Hot off the heels of being crowned a World Champion at the inaugural Trophy of Nations in Finale Ligure, Cody Kelley hopped on a plane flying to the dark and ferny Pacific Northwest so we could join forces for a few days of filming. A wild week ensued jam packed with photoshoots, coffee, meet and greets with local rippers, classic Washington weather, and too many Wu-Tang Clan references.
Gloaming is a synonym of twilight or dusk. It comes from the Old English word for twilight, "glōm," and this time of year is "gloam season" in the Pacific Northwest. The lengthy, warm days of summer have disappeared, replaced by a near permanent state of twilight. We delve deep into the woods, where legends, ghost and ghoul haunt the shadows. Sufficient lighting in the thick trees is hard to come by, but when you find it a magical world unfolds.
Disastrous might be too harsh of a word to describe our first day of filming, but it's not far off from the truth. The weather channel would have deemed it "adverse conditions" and we took a beating. The "light drizzle" we expected overnight had been more of a downpour and the trails were just a bit wet...
That look says it all, "Wow, where's the trail? All I see is this creek bed.."
Trail maintenance comes in all different forms. Ideally, it involves a big crew that tackles the whole trail in a few hours. In a pinch, it's one lonely man tackling a puddle with the best stick he can find.
The bike of a World Champion waiting patiently to shred some PNW gold.
The first shot of what ended up being an unexpectedly short day. We had anticipated a long day of cold drizzle, but we hadn't planned to fight thick fog, washed out trails, and piercing wind.
When filming the first clips leaves your fresh kit looking like this, what do you think you'd look like at the end of the day? You can see the wheels turning..
As we climbed to the top of Tiger the day-ending storm was brewing just over the hill.
Within 15 minutes of setting up shop at the start of Predator, a steep trail with 1,400 feet of descent, the storm decided to give 100% effort. First the wind kicked up, then the rain came, and then the rain froze and we were pelted by hail that didn't quit until we descended and it turned to snow.
After a brief discussion and a quick shift in our collective mood, we decided to call it on the basis that our health and ability to perform our jobs was more important than pushing through and getting 30 seconds of film.
With Day 1 in the books, we decided to lick our wounds and head back to our Airbnb for a day of Netflix and warm food. Of the five people on location for the shoot, four of us wound up hitting the dirt and one of us went home with a mild case of hypothermia. The PNW won the first round, but we prepared for battle the next day with a ridiculous amount of cold weather gear and thermoses full of hot coffee.
After the debacle of the first day, the weather shifted and we were graced with blue skies and freezing temperatures for the remainder of the photoshoot, but the trails were still loose under tire.
If the ol' stick-shovel trick isn't working to clear a puddle, you can always try the classic fern-broom maneuver to scoot as much mud out of the pocket corners as possible. Our Sales Manager, TJ, joined us again and spent a lot of time prepping the trails as we filmed our way back to the parking lot.
Made in the memory of his late furry companion, Happy, TJ's personal trail, Happy Dog, was the perfect location for us to film some classic PNW riding. We enjoyed working on it so much that we came back the next day to make sure we didn't miss a shot.
Is there a better feeling than getting both wheels loose into a corner and successfully riding it out? It's the purest form of exhilaration and it's the exact feeling we're searching for every time we swing a leg over the bike.
You know it's going to be a good day when your bike gains a few extra pounds of dirt in a couple runs!
After spending some time ripping apart some innocent corners, we decided it was high time for Cody to get off the ground. This mid-trail step down was the perfect spot for Cody to roll it over and remind us that we could all spend a bit more time working on our Euro Tables.
Note from the videographer: Working with Cody is always a fantastic experience; he's constantly smiling and in a good mood, he's happy to climb back up the trail to re-film sections over and over, and he's so fast and stylish that he makes me look good as a camera operator. There is one thing about Cody that can be difficult to predict though; sometimes he jumps higher than you would think is possible. I can't count the number of times I set up my frame only to have Cody jump out of the top of it, resulting in a do over and me attempting to reassure myself that I would clean it up and keep Cody in frame for the next one. For example, I think I had Cody film this particular step down three or four times before we nailed it and moved on.
#ManualMonday coming in hot! Low Light + the Manual Monday King = Pan Shots
So many angles, so little time!
Day 2 culminated with an event at Compass Outdoor Adventures in North Bend, WA where Cody spent time fielding questions from local riders about his career, life, and the MTB industry as a whole. It was fantastic to see how many groms were in attendance to learn about the ins and outs of the industry and to see how they might pursue their passions in the same fashion as Cody. If you weren't there for the event, some of the best advice that Cody provided for the youngins was to always sport a positive attitude, no matter the situation you find yourself in. At the end of the day people are more likely to do business/work with the people that they like on a personal level, so finding a way to connect and maintain relationships with those around you is important.
Oh and he also said cheese is bad for you and that you shouldn't eat it. Stay away from the 🧀.
To put it bluntly, day three was a long day. Our third day in a row of climbing with full camera bags and we wound up filming in two different locations. Each location came with different light coverage making it that much more difficult to get the footage to look like a cohesive unit. While one location had soft, almost mucky dirt, the other mainly consisted of hard pack.
Ah yes, the classic dilemma: "This log is wet and sketchy right now, so should I ride off of it and just try to make it to the landing? Or should I style it like it's your typical jump?"
This jump is big. About 45-50 feet from lip to landing. And fast. Really big and fast and not one that any of us would want to hit without having someone show us how it's done. So that's exactly what Cody did. He hit it on his first run in without anyone towing him into it and, to be safe, he overshot the beginning of the landing by about 10 feet.
Our third day of filming ended on Crazy Ivan at Tokul East. Always remember to make time for road side shenanigans:
Friday was a bonus day. We'd originally planned to work on a separate project, but the storm from earlier in the week left the trails we were going to shoot unrideable. After talking through our options, we decided to go to a central location that would be easy to film bonus footage for Cody's video: The Summit Ridge Bike Park in Black Diamond, WA. These trails are perfect for filming if you're looking for a location with very limited elevation gain. Five minutes from the parking lot is a big line of doubles and fast corners that are maintained incredibly well by a small handful of volunteers. If you're reading this, we're big fans of your work!
We managed to get a big PNW crew away from the computers for a day of goofing around, the world's saddest burritos, and loads of Pit Viper jokes.
So many freshly sculpted corners 😍
There's something about the sound of tires on fresh dirt...
Don't forget to replace your divots, kids! It just so happens that when you corner as quickly as Cody does you end up moving a bit of dirt in the process. We made sure to spend a few minutes after filming each section to try to return the dirt to its original home.
Oh you know, just gonna hang the front wheel perpendicular to the trail while hovering right above the landing...