Citations for pictures used:
Citations for pictures used:
Through the course of my In-Depth project I have not only come to love the sport of mountain biking but also the wonderful culture that surrounds it. The exuberance and passion of mountain bikers is matched by no one, we are enthusiastic and loud and we’re not afraid to say what we think. Most of all, all of us display a true love for the sport and everything that surrounds it.
That being said, today we lost one of the true legends of the sport. Stevie Smith, the greatest Canadian mountain biker ever, died in a tragic dirt biking accident this weekend. Stevie truly embodied all the great qualities of a mountain biker and had many idolizing fans, myself one of them. He will be remembered as carefree and happy, someone who truly lived life to have fun. From his days shuttling up his hometown mountains on Vancouver Island, BC, to his 2013 world cup downhill win Stevie spent his life doing what he loved, riding his bike. I will always look up to you Stevie. Ride in Peace. #LongLiveChainsaw
For my latest video, I made a montage of myself that I will most likely use in my learning center. You can find that here.
As we near the end of this whole project I’ve started looking back to the beginning and seeing my progress. It is truly amazing to watch my first videos of myself and how unsure I was on the bike. Obstacles that are now second thought to me were all challenging and difficult. Trails that used to be scary are now boring and, in my eyes, “lame”. I have made enormous progression over the four odd months that I’ve been biking and I hope to continue in the month that remains.
Lately, I’ve been on a steady pace of biking twice a week for about two to three hours, once with the district team and once on my own. I ride a variety of trails at Burke but some of my favorites are Braap, Overtime, and Slayer all of which I’ve ridden multiple times.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been riding with the district 43 mountain biking team once a week. This generally consists of about twelve people, divided into two groups with two teachers/parents in each group. Riding with the team is exciting and there are some very good riders there, this pushes me and while riding with them I feel more confident and try some obstacles/stunts I wouldn’t feel comfortable with alone. I actually plan to race as part of the team on May 28th which will be an exciting challenge for me.
For my In-Depth project presentation, I have decided on doing a learning center, I still haven’t decided exactly what it’s going to involve but I have a couple ideas:
As we near the end of our in-depth project, I feel that I am starting to truly love mountain biking. Near the beginning of our project I felt excited for what laid ahead, but I never really figured that this would become anything more than an effort to complete criteria. I also faced some challenges at the beginning regarding mentorship, as you know; however, now that everything is running smoothly I feel like I couldn’t have chosen a better topic. Mountain biking isn’t just something that I would briefly take up but instead a passion that I have no intention of stopping anytime soon.
Along with choosing a great topic, I have been lucky to work with a great mentor as well. The last time we met up, he used his knowledge of the trails of Burke Mountain (my local trail centre) to show me trails that I never would’ve had the nerve to ride or find on my own. Burke Mountain is an immense trail centre with a vast amount of trails, almost all of these trails are unmarked and unmapped. Thus, I felt a bit nervous heading up an unknown mountain descending unknown trails which would spit me out only god knows where. Dave knows the mountain and most, if not all, of its trails. He also made sure I was comfortable with the difficulty of the trails. I also felt more reassured biking with someone else as there is always a risk of being injured which could be disastrous if I was alone. When I was with Dave I could ride more trails which exposed me to new learning opportunities as all trails house different obstacles and skills needed to descend properly.
My mentor is a busy person which I realize and fully understand; however, this means he is not always available to bike with me. On these occasions, I will frequently go by myself or with Max. I generally ride the trails I am more comfortable with, lower on the mountain. I have ridden Braap, Fluid, and Franks Trail multiple times each which has helped me reinforce the skills that I have learned to use on those trails. Another advantage when Max comes with me is I try and teach him skills that I have learned from either biking on my own, or with Dave. This helps reinforce the skills in my mind and also challenges me to fully understand the concepts I try and teach him.
As I mentioned above, when I ride with Dave we generally go higher up on Burke and explore trails which I have never ridden before. These trails are home to different kinds of riding which makes this sort of biking more fun and more exciting. It also helps me accelerate my learning by challenging me through obstacles I haven’t seen before. When with Dave I also find myself riding a bit more dangerously or taking a few more risks as I know that if I somehow got injured through biking I wouldn’t be alone. By taking these risks I accelerate my learning.
Dave and I have a variety of topics that enter our discussion during our meetings. On our ride/walk up I generally ask him questions about his biking experience, whether that be actual biking or questions about his time working in a bike shop. On from maintenance we also sometimes talk about mountain bike tech, he tells me about how, when he started biking, the bikes were all hardtail or even rigid bikes, and how much the sport of downhill mountain biking has evolved through his many years in the sport.
I really enjoy Dave’s form of teaching as he really tries to put the student first. He always asks me before a ride “Is there something you’d like to work on today” which makes our sessions significantly more enjoyable for me. I also appreciate that when we are actually riding he very infrequently stops me to correct, but instead talks to me at the bottom about different techniques and strategies that maybe I could try on the next ride down. This makes our rides more fun for me and also, I get more out of the riding. If Dave was constantly interrupting me on the way down, then I would never really get the hang of anything.
Through our ride, I am learning how similar Dave is to me in that he has a passion for the sport of mountain biking. I hope that by mentoring me, Dave is enjoying his increased time on the bike as well as the chance to pass his skills down to a new generation of riders.
*Just a quick update, while I was up on Burke the other day I ran into a teacher from Riverside, Ms. Tate. She asked me if I’d like to join the district mountain biking club, to which of course I said yes. After a series of emails back and forth between many teachers, I will now be riding the district 43 mountain biking team every Thursday at Burke Mountain.
If you’d like to watch the three-minute video which accompanies this post. click here.
Today I rode “Fluid”, a blue trail on Burke Mountain. Fluid is a shorter trail, near the bottom of the mountain, it contains some steep technical sections but is mainly composed of flatter, curvier trail with some burms and a couple log features. I rode Fluid four times, each of which, I found myself riding faster and faster. This is my fifth time out riding for my in-depth project and I am starting to notice a significant improvement. I am starting to become more comfortable riding over steeper, rockier sections which before I would’ve walked around; however, there was still one section on Fluid which I didn’t feel comfortable riding. I hope that by the end of my project I will have ridden it. This was just a quick post talking about my ride on Burke Mountain on March 22nd.
I finally did it, I successfully met with my mentor. As I have mentioned previously, I have had quite a bit of trouble meeting up with my mentor so far in the project. Our schedules haven’t at all lined up and he’s been quite busy over the past few weeks. About two weeks ago, I sent my mentor a text asking if perhaps he would be able to go for a ride in a couple weeks, he responded back with an enthusiastic yes and said he was excited we finally had the chance to meet up. There were a couple hiccups along the way but, long story short, I ended up meeting with my mentor on Sunday in the upper Burke Mountain parking lot. I brought my usual gear: my chest protector, elbow pads, helmet and a backpack with a spare tube, pump and tire levers (used to replace a popped tire, this came in handy later on in the ride). The weather was an intermittent mix of light showers with clear patches, not bad considering the day before had been a constant downpour. Up the road came a black pickup truck, a big black downhill mountain bike hanging out the back. Out stepped my mentor, Dave.
Dave has been mountain biking since, as he calls it, the pre-suspension days (around 1990), back then mountain bikes looked quite different from the full suspension monsters that we ride now a day. He started off racing cross country which is significantly different from downhill, he then moved to Vancouver and decided to try his luck on the steep, technical mountain rides that we host here in Western Canada. Dave has biked at every local hill (Burke, Burnaby Mountain, Fromme, Cypress, etc.) but most fondly talks about Whistler. He says that nothing can quite match the chairlift accessible flow trails that Whistler is known for. Sadly, Dave hasn’t been able to do as much mountain biking as he once did as he has a baby on the way and has noticed that as you grow older, there isn’t as much opportunity for things as there once was. He seemed excited to be able to pass on all his knowledge to me.
We started off our ride with a pre-ride check which involved checking the gears, brakes, and air pressure, making sure that all was working correctly and wouldn’t break down in the middle of our ride. As we conducted our pre-ride check, Dave talked about working in a bike shop and gave me a few important tips on keeping my bike running smooth. He mentioned adjusting the position of my brake levers (they were a little low), and researching how to adjust the air pressure in my fork and shock (they were a little high), as well as putting a bit of air in my tires (we did that with my pump).
After this, we started riding up the long gravel road to the top of the mountain, during this time Dave also explained the basic layout of Burke Mountain. I found this very helpful as Burke Mountain isn’t very well mapped online.
We also discussed some riding techniques that Dave believes are crucial to having success on the trail. We talked about pedal placement, weight distribution and touched on correct gear shifting. Pedal placement is the way that you keep your pedals placed, this is especially important while cornering or going over big obstacles as you don’t want your pedals to drag on the ground or hit any obstacles. I ride left foot forward (my left foot is forward while in my riding stance) so we talked about keeping my inner foot up during corners and otherwise keeping the pedals relatively level. Weight distribution is using your weight to counter the effects of the movement of the bike over drops. I touched on this in one of my previous blog posts.
Once we got about 60% of Burke Mountain (about an hour and fifteen minutes’ worth of climbing) we took a right into a patch of logged forest. Here we conducted a brief pre-ride stretch and talked about the trail we were about to ride. Slayer is a downhill mountain bike trail, I’m not sure what level of difficulty it is as there are next to no signs or information; I would guess it is probably a difficult blue. As normal I recorded myself on my helmet cam and that video can be found here. The video quality is a little subpar as it was spitting that day and some water got on the lens. Riding down the trail I found myself significantly more comfortable than I was the last time I was up on Burke, whether this was because of my new skills I was working on, the fact I had someone who knew what he was doing watching me or just the fact that I had more experience than the last time I am not sure. About ten minutes into our ride when I hear pssssssssss from behind me and the abrupt squeaking of brakes. My mentor had a flat tire! Diligently I pulled out my extra tube and tire levers and offered them to him. It was a good reminder why always to pack for the worst, especially when biking where mechanical malfunctions are all too common. I took this as an opportunity as I didn’t know how to repair a flat tire, Dave walked me through all the steps and in about ten minutes we were back riding.
Near the bottom of Slayer, we continued onto Frank’s (the trail I rode the last time I was on Burke), I found it quite easy and descended it three minutes faster than I had previously. At the bottom of the trail, we did a quick post-ride evaluation and talked about how I had found the ride. We also quickly touched on adjusting the pressure in a shock and setting the sag on a fork as well as tuning up the gears, all great skills to know. Overall I found meeting up with my mentor immensely helpful, both for the maintenance part of my project and the riding part. I hope to go on another ride soon, hopefully with my mentor.
In this post I will be answering the questions laid out for us, in my last blog post I talked about my last ride, you will find an evaluation of my progress there.
I am meeting up with my mentor this weekend for the first time, I realize that this is far too late and that I should’ve met with him earlier; however, our schedules clashed and we were never able to establish a specific time to meet and actually bike together. Unlike other in-depth projects, my meetings with my mentor require a big time commitment. One ride together will normally last about two to three hours plus driving which, for a busy adult, can be difficult to plan out and agree to ahead of time. Also, after a ride a proper bike clean must always be done which can take another fifteen to twenty minutes. Establishing a meeting with my mentor has been the hardest mentoring challenge of my in-depth project.
As I mentioned above I’ve been having some troubles with meeting dates for my mentor, this is getting better and moving forward I believe that we will be meeting, at least, bi-weekly until the end of the project. While I haven’t been working with my mentor I have been going out for rides on my own, I feel that this has gone well and will make my mentoring sessions significantly more profitable and beneficial as I already have a hang of the trails. They say the best way to get better at biking is to get out on the trails and ride, this I have been doing well.
The trouble of meeting with my mentor has plagued me from the beginning (as mentioned above), I could make this less of a problem by perhaps contacting my mentor more frequently, another possibility is reaching out to Aidan McDonald who agreed to ride with me after spring break. He recently told me that his bike isn’t ready for riding but perhaps if I contacted him he could start preparing and maybe be out riding with me for spring break.
Again if you’d like to see my report on my current progress please read my previous blog on my Mt. Fromme trail ride.
I recorded my last run on Bobsled, you can see that video here
This weekend I went on a ride on Mt. Fromme, a mountain in North Vancouver. It is the most developed trail centre on the north shore and is host to many riders of varying skill levels. The trail difficulty ranges from “tell my mother I love her” to a gentle flowing ride. I rode “Bobsled”, a blue flow (see last blog post for explanation on “flow”) trail.
Bobsled is quite short and very smooth and windy, big berms line the turns and many rollers can be found along the flat sections. It is my favorite trail of all time, I just love this type of trail as very high speeds can be attained fairly easily and with minimal risk of injury.
I rode Bobsled three times, with each run I found myself becoming more and more confident and comfortable. I found that I was picking good lines (which again was mentioned in one of my previous posts) and using good weight distribution over small drops. Another thing I noticed was, the faster I went, the easier obstacles were to roll over. Also, after riding the trail once I got a sense of where the obstacles were going to be and what I needed to do to avoid them. I think that the most important thing for me to do to become a better biker is to just get out and ride more often. I am going to be aiming to ride once a week from now on as the weather becoming nicer and I have more free time now a day. My next ride will be next Saturday at Burke Mountain, I will ride with my mentor for the first time which I am really looking forward to.
On Bobsled, there are two wood drop offs similar to the ones at Shaughnessy Bike Park. I did not ride over them in my ride today as I was nervous that I would fall. The next time I ride Bobsled I would like to force myself to ride off them as this will boost my confidence levels and make me a better rider.
In my last post, I mentioned one finger braking and how I’d like to improve at this. Before my ride today I adjusted my brakes, I raised them and brought them closer to the bars so that they would be easier to grab ahold of with one finger. This helped immensely and I noticed that I was almost never using two fingers to brake anymore. I also inflated my tires as they were getting a bit low. I did not need to do a bike clean as the trail was fairly dry and my bike did not get as muddy as the last ride.
Along with this post, I have a YouTube video of myself biking down Frank’s Trail. It’s quite long (20 min), you can watch it if you’d like. I recorded it more for my sake than anything else as I’m using this video as a baseline.
In my previous post, I mentioned that I was going to go for a ride up Burke Mountain, a local trail park. The purpose of this blog post is to analyze my riding style and what I did right and what I still need to work on. I rode Frank’s Trail which is a blue level trail. This was my first ever actual trail ride so I was a bit nervous and shaky, in my recording you can see that near the beginning I got off my bike and walked a couple of times; however, as I start to get used to the obstacles and how my bike is going to react I become quite a bit more comfortable. Another factor that affected me was that it was my first time ever riding up on Burke so I was never sure whether I was on the right trail.
Going into the ride I figured that Frank’s Trail would be pretty easy, I had watched videos of other people riding it and it looked like a breeze. Video is misleading. I found that all the small obstacles were in fact quite difficult to ride. I also figured that it would be quite easy physically as you’re riding downhill the entire time. Well, when you’re riding downhill you never really sit down into the saddle as you need to always move your weight around the bike. This resulted in quite tired arms and legs, something I wasn’t expecting.
After the first five minutes or so I started to get into a rhythm, I was distributing my weight well and I found that I could ride over most obstacles effectively. As I mentioned in my last post, weight distribution is the act of moving yourself around on the bike to compensate for the bucking of the bike over obstacles on the trail. I think that this is my strongest skill as I practiced it quite a bit at the bike park by going over drops and jumps. One skill that I didn’t think was as strong was line choice.
Line choice is the act of choosing the best possible line or path on the trail to get down the trail as fast and as smooth as possible. It is one of the most important skills for a mountain biker. I found it quite difficult to choose a good line on Frank’s trail as it was a very tight trail and had very little turning room. Also, I do not have the best control over my handlebars as I am used to breaking with two fingers, not one as a mountain biker should. Two finger braking means to grasp the brake lever with two fingers and have two fingers on the handlebars, this isn’t ideal as you don’t have as much control compared to one finger breaking. As you may have guessed, this means grasping the brake lever with one finger leaving the other three to control steering on the handlebars. This is just a habit I need to break as I am used to light trail or road biking where two finger breaking is more common.
I really enjoyed my ride on Frank’s Trail, I’m also going to use the footage as a baseline for the future of my in-depth. I need to work on line choice and one finger breaking, I hope that my mentor can come on my next ride which will be next weekend. He can help by identifying more skills that I need to work on or bad habits I need to break. I will be writing one of these summaries for every ride I go on, also expect the amount of riding that I do to go up during and after spring break as the weather improves.
Over the past few weeks I have not had the chance to get out on my bike, due to various circumstances; however, I have been able to plan out my next trip out on my bike which happens to be this weekend. I will be riding Tyler’s Trail and Frank’s Trail, the former being a green level trail and the latter a blue. Both these trails are on Burke Mountain. Burke Mountain trails tend to be steep and technical trails.
Technical trails tend to require more skill to ride and are generally ridden slower than the smooth, fast tracks that are found in parks such as Whistler. They are riddled with roots, rocks and drops, the turns are sharp and the width of the trail can vary, from tight singletrack to trails almost as wide as roads. These kinds of trails are quite common on the trails of the North Shore as it is what it is known for. The other kind of bike trail commonly found are called “flow trails” and are generally smoother with raised turns (burms) and more meant, they are meant to be ridden with more speed.
Each type of trail requires quite a different set of skills to ride. For example, to ride technical trails, weight distribution and line choice are crucial to having an enjoyable and safe ride. Flow trails are very different in that to ride them fewer skills are required; however, knowing how to jump properly and line choice are still important skills to know. Here is a video on important skills to know for riding downhill trails.
Line choice is one of the most important skills when it comes to downhill mountain biking, it involves choosing the correct “line” or path down the trail to avoid obstacles and/or pick up more speed. Good line choice is a product of experience riding trails as well as confidence in yourself and your bike. Quite often the upper line, which may look daunting rolling up to, is the best choice and can get you down the trail faster and smoother than the bottom path. Trails often have many lines and on well-worn trails it will be evident where the best line is.
As I mentioned above I’m going on a ride this weekend up on Burke, it’s been quite rainy for the past week so the trails will be very muddy. This won’t bother me as I have proper raingear but, my bike is a different story. As I’m riding, all the dirt, mud and grime from the ground is driven up into my drivetrain (cassette, chain, pedals etc.) which can cause severe wear to a bike, resulting in the need to replace parts of the drivetrain. To try and prolong the life of my bike, proper precautions must be followed on my part. After my normal post-ride check, I must especially examine my drivetrain and apply lube more thoroughly than normal. There are also special chain solutions that I could get for my bike that are made especially for wet and or muddy conditions. The extra care will assure that my bike lasts longer and feels as new as when I got it.
With my mentor unavailable over the past few weeks I’ve turned to a YouTube channel to further my knowledge of the biking world. GlobalMountainBikeNetwork is a great resource, they post awesome instructional content and have been a great help to me during this project. Most of my knowledge has come from them and they’ve helped me a lot with the maintenance side of my project. I realize that they can’t replace a mentor, but they’ve helped me during my time without regular meet-ups.
This week I also quickly met with Aidan Macdonald (Gr. 11 student) over the prospects of possibly going for a couple rides with me as my other mentor seems to be quite busy. He seemed willing and hopefully he will help further my In-Depth project.