We’re in the mountains on a record snow year, which is changing the nature of the race. Last year Sonya called this stage “like riding in Colorado”. I guess it still was, depending on the time of year, but this year was decidedly happening in the middle of spring thaw. Lots of snow and un-rideable terrain today, which helped me learn something new: a bunch of new techniques for moving a bike through snow.
Today was really good fun, once I came to terms with the fact my shock wasn’t going to allow me to race. For a while it was looking like a very long hike but the terrain changed, allowing me to ride as long as I was careful what I rolled over. My shock stuck in the compressed position, meaning each pedal stroke gave me only a couple of inches of clearance.
sonya might as well be riding in colorado pic: ajay narsingh rana, nepalsutra
The course was stunning, with amazing views at every turn, so it was a good day to be able to look around and take some photos. I also enjoyed the varying conditions, which forced a lot of carrying through snow and mud. Turns out there are 5 different techniques to help you manage the snow efficiently.
SIKE – Not to be confused with psyche, but RUKE (run/hike), this is carrying your bike on your back. Only employed when rolling your tires is not an option.
Mush – Preferred for speed; your wheels ride in the track while your feet run along the berm created by the track. Feels like your pushing your bike downhill. Caveat when the snows too soft you post hole, then you resort to…
Sherpa – Run through the track and roll your wheels on the berm on the side. This seemed like the go to technique for most conditions, hence the name, even though true Sherpas are from the Everest region and not Annapurna.
Arvind – Named after an old friend who did reckless things under the mantra “if it’s your time it’s your time,” this is skiing while siting on your bike. While it can be fast it provides almost no control. Good option with perfect conditions. Down side, any variation in snow results in an endo. I did not employee this often, and never had to nerve to do it for long, and crashed many times.
Inline – Rolling and walking in the same track. Very slow, SIKE is faster, but useful when you have short sections of tight but unrideable snow single track and don’t want to waste time lifting your bike over your head.
There was a ton of mud, too, but it could have been worse. I was able to ride through most of it, unlike the Aussie guy in this video (second one down) where this was the stage that prompted him to say “this has cured me. I never want to see another mountain bike race again.” All in all I finished with a huge smile on my face in the beautiful town of Manang.
happy to make it to the rest day pic: sonya looney
As much as I had to carry, hike of the day goes to Neil. He crashed early in the stage and dislocated his shoulder. Thinking his race was over, he gave his bike to Laxmi, who’s been having bike issues (and got faster everyday with Neil’s bike), and started walking back to Chame to try and catch a ride back to Kathmandu. At some point, tired of the pain, he got his shoulder to pop back in. Feeling better, he turned around and hiked to Manang, showing up around dinner time. While not able to ride, he’ll hike the course to the finish, shoulder be damned! This race attracts mettle.
neil and the branch that changed his race. read his account here.
After a stint at the German bakery (that everyone who’d done the race before has been talking about), spent the afternoon with Jon trying to sort out my shock to no avail. Tonight we brainstormed up an idea that just might work. I’ll get it a shot tomorrow and take some pics.
Rest day tomorrow and it should be fun. Rumor is there’s too much snow for Snow Monkey’s annual hike, so we’ll abridge. Whatever we do, it’ll be a welcome day of not racing.