Late last summer Skippy and I made a pilgrimage to Whistler BC. Our first day we rode one of that valley's classic XC trails, then the next three days we rode the lifts and played in the bike park.
Riding the park was an eye opening experience in so many ways. So much so that right now we're making plans to head back up at the end of this summer. T-minus 7.6 weeks and counting!
A few thoughts about my '09 experience in the park:
-It was/is much bigger than I expected. We rode open-to-close for three straight days and I'll bet we didn't touch but ~30% of what's there. Maybe less.
-There are two basic kinds of trails therein. First are the machine built variety--wide open and fast, and with some stupid big moves. The others are steep and wet and slick and tight, and are usually fairly slow speed affairs. I couldn't have told you exactly why as we were riding, but we gravitated (<-ha!) towards the machine built stuff when given a choice. The reason for that choice is pretty clear to me now: The machine built stuff is so different from our local trails, all of which lack speed and flow. Given a whole summer to ride and explore the park, I'm sure I'd grow to love all of the steep techy slower stuff. But give me just a few days and I'll likely spend all of it on that which I can't get anywhere else: Fast, flowy, and with unlimited potential for air. The vids below show a lot of machine built track--mostly Crank It Up, A-Line, and Dirt Merchant.
-You can take the slow speed rider out of his normal environment, but you can't just stick him on a DH bike and expect him to 'get it'. I can count on zero fingers the times in my life (pre-Whizzler) that I've been in the woods doing ~25mph *and* boosting tabletops and gaps. I was NOT prepared for this. How could I be?
-29" wheels work *great* for DH. No, you can't simply bolt your stock XC wheels onto a DH bike and expect them to last. Just saying that the wheelsize isn't a limiter. I rode a one-off bike that was mind blowing in it's smoothness and capability. That bike has since been refined and released to the public as the LenzSport PBJ. My prototype bike lacks some of those refinements but let's be honest--I'm no downhiller. An early proto is plenty good for me. More details on my bike can be found here.
-It is truly amazing how fast you can develop *skills* simply by repeating them in a controlled/"safe" setting! I can count on one hand the number of 8' or better drops, step ups, step downs, and gaps I'd done before Whistler. During and after? Dozens more. The limiter now is not the bike and, surprisingly, not the rider. It's a matter of finding that kind of terrain to ride.
-Three days of riding DH and we were *shot*. Completely wrung out. Adrenal glands had been milked for all they were worth then left to wither. Muscles were depleted, hands were bruised, and although it was one of the most fun things I'd ever done, I simply couldn't have ridden a fourth day. Not without a day off in between, anyway. That odd fact has been noted and planned for this year.
My somewhat rushed and myopic helmet cam vid compilation from '09 is HERE.
Skippy's much more complete helmet cam edit is HERE.
Watching either or both of those, you might get the idea that we were having fun up there.
Tee hee. That trip fundamentally changed the way I ride, as well as the way I look at trail regardless of the bike I'm riding.
Since this year's trip is now coming into view on radar, I took a few minutes and edited down the rest of our '09 footage into the two vids below. I didn't bother to find appropriate music for either of them. To me, the sounds of speed and giggling are better than any soundtrack.
Here are the highlights from our second day in the park:
And here's day 3:
Both clips feature Skippy out front and me following on the PBJ.
Each time I watch these clips it just blows me away how little the speed and size of the air come through on the screen. Bad camera angle? Poor quality vid? Or maybe I was just scared and it really wasn't that fast or that big?!
Ha. I can believe the first two, but it *really* is THAT fast and THAT big. Go see for yourself!
In the (paraphrased) words of Mark Twain: "You won't regret it. If you live."