Frozen Bikes and Big Descents: Thomas Vanderham takes on the Variables of Trans-Cascadia
“Some of the best riding I’ve done – I don’t even know really how to put it into words.” - Thomas Vanderham
With a career spanning two decades, Thomas Vanderham has dabbled in just about every style of riding going – he’s clearly best known for his freeriding edits – but it’s been some time since he’s participated in anything with a timing chip. “This was a little bit of a departure for me, but I’m always open to new experiences,” he says of his experience at Trans-Cascadia; a 4-day backcountry enduro held in the depths of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington state.
Despite spending a little time reading up on the event, having seen coverage from previous years, and hearing first-hand accounts from past participants, Thomas found prepping for the event quite the challenge. With a variable weather forecast that called for the possibility of freezing temperatures and snow, there was a lot for him to consider about what to bring and how to best set up his bike.
“I talked to a few people who had done it and definitely heard that 29-inch wheels were the way to go just because of how much pedalling there was and the type of terrain.” Thomas built up an Instinct BC and lightened it up a little with a different rear shock and a few other changes. Based on what he had heard about the length of the days and stages, he put 203mm rotors on the front and back. “This wouldn't be my like typical setup, but it ended up being so clutch.”
Thomas was also really happy about was his tire selection. After debating for a long time about weight, compound, width, and tread pattern, he ended up with a DHR2. “It’s not a mud tire, but it's the closest thing to a mud tire in a more normal tread pattern.”
The next challenge was what to bring for clothing and gear. “Packing was quite difficult – you're only allowed to bring one bag and I wanted to be as prepared as possible.” He threw in multiple jackets, layers, and extra gloves, socks, and eyewear. This allowed him to approach each day of the race like he was prepping for a day of ski touring – ensuring that he had warm and dry options in his riding pack for all occasions. “I probably over-packed every day, I certainly had a heavier pack I think than some of the other riders out there, but I just never wanted to be uncomfortable. I had a warm layer; a light puffy jacket for rest stops. And then I had two rain layers in my pack just in case one got really wet. I saw some of the serious racers rolling around with next to nothing, I was pretty impressed with that.”
Coming into the race, Thomas didn’t know a lot about the details of the terrain. “I came in without any expectations – and it was a week of standouts! They were some of the best trails. They were as good or better than advertised; incredibly long sustained downhills” – especially on Day 3.
On the morning of Day 3, Thomas and the other racers had woken up to snow in the campground and frozen bikes and tents. “It was just clear and cold and when we were riding there was no problem with temperature, we were nice and warm. The approach to the first trail was incredible. It was really misty with the sun coming through it was so beautiful up on this ridgeline.” Racers pedalled up a 1000-foot climb from Takhlakh Lake and took in some incredible views of Mount Adams along the way. The first stage of the day was an 1100-foot descent over 1.2 miles of super-fast gravity-fed flow, following that they traversed along a road to the top of the next stage and to 1200 feet of descending over 1.5 miles with a little rolling climb – and easy grind – in the middle. At the bottom of the stage, they were treated to a big fire and hot lunch. But what truly made Day 3 a favourite among racers was yet to come.
After lunch, they got a bump up in shuttles to the ridgeline on the non-motorized side of the Gifford Pinchot. From the drop-off point, racers had a 1-1.5-hour pedal with a couple of playful descents as they traversed. The snow at the top of this next stage made everything a little more exciting, and the Strawberry mountain trail which had been universally described as “an insane descent” and “deep loam” and “12/10, best ever” did not disappoint.
“I think that was an 11-minute trail and it just felt like you were going mach speed the whole time,” says Thomas. “It’s something I don’t get to ride very often, and I was just loving it!”
Unfortunately, the day was cut short due to weather. “The whole day was incredible until the end, we got cut off the last stage because a big snowstorm rolled in. [Before that was] some of the best riding I’ve done – I don’t even know really how to put it into words.
[The Trans-Cascadia team] do an amazing job of creating really good sightlines so that even though you are riding it blind, you can really see what's coming. They do a good job of making it safe in that way. A lot of the trails are formed by motos, so they have this incredible sort of arc to the turns. With the good amount of moisture in the dirt too, it made it so fun to ride. It was tacky. A little bit was muddy, but it was awesome.”
Although Thomas wistfully wonders what Trans-Cascadia would have been like had it been sunny and warm the whole time, he also felt that the extreme weather added to the overall experience. “It wasn't the easiest, but it was cool. It created some incredible scenery; seeing the snow on the mountains and the trails. The trails were just this perfect brown ribbon framed in with the white snow on the side. It was pretty spectacular! It was a week full of hooting and hollering and high fives. And I thought on numerous occasions through the whole week that my bike was feeling so good. I think I brought the perfect bike.”
Thomas Vanderham Slayer Raw
Starting with Carson Storch in Utah, following up with Rémi Gauvin on Vancouver Island, the Slayer Raw Cut series wraps up with freeride legend Thomas Vanderham riding Kamloops, British Columbia. Over the years, Thomas has filmed numerous riding segments in BC’s interior. His riding style seems to work so well on the trails around Kamloops, being that the trails give him plenty of opportunity to ride fast and send it big. Known for throwing massive whips, Thomas always looks incredibly composed on his bike.
Back and forth, forward and back. Mastery on the bike comes from constant repetition. Whether it’s your hundredth time down a trail or you’re about to drop into a new one for the first time, steady, well-rehearsed motions are what will get you through. So, ride fast and send it deep because the Slayer is built for those who charge.
Nordvegr: The Way to the North
It’s normal to get home from a trip and feel like you’ve left something on the table. Whether it’s a trail you skipped out on or an area you didn’t have time to see, the things you didn’t do can be as motivating as the things you did. Thomas Vanderham and Remi Gauvin have both been to Norway before, but it’s one of those places that keeps drawing them back.
Much like a lot of Remi’s travel, his first two trips to Norway were for both for racing. Back in 2013 and 2014, Remi was racing downhill and competed at the World Championships in Hafjell. Thomas’ freeride background has put him in Norway twice before, but never in the world famous Nordfjord region, and never on his trail bike. Travelling to compete is a rinse, wash, repeat cycle. The process broken down is: airport to hotel, hotel to event, and a few days later you’re flying home. This trip was a chance to see Norway in a different light, and after landing in Ålesund and boarding what would be the first of many ferries, the small town of Stranda seemed like the perfect place to start.
The people along the way can be one of the most interesting parts of travelling. Located just up the road from our rooms in the Hjelle Hotel is the small town of Folven, home to Norwegian freeskier, Fred Syversen. Fred is a local legend who in 2008 unintentionally set the world record for skiing off a 107m tall cliff, but today he coaches skiing on the glacier, operates an adventure sports campground, and is building out the Hjelledalen valley mountain bike trail infrastructure.
Our Scandinavian photographer, Mattias Fredriksson, likes to joke around but with an underlying sense of sincerity. Early on in our trip he forewarned, “It’s hard to go on a road trip in Norway and still make dinner deadlines. I tend to shoot a lot…cause the shooting is epic”. It was a constant theme of the trip but the fjord views near Sandane had us especially late for dinner. The trails were above treeline which left us exposed to the harsh wind and rain, but the combination of fast riding corners, natural features, and stunning backdrop were just simply too good to cut the ride short.
With another trip under their belt and trails under their tires, Norway remains an incredibly interesting place for Thomas and Rémi. Newly built mountain bike trails with a strong historic culture of moving through mountains leaves plenty of room for endless adventures in the Nordfjord.
A Film by: Scott Secco
Featuring: Thomas Vanderham and Remi Gauvin
Produced by: Stephen Matthews
Post Production Sound by: Keith White Audio
Typography and Design by: Mike Taylor
Photography by: Mattias Fredriksson
Music: Pioneer by Ryan Taubert
Thanks to: Asgeir Blindheim, Fjord Norway, Visit Nordfjord, Veronica Vikestrand, 7 Blåner, Destination Ålesund, Sunnmøre, and Fred Syversen
Norway: The Characters Behind the Adventure
Behind every trip is a cast of characters with varied backgrounds and interesting outlooks. Individually, they’ve been brought on because they come with their own unique stories and skills and are strung together by a common thread; a passion for mountain biking.
I first met Mattias Fredriksson in 2010 while in Switzerland. He was shooting for Anthill Films’ upcoming film, “Follow Me,” and was incredibly friendly right from the get-go. His positive demeanor is contagious, and you can’t help but have a great time around him. Scott Secco and I first worked together in 2014 on his film, “Builder," and between the planning, building, and riding, we became great friends and have collaborated on several projects since.
Working for Rocky Mountain, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know and ride with our talented athletes. Needless to say, heading out on a trip with Thomas Vanderham and Remi Gauvin was an exciting experience. Our trip to Norway also gave us the chance to link up with local Nordfjord rider, Veronica Vikestrand, a born and raised Norwegian and a true asset to the trip.
RM: What’s it like coming to another country to film a video where neither you nor the riders have seen the trails before?
Typically, I do most of my work in British Columbia where either the rider or myself are familiar with the trails. Having prior knowledge of how a track rides and when certain locations will get the best light certainly helps the process. I normally rely heavily on rider input for which sections of trail to shoot: if the rider is having fun then I think it shows on camera.
It’s always a fun challenge to visit somewhere new since I think it forces you to have a more open mind and look at everything with an eye to creativity as I don’t have specific shots planned. Travelling gives me an opportunity to put myself in unique situations with people and cultures that are different than my daily life. I would say in general I travel more for the culture than the riding.
RM: What’s your process for reviewing and editing footage on the trip?
I’ve heard that I’m fairly unique as a filmmaker since I can’t sleep until I’ve gone through the day’s footage and edited it as tightly as I can. Editing what I’ve shot each day means the footage is fresh in my mind and I know which shots are my favourite. Plus, by the end of the shoot I’ll have a rough cut that’s often quite close to the final cut. The final benefit of this is that the riders can see what we’ve shot each day. I think this helps with their trust in me since they can actually see the footage (I can be a little slow sometimes to setup shots). I also respect athlete’s opinions on the video and Thomas and Remi had some great suggestions for this edit. Filmmaking is a team sport!
RM: You grew up in Sweden and have shot both skiing and biking in Scandinavia for many years. What’s the most special thing about Norway to you?
First of all, it might be the most beautiful country in the world. Everywhere you look it’s just insane! As a photographer I love this place because you just can’t go wrong. I like to joke (except I’m completely serious), that it’s hard to go on a road trip in Norway and still make dinner deadlines. I end up pulling over a lot to shoot the epic vistas.
I’ve been to Norway an uncountable amount of times in my life, both for personal and work trips, and I still haven’t gotten bored.
RM: You’ve had a long and varied career as a photographer. How did you get started in bike photography?
I grew up in the south of Sweden, 4 or 5 hours south of Stockholm, and started riding bikes in the late 80’s! Even before I had my first real mountain bike, I remember stripping off the kickstand, fenders, and chainguards to emulate the look of a proper mountain bike. My parents were choked because I came home muddy all the time, but I didn’t care, I was totally hooked.
Around the same time, I had started my own punk rock magazine called “Heavy”, was a drummer in a band, and I think that’s where I first found my passion for journalism. I loved writing about what I cared about, so at 16 started working for the local newspaper.
I spent my early career working for a handful of different magazines in Sweden, but I decided that writing in Swedish was limited compared to shooting images that everyone can enjoy! I shot the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, US and World Championships in 1999, but other than that I stayed far away from shooting events – ha ha. I focused on inspirational stories and trips because that’s what was important to me. I started shooting mountain biking, because I absolutely love to mountain bike.
RM: What bike did you bring on this trip?
RM: Where did you grow up in Norway and how did you get into mountain biking?
Today I live in a small town just outside Ålesund and I’ve lived in this area my whole life. Living at the foot of the mountains and along rolling terrain separated by fjords, being in the woods and on the trails felt natural to me. I bought my first hardtail in the late 90’s, shortly followed with the purchase of the Kranked film on VHS. I was so inspired by what was happening in BC, that I bought my first full suspension later that year.
I tried downhill racing in 2004 but it just wasn’t for me. I’d get too stressed, lose my nerves, and just couldn’t get along with being forced into a format of riding. I think that’s why I first connected with Kranked so well, the idea of freeriding and using mountain bikes in whatever fashion you want was invigorating.
RM: As a born and raised Norwegian, how would you say the mountain biking scene in Norway changed over the past several years?
It’s been growing like crazy. New bike trails and bike parks are being built all over the country, and the enduro race scene has exploded. We’re also seeing a lot more “adventure-style” riders, taking inspiration from our backcountry ski and hiking culture. The riding here is very different than what you get in the Alps or North America, but mixed types of trail combined with Norway’s beauty is incredibly unique.
RM: How did you get involved with Rocky Mountain?
I have been working in the bike industry since 2008 with different brands. Right now I’m working for 7 Blåner, who has been the distributor for Rocky Mountain since 2016. I’ve always admired the Rocky Mountain brand and have looked up to what they stand for since I started riding in the late 90’s! The opportunity to now be helping show some of their legendary athletes around my home country has been incredibly exciting!
RM: What bike did you bring on this trip?
Same thing I've been on all year, my Instinct BC Edition!
RM: How did you first get involved with Rocky Mountain?
I got a call from (Thomas) Vanderham back in February 2014 while I was working on the oil rigs in northern Alberta. He said that Rocky Mountain was developing a new downhill bike called the “Maiden” and that the R&D team was looking for feedback from racers. I didn’t have a sponsor lined up for the coming season, plus it seemed like a cool opportunity. After that first season riding the Maiden, I started racing enduro in 2016, and am now committed to a full EWS circuit as a rider on the Rocky Mountain Race Face Team. I really owe it to Thomas for giving me a chance to come on board.
RM: As an EWS racer, you spend so much of your season travelling around the world to race. What was the coolest thing about travelling to Norway to film and shoot, rather than be locked into a racing schedule?
When you go to these races that are all in amazing places, there usually isn’t time to appreciate where you are and what’s happening around you. At an EWS race, you’re so focused on performing, that you miss out on seeing the local culture and beauty of these places. The pace of shooting photos and video is so much slower, so you actually have time to soak in where you are and learn about what’s around you.
RM: What bike did you bring on this trip?
Tried and true, my Altitude.
RM: You’ve been travelling to ride mountain bikes for a long time. Do you still enjoy the process, seeing new places, and not knowing what kind of riding you’re in for?
Absolutely! One of the things that makes filming mountain biking so great is the diversity of the environments we get to work in. We can shoot in jungles, deserts and everything in between which is one of the reasons that I think bike videos are so good. Mountain biking has facilitated a lot of my most memorable trips and I'm excited whenever I get a chance to go to ride in a new location.
RM: You were riding in Norway over 10 years ago. What was that all about?
I've travelled to Norway twice before. The first time was in 2003, I think. I was new to the Oakley bike team and we travelled quite far north to Narvik with Wade Simmons, Kyle Strait and Cedric Gracia. That was the first time that I worked with Mattias Fredriksson as well and experience the awesome energy that he brings to a shoot. The second time was in 2009 for an event called Anti Days of Thunder that was definitely ahead of its time. They had some huge jumps built that we got to session and also involved a team relay DH race (that team Canada won if I'm not mistaken!) Some of the guys involved went on to help start the FEST series.
See the full story, photoset, and video, “Nordvegr: The Way to the North”.
Introducing the new Instinct and Instinct BC Edition
Stable and aggressive, the Instinct is our most versatile trail bike.
With 29" wheels and a wide range of RIDE-9™ adjustments, the all new Instinct is available in both carbon and alloy models. An all-new frame for 2018 pushes the rear travel to 140mm, increasing stiffness and tweaking the suspension kinematics. Despite the increase in travel, the new frame has noticeably more efficient pedaling, with better small-bump sensitivity and a host of next-generation features.
In the same family, born in BC, we’ve turned the Instinct BC Edition into an aggressive trail monster.
Designed with an optimized link and long stroke shock that provide 155mm of rear travel and ultra-aggressive geometry, we’ve kitted out the Instinct BC Edition with wide bars, big tires, ultra-stiff wheels, and more capable suspension. It smashes all mountain lines, rails corners, and plows over everything in sight, while displaying all the climbing efficiency that makes the Instinct a crowd favourite.
Please head to your local Rocky Mountain Bicycles Dealer to order your new Instinct or Instinct BC Edition.
“I can't believe how much fun I've had riding the new Instinct. I was blown away by how effortlessly the bike carries speed, while improvements to the geometry and stiffness keep it nimble and stable. The Instinct has handled every type of terrain I've thrown at it and even opened up new lines for me on trails I've been riding for over a decade." - Thomas Vanderham
Intended Use: Trail
Wheel Size: 29" (27.5+ ready)
Front Travel: 140mm
Rear Travel: 140mm
INSTINCT BC EDITION
Intended Use: Aggressive Trail
Wheel Size: 29" (27.5+ ready)
Front Travel: 160mm
Rear Travel: 155mm
Improved suspension performance
We’ve increased overall progression and support at sag, while making small-bump performance even more sensitive. Higher anti-squat values dramatically improve pedaling efficiency.
Next generation features
Comprehensive evolutionary updates across the platform include features like tooled axles, singlesided bearing pivots, integrated “Spirit Guide” chainguide, boost spacing, and metric shock compatibility.
Our RIDE-9™ system provides a wide range of geometry and suspension adjustability; it has been moved into the link for lighter, narrower packaging. Instinct BC Edition, with its increased travel, comes with a single mounting position in its link to provide the best balance of travel and geometry.
To add control and descending capability, we’ve increased reach, slackened the headtube angle, and lowered the bottom bracket. We’ve significantly shortened the chain stays to improve agility and used a moderately steep seat tube for efficient climbing performance.
- Increased anti-squat for better pedaling efficiency
- 29” Wide Trail and 27.5+ compatible
- Max tire clearance is 29 x 2.6, and 27.5 x 2.8 (3.0 with low profile knobs)
- Bearings at all pivots, including at lower shock mount (compatible with aftermarket shocks as well)
- Blind pivots maximize heel clearance
- Lighter, tooled rear axle
- All Instinct models include the FSA extend-O-matic headset. The bike ships with a second (taller) headset bottom cup, which allows the rider to opt for 27.5+ wheels without negatively affecting handling, and no fork swap is required.
- Improved cable management: large headtube ports, full shift housing, large downtube access port, and internal shift and brake housing within the front triangle
- Future-proofed to be compatible with Di2, Fox Live, and a dropper post simultaneously
- Seat-tube lengths have been adjusted to accommodate longer dropper posts at maximum insertion.
- Chainstay and downtube protectors. *Due to production delays, the initial shipment of 2018 Pipelines will not include chainstay and downtube protectors. They will be shipped to shops as soon as they’re available. The October shipment will have them installed.
- Integrated “Spirit Guide” chainguide, with 2-bolt ISCG05
- BC Edition features a dedicated link delivering 155mm of travel and fixed geometry
- 1x optimized design with wider main pivot
- Lower standover height
- Significantly stiffer thanks to one-piece seat stays, new envelope, and updated layup (47.7% more lateral stiffness)
- Modern parts compatibility (boost spacing, metric shock lengths, post-mount 180mm brakes, etc.)
- All sizes fit a water bottle in the front triangle, even with a reservoir shock
- Sizes: S-XL
- Frame & shock: 5.09lb (2310g), size Medium
- Frame & shock: 5.62lb (2550g), size Medium, Instinct BC Ed.
- Protectors, chainguide, & axle: 0.57lb (260g)
- Instinct Carbon 70 complete: 27.4lb (12.4kg), size Medium
- Instinct Carbon 90 BC Edition complete: 29.5lb (13.4kg), size Medium
We have a new naming convention In the interest of describing our lineup more clearly, we’ve updated our naming conventions. What used to be called Instinct 970 MSL is now Instinct Carbon 70, and what used to be called Instinct 950 is now Instinct Alloy 50. The Instinct still uses high-quality Smoothwall carbon and FORM alloy frames, and higher spec numbers still indicate higher end specs.Riders: Geoff Gulevich and Thomas Vanderham Photo: Margus Riga Location: Whistler, BC
Riders: Geoff Gulevich and Thomas Vanderham Photo: Margus Riga Location: Whistler, BC Riders: Geoff Gulevich and Thomas Vanderham Photo: Margus Riga Location: Whistler, BC Riders: Geoff Gulevich and Thomas Vanderham Photo: Anthony Smith Location: Mt Barbour, BC
Limited quantities and sizes available from August 24th. General availability from mid to late October. Please head to your local Rocky Mountain dealer to pre-order. Regional availability may vary.
Thomas Vanderham - From The Collective to Return to Earth
The Collective and Anthill Films have made seven full-length mountain bike movies over the last 15 years and Thomas Vanderham has been in all of them. From the opening scene in The Collective to his moto-sized senders in Seasons, following Sam Hill at home on the North Shore to the release of Return to Earth. A lot of the major moments in Thomas’ riding career have been captured in these films.
We first signed Thomas 19 years ago when he was just a kid in high school and at that time the North Shore freeride scene was beginning to gain momentum. Local photographer, Sterling Lorence, had just gotten his first cover shot of BIKE magazine and shortly after he and Thomas began to work together on their home trails.
Sterling has been the main photographer for all three movies from The Collective and stayed with the crew as they restructured for four more as Anthill Films. Being present for all seven films has given Sterling and Thomas a unique relationship. They’ve grown their careers in parallel with one another and documented some of the finer moments along the way.
“The Collective made a big splash when it first came out – and I’m not sure that any of us were really expecting that. The timing was perfect with freeride mountain biking emerging, but until this film, it’d largely been covered through single hits and big features. The fact that The Collective even showed singletrack felt different. I think it was more relatable to riders.
The opening shot set the stage for the whole film. It was a candid moment and it happened without me even knowing. We’d gotten up at 4:45am to shoot the opening drop at first light, and for me, at the time I was lining up a big drop. I was so focused on what I had to do and was waiting for the go-ahead from the team, I didn’t even know that the filmer, Jonathan Schramm, was behind me shooting.”
“Before this trip, I’d travelled internationally to Europe to ride and that always felt pretty easy and straight forward. Morocco was my first real adventure to the other side of the world; we all got sick, didn’t know where we were and weren’t sure what would happen if things went wrong – it was a totally different world.
The impact that trip had on me continues to sink in to this day. Mostly because I can’t believe how remote we were. That road gap was so far in the middle of nowhere! I’ll never forget it because we found the spot, built it, and then I spent 4 hours sitting at the top of the run in waiting for wind which eventually forced us to extend our trip. Like my story from The Collective, we had to wake up super early the next morning and drive 2 hours to the gap to get the shot before the wind picked up for the day. Maximum stress.”
“To this day this was one of the most involved projects I’ve ever worked on. I was working with ‘Big Red’ Ted Tempany on the build and we visited five or six ranches around BC before finding a place that would let us build the way we wanted.
It took four separate shoots to get the segment done because I took some really big crashes. The line was moto-inspired which made for some of the biggest jumps I’d hit to date. I wanted to push the limits of how high and far I could go on my mountain bike and I remember it being a huge relief when I finally put tires to dirt. After the first day of practice runs, I finally hit the big step up. I’d put a computer on my bike to look at speed and the highest number I saw during the shoot was 85 km/h.”
“I grew up in North Vancouver and the trails on Mount Seymour descend right to my house. The whole theme of Follow Me was to have riders paired up, and it was pretty cool to be able to show Sam Hill around my backyard. Sam was one of the fastest DH riders in the world at that time.
I’d spent some time building lines for the shoot and it was pretty cool to see Sam riding unfamiliar terrain and one-off features when he was known for smashing race tracks. It was amazing to watch his bike control on the slippery, technical, unforgiving North Shore trails. A lot of people struggle on The Shore the first few times they ride here…Sam didn’t.”
Strength in Numbers
“Aggy and I went down a month early to scope and build for the Utah segment, which basically turned into the two of us rallying quads in the desert. The goal of the shoot was to ride big mountain lines while also incorporating Green River’s natural landscape into big hits.
This shoot happened in November and I ended up taking a massive crash and separating my shoulder quite badly. It forced us to delay the rest of the shoot until February, which was just 2 months before the world premiere. When Aggy and I went back to get the remaining shots, I ended up manning a camera for a shot that got used in the film. I’m pretty stoked to have an ‘additional cinematography by’ credit in closing titles!”
“Concept shoots are hard, and this was one was especially difficult. The idea of dirt falling from the sky was inspired by trail builder and longtime Whistler Bike Park rider, Adam Billinghurst. The Anthill crew had to ‘re-dress’ the frame after every run through, which meant a ton of time was spent distributing fresh dirt, raking out our tracks, re-covering the trees, etc. For us as riders, it meant there was a lot of waiting around and then going from zero to a hundred in order to make the film as entertaining as possible.
The Whistler Bike Park has been an amazing place to have up the road for me. I’ve done countless laps over the years and it’s definitely helped shape my riding to where it is today. I’ve shot many videos in the park, but this one was especially cool as it featured the park in a different way.”
Return to Earth
“Similar to unReal this was another concept shoot that was difficult to make happen. We were shooting the autumn colours in Quebec and needed to re-dress every scene. The major difference between this and the unReal segment was that we were fighting against nature’s clock. Everyday we’d wake up to more leaves that had fallen from the tree branches and throughout the day big wind gusts would leave more branches bare. The whole shoot was a crazy balance of waiting long enough for the colours to be perfect, but not so long that the leaves left the trees bare.
I think the concept of the film really came through in this segment. Return to Earth is all about being aware of the time you have and making the most of it. Living by the moments that are the most important to you.”
Thomas and Sterling have had an incredible ride together through the release of these films. With Return to Earth, Thomas’ riding mixed in with a specific concept has helped bring the imagery we see today to a whole new level.
In the Valley of the Sun
Stretching through high mountain meadows and down deep winding valleys, the trails of Sun Valley, Idaho are absolutely world class. The trails themselves hold a special feeling, built from the legacy of pioneers and visionaries exploring the region. Rocky Mountain Bicycles’ athletes, Thomas Vanderham and Sam Schultz, set out with their sights set on singletrack, tapping into their instinct for adventure.
"Spending a week exploring Sun Valley with Sam Schultz on the new Rocky Mountain Instinct was somewhat of a blur. Not just because chasing an Olympian up mountains at altitude is tough business, but because I quickly realized that there's a lot more to Sun Valley than the picture perfect single track it’s famous for.” - Thomas Vanderham
Mining, farming, and tourism have swept through Blaine County to meet the changing demands of passing decades. Adaptation and perseverance has kept Sun Valley alive, and forward thinking has led to developments such as the world’s first chairlift in 1936. Connecting with the area in a more traditional sense, American legends like Ernest Hemmingway lived out his life here, hunting and exploring the Wood River Valley, with an inspired take on the natural surroundings.
"Even after we rode some of the local classics, shredded new purpose-built singletrack, and climbed into the alpine to stay in a local piece of mountain history, it felt like we had just scratched the surface. I can't believe how much fun I've had riding the new Instinct. I was blown away by how effortlessly the bike carries speed, while improvements to the geometry and stiffness keep it nimble and stable. Next time I'll have to come for month, and I probably still won't run out of trails to ride." – Thomas Vanderham
The Pioneer Cabin was built by the Sun Valley Company in 1937 to help increase accessibility for skiers in the Pioneer Mountains. Ascending more than 23 relentless switchbacks through both wide-open grasslands and thick forest, the statement painted on the roof of the cabin, “the higher you get the higher you get,” is awfully matter of fact. The cabin builder, Averell Harriman, decided that the remote area around Sun Valley would be the perfect location for staging adventures, allowing people to spend more time exploring the backcountry.
"Living in Missoula, MT, I have no shortage of pristine, buffed out singletrack right out my back door. The big difference in Sun Valley is the immense quantity of trail and the ability to ride right from town and get deep into the rugged mountains surrounding the valley. It had been awhile since my last visit, which was in 2012 and I managed to take the win at the XC National Championships.” – Sam Schultz
The world has become a smaller place, yet the opportunity for creative rides and unlikely trail connections are still very real in Sun Valley. In a combination of paper maps and downloadable apps, navigating legacy routes is a harmonious blend of historical and modern adventure.
"I’ve admired Thomas’ riding in videos for years, watching in awe while grinding on an indoor trainer all winter as a 16-year old racing fanatic. I was truly blown away to see his precision on the trail in real life. Every turn, technical feature, and jump was nailed with absolute perfection." - Sam Schultz
" knew the trails were sweet and I was pumped to head there for more exploration on a bike designed for exactly the type of riding that has inspired me the most lately. The Instinct and I immediately felt like a match made in heaven. It was the perfect blend of Altitude and Element; fast feeling 29" wheels, plenty of travel to ride aggressively, rocket-like efficiency, all in a nimble package that is quite simply put, incredibly fun,” - Sam Schultz
"It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.” - Ernest Hemingway. Ernest Hemingway was an American Novelist and Nobel Prize winner who moved to (and was buried in) Ketchum, Idaho.
Presented by Rocky Mountain Bicycles
Featuring the all-new Instinct
A Film by Liam Mullany
Cinematography by Liam Mullany & Andre Nutini
Featuring Thomas Vanderham & Sam Schultz
Edited by Liam Mullany & David Peacock
Colour by Sam Gilling
Post Production Sound by Keith White Audio
Typography by Mike Taylor
Photography by Margus Riga
Denmark/ Van Gogh & Gone
Written and Performed by Psychadelic Porn Crumpets
All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Thanks to Gabe Schroeder, Sun Valley Resort
Four generations of freeride: the 2017 Rocky Mountain team
We're excited to announce that Wade Simmons, Thomas Vanderham, and Geoff Gulevich have all renewed ties with Rocky Mountain for 2017. They join the returning Carson Storch to round out our freeride program. The team will ride the Slayer, Maiden, and Altitude—and Carson will get a custom slopestyle bike cooked up in our North Vancouver prototype shop.
Wade Simmons, the Godfather of freeride, said “I’ve been with Rocky Mountain over 20 years now, and I’m stoked to be continuing on the program. We’ve got some fun adventures planned and I’m looking forward to sending it into the coming years. I need to show these young punks a thing or two!”
Thomas Vanderham continues to push the boundaries of big mountain riding, with appearances at select FEST events and in several film projects on the horizon. His precision and focus have also made him invaluable to the Rocky Mountain engineering team, and he works closely with them to develop and refine our bikes.
Geoff Gulevich maintains his globetrotting ways, with plans to log a ton of airmiles in 2017—both on and off the bike. His “Gullyver’s Travels” series will take him off the beaten path, and hopefully not feature too much male nudity.
Returning this year is Carson Storch. The young American athlete had a breakout year in 2016, with a podium spot and best trick at Rampage, and we’re fired up to see what he has in store in 2017.
After a long and storied career at Rocky Mountain, Brett Tippie is moving on in 2017. The Director of Good Times has been an iconic member of our family, and his signature laugh and unparalleled stoke will be sorely missed. We wish you all the best in your future endeavours Tippie, and we’ll see you (or at least hear you) out on the trails!
Rocky Mountain helped usher in the birth of freeride, and we’re proud to have every generation of freeride represented on our team. They continue to push the sport and inspire people to get out on their bikes—we couldn’t ask for better ambassadors for our brand.
Love the Ride,
—Rocky Mountain Bicycles
Photos by Margus Riga, Paris Gore, and Ale Di Lullo.
Return of the Rockies
The iconic peaks of the Rocky Mountains embody a particular wildness, a disdain for the manicured and curated experiences of the modern world. Rocky Mountain Bicycles’ namesake mountain range holds a special place in our heart. We knew this year that we were overdue for a return to our roots - our bedrock.
"Growing up in Edmonton, the Rockies represented the epitome of rugged, large scale terrain,'' says Thomas Vanderham. ''My trips to the Rockies have been few and far between since I left the prairies, so the opportunity to spend time in Fernie on the new Slayer was one I looked forward to all year. It did not disappoint - panoramic views, huge descents, impeccable trail building, and a tight-knit mountain bike community.''
This was my first time riding with Florian Nicolai, and it's easy to see what makes him one of the top EWS racers in the world. He's got natural speed and an eye for ultra creative lines on the trail. We had an incredible time, and I hope that my next trip back to the Rockies isn't too far away.
Elk Valley locals tell a story about William Fernie, who asked a Ktunaxa chief about the black coal rocks hanging on the necklace of the chief’s daughter. The chief showed him the source of the coal on the condition that Mr. Fernie married his daughter, but the prospector backed out of the agreement. The chief then cursed the entire valley, and it would suffer a series of fires, floods, and mining disasters at the turn of the century.
The supposed curse was lifted by Chief Ambrose Gravelle of the Ktunaxa Nation on August 15th, 1964. However, if you look at Mount Hosmer on summer evenings, you can sometimes make out a shadow of the chief’s daughter standing beside the ''ghost rider'' on his horse.
"I was in a window seat, jetting west across the mountains of British Columbia. I stared out at the grandeur of sun tinted snowy crags and knew that what separated my adopted home in Edmonton from the native soil of Vancouver was a massive rock formation called the Rocky Mountains. I thought about naming our new company after these peaks." - Grayson Bain, one of the original founders of Rocky Mountain Bicycles, 1981.
The jagged summits of the Three Sisters peaks that overlook the Elk Valley are massive beds of sloping marine limestone, called the Palliser Formation. Most mountains are younger than what they’re built on, but Fernie’s craggy peaks are literally upside down. 360 million years ago the area that would become the Elk Valley was much further south, close to the equator, and the Pacific Ocean was only 80km to the west.
Dinosaurs roamed the land and earthquakes shook as the tectonic plates smashed into each other, fracturing massive pieces of stone along huge thrust faults. 180 million years ago, the old limestone sea floor was pushed upwards along those thrust faults and over the younger stone - turning the mountains upside down.
''I was excited to have the opportunity to work on this project. The first day I couldn’t believe I was riding with Thomas Vanderham - he’s a legend to me, and I love watching his signature style and whips,'' EWS racer Florian Nicolaï said of his time with the Canadian freeride icon. ''This was also the first time I rode the finished product of the Slayer, but it only took me one run to get used to it. It surprised me how good it is for different trails and terrain.''
The trails in the Rockies are so different from France, or anywhere else I've ridden on the Enduro World Series. The day we rode in the alpine was special. Riding raw freeride trails with Thomas right behind gave me a little pressure, but the views were beautiful and it was so much fun. It was an amazing experience, and I hope to return one day soon!
The scale of the Rockies is sobering. From geological upheavals to megatons of rock carving the landscape as glaciers advanced and retreated, the forces that have shaped these mountains are almost unimaginable. This place has a unique way of making humans feel insignificant and reminding us that today’s landscape is just an impermanent snapshot in the earth’s geological history. It’s an honour to explore this terrain, its stone and loam, on two wheels.