No mortgage talk today.
- Bikes are just awesome, all sorts. Go ride one soon! 🙂
- Road-biking once or twice a year is on my agenda – Ride to Conquer Cancer
- DownHill (DH) Season is about to Open – Got Kids? Think you are still a kid? Get up there.
- The family that bikes together, will hey at least they are biking together.
“The mountains are calling you, well they are calling me anyways, and if you have a need for an adrenaline spike here is a recipe for the parent looking for an escape for themselves wrapped in ‘quality time’.
Disclosure; This is written from the perspective of a 42yr old rider who chases a 16 yr old (pictured) down the hill for 9 seasons and counting. In particular it is written from the perspective of somebody that wants you to have a safe, and thus an Awesome, experience at the Whistler Bike Park this season.
The Rules for the rider (including you).
Always Be Standing!
The seat on your DH Bike often acts as an ejection seat. The best suspension on any bike is the riders own two legs. Maximize the travel of those legs by standing! Improve your balance and the bikes handling all with standing, always.
When standing avoid the temptation to drop a pedal, invariably it will catch a root or a rock and things will get ugly fast. This is a road riders habit, break it. Or it will break you. Watch your kids pedals and holler at them to keep them level! (your better be as well).
Feet never leave the pedals until at a dead stop.
The urge is strong, when carrying a bit too much speed, to stick out the feet. RESIST! Holler at your kid (or yourself) – ‘feet on the pedals’ – ‘pedals level’ – ‘work the brake’. Your feet will not slow you down, dragging feet will not increase balance. They will hinder, not help, stopping. Almost certainly you will slide off the seat planting ‘areas’ abruptly into the crossbar or handlebars. This is a one time mistake (which may eliminate the need to meet Dr. Pollock). Feet on the pedals! On!
There is no front brake!
In the early days of riding when speeds are low and the runs are not so steep it is best for a novice to simply avoid the front brake altogether. Focus on working the rear brake lever only, it will 99% of the time stop you just fine. When you do start to bring the front brake into practice, imagine there is an egg between the lever and the bar – gentle gentle gentle. No front brake while cornering ever. Do not fight physics.
The Rules for the Parent of a beginner.
Never ever ride ahead of you child. Without exception remain behind them.
This is a bit more natural these days as almost every parent is compelled to film via GoPro every second of every lap their kid puts in at the park.
However for a parent with the itch to put in some speed trailing behind can make for a very long day. Nothing like crawling down ‘B line’ in 45 minute runs. It can be hard to resist the urge to pull out and pass to ‘show your kid how it is done’. Resist! Read on and you will understand the long term gain.
You want to build, not undermine their confidence. Watching you pull away while they are starting out can be deflating. Let them think you are hardly keeping up (soon enough this will be true).
The biggest issue with failing to follow is their inevitable wipe out. By the time you clue in that your kid is down you might be hundreds of meters down the run, standing at the next pull-out asking riders if they have seen your kid. ‘Um ya dude, like he bailed huge and is crying and bleeding, you are like totally the worst parent ever’ meanwhile your kid is actually fine, they had just stopped to fix a pad strap. You deserve the torment.
When your kid is down and hurt, who is there for them? Some other dudes? Maybe. Or maybe as they stand up dazed in the middle of the run they get clobbered by a 250lb missile and create a major train wreck. Either way there is no chance that you are going to push your bike back up the run to find them, that is a fast way to cause a serious accident of your own. More importantly this will be known forever more as ‘that one time we tried DownHill riding’.
You need to be prepared to be the first responder. Clear the rider, the bike from the trail, and warn others coming along behind you. ***You saved the Medics ph# to your cell phone at the start of the day right? (604.935.5555)
On the faster runs where passing is allowed your job is often to run blocker. Big and slow, but also respectful – pulling out at each rest point and letting faster riders flow past you.
Hanging back allows you to watch the new riders every move. Coach them. Protect them. Is their butt off that seat? Just ask my bro-in-law about lower Crank It Up and sit down speed – a record nose wheelie & golden horsehoes saw him ride out of it. Stand up!
Are their pedals level? Should they move their weight back, forward? In the corners are they tracking high on the berm or down low in the slippery ‘marbles’? All key skills to ensure they are nailing down. All things which you are unable to observe from ahead of them. That wipeout they had following you, it is your fault. You could have been helping them hone their positioning before it went wrong.
This is all about them, not you. Your time will come in a season or three. Trust me.
Green runs are brutally boring. The good news is your child will likely agree after one or two painfully slow, meandering, sleepy runs.
Seriously you will bore your kid and yourself, if they are over 5yrs of age, and you are under 75yrs, then perhaps you do a green run once per season, just to remind yourself why you never do green runs.
The ‘cracked green’ offshoots are cool though, if you are linking those in, then the entertainment factor will remain at a decent level.
The goal is to work up quickly to ‘B line’ and then gradually over to ‘Crank it up’ which although both blue runs are in fact ‘no passing’ zones where beginners can work on the business of beginning to be awesome. The jumps are built as somewhat optional, no mandatory airtime. That said…take each turnout along the way to allow faster riders to go past you. Crank it Up fails to be boring several hundred runs later!
Respect the fast riders, as after just a few days of riding you will be coming up on slower riders yourself and will appreciate them being courteous to you and your newfound ‘speed’.
One day in the bike park can advance a riders DownHill skills nearly as much as an entire season of pedaling for your turns. The learning curve is amazing!
DO NOT go out of your way to pull out in an awkward section of trail, that only causes problems. Ride your line, you paid to be here too, until the next obvious staging area. You are not ‘ruining’ anybody else’s day. Only they are capable of ruining their own days. You and your slowness are not their problem, them sucking at recalling their first season is their problem.
Get the Correct Gear – or do not even both showing up!
- Do not even consider an XC bike.
- Do not even consider an XC helmet.
- Do not even consider a bike without Hydraulic Disc Brakes.
There is a reason you will be the only person in line with such accident inducing gear. Darwinian rules have eliminated the others.
Pay the big bucks to rent a proper DH bike, especially for your child. We purchased and rode ex-rentals for years, the net cost was about $250.00 per season. Yeah the initial investment was heavy.
Ensure that you and your child have full face helmets, full length knee/chin pads and an armored shirt, (not just elbow pads).
Personally with an admittedly ostrich type neck I would never ride without some form of neck protection. Read up on ‘Leatt Neck Braces and you will understand. It is like a helmet for your neck. They should be mandatory in your household.
There is periodically one person in line with their hard tail XC, or ‘dual suspension’ bike, cage pedals, fingerless gloves, XC helmet, and zero pads. Sadly they often model their children in this dicey get-up as well. However you typically only see such craziness in line once on any given day as they;
A. Quickly realise they have shown up to a gunfight with a pop tart.
B. Are removed in Darwinian fashion via the medics. Their bikes flatlander geometry conspiring with flimsy build quality and the absence of PROPER safety gear. (Picture snapping front forks, followed by breaking of jaw, true story – not my story)
The fact that you are new, and are planning to ‘take it easy’, is the very core of why one should be in the proper gear and on the proper bike – not just a ‘dual suspension’ bike. A proper DownHill bike with 64.8 degrees head tube angle. (see Slack)
That sweet ‘full suspension’ XC you ride the trails at home with will at 68 degrees ‘3.2 degree you’ over the bars and into triage.
‘No pads required as I will be going slow’. ARGH – the #1 way to crash in the bike park is, hands down, going too slow.
Your slowness demands every mechanical and safety advantage.
A fistful of throttle will save you 90% of the time (i.e. momentum), a fistful of braking will slay you 90% of the time (i.e. physics).
So, does this all sounds like a potentially expensive day, and also perhaps a very slow motion and dull one for you? So what, it is about the kid(s) not you, pay attention here – this is the heart of the matter. Yes it could be a long day. Perhaps even a long season or two. But you are laying the groundwork for something amazing here.
You will return home with an enthusiastic and intact kid begging you to take them again.
Here is the magical part;
Here it comes…
Some of the sweetest words my wife may ever have whispered to me; ‘honey can you take the kid to Whistler to ride tomorrow’.
Those words came at a price to be sure. A few years of shivering from lack of exertion while putt-putting down the hill behind the wee kid (started at 7yrs old), then a blissful few years where we matched each other in speed and skill (maybe it was only a few months). And now today where I rank as little more than a taxi and familiar face in the lift line. The kid can crush me on any run, which is awesome actually.
I get maybe one more season of being asked for a ride, which still means a day of riding for me too. 17yrs of age and a full drivers license are fast approaching, and thus my need to endure another trip to Whistler…oh the stress of it all. 🙂
What an amazing nine seasons!
I hope some of this is useful. Each season I stop and dust off a few crying injured kids whose parents are at the bottom wondering what happened. they broke one or all of the above rules, that is what.
Now those parents are stuck standing in a cold & rainy spot motionless, their bike collecting dust, whilst their child engages in some other ‘safer’ activity which they watch from the sidelines.
The season starts soon, as do those sweet whispered words.
See you in the Bike Park!
Footnote; Am I happy that Dominion Lending Centres 2015 National Sales Conference is in Whistler? Yep, an understatement for sure.