Sunday, 14 August 2011


The Whistler trip wiped me out. Wafting up the mountain's face on a gondola doesn't mean downhill is an easy ride. My body was knackered and beaten. Still, the faff of suiting up in all that cumbersome plastic protection left me hungry for the freedom and simplicity of cross country. So, since we got back, I've squeezed a couple of rides in. Me and Dave are starting to get a good thing going every Wednesday eve : night riding at 'Rancho. This week I debuted my lovely new Exposure Lights Maxx D. Spangles bought it last year and let it mature in it's case for a while. Once he realised night riding wasn't for him he kindly sent it my way. Such an awesome piece of kit. Combined with my Diablo helmet mounted light the trail was positively floodlit.

Today I met up with Adam at Annadel. I'm always a little nervous riding with Adam and his crew. Those boys are super fit. Built like a whippet and strong as an ox, I'm always a good few clicks behind Ad', struggling not to be too much of a drag. But a good workout is always guaranteed and today was no exception. We dropped in from Channel Drive which made a pleasant change from my usual route with Jaime. Hitting North Burma, with it's cool little jumps, and Cobblestone with it's lovely flow mixed with challenging rocky tech sections made for a great ride. Brutal though. The churning of dust left the poor Nomad parched of lube and grinding like a motherfecker. Me and Ad' both took spills too. I managed to break my fall by planting my man boob on the end of the bars and scraping it's length until I hit a whimpering stop. If only I was wearing my gladiator suit :o(

Sunday, 7 August 2011


Our last day of shredding Whistler's beautifully designed slopes and I brought something a little more fitting for the occasion : a Santa Cruz carbon V10. Very similar to the Nomad, in fact it weighed about the same, but the wider bars and slacker geometry, not to mention 10 inches of plush, meant she was a little more gravity inclined than my own trusty steed. After a few warm ups, we hit A Line to really see what I could do with it.

The V10 is not as burly or brutal as the other, 40lbs+ rigs you see at the park. It's a little more poised and elegant. It's lighter weight makes it super responsive, especially when airborne, so I struggled at first to keep it tame. Those extra inches of travel meant I gained - what felt like - several feet more air each time I hit the jumps. A first I was unnerved but once I got used to it I was hitting the lips with as much speed as I dared, eagerly awaiting the kick skywards! (The Go Pro footage - which is to come - will confirm that my "skyward" launches were in fact about 3 feet) ;o)

The bike soaked up drops though. Rolling over with the merest shift of weight backwards inspired a lot of confidence. I stuck to the trails on the lower half of the mountain. A week's worth of riding fatigue, plus a love of A Line, meant I shied away from the rougher trails at the top. A shame as I had the ride for it, but I wanted to dial the jumps. It was like an addiction!

Me and Spangles finished our final day's riding with a blast down Crank It Up. I felt like I'd dialed that trail and had some awesome, fast runs down it. It seemed fitting to end the trip with one last shred. Mentally, I felt keen to ride more, but physically I was shot so injury was inevitable. Just as well that I quit while ahead. My last run and I hit many of the jumps way too hard and cleared the transitions. The V10 didn't flinch though and coasted me safely back to the village where, weary and grinning, we sat and had cold beers and reflected on the week's fun.So, that's it. All done and dusted (literally on some days.) 7 months ago me and a few fellas I know decided we'd had enough of simply gazing at DVDs featuring the world's best mountain bike park, and that we were going to pack up our bikes and head up there to see what all the fuss was about. A broken collar bone, the daily grind and United Airlines meant 3 of us fell by the wayside. But that's just a good excuse to book another trip next year. The rest of us spent a week in the shadow of Whistler mountain, ripping down the dirt equivalent of Disneyland. Awesome, amazing fun and definitely something to be repeated annually.

Friday, 5 August 2011


Day 4 of the crazy adventure that is a fella's mountain biking trip to Whistler. We started the day like any other : a cheeky blast down Crank It Up. Breakfast of champions! Suitably warmed up we took the Garbonzo lift to the dizzying heights of the mountain to hit Freight Train. As it happens, we took Original Sin - a steep, boulder lined technical black diamond. I was soon out of my element with the suspension punishing descents and took a nasty spill. Pausing briefly to asses damage, I realised nothing was broken and pressed on. But my nerves were shot. As we continued down the black runs I felt shaky and couldn't enjoy the trail. Seeing certain death instead of lines, I kept pulling up short on drops and serious technical stuff. Not fun. So, once we hit the top of Fitzsimmons I opted to take Crank' to the bottom to regain some mettle. A nice, flowey run, teamed with a pint of liquid courage at the village soon set me straight.

In the afternoon me and Spangles sessioned A-Line. Such an awesome trail it's not hard to see why it's Whistler's signature trail. Super fast, steep berms and epic jumps. With each run we gained more confidence and started clearing a few table tops. It's good to feel progress has been made this week. The jumps on A-Line no longer feel super steep and scary, but fun and challenging. The jumps on the blue runs - which at first seemed big - now seem tame and something to play with.

Today is our last day of shredding. My Nomad has performed awesomely all week. Can't fault it. It does look upright when standing in the lift lines next to the downhill rigs. And I have hit the limits of it's travel may times, especially on steep techy stuff. This says more about this rider's ability than anything lacking in the bike. But some extra travel and slack geometry would be nice. It would certainly instill a bit more confidence as it forgives my lack of finesse on steep black diamond trails. So, today I'm renting a carbon Santa Cruz V10. I want to see what difference it makes to my riding. Plus, those rigs look bad ass and I want to huck one over A-Line a few times!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Rest Day

Day 3 of our Whistler adventure and the Jason's took a day off from riding to rest their weary bods. I couldn't resist the draw of the mountain, but conscious of my blistered, fatigued hands and lead dead quads, I decided to take it easy and stick to my favourite blue runs. I've been having issues with my Leatte neck brace and Fox Titan armor mating since we got here. After some trial and error I decided to ditch the Fox back armadillo plate to allow the neck brace to sit properly. Not an ideal choice to make ; neck protection over back protection, but I figured I'd be safer riding more comfortably and with better visibility than with mis matched armor. I definitely felt a little more nimble as I hit Crank It Up for some warm up. Things felt good and my aches and pains soon melted away as focus switched to trail and jumps.

The bottom of Crank' was closed so I decided to explore another blue run. I can't remember what it was called, but I dived into the woods and soon hit a wooden drop. I approached it gingerly to scout, decided to roll it and dropped in. Big mistake. I had almost no momentum.... a school boy error which sent me pitching into the front fork's full range of travel, only to be sprung back again, arse over tit and head first into the dirt. My poor steed cartwheeled over me and crashed, twisted down the trail. I felt lucky that I'd taken time to fit the neck brace properly. I think it saved me from a trip to ER and, instead, left me with a lesson well learned and a squashed PB&J sando in my camel sack. A minor casualty given the circumstances.

My head a little dazed and my confidence wobbly, I decided to session some of the smaller wooden drops located, conveniently, right beside my tumble, Once I'd gotten my mojo back, I alternately rode B Line and Crank It Up. I still don't have railing berms nailed. I struggle to feel it and always seem to fight gravity rather than use it to carry speed. I think a clinic with Mike and Celia might be on the horizon. But I felt good on the jumps. Lofting the Nomad into the air and perfectly catching the backside of a tabletop is such an awesome feeling. For this reason I could ride Crank' all day. But I need to step it up. I replaced my frazzled brake pads with fresh ones, if I could do the same with my fingers and quads that would be awesome. I can't, but it won't stop me hitting some black diamonds tomorrow. A Line and Freight Train are on the agenda. Watch this space! :o)

Cranking It Up

Day 2 of hitting the bike park and I'm pretty sure I won't be looking for any XC riding here. I know there's lots of amazing trails, and it'd be nice to ride without the full gladiator costume on, but Whistler Bike Park is just too much fun. It's like going to the fun fair every day and choosing which of the world's best roller coasters to ride :o)

Me, Spangles and Rosson warmed up on Crank It Up. My current favorite trail, the jumps are gauged perfectly to instill confidence, but forgive the odd misjudgment. The flow sections are super fast too, so it's the perfect way to get into the swing of things. After Crank' we hit B-Line and then explored some of the other blue rated routes. Golden Triangle was a little disappointing. Flowy in places but also quite flat (chair lifts and steep descents have spoiled me.) However it lead to Samurai Pizza Cat - rooty and rutted with some nice challenging technical sections through the trees, and Devil's Club - ladders with fairly tight switchbacks (especially for the guys with double crown forks.) Great fun and a nice change of pace from the bermed, groomed stuff we'd been riding.

The morning's technical riding was a good taster of what was to come in the afternoon. We took the Garbanzo lift high up the face of the mountain. Our plan was to hit blue routes all the way back to Fitzsimmons but Rosson persuaded us to hit some of the black routes too. Good call! Blue Velvet lead into In Deep and the Freight Train. The terrain up here is steep, in some cases insanely steep - I must've fried 3 months worth of normal brake pad wear in less than 15 minutes. The drops are fearsome too. You have no idea how steep the other side is unless you just gun it and commit, or pull up short and peek over the edge. I baulked a couple of times. The constant problem solving over steep, challenging terrain mixed with unforgiving jumps started to fray my nerves. By the time we hit A-Line and the trails back to the village, I was done.

Ready to call it a day we instead took time out to relax, sit down and sink a couple of cold beers. People have told me it's always a good idea to ride downhill with a drink or two packed away, but I always dismissed it. I want to stay focussed and feel strong! But sometimes my brain can overload with trying to process the trail and I start to make errors and slow down. So, to try out the theory, I decided to do one last run on Crank It Up (Rosson and Spangles, veered off down A-Line instead.) As it turns out, the beerskis sorted out my whirring head and I had one of my best runs that day! Admittedly, a few of the jumps were hit a little too fast and I almost cleared the backsides, but my body was loosey goosey and so was my brain. I just relaxed and didn't worry and focussed on having fun. I'm not quite ready to replace my Camel Sack's contents with IPA, but it's good to know a little pit stop at the bar can sort out frazzled nerves and give you one last run of the day :o)

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Achey Quads

That's what a full day at Whistler bike park will give the uninitiated. Aching quads, and wrists and sunburn. Sitting here, carb loading for another day on the slopes, the physical ails remind me of yesterday's adventures. The village is a great place to behold. Bristling with burly bikes and stoked riders the excitement builds as you grab your steed and join the snaking line to the chair lifts. The bikes ride up front as you begin the steady, peaceful ascent up Whistler's face. Riders hurtle down the beautiful groomed trails below. The enormous jumps from the Crankworx festival left untouched, save for the odd brown bear wandering around.

We decided to warm up on B-Line. It's the park's loosener of choice, full of berms, whoops and jumps. A few rocky sections get the technical kung fu going too. My first run and I spent the whole time battling collapsing goggles and a badly fitted neck brace. Restricted head movement and eyesight didn't exactly inspire confidence in my ability on these trails. Imagine a normal XC ride and tilt everything 45 degrees down and scale the height of everything by 60-70%... that's pretty much your basic downhill trail. From there it gets gnarly. Fast.

After a couple of B-Line runs, we hit Crank It Up. Similar to B-Line, Crank' has more jumps. Progressing from whoops and small table tops, you're soon hitting 10ft tables with big, steep drops down the backside. After doing Celia's clinic I felt armed with the knowledge to hit these jumps with confidence. A few near misses and mis-corrected landings soon reined in my over confidence and made me show a little more discipline with the technique. The jumps here are extremely "lippy" and kick you hard if you don't employ the right moves. I was loosening up though. Still felt very conscious of my every move - over thinking for the most part and struggling to find flow and lose myself in the trail. Something to be expected I suppose on the first day of riding in such epic surroundings.

Me and Spangles finished day with a couple of A-Line runs. One of Whistler's signature trails, and one I've seen over and over on MTB videos. All thoughts of how cool it was to be finally riding it disappeared as I focussed on keeping both wheels pointing down. A-Line is a lot like B-Line, except the berms are bigger (which is good - my skills on small, tight berms are lacking) and the jumps lippier and steeper. You have no choice but to catch air so Mike's words of wisdom we're at the forefront of my lobes as I fisted the bars and hit the tables with as much speed as I dare.

So, that was day one. Definitely a warm up day and a few new things I need to work on to really get the most out of these trails. Day 2, and we're out again. The Nomad - which behaved amazingly - is lubed, poised and the shock pumped up ready for more abuse. Hopefully I'm just as prepared :o)