Fast Heads #4: Josh Carlson

In this interview, I talked with Josh Carlson about his psychological strategies as one of the world’s best EWS riders. After a brilliant 2016 experience, Josh had a disappointing 2017 season – so I was really keen to learn what he’s been doing to overcome these challenges as the 2018 season approaches.

Does fast happen in the legs or the head – which is more important in racing?

Josh Carlson (JC): It’s a bit of both really. The legs have to be there – EWS racing is hard, and you have to be able to rely on your body (so training is really important), but in the top 20 pretty much everyone has the same skills and fitness, so those top 20 places are decided by who has their head in the game that day.

EWS is very different form DH-racing. Downhillers can have a very specific physical and mental warmup routine. They already know the track intimately, they know what’s coming. They can time their meals perfectly, make sure that the caffeine hit kicks in at exactly the right time, listen to their perfect playlist while they spin on a warmup bike, and then they perform for three to five minutes. EWS riders are out for seven hours, in all conditions, and we have to concentrate on tracks not that different from DH courses, which we might have only ridden once or twice before if we’re lucky, when we’re tired, hungry, and cold, over and over again.

No one can concentrate for seven-hours flat, but being able to bring yourself back into the here and now when you need to is everything.

To be able to focus when it matters is the real key. No one can concentrate for seven-hours flat, but being able to bring yourself back into the here and now when you need to is everything. I can’t afford to be picky about how I get my head in the game. For example, in Ireland this year, I was getting ready when a local kid asked me for an autograph – he was so excited, was telling me his stories, and a big part of what I do for my team is be an ambassador, so I can’t just say “piss of kid”, I had to give him my attention, and then I had to bring my attention back to the ride ahead of me. What I’m saying is, because I have no control over what’s going to happen, I’ve had to learn how to choose when and where to focus, and when to be distracted.

Tell us about the toughest mental challenge you’ve faced in your career, and how you overcame it.

JC: It was actually this last season. It was really hard, and I wasn’t properly prepared, physically or mentally. The most frustrating thing was that once the season starts you can only maintain, there’s no room for development – that’s all got to happen in training off-season. So, all I could do was to try to hang on, and not make things worse.

The most frustrating thing was that once the season starts you can only maintain, there’s no room for development – that’s all got to happen in training off-season.

Probably the hardest challenge this year was in France at Millau – the weather was pretty crap, and there were a whole load of marshalling and timing errors. The marshals didn’t speak English, so I’m at the top of a stage and it’s raining, and I’m under a shelter and trying to get ready, and the guy translating for me tells me I’ve got three minutes, so I start to get my jacket off and my goggles out of their case. Then, like a minute later, the timing marshal says “20 seconds” and I can’t argue, so I had to shove my goggles on and take-off. It was wet and slippery and technical, and it needed all of my attention – there was no room to be pissed off about what had just happened.

Do you have a routine, either practically or mentally, pre-race and what importance does this have for your preparation? 

JC: Like I said earlier, I can’t really do a specific routine. But being consistent is important. I need to do the same things during my season, trusting in my training, my technical ability, and my team. Going over to Giant was a big deal – all of a sudden there were all these people whose job was to help me go faster. I had to get used to that and to learn to delegate stuff to other people.

My mechanic has been amazing for this. He is as committed to doing his job well as I am to mine. Back in Chile, I think in 2015, he’d dialled the bike pre-race, and then noticed that a bearing was damaged. So, he stripped the whole bike and rebuilt it to be perfect – he stayed up until 2.30 in the morning to get it right. I trust him to do his part really well (which he does), so I can relax and get on with riding my bike fast, not having to worry about the other stuff.

On the other hand, I’ve had to learn to be a bit more selfish. I’m usually a pretty chatty guy and nearly all of the EWS riders get on really well – it’s like going for a ride with your mates. Except that it isn’t really, because it’s also my job. So, I have to be a bit less chatty, to give a bit less away to other riders, because I have to be focused on what I need to do. That’s been a challenge.

Do you have to deal with fear? How do you handle it? 

JC: Fear isn’t really a problem for me. I mean, I’m frightened of not performing, and of letting down my team, but not of the riding itself. The EWS tracks are hard, and you really need the skills properly dialled down, from lots of practice and training, to be able to compete effectively, so I can’t be second guessing features on the trail – I just have to trust in my training.

You’ve also got to remember that I’m paid to take risks. If you’re not OK with those risks, you really don’t have any place doing what we do.

Is confidence more important than form?

JC: Neither. Form is a given in what we do – you get it from lots of practice, and you have to trust it. That’s competence, and it’s more important than confidence. Confidence is unreliable, but competence comes from proper preparation. Also, confidence is variable – you certainly can’t rely on it when you’re wet and cold and exhausted. That’s where the repetition and practice comes in. It’s all about being able to come back when you need to, and to focus on the job at hand without getting distracted by all of the other crap.

I’ve been working heavily with Lululemon to dial in some good meditation techniques that help me to regain focus. I’ve also worked with a sport psychologist this year on how to be present and focused under pressure. In my opinion, being able to perform consistently under pressure is everything and, thanks to the work I’ve been doing and the help I’ve been getting, my ability to choose when to focus is getting easier.

Is mental training part of your regime? If so, what do you do

JC: As I mentioned, mental training has become a huge part of my approach. Physical fitness, endurance, and skills are essential, but in EWS the difference between 5th and 20th is focus. So, again, it’s all down to choosing when to focus; balancing everything so that you’re able to do what you need to do when you need to do it. Chat on way up, or play with your phone and Instagram at the top. But then it’s goggles on and leave it behind.

How do you handle situations when it all hits the fan? Do you prepare for this?

JC: The day we brought our daughter home from hospital she started choking, and going blue. I had to stay focused and calm while I worked on getting her to breathe. I amazed myself being able to focus on the (very important) job at hand, even though it was unbelievably scary. In comparison to that, anything that happens during a race is pretty small! I learnt that even with extreme emotional pressure, it is possible to choose to focus on what’s important, and to function effectively. But to do that, you can’t struggle with the emotions, you just have to accept what’s going on and redirect your attention to what matters then and there.

The other thing I’ve learnt over the last few years is to take time coming back from injury. Obviously, if you injure during the season, you just have to hang on and try not to make it worse (because you don’t really have a chance to recover properly) – but as soon as you get the chance, applying yourself to recovery at a slow pace is important. That way you get to rebuild properly physically, but also reintroduce yourself mentally to challenge, so that you don’t just freak out and damage your competence base.

If I was going to summarise what’s important, I’d say that it’s is about being able to notice the distractions and then come back to the moment despite those distractions – because theyre not going away, so the only thing you get to actually control is your actions.


Jeremy’s Observations

Josh has a very different take on his approach compared with the other riders I’ve interviewed. For starters, Josh has worked extensively with a sport psychologist, and between them, they’ve nailed down what it’s important for him to focus on, and have come up with good ways to make this work. Although the others I’ve talked with have great mental strategies, they’ve also had to spend a long time figuring these out by themselves, and then improving them through trial and error. Instead, Josh identified a deficit in his ability, and sought out ways to fix that deficit as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Josh’s strategies can be summarised in three main themes:

 

1) Adaptability and flexibility. Josh has been specifically working on improving his overall adaptability: recognising that things outside of his control will change (like the weather, or marshalling errors), so rather than trying to keep things the same and controllable, he’s learning to work with variability in environments where there are only a small number of things that he can control. The easier and faster it is for him to adapt, the better his chances of performing well.

Read more about being flexible on the trails here: https://flowmountainbike.com/features/how-expecting-to-fail-can-improve-your-performance/

 

2) Being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Josh has realised that to succeed in the EWS, he has to accept that it’s going to be really uncomfortable. If you watched any of the 2017 EWS season, you’ll know what I mean: wet, cold, long, and muddy were the norm for nearly all of the races, and if you’re not prepared to accept that sort of discomfort, you’re wasting precious resources. Josh has been working hard to improve his ability to process discomfort as information – and to be better at functioning in the presence of that information – no matter how unpleasant it might be. He knows that, compared to real challenges, like dealing with a life or death moment with his daughter, pretty much anything he experiences on the trails is both smaller and temporary.

I’ve written a bit about pain before here: https://flowmountainbike.com/features/the-soap-box-about-pain-using-pain-to-be-a-better-mountain-biker/

 

3) Choosing to focus, focus, focus. An important addition to Josh’s work on being more adaptable, is his ability to choose when to focus. I keep using the word “choose” for a reason: focus is a conscious action and, by definition, requires conscious choice. Josh is learning to be much better at choosing to focus on what matters to him, in the presence of everything else. He doesn’t block things out or force himself to ignore distractions, he notices them, accepts them, and then focuses his attention on what he needs to. The faster he can do this the better; bringing himself back as rapidly as possible when he’s been distracted can be the difference between a good race and a disaster.

In my opinion, the areas Josh has been working on are extremely important – so important, in fact, that I’ll dedicate a Flow article (in the near future) on how to cultivate and improve adaptability, comfort with discomfort, and focus under pressure. In the meantime, read here for some info on focus and attention: https://flowmountainbike.com/features/the-soapbox-riding-in-the-here-and-now/


 About the author:

 Dr. Jeremy Adams has a PhD in sport psychology, is a registered psychologist, and director of Eclectic Consulting Ltd. He divides his time between mountain biking, working with athletes and other performers, executive coaching, and private practice.

In past lives, Jeremy has been a principal lecturer in sport and performance psychology at a university in London, a senior manager in a large consulting firm in Melbourne, a personal trainer in Paris, and a scuba instructor in Byron Bay. He’s also the author of a textbook on performance in organisational management, a large range of professional and popular articles, and a regular blog about the joys and perils of being human (www.eclectic-moose.com).

Jeremy lives and works in Hobart and can be contacted through his website (www.eclectic-consult.com) or on (03) 9016 0306.

Elbows Out with Vandy and Carlson on the New Giant Anthem 29

New bike day! This year’s Cape to Cape coincided with a hotly anticipated new release from Giant, finally a 29er cross-country race bike that is made for events like this, the new Anthem 29. Lean, light, fast, short-travel and pretty damn sexy! So with a pair fresh bikes beneath them, these two threw themselves into the thick of it.

After four days of great racing had all wrapped up, it was number plates off, to revisit some of the guy’s favourite trails close to the town centre of Margaret River. From The Pines to Compartment Ten, it’s an absolute playground of goodness to sink your tyres into, and after nearly 2000 riders had gone through one day earlier, they were buffed to perfection!

It was gloves off, elbows out as they ripped into each other for a good old blast on great trails.

Woohoo!





Got that new bike feeling!
PVDP on the gas.
Giant Factory Off Road Team’s Josh Carlson back to his roots on a cross country race bike.

After wrapping the 2018 Enduro World Series season in Finale Ligure, Italy, it was time to turn an Australian summer of racing and downtime. For Josh, it was back home to Vancouver to pack up and relocate his family back to Australia only days before jetting over to Western Australia for to the C2C.

JC: Racing the Cape to Cape in 2017 was a little different experience for me! Being the 10th anniversary I was super excited to be apart of it and experience the new format of every stage being based out of Margaret River. Only two days prior I landed in Sydney after moving back from Vancouver to permanently base myself out of Wollongong. And to have the Cape to Cape as my first event back and also to catch up with so many people that I have seen in years was excellent, I have so many great memories of racing this event in the past and this year added much more to that list.

I also came out to ride the new Giant Anthem 29er thanks to the Giant Australia crew and was blown away by how awesome and capable it is.

The new Anthem 29er is so wild! No one could have prepared me it was going to be this good, it’s just so rad to get on a bike so  fast and capable of racing hard! – Paul Van Der Ploeg

Flying up the singletrack climbs of Compartment 10, Margaret River.

While we can recall only a few years ago seeing a Josh and Paul fully committed to cross country racing they made the switch to enduro and have found their groove. Spending a year racing the long-travel Reign and the Trance, the Anthem was like a live rocket underneath them.

Every year the trails around Margaret River get better and better and more trails appear out of nowhere! All of the new singletrack in Compartment 10 is so much fun and flows really well through the native forest, ahhhh, so good! – Paul Van Der Ploeg

JC: The trails in Margaret River are phenomenal! Each day got better and better and more and more single track which left you wanting more. Day 3 and 4 of the Cape to Cape were by far my favourite days of the week. The endless flow single track felt awesome on the new bike, and I couldn’t help myself but to open it up and shred that thing as hard as I could…and it handled it with ease!

The Pines, Middle Earth, Compartment 10 and every other zone we rode left everyone with a smile from ear to ear. Massive congrats go out to all those who put their sweat and handwork into all of the trail areas to create some phenomenal riding for everyone to enjoy.

The vibe of the town and people in the area make the Cape to Cape a fantastic event for a massive range of people. 
Yeahh, the flow lines of Compartment 10 are so sweet to ride. Jumps, transfer lines, huge berms, pumping and rolling goodness!

I race the Cape to Cape every year because it’s a chance to ride and catch up with all of my cycling mates. It’s a more relaxed event that allows plenty of time to chill out enjoy the area. Paul Van Der Ploeg

JC: The 2018 Giant Anthem 29er was a fantastic machine to race on over the week, I haven’t ridden a full blown cross country bike in many years and have not ridden a bike without a dropper seat post since 2013!
So to jump back on a full seat post, 100mm XC racing weapon that is so capable was a blast, it ate up the Margaret River trails, and I enjoyed riding it.
Cross-country racing is far from my speciality these days, but the new bike made it loads of fun and added to my excitement of the week.
I only had minutes to get used to it too, I was adjusting my handlebars and seat on the start line of day one and as I took off, was immediately comfortable. The bikes geometry and handling were standouts along with its pedalling efficiency and lightweight racer feel. It was awesome to ride on all types of terrain throughout the week and enjoy myself.
“Nice pants”
“What you say?”

Race you to the sunset!

West coast sunsets are THE BEST!


Dive in more in-depth with the new Giant Anthem 29 with our first impressions piece here: OOOOH, new Anthem!

EWS Video: Giant Factory Off-Road Team – Finale Ligure

Follow Josh Carlson and the rest of the Giant Factory Off-Road Team to the coastal mountain biking paradise of Finale Ligure, Italy, where Josh had his best race of the season, finishing 15th including a top 10 in stage 3.


It has become an annual tradition for the Enduro World Series: The season finishes on the white-sand beaches of Finale Ligure, Italy. But first, two days of steep, rocky and physically challenging terrain that ranks as one of the year’s toughest events. For the Giant Factory Off-Road Team, the journey to get here was filled with ups and downs. Some hard crashes and triumphant finishes. But in the end, the finals gave reason to celebrate. Australian Josh Carlson found his form to post a top-10 stage finish. Canadian Mckay Vezina was healthy and strong after some mid-season injuries. And Liv Cycling rider Rae Morrison finished off an impressive first season with the team, wrapping up her 10th place overall ranking for the year.

Follow the team at facebook.com/giantfactoryteam

Follow Josh on Instagram @joshcarlson__

Bike Check: Josh Carlson’s Giant Reign Advanced

We were lucky to spend a good chunk of time with Josh this summer, on and off the bike, and those who have met him will agree – he’s a damn good guy, a gentleman, patient and generous, motivated to the cause as an athlete and incredibly fast on his bike. His frothing energy is also very infectious; it’s always a good time when he’s around. And yeah, he’s a pretty big deal nowadays.

_low6813
Hooning on the stunning Stonefly Trail, Mt Buller.

Chatting about racing, life, future and family, we learn that 2016 was a good year for the soon to be a father of two from Wollongong. The racing season went well, snagging a third place in EWS Whistler, and finishing up a highly credible 10th overall. He ended the year on a high with a third place in the final stage of 2016 in Italy, sharpening his focus on the 2017 season and beyond. With a solid amount of experience behind him now and brimming with confidence, we’ll surely be seeing him step on the highly coveted EWS podium more. And with a new three-year contract with Giant Factory Off-Road Racing Team and plans to move back home to Wollongong in 2017, it is all happening!

Josh runs a completely regular Giant Advanced frame in size XL, with a 150mm RockShox Reverb post.
Josh runs a completely regular Giant Advanced frame in size XL, with a 150mm RockShox Reverb post.
Josh Carlson, great guy, way faster than us.
Josh Carlson, great guy, way faster than us.

Josh had his 2016 Enduro World Series season bike with him, only ridden a handful of times since the final round of the season in Finale Ligure, Italy. It’s a pretty cool rig, with loads of unique custom modifications that Josh and his mechanic Colin Bailey work on together. The bike remained the same spec all year; the only change was the fork travel. Swapping between 160, 170 and 180mm of travel depending on the course.

Josh speaks very highly of his mechanic, Colin Bailey, “He puts my head back on when it falls off”.

“He’s a guru mechanic and comes from a racing background in the 90’s, the heydey of names like Palmer, Voreis and Peat. He’s placed top 10 in World Cup downhills, and well-known for playing a role in designing the incredibly successful Maxxis Minion DH tyre.

The amazing Delatite River Trail, Mt Buller.
The amazing Delatite River Trail, Mt Buller.

“Colin’s a real quiet and very observant guy, you think you’ve got it all under control, but he’ll say one thing and bring tremendous perspective to the moment. He’d write little notes on my bars, like ‘breathe and believe’ ‘have a crack, you’ve got this’, ‘do it for Eli’”

“He pays so much attention; it’s a relationship that I really enjoy. I hope he does too, but either way stuff it, he’s stuck with me for now, haha…”


Giant Reign Advanced

Frame: Giant Reign Advanced, size XL. Since the Whistler round of the 2015 EWS Josh would size up to the XL for longer reach, the length also helps shift weight off the rear wheel. Josh is 185cm tall (6’1″) and 82kg.

Josh's Giant Reign Advanced, size XL.
Josh’s Giant Reign Advanced, size XL.
Long reach, short stem. Requires muscle on tight trails, but worth it overall.
Long reach, short stem. Requires muscle on tight trails, but worth it overall.

“The XL certainly needs muscling around on really tight trails, but refining that technique and being a stronger rider is best for me, there is way more advantages in going longer in the racing we do.”

Josh is 185cm tall (6’1″) and 82kg.

Cockpit: Truvativ 50mm stem, 765mm wide aluminium Truvativ Boobar handlebar with 7 degrees back sweep and 30mm rise. Josh has been working on ways to get the front end a lot higher, hence 30mm rise.

Fork: RockShox Lyrik with a custom 46mm offset. Six clicks of rebound from open, 1-5 clicks of low-speed compression, 74 psi at 180mm travel, 80 psi at 160mm, two tokens in all three forks.

Josh travels with three forks, this was 160mm and the 180mm went on for more DH runs in Buller.
Josh travels with three forks, this was 160mm, and the 180mm went on for more DH runs in Buller.

160mm – Ireland.

180mm – La Thuille, Whistler.

170mm – Chile, Argentina, Aspen, Valberg, Finale Ligure.

Rear shock: RockShox Vivid R2C, with a 450lbs coil spring. 1-3 clicks of compression, the bump stop enables a shorter and lighter coil spring (and another spot for a name sticker, of course. #pro). Josh didn’t run an air shock all year.

Coil spring all year, the bump stop allows use of a lighter and shorter coil. And space for another sticker of course...
Coil spring all year, the bump stop allows the use of a lighter and shorter coil. And space for another sticker of course…
RockShoc Monarch Plus, compression and rebound adjustable.
RockShox Vivid R2C, high and low-speed compression and rebound adjustable.

Brakes: SRAM Guide RSC with 180mm rotors. Adjusted so the levers pull a long way to the bars, they’re not particularly grabby and set up in a way that you couldn’t really do an endo without shifting body weight forward. A setup choice from riding on the North Shore, where the slippery wet roots and rocks wreak havoc on your bike control, especially with a jerking and grabbing action on the powerful brakes. Josh tends to drag his brakes when traction is paramount, to promote a wheel that’s not locking up, but constantly rolling.

180mm rotors on SRAM Guide brakes.
180mm rotors on SRAM Guide brakes.
The levers come a long way to the bars.
The levers come a long way to the bars.

The Frother Bag: This is about as custom as it gets, handmade by Colin Bailey’s dad (Josh’s mechanic) this is the second prototype built solely and specifically for Josh. Velcro secures the heat moulded frame in the frame’s triangle, and the water-resistant material is tough and resilient. The two-way zip is easily used to access the contents.

The Frother Bag. Custom made by Josh's mechanic's dad. Awesome.
The Frother Bag. Custom made by Josh’s mechanic’s dad. Awesome.
Everything in one place, handy.
Everything in one place, handy.

Inside the Frother Bag is an inner tube, tyre plug, tape, multi-tool, tyre levers, spoke key, spare inner tube valve, valve core remover, and brake pads. Josh carries a handpump and will only and rarely rely on a Co2 unless it’s the final stage of a race._low6796 _low6583 _low6854 _low6949

Wheels and tyres: Josh uses SRAM Rail aluminium wheels and Schwalbe tyres. Up front is a Schwalbe Magic Mary with the Vert Star Super Gravity casing, and on the rear is a new Nobby Nic (a prototype 2.35″ with Super Gravity casing). The Magic Mary is an excellent front tyre, but too puncture-prone with such an open tread layout on the sharp rocky trails for a rear tyre too.

Aluminium rims here, for security all weekend long.
Aluminium rims here, for security all weekend long.

“No carbon wheels for me, for security sake, they need to last all weekend. I’ve got carbon wheels on my road bike because Colin doesn’t know. He’d take them from me if he found out.”

Drivetrain: SRAM Eagle with a 38 tooth ring (ouch!). “SRAM Eagle came to us from the La Thuille EWS round onwards. It’s lovely, just the best piece of equipment, it has a huge range of gears, super-smooth shifting and I’ve never knocked it on anything while riding.”

SRAM Eagle drivetrain, with a whopping 38 tooth ring.
SRAM Eagle drivetrain, with a whopping 38 tooth ring.

_low7054 _low7053 _low7059 _low7039

Cranks are 170mm in length, shorter than usual for better ground clearance.

“I used the highest gear in Whistler and Aspen rounds of the EWS, that’s a 38/10”

Moto foam
Look carefully at the chain guide, Colin applies Moto foam, stops mud from sticking and adding weight. It also helps to stop stones from flicking up and jamming bash guard and chainring, especially with fresh tyres and on fire roads.

Watch this exact bike in action in our recent video with Josh on the amazing trails of Mt Buller, he’s pinned!

Bike Check: Josh Carlson's Giant Reign Advanced

“OMG, it’s Josh Carlson!” stumbles a starstruck fellow rider as we cruised the trails of Mt Buller. We grinned because we saw Josh humbled at the thought of just being recognised, an unfamiliar feeling for him since moving to Vancouver to further his career in enduro racing. Josh’s profile as a personality in the sport would grow all the way back here on home turf, returning home to ride over summer, he is more than just Josh the bike racer from Wollongong.

We were lucky to spend a good chunk of time with Josh this summer, on and off the bike, and those who have met him will agree – he’s a damn good guy, a gentleman, patient and generous, motivated to the cause as an athlete and incredibly fast on his bike. His frothing energy is also very infectious; it’s always a good time when he’s around. And yeah, he’s a pretty big deal nowadays.

_low6813
Hooning on the stunning Stonefly Trail, Mt Buller.

Chatting about racing, life, future and family, we learn that 2016 was a good year for the soon to be a father of two from Wollongong. The racing season went well, snagging a third place in EWS Whistler, and finishing up a highly credible 10th overall. He ended the year on a high with a third place in the final stage of 2016 in Italy, sharpening his focus on the 2017 season and beyond. With a solid amount of experience behind him now and brimming with confidence, we’ll surely be seeing him step on the highly coveted EWS podium more. And with a new three-year contract with Giant Factory Off-Road Racing Team and plans to move back home to Wollongong in 2017, it is all happening!

Josh runs a completely regular Giant Advanced frame in size XL, with a 150mm RockShox Reverb post.
Josh runs a completely regular Giant Advanced frame in size XL, with a 150mm RockShox Reverb post.
Josh Carlson, great guy, way faster than us.
Josh Carlson, great guy, way faster than us.

Josh had his 2016 Enduro World Series season bike with him, only ridden a handful of times since the final round of the season in Finale Ligure, Italy. It’s a pretty cool rig, with loads of unique custom modifications that Josh and his mechanic Colin Bailey work on together. The bike remained the same spec all year; the only change was the fork travel. Swapping between 160, 170 and 180mm of travel depending on the course.

Josh speaks very highly of his mechanic, Colin Bailey, “He puts my head back on when it falls off”.

“He’s a guru mechanic and comes from a racing background in the 90’s, the heydey of names like Palmer, Voreis and Peat. He’s placed top 10 in World Cup downhills, and well-known for playing a role in designing the incredibly successful Maxxis Minion DH tyre.

The amazing Delatite River Trail, Mt Buller.
The amazing Delatite River Trail, Mt Buller.

“Colin’s a real quiet and very observant guy, you think you’ve got it all under control, but he’ll say one thing and bring tremendous perspective to the moment. He’d write little notes on my bars, like ‘breathe and believe’ ‘have a crack, you’ve got this’, ‘do it for Eli’”

“He pays so much attention; it’s a relationship that I really enjoy. I hope he does too, but either way stuff it, he’s stuck with me for now, haha…”


Giant Reign Advanced

Frame: Giant Reign Advanced, size XL. Since the Whistler round of the 2015 EWS Josh would size up to the XL for longer reach, the length also helps shift weight off the rear wheel. Josh is 185cm tall (6’1″) and 82kg.

Josh's Giant Reign Advanced, size XL.
Josh’s Giant Reign Advanced, size XL.
Long reach, short stem. Requires muscle on tight trails, but worth it overall.
Long reach, short stem. Requires muscle on tight trails, but worth it overall.

“The XL certainly needs muscling around on really tight trails, but refining that technique and being a stronger rider is best for me, there is way more advantages in going longer in the racing we do.”

Josh is 185cm tall (6’1″) and 82kg.

Cockpit: Truvativ 50mm stem, 765mm wide aluminium Truvativ Boobar handlebar with 7 degrees back sweep and 30mm rise. Josh has been working on ways to get the front end a lot higher, hence 30mm rise.

Fork: RockShox Lyrik with a custom 46mm offset. Six clicks of rebound from open, 1-5 clicks of low-speed compression, 74 psi at 180mm travel, 80 psi at 160mm, two tokens in all three forks.

Josh travels with three forks, this was 160mm and the 180mm went on for more DH runs in Buller.
Josh travels with three forks, this was 160mm, and the 180mm went on for more DH runs in Buller.

160mm – Ireland.

180mm – La Thuille, Whistler.

170mm – Chile, Argentina, Aspen, Valberg, Finale Ligure.

Rear shock: RockShox Vivid R2C, with a 450lbs coil spring. 1-3 clicks of compression, the bump stop enables a shorter and lighter coil spring (and another spot for a name sticker, of course. #pro). Josh didn’t run an air shock all year.

Coil spring all year, the bump stop allows use of a lighter and shorter coil. And space for another sticker of course...
Coil spring all year, the bump stop allows the use of a lighter and shorter coil. And space for another sticker of course…
RockShoc Monarch Plus, compression and rebound adjustable.
RockShox Vivid R2C, high and low-speed compression and rebound adjustable.

Brakes: SRAM Guide RSC with 180mm rotors. Adjusted so the levers pull a long way to the bars, they’re not particularly grabby and set up in a way that you couldn’t really do an endo without shifting body weight forward. A setup choice from riding on the North Shore, where the slippery wet roots and rocks wreak havoc on your bike control, especially with a jerking and grabbing action on the powerful brakes. Josh tends to drag his brakes when traction is paramount, to promote a wheel that’s not locking up, but constantly rolling.

180mm rotors on SRAM Guide brakes.
180mm rotors on SRAM Guide brakes.
The levers come a long way to the bars.
The levers come a long way to the bars.

The Frother Bag: This is about as custom as it gets, handmade by Colin Bailey’s dad (Josh’s mechanic) this is the second prototype built solely and specifically for Josh. Velcro secures the heat moulded frame in the frame’s triangle, and the water-resistant material is tough and resilient. The two-way zip is easily used to access the contents.

The Frother Bag. Custom made by Josh's mechanic's dad. Awesome.
The Frother Bag. Custom made by Josh’s mechanic’s dad. Awesome.
Everything in one place, handy.
Everything in one place, handy.

Inside the Frother Bag is an inner tube, tyre plug, tape, multi-tool, tyre levers, spoke key, spare inner tube valve, valve core remover, and brake pads. Josh carries a handpump and will only and rarely rely on a Co2 unless it’s the final stage of a race._low6796 _low6583 _low6854 _low6949

Wheels and tyres: Josh uses SRAM Rail aluminium wheels and Schwalbe tyres. Up front is a Schwalbe Magic Mary with the Vert Star Super Gravity casing, and on the rear is a new Nobby Nic (a prototype 2.35″ with Super Gravity casing). The Magic Mary is an excellent front tyre, but too puncture-prone with such an open tread layout on the sharp rocky trails for a rear tyre too.

Aluminium rims here, for security all weekend long.
Aluminium rims here, for security all weekend long.

“No carbon wheels for me, for security sake, they need to last all weekend. I’ve got carbon wheels on my road bike because Colin doesn’t know. He’d take them from me if he found out.”

Drivetrain: SRAM Eagle with a 38 tooth ring (ouch!). “SRAM Eagle came to us from the La Thuille EWS round onwards. It’s lovely, just the best piece of equipment, it has a huge range of gears, super-smooth shifting and I’ve never knocked it on anything while riding.”

SRAM Eagle drivetrain, with a whopping 38 tooth ring.
SRAM Eagle drivetrain, with a whopping 38 tooth ring.

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Cranks are 170mm in length, shorter than usual for better ground clearance.

“I used the highest gear in Whistler and Aspen rounds of the EWS, that’s a 38/10”

Moto foam
Look carefully at the chain guide, Colin applies Moto foam, stops mud from sticking and adding weight. It also helps to stop stones from flicking up and jamming bash guard and chainring, especially with fresh tyres and on fire roads.

Watch this exact bike in action in our recent video with Josh on the amazing trails of Mt Buller, he’s pinned!

Video: Quietly Frothing, Mt Buller with Josh Carlson

But this trip was different; we were meeting to ride with the one and only Josh Carlson. Ranked number 10 in the world in the highly competitive and thrilling scene of enduro racing, Josh ain’t a slouch on a bike. We’d ridden with him once before in Buller, at the official opening of the fantastic Stonefly descent a few years ago, needless to say, it didn’t end well, and with a thud to the dirt, we learnt never again to try and match his speed through the corners.

There’s a very valid reason Josh is employed to race, while we are not.


Want this in your life too? For resort information, accommodation, trail maps, bike rental, upcoming events and more visit the Bike Buller website here: I NEED to do this!



Hit play on the video below, crank up the volume and jump right in.



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We invited Josh to film him ride Buller like we all do but at his pace. From the hotel, we warmed our bones on the rising sun and set off on our way, we blasted the top of Copperhead and split out to scoot through the town over towards Gang Gangs to begin our big ride towards Mt Stirling, off in the distance.

As we flicked and railed our way down the mint turns of Wooly Butt trail, the morning sun lit up the greenery around us, giving us the warm and fuzzy feels. The trails felt great beneath our tyres and looked like a total dream._low6494 _low6529 _low6545 _low6583 _low6605

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The vast Stonefly ascent lay out before us as we began to climb what must be one of the most picturesque trails in the alpine region, the colours, the running creeks, the bark peeling off the trees ahead of summer and that superb mountain air numbed our fatigue and hid the dull burn in our legs.

Some of the best sections of trail are on this climb, the stark contrasts of the sun-bleached gums, dry and white from bushfire against the vibrant flowers and lush green undergrowth. We pause at Willow’s Breeze and remember a good mate, and push on towards Bluff Spur for a bite to eat._low6750 _low6752 _low6772 _low6791 _low6796 _low6811 _low6830

The Mt Stirling Summit is a real burner; your legs will hate you and your lungs won’t let you forget what you did to them, but getting to the top is so damn rewarding that nothing else matters. The views are enormous, and you can see where you’ve come from, Mt Buller is a long way away, that’s where that sense of achievement comes from.  _low6955 _low6906 _low6949 _low6854 _low6932

When you know you’re at the absolute top, with everything below it’s a pretty sweet feeling. To get down to Mirimbah there is much ground to cover, so we let it rip and hammered our way down the fire trail from the summit to the start of the Stonefly descent._low6966

Ripping past the sign signalling the beginning of the 4km singletrack descent, it was time to turn it up and ride the narrow and twisting trail that we know and love.

Between us and the beginning of the Delatite River Trail is not exactly anyone’s favourite climb, Trigger Happy. It might be scenic, but it is steep and the best way to get to the Corn Hill Summit. We take our time and grind the final climb of the day.

Clancy’s Run is a real ball tearer, with huge swooping bowls and huge banked turns the dusty and rocky trail is not to be taken lightly, but with excellent visibility and predictability the speeds creep up and up, and we were flying.

It’s at the bottom of Clancy’s Run that the formidable Delatite River Trail begins, it may be a fire trail but it’s ridden at the type of speeds that you’d be hard pressed to match anywhere else. It’s a rush, a wild and rapid mad dash down alongside the river and over it a dozen times across gargantuan bridges made from fallen trees. _low6988 _low6996

Bursting out to the valley floor, with bike and body in one piece, buzzing and exhausted, it’s that Buller feeling we came for. Ahh, yeah. That’s real mountain biking all right.

Signing off the epic day is a tradition we can’t miss, watching the sunset with a beer from the Mt Buller Summit. Cheers.

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Key Riders Return to Lead Giant Factory Off-Road Team in 2016

Following a thrilling 2015 season that saw the team collect podium finishes and big wins at some of the most prestigious Downhill and Enduro events around the world, the Giant Factory Off-Road Team is back for 2016 with a renewed focus on the UCI World Cup and Enduro World Series races.

Team Portrait
The 2016 Giant Factory Off-Road Team lineup includes (left to right): Alex Marin (DH), Marcelo Gutierrez (DH), Guillaume Cauvin (DH), Yoann Barelli (Enduro), Adam Craig (Enduro), Josh Carlson (Enduro), Carl Decker (XC, Enduro) and Seamus Powell (Enduro). Photo by Cameron Baird.

Five-time Colombian downhill national champion Marcelo Gutierrez signed a three-year extension with the team and is already off to a winning start in 2016 following a victoryat theManizales Urban Downhill race in January. Gutierrez is coming off a successful 2015 season that saw him land his first-ever World Cup podium finish at Fort William and break into the top-10 overall with a final World Cup ranking of eighth. The 25-year-old also repeated his title at the grueling Garbanzo DH, part of the Crankworx Whistler event in British Columbia.

“Our World Cup DH squad had a great season last year, riding the new Glory Advanced bikes and collecting some nice podium finishes,” Gutierrez said. “I’m looking forward to continuing the momentum and seeing what we can do in 2016.”

Marcelo_Gutierrez
With two World Cup podium finishes, 2015 was a breakout season for Colombian DH racer Marcelo Gutierrez. Marcelo is seen here on his Glory Advanced 27.5 bike wearing the 100% DH kit, including jersey, pants, helmet and gloves. Photo by Cameron Baird.

Joining Gutierrez on the downhill team is Spanish teenager Alex Marin, who makes the jump up to the elites this year following a successful run in the junior men’s category. Marin, who finished 4th overall in the 2015 junior men’s World Cup standings, with several podium appearances, traveled to Colombia in January to train and race with Gutierrez as they prepare for the upcoming World Cup season.

Alex_Marin
After a successful run in the juniors, Spaniard Alex Marin makes the jump up to elite men’s downhill competition this year on his Glory Advanced 27.5 with RockShox suspension and SRAM drivetrain components. Marin and the rest of the team are riding a variety of treads from tire sponsor Schwalbe. Photo by Cameron Baird.

Also returning to the DH squad this year is 21-year-old French rider Guillaume Cauvin. The former junior French Cup winner had a solid first year with the team in 2015, highlighted by a podium finish in the pro men’s DH at the Crankworx Les 2 Alpes event in France.

Guillaume_Cauvin
French DH rider Guillaume Cauvin returns after a solid first year with the team in 2015 that was highlighted by a podium finish at the Crankworx Les 2 Alpes event. Photo by Cameron Baird.
Yoann_Barelli
Fan favorite Yoann Barelli came on strong in the second half of last year’s Enduro World Series. He’s looking to add more stage wins and get his first overall EWS victory this year on his Reign Advanced 27.5 bike. Photo by Cameron Baird.

The team’s enduro squad is led this year by Frenchman Yoann Barelli. The 30-year-old had a breakout 2015 season, getting stronger as the season went on. He scored a number of stage wins in the Enduro World Series and finished second at two of the last three rounds. In the end, despite a rough start that saw him crash out of Round 1 in New Zealand, Barelli dazzled fans with moments of brilliance on his Reign Advanced 27.5 race bike and finished a strong ninth overall for the year in the EWS.

“We had an awesome 2015 season and we’re all looking forward to going full on again this year,” Barelli said. “I came so close to winning the overall at a couple Enduro World Series events, and this year I’ll be gunning for that top step on the podium.”

Also returning to the enduro squad is Australian Josh Carlson, who came on strong in 2015. The 29-year-old was impressive throughout the season, finishing 12th overall in the EWS. Carlson’s 2015 highlight was winning two stages at Round 6 of the EWS in Whistler, and coming close to winning the overall there. American Adam Craig will join Barelli and Carlson for select EWS races and other North American enduro events.

Josh_Carlson
Australian Josh Carlson, wearing the team enduro jersey and shorts from new sponsor 100%, had a number of top performances and stage wins on the Enduro World Series last year. Photo by Cameron Baird.
Adam_Craig
American rider Adam Craig, an all-around talent who has done everything from Olympic XC racing to cyclocross to the Enduro World Series, will race his Reign Advanced 27.5 with RockShox suspension at North American enduro events this year. Photo by Cameron Baird.

Beyond the global riders, next year’s team also includes American XC and enduro racer Carl Decker. The veteran from Oregon will continue to focus on a variety of enduro, XC and gravel grinder events in 2016. And Seamus Powell, a 25-year-old two-time U.S. Super D national champion, will focus mainly on events in the East Coast region of the U.S.

Seamus_Powell
American Seamus Powell, wearing the new Giant Rail trail helmet, is based in the eastern region of the U.S., where he focuses mostly on enduro events. Photo by Cameron Baird.
Carl_Decker
Veteran team member Carl Decker, riding his Anthem Advanced 27.5 bike and wearing the team XC kit from new sponsor Jackroo along with the Giant Rail helmet, will compete in North American XC and enduro events this year. Photo by Cameron Baird.

All of the Giant Factory Off-Road Team riders will have a full quiver of Giant bikes to choose from including Glory Advanced 27.5 downhill bikes, Reign Advanced 27.5 enduro machines, Trance Advanced 27.5 trail bikes, and Anthem Advanced 27.5 and XtC Advanced SL 27.5 XC bikes. Giant is also supporting the team with its Contact SLR saddles, the new Rail trail helmet, Giant footwear including the Charge XC shoe with Motion Efficiency System technology, plus jackets and other apparel.

Charge_Shoes
The team’s XC and enduro racers will train and race in Giant’s new Charge shoes featuring Motion Efficiency System technology. Photo by Cameron Baird.

Newly added sponsor 100% will bring a whole new look to the team, providing a range of products including their all-new AIRCRAFT Carbon full-face helmet, gravity race kits and gloves. Other new sponsors include HT Components pedals, Re-Fuel digital accessories and Jackroo XC kits. Returning sponsors include SRAM, RockShox, Schwalbe and all of the other partners listed below.

You can follow the Giant Factory Off-Road Team all season long at facebook.com/giantfactoryteam.

2016 Giant Factory Off-Road Team Sponsors:

SRAM, RockShox, Schwalbe,100%, HT, Re-fuel, MRP, GoPro, Honey Stinger, Jakroo, ODI , Stan’s, Thule, Park Tool, Finish Line.


 

Giant is the world’s leading brand of high quality bicycles and cycling gear. Since 1972, Giant has combined craftsmanship, technology and innovative design to create the ultimate cycling experience for all riders, casual to competitive. Through its products, people and retail partners, Giant inspires passion for cycling all around the world. For more information, go to giant-bicycles.com. 

On Track With Curtis Keene – Almost Doesn’t Count – S2E7

Every Race is a story. The transfers, the perfect lines, the mechanicals and the crashes are a part of every racer’s tale.

In this episode of On Track with Curtis Keene we explore 3 different stories from what is consistently one of the toughest (and paradoxically most liked) races in the Enduro World Series: Whistler, British Columbia, Canada.

Follow Curtis as he struggles with injury to make the starting line. We track BC transplant Josh Carlson as he puts together a dream run of stages at his “home race” and we follow young gun Richie Rude who has apparently decided that concepts of age and experience don’t actually count for anything at all.

 

The Josh Carlson Experience: EWS Crankworx

We caught up with Josh in his adopted hometown of Vancouver, where he’d just come back in from a training ride on his cyclocross bike, after an enforced week off the bike thanks to some dodgy jambalaya!


Good ride, Josh?

Yep, nice to be feeling better! It’s not a bad thing having a week off, though it’s not ideal to be turning yourself inside out every two minutes! I do feel super skinny and lean though – all my clothes fit real well!

 

Last time we chatted was before you went to France. Fill us in! 

It’s been a pretty wild month and a half actually, lots of up and downs. And man, racing in France and Colorado was pretty tough actually.

Just the steepness of the French tracks – it’s just a skill that I haven’t really developed. Since I got hurt in 2013, I didn’t get to race again in France until 2014, and that year I got really sick during the race, so I’ve never got into it. Plus the format, where you get one practice run then you race it, it’s a weakness of mine, because it’s so foreign.

This year I got caught out by the rain and had a crash in the first stage and hurt my hip. In my first run, in practice, it was dry. So I came down the hill changed a few things because it was quite pedally – put a Rock Razor on the rear and changed to cross country shoes. But in between a huge thunder storm rolled in and just turned the track to ice. So it was a mad rush to change things back to the original settings.

Then I rode really hesitant and had a crash, on a bridge that had been covered in plywood. But the time I saw the plywood, I was doing 1000 down this fireroad, and when I hit the wood I was just like an elephant on ice and tomahawked into the ground.

The second day was pretty sick, but I had a mental lockup. I don’t know why, just freaking out, grabbing the bars too tight and getting heaps of arm pump. And then the guy 30 seconds behind caught me and I was just going backwards. It was a pretty disappointing round all up.

Samoans, France. Round 4 of the EWS Series.
Samoans, France. Round 4 of the EWS Series.

 

What do you do when you start getting in a negative space like that?

I’m still trying to figure that out! You’ve got to relax and just go with it, but man I just got overwhelmed with memories of past experiences… It was bizarre just how much the feeling on the bike was the same as in 2013.

I took off feeling good, then I made a couple of mistakes and just panicked. It’s the power of the mind I guess.

I just tried to put that result out of my mind immediately. But regardless, it’s something I’m going to have to work on – that style of racing will always be part of the EWS, so if I’m ever going to be World Champion, I’ll need to learn how to ride it.

Samoans, France. Round 4 of the EWS Series.

And then it was onto Colorado?

Yep, I opted to go straight to Colorado to try and adjust to the altitude a little bit. Crested Butte is at 95000 feet, and a lot of the riding is so physical too – every liason stage is like an hour or a two hour ride, pedaling and pushing your bike. And then each stage is really physical too.

Unfortunately there were a few issues there with people pre-riding at lot of the stages… Unfortunately people found out what the race stages would be way ahead of time. So I kind of made a point of avoiding where I thought the tracks would be ahead of official practice and just rode the bike park, did all my training there. One of the trails in the bike park did end up being one of the stages in the race, but I just had to cop that on the chin. Just about everyone had ridden the bike park stage, so it was more of a level playing field. But the other stages, out in the back country, most of us were racing it blind, but then some people had already pre-ridden it five or six times and that’s a huge advantage.

Maybe I hurt my chances but not riding in the backcountry of Crested Butte, but I don’t want to get involved with that stuff.

 

Not asking you to name names, but what kind of riders do pre-ride stages? Are they further down the ranks?

Nah, it’s across the board unfortunately. Technically, they’re not doing anything wrong. I mean, before the tracks are officially announced, they can definitely make the case that they’re just riding, not breaking any rules. There’s no rule that says you can’t ride all the trails in the area, and there are some trails that I’d ridden in years past too, which ended up being in the race, but that was just by chance, not because we sought them out.

But it’s just an ethical thing in my mind. I mean, we heard, like most people, what trails were likely going to be raced, so we made a point of staying away. And it is racing, I guess. People will do what they can to win.

 

And in the end, the weekend turned out in the most disastrous way possible, with the death of a racer.

Yes, it was a tragedy. Everybody was shocked. In mountain biking it’s pretty rare to have a death. In motocross it used to happen a bit more regularly – everyone was aware of it. Whereas in mountain biking no one really contemplates it. But when shit hits the fan, it can really hit the fan, especially when you’re racing at EWS pace.

In other enduro events, backcountry things like the Trans Provence, you go there with a different attitude. You don’t go there at 100% race pace – you have to ride within your limits because you don’t get to see the track until you’re racing.

But at the EWS, you’re paid to be the fastest rider in the world. You line up on the start line, 100% prepared to go as fast as you possibly can.

Having said that, what happened to Will (Olsen, the deceased rider) has happened to everybody. Something as simple as clipping a pedal at speed. He wasn’t taking crazy risks, it was just one of those things. Everyone was pretty shaken up by it.

 

And then back to your hometown and on to Crankworx. It must have been nice to get back home after all of that.

It was amazing. Like a breath of fresh air, like I hit the reset button – seeing the missus, sleeping in my own bed. It just felt so good.

I mean Whistler isn’t my home, but it’s close enough, I spend a lot of time up there training and the trails are relatively similar. And then the tracks they announced for the racing were awesome too, with five fifteen-ish minute stages. It was sweet.

And then it when it rained for the couple of days prior to the race, everything just clicked, I was really enjoying riding. I was relaxed, happy, in the right frame of mind to race my bike. It sounds totally cliché, but having fun was all I was focused on, and it worked.

Everything clicked. Even the climbs! The first liaison is a forty minute climb, and normally you’d get off and have to push bits because it’s pretty steep. But I pedaled up the whole way up, barely even breaking a sweat – and I was like, ‘hmm, this could be a good day!’

Crankworx 2015
Crankworx.

 

And it was a good day!

Yeah, the first stage, I had some lines I’d been riding when it was dry that were pretty adventurous, and I figured now it was wet I’d ride a bit more conservatively. But I just dropped in and rode it like it was dry and it worked! I came away with the win in stage 1, but I didn’t find that out till later. I didn’t actually stop to check my times at the end of each stage – there was a live timing board so you could check your times straight away, but I didn’t do that. I kept riding, ticking boxes, stage one done, onto stage two.

People kept coming up, frothing, telling me how good I’d done, but I certainly didn’t know I was winning until Barelli pulled me aside after the second stage and said, “Josh. You are winning.” And I was like, ‘Great, but I don’t care.’ And he just said, “Good, just keep doing what you’re doing.”

I was just having loads of fun. It was just so enjoyable to be attacking the track, my bike setup was great. After Barelli told me I was winning I didn’t really talk to anyone. A couple of people came up asking if they could interview me about how the day was going and was like, “You know, I’d rather not.” I just didn’t want to think about the results. I just wanted to stay happy.

 

Sounds like it’s the key for you! Some people need to get angry or fired up before they race, or go through their rituals, but for you it’s being happy.

For sure! It sounds totally clichéd but that’s it. I mean on stage 4, I was just yipping and yahooing the whole way down. I didn’t even know how I rode, but I knew I felt good, and I was just stoked!

After stage four, I still didn’t know any results, I knew I’d been leading after stage two, but that was it. Then in gondola on the way up to stage 5, I was with Jared Graves and Richie Rude. Jared asked me, “do you want to know the results?” And I told him, no, that I didn’t really care.

It was perfect, the whole way up in the gondola we didn’t even talk about results, just a whole lot of other shit. After the fact I found out that at that stage the battle for the win was between me and Richie!

Unfortunately in stage five, well it all came crumbling down.

 

What happened?

A piece of shale, or something, cut my tyre in this really raw line. And it didn’t go down straight away – I heard the pss, pss, pss of the tyre. I couldn’t believe it. You can hear me in my helmet cam, going “no way, no way.” I didn’t want to believe it. I was hoping it was just a caught stick, or a rock, or that it would seal, but then I hit the woods and it went dead flat.

 

What did you do?

Ran it. Just pedaled my arse off. It was a pretty wild ride. I didn’t slow down that much, if the trail was pointing down I pinned it as fast as a I possibly could. I definitely got pretty wild! It was only the pedaling that really hurt me, but I lost three and a half minutes overall. I couldn’t believe it.

Crankworx 2015
Crankworx.

 

In spite of that, were you able to walk away from the race feeling positive? Knowing that for 80% of that race, you were winning maybe the biggest EWS round of the season?

Racing the Garbonzo DH the next day and having to focus on that, it helped me get over it. But for a couple of days, it definitely hurt. It took a while before I was able to look at the internet again! I mean, it was an eye opener too, to find out how many people had been watching and rooting for me. Walking around Whistler people would keep coming up, congratulating me, or telling me how gutted they were for me.

And it’s a cool feeling to know now that I am capable of winning, too. I mean, my goal this year was to consistently get top 15, maybe to win a stage, so come so close to winning a round was incredible.

Crankworx 2015
Racing the Crankworx dual slalom with team mate Marcelo Gutierrez.

 

And you got on the DH bike and raced the Canadian Open too?

Yeah, I felt like an absolute fish out of water! I was running around asking all the lads, Fearon and Bernard Kerr and stuff, things like “what pressure are you running? How do you do this?” I was an absolute squid, so far out of my comfort zone!

 

Haha! See that’s a surprise, I thought that a lot of that experience would translate from Enduro.

Nah, it’s so different. You’ve got three minutes, and there are no mistakes allowed. You need to push to the limit and keep it perfect. In Enduro, you’ve got five or so stages, you can regain time. In downhill you have to know the track, perfectly.

In practice it was wet and I cased one of the big step downs and just blew apart my drivetrain! Bent my cranks, my chain ring, destroyed the chain guide! There were all these jumps and I hadn’t even jumped them yet, and I was meant to do my qualifying run in an hour! So I rushed back up the hill after the guys rebuilt my bike, and just hucked into all these jumps! Somehow made it through it all, hammered it to get back up the hill, got up the top at 10:15 and my qualifying run was at 10:18… It was chaos!

Come race day I felt a lot better. The lines you take on a trail bike and a downhill bike are so different, you carry speed so differently. On a trail bike, you can take a tighter line into a corner and pedal out to get up to speed, but on a downhill bike you’re thinking about the next two corners, you need to be thinking further ahead.

 

Do you get to spend much time on the downhill bike?

I do, maybe once a week, but for me it’s all about finding the longest run possible and hammering it. I don’t work on the finesse and the speed you need for racing downhill. I use my downhill bike for Enduro training.

It’s funny though, I had like five practice runs on the course and for me that is heaps coming from Enduro, but for the downhill boys that’s nothing. So maybe it worked in my favour, because I did pretty well. For ages I was sitting in third, and I ended up with 18th overall against a pretty stacked field! I was super stoked. It made the whole week feel a lot better.

 

Most riders go from downhill to Enduro, you might find yourself going the other way!

For sure, it definitely sparks an interest! I was pretty shocked to be honest.

 

So you ride the downhill bike once a week, but what else do you do for skills training?

I’ll set aside certain days of the week where I have one area I focus on. I might go down the park and set out a course, just a figure of eight and practice cornering for hours. Or doing endos, or wheelies, skids – the raw, raw skills, the absolute basics.

Or I’ll do certain set things on the trail bike, that are fitness based as well as skills based. I mean, my skills base is definitely undeveloped compared to a lot of the other racers, just because I haven’t been doing it as long.

 

You’ve said before the guys who do well at these races are the ones with the full toolkit of basic skills.

Absolutely – you don’t know the tracks, so all you’ve got is your skills, your strength and your fitness.

 

And fitness wise, what do you do?

I ride the cross bike, and the road bike. But I spend 80% of the time on my Enduro bike, as much time as I can. But I’m lucky, I have the Mecca of the mountain bike world on my doorstep, and that’s why Lisa and I packed up our lives and moved here. You’ll never get bored, and you can work on every type of skill; there are basic trails, super steep trails, the gnarliest stuff, long trails, bike park trails… it’s endless really.

 

Will you go out and focus on a particular style of trail on a given training day?

For sure. I might go and ride one trail, eight times, with a different focus each time. I might ride it chainless, then only with my front brake, then only with the back brake, or concentrating on switching my feet in the corners. Or I might time myself over eight runs, and go faster each run, so my final run has to be my quickest.

Other days I’ll go and find steep trails or new trails and ride them blind, as fast as I can. So you definitely mix it up, but with plenty of focus too. That’s the advantage of living here I guess, I can pick a different zone or a different skill easily.

It also gives me lots of chances to test stuff out. Speaking of which, I’ve been trying out a bigger frame size, I’m now riding on an XL frame.

 

That’s a big bike!

Yeah it is a big, big bike. But I have an off-the-back riding style, and we’re hoping that it’ll spread my body weight around more evenly, give a bit better suspension performance, more grip on the front wheel, and take some pressure off the rear wheel. It definitely feels like I’ve got the capability of going faster, I felt that straight away. It’s kind of scary really!

Crankworx 2015

It definitely seems like Enduro bike setup overall is going a little more downhill. More coil shocks, bigger forks. Do you think that’s the case?

Yeah, the coil shock thing in particular. Last year I was one of the only riders using a coil, but now I’d say the majority of the field is on a coil at some events. The biggest thing about a coil shock is the predictability over a very long run, and there’s so much stability and traction, it’s an easy trade off even if you lose a tiny bit of pedaling performance.

 

Well, we’ll let you go mate! Your baby could be here any minute!

Hahaha, yeah that’s right. I’m not going anywhere now till the baby is here – the next four weeks of training will all be within an hour of home and my phone’s staying in the pocket on maximum volume!

The Josh Carlson Experience: EWS, Round 3, Scotland

Throughout the 2015 Enduro World Series we’ll be bringing you an insider’s perspective of Josh’s performance. For this unique series, we’ve teamed up with Today’s Plan, an Australian training tools provider, who work with Josh to analyse his training and monitor his performance. (Check out our first impressions of Today’s Plan here).


, during the Tweedlove Enduro, Peebles Scotland. EWS#3
The fans came out in droves to line the muddy trails. Josh in lightweight mode on the second day of racing.

Congratulations! You’re racking up good results like a mad man!

Thanks, it was good. Yeah, there’s always stuff to improve on. I definitely put together more good stages than in the last race, but when I look back at the GoPro footage all I can see is me bleeding seconds! Wrong gear here, or where I stuffed up a corner here, I was a bit disappointed. But to come away with ninth is great, and it’s good be competitive, it’s good to be consistent.

And those are bad habits that I’ve got, bad habits that have cost me a lot more in the past than just a few thorns in my arse.

I guess hindsight is a miserable bitch. When you see how tight the times are and you look at the little mistakes, you just realise what your result could have been. Especially if I look back to Ireland – the stupid little things cost you so much time. I mean, there was no reason in Ireland for me to have that first crash, I didn’t need to go 67km/h down that goat track, I could have wiped off two seconds on that straight and made up 15 seconds on the whole stage. And those are bad habits that I’ve got, bad habits that have cost me a lot more in the past than just a few thorns in my arse.

But at least now I feel like I know the speed it takes to be up there. And my plan this year isn’t to go out there and smoke everyone, it’s to be consistent and smooth, and be sustainably competitive.

Weather came into play in Scotland – what’s it like racing in those horrible conditions?

You’ve got to relax. You can’t get stressed about it because you can’t control it – all you can control is what you’re doing, your attitude. Being wet is definitely annoying, but focusing on it achieves nothing.

And man, there was shit flying everywhere! It was like raining from the ground up, it was hilarious.

Stage 5 in Scotland was absolutely diabolical. It was one of the gnarliest, wettest, most rutted riding I’ve ever done. Further down the stage the ruts were bottom bracket deep, you couldn’t take a foot out of your pedal, because as soon as your other foot dropped down it would jam into the rut and it was like a rodeo, like you’d slapped that bull on the arse and it was go time! Your wheels are stuck, your foot’s full of mud, you’re sliding down the hill… it was actually pretty funny, fishing the stage you’re like ‘what the hell just happened?’

, during the Tweedlove Enduro, Peebles Scotland. EWS#3

It was so muddy on that stage that we took off our mud guards. A few amateurs who’d been down ahead of us said ‘take that mud guard off or your wheels won’t turn in stage 5’, but usually the trails are vastly different when we ride them because another 200 riders have been down the track. But then when we saw Brosnan and Ropelato and Curtis Keene all saying the same thing, and it was like this weird panic going around the top 20 riders, everyone was ripping their fenders off! And man, there was shit flying everywhere! It was like raining from the ground up, it was hilarious.


Take a closer look at Josh’s performance, stage by stage, in Scotland. Use the menus on the right to switch between the various stages and to control playback speed. Keep an eye on his heart rate throughout – he might be primarily descending, but his efforts are through the roof. Powered by Today’s Plan


Now in most of the photos I see of you, you’re riding without a pack. What gear do you carry, and how do you stash it?

Yep, I try to get away without a pack if it’s at all possible. Normally I’ll wear a cross-country jersey under my race jersey, and just stash everything in the pockets. It all comes down to water; if you’re never more than an hour or two from a feed station, I can get by with one bottle and a few bars and stuff. And then I’ll take a tube, pump, two CO2 canisters, a multi-tool with a quick-link, a hanger, some tape and a cable attached to it. And for Scotland, because of the mud, I took a little pack of rags and a spare pair of gloves too.

Sometimes you’re in an open face, sometimes a full face. Are there rules, or is it up to you?

Unless the rules stipulate you have to wear a full face, I’ll make a call and commit to one helmet or the other for the whole day. The times that I have tried taking both, I’ve ended up getting my helmet caugh on trees. So as much of an annoyance as it is, if I’m running a full face, I’ll run it all day. I’ll take the cheek pads out on the climbs and even if it’s a bit annoying, I just deal with it. A full face definitely gives you more confidence to go fast.

In Scotland, the second day lent itself to a lighter setup, so I ran an open face helmet. I also changed my tyres to lighter casings (Snake Skins, not Super Gravity tyres), ran an air shock not the coil shock, and changed my shoes to a stiffer more XC style shoe. Pretty simple changes, but they made a big difference.

, during the Tweedlove Enduro, Peebles Scotland. EWS#3
If he can avoid it, Josh will ride without a pack, stashing all his spares in an XC jersey under his race jersey.

There are obviously a lot of different ways that Enduro races can be run, with plenty of different formats. Do you see any consolidation happening there, and do you have a preference? 

My preference is definitely for the Ireland and Scotland style format where you get to practice the tracks. If I can get a couple of runs in, I feel a lot more confident. I guess the blind racing is a skill I’ve never really encountered but I’m having to learn it! I don’t think they will consolidate to one particular format; I think one of things that makes the EWS so appealing is that it’s not just catered to one style of rider – racing those French races, the blind races, is so different because you have to be so sharp and aware.

Do you get at least some kind of look at the track?

Yes, you get one roll down, but it’s a once-over look at a 15-17 minute track, and then you literally have 20 minutes till you go up to race it. So the amount you’re going to remember of a 15 minute track with one roll down is not much. And you don’t even get a chance to really think about it or watch back your GoPro footage, because you normally have only 15 or 20 minutes till you’re heading back up, and if you’ve got a mechanical, or you’ve got to eat or something, that 20 minutes evaporates pretty fast.

As I said, my preference is for the races where you get a couple of days practice, and I like to try to get two runs on each stage, even though it does mean they’re very big days. In the two weeks that we raced over there, I had almost 40 hours of riding within 12 days, which is a lot to deal with. My team mate Yoann, he went for a different approach, he did only one practice run of each stage so he’d be fresher for race day, because he think he’s faster that way.

When you do hit a piece of singletrack it’s some skinny goat herder track littered with loose rock – it feels like you’re riding a tightrope.

But when we head to France, it’s a different world over there. A lot of time there aren’t even trails – it’s just a bunted section through the grass and shrubs and woods down a 2500 metre high alp. At the end of the weekend it’s the sickest track you’ll ever ride, but at the start of the weekend it’s just wild grass. And when you do hit a piece of singletrack it’s some skinny goat herder track littered with loose rock – it feels like you’re riding a tightrope. I mean, it’s nothing like we do in Australia, and the first time I rode in France like that, I went away in an ambulance.

How are you going to approach it then so you don’t overcook it? 

You just can’t go 100%. Every time you think, ‘it’s just a grassy slope, I’m not going to touch the brakes,’ you need to say ‘hold on a second – why do that?’. The two seconds you might possibly gain by taking that huge risk aren’t going to make the real difference over 15 minutes, what makes a difference is your raw skill, the tools in your tool box, the basics. You see the guys like Jared and Jerome, it’s all about the full skill set – Jared will win in Whistler, and he’ll win in France, Jerome’s the same, winning in Chile and then in Rotorua, completely different conditions.

Then you’ve got a guy like Nico Voullioz who has won 14 World Championships – I haven’t even done 14 international races yet, let alone win one!

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Enduro isn’t like downhill – lots of guys in their 30s, even their late 30s, are doing seriously well – that must give you a lot of confidence still being young that you can have a healthy, long career in the sport.

It does make me feel good to see that the guys who are winning a lot now, like Graves, Leov and Clementz are a few years older. At the same time, compared to those guys, I still feel like I’m a 21 year old rookie! They’ve got so much experience. I remember taking a chairlift was Graves in Whistler last year and he was talking about winning his first National Championship when he turned to downhill after racing XC, and he was 19. That was like 12 or 13 years ago, and he was racing and winning National Champs! Then you’ve got a guy like Nico Voullioz who has won 14 World Championships – I haven’t even done 14 international races yet, let alone win one! 14 World Championships! So on one hand it forces me to realise where I am and what I’ve come to, and that’s a good feeling, but on the other hand it’s a little bit daunting. These guys are winning Enduros for a reason. But on the other hand you’ve got guys like Greg Callaghan who is killing it, first year pro getting podiums. But it does give me confidence to know that I’ve got time to make this happen, and the faith that I’ve got Giant behind me and that they believe in me too, that I can climb up onto that top step.

Do you have a particular rider on the circuit who you most look up to? 

Hmm, it’s kind of funny because I don’t know that much mountain bike history. But I do look at those really experienced riders and learn from what they do; the way Fabien Barel attacks a race track for instance, the work they put in, why they’re so skilful. I guess I look up to them all, because you can’t win one of these races as a fluke. You can’t pull together seven great stages over a whole day of racing by accident. So I definitely respect and admire them all.

 We’ll have to lend you a copy of Headliners 2, mate, so you can brush up on your history of downhill. I think we’ve still got one on VHS. Cheers once again. 

, during the Tweedlove Enduro, Peebles Scotland. EWS#3
Suits you.

 

 

 

 

The Josh Carlson Experience: EWS, Round 2, Ireland

 Throughout the 2015 Enduro World Series we’ll be bringing you an insider’s perspective of Josh’s performance. For this unique series, we’ve teamed up with Today’s Plan, an Australian training tools provider, who work with Josh to analyse his training and monitor his performance. (Check out our first impressions of Today’s Plan here).


So Josh, a good weekend?

JC: Yep, although I’m a little disappointed and annoyed that I made some dumb mistakes, I’m stoked I managed to get back up there in the end. It was a pretty inconsistent day for me really – I was in 48th after stage 1 – so to end up with my best ever stage result (3rd in stage 7) and my second best placing overall was good.

, during the Emerald Enduro, Wicklow, Ireland. EWS#2

What made stage 7 such a good result for you?

JC: I don’t know really, other than that I just really tried to stay calm and collected. I didn’t have any crazy lines, other than one huck up the top, so I guess I just have to put it down to the fact I kept it calm, and that I had a really good picture of the track in my head. Stage 7 was one that I’d walked during the week, so I felt that I knew it pretty well.

, during the Emerald Enduro, Wicklow, Ireland. EWS#2
Track walks are time consuming and energy sapping but valuable nonetheless.

You don’t normally get a chance to walk the tracks, do you?

JC: It depends on when the course is marked and how early we get to town. It’s definitely an advantage if you do get a chance to walk them – by the time you get to practice, you already feel like you’ve done a handful of runs down it.  But it’s sort of a catch 22; walking the tracks might give you a good picture of the them, but it takes a long time and can be really draining too.

Overall, I think walking them definitely helps. Especially at this race, the racing was so close that ever the tiniest error made a huge difference. Honestly, the time differences were hundredths of a second, it was like a full-on downhill race, or seven downhill races really.

How did your preparation compare for this round, versus that of Rotorua? 

JC: I definitely came into this round feeling a lot better. Rotorua kept bringing up all kinds of flashbacks to last year, when I crashed out hard in round 1. I had a few crashes early in practice in Rotorua and it definitely was on my mind.

, during the Emerald Enduro, Wicklow, Ireland. EWS#2

Did you change your bike setup much this time around?

JC: Yes and no – I didn’t make any changes during the race except for my tyre pressure on one stage, but I did change a bit in the lead up, as the tracks dried up getting closer to race day I put a Rock Razor tyre on out back, but the main change I made was with my fork. I actually took a volume spacers out of my fork and increased the pressure, on the suggestion of our team mechanics. We went from four tokens and 75psi, to two tokens with 85psi, and then made some low-speed compression adjustments. The front end grip went up like 100%, so this will definitely be my baseline setting from now on. We’re super lucky to have those guys in our corner – we can throw all our dumb ideas at them, they can tell us we’re dickheads and point us in the right direction!

 The demands of the racing are pretty unique – it’s like an all-day ride, but with half an hour’s worth of full-on, race pace sprint efforts thrown in – so you’ve got make sure you’re getting enough solid fuel in.

One slightly more, I guess, technical thing I wanted to ask you about is nutrition and looking after yourself across the whole week of practice and racing. How do you handle it?

JC: It’s a good question, because I don’t think a lot of people really consider how much of a factor it can be. I mean, over a couple of days of practice, you’ll do 11 0r 12 hours of riding, and then another six on race day, so how you eat and hydrate is a big deal.

And it’s cumulative too, one day will affect the next. I came to practice on Saturday, and within about 20 minutes of heading up the first climb I knew I was in calorie deficit from the day before, so I had to make sure I kept my intake up throughout the whole day. Because come race day, if you’re bonking, there’s no way you can focus. The demands of the racing are pretty unique – it’s like an all-day ride, but with half an hour’s worth of full-on, race pace sprint efforts thrown in – so you’ve got make sure you’re getting enough solid fuel in. I’ll try to have a few larger items, things like pizza even, and then gels and bars too. I make sure I avoid things that are going to send me way up, and then crashing back down again, you don’t want your energy levels to yo-yo. Ok, right at the end of the day before the final stage a sugar hit might get you across the line, but you don’t want that throughout the bulk of the day.

We read a lot about the great atmosphere out on track there. What was it like?

JC: The Irish were unreal, on some stages the track was lined from top to bottom. There was one wooded section that I came into and I thought the air was full of dust, but then I realised it was smoke from all the chainsaws that people were revving! Another section the crowd was so loud you heard them ages before you saw them – they were so loud for each rider you could use them to gauge how close you were to the rider in front or how close the rider behind was to you. And they were all dressed up, crocodile suits, oompa loompas, bananas, it was classic. It really felt like a World Cup race.

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And was it a surprise to see Greg Callaghan take the win? Any home ground advantage here?

JC: Man, it was amazing to be part of it, having him win in front of a home crowd was incredible, the crowd just erupted! He had like 20 family members out on course, the atmosphere was insane! I don’t think saying it was a home ground advantage does him justice – even if you know the trails, it’ll only get you so far, you need to have all of the tools in the basket. And he sure as hell didn’t fluke the win – that’s the thing with Enduro, you cannot just have a freakish run or somehow fluke the win, you need to be consistent across an entire day of racing, not just a couple of minutes.

It’s great to see when a home town rider wins too, it does so much for the sport in the town, so many people will be pumped on mountain biking in Ireland now. Hopefully we get an EWS round in Australia one day too.


 Take a closer look at Josh’s performance, stage by stage, in Ireland. Use the menus on the right to switch between the various stages and to control playback speed. Keep an eye on his heart rate throughout – he might be primarily descending, but his efforts are through the roof.

The Josh Carlson Experience: EWS, Round 1, Rotorua

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Tipped in on stage 5 of the Rotorua EWS.

We’ll be bringing you an insider’s perspective. So insider, in fact, that you’ll even be able to see what Josh’s heart is doing. For this unique series, we’ve teamed up with Today’s Plan, an Australian training tools provider, who work with Josh to analyse his training and monitor his performance. (Check out our first impressions of Today’s Plan here).

Through the year we’ll be bringing you a replay of Josh’s racing through rider telemetry; watch exactly what Josh puts his body through on each stage. Josh will also be providing us with some background about the racing, his bike setup, thoughts on his performance and more too.

Jump on board with Josh for stage 6 of the Rotorua EWS, straight down the Taniwha downhill track. Take a look at Josh’s ride data for this stage – it’s crazy to see how much time he spends in his VO2 and anaerobic heart rate zones. 


Take a closer look at Josh’s performance, stage by stage, in Rotorua. Use the menus on the right to switch between the various stages and to control playback speed. Keep an eye on his heart rate throughout – he might be primarily descending, but his efforts are through the roof.


Flow: So Josh, how was round 1?

JC: It was a pretty tough race, for sure. There were a lot of pieces of the puzzle to put together! Because a lot of the track was tight and rooty, you had to attack it, if you didn’t you were just bleeding time. There weren’t really any huge huck lines or areas where you could save a bunch of time, so it was all about attacking the entire course, and getting the little stuff right.

Flow: So did it lend itself to a particular style of racer?

JC: Yes and no. All the Frenchies with ninja skills did well, but then stages 6 and 7 were quite different. They were far more balls to the wall, they’re really downhill tracks – I mean, one stage was the previous National DH track, the other is the current National DH track. So it was no surprise to see World Cup downhillers take those stages out.

For me, this round really highlighted that a good Enduro racer has to be an real all-rounder, that your basic skills need to be solid. That’s what I kept coming back to, getting the basics right. That’s the thing with Enduro, you cannot be a one-dimensional rider. Look at Graves or Clementz – those guys are equally as good if it’s blasting down French walking tracks, open grass at full speed, or on the roots.

Flow: As an EWS round, was this race any more physically challenging than others?

JC: It wasn’t necessarily any more physically taxing, but it was still six and a half hours of ride time. Having said that, if stages 2 and 3 hadn’t been shortened it would have been really tight. The liaison stages were already pretty tight – I was getting to the start gate with about 10 minutes till my race run on each stage, which is really only just enough time to get focused, set your suspension or tyres pressures, get your goggles on, then it’s time to go.

But that’s really ideal, it’s what I aim for. If you’re there at the start for much longer than that, you can start to lose focus, get all distracted. That’s one of the real challenges of Enduro sometimes if you’re racing – it can feel too much like a ride with your mates, because you chat away on the climbs and then you have to be able to switch into race mode

Josh Carlson 5
Steep and slippery. Success in these conditions is all about focus, says Josh.

Flow: Is there anything you like to do to help focus?

JC: I guess I just try to take myself away from others a little, focus on my breathing, try to visualise the track. Don’t let myself get distracted by little things.

Flow: Talking about visualising the course, you’re running a GoPro. How much do you use the footage to help learn the trails?

JC: I use it flat out And you really need to – if you’re not running a helmet cam, you’re going to be off the back, big time. Because with the way practice is set up, you really only get maybe two, tops three, runs down each stage. I’m using the GoPro 4 now, with the LCD screen, and I’ll even review the track in between runs during practice. At Rotorua, you had 50 minutes of racing to try and recall, so with just a couple of runs, that’s just about impossible without watching the footage.
Unfortunately at Rotorua there was a bit too much local knowledge about what tracks were going to be raced ahead of time, so while most people had just a couple of runs on each stage, a lot of locals had been practicing the stages flat out. That made having footage even more important.
Flow: You started last year off with a massive, massive crash in Chile. Were you thinking about that this year?

JC: I definitely was aware of it, for sure. Especially since the first stage we practiced had the most potential for carnage, it was fastest, straight into the downhill track. It was very easy to get carried away – new bike, sick track, new kit, heaps of people watching. That’s what happened last year! I jumped on and was like ‘man, I am going to kill it!’, next thing you’re crashing into the rocks going at one thousand! We saw that this year too, they sent like 20 people away in ambulances on that first day.

Josh Carlson 3
A coil shock adds a little weight, but the traction is worth it for Carlso.

Flow: Did you toy with bike setup much for Rotorua?

JC: I changed tyre pressures quite a lot during the racing. On the rooty stages I was running 22psi up front, maybe 25 in the rear. Then for stages 6 and 7, where you’re really hitting stuff faster, I was back up to 25psi in the front and 28 rear. I also used a coil shock for this race too. I’ll be using a coil as my default setup this year, only running an air shock if the course doesn’t require as much traction or I need the lockout. The coil shock is just sick – the amount of traction is insane! A few other guys are running coils too. Cedric (Gracia) love his, so does my team mate Adam (Craig).

Flow: Thanks, Josh. Catch up with you after round 2 in Ireland!

Interview: Josh Carlson, Chief Frother at Giant – Part 2

In part one of our interview with Josh we learnt a bit about his history and how he became a mountain biker. In part two we find out how Josh transitioned from cross country racing into Enduro and how his choice to pack up his (and his fiancé’s life) and move to Canada wasn’t as simple as we all think.

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Almost running out of money, having some bad crashes and poor form almost derailed his dreams.

We all make tough choices in our lives and for Josh his have finally paid off. When we look at Josh, and most pro mountain bikers, we only see the rewards, we don’t see the hard work, the sacrifices, and the challenges. Watch this second and final part of our interview to discover more.

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Josh's Jabber: Team Shoots And The Beginning Of Race Season

Wow, where did the last month go!

April marked the official start of the 2013 race season for me and involved travelling to GIANT HQ in Los Angeles for the 2013 Team Camp and the famous Sea Otter Classic at Laguna Seca.

The purpose of team camp is for everyone in the GIANT Factory Off Road team to meet up, hang out, see the new faces, and organise the upcoming race season. On top of that, we endure PLENTY of photo shoots in our fresh kits, and on our brand new bikes, all before we head our different directions for the crazy busy race season.

It’s a pretty rad feeling being on a factory team and being presented with all our fresh race rigs for the year, and receiving all our 2013 riding/racing/training gear from our amazing sponsors. The sight of huge boxes of kit awaiting us, filled with gear from our sponsors, is something we all are very appreciative of. Thank you!

Xmas early of late?  I don’t care but Adam Craig pushed in!

First order of team camp is to get photos and posters done while our bikes are in prime condition and our kits looks wicked and brand new. Day 1 of team camp has not been kind to me in the past and last year was not an ideal introduction to everyone. This year I was expecting it to be way more relaxed and exciting because I was now more “officially” part of the family, however my 2nd year wasn’t to get off to great start either!

We all packed our bags, racked up our bikes and headed to the hills for our first day of shooting. The main objective of day 1 is to get a poster shot so team posters can be made in time for Sea Otter and the autograph sessions later in the week.

All was going sweet and we were all having fun on our new bikes and catching up as the day went on. It was great to be back in the Los Angeles hills shredding and feeling the warm sunshine in my face after a freezing winter! By about 4pm however, I was about to feel a different sensation on my face – the sensation of blood trickling and a bit of swellage to my lips and mouth.

Looks only a mother could love.

We came to a loose drifty turn along the trail and team mate Adam Craig and I were roosting through it, looking for that golden shot! We had both hit it a few times with Adam keeping his feet in and I was drifting through with my foot out.

‘I’ll try it this time with my feet in and see how that goes ay,’ I say to our photographer Jake.

I pedalled into the corner fast, attempted to roost through the turn, and before I knew it I was checking to see if my teeth were still intact and trying to work out if I had just made my upper and bottom lips more ventilated.  Luckily enough my teeth were still intact and my face seemed to take the majority of the impact.

My day was done. I cleaned up my face and limped back to the truck with a bruised ego and elephant-man sized face!

A bit of ice, a few laughs in the evening, a good rest, and we were onto day 2 of shooting. The worst thing about the incident from day 1 was that we didn’t get my poster shot. The other issue was that my face was massively swollen. I had bloody cuts on my top lip and chin and both my knees had some nice bloodied cherries on them.

‘How bout we shoot Josh today in his Enduro race kit of full face and knee pads,’ was the best idea floating around that 2nd morning. Great idea, and a good way to cover up all my marks.

A day of shooting involves leaving the hotel at 7.30am, gearing up with our bikes and gear for the day, hiking/riding up to the photo shoot location(s) and taking photo after photo in different spots, with different angles, and in different light. All that repeated many times as it’s needed to fulfil our sponsors desires for photos to represent their product. On top of that I had to get my poster shot.  It was a hectic day to say the least.

In the end we got a killer shot, and I had a great day on a ridgeline trail that I would never had ridden or seen in any other circumstance.

In the end the poster turned out pretty good, despite my best efforts to sabotage it.

The next hurdle of team camp, and my busted up face, was our studio ‘headshots’ on day 3. I still looked a mess. With a bit of makeup and some digital touch up paint, and a Fatty Vaughtin head wobble to get into character, we were good to go! (Ain’t Photoshop a magical thing!)

The week wasn’t just the endless photo shoots, team meetings, bike set ups and media obligations, we were also able to get some cool rides in through the hills towards the coastline and over to Malibu along the Los Angeles coast. I am lucky enough to have some wicked team mates and it makes for some easy going rides with plenty of laughs on our training days. Plus, they are drivers and proceed to tear my legs off at every chance they get!

Away from the cameras and the calls of ‘just one more time’, endless trails.
Team camp is a lot of fun and team mate Carl Decker puts on race face for a friendly game on pong.

With our fresh rigs set up, new race kits sorted and posters in print it was time for me to put on my race face as we headed to The Sea Otter Classic. This event is a one of a kind. It is a huge deal amongst the industry due to the fact that it’s the first time many of the teams and sponsors have seen each other since the end of the previous season. This was my 3rd “Otter” and this year I decided to race the downhill as well. Adam and I thought it would be a cool training weekend if we raced the short track cross country on Friday, the full cross country on Saturday, and finished off  the weekend with the downhill on Sunday. This made for a super busy few days, fitting in training on all 3 courses along with racing them. Not to mention that this year’s entry lists for all 3 events was like a World Cup!

Cross country and downhill – all for training, and fun.

Each event was obviously super hard and competitive and it was a good eye opener to see where my form was heading towards the start of my race official season in May. Finishing off the weekend with the downhill was super fun and racing all 3 events was wicked and I couldn’t have asked for a better 3 days of training.

After a couple of cheeky brewskis and some chocolate cake with the team it was time for everyone to head their separate ways to start the season. For me, I was able to head back home to Vancouver for a couple of weeks before I leave for Italy for the start of the Enduro World Series.

Back home and time to put the finishing touches on my preparations for a huge season.

With a new bike to test and train on, and the weather on the improve in BC, I was frothing to get back. Back to the trails and back in the hurt locker to add the finishing touches to my winter prep leading into game day. It’s crazy to think how quickly it has come around and it is hard to contain my excitement to sink my teeth into the first big race.

There’s something a little different about this new bike?

SHOWTIME!

JC

Josh’s Jabber: Team Shoots And The Beginning Of Race Season

Wow, where did the last month go!

April marked the official start of the 2013 race season for me and involved travelling to GIANT HQ in Los Angeles for the 2013 Team Camp and the famous Sea Otter Classic at Laguna Seca.

The purpose of team camp is for everyone in the GIANT Factory Off Road team to meet up, hang out, see the new faces, and organise the upcoming race season. On top of that, we endure PLENTY of photo shoots in our fresh kits, and on our brand new bikes, all before we head our different directions for the crazy busy race season.

It’s a pretty rad feeling being on a factory team and being presented with all our fresh race rigs for the year, and receiving all our 2013 riding/racing/training gear from our amazing sponsors. The sight of huge boxes of kit awaiting us, filled with gear from our sponsors, is something we all are very appreciative of. Thank you!

Xmas early of late?  I don’t care but Adam Craig pushed in!

First order of team camp is to get photos and posters done while our bikes are in prime condition and our kits looks wicked and brand new. Day 1 of team camp has not been kind to me in the past and last year was not an ideal introduction to everyone. This year I was expecting it to be way more relaxed and exciting because I was now more “officially” part of the family, however my 2nd year wasn’t to get off to great start either!

We all packed our bags, racked up our bikes and headed to the hills for our first day of shooting. The main objective of day 1 is to get a poster shot so team posters can be made in time for Sea Otter and the autograph sessions later in the week.

All was going sweet and we were all having fun on our new bikes and catching up as the day went on. It was great to be back in the Los Angeles hills shredding and feeling the warm sunshine in my face after a freezing winter! By about 4pm however, I was about to feel a different sensation on my face – the sensation of blood trickling and a bit of swellage to my lips and mouth.

Looks only a mother could love.

We came to a loose drifty turn along the trail and team mate Adam Craig and I were roosting through it, looking for that golden shot! We had both hit it a few times with Adam keeping his feet in and I was drifting through with my foot out.

‘I’ll try it this time with my feet in and see how that goes ay,’ I say to our photographer Jake.

I pedalled into the corner fast, attempted to roost through the turn, and before I knew it I was checking to see if my teeth were still intact and trying to work out if I had just made my upper and bottom lips more ventilated.  Luckily enough my teeth were still intact and my face seemed to take the majority of the impact.

My day was done. I cleaned up my face and limped back to the truck with a bruised ego and elephant-man sized face!

A bit of ice, a few laughs in the evening, a good rest, and we were onto day 2 of shooting. The worst thing about the incident from day 1 was that we didn’t get my poster shot. The other issue was that my face was massively swollen. I had bloody cuts on my top lip and chin and both my knees had some nice bloodied cherries on them.

‘How bout we shoot Josh today in his Enduro race kit of full face and knee pads,’ was the best idea floating around that 2nd morning. Great idea, and a good way to cover up all my marks.

A day of shooting involves leaving the hotel at 7.30am, gearing up with our bikes and gear for the day, hiking/riding up to the photo shoot location(s) and taking photo after photo in different spots, with different angles, and in different light. All that repeated many times as it’s needed to fulfil our sponsors desires for photos to represent their product. On top of that I had to get my poster shot.  It was a hectic day to say the least.

In the end we got a killer shot, and I had a great day on a ridgeline trail that I would never had ridden or seen in any other circumstance.

In the end the poster turned out pretty good, despite my best efforts to sabotage it.

The next hurdle of team camp, and my busted up face, was our studio ‘headshots’ on day 3. I still looked a mess. With a bit of makeup and some digital touch up paint, and a Fatty Vaughtin head wobble to get into character, we were good to go! (Ain’t Photoshop a magical thing!)

The week wasn’t just the endless photo shoots, team meetings, bike set ups and media obligations, we were also able to get some cool rides in through the hills towards the coastline and over to Malibu along the Los Angeles coast. I am lucky enough to have some wicked team mates and it makes for some easy going rides with plenty of laughs on our training days. Plus, they are drivers and proceed to tear my legs off at every chance they get!

Away from the cameras and the calls of ‘just one more time’, endless trails.
Team camp is a lot of fun and team mate Carl Decker puts on race face for a friendly game on pong.

With our fresh rigs set up, new race kits sorted and posters in print it was time for me to put on my race face as we headed to The Sea Otter Classic. This event is a one of a kind. It is a huge deal amongst the industry due to the fact that it’s the first time many of the teams and sponsors have seen each other since the end of the previous season. This was my 3rd “Otter” and this year I decided to race the downhill as well. Adam and I thought it would be a cool training weekend if we raced the short track cross country on Friday, the full cross country on Saturday, and finished off  the weekend with the downhill on Sunday. This made for a super busy few days, fitting in training on all 3 courses along with racing them. Not to mention that this year’s entry lists for all 3 events was like a World Cup!

Cross country and downhill – all for training, and fun.

Each event was obviously super hard and competitive and it was a good eye opener to see where my form was heading towards the start of my race official season in May. Finishing off the weekend with the downhill was super fun and racing all 3 events was wicked and I couldn’t have asked for a better 3 days of training.

After a couple of cheeky brewskis and some chocolate cake with the team it was time for everyone to head their separate ways to start the season. For me, I was able to head back home to Vancouver for a couple of weeks before I leave for Italy for the start of the Enduro World Series.

Back home and time to put the finishing touches on my preparations for a huge season.

With a new bike to test and train on, and the weather on the improve in BC, I was frothing to get back. Back to the trails and back in the hurt locker to add the finishing touches to my winter prep leading into game day. It’s crazy to think how quickly it has come around and it is hard to contain my excitement to sink my teeth into the first big race.

There’s something a little different about this new bike?

SHOWTIME!

JC

Josh's Jabber: Winter Wonderland

In Australia, we mountain bikers are lucky enough to be able to ride and race our bikes year round. Sure, the high country of Victoria and the likes of Thredbo are covered in snow and out-of-bounds for some of the year, but for the remainder of Australia temperatures and conditions allow us to enjoy our sport with joy and relative warmth 365 days a year.

So didn’t I get the shock of my life when I relocated to Canada to permanently focus on Enduro racing and build my mountain bike racing career!

As much as North America is known for its epic mountain biking, trails, races and summer awesomeness, it is equally, if not outweighed by, snow covered days and freezing cold rain. Up here in Vancouver, British Columbia, the latter has been part of my life for the past 3 months. You see, it rains A LOT!  It would be far easier to count the few days of sunshine we’ve had, as opposed to the daily grey drizzle that consumes our winter months from November to April.

Just part of life. Cleaning the bike and trying to get the shoes dry for the next ride.

I have been lucky enough that the last winter I trained through was back home in Australia in 2009. I was in my 3rd year of my landscaping apprenticeship and I was getting up and training at 4am so I could start work at 6am – enabling me to get two sessions a day (in around work). Temps at 4am in the middle of winter in Wollongong would usually be around the 7-10°C mark, with the odd super cold morning of 5°C to really send some bone chilling wind through the wind vest and long sleeve jersey I would wear. In 2010 I travelled to Europe to race a few cross country World Cups, and missed the winter. Then in April 2011 I moved to Colorado, for their summer, and in April 2012 I relocated to Vancouver and spent the summer racing through the US in the hot, sunny North American trails.

I have missed this stuff for years by avoiding winter.

So you see, I hadn’t actually had a winter since 2009.  Until now.  While others headed south to warmer climates to train and prepare for the next season, I stayed north, in the cold and wet.

The winter of Vancouver was definitely something I was worried about and I really didn’t know what to expect. The common and frequent questions I asked were, ‘So how cold do the winters really get here?’, ‘Are they as wet as they say?’ And the answers would vary, depending if you asked a British Columbia pure breed or Vancouver newbie!

Me, I was the Vancouver newbie and now well into February of 2013, I can say it was a long adjustment period with plenty of ridiculously cold days and clothing fails.  In hindsight, it didn’t matter how many questions I asked, some of this could only be learned from experience.

Riding with mates and shredding on the wicked trails of the north shore in the pissing rain and freezing snow is kind of cool and fun when you’re amongst a rad crew and everyone is freezing together. However, this only happens once, maybe twice a week.  These days, being a professional mountain biker, my job is to train and ride my bike every day of the week so when the race season rolls around I am fit and ready to race.  So while the motivation is high when I’m with a rad crew, the solo days in the 0°C pissing rain/snow/sleet for the other 6 days of the week require extreme portions of motivation and determination to get the job done.

For the past two months this has been my daily dress routine (in order) for riding outside in the wet and cold:

  • 1 pair of thermal wool socks
  • 1 set of plastic bags
  • 1 set of merino wool knee high socks
  • 1 set of fleeced leg warmers
  • Knicks
  • FOX MTB shorts (even on the really cold wet days on the roadie i would still wear my baggies to stay warm)
  • Heart rate strap
  • Long sleeve undershirt
  • Short sleeve jersey
  • Long sleeve jersey
  • Long sleeve thermal jersey
  • Long sleeve rain jacket (on a clear sunny day I can get away with only a vest over my jacket)
  • GIRO road/MTB shoes
  • 1 set of plastic bags over my shoes
  • Thermal socks (on clear days)/bootie covers over my shoes
  • 1 pair of full fingered gloves
  • 1 pair of waterproof full fingered gloves
  • Cycling hat/beanie/thermal cycling hat
  • Helmet
  • SPY glasses/Goggles
  • READY!

And 15 minutes later I’m dressed and ready to head out the door.  The local lads totally give me, and other foreigners, shit about being so cold but they are wearing the same amount of clothes as well so I can’t be that crazy.

Just part of the daily routine. Clothes and layers.

Getting used to hours and hours in the rain and cold on the roadie never gets easier, or enjoyable, which is why I spent alot of my winter on my mountain bike. Heading out on the road gets you absolutely filthy dirty and it is pretty dangerous with the traffic and the wet roads. ‘Why waste getting dirty on the road when I could get just as dirty and have way more fun on the wild trails of the shore?’, was my reasoning for more time on the trails.

This is what I have to do to my road bike. Cover it with custom extended ugly mud guards.

This was my plan, and was working out sweet, but then came the snow.  That’s yet a whole different ball game.  Each morning I’d see how much snow fell on the mountain and how much black ice was on the roads before I rolled out the door for training.  Add to this, the days were getting really short and it would be dark by 3.30pm.

Now, I had to deal with wet, cold, snow and very short days.  Good choice I made to stay north!

I do love it though. Something different that’s for sure.

Out of the 3 local mountains I frequent on my GIANT Reign shred wagon, generally only one isn’t totally frozen over and covered in snow. And, most of the trails that are still open, are either covered in a couple of inches of snow, or the water on the trails has frozen over, which turns them into an ice rink littered with rocks, ramps, bridges and gnar.  Fun hey.

So sometimes it’s indoors I have to go.  The indoor trainer and I have had our issues in the past and more often than not, we have not been on speaking terms.  However, I have no choice but to reconcile and make friends with the unassuming man crusher! It is a vital piece of my routine, as well as the gym, to try and get some structured training in when more often than not it is pissing rain and/or snowing outside.

We still don’t communicate too well.

I must say though it has actually been better than I was expecting for training and all the bad things have been equalled by good. I have settled in with a rad bunch of lads that ride year round, I have a close knit bunch of blokes that get out for a solid few hours in a road bunch on a weekend, and I ride with some mad frothers on the DH rigs for shuttles on the lower mountains that aren’t snowed in. Plus, all this riding on the wet slippery terrain has been mad for my skills.

Only time will tell, come Bike Buller in March and the Round 1 of the Enduro World Series in Italy in May, as to whether the hard yards and hardening the f#[email protected] up through my debut north American winter has been enough to bring on some good form!

I think it has.  See you in Ausland frothers.

Josh’s Jabber: Winter Wonderland

In Australia, we mountain bikers are lucky enough to be able to ride and race our bikes year round. Sure, the high country of Victoria and the likes of Thredbo are covered in snow and out-of-bounds for some of the year, but for the remainder of Australia temperatures and conditions allow us to enjoy our sport with joy and relative warmth 365 days a year.

So didn’t I get the shock of my life when I relocated to Canada to permanently focus on Enduro racing and build my mountain bike racing career!

As much as North America is known for its epic mountain biking, trails, races and summer awesomeness, it is equally, if not outweighed by, snow covered days and freezing cold rain. Up here in Vancouver, British Columbia, the latter has been part of my life for the past 3 months. You see, it rains A LOT!  It would be far easier to count the few days of sunshine we’ve had, as opposed to the daily grey drizzle that consumes our winter months from November to April.

Just part of life. Cleaning the bike and trying to get the shoes dry for the next ride.

I have been lucky enough that the last winter I trained through was back home in Australia in 2009. I was in my 3rd year of my landscaping apprenticeship and I was getting up and training at 4am so I could start work at 6am – enabling me to get two sessions a day (in around work). Temps at 4am in the middle of winter in Wollongong would usually be around the 7-10°C mark, with the odd super cold morning of 5°C to really send some bone chilling wind through the wind vest and long sleeve jersey I would wear. In 2010 I travelled to Europe to race a few cross country World Cups, and missed the winter. Then in April 2011 I moved to Colorado, for their summer, and in April 2012 I relocated to Vancouver and spent the summer racing through the US in the hot, sunny North American trails.

I have missed this stuff for years by avoiding winter.

So you see, I hadn’t actually had a winter since 2009.  Until now.  While others headed south to warmer climates to train and prepare for the next season, I stayed north, in the cold and wet.

The winter of Vancouver was definitely something I was worried about and I really didn’t know what to expect. The common and frequent questions I asked were, ‘So how cold do the winters really get here?’, ‘Are they as wet as they say?’ And the answers would vary, depending if you asked a British Columbia pure breed or Vancouver newbie!

Me, I was the Vancouver newbie and now well into February of 2013, I can say it was a long adjustment period with plenty of ridiculously cold days and clothing fails.  In hindsight, it didn’t matter how many questions I asked, some of this could only be learned from experience.

Riding with mates and shredding on the wicked trails of the north shore in the pissing rain and freezing snow is kind of cool and fun when you’re amongst a rad crew and everyone is freezing together. However, this only happens once, maybe twice a week.  These days, being a professional mountain biker, my job is to train and ride my bike every day of the week so when the race season rolls around I am fit and ready to race.  So while the motivation is high when I’m with a rad crew, the solo days in the 0°C pissing rain/snow/sleet for the other 6 days of the week require extreme portions of motivation and determination to get the job done.

For the past two months this has been my daily dress routine (in order) for riding outside in the wet and cold:

  • 1 pair of thermal wool socks
  • 1 set of plastic bags
  • 1 set of merino wool knee high socks
  • 1 set of fleeced leg warmers
  • Knicks
  • FOX MTB shorts (even on the really cold wet days on the roadie i would still wear my baggies to stay warm)
  • Heart rate strap
  • Long sleeve undershirt
  • Short sleeve jersey
  • Long sleeve jersey
  • Long sleeve thermal jersey
  • Long sleeve rain jacket (on a clear sunny day I can get away with only a vest over my jacket)
  • GIRO road/MTB shoes
  • 1 set of plastic bags over my shoes
  • Thermal socks (on clear days)/bootie covers over my shoes
  • 1 pair of full fingered gloves
  • 1 pair of waterproof full fingered gloves
  • Cycling hat/beanie/thermal cycling hat
  • Helmet
  • SPY glasses/Goggles
  • READY!

And 15 minutes later I’m dressed and ready to head out the door.  The local lads totally give me, and other foreigners, shit about being so cold but they are wearing the same amount of clothes as well so I can’t be that crazy.

Just part of the daily routine. Clothes and layers.

Getting used to hours and hours in the rain and cold on the roadie never gets easier, or enjoyable, which is why I spent alot of my winter on my mountain bike. Heading out on the road gets you absolutely filthy dirty and it is pretty dangerous with the traffic and the wet roads. ‘Why waste getting dirty on the road when I could get just as dirty and have way more fun on the wild trails of the shore?’, was my reasoning for more time on the trails.

This is what I have to do to my road bike. Cover it with custom extended ugly mud guards.

This was my plan, and was working out sweet, but then came the snow.  That’s yet a whole different ball game.  Each morning I’d see how much snow fell on the mountain and how much black ice was on the roads before I rolled out the door for training.  Add to this, the days were getting really short and it would be dark by 3.30pm.

Now, I had to deal with wet, cold, snow and very short days.  Good choice I made to stay north!

I do love it though. Something different that’s for sure.

Out of the 3 local mountains I frequent on my GIANT Reign shred wagon, generally only one isn’t totally frozen over and covered in snow. And, most of the trails that are still open, are either covered in a couple of inches of snow, or the water on the trails has frozen over, which turns them into an ice rink littered with rocks, ramps, bridges and gnar.  Fun hey.

So sometimes it’s indoors I have to go.  The indoor trainer and I have had our issues in the past and more often than not, we have not been on speaking terms.  However, I have no choice but to reconcile and make friends with the unassuming man crusher! It is a vital piece of my routine, as well as the gym, to try and get some structured training in when more often than not it is pissing rain and/or snowing outside.

We still don’t communicate too well.

I must say though it has actually been better than I was expecting for training and all the bad things have been equalled by good. I have settled in with a rad bunch of lads that ride year round, I have a close knit bunch of blokes that get out for a solid few hours in a road bunch on a weekend, and I ride with some mad frothers on the DH rigs for shuttles on the lower mountains that aren’t snowed in. Plus, all this riding on the wet slippery terrain has been mad for my skills.

Only time will tell, come Bike Buller in March and the Round 1 of the Enduro World Series in Italy in May, as to whether the hard yards and hardening the f#[email protected] up through my debut north American winter has been enough to bring on some good form!

I think it has.  See you in Ausland frothers.

Josh's Jabber: First Impressions Last, Right?

Josh Carlson should need little introduction.  Since moving to Canada from Wollongong Josh has hit the Northern American race scene like the fire colour of his hair.  Josh is teaming up with Flow for a regular piece on his adventures and travels and we’re happy to have him on board.

Read on as Josh explains how he made a huge first impression on his new bosses.

There is a reason we have used this photo.  We remember this absolute cracker of a shot GIANT used as a poster and introduction to the media last year, however we didn’t know the story behind the photoshoot.

“In 2012 I debuted with the GIANT Factory Off-road team to focus on racing enduro and cross country events. I was brought onto the team as a ‘see how he goes over the year’ type of rider and I was in a tough position where every race counted and first impressions lasted.

Well, didn’t I make an impression to remember!

My first introduction to the global team and GIANT family was in Los Angeles at our team camp. All our team riders and staff gathered for a week of riding, photo shoots, media appointments and bike fittings in preparation for the year of racing and riding ahead. I was one of the first riders to land in LA and got to meet most of the team staff before I met the rest of my new team during the photo shoots and other activities.

The second day was a big day of photo shoots with my cross country/enduro team mates Carl Decker and Kelli Emmett, two legends of the sport and long time GIANT riders. We headed out into the moonscape hills of LA and embarked of a very LONG hot day of corners, jumps, rock gardens and blue steels – repeated 50 times!  7.30am we were piled into the team truck, loaded up with our freshly built 2012 bikes dripping with bling and shinier than diamonds. For me, I was WELL excited about shredding on my new rig and riding with my new teammates.

After a long day with plenty of laughs and some great shots, we pilled back into the truck and headed back to our hotels for some grub and well earned rest before heading over to GIANT HQ to meet our bosses and the office crew of worker bees that make GIANT Bicycles what it is.

It was about 8.15pm by this stage and just on dusk as we drove back along the 101 hwy in LA. We were all chatting away about this and that and Kelli was telling us a story of how she was driving along a freeway and a table she had in the back of her pickup truck had somehow removed itself and exploded into a million pieces on the freeway behind her. Another story of an unfortunate highway trip followed from me about the time I lost my Honda 125 off the back of my dad’s work ute back when I was a junior, as we headed to a local motocross race at Oran Park.

Then our driver keeps looking in the rear view mirror and says, “well speaking of losing stuff out of the back of trucks, I think we have lost a blanket!”

Carl and I were in the back seat, and we turn around and check out the bikes and the missing blanket in the back of the tray. We then turn back around and stare at each other for a second.

‘That’s funny,’ Carl says. We both turn around again and counted the bikes in the back of the truck. We then looked back at each other with the same bewildered look on our faces.

‘Didn’t we have four bikes hanging over the tailgate?!’ Carl questioned.

We turn and look for a third time, this time painstakingly counting and taking notice of what bikes were there.

‘AHH SHIT!! WE’VE LOST A BIKE IN THAT BLANKET!,’ were the next words and thoughts in EVERYONE’S minds and out of EVERYONE’S mouths.

We came to a screeching halt on the side of the four-lane crazy US freeway and pulled into the emergency lane. By this stage it was pretty much dark and well and truly into peak traffic on one of the busiest freeways in LA.

Carl and I jump out of the truck and proceed to sprint back toward the oncoming traffic in the emergency lane, hugging the huge concrete barriers at the same time. All we could see were headlights screaming at us at literally 100mph as we ran back up the freeway like crazy frogs from an 80’s arcade game!

As I dodged life and death mixed thoughts of disbelief and anxiety ran through my head.

‘It couldn’t have been my bike’, were the self doubting words that circled my head.  ‘Mine was in the middle?!’

My bike had two bikes on one side of it, and another on the other side. We had wrapped a blanket around my bike and all four bikes were jammed up against one another so they wouldn’t fly out of the back. The blanket was to protect it! When we left, there was 100% no doubt in our minds that they were secure and safe.

They obviously weren’t LA freeway safe!

Carl and I continued our gauntlet of death sprinting it up the emergency lane for what felt like hours. All of a sudden we noticed the cars were starting to chicane across the freeway and headlights are swinging all over the road. We start to hear horrible sounds, like shrapnel and a glass jar half full of ball bearings.

‘Oh shit!’, I said to myself.

Then as we get closer the we start to see shards of carbon fibre getting sprayed all over the freeway and spokes being flung up into car headlights!

By this stage we were pressed firmly up against the wall, about 20 metres from what appears to be my formerly pimped-out-brand-spanking-new-only-ridden-once Trance.

In between herds of cars, we take turns at chicken, running out into the traffic to pull in handfuls of carbon fibre and bike parts. First was the wheels, tyres, crank arms and fork legs. Next was the down tube, seat, brake line and front rotor (which was now embedded into my rear tyre). It was absolutely terrifying standing that close to the crazy LA traffic, let alone with 7 million pieces of GIANT Trance being thrown around like a ball in a pinball machine!

We had collected four solid handfuls of bike pieces and were still firmly pressed against the wall as we both stared at my white RockShox Monarch shock staring at us, right in the path of the oncoming traffic. We had to move quickly and get the shock out of the way.  We again played chicken with the LA traffic and somehow kicked it off the road.

‘Pheww!’ we expressed, as we saved a car, and maybe ourselves from harm.

By this stage its pitch black and we can barely see anything. Carl and I picked up as many bits of the bike as we could and we made our way back to the truck. Along the way we start to see other pieces of pedal, crank, brake cables and wheels spokes littered along the emergency lane all the way back to the truck. However, we notice one solid looking bit only a few metres from the truck. It was the seat post clamp part of the frame, which had a GIANT team sticker with my name on it. We grabed it as a ‘memento’ and piled into the truck in disbelief.

As we get back to the hotel, I hand our team manager the piece of frame with my name on it.

‘I think I might have cracked my frame,’ I said with a face painted with a look of horror.

We checked out the piles of bike in the back of the pickup with my bike looking like it had been put in a huge industrial blender and then spat out. It is unrecognisable and turned out to not have one single, bolt or piece on it salvageable for a new one.

The next day I walked into GIANT HQ and met a whole bunch of awesome people.

“Hi I’m Josh…,’ I sheepishly said as I began to introduce myself.

However, before I could get any further into my introduction I was cut off mid sentence.

‘Oh, you’re the new guy whose bike was destroyed. HOLY CRAP!’

At least they knew my name and I had made a lasting first impression.”

It may not be the best image but here’s the most useful part of the bike that remained.

 

Josh’s Jabber: First Impressions Last, Right?

Josh Carlson should need little introduction.  Since moving to Canada from Wollongong Josh has hit the Northern American race scene like the fire colour of his hair.  Josh is teaming up with Flow for a regular piece on his adventures and travels and we’re happy to have him on board.

Read on as Josh explains how he made a huge first impression on his new bosses.

There is a reason we have used this photo.  We remember this absolute cracker of a shot GIANT used as a poster and introduction to the media last year, however we didn’t know the story behind the photoshoot.

“In 2012 I debuted with the GIANT Factory Off-road team to focus on racing enduro and cross country events. I was brought onto the team as a ‘see how he goes over the year’ type of rider and I was in a tough position where every race counted and first impressions lasted.

Well, didn’t I make an impression to remember!

My first introduction to the global team and GIANT family was in Los Angeles at our team camp. All our team riders and staff gathered for a week of riding, photo shoots, media appointments and bike fittings in preparation for the year of racing and riding ahead. I was one of the first riders to land in LA and got to meet most of the team staff before I met the rest of my new team during the photo shoots and other activities.

The second day was a big day of photo shoots with my cross country/enduro team mates Carl Decker and Kelli Emmett, two legends of the sport and long time GIANT riders. We headed out into the moonscape hills of LA and embarked of a very LONG hot day of corners, jumps, rock gardens and blue steels – repeated 50 times!  7.30am we were piled into the team truck, loaded up with our freshly built 2012 bikes dripping with bling and shinier than diamonds. For me, I was WELL excited about shredding on my new rig and riding with my new teammates.

After a long day with plenty of laughs and some great shots, we pilled back into the truck and headed back to our hotels for some grub and well earned rest before heading over to GIANT HQ to meet our bosses and the office crew of worker bees that make GIANT Bicycles what it is.

It was about 8.15pm by this stage and just on dusk as we drove back along the 101 hwy in LA. We were all chatting away about this and that and Kelli was telling us a story of how she was driving along a freeway and a table she had in the back of her pickup truck had somehow removed itself and exploded into a million pieces on the freeway behind her. Another story of an unfortunate highway trip followed from me about the time I lost my Honda 125 off the back of my dad’s work ute back when I was a junior, as we headed to a local motocross race at Oran Park.

Then our driver keeps looking in the rear view mirror and says, “well speaking of losing stuff out of the back of trucks, I think we have lost a blanket!”

Carl and I were in the back seat, and we turn around and check out the bikes and the missing blanket in the back of the tray. We then turn back around and stare at each other for a second.

‘That’s funny,’ Carl says. We both turn around again and counted the bikes in the back of the truck. We then looked back at each other with the same bewildered look on our faces.

‘Didn’t we have four bikes hanging over the tailgate?!’ Carl questioned.

We turn and look for a third time, this time painstakingly counting and taking notice of what bikes were there.

‘AHH SHIT!! WE’VE LOST A BIKE IN THAT BLANKET!,’ were the next words and thoughts in EVERYONE’S minds and out of EVERYONE’S mouths.

We came to a screeching halt on the side of the four-lane crazy US freeway and pulled into the emergency lane. By this stage it was pretty much dark and well and truly into peak traffic on one of the busiest freeways in LA.

Carl and I jump out of the truck and proceed to sprint back toward the oncoming traffic in the emergency lane, hugging the huge concrete barriers at the same time. All we could see were headlights screaming at us at literally 100mph as we ran back up the freeway like crazy frogs from an 80’s arcade game!

As I dodged life and death mixed thoughts of disbelief and anxiety ran through my head.

‘It couldn’t have been my bike’, were the self doubting words that circled my head.  ‘Mine was in the middle?!’

My bike had two bikes on one side of it, and another on the other side. We had wrapped a blanket around my bike and all four bikes were jammed up against one another so they wouldn’t fly out of the back. The blanket was to protect it! When we left, there was 100% no doubt in our minds that they were secure and safe.

They obviously weren’t LA freeway safe!

Carl and I continued our gauntlet of death sprinting it up the emergency lane for what felt like hours. All of a sudden we noticed the cars were starting to chicane across the freeway and headlights are swinging all over the road. We start to hear horrible sounds, like shrapnel and a glass jar half full of ball bearings.

‘Oh shit!’, I said to myself.

Then as we get closer the we start to see shards of carbon fibre getting sprayed all over the freeway and spokes being flung up into car headlights!

By this stage we were pressed firmly up against the wall, about 20 metres from what appears to be my formerly pimped-out-brand-spanking-new-only-ridden-once Trance.

In between herds of cars, we take turns at chicken, running out into the traffic to pull in handfuls of carbon fibre and bike parts. First was the wheels, tyres, crank arms and fork legs. Next was the down tube, seat, brake line and front rotor (which was now embedded into my rear tyre). It was absolutely terrifying standing that close to the crazy LA traffic, let alone with 7 million pieces of GIANT Trance being thrown around like a ball in a pinball machine!

We had collected four solid handfuls of bike pieces and were still firmly pressed against the wall as we both stared at my white RockShox Monarch shock staring at us, right in the path of the oncoming traffic. We had to move quickly and get the shock out of the way.  We again played chicken with the LA traffic and somehow kicked it off the road.

‘Pheww!’ we expressed, as we saved a car, and maybe ourselves from harm.

By this stage its pitch black and we can barely see anything. Carl and I picked up as many bits of the bike as we could and we made our way back to the truck. Along the way we start to see other pieces of pedal, crank, brake cables and wheels spokes littered along the emergency lane all the way back to the truck. However, we notice one solid looking bit only a few metres from the truck. It was the seat post clamp part of the frame, which had a GIANT team sticker with my name on it. We grabed it as a ‘memento’ and piled into the truck in disbelief.

As we get back to the hotel, I hand our team manager the piece of frame with my name on it.

‘I think I might have cracked my frame,’ I said with a face painted with a look of horror.

We checked out the piles of bike in the back of the pickup with my bike looking like it had been put in a huge industrial blender and then spat out. It is unrecognisable and turned out to not have one single, bolt or piece on it salvageable for a new one.

The next day I walked into GIANT HQ and met a whole bunch of awesome people.

“Hi I’m Josh…,’ I sheepishly said as I began to introduce myself.

However, before I could get any further into my introduction I was cut off mid sentence.

‘Oh, you’re the new guy whose bike was destroyed. HOLY CRAP!’

At least they knew my name and I had made a lasting first impression.”

It may not be the best image but here’s the most useful part of the bike that remained.

 

Josh Carlson, BC Shredding

[SV_VIMEO id=”47714946″]

 

Josh Carlson is a true Frother (with a capital F). [private]

Josh made a name for himself in the mountain bike world as a cross country racer of immense skill, bringing his previous experience as a motocross rider to the trails. He soon gained a reputation as the fastest descender on the Nationals XC circuit, and possible the most enthusiastic person on the planet.

More recently, Josh has packed up and moved across the Pacific. Basing himself out of Vancouver, Carlso has been tearing it up on the booming Super-D and Enduro downhill scene across North America.

It’s the perfect discipline for him – a mix of balls out descending and horrendously fast-paced climbs. “I’ve actually popped blood vessels in my eyes,” Josh told us when we questioned him about the climbs. “It’s pretty crazy,” he froths, “you’re racing downhill flat stick, pretty much in your underpants, on bikes that most people just trail ride.”

Liam Renault caught up with Josh when he was in Whistler recently. Watch what happens when Carlso is unleashed on a techy, root-infested trail on his Giant Reign.

Boy can ride. [/private]