Downhill Mountain Biking Takes Over Summer
27 Sep, 2012
I remember the moment when I told myself downhill mountain biking was not for me. I was standing in the base of Whistler Village many summers ago as I watched the mountain bikers walking by with monstrous expensive bikes, full face helmets and padding covered in dirt. I could see the features, the drops and the berms from the base that they were riding. I was floored. I realized that that downhill mountain biking was gnarly and I could never be that gnarly.
Despite living in towns that had lift accessed mountain biking, I never got into it. I always had the opportunity to ride snow in the summer and didn’t want to give that up. But it wasn’t until last summer at Mammoth that I realized there was no way I could snowboard that summer so I needed to give mountain biking a chance.
I started on the easiest green trail (seriously, families could pass by me) where I started to get comfortable on the $600 used full-suspension Giant Reign I bought. I eventually stepped it up to the easy blues and harder blues. I went from sitting on the seat to learning to ride downhill properly, standing with level pedals. I received padding and a full face helmet for protection. By the end of the summer, I got a better feel for downhill features, wall rides and gaining confidence. Then I put the bike away for winter.
Something happened after that Summer. It started when I went to Northstar in November to snowboard. As I was riding the chairlift, I saw the berms from the Bike Park still not fully covered and I actually wished I could ride them. I put the thoughts away and went full force into winter but eventually as the season progressed, the thoughts started re-appearing. I was seeing snow covered mountains and thinking how fun it’d be to ride down them on my bike. What was wrong with me?
By the time the Bike Park season arrived at Whistler, I knew I had to be there. I was rusty, slower than my friends but willing to get back on the trails and progress. Just like snowboarding, I was riding down the mountain with a group of friends who were genuinely into it and supportive of my riding. Unlike snowboarding, I could feel a whole summer of progression ahead of me.
After that first day, I went back two weeks later. Then the next week, then another week later and so on at Whistler. When Stevens Bike Park opened, I rode there. Then on my California trip, I made sure to ride Northstar twice. Then back to Stevens and Whistler before moving to Colorado where I rode Keystone before closing day. Over the Summer, I took part in two ladies clinics at Whistler and one private lesson at Northstar. Both offered up great feedback and confidence boosters when it came to riding new terrain, trails and tricks. Instead of braking through berms, I was learning to brake before and power through them. I was learning to consistently hit tabletop jumps with the right pop. I was feeling more comfortable on terrain that would have scared me weeks before. I was getting faster but I was also taking over the handlebars falls and walking away uninjured.
Eventually as this Summer went on, I noticed that my Giant Reign was taking hit after hit on the trails. It was starting to not handle the downhill, jumping, harder riding that I was taking it on. I started to demo bikes and borrow bikes to figure out what could be my next bike. Eventually I found the Norco Aurum, demoed it and loved it. It happened to be the best demo deal in town, completely rebuilt demo bike for $2500 that I could layaway till Labor Day when it would be available to me. I put the deposit down and crossed my fingers for good fortune.
By September, the Aurum was mine. It didn’t get to enjoy Whistler Bike Park but it did make the trek with me to Colorado where I rode it at Keystone. It pushed my riding beyond what I was expecting and will take me deeper into downhill riding in the years to come. The best part of being on the trails this summer was the progression. With snowboarding, I felt I had hit a wall with my progression. Sure I could get better but I didn’t feel the heartbeating rush and I didn’t find the progression as important as just having a good time. With downhill, it made my heartbeat quickly, I felt more natural learning downhill than I did snowboarding and I knew I could be gnarly. Finally, I might be gnarly!
I actually felt bad earlier this Summer when I called off the snowboard season in May. I felt like as a snowboard blogger, I should be on a glacier riding every single day. But for the first time in years, I didn’t want that. I wanted to mountain bike; I wanted to write about it and take photos of this new downhill experience. It made me happy to be on the Bike Park trails. For the first time since Shayboarder began, I changed the blog to be about something else. It was a huge leap but one I was willing to take. So now the addiction has spread and Summer is going to be my Bike Park paradise.