Sunday, August 30, 2009

Learning to Fly!

At the youthful age of 45, summer 2009 has finally been my year to take up Down Hill Mountain Biking! By this I don't mean riding a bike down hill. I do that all the time, sometimes on pretty gnarly terrain. No, I mean the kind of riding where you put on body armor (arms, legs, chest, back) and a full face helmet, take the chair lift up with your heavy Down Hill (DH) bike and then rip down super gnarly trails made especially for such bikes; sometimes riding special elevated rock or wooden features, some of which require you to fly through the air to exit them.

I had wanted to get into this discipline of mountain biking for quite some time; it looked super fun and I felt it would help me bring my riding to another level. My GFs out in AZ gained skills through their DH'ing that I could clearly see in their XC riding. They were faster on the descents and they could ride some super techy sections that I wouldn't even try, and I try a LOT of stuff, even when it's beyond my abilities! I wanted to be able to ride the way they did, and I felt DH would help me.

I held back for a couple reasons. Firstly, I was adventure racing the last couple of years and, out of concern for my teammates who had invested a lot of time and money in racing with me, I didn't want to get injured (not that I ever want to get injured...).

Second was that I didn't have the right kind of bike; a burly bike with the lots of suspension and the right, slack geometry for DH. I even had the specific bike in mind that I wanted - a Transition Syren. I had been lusting over this bike for quite awhile. The Syren is a sweet woman's specific Down Hill-Free Ride bike made by a small, rider owned company. The bike, designed with the input of lots of female riders, has received rave reviews for the 2 or 3 years it's been on the market.

This year, I managed to eliminate both obstacles that had kept me from Down Hilling. I decided not to race purposefully so I could do more things with Jesper and maybe so I could try Down Hilling if I could scrape up enough money to buy a bike. Good quality mountain bikes are expensive and I have a personal rule against buying bikes on credit, so I would need a fair bit of cash in hand to buy a Syren. Finally, in late July, I had the dough so I ordered the bike. She is beautiful (and no one will confuse me on the trail for a guy!)!!

My pretty pink bikey (photo cred Jesper Kristensen)

Yay - I had a DH bike! Now I needed to go ride it. My friend Kim graciously took me out for my first day at Keystone and showed me the ropes. I had a BLAST! Once I started getting used to riding with flat pedals, the bike took me over and through stuff I couldn't believe!

There was only one problem now. My honey didn't have a DH bike and he's my all time favorite person to ride with. I wasn't even sure if he was interested in Down Hilling. Nevertheless, I arranged for Jesper to borrow a friend's bike and gear and I dragged Jesper to Keystone with another friend, Dave. Jesper did great - riding with speed that I envy. But I wasn't sure if he LIKED it; he was an uncharacteristically unreadable. I was worried that I would be doing this Down Hill thing without my favorite riding partner.

I needn't have worried! The next Thursday night when I returned home from my weekly Gurlz Ride, there in the garage was a shiny new Boyz DH bike next to my shiny new Gurlz DH bike! Jesper had found a brand new Specialized Demo 7 at a great price. He also picked up a Full Face helmet, some armor and Five Ten shoes. Yay - we were now a DH'ing couple!

Jesper's Demo 7 (photo cred Jepser Kristensen)

We have been up to either Keystone or Winter Park every weekend for the last month, having a BLAST!!! Each time out, we get better and better. We are getting accustomed to not being clipped in. We are learning to trust the bikes on super steep chunky stuff. Jesper started out fast, but I am getting faster on the chunky chunder; switching to braking with my index finger alone, vs. my middle finger alone, oddly enough helped me feel more comfortable with speed, as did getting better tires (thanks Jason!).

We are also learning to get air! Winter Park in particular has several groupings of progressive features - table tops, dirt kickers and wooden ramps - that gradually allow you to get comfortable being in the air. Finally, yesterday at Winter Park after getting more and more air on these progressive features, we did our first hucking drop! It's a brand new feature on BAllYouCanB; a 3+ footer made so it can be rolled, but we drummed up the nerve to launch off it into the air.

Jesper did it first. He was so calm about it, soaring through the air with a perfect landing.

I was so proud of him! But yikes, now I had to do it!! I was very nervous, worried I would screw up the landing and wreck. But I pushed that feeling aside and dropped in. And then I flew through the air and landed just fine! I didn't get as high as Jesper, but I was flying! My second effort was even better.

Look - I'm flying! (photo cred Jesper Kristensen)

I know hucking off something this high is considered easy by many DH riders, but for us, it was a first start to getting comfortable with air. I was stoked for the whole rest of the day. I know we will be going bigger and bigger!

It's so fun learning something new with my honey! We are learning to FLY!


trainwreck said...


Itty Bitty Betty said...

Why the frown Bill? Any riding's good riding! Don't worry, I'm still loving my XC/AM bike, my SS, my road bike,...