Day Four Whistler Bike Park
As much as I loved the trails of North Van and Squamish and as much as that is more my style of riding, these next three days in Whistler Bike Park I’ve been looking forward to the most simply because I’ve never really done this type of riding before. And let’s face it, this is the mecca of gravity riders everywhere. “You mean they just haul you up to the top on a lift time after time after time and you just keep bombing back down until your hands and arms are so sore you can’t hang onto the bars? Are you kiddng me?” I’ve seen the vids and it looks like more fun than should be legal. I couldn’t wait to give it a whirl.
Tourism Whistler and Whistler Blackcomb Guest Relations were nice enough to hook this DH noob up with a proper Downhill steed and full Park tour and clinic with my own personal coach for the first day. (Not to mention lift passes and bike rental for the duration of my stay in Whistler.) I was panicked when I arrived at Whistler that night to find a text from Noel saying I’d left my clipless pedals on his Chilcotin. I’ve tried flats on jumpy trails before and it didn’t end well. I’ve been running clips for so long I’ve developed some bad habits when leaving the ground.
My coach, Duncan, said I should learn on flats anyway so off we went to see if I could figure out how to keep my feet on the pedals without being clipped in and without killing myself.
Duncan is a super talented rider, a patient teacher, and despite my previous failures at trying flats he had me sticking to the pedals by the end of the first day. By the third it was a non-issue.
I’ve been riding mountain bikes for 15 years and think I’m a reasonably skilled rider but he taught me some stuff that had never even crossed my mind before, and helped me to understand why some things I do intuitively work and why some things I’ve learned on my own need to be unlearned. If you ever get a chance to go to a skills camp or have coach for a day, do it.
All geared up and ready to go.
The Giant Glory is kind of the ugly duckling of the Bike Park because it is the main rental bike in the park it is quite ubiquitous and oft times thrashed. This particular size Medium was in pretty good shape. I think the large they set me on would’ve fit OK too but after my experience in North Van (and after seeing the beat up condition and sticky stanchions of this particular large) I confidently declared that the medium felt much better and was the one I wanted.
Though lowly in street cred at Whistler, the Glory proved to be a worthy companion for all the riding in the Park. It launched off lips without any hint of trying to buck me off, felt balanced and stable in the air and landed softly when I came up short. Like a tame horse carrying its city slicker mount safely along the meadows of a dude ranch. The rough choppy braking bumps coming into corners and pull-out areas seemed to cause the fork to pack up and rattle my eyes out of their sockets, but I didn’t want to mess with the settings for fear it would lose its stellar “in-air” manners. Rolling down steep ladders and slabs and through steep, gnarly roots and rocky sections really made me appreciate the extra cush and margin for error a proper DH rig provides.
It even did perfectly well on the more “XC” Top of the World trail that we did on Friday displaying impressive pedaling manners, and decent tight trail maneuverability.
The guys and gals at the G1 Rental shop at the base of the mountain were great. They catered to me like I was some kind of rock star and got me set up and going each morning with almost no fuss or waiting.
One thing I love about mountain bikers (or hate depending if I’m waiting on them or trying to beat them to the trails or lift lines) is that they are basically late risers and late starters. Every morning I was on the lift when it opened and had the park relatively to myself for the first few runs. Last weekend was Thanksgiving for Canada and the last weekend for the Bike Park so things got crazy during the 2-3 hours during mid-day but generally the waits were never bad.
In fact on Thursday Duncan and I got in probably 15 runs and did most every open trail on the lower mountain, rolling right onto the lift as soon as we got to the bottom after every run. I loved the techy, twisty trails and felt most comfortable on those at first but what I was here for was to get comfortable in the air through repeated flight.
Towards the end of the day we did some runs down A-Line which is a fairly beginner friendly machine built jump and berm trail that flows nicely and really helps getting you comfortable in the air…. But I still wasn’t clearing most of the jumps, landing solidly on top of most of the tabletops. Duncan was encouraging but I left a bit disappointed though really stoked at the fun I had had that day.
The next day (before and after the TOTW ride) the light kind of clicked on after three straight runs down Crank it Up to build my jumping confidence. I then moved over to A-line again and started to land trannies on most of the tables. Amazing how much smoother and satisfying that is! Ha ha.
Nearly as smooth and satisfying was the fantastic burgers we had at Splitz Grill later that night. Anyone who made food recommendations for Whistler Village always included this one on the list…. Now I see why. I truly can’t remember a burger hitting the spot so pleasingly and so well.