Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hair of the Dog

The north shore of Vancouver the birth place of free riding. A place where the rebellion and persistence (but really blatant stubbiness) got mountain bikers there way with most of the forest surrounding the northern half of the city. A veritable platherinth of options of ways to harm yourself. And the best possible place for my recover immediately after my hardest races of the year.

What I was not prepared for is the face melting heat of the place. As the doors of the airport opened I thought they must be taking the piss or have an above the door heater grill. That sensation of opening the oven with your face in the way is like walking outside in this place. The costrophobic cling of the humidity even at 9pm made my shirt stick to add to the burden of a cumbersome bike box, heavy bag, backpack and total lack of local knowledge.

After periods of confutation and been lost turned to frustration and finally been near where I needed to be but still needing to drag the now pain in the ass bike an indefinite distance up a road, I found some piety. Asking for directions maybe against the man code but it often is a great call in a strange city. Some kind souls gave me my first decent directions and then just took me there, bike box and all.

The next morning I woke from my floor/bed and it was time to get into them hills with my mate and expiate OE’er Leigh. The sun raged hard as we did what most free riders don’t, ride up the hill first. In NZ I take pride in taking on technical trails with my seat un-adjusted. but here its best to swollow and stop and put it down.

The first trail was only a blue square (intermediate) but sure was the north shore style. I blindly follow Leigh down and across things I had only seen on mountain bike movies. The stopover was worth it by the time only half the trail was done.

The following days I explored the Shore in search of the classics and my limits. I found the limits, the classics, repeated thirst issues and got a scale of what this place was about. Trails here were the start of an exploration into what is possible or conceivable to ride on a bike. I found myself easily out of my depth.

Rocks and wood have taken over dirt as the principal ingredient in the mixing bowl of these trails. So ruts and erosion are not common features as the integrity of the trail is foremost. A contrast to NZ trails i had to quickly get accustomed to. I also became very glad that I had chosen the longer travel Niner Rip to take where it is unusual to have a bike with less than six inches of give.

On the shore I mostly rode on From and Mt Seymour. But I made the effort to get up the road to Squamish, another place where hills have been riddled with single track and at times ambitious structures. Real mission of a day to get there and back with the aid of grey hound disorganisation and mine. Arriving at close to 4:30pm I quickly got lost and made it more difficult for myself. Again water ran low even in the evening sun.

I found myself, after the farting around, deep in the forest and at the start of epic trail. Then I could hear the noises of something heavy breaking branches. Normally in NZ I would assume it was another rider. Out here though, in this country, in this forest I was not prepaid to make that assumption. After some poking around and listening I decided that actually I’d rather not find it and promptly went the other way.

The riding was catching up to me. So pop up the road a bit for a final sample behind a plush but isolated university then called it a evening. While I waited for the last bus back to Van I tried to replenish my fluids with an oversized drink form the seven eleven.

In all the areas I rode it was but a side dish of what is a vast menu. Months of trails await someone with more time. But I felt satisfied with this dish as packed my orange steed in the now expected heat up for the 13 odd hours to home to a rainy cold morning.