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lucid thoughts

September 29, 2002 Sunday

Mountain biking revisited

I planned on being at the Grape Squeezer race in St. Catherines this morning, but that would have meant holding back on the pizza party yesterday. My indecisiveness prompted me to forego the race.

Instead, I spent the afternoon riding the Don. My last ride there was early spring. It's time to revisit the trail again. Besides, I haven't been on the trail for the last 3 months except to race - 24 Hours of Adrenalin at Kelso in June, another 24 Hours of Adrenalin at Hardwood Hills in August, and the Durham Durango just 2 weeks back. That's it. No leisurely ride...just races.

2 guys named Alex and their friend John

At the Don, I chanced on hooking up with these 2 guys both named Alex. Later, we were joined by their friend John. They all seem to be in high school. These guys are NOT cross-country riders like me or the types I'd been hanging out with. They're freeriders who live and breathe North Shore - big air, sick drops, teeter-totters, elevated ramps, long travel forks, no spandex and body armour. I was curious how their scene was all about. I tagged along. They took me to the less traveled but wickedly sick trails.

Elevated Ramp

First stop was a 100-foot long, 1-foot wide elevated ramp with a 7-ft drop at one point. The first Alex (I'll call him Alex 1) negotiated it with ultimate ease. His tip? "Speed is your friend. Gather enough momentum so you can span the entire length without having to pedal". Alex 2 is new at this. It took him several attempts to muster enough sinew to go all the way. Finally he did! A first for him...what a rush! I knew I had to spectators here, just participants...or so I thought. At the starting lip of the ramp, thoughts of the crash I had in late winter where I hit my face on a rock and still found myself clipped scared the living daylights out of me. I passed. They were kind.

Steep Hill Climb

We regrouped after exiting the trials. Second stop was going up and down that very steep hill at the end of the trails close to the park. The downhill part was pure sugar...sweet. Letting go of the brakes and letting it rip. Going up was brutal. I thought I could nail it but lost traction close to the top...oh well.

Wicked Trails

Third stop was an isolated trail system full of sharp switchbacks, narrow off-camber trails with a 20 foot vertical drop, steep climbs that are NOT rideable ( so we carried our bikes), elevated ramps, river get the idea. No one was really familiar with the trail system so it felt more like exploring...yes, exploring - the one aspect you don't get to experience in a race. The trails were so technical we dismounted a third of the time.

Big Air

Fourth stop was riding the flats with the big ramps for big air. Going there was through flat twisted trails. It was a fast course. Finally, we reached the big ramp area. It was painstakingly built with passion by a group of freeriders who talk a lot about Alex 2 made the first go. He went so fast and high, he overshot the second ramp and landed on his tail bone. Sprawled on the ground and writhing in agony, he stayed there with his face painting a picture of total pain. He was down for a good while. We waited for him to be up and about and headed out. This guy has heart.


I was tempted to board the TTC but I had to make penance for not doing the elevated ramp. I decided to ride back home to Steeles/Yonge. On the way, I passed by Marché by the Bayview/Yorkmills area. It was screaming "Mövenpick" ice cream. Having already earned by calories, I stopped by and indulged.


I started my ride hoping to get a workout but I came away with more. Doing the trails alone and hooking up with guys along the way and being treated to explore some kick-ass trails brought to mind the early beginnings of mountain biking for me - TheLoneRider on a journey in search of trail systems and getting connected with other riders along the way. There was no race then, no podium aspiration and there was no beating your "personal best". It was just you, your bike, the trails and a lot of good vibe to savour nature at its best. I'm left smiling and thinking," Yeah....this is what it's all about".

Reader Comments:

Alexander Collins - September 30, 2002
hey!! its alex 2! that article is AWESOME and nice pics as well! (although i didn't know you got one of me after that fall). anyways, thanks a lot for all of that and if you want to go out riding again sometime, Alex 1 and I will definetly go out with you. maybe you can finally do that bridge!! anyways, good luck at all your future races, and have fun riding.

Michelle Ward, avid racer and Team Owner: Fly Gurlz - September 30, 2002
Do you have any idea how much you are hitting the nail on the head???
I really dig this article - focusing on grassroots riding and experiences is so important and you did a great job. The documentary approach was super and the photographs really fun as well. So many of us will never be "Elite" National athletes but all of us can be everyday heroes - full of enthusiasm and love for this sport of mountain biking that has brought us all together! (when maybe we never would have met otherwise.)
Your article brought me right back emotionally to my early years of riding with my best buddy Charles. We would go out for hundreds of kilometers in and around Toronto - stopping for coffee, food and friendship.
You brought that experience right back for me at a time when feeling those good vibes means the world!
Thanks and keep doing what you are doing!

Mark Ciana - October 1, 2002
I like your piece on Mountain Biking revisited. I've done over 20 races since I started the sport in July of 2001, and I realized only this weekend that I've not been doing enough "fun" riding lately. My son and I were out on Saturday just playing around and exploring trails and it really felt good.

Paul Greensmith - December 9, 2002
hi how's it goin?
i read ur article called "mountain biking revisited" cus my friend's in it. no offence i don't read ur articles ever, never have, cus i have never heard of u. only cus i'm not a biking person, but i'd like to say i read ur article and i thought it was amazing. seeing u and my friend alex 1, makes me want to start riding, just wanted to tell u i really enjoyed readin ur article and prolly will start reading ur articles more. take care.


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