My neighbour J. is a former Canadian freestyle ski champion and a fanatical downhill mountain biker. I see him riding regularly and he invited me to join him on one of his rides. So today after work we drove up Cypress Mountain to the alpine ski area, where we unloaded the bikes and got started.
I had no idea what to expect, but considering all the gear that I had to wear (leg protectors, arm protectors, a back protector, a helmet and gloves) I knew it would not be simple bike ride. It started off quite easy, we took a gravel maintenance road down (and later up) through the woods below Cypress until we came to the powerlines that go up from Caulfeild to Cypress. It was a sunny day again and nature was beautiful. J. told me some interesting fact about the plants that we came across and showed me several bear droppings (none recent, so probably no bears in the area). At the power lines there was a nice view and we made a short stop and had some water.
After that the real trail riding started, we hit a small bike trail though the woods that was quite scary at first. J. taught me some basic techniques and soon I was going down slopes that I could have never imagined to go down from. Basically it’s all about not being afraid, your bike can do a lot more than you think. I wasn’t really afraid, but I felt I did not have full control over my bike yet so when things were too extreme I just stopped and walked a bit. At the end of this part of the trail we hit a maintenance road and right before this road I did not pay attention. The result was that my bike slipped away from me and I fell pretty hard. Luckily I was protected well so it did not really hurt, but it scared me a bit.
From then onwards I paid better attention and took less risk than on the first part. I was also getting a bit tired. Downhill biking seems easy, but it’s actually quite hard. You have to control your bike the whole time and my legs were not used to that. Next to that you have to bike up every now and then, which takes some effort when it’s around 30 degrees on the mountain. The downhill ride is not just 30 minutes or so, but it takes a full 2 hours in which you have to concentrate on the trail, the rocks, the trees and your bike constantly.
On the second part of the downhill trail I went down a steep slope and felt the bike was going a bit too fast, so I hit the brakes. For some reason I was not thinking, and instead of just using the backwheel brakes I also used my front tire brake. The result: my bike flipped over and I landed next to it. It hurt a bit, but not too much, so I got on the bike and continued the ride. But I realized that I made the mistake because I was tired and I became even more cautious.
We then hit the top of the Cypruss Falls, where Sonja and I had a close encounter with a bear a few months ago. J. told me some of his bear stories, he has seen quite some bears in this area over the years but he is not afraid of them (he carries a gun and bear spray in his back pack, just in case). He also explained me how to spot cougars, there seem to be more of them this year (this morning there was actually one seen at Lighthouse Park, not too far from where we live).
The last part of the trail was a part that I had hiked with my sister once. It was not harder than the other parts we did, but I felt less comfortable than before and had to concentrate even more in order not to make mistakes. And then it happened: I again braked using my front brakes and again I summersaulted through the air, this time landing head first on the ground. I immediately felt a headache and I stayed on the ground for a few seconds before trying to get up. J. came over right away (he was ahead of me but heard the crash) and checked on me. Everthing seemed fine, but the rocks that I had landed on hurt quite a bit. I washed my face (it was covered in sand and mud) and had some water, and then we went down to Nelson Creek. I did not take any risks anymore after this last crash!
The last few kilometers were easy, but I was glad to be home again. I immediately took a hot shower and was surprised to see how bruised my body was. I probably hit a rock with my chest, because it looked like someone had beaten me up there. I had scratches and small wounds all over my body and generally I was very sore. A hot shower helped, but I’ll probably need a good sleep and 1-2 days of rest before I am okay again. My headache lukcily disappeared, so the helmet had protected me well and I had no concussion.
Looking back the bike ride was a lot of fun, but I am not sure if I am ready for this. If I will do it again I will first need to learn some more downhill techniques. I am glad I did it though, the experience was great and now I know what downhill biking is all about.