordinaire
My off season didn’t last long. After snow started flying in Colorado, covering all the trails around Boulder, I had a little over a month before my graduation ceremony and then I hopped on a plane for the trip of a lifetime down to New Zealand for three months. I think it’s safe to say everyone, including myself, that has seen all the amazing footage of NZ riding has dreams of traveling down here to experience it for themselves. I also, ever since I started racing back in high school, had wanted to make riding a full-time position. Well, for me, this was the first step to fulfilling both those dreams.
I’m sure a lot of people have experienced a plateau in their progression of something. Doesn’t necessarily have to be mountain biking, it could be any number of things. This usually happens when there is a change in their lifestyle, and something starts affecting that progression. For me, this was my time in school. Kind of obvious, I know, but when I enrolled, I thought I’d be one of those few people that could do both. Turns out I wasn’t. I struggled to balance my time with each and, realizing the value of my education, eventually had to settle for focusing my time finishing one before I could return to the other. Thankfully, with the help of a bunch of people, including all the amazing folks over at Rotor, I have been given that opportunity to return to what I truly love and re-situate myself so that the rate of progression can once again rise.
The challenge set forth in front of me now is to get myself to the point where I’ll be able to compete globally at the highest level through the entire Crankworx world tour. I think I’m already at a good point and I have a fair chance, however, to excel this requires a mental, fitness, skillset, and financial preparation that I lacked while I split my time in school. Now, though, I couldn’t be in a more perfect spot to seize this wonderful opportunity and take on my challenge. New Zealand has given me all the tools I could ask for. Simple living in a van, surrounded by friendly active people, trails that are to die for, and in a setting that could keep a smile on anyone’s face.
By the time you read this I will have settled into a nice little routine. Sometimes an early morning ride when it’s cool out, a couple of hours in the gym, then some time catching up on work and media, followed by a solid chunk of the day riding and exploring new trails, finally ending the day enjoying a drink with the new friends made during my time here. Everyone has been quite open here and it’s made finding the great local ride spots a breeze. On top of that there are a good number of amazing riders to spend my time with, pushing my limits and kicking my progression into the next gear. Having people that I can push myself alongside is invaluable to growing as a rider.
Crankworx Rotarua seems to be approaching much faster than I had anticipated. They always say time flies when you’re having fun, right? I believe it. Of course, I am nervous to start competing again. I don’t think I'll ever truly feel prepared and I worry I won’t be at the point I am hoping to be at, but that’s just part of the process and I have come to enjoy it. On the other hand, the way things are going right now, I am excited to see how I stack up. One thing is certain, no matter what happens, it will be the start of something grand and I am so thankful to be traveling the world, meeting new people, exploring new places, and riding my bike. It may not all be fun and games along the way but in the grand scheme of things I am living the dream and I can’t wait to see where it leads.
ROTOR Bike Components adds Slopestyle Athlete David Lieb to Athlete Roster
ROTOR Bike Components adds emphasis on Slopestyle for 2020, adding GT Team rider David Lieb to roster of ROTOR North American athletes.
Hailing from Michigan, Lieb grew up riding BMX before making the leap to Slopestyle five years ago, inspired by riders Brett Rheeder & Brandon Semenuk’s flawless style. “We have been watching David grow as a rider for some time, but the clincher for us was his great attitude as an athlete and ambassador. He’ll be a strong addition to our team,” says ROTOR America GM Lori Barrett. “Plus, he’s a great rider to put the new MTB groupset to the test!”
When reached for comment on the new sponsor, David says, “I’m really excited to work with ROTOR for the simple fact of the attention to detail they put into their products. I’m really specific about the reliability and performance I expect out of the parts I ride, so working with a company like ROTOR makes a lot of sense for me.”
David will be riding ROTOR RHawk on his downhill and dirt jumper bikes, and All-MTN Kapic with the 1x13 MTB drivetrain on his Enduro bike.
Joining teammates Remy Metailler & Brett Tippie, David re-signed with GT Bikes and Industry 9 wheels for 2020. Keep up with David at @davidlieb_ on Instagram. Find ROTOR at rotoramerica.com, Facebook: @Rotor Bike Components, Instagram: @RotorBike
POST-KONA BIG ISLAND TOUR
Words from Adam, November 2019
Joel and I went to Hawaii to do three things: Provide ROTOR support for the World Championship race, ride up Mauna Kea, and tour around the island on adventure bikes. Turns out, Mauna Kea was closed due to protests, but we made up for by topping out at Volcano.
Day 1 - Kona to Kukuihaele (52 miles, 4k ft of climbing)
We headed north from Kona on the Queen Q Highway section of the race course. Plenty of folks were still out riding on TT bikes, and we were generally out of place on our pannier-laden gravel bikes, but we did pass another duo on fully loaded touring bikes! They were the only other bike tourists we saw the whole time. This section of Queen K Highway snakes between the coastline and the old lava fields, exposed and beautiful the whole way. We felt safe and comfortable, cruising at a steady clip on the wide shoulder with visibility for miles. Then we turned onto Kawaihae Road. After that right turn, it was a fairly grueling climb into gusting headwinds all the way up to Waimea. We stopped for some gas station nutrition in Waimea, took a wrong turn, then headed east of town in search of Mud Lane, which would take us straight down into Kukuihaele. That was when we got our first rain. Mud Lane lived up to its name. It was rowdy.
The winding tree-lined road quickly gave way to chunky doubletrack, which then turned to rocky, rooty singletrack. We descended 3,000 feet in about 4 miles of dirt, all on heavily packed gravel bikes. It was remote, it was scary, it was rad. That night, we were told that the nearest restaurant or grocery store was 15 miles up the road. We were toast. For dinner, we ate the largest avocados I’ve ever seen, which fell like deadly coconuts from the tree just outside our outdoor kitchen.
Dinner Recipe: Harvest an avocado. You’ll know it’s ripe when it weighs about as much as a newborn giraffe. Cut it in half. Discard the pit. Drizzle with sriracha and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Eat like the ravenous pig you are. Best served with avocado pudding from the hostel owners for dessert.
Day 2 - Kukuihaele to Pahoa (68 miles, 3500 ft of climbing)*
We started with a mile spin towards the Waimea Valley overlook to check out the black sand beach. Road grades of 25% convinced us to stay at the overlook and appreciate the view rather than swim down to tempt fate in the notorious rip currents.
Heading south is where things got a little funky. The road from Kukuihaele to Hilo was gorgeous, twisting through jungles and bridging over waterfalls. We rode through a light rain most of the way, snacking on electrolyte gummies and Cheetos. In Hilo, we stopped off at Hilo Bike Hub, which was a good classic bike shop with some knowledgeable staff. They politely informed us that the road we needed was under several feet of lava flow, and we would have to get creative on the route. That’s when we decided to make it a big day and push through to Volcano. Already 50 miles and 2600 ft of climbing into the day, we were facing another 28 miles with 4100 ft of elevation gain. We rode through the scenic side road that passes through the Waiakea forest preserve. Many miles and several buckets of sweat later, we were saved by a snack stop at the Hirano general store just before the last big climb. That night, we feasted on Thai food and recovered in a hot tub set in the middle of a rainforest.
*Final route - Kukuihaele to Volcano (82 miles, 6900 ft of climbing)
Day 3 - Volcano to Ocean View (60 miles, 3200 ft of climbing [and 5900 ft of descending!])
This was the easy day that we earned with our bonus climbing on Day 2. We descended down to the black sand beaches at Punalu’u for a mid-morning snorkel session, surfing each other’s drafts the whole way from 4500 ft to sea level. The snorkeling was sublime. Black sands and lava rocks, all kinds of fish I’d never seen, and dedicated nesting grounds for sea turtles. After the beach, we hit rolling hills across the southernmost stretch of road in the US. We got to Ocean View and ducked into the local Haole bar for a happy hour burger and beer as the rain started to fall outside. From there, we had a 1200 ft descent to our hostel, straight downhill through piercing rain and fading light. We slept well that night.
Day 4 - Ocean View to Kona
We woke to golden light over a Mars-like landscape of lava flows cascading down to the ocean. After cooking up a pancake breakfast and chatting with the other hostel guests we cinched down our packs and looked at the climb back out to the Hawaii belt road. Confession: We hitched a ride up that 1200 ft climb from our hostel to the main road. They were already going up the road, and we were tired. I’d do it again. After that, we rode the sketchiest roads we’d seen all trip. When there was a shoulder, it was narrow. When the road was straight, the speed limit was high, and when the road got twisty, people ignored the speed limit and went fast anyway. We basically time trialed this section, trading pulls all the way to Captain Cook. Once there, we paid a visit to our good friend Big Rob (of Big Rob’s Bakery), where we were treated like kings. The place is a gem, and the man is a world-class baker. He’s also a hoot and a half, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
The final stretch from Big Rob’s to Kona was supposed to be easy peasy lemon squeezy, but instead it was stressy depressy lemon zesty. The rain came in hard and the drivers took some aggressive passes as we got closer to town. Still, we made it back safely, ate a massive dinner, and packed the bikes to make time for our final snorkel trip to Kahalu’u Beach Park the next day.
All told, it was the trip of a lifetime. Joel saw a sea turtle, I inhaled a bunch of seawater, and we both got in some unbelievably scenic riding. I really love my job, as evidenced by the fact that I boarded the plane back to the mainland rather than disappearing in the jungle and living out my remaining days as an avocado picker. If all goes according to plan, we’ll be back for another round next year!
Got a route suggestion for the next round? Hit me in the web chat!
BIKEPACKING BOSNIA HERZEGOVINA
Words from Lori, October 2019
I didn't know exactly what to expect when I arranged to spend a few days riding the Ciro Trail across Bosnia–Herzegovina and Croatia following Eurobike this year. I figured it would be a good reset after a week in meeting rooms and in the Messe, as we all call the Zeppelin hangar that serves as the Eurobike show home.
The Ciro is a rail-to-trail, a former railroad line converted into a bike route, that travels a quick 160km on and off road through the rolling countryside of BiH along the Neretva River. I'm comfortable navigating the world solo, but the thought of sharing the road with cars as I pilot my fifty-pound touring rig simply felt ill-advised so I was excited to find this mini-tour to sate my desire for adventure. It was absolutely everything I could have hoped for: approximately 40% off road, I pedaled over hill and dale, refurbished railroad trestles and through an astonishing eleven tunnels, pitch black and filled with fluttering bats.
My borrowed bike had Q ring oval chainrings on it, which definitely helped as I plodded up the steady grades across the broken slate trail. Still, the 50/34 gearing was pretty stout given the weight of the bike, the surface I was riding, and the various mild but ongoing climbs. I finished the day clocking 63 miles and 4200 feet of climbing about 50/50 off-road that day. It was with some relief that I pulled into my small hotel, a refurbished former train station in Ravno, Bosnia–Herzegovina, that evening for a soft bed and hot shower.
The second day of riding started with more energy-draining crushed slate climbing, but after only about 10km resolved into a narrow ribbon of pavement unspooling across the countryside. I crossed into the Republik of Srpska early in the day, where all the road signs turned into Cyrillic and I crossed paths with a stereotypically eastern European man: army fatigues and boots, bare chest with gold chain, cigarette dangling from his lips with the accessory of two dogs on chain leashes. I deployed my well-practiced Croat "Hello" (Bok, in case you're wondering, or practicing chicken noises,) and continued on my way.
I passed through a handful of burned-out former train stations, reminders that a war had been here in my lifetime. I stopped and poked around these remnants, now housing no more than cattle as the towns around them slowly drifted toward closer routes of commerce.
I was excited as I approached the border to Croatia. I wondered if my passport stamp would be a bicycle in the top right corner, instead of the usual plane or car, indicating my mode of arrival. I got in line joined by two fellow bikepackers, a pair of Serbian twins riding from Serbia to Montenegro, and passed my folio through the small window. Sadly, it was still a car stamp, but it barely dimmed my enthusiasm as I pressed on to ride to the fortress up above Dubrovnik.
The Serbs were my companions for a while until the climb above the city reached a shocking 18% grade sustained. Admittedly, even my oval rings couldn't keep me upright given the duration and pitch of the climb, and there was a short bout of bike pushing alongside the train of Game of Thrones-themed tourist vans until it leveled out slightly.
Once back aboard my steed, I crested the top and took in the remarkable view of Dubrovnik perched on the Adriatic Sea below. Snapping a final picture, I waved goodbye to my erstwhile traveling companions and began the long descent into the Old City to merge with the tourist hordes, myself.