Advanced Bike Riding 201: Bringing it to the Mountains

As a self-confessed hipster, biking is by far my favourite form of transportation. So much so that the notion of taking car-powered inner-city transportation kind of baffles me because I don’t understand why anyone would pay to NOT ride a bike somewhere.

Despite all this, and the fact that seem to have very little regard for my personal safety, I’ve always been a little bit frightened by the concept of Downhill Mountain biking. Like, I have almost spun out of control riding over single pebbles on the side of the road, how does anyone survive whizzing down almost-vertical descents over top of narrow, rocky pathways at breakneck speeds?

However, since Whistler is so big on downhill biking in the summer, this fear seemed a bit irrational since there were hundreds of people lined up for this exact activity on a daily basis (the fact that they were always wearing stegosaurus levels of armour didn’t exactly help though).

Seriously, they wear more armour than people in the army! (Photo credit to Rino Peroni)

Seriously, they wear more armour than people in the army! (Photo credit to Rino Peroni)

All things considered, it still felt like one of Whistler’s must-dos. Plus, every Monday and Wednesday during the summer is ladies’ night, with cheap deals on rental gear, lesson and lift pass combos (for ladies of course, men’s night was Tuesdays). So eventually, I found myself at one of these outings, putting on a stegosaurus amount of armour and hopping on a ridiculously expensive fixed-gear bike (it hadn’t yet dawned on me that since I would only be going downhill, gravity would take the place of much of the pedalling).

I was then quickly hurdled into a group of girls who seemed to fit the description “knows their way around a road bike, but still genuinely confused as to why there are no gears on their downhill bike”. We got a quick lesson on how to load our bikes onto the chairlift and I felt a quick pang of sadness at the fact that it wouldn’t be my skis accompanying me on this journey. This quickly faded though, when I realized that I didn’t feel like I was going to freeze to death sitting on the chairlift!

Despite our general knowledge, once we reached the top of the mountain, we all still had to re-learn how to turn and steer. As it turns out, the whole layout of a downhill bike is completely different! They’re basically built to stand on and actual pedaling is a cramped and awkward affair (which in hindsight I must admit is fair enough, because if you need to pedal down a black diamond slope, you’re doing something wrong). Turning itself was about 10% handlebar motion, 60% body leaning the correct direction while standing on the bike and 30% sheer luck for not tipping over – a combination I somehow managed to string together.

Now, I hadn’t actually done any downhill biking that involved going down a physical hill, but I could feel the whole not being seated on my bike-thing becoming a little bit more natural and was feeling pretty freaking good about myself (for now..!)

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