My MTB Baptism of Ice

Mountain Biking Saturday August 24, 2019 EDT 
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Tails from the Trails

My MTB Baptism of Ice
June 2, 2001

December 30, 1996. How can I forget that day? A week earlier, I was at Silent Sports and saw a flyer about an event called Icicle Tour...a mountain bike ride in snow and ice at a forest in Durham...where's Durham? They'll hold it a day before New Year's Eve - wow, what a way to end the year! I'm really interested. At that point, I just purchased my first rigid mountain bike...all $350 worth complete with kickstand and reflectors!

Gung-ho about my newfound sport, I showed up at the Forest after carefully navigating my way to Uxbridge. I was early. People started showing up. The funny thing is, there wasn't a brand I could recognize. Ellsworth? AMP Research? I never saw them at Canadian Tire! Am I the only one with a rigid fork? Some of the guys even had full suspension (remember, this was 1996)! I was already getting the idea at that point...specially when I saw them sporting shoes that clipped on the pedal (not toe clips but SPUDS - although at that time I didn't know the word was SPUD). I gazed down and saw my warehouse-fresh Reebok which I purchased from a discount wholesaler. I looked at my bike again and this time the kickstand didn't look as attractive...unlike when I was at SportCheck. I heard somebody call the organizer, "Iceman". Iceman? Now, I was really getting nervous.

When everybody had arrived, Chico, one of the 2 organizers (thank God, they didn't call him Shredder or Terminator...but I later learned he was the Alpha Hammerhead), called out and divided the riders into 2 groups - slushies for the slow group and hammerheads for the fast group. I was lining up with the slushies until he added that the fast group wouldn't really be riding hard. why should I ride with the slushies then? I'd been riding a bicycle since I was a kid anyway.

So I started off with the hammerheads, the slushies to start 5 minutes behind. The first half-kilometer was not over yet when I realized I couldn't keep up. I was already out of wind and there were still 15 kilometers to go....oh God! Should I fake a mechanical for a graceful exit?

The Icicle Tour

I saw the hammerheads gradually advance and slowly disappeared through the forest until it was just me. I continued pedaling frantically. I looked behind me seeing nothing and looked in front with no trace of a single soul. This can't be happening! I wasn't sure if I felt relieved or embarrassed when I looked back again and saw the slushies gaining ground. It didn't take long until they were riding side by side with me. I knew what they were thinking...yeah, some hammerhead. I wish I had a balaclava. Not because my face was cold but so that nobody can recognize me after the ride. Anyway, it felt good to have company...but not for long. Soon, the slowest rider was already way in front of me and later, they all disappeared. From that moment on, my only guide through this unknown forest was the snow tracks that lay in front.

My worst fear happened when the trail forked with fresh tracks on both directions. Which way did they go? Should I take the right and hope against hope that I made the right guess? What if I made the wrong choice? Who knows where I'll end up? How big is this forest anyway? Will somebody find me? I was already wildly imagining things about freezing and having my body discovered when the ice thaws in the spring. It wasn't funny anymore.

I was more scared than embarrassed so at the top of my lungs, I yelled "HELP!". I was doing this for about 5 minutes, with every minute bringing me down into hopelessness.

Unexpectedly, I heard a response. I wasn't sure if I was imagining things, but I heard the yell again. Somebody heard my call for help but didn't know where I was. Finally, I traced the voices and lo and behold, I saw 2 2 angels sent by the BIG CHEESE upstairs to save my butt. No, they were not part of the Icicle Tour. That blows me away. What are the odds that 2 mountain bikers would emanate from nowhere with temperature below zero in the heart of a forest a day before New Year's Eve? Somebody upstairs likes me. I rode with them through the forest until we reached the parking lot where the Icicle Tour riders were gathered for the ongoing door-prize raffle. From the forest, I saw Iceman coming out. Apparently, like a good shepherd in search of his lost sheep, he went back looking for me. What a guy!

I couldn't thank my 2 angels enough for literally saving my skin. God bless them. I thought the whole thing was over...but wait! There's more. Somebody called my number. I won! To this date I don't know what you call that tool but it grips and pulls the cable like a pair of pliers when you're installing a new cable. Yes! There is a God. I finally found a sport I could call mine until my sunset years.

Iceman (BikeNXS) and Chico (Chico Racing) continue to be the frontrunners of the mountain bike scene....and thanks to their pioneering efforts, mountain biking in Ontario has grown to what it has now become.

Okay folks, that's my long-winded tale. I do get carried away from time to time. Now it's your turn. Email me your story...don't forget the picture.

--- TheLoneRider

Note: The picture you see above is from the Icicle Tour of a later year. Check out the spuds!

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