It’s winter in the wilderness of British Columbia. For months, this region’s legendary mountain bike trails go undisturbed by all but the supremely devout; exposed beneath skeletal forest canopies and enveloped by wet and cold. Hardly the most logical time to ride, however, that’s about to change for the ambitions of four cyclists. Meet the Union Production Company — a small creative expression and design outlet whose first major collaborative effort together is one born out of love for riding with a well-worn camera lens, and the desire to show off the culture and rugged, beauty of Western BC from behind Canada’s wintery curtain. So how does Kitsbow factor into this?
For two weeks, these four friends will be riding in Kitsbow mountain bike gear, entirely self-supported from town to town, and trail to trail, across some of the very best stretches of pavement and backcountry dirt ribbon that British Columbia has to offer. The entire experience will be documented through blogs and social media channels in text, photo, and a feature-length video, allowing us all to live and ride vicariously through their mission.
The Union Production Co. aim of setting out in the pursuit of truly good things both in vision and in sport, felt so synergistic to Kitsbow’s own ideals, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to participate. The Canadian Mountain Bike Tourism Association has also pledged support on the project — another key alignment with the Kitsbow vision. Great mountain bike trails are not only great for our sport, but great for the regions that maintain them. When these spectacular trails are showcased in all their beauty, everyone wins.
We’ve equipped each member of Union Production with our full kit. Of course, winter above the 45th parallel is no joke, so intelligent layering will be critical. The moisture-wicking (ie: “funk-free”) capabilities of the SASTAN Mountain bike Jersey make this piece an excellent thermo-regulating mid-layer while wearing the Mixed Shell as an outer will ensure the riders are shielded from chill winds and trail spray. Naturally the A/M Shorts are not designed as a standalone winter piece, but when paired with a warm base tight, the Schoeller-dryskin fabric excels in blocking the wind and repelling light moisture, keeping the rider’s seat comfortable and dry. When worn as a cohesive layering system, our kit should keep the adventurers equipped for whatever weather conditions that winter may present as they tackle the very best mountain bike trails that British Columbia has to offer.
We recently borrowed a few moments from Seb Kemp and Dave Roth — half of the Union Co. project, who put their flurried, last-minute preparations on hold to tell us a little bit more about what they are hoping to accomplish in the next 14 days.
Kitsbow: Tell us a little bit about yourself, and a little about the other faces behind the Union Production Company.
Seb: I’m an idiot abroad. Born in a barn, raised by sickly wolves, and thrown to the slag heap. Dan Barham is exactly the same, perhaps less handsome but better dressed [Even better dressed now! -Ed.]. Andrew Rogers is a late substitute but is the racing driver and design whiz. Dave Roth is the other rider on the “team.” He is the guardian angel I met when he offered the use of his space-age crutches after I detonated a small bomb inside my left foot last summer.
How did this project come about? Cabin fever? Apres beers?
Seb: I’m not one to be constantly asking “why not?” but this time I did. There’s just so much amazing scenery to take in and trails to ride here [in British Columbia]. I wanted to slow down and take it all in. Every town in BC seems to have absolutely mind-melting singletrack, and I hope this shows how plentiful the riding opportunities are here.
How will you be documenting the adventure?
Seb: I think it’s called Cross Platform Pollination in nerd talk. We will be Tweeting and firing off Instagrams so people can follow us live. Then each night I’ll be writing trip journals for Bike Mag, probably while in a sort of hallucinogenic haze brought on by exhaustion. Then Dan Barham will be following the whole trip and shooting it with his big boy video camera and the footage will magically get sorted into a work of stunning cinematic brilliance, which will get beamed into millions of people’s homes by the magic of the Internet.
In all seriousness, we just wanted to approach this in a way that we can tell the story on many different levels. It’s madness to ignore and shun one medium just because it’s ‘vapid,’ ‘antiquated,’ or just plain ‘too much work.’ Not everyone will be into what we are trying to achieve with this trip, but if we can use numerous mediums to communicate our idea then it gives more people the opportunity to receive and decode it in their own way.
Is there a particular story or message you’re ultimately hoping to convey through this project?
Seb: 1. That mountain biking can be anything and everything to everyone, and it’s OK to experience it differently than the predominant images of huckers, racers, and all too serious gear-heads.
2. Mountain biking, to us, is adventure and exploration, fun and games, and understanding a little bit more about the world, the people around us, and in the long run, about ourselves.
3. That there is more to winter in BC.
4. That there is more to BC than just the big ticket destinations.
5. That you can be utterly sure that as long as we are around there will always be someone stupider than you.
Dave: For me, it’s the experiences you have while traveling by bike – there’s nothing else like it. The personalities you meet along the way, the things you see from the saddle, the subtle nuances you would never feel in a car – temperature variations and smells for example. The singletrack is just bonus. I’d like this project to convey, in as much as possible, those experiences.
Granted, the intent of this trip isn’t to seek out some kind of crazy ultra-endurance challenge, but there are still plenty of challenges to be had in riding ten straight days in a Canadian winter. Any unique challenges in particular that you’re especially prepared for?
Seb: It’s all in the mind. Everything is about the mind – mental preparation, focus, and how each human chooses to deal with physical situations firstly, through processing them inside the mind. Perhaps my mind is defective, but I don’t think this trip is that extreme. We want to show how much fun you can have too, not how far we can go. That and we hope drivers play nicely on the roads.
Dave: At this point, I feel I’m well-prepared for anything that might occur on the trip. That said, the one thing that has me a little concerned is the weather. It’s a big unknown, but having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I’m ready.
Not counting bikes or specific riding gear (helmet/shoes/etc.), name three things you’re bringing along that you absolutely cannot be without.
Seb: I considered bringing my dog because he loves mountain biking more than I do. I figured he could sit in the trailer but then I remembered he weighs about 75 pounds. Even his friendly face, calm demeanor and infectious enthusiasm for riding wasn’t worth it. So, instead I’ll have a photo of him on my phone to remind me to have fun. The second thing would be a camera to capture the fun. The third would be some way of writing notes and journals. Well, I guess my iPhone is the only thing I really need then.
Dave: Camera, coffee, bourbon.
And lastly, while Kitsbow will be carefully following the adventures from start to finish, what is the best way for everyone to stay abreast of up-to-the-minute coverage?
Seb: Firstly, follow [us] on Twitter and Instagram and do not take your eyes off the feed, not even one minute. Next, click on bikemag.com and weareunion.co/escape for daily trip journals and a cache of all the tweets and Instagram shots.
Naturally, the Union Production Co. wants as many people as possible following their journey, while understanding that a cyclist glued to his or her screen isn’t a cyclist out enjoying the road or trail. But Kitsbow could think of no better mission than one that inspires the “go forth” attitude where there is no better day to ride than today — cold weather be damned. It is with this distinction that we will also be using our own Twitter feed to earnestly follow and repost these stories every pedal stroke of the journey. It almost goes without saying that we’re as excited for every in-the-moment photograph upload as we are for the completed project video. Best of luck to Seb, Dave, Andrew, and Dan — keep your lenses open and the rubber side down. And next time we’re up in Vancouver, you’ll have to show us the secret stuff.