Today was always going to be pretty cool given its the first day in THE downhill MTB mecca, but it kicked it up a gear when I started getting Happy Birthday messages from the Southern Hemisphere! It had sort of slipped my mind that I had time travelled and was a day behind, so it was cool to get some birthday high fives from everyone, thanks team!
Initial concerns I would be massively fucked up by the time zone change and associated jet lag were first invalidated when I managed to go to sleep surprisingly easily, then validated as I was woken by house keeping! Seriously?! Its 9.30am and I’ve completely Wolfed it and slept in massively… A quick coffee from the Lift Coffee Company (best in town) and it was time to hit the slopes for my very own opening day! Wasn’t hard to get pumped given this is what I had in front of me:
Today was all about Green and Blue… Pussy colours if you will, but I wasn’t going to hit any Black runs today, for once common sense was going to persevere over riding fever (as it unfolds common sense takes a hit later in the day…). All it took was to see the Ambulance coming down the hill and someone stack it massively in the ‘Boneyard’ (yes, its real name) to reinforce that playing it in gently would be the way forward.
First runs were like an awkward school disco (blue light) or dance… I was excited, but it felt awkward and alien, and at times I suffered from a lack of confidence. I would shuffle around and thought I was getting close to a pash (apparently that word is making a comeback), but then I wasn’t sure… Did I look ok? Was my style good? Epic flash backs to being 12. There was only one thing for it, to keep grinding and hopefully it would come right (pretty much the theme of my teenage years).
Eventually this process was interrupted by brake failure basically, with the front running massively inconsistent in the space of one run. One thing you can’t have here is fucked brakes, so it was into the shop and time for a lunch of champions:
After lunch I started to relax… This is critical as riding here is all about confidence and that only comes when you relax and start to ride well… But, you usually only relax when you start to get some confidence, so a chicken & egg type conundrum it seems. In the end to stop myself tightening up I took the advice from Mr H Simpson: “Son, just don’t try”. Seems obvious really, but harder to do. So I stopped ‘trying’ and instead tried to concentrate more (I have the attention span of a rat on meth at the moment, so a task to make it last one run). Like Luke Skywalker with the blast shield down it started to come together and the mojo started to come. The Dad braking lessened and I started to get the ‘Fuck yeah’ feeling and grin coming through more and more.
It was about this time that common sense decided to abandon me. No, not a massive stack or epic mechanical… Whats the only thing scarier than the downhills at Whistler? This guy half way down B-Line:
I was lucky/dumb enough to stop on the only place on the mountain where a bear was also hanging out and sunbathing. Initially I was like “wow, cool, its a bear!” Following the H Simpson theme of the day, I decided the best option was to take photos and videos of Mr Bear, who didn’t look that big (On reflection, if he was a cub then that would have meant there was Mommy bear in the region, a decidedly more dangerous prospect). However, when he walked out of the long grass, increasing in size significantly and closed to within 1 metre of me it suddenly occurred to me that my option taking was sub-optimal in this instance. Funnily enough, at that range all the data I had on how to respond to bears vaporised to be only replaced with a realisation that I didn’t have enough armour on to deal with a bear attack. I could only mumble ‘Hi’ which seemed like the dumbest thing to say, the bear then realising that I was either special needs or a zombie and that neither would be appealing and he wandered off.
Today’s learning – trading your life for an Instagram video is not ideal.
In the afternoon I started to hit a sweet spot and was able to ride THE speed with more comfort. ‘THE speed’ is a concept that applies to all forms of cycling and that I suspect most cyclists should be able to relate to. THE speed is where you are going the optimal speed without being on the rivet (road) or shitting yourself completely (MTB) but you’re not riding like a girl either (quoting Brad W there haters – In whistler its a misnomer as the girls are painfully fast), its like a higher end sweet spot… a sort of highly tuned comfort zone, with a little less comfort. Hopefully the cycling community can relate to it… To quote the Doc, its 13.5Kph in the Alps.
How did the Bike experiment go? Well, to summarise, here is a break down of the day:
- Marzocchi 888 fork – This thing is super sweet… I have never had a big fork like this and it did everything and more, seriously cool and endorsed by shredders
- Angleset cups – This may not mean much to people, but 65 deg head angle is the WAY forward
- 780mm Bars – Epic and maximum stability, big tick
- Me – I didn’t get eaten by a bear and effectively get 2 Birthdays this year.
- MRP chain guide – It lasted 3 runs before it fell apart… I will give it the benefit of the doubt and assume poor installation from an unnamed location in SG… fixed by legend local whistler mechanics
- Old Saint Brakes – Aside needing to be bled out (and left behind), ergonomics are dated and I can see why the NEW saints are so cool… frown
- My Bullit frame – See point 1 in winners… I am afraid to say that the experiment has shown up the old Bullit frame. The fork is so smooth it makes the rear end feel like an XC bike. I won’t dwell on this, other than to bow slightly and repeat the phrase “Herr Doktor is always right… Respect it”.
Trail of the day – Has to go to B-Line today I think, was smooth and flowing and a lot of fun. Came equipped with life ending wild life as well, so hard to compete with. Honourable mention goes to Ninja Cougar and Karate Monkey, which took me back to TP like terrain.
T-Shirt of the day – Easy winner here… Some shredder pinned it down to the lift line in epic style, coming to a halt with his T shirt (well, it was a singlet, but details) proclaiming: “Railing Ruts and nailing sluts“. Hard to fault.
Celebrity watch – I sat next to none other than Chris Kovarik on the lift today. Sure he was too cool to speak to me (likewise), But was cool to see someone from Pinkbike that actually exists. For those that have no idea who Mr K is, this is what Wikipedia says about him: “Chris Kovarik, is an Australian professional racing cyclist specialising in downhill mountain biking and four cross mountain bike racing. He is a multiple Australian national champion and multiple World Cup winner”
So, that is day one… I have blown my mission to keep things tight, but hopefully I can get my shortness mojo back tomorrow. Day 2 will be about building confidence and some new trails, as well as turning 35 (holy fuck). I leave you with a gratuitous scenery shot for the hell of it: