The Final Trans-Provence
Story by Peter Ostroski
What makes the Trans-Provence different than all the other stage races? It’s the combination of a massive amount of vertical metres descended, the number of hours in the saddle, countless switchbacks executed, and the camaraderie formed between riders. In my mind, it’s one of the hardest mountain bike events in the world as it tests your physical, mental, and mechanical stamina over six unrelenting days. This year marked the 10th and final year for the Trans-Provence and it finished just as it started – incredibly. This race has always delivered the ultimate adventure for like-minded riders looking to move through the mountains, interpret trails on sight, put down some fast times, and feel a true community vibe.
I was anxious about heading into the Trans-Provence. It’s such a legendary event with a long and documented history. But even though my anxiety was growing it shifted to excitement as soon as I arrived in Barcelonnette, France to kick things off. The schedule was set for the next six days, and although it was daunting the vibe at camp couldn’t have been more relaxed. New riders were introduced, past riders were reunited, and everyone was stoked to get going as we organized our tents and gear.
The Trans-Provence is all about blind racing so when you’re charging down old donkey paths, predictability goes by the wayside and the good choices you make begin to outweigh the risky ones. It’s quite unlike an EWS race that lasts only one day or two. At the Trans-Provence, you’re tasked with managing your own decisions and support to sustain nearly a full week of racing.
We were greeted by unfamiliar but awesome trails day in and day out. As the entire group rode through the Maritime Alps, we navigated everything from high alpine singletrack to technical rocky crags at sea level. The style and flow of each trail changed dramatically, putting even more strain on our bikes, body, and mind. Even though I was completely exhausted, it was the other racers at the Trans-Provence that helped to keep me going in the adventure. Riding with friends, swapping stories, and having coffees in small villages made for an unforgettable journey.
The idea behind the Trans-Provence is simple. You camp in tents and change locations each morning, manage your own gear, keep your bike and body running, and get through each day. It sounds simple enough, but I can assure you it’s far from it as you navigate from valley to valley and cover hundreds of kilometres and descend the height of Mount Everest two and half times.
The Trans-Provence is a race model that’s influenced an entire culture of mountain biking and pushed the limits what’s possible from an event. It truly is an incredible mountain bike adventure.
Words by Felix Burke
Like a relentless metronome and a to-do list that never ends; Work, school, errands, and whatever other tasks I have often make me feel like I’m stuck in a hamster wheel. Yes, these are things that have to be done, but as I get busier in life, I also realize that I need to reserve some time to do what I love - the things that keep the kid in me stoked! No surprise here, I love riding bikes. The feeling of covering ground fast, seeing new places, and going on a spontaneous adventure, means that I can get a much-needed escape from the hamster wheel to nowhere and get lost without starting much further than my front doorstep.
A good start to any adventure is with pizza and maps.
Quinn and I, both students at the University of Victoria and full-time bike racers, do our best to fly by the seat of our pants and battle against conventional schedules and normalcies. But as hard as we try, we still have to hand in assignments and play by the rules. When Scott suggested this rather epic ride, with his experience in balancing a full-time job and going on amazing adventures, it didn't take much convincing to get us on board.
Chain lube and tire pressure, the classic last-minute preparation.
With hundreds of kilometres of trail stretching north of the city, the ride Scott suggested was destined to be filled with wrong turns, epic bonks, and (hopefully) second winds. These are the things we live for! So, despite the heavy grey clouds casting gloomy shadows over Victoria, we loaded the bikes, grabbed some snacks and set out for the hills.
Scott: "I was really excited for the potential of this ride. The idea of leaving the city and getting to a point on a map that I've only driven to was exciting, but I had no idea what it would look like along the way."
If you're going to meet anywhere, it may as well have sumptuous coffee.
The plan was to follow Victoria's intricate network of bike paths to the edge of the city and connect with the Sooke Wilderness Trail to head north. From there we’d meet the "Cowichan Valley Trail" to bring us further north to the shores of Shawnigan Lake. Once at our turnaround point, the Kinsol Trestle, we would head to the coast and board a small ferry to bring us across the Saanich Inlet to Brentwood Bay. From there we would cruise the country roads back into town and re-enter our normal day to day with a healthy fill of exciting memories after 140km of southern Vancouver Island's finest riding.
...but we all know what caffeine intake leads to.
With cold temperatures, wind and rain, the weather wasn’t overly inspiring. But while most of the city chose to spend the day huddled in their blankets, we followed Victoria's bike path labyrinth while weaving in out of neighbourhoods and along industrial parks until we got to the edge of the city.
Quinn: "It was raining hard enough that I think it had all of us second guessing what we were heading out to do, but no one was ready to admit it. We rode through downtown and onto the ‘E and N rail-trail’ which is home to some of my favourite graffiti."
A little respite from the rain on our way out of the city.
As we left the city, the world got greener and we began to feel smaller. The roads narrowed, the houses became sparse, and sooner than we expected it was just us, the trail, and the torrential rain.
Into the hills we ride
This first section of the Sooke Wilderness Trail had all of our adventure taste-buds firing. This ribbon of fine gravel took us through a sea of green and a tall trees until we were faced with the trail pointing its way directly uphill, disappearing into the fog far above us.
Follow the trail, deep into a world of giants
The climb over the top of the Malahat summit was steep and unforgiving. In some sections we had to fight for every metre, grinding the chain over the chainrings and pushing hard on the pedals. It was here where our thoughts went blank and our focus narrowed on heavy breathing and our immense discomfort. The sweet escape.
The summit was a relief, and with the climb behind us and a descent to look forward to, the three of us laughed at the ridiculousness of our situation and edged forward. Maybe part of it was that we were three mountain bikers on gravel bikes and felt a little silly, but I think the majority of it was that we were too tired to think properly. All that was in our minds is that it was time to shred down instead of suffering up.
There is only one way to get through the mountains, and that is to grind.
Scott: "I was surprised with how dialled a lot of the Sooke Wilderness Trail and Cowichan Valley trail were. Each section was a bit different, and fun to ride for what it brought to the variety of the ride. Riding the downhills were surprisingly fun in a 1980's mountain bike kind of way - haha!"
Quinn: "The descent into Shawnigan was really rad as we were all seeing how sideways we could get on the gravel switch backs!"
Gravel bike shredding. It's real and it's rad!
What’s the optimal granular size for gravel? The answer is whatever we were riding here.
The descent from the Malahat brought us into the Cowichan Valley, where we welcomed the flatter terrain, using it to our advantage to cover distance quickly. We rode through a tunnel of trees and along the banks of Shawnigan Lake until we reached our furthest point from home, the Kinsol Trestle. Built in 1944, it is one of the tallest railway trestles in the world at 44m high. A worthy objective for the day's mission.
The Kinsol Trestle was the northernmost point of our route.
Leaving the Kinsol Trestle behind, we turned on a forestry road named “Koksilah Road”, a name that made the three of us chuckle in our bonked-state. The plan was fuel up on the in-house roasted coffee and pastries at the Drumroaster Cafe in Cobble Hill, as we were soaked to the bone with dwindling spirits.
Quinn: "For the thirty or so minutes before the Drumroaster stop I was really wishing we were there already. I was getting in serious need of a sandwich and coffee, and to be honest, a break!"
Through a tunnel of trees on the Cowichan Valley trail
We’d been battered by the rain since the beginning and the humidity was now working its way into my camera lens. As we left the café in Cobble Hill, I’d worried I had done some permanent damage to the lens but knew I couldn’t do anything about it until we got back. At this point, I wasn’t even sure that we were making it home in one piece.
The warm drinks and food at Drumroaster Café were well deserved and did their part in bringing us back to life (kind of). As we sat there watching the rain from the inside out, it finally came time to ride and all that lay ahead was pedalling into the downpour.
Quinn: "When it was time to get going again, we walked outside to some serious rain. It was not the moral boost I was looking for."
Scott: " Walking out the door of the coffee shop to hammering rain was not how I wanted to take on the rest of the day. We settled into the wetness and I opened my eyes to the details that make this area so special. The colours, the unique farmhouses and farm animals, all which seemed totally unfazed by the weather"
"It was pretty cool to have the horses let us pet them, and then one nibbled on my facial hair. Weird, but I'll take it.” - Self-proclaimed horse whisperer, Scott Pilecki.
From the café in Cobble Hill, the plan was to ride to Mill Bay and catch a ferry across the inlet, rather than riding back over the Malahat pass. However, after a long day of battling the elements that had left us exhausted, we missed a crucial turn and wound up lost.
Scott: "We checked the map again and realized the mess we were in. Shit! It was about 5:30pm, raining, and if we wanted to go to Mill Bay to complete our route there was a chance we’d miss the last sailing. It was too big of a gamble, so with fading light we made the call to put our heads down and head up the Malahat.”
The Cowichan valley is a full of twisty roads surrounded by unique scenery
The descent back down the Malahat, a notoriously dangerous section of the Trans-Canada highway on Vancouver Island, was made especially sketchy by the rain and the fleeting light. Hyper aware of the roadside debris and unpredictable driving from cars to our left, our eyes were wide behind our glasses but our lips were closed tight. It was intense, and as soon as we’d made it down the pass we collectively agreed that now was the time, if any, to have a drink. Luckily for us, Quinn had been carrying 4 Hey Y'alls, a B.C. hard iced tea drink, in his pack for the entire ride. He was just waiting for the right moment to share them with us, and this was it.
Quinn: "Before the ride I thought it would be fun to shotgun some Hey Y’alls when the moment was right. I threw a few in my pack before we left and, after surviving the Malahat, I knew this was it. A quick shotgun, made possible by the OneUp EDC tool, and it was time to make the push for the final 15km home."
With a little bit of liquid courage flowing through our veins we pedalled the last 15km together, swapping stories from the day, laughing at what had happened. They were the kind of laughs where you don’t even know if it’s funny, but you’re so tired that it’s all you can do. The laughter kept the discomfort in our heavy legs away, and as we rolled by the familiar landmarks and usual scenery, it was obvious that nothing had really changed here, but for us everything was different. In just 12 hours, we’d had more new experiences than a week of what running the hamster wheel can offer. We’d climbed mountains, defied the weather, and overcame stressful situations. Scott even had his facial hair munched on by a horse!
To us, rolling through familiar neighbourhoods was a welcomed return to our normal day to day. The ride we’d accomplished had left its mark and was exactly what we all needed. Today’s the perfect example of why bikes are the ultimate tool for the modern adventure.
Scott herds the Rocky Mountain athletes. He is a connoisseur of most things fine and is a black hole of conversation. Scott was riding a large Rocky Mountain Solo flaunting a Topo Design handlebar bag and conveniently carrying his OneUp Components 100cc pump and tool. The rain and cold were no match for Scott's Revelation jacket and merino wool Desperado Henley jersey.
Quinn is a hardman of bike racing, a lover of Whole Foods and tequila, and a proudly known as “The Dog Whisperer”. Quinn's Solo was equipped with OneUp Components EDC tool and pump, and he chose to run Maxxis Ravagers 650b rather than a more standard 700c wheel. His insulating 7mesh mission jersey, Oro shell, and thick skin kept him warm the entire ride.
A sushi-holic with roots in both BC and Quebec, Felix is a strange animal with XC fitness and DH prowess. Felix's used his dropper post equipped Solo to get as sideways as possible on the gravel corners and kept the grit out of his bum with some 7mesh MK3 bibs and Farside shorts. He stayed warm thanks to his Corsa jacket and Cypress vest.
Return to Riva
Since 1994, the Bike Festival in Riva del Garda has served as the unofficial kick-off to the European riding season. Over the last 25 years, the festival in early May has been a welcome excuse to bring riders together to catch up over an espresso, ride their bikes, and learn what’s new in mountain biking after the long and cold winters in the Alps. Rocky Mountain has been a part of the festival since the first year and is proud to be celebrating the legacy of epic rides and good times.
What started as a tiny festival with only 20 brands present has grown into a major event with a worldwide presence. Our distributor, Bike Action, set up shop at the festival back in 1994 with a small tent, a couple of chairs, and a fully stocked fridge of beer and wine. At that time, the Bike Festival was our first chance to show off our Canadian frames in Europe, including the radically designed Wedge, the Stratos, and an all-new steel Altitude.
Over the years, the event grew from its humble beginnings to include more than 150 exhibitors, nearly 50,000 visitors from countries around the world, and a lineup of 2500 racers for the Rocky Mountain Marathon XC race. In particular, the Rocky Mountain Marathon has been our pride and joy over the last 8 years, helping to push the limits and lungs of xc racers early in the season.
From the original appearances of the Froriders and the European premiere of Kranked – Live to Ride in 1998, to having Wade Simmons come back again year after year to ride Riva’s aggressive trails, the Bike Festival has always had a strong freeride presence. In the spirit of pushing the limits of mountain biking, Wade is back again this year but this time he’s riding there over 3 days on his Altitude Powerplay. Once he arrives, you can join him for a daily ride at 1pm on Saturday and on Sunday. Or, if you’d rather learn about fixing your bike on the trail, Julia Hofmann is around giving mechanic clinics every day at 4pm. As always, there’s plenty to do an see in the pits of the Festival.
“The thing about Riva is the riding there is hard. It’s rocky, it’s steep, and going down is as hard as going up! I’ve been to the Bike Festival so many times and when people ask me about the riding there I always say, ‘Good riders love Riva, because Riva is gnarly!’” – Wade Simmons.
Riva del Garda sits along the northern shores of Lake Garda in Italy, and its picturesque patios are renowned as the perfect place to unwind after a demanding, yet amazing ride. This mountain biking destination has incredible views of the Southern Alps and is filled with both beginner and advanced-level trails. Anyone who is interested in exploring this area would benefit from checking out Bike Festival where participants can demo a bike and join a guided ride. Or they can spectate and enjoy the many shows and competitions available.
Whatever the motivation for attending the Bike Festival in Riva del Garda we’re sure that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Whether it’s freeride legends, marathon racing, or eMTB adventures, at the Bike Festival in Riva it’s all about having a good time!
The Jank Files - Episode 1
Long flights, technical tracks, and practicing all week in the sunshine only to end up racing in the rain. The best way to describe enduro other than flat-out demanding is to have a laugh at the ridiculousness of it all and call a spade a spade. It’s janky. It's nearly impossible to find your flow between travel, practice, and race day, but when you do and it all starts to click into place, it becomes one of the most rewarding ways to ride a bike.
This is the second year for the Rocky Mountain Race Face Enduro Team, with Jesse Melamed, Rémi Gauvin, and Andréanne Lanthier Nadeau lining up to race a full EWS season. Gaining momentum from last year, they’ve become experts in navigating the jank and have officially hit their flow with a strong start to the 2019 season.
From deep ruts and jungle vines to backyard skateboard sessions and race pit DJ’ing, this is Episode 1 of The Jank Files.
Presented by Maxxis
Filmed by Caldwell Visuals
Photos by Dave Trumpore
A big thank you to all our sponsors!
Race Face, Maxxis, Fox, Shimano, Smith Optics, WTB, OneUp Components, Stages Cycling, Peaty’s Products, EVOC
The Coastal Collaboration
The “Coastal Collaboration” partnership with Squamish-based apparel company, 7mesh, first kicked off in 2017. We're excited to work with another local BC-brand, especially one whose technical apparel is designed around function and high performance. We’re also proud to share our BC backyard for product testing and development.
When 7mesh first debuted their line in 2015, it took less than a year before we began discussions about an apparel collaboration. The “Coastal Collaboration” made its debut in spring 2017 with a couple of trail riding pieces and performance oriented XC gear, while being put to the test by our 7Mesh sponsored Factory XC team riders and office staff. The design elements on all pieces are inspired by the Coastal Mountains – both of our company’s backyard. From there, we continued to work on our small offering while also using their outerwear for our staff apparel for when we’re testing new bikes, out for a ride at lunch or getting riders set up at a demo event.
We wanted to make sure we developed our technical apparel line with a brand who shares similar values. The crew of avid mountain bikers and cyclists, passionate about what they are doing, eager to improve on the status quo. 7mesh likes to focus in on the details, refining the products until they are worth sharing with the world, making sure the products they’re offering deliver the best possible ride experience. It’s a process that’s not unlike how we develop our bikes. Whether it’s custom shock tunes or integrating the RIDE-9 adjustment system so riders can further tune their bike’s ride characteristics, we work relentlessly to give riders the best possible experience when out on the trail.
We’re excited about the new Coastal Collaboration pieces with 7mesh and we hope you are too!
Vancouver’s North Shore is a magical place. Across our three famous mountains lie hundreds of trails and built features, making it the perfect place to tackle everything from long days in the saddle to gnarly tech sections, to committing rock rolls. We’re proud to call this place our backyard.
The trails on Vancouver Island are known for pushing riders’ limits. Filled with punchy moves, slippery rock sections, and long commutes to and from the network, they demand fitness and finesse. It’s a cross-country rider’s paradise.
Je me souviens
Story by Andreane Lanthier Nadeau
I was lucky enough to discover riding at a very young age. I was so young, in fact, that my mom had to attend every training session for my first year on my development club. In Québec City at that time, if you mountain biked, you raced. As a kid, racing was much more than results, it was a means to live life rich with experiences. A means to learn about setting goals and to experience camping trips, friends, and travel. Plus, I truly loved racing, so pursuing it felt like a win-win scenario.
Four years ago I relocated to Vancouver Island in British Columbia to train with the cross-country National Team. Moving away from Québec and leaving behind my community was difficult, but it was becoming clear to me that I needed a change. Over the years my love for riding had gone adrift. My years of focusing on numbers and results had taken their toll and I was no longer having fun. Yet, I knew that biking and I were far from being done and I hoped that the West Coast would offer a new perspective.
My immersion in this new riding culture was a turning point for me. On the West Coast, I found a more adventure-focused, fun-driven approach to riding. It was a new experience to be in a community that rode for fun, where friends gathered on the weekends with their bikes, and people loved the sport without racing in it. The challenge of the new terrain was a catalyst that put me back into a beginner’s mindset where I could start fresh with biking.
The move was a good one and it did not take long for me to fall back in love with riding in the Pacific Northwest forest. It was the best reminder of why I ride bikes; because I love it. It took me back to the days before racing, to the days of playing on bikes as a kid in Québec. We spent our time smashing through as many mud puddles as we could, riding our bikes backwards, singing out loud while bombing down the road, scaring each other during night rides, washing our hair in the campground’s creek, and cooling off from the scorching summer heat one gulp of Slurpee at a time. This return to the fun side of mountain biking allowed me to put the pieces together to transform my passion into a career and to find myself racing as a professional mountain biker all around the globe.
While I was back home for a visit this fall, I met up with one of my best pals, Antoine Caron, a filmmaker and shredder of all types, to discuss shooting an edit about our stomping grounds. I wasn’t sure how it would feel to return with my big bike, to experience the same trail networks that I had trained on as an XC racer. I came back to fresh new trails weaving through the old ones I used to hammer out intervals on. Coming back to fun, challenging new trails was a very refreshing contrast.
We arrived at a cold and snowy trailhead parking lot on one of our filming days, but we realized we did not really feel like shooting. After running into old friends, we decided to leave the camera in the car and head out for a ride. We saw people out there, smiling, enjoying being out on a ride, and getting stoked about new trail features. Seeing how the trails evolved and how the Québec mountain bike community is changing to incorporate what I foundon the West Coast was a truly heartwarming feeling. I realized that these are still my people, they watched me grow up, and I was surprised to find that they have followed my career. I realized that even though I have moved on from XC, Québec will always be my home, in my mind they were so tied together, until I brought my big bike and rode it!
Thank you to Mathieu Dupuis-Bourassa from La Vallée Bras-du-Nord for agreeing with all our bad ideas of quad follow-cam. Thank you to the unknown master builders of the jump spot by the train tracks. And finally, thank you to the whole crew at Les Sentiers du Moulin & LB-Cycle for building not only great trails, but an awesome mountain biking community in Québec.
Journey through time
Story by Julia Hofmann
It’s been an excruciating climb, one with as much hike-a-biking as pedalling, but at last, we’ve arrived. Standing atop the highest point of Cronin Pass above Smithers the wind is howling; the air is cold. It’s been ten years since my first trip to Canada. Ten years since my first international mountain bike adventure. And as I stare out at the vast landscape of Northern British Columbia, I can see the long, flowing, epic trail I’m about to ride.
It’s the middle of August and each piercing gust hints that autumn is just around the corner. Despite our early start, the sun is now low. Shadows along the cliff bands lengthen and the colors of our surroundings begin to saturate. Feelings of peace and solitude complete this blissful scene, but I can feel the growing anticipation to drop in. The combination creates a sense of freedom inside me that washes me with happiness. From my extensive travels around the world to mountain bike, British Columbia is still one of the only places that host all the elements I love about riding. Well-built trails, a supportive riding community, and general love and appreciation for spending time in the woods.
When I was young my adventures started small – riding horses through the fields and woods near my childhood home near Lichtenfels, Germany – and grew to be grander over time. With each ride, I pushed myself to go a little further than before. The first true piece of singletrack I rode a bike on was a nice piece of trail, not far away, near my grandparents’ house. The special feeling of moving through the woods on two wheels was like nothing else I had experienced and chasing that feeling has continued to shape my life.
As an adult, I became so familiar with the forests around my home in Upper Franconia that I eventually began to look elsewhere for adventures. I started taking road trips to bike parks throughout Germany, then further on to Austria, Switzerland, Spain, and Italy. I’d read about British Columbia’s North Shore and seen videos of the Whistler Bike Park, but it seemed unattainably far away. It was several years before I’d even considered the possibility of traveling to a riding destination beyond what I could drive to. But the idea of flying to another country was there – somewhere – in the back of my mind and finally, it worked it’s way forward. Before I had thought about what I was committing to, I was standing at the airport ready to check in, heading to Canada.
I’ll never forget the feeling of landing on another continent for the first time, building my bike, and putting the tires into the dirt. Canada will always be a special place in my heart for this reason. The country feels vast with endless forests and mighty mountains, and to top it off there’s perfect singletrack that navigates the dramatic landscapes. The quality of trails is really what sets the riding here apart from the rest of the world. They are made specifically for riding rather than being repurposed old hiking routes. There’s something for everyone and the purpose-built climbs can be as enjoyable as the amazing descents.
As the sun disappears below the horizon line of endless peaks and ridges, the oversaturated filter begins to fade. It’s time to go as we’re losing light, and we have a long descent ahead of us. At the bottom of the mountain, a cozy cabin waits for us where we will stay for the night before moving on to the next incredible location. I lower my seat, start rolling down, and am treated to another unbelievable Canadian descent.
As I continue to travel around the world with my bike, I realize how the famous adage, ‘the more things change the more they remain the same’, rings true in my heart. All these years later, standing on top of a mountain on another continent, and I am still chasing that same feeling I discovered riding my bike through the forests in Lichtenfels as a child.
Introducing the Instinct Powerplay
The Instinct Powerplay will take you to the places you never thought possible. When it comes time to head out the door that epic ride into the alpine, you'll be riding further and faster than ever before on what is our most versatile e-MTB yet.
Taking our Powerplay line up to the next level, the Instinct Powerplay integrates our powerful Dyname™ 3.0 drive system with a 29” wheeled platform for fast rolling rides and long distances. Featuring the new iWoc TRIO remote, our RIDE-9 adjustment system, tweaked suspension kinematics, and great small-bump sensitivity, the Instinct Powerplay is perfect for the big epic rides!
Nordvegr: The Way to the North
It’s normal to get home from a trip and feel like you’ve left something on the table. Whether it’s a trail you skipped out on or an area you didn’t have time to see, the things you didn’t do can be as motivating as the things you did. Thomas Vanderham and Remi Gauvin have both been to Norway before, but it’s one of those places that keeps drawing them back.
Much like a lot of Remi’s travel, his first two trips to Norway were for both for racing. Back in 2013 and 2014, Remi was racing downhill and competed at the World Championships in Hafjell. Thomas’ freeride background has put him in Norway twice before, but never in the world famous Nordfjord region, and never on his trail bike. Travelling to compete is a rinse, wash, repeat cycle. The process broken down is: airport to hotel, hotel to event, and a few days later you’re flying home. This trip was a chance to see Norway in a different light, and after landing in Ålesund and boarding what would be the first of many ferries, the small town of Stranda seemed like the perfect place to start.
The people along the way can be one of the most interesting parts of travelling. Located just up the road from our rooms in the Hjelle Hotel is the small town of Folven, home to Norwegian freeskier, Fred Syversen. Fred is a local legend who in 2008 unintentionally set the world record for skiing off a 107m tall cliff, but today he coaches skiing on the glacier, operates an adventure sports campground, and is building out the Hjelledalen valley mountain bike trail infrastructure.
Our Scandinavian photographer, Mattias Fredriksson, likes to joke around but with an underlying sense of sincerity. Early on in our trip he forewarned, “It’s hard to go on a road trip in Norway and still make dinner deadlines. I tend to shoot a lot…cause the shooting is epic”. It was a constant theme of the trip but the fjord views near Sandane had us especially late for dinner. The trails were above treeline which left us exposed to the harsh wind and rain, but the combination of fast riding corners, natural features, and stunning backdrop were just simply too good to cut the ride short.
With another trip under their belt and trails under their tires, Norway remains an incredibly interesting place for Thomas and Rémi. Newly built mountain bike trails with a strong historic culture of moving through mountains leaves plenty of room for endless adventures in the Nordfjord.
A Film by: Scott Secco
Featuring: Thomas Vanderham and Remi Gauvin
Produced by: Stephen Matthews
Post Production Sound by: Keith White Audio
Typography and Design by: Mike Taylor
Photography by: Mattias Fredriksson
Music: Pioneer by Ryan Taubert
Thanks to: Asgeir Blindheim, Fjord Norway, Visit Nordfjord, Veronica Vikestrand, 7 Blåner, Destination Ålesund, Sunnmøre, and Fred Syversen
Norway: The Characters Behind the Adventure
Behind every trip is a cast of characters with varied backgrounds and interesting outlooks. Individually, they’ve been brought on because they come with their own unique stories and skills and are strung together by a common thread; a passion for mountain biking.
I first met Mattias Fredriksson in 2010 while in Switzerland. He was shooting for Anthill Films’ upcoming film, “Follow Me,” and was incredibly friendly right from the get-go. His positive demeanor is contagious, and you can’t help but have a great time around him. Scott Secco and I first worked together in 2014 on his film, “Builder," and between the planning, building, and riding, we became great friends and have collaborated on several projects since.
Working for Rocky Mountain, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know and ride with our talented athletes. Needless to say, heading out on a trip with Thomas Vanderham and Remi Gauvin was an exciting experience. Our trip to Norway also gave us the chance to link up with local Nordfjord rider, Veronica Vikestrand, a born and raised Norwegian and a true asset to the trip.
RM: What’s it like coming to another country to film a video where neither you nor the riders have seen the trails before?
Typically, I do most of my work in British Columbia where either the rider or myself are familiar with the trails. Having prior knowledge of how a track rides and when certain locations will get the best light certainly helps the process. I normally rely heavily on rider input for which sections of trail to shoot: if the rider is having fun then I think it shows on camera.
It’s always a fun challenge to visit somewhere new since I think it forces you to have a more open mind and look at everything with an eye to creativity as I don’t have specific shots planned. Travelling gives me an opportunity to put myself in unique situations with people and cultures that are different than my daily life. I would say in general I travel more for the culture than the riding.
RM: What’s your process for reviewing and editing footage on the trip?
I’ve heard that I’m fairly unique as a filmmaker since I can’t sleep until I’ve gone through the day’s footage and edited it as tightly as I can. Editing what I’ve shot each day means the footage is fresh in my mind and I know which shots are my favourite. Plus, by the end of the shoot I’ll have a rough cut that’s often quite close to the final cut. The final benefit of this is that the riders can see what we’ve shot each day. I think this helps with their trust in me since they can actually see the footage (I can be a little slow sometimes to setup shots). I also respect athlete’s opinions on the video and Thomas and Remi had some great suggestions for this edit. Filmmaking is a team sport!
RM: You grew up in Sweden and have shot both skiing and biking in Scandinavia for many years. What’s the most special thing about Norway to you?
First of all, it might be the most beautiful country in the world. Everywhere you look it’s just insane! As a photographer I love this place because you just can’t go wrong. I like to joke (except I’m completely serious), that it’s hard to go on a road trip in Norway and still make dinner deadlines. I end up pulling over a lot to shoot the epic vistas.
I’ve been to Norway an uncountable amount of times in my life, both for personal and work trips, and I still haven’t gotten bored.
RM: You’ve had a long and varied career as a photographer. How did you get started in bike photography?
I grew up in the south of Sweden, 4 or 5 hours south of Stockholm, and started riding bikes in the late 80’s! Even before I had my first real mountain bike, I remember stripping off the kickstand, fenders, and chainguards to emulate the look of a proper mountain bike. My parents were choked because I came home muddy all the time, but I didn’t care, I was totally hooked.
Around the same time, I had started my own punk rock magazine called “Heavy”, was a drummer in a band, and I think that’s where I first found my passion for journalism. I loved writing about what I cared about, so at 16 started working for the local newspaper.
I spent my early career working for a handful of different magazines in Sweden, but I decided that writing in Swedish was limited compared to shooting images that everyone can enjoy! I shot the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, US and World Championships in 1999, but other than that I stayed far away from shooting events – ha ha. I focused on inspirational stories and trips because that’s what was important to me. I started shooting mountain biking, because I absolutely love to mountain bike.
RM: What bike did you bring on this trip?
RM: Where did you grow up in Norway and how did you get into mountain biking?
Today I live in a small town just outside Ålesund and I’ve lived in this area my whole life. Living at the foot of the mountains and along rolling terrain separated by fjords, being in the woods and on the trails felt natural to me. I bought my first hardtail in the late 90’s, shortly followed with the purchase of the Kranked film on VHS. I was so inspired by what was happening in BC, that I bought my first full suspension later that year.
I tried downhill racing in 2004 but it just wasn’t for me. I’d get too stressed, lose my nerves, and just couldn’t get along with being forced into a format of riding. I think that’s why I first connected with Kranked so well, the idea of freeriding and using mountain bikes in whatever fashion you want was invigorating.
RM: As a born and raised Norwegian, how would you say the mountain biking scene in Norway changed over the past several years?
It’s been growing like crazy. New bike trails and bike parks are being built all over the country, and the enduro race scene has exploded. We’re also seeing a lot more “adventure-style” riders, taking inspiration from our backcountry ski and hiking culture. The riding here is very different than what you get in the Alps or North America, but mixed types of trail combined with Norway’s beauty is incredibly unique.
RM: How did you get involved with Rocky Mountain?
I have been working in the bike industry since 2008 with different brands. Right now I’m working for 7 Blåner, who has been the distributor for Rocky Mountain since 2016. I’ve always admired the Rocky Mountain brand and have looked up to what they stand for since I started riding in the late 90’s! The opportunity to now be helping show some of their legendary athletes around my home country has been incredibly exciting!
RM: What bike did you bring on this trip?
Same thing I've been on all year, my Instinct BC Edition!
RM: How did you first get involved with Rocky Mountain?
I got a call from (Thomas) Vanderham back in February 2014 while I was working on the oil rigs in northern Alberta. He said that Rocky Mountain was developing a new downhill bike called the “Maiden” and that the R&D team was looking for feedback from racers. I didn’t have a sponsor lined up for the coming season, plus it seemed like a cool opportunity. After that first season riding the Maiden, I started racing enduro in 2016, and am now committed to a full EWS circuit as a rider on the Rocky Mountain Race Face Team. I really owe it to Thomas for giving me a chance to come on board.
RM: As an EWS racer, you spend so much of your season travelling around the world to race. What was the coolest thing about travelling to Norway to film and shoot, rather than be locked into a racing schedule?
When you go to these races that are all in amazing places, there usually isn’t time to appreciate where you are and what’s happening around you. At an EWS race, you’re so focused on performing, that you miss out on seeing the local culture and beauty of these places. The pace of shooting photos and video is so much slower, so you actually have time to soak in where you are and learn about what’s around you.
RM: What bike did you bring on this trip?
Tried and true, my Altitude.
RM: You’ve been travelling to ride mountain bikes for a long time. Do you still enjoy the process, seeing new places, and not knowing what kind of riding you’re in for?
Absolutely! One of the things that makes filming mountain biking so great is the diversity of the environments we get to work in. We can shoot in jungles, deserts and everything in between which is one of the reasons that I think bike videos are so good. Mountain biking has facilitated a lot of my most memorable trips and I'm excited whenever I get a chance to go to ride in a new location.
RM: You were riding in Norway over 10 years ago. What was that all about?
I've travelled to Norway twice before. The first time was in 2003, I think. I was new to the Oakley bike team and we travelled quite far north to Narvik with Wade Simmons, Kyle Strait and Cedric Gracia. That was the first time that I worked with Mattias Fredriksson as well and experience the awesome energy that he brings to a shoot. The second time was in 2009 for an event called Anti Days of Thunder that was definitely ahead of its time. They had some huge jumps built that we got to session and also involved a team relay DH race (that team Canada won if I'm not mistaken!) Some of the guys involved went on to help start the FEST series.
See the full story, photoset, and video, “Nordvegr: The Way to the North”.