Whistler! Bike Park Edition!

It’s been 15 years since my last (and first) visit to Whistler.

That trip was for snow. This trip was for dirt. Bike paarrrk!!

We got up super early two Saturdays ago, caught the first flight to Vancouver, grabbed some Tim Horton’s:

… hopped on a shuttle, and arrived at the village by 1 PM. It was early enough to gear up for an afternoon of riding, but it was sooo smokey from nearby wildfires I decided to save my lungs. Seriously, it was like we had landed in India all over again.

This turned out to be a great decision, because we had arrived at the tail end of Crankworx and it was time for Red Bull Joyride! It is by far my most favoritest Crankworx event.

Getting to watch Joyride in person was magical. And holy crap, I knew the jumps were big from watching it online all these years, but in person they’re HUUUUUGE. Watching Nicholi Rogatkin and Brett Rheeder throw down flawless superhuman tricks on that course brought tears to my eyes. Or maybe it was the smoke.

Naw, it was Joyride.

After Joyride I went to check out my rental rig, a 2018 Norco Aurum Carbon. I gave it a once over and asked for the baby coil (because I weigh nothing) plus some fresh tires for the next day. They did even better and put fresh brake pads on as well. The bike felt great when I picked it up the next morning.

To the bike park! The Aurum was my first ride on a full downhill bike. The last time I made a jump that big it was from my cross country Anthem to the Giant Reign, back in 2010. I remembered finding the slacker head angle awkward to maneuver. This time, however, I felt right at home. The Aurum was cushy, stable, and confidence inspiring. Was it me, or the bike? Probably both.

I spent my first day getting used to the new rig, and to trail conditions at Whistler. It was late into a very dry season, and everything was bumpy and dusty. My hands hurt by the middle of the day. When I took my gloves off at lunch, I’d lost a layer of every callus.

Conditions aside, this bike was rad! At speed, I could pump the bike and launch over swaths of rocks. Randomly playing around resulted in accidental manuals. I felt like a pro.

On day two, I focused on riding more technical trails, working my way down random black diamonds. The beauty of a downhill bike is you can point it down super steep chunk and it magically delivers you to the bottom upright and intact. Yes, there’s skill involved, but way less than would be required on a bike with a different geometry.

In the afternoon, I visited a midmountain skills area and made a couple GoPro videos. When I analyzed them later I didn’t like my midair body position. I decided to work on fixing it the next day.

Aaron spent day three with me on the flow trails, airing it out Crank It Up, C-More (Butts), and A-Line over and over. By the end of the day I was clearing most of jumps on Crank It Up and C-More. Yaaasssss!!

We also chased the trail photographers that day (they post a schedule), because where else are you gonna have a professional photographer sitting around with a fill flash setup waiting for you to ride by? They did not disappoint.

My jump disappointed, though. Gotta work on my steeze!

The food, like the photographer(s), did not disappoint. I’d be perfectly happy having Purebread every morning and Peaked Pies every night.

Finally, pics or I didn’t Whistler! Here I am doing my best inukshuk impression:

30×29 Day ???

I have not made an update about wheelies in over a month. That’s because I have not had a dedicated wheelie day in over a month. I have excuses upon excuses as to why. They were wearing me out and making me suck at hockey. My body needed a break. I traveled to Boston and couldn’t practice. My local windy microclimate is teh sux for practice. It’s the coldest summer in San Francisco in a long time. I fell out of the habit of practicing.

I actually fell out of the habit of doing anything active for about a month. That’s not an excuse, that’s just fact. And that’s okay, because nothing in life over time is constant.

I’m getting back into the habit of being active again. I realized when I thought about practicing wheelies that I missed riding my bike. So I’ve been riding my bike. On trails, not in school playgrounds. And it’s been fun.

I practice wheelies a bit on these rides when I find myself on gentle fire roads or quiet streets. I’m about where I was when I left off in late July. I chase my wheel, don’t feel comfortable in the float zone, and have terrible side balance. But it’s interesting and fun and it feels more right than spending an hour in a parking lot.

So I’m gonna go with this for a while. It means no video because I’m practicing wheelies as I go from point A to point B, and first person wheelies don’t look like much. At least they don’t from my helmet. Maybe I’ll try mounting my GoPro to the handlebars.

Speaking of my GoPro, I got a new Session, mounted it to my helmet, and in my first minute of shooting, smashed it into a tree.

It’s so light I totally forgot it was there. GoPro win!

Tahoe Trifecta

Last weekend, Aaron and I brought our bikes up to Tahoe for a fun mix of riding: trail riding at Hole in the Ground Saturday, skills at Truckee Bike Park after that, and downhilling at Northstar Sunday.

I haven’t been riding a ton, but I did notice some improvement from the last time I rode in Tahoe. For one thing, squats means more power means I can get over rocks more easily. It also means doing things like popping the front wheel up with a pedal stroke and moving the wheel over sideways to change lines. I say that like it’s a normal thing I plan and execute, but the cool thing about what happened last weekend is I didn’t plan it. I found myself going up the wrong rock and just naturally popped my bike over to the right one. Awesommme!

Whacked my shin with my pedal after saving myself from sliding out due to my overbraking in a loose turn to avoid kicking a stick up into my derailleur. Said whacked shin ballooned with a golf ball sized pocket of… something. It throbbed a bit, but mostly I was fascinated. I kept pushing on it. Would it explode? I kind of wanted to poke it.

Finished riding Hole in the Ground in way less time than I thought it would take. I felt great out there.

This was my first visit to Truckee Bike Park, and I was impressed. Lots of different areas to work on all sorts of skills. Something for everyone. I’d love to see more parks like this across the land.

Northstar was… dry and blown out as usual. I actually just researched downhill mountain bike parks on the East Coast after writing that sentence. Maybe I’ll spend more time in Massachusetts next summer.

Chunkd

First ride in 3 1/2 weeks, first visit to Santa Teresa in over 2 years. Why not ride up Rocky Ridge?

I was pleased to discover my body still remembers how to get over rocks. I’d approach a rock and automatically unweight the front wheel over it, then feel a rock on the rear wheel and immediately crank to power up it. It felt a little surreal.

But wow, cool, it’s chunked!

Same for descending. There isn’t time to think bombing down a rocky trail at mach speed (in my mind, I am going mach speed) so it’s just processing and reacting to what’s ahead. Steer to go around, push the bike in front of me to drop, and lift to go over. Process, react, repeat. No time for second guessing.

The best part was coming back down Rocky Ridge when I approached the big rock near the bottom that slopes left to right across the trail. There’s a smaller head-sized rock that meets it on the right, and I always change my line to go through that notch on the right. Today, instead of heading right, I held my middle line, went up the face of the big rock, and boosted off it. What the what?!! Again, a reaction, not a decision.

A reaction. A rad, rad, reaction.

Yah, so, um, I had fun today.

Rmblr

Went for a little late afternoon spin around the fun half of Water Dog. This meant a couple trips down Rambler and Canyon Creek, my favorite part of riding there.

Despite not having ridden much recently, the super dry conditions, Aaron stopping in front of me in the middle of the run, and not pushing hard the entire way, I beat my previous fast time by 4 seconds.

What the heck?

Elevator?

My gosh, it’s been a long time since I rode a mountain bike. I know this because at Water Dog today my legs burned, my knee ached, and I couldn’t make it up that one challenging switchback on Ohlone Trail. I am out of bike shape.

I also lost track of where I was in my backyard park and accidentally rode down the top of Elevator. Hello, steep and rutted singletrack that also happens to be my first descent in forever! Before today, I’d only ever looked up the trail and thought, “Gosh, that looks hard.” It’s actually not that bad.

Speaking of descents, I got more comfortable with them as the ride progressed. After charging through some rocks and ruts much faster than I would have at the beginning of the ride, I spent some time thinking about it on the next climb. Hurling your bike down a hill is one of those things where you have to look ahead, decide what you’re going to do, commit to it, and trust that you really can do what you just decided on. In certain situations, bailing is not an option. You simply have to trust your decision so you can process the trail ahead and decide what to do next, before you get there.

There’s something I really like about the focus that requires, as well as trust in your skills and decision making… and the fact that you HAVE to do it right.

Scored a small victory up a little steep section I usually spin my wheel on. It’s interesting that even though I am not in bike shape, I am still stronger in short bursts. Yay, recent gym workouts.

Scored a more sizable victory when my out of bike shape heart pounded like it was going to jump out of my chest and elephants stomped in my ears. My brain didn’t explode. Phew!

Surprise Manual

Went for my first ride in 2 months today. Played around in the little bowl at Arastradero. There’s a new flat to decline next to the small jump, and I wanted to see if I could send a manual off the crest. I wasn’t going very fast so I didn’t get my rear wheel off the ground, and I ended up doing a mini wheelie down it instead. Surprise! I just rode my first manual. Did it a bunch more times because I could. Good times.

Deliberate Luck

Spent the good part of an hour at Carlmont learning to air it out again on the Enduro. By the end of the session (and after a bunch of practice there a couple days ago) I was finally starting to feel comfortable with air again.

I realized while I was there that jumping a bike is a lot like shooting a hockey puck.* There are countless skills to master and chunk with exact timing. Both require hours of deliberate practice to do well.

Lucky for me, I like practice.

Lucky for me also, I have a hockey net in my backyard and Carlmont next door.

* The difference, of course, is that the penalty for flubbing a shot is a lot less than blowing a jump.

Happy Fun Ride

70 degree December weather, happy fun trails, Aaron the trail guide, and my magical Enduro.

I’m so lucky it’s not fair.

Also, I wasn’t kidding about the Enduro being magical.

Today was my first ride back at UC since my clavicle break 16 months ago, and my first ride on the Enduro since May of this year. Amazing trails on an amazing bike. Why don’t I do this more often?

I should.

Saw some artists at work on one of the tanks. Yay. :)

Tank Artists