Vancouver – Riding the North Shore

A couple of weeks ago I was planning on a work trip to Vancouver and figured I’d head out a day early to ride some of the North Shore Trails. I wanted to take my Norco Torrent so the day before I spent an hour dismantling and figuring out how to pack my PLUS frame/wheels into a bike bag meant for road/26″ MTBs.





Prior to the trip I researched my options on Trailforks. The ‘North Shore’ is apparently 3 different mountain networks (Cypress, Fromme, Seymour) each with a slightly different flavor. I noticed one trail on Fromme had similar content to the Norco Promotional video, specifically Expresso, so that was a planned visit.


I decided to start with Seymour as it showed more Green/Blue options to ease myself into ‘Shore. Overall the experience on Seymour was actually disappointing. There was a ton of erosion – specifically on Bridal Path which is a collector trail for many of the trails. I also crossed Severed D which looked more like an old creek bed than a trail… Academy and Good Sir Martin were fun technical trails to climb.



I also rode John Deer which was a fairly fast but quite new and not bedded in, Baden Powell which is not categorized but had some damn steep black’ish sections, and finally Forever After which was fun but not epic or anything.

I was beginning to wonder if the ‘Shore was just hype and the riding really wasn’t what I was hoping for. I think part of the issue is that you can shuttle on Seymour so there’s a pile of local traffic bombing down on equipment which is probably too DH-specific to climb back up. An excess of DH bikes means that DH-like trails can be sought.


Prior to riding Fromme, I rode Seymour trails and met a local (Erik) who has a 7.1 Torrent himself. Erik was kind enough to offer a tour of Fromme. A couple of days later we connected and rode some really sweet trails.

Here’s a cool shot of the ‘siblings’ racked up for a ride.


We started by riding up Lower/Middle/Upper Griffen then up the closed-to-traffic Mountain Highway which had a perfect easy gradient as it switch backed up Fromme. We rode down Crinkum Crankum and then Kirkford. Really nice flowing trails with ample armour and wooden structures.




We climbed back up Mountain Highway and then hit Expresso.


Upon reaching ‘Big Smooth’ roll-out on Expresso, I took the time to study it and build up the nerve to roll it out. It’s far steeper/higher than what appears in the Norco Promo video (37-44 seconds). I figure 8-10 feet long and close to 70 degrees. Here’s a capture of the Norco video and me riding the same feature.



Overall Fromme was a really positive experience and I will definitely try and ride it again. I think that the lack of shuttling reduces traffic and therefore the types of bikes that are introduced.

We finished off a great ride at the popular ‘Black Bear’ restaurant for some well earned beer and grub.



Specialized 686 3L tech jacket/bibs/insulator

In honor of a winter that won’t quite let go of Eastern Ontario, I thought I’d post a review of one of my most significant cycling kit purchases ever, the Specialized 686 3L tech kit which consists of a Jacket, Bib, and Insulator.


There hasn’t been a lot of on-bike reviews online, either due to the insane price preventing many from sampling, or their embarrassment of publicizing that they actually paid that much for cycling attire. Here’s a couple of reviews that provide some additional perspective:

In my case, I paid about 50% MSRP – which is still a shit load of money but my 30+ years cycling experience has shown that good equipment really does pay for itself in opening up the opportunity for more (or longer) cycling outings – helped in part with my Norco Torrent’s expanded foul-weather abilities.



My previous cold-weather outings consisted of a combination of cycling/XC skiing/DH skiing clothing which worked reasonably well, but many little compromises were required to make it work in a cycling environment. It was actually the cycling bibs which first pulled me to this product. There’s so little out there in this preferred bottom style, the 686 bibs not only offered the more comfortable style but further expanding it’s functionality with it’s rear ‘SWAT’ (rear cycling pockets).


Here are my observations from the ~ 500 kilometers I’ve put on this kit from -25C white-outs to full-on rain at a mere +3C. If it’s too much detail scroll down to the conclusion.


  • The bib and jacket fabric:
    • Is NOT warm in the least – there is very little for inner layer in the jack and none for the bib pants. It’s actually quite shocking how quickly I can feel the sub-freezing cold seep through to my mid and base layers when I start riding. I can only assume it’s the enhanced ‘breathability’?
    • Is NOT 100% water proof. Claimed to have 20,000mm proofing (which I guess is good?), I felt dampness come though the thighs, hamstrings, back, chest (in that order) after about 90 minutes of exposure in what I would call moderate rainfall. Granted my ‘waterproof’ gloves didn’t fare so well either but I didn’t have to practically rob a bank to purchase those…
  • Jacket
    • The waterproof zippers can be a little stiff to work – especially with gravel grit mixed into the equation.
    • Rear ‘SWAT’ access/venting zippers are cut pretty high up the back. I don’t have practice of removing a bra off my back every day and clearly my lack of flexibility hurts me in reaching the rear zipper pull strings.
    • The jacket’s hood is a little small. It can fit over a helmet but if the front is fully zipped up there’s a definite restriction of movement from the fabric. It’s a shame because it adds so much flexibility out on the road.
    • Cuffs are tightened by Velcro straps. If I had to guess which part will tire/fail first – that would be it. It works effectively but I’m leery to use it much in fear of wearing it out.


  • Pants
    • Bibbed setup is so much more comfortable for longer rides.
    • Little perception of tightness in the legs when seated and pedaling.
    • The four back storage pockets (named SWAT by Specialized) are flexible and well placed in the small of my back. No longer do I have to wear a bike jersey just to carry crap, I can stick to warmer/cheaper/more flexible base/mid layer shirts and store everything in my bibs.
    • The leg cuffs are really good. The inner cuff grips well to prevent snow/water from seeping in. When zipped, the cuffs are tight enough to not hit the crank arm/chain but still handles a wide range of boot thicknesses. Extra scruff fabric on the inside further protects against the crank arms.
    • Very little ‘swishing’ sound while pedaling
    • Good friction between the fabric and saddle
  • Fabric:
    • The bib and jacket fabric is NOT warm – making this a very real 3 season kit. Simply adjust the base/mid layer and/or open some zippered vents and you’re good to go right up to +10 depending on the terrain, exertion and wind exposure
    • The fabric offers exceptional breathability. I rarely needed to use to zippered vent when efforts increased. Start off a little cool and you’ll have 80% of exertion/exposure scenarios covered.
    • Despite being loose and somewhat soft, the fabric dose not flap around in the wind
  • The Tech Insulator :
    • Is soooo good on its own. With a nice full-length thin breathable stretchy fabric along the inner arm and core it can be used with a mid weight base layer down to -5C, or up to +8C with just a merlino t-shirt underneath.
    • Single-sided back zipper (as opposed to two on the jacket) allow it to work alone with the bib’s SWAT compartment.
    • The hood is small and thin enough to potentially double as a super warm skull cap under the helmet (very hot!).
    • When combined with the jacket you better anticipating at least -15C (or colder) otherwise you’ll overheat. Note that this obviously only covers the upper body, with no Insulator offering for the legs you’ll have to double up the legs base layers to match performance.



  • A well designed kit, but the fabric’s somewhat disappointing warmth (independent of the Insulator) and waterproof performance prevents this from being perfection.
  • That same fabric (warmth) disappointment means this kit can be used for fall & spring as well, making it a somewhat better cost-effective proposition.
  • If you can get only 2 of the 3 piece of kit, get the Tech Insulator and Bibs. If you can get only 1 of the 3, get the Tech Insulator.
  • If you’re hoping for any kind of real warmth from this kit, get the Tech insulator. Not only will it make the main jacket work better in colder temps, but the Insulator also doubles as a jacket itself on warmer outing.
  • Assuming the durability does not disappoint, this is a worthwhile investment if you’re going to put lots of miles/years of foul weather riding. Otherwise, there are MUCH cheaper options for the more fair-weathered cyclist.


OttawaVelo – reborn!

Lots has happened since my last half-assed attempt to publish on this site. All has been good since then, I’ve just busy with other projects (like my Datsun 510) and kids stuff. In fact, experiences gained through my4 y/o Datsun thread has shown there is value in sharing information for others, I hope the same will be with this site.

Also, my cycling interest has been ‘perked’ with a recent purchase of a new mountain bike, a 2016 Norco Torrent 7.2. This bike has really impacted me in a two ways:

  1. Pretty much a do-anything rig. I can ride trails, snow, and even gravel is pleasant (albeit slow).
  2. An increased safety blanket allowing me to (continue) hitting technical trails at speeds which my 45 year old brain began to question.

KL_5 won’t be a site about who I am, what I ate etc… Frankly, I’m not that interesting. Instead, it will be a means for me to document my MTB & gravel cycling experiences, both in places I cycled, and products I’ve used.