There's a formula to sequels.
You bring back the most lovable characters, yank in some new blood and throw your ragtag collection of heroes into a kinda-different-but-kinda-the-same situation as the original.
With that in mind, we at Pique present our sequel to the smash hit ski feature "Jerrys of the Day," a story in which we continue to work our way downhill in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park: "Jerrys of the Day 2.0."
To recap the first instalment: three inexperienced skiers received some instruction, had varying degrees of success, a few laughs were had by some and much beer was enjoyed by all.
When we pondered getting the band back together, Braden Dupuis and myself (Dan Falloon) were game, but original Jerry Brandon Barrett's star had risen to the point where he was too big for the project. We welcomed Pique features and assistant editor Lynn Mitges into the fold to green-light our dreams of returning to the dustier, drier slopes this summer.
On the second ride on the trail, smartypants Lynn asked instructor Jeremy to give the trio really cool nicknames, and he obliged: Braden is The Speedster; Dan is The Rock; and she is Bam-bam.
Entering the afternoon with our instructor, Jeremy Cole, I was certainly a little nervous, but a little less nervous than when we had learned to ski.
After all, I've historically been better on a bike than on skis, growing up road cycling on the Canadian Prairies, completing long distance rides like the Headwaters 100 down in Minnesota and generally embracing pedal power.
So attacking those gentle Midwestern declines, but just much longer, steeper and curvier should be no problem, right? After all, the downhill bikes had tires thicker than molasses and twice as sweet, and besides, we were basically getting outfitted with riot gear. For this cyclist, what could go wrong?
Well, right off the bat, on this particular Thursday, Subaru Ironman Canada had taken over the free parking lot for one of its transition stations, rendering the pay lots a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Already late, I eventually cheated a bit and parked in a buddy's visitor parking spot and hoofed it over to the Whistler Village Gondola. Classic Jerry move.
I dripped sweat all over the waivers as I signed my life away and then quickly got outfitted in my kneepads, elbow pads and helmet. Whistler Blackcomb PR guru Sarah Morden stood alongside me, helping me get all my pads on the correct limbs and oriented in the most protective way possible.
It was then over to the bike station and I was presented a large, bright-orange GIANT bike. I karate-kicked my leg over the two-wheeler and tried to contort myself into my default riding position — this wasn't like a road bike at all!
Fully equipped, I walked out to meet the others in Skier's Plaza and get the day rolling. Once the three of us were assembled, Jeremy sauntered over to meet us and start the Bike Park 101 right away.
It's a little more complicated than you might expect. To get into position to ride the bikes downhill, we had to get them uphill and — thank goodness — the chairlifts are configured with holders to bring your ride up just ahead of you.
But getting the bike in place isn't necessarily a natural motion, so Jeremy showed we three newbies how to secure the bike by rolling the front wheel into a holder while keeping the back one straight and in line. It took me a couple tries to get it just by my lonesome, and when Braden, Lynn and I tried to do it in sync, they got it to the left and right of me, respectively, while I was a bit more of a disaster, my front wheel stubbornly refusing to enter the slot it was supposed to and my back wheel fishtailing all over. We tried again with marginally better results and then got in line to go live. Without the foresight of wearing shorts with sealed pockets, I put my pass in my shoe to keep it secure and hokey-pokeyed my way through the RFID sensor.
With the aid of some WB employees, we got our bikes into place, chatted a bit with Jeremy on the way up and made it to the training area.
We learned the proper stance on a bike right away and it, admittedly, was a culture shock. Oddly, that we wouldn't be using the seat much and would instead be almost crouching above it wasn't the biggest adjustment for me. Rather, it was arguably a smaller adjustment, but still a huge detail that tripped me up: pedal position. In clock terms, we were told to keep our pedals level, at 3 and 9. I had a hell of a time shaking my 12 and 6 mentality.
From there, we learned the basics of braking and cornering and then went up one of those tame Minnesotaesque slopes to complete a turtle race — last one down wins. (I lost.)
At that point, I felt I was doing all the techniques right at some point, but at the expense of the other tips. Still, we meandered over to the green-line Easy Does It and got our first true downhill experience. Almost immediately, it felt like everything was coming together. My pedals were level. My fingers were on the brakes. My butt was hovering right where it needed to. It was a rush.
We stopped at various points along the trail so Jeremy could point out new features and how to attack them. I walked my way through the first berm since I had stopped too low on the trail to feel I could attack it properly, but cruised through the ones that followed.
With parts of Easy Does It closed for maintenance, we were granted an early opportunity to prove ourselves on the blue-line World Cup Singletrack run. With tighter berms and the odd rooty or rocky obstacle, it was a little more harrowing, hair-raising and heart-pounding, but we got through. Once down, it was off to the water station for some chugging and then right back up for a second go.
With more confidence and some familiarity with Easy Does It, the next time down was much breezier. My only little flub came at the start of World Cup Singletrack after I started to get fatigued and let my pedal position slide. My left pedal caught a root and sent me swerving, but I was going slow enough that I could jut out my leg and stop myself instead of falling over. My left knee was a bit sore, but I shook it off and it was fine when we reached the end of the run.
When I got my chance to lead with Jeremy right behind me, he called out for me to take corners more slowly — something I never imagined I'd be hearing that day or for many rides after it. And keeping my pedals in the right spot was a common refrain I tried and generally failed to heed.
Next time, I will have built up the quad power and endurance to do better with that. Next time.
It's a hot, summer day near the end of July — much welcomed after weeks of clouds and rain — and I am a warrior suiting up for battle.
That is what I tell myself, quietly, repeatedly.
In reality, I am an oversized lout mildly terrified at the prospect of his first downhill mountain-biking experience.
My Whistler Blackcomb squire, Jack, hands me my armour in pieces, starting with shin guards and elbow pads that I diligently attach to the wrong limbs.
"Unfortunately someone was wearing these before, but that's the deal with rental gear," Jack says, apologetically.
"Oh well!" I reply anxiously, sounding more like an overeager, prepubescent schoolboy than a menacing and confident warrior.
I strap my well-worn elbow pads into place as Jack sprays air freshener throughout the rental shop — the smell of impending defeat.
Soon I'm handed a bright-orange helm, and told to move along with my papers to saddle my steed.
I am a warrior. I am strong. I will not kneel. I will not wave my white flag at the first sight of bloodshed.
The steed I am assigned is quite noble indeed — worth more than my last two cars combined.
I am no stranger to bicycles — up until I turned 16 and got my driver's licence my primary mode of transportation was by bike.
But since then — more than a decade now — I have only ridden a bicycle a small handful of times.
Last summer, wanting to explore the nooks and crannies of Whistler via the Valley Trail, I unwisely purchased what some might call a "Canadian Tire Special" — a CCM bike worth maybe a couple hundred dollars.
On my second ride — about two total hours of intensive Valley Trail cruising — one of the pedals snapped off and I was left to walk my awful bike home in shame, avoiding eye contact with everyone I passed.
I tried my best to look like I wanted to be walking my bike, but it didn't work. Nobody wants to be walking a bike.
I couldn't bring myself to drag my shitty, broken bike into one of Whistler's bike shops, lest I be laughed right back out the door, so I've left it sit in my landlord's shed since then (sorry, Val).
Lesson learned, and the first of many.
BACK TO BASICS
What's that old saying? "Something, something, riding a bike?"
You never forget, or whatever. Yeah, that's it. Or close enough at least.
As we ride the chairlift up for our first descent, I take the time to pick our instructor's brain.
Jeremy is one of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park's (WMBP) senior guides, and he's seen our type before.
"We get beginners every single day in the bike park," he says, before giving us the skinny on the core tactics we'll be fine-tuning in a few short minutes: Neutral riding position (elbows and knees bent, legs spread), braking and cornering.
"Once those things are at a level where their guide feels comfortable with them to start descending, they take them over to EZ Does It, which is one of the easiest green trails we have," Jeremy says.
"They descend down practicing all those skills together, and by the time they get to the bottom, most people are pretty good."
Oh shit Jeremy, you don't even know — you're about to witness the three fastest learners the WMBP has ever seen — this crew is about to "pretty good" the ever-loving crap out of EZ Does It (I think to myself, silently. It's important to keep yourself psyched, amped and pumped-up for things like this, I recall from the Mountain Dew commercials of my youth).
Jeremy is a fantastic instructor, and before long our crew looks almost ready to descend.
I keep my fingers on the brakes and my mind concentrated on Mountain Dew commercials as we roll up to our first real test.
Bring it on, EZ It. I'm about to EZ Do YOU.
"It's kind of like our first, easiest green trail we have," Jeremy says.
"So lots of berms, it's flowy, it's one of the longer trails, actually, on the way down, and you kind of put all those skills to practice and by the time we get to the bottom usually you're pretty comfortable. It's a lot of fun."
Not only is Jeremy a great instructor, he also speaks the truth.
EZ Does It is a blast to my MTB-virgin senses and I'm pretty much hooked after the first berm. It's like a rollercoaster but with me at the controls (and not at all like the one in my recurring nightmares that is full of frowning clowns and never ends).
There's an element of danger that is at times genuinely scary — like when your brain flashes panic and you reach too quickly for the brakes, or find yourself coming too close to the lip of a berm and all at once imagine your body careening off into the forest beyond — but that's what makes it so damn, dangerously addictive.
And danger is my middle name, baby.***
It was the second-last corner of our final descent. I, The Speedster, was bringing up the rear behind Bam-bam, J-Cole and The Rock.
To this point our Bike Park 101 experience had gone off without a hitch. We were practically WMBP royalty, minus the self-purchased gear, years of experience, sick trick repertoire and admiration of our peers.
But like the fabled Icarus of Greek mythology, perhaps we flew too close to the MTB sun (or something).
Bam-bam didn't skid when she went down, unless you count her tires skidding out from underneath her. It happened all in an instant — she took the corner just a few inches too tight and dropped hard onto a great big hulking boulder.
Compared to mine, her frame is tiny, but it didn't seem that way when she made impact — her helmet smacked against the solid, ancient stone and for a moment I worried she might not get up.
But before long she was on her feet and shaking herself off.
We made the rest of the short descent a little more slowly after that, more than ready for the beers and nachos awaiting us at the Garibaldi Lift Co.
Even though the wipeout wasn't mine, witnessing it was humbling enough — a reminder of the dangers of the sport we were playing at.
Somehow they never showed that kind of blunt-trauma impact in any of the Mountain Dew commercials I remember — it was all just generic guitar riffs and shouting.
An inch to the left or right here or there on the berms of EZ Does It or any of the other trails we tested and that easily could have been me. If I choose to make the sport a hobby, it definitely will be, and more than once.
But I'm not sure that will be enough to deter me from heading back up.
Anyone have a cheap, quality bike for sale? I hear the park frowns on CCMs and mine is missing a pedal.
As soon as the trail reached up, grabbed me, pulled me off my bike, then threw me down into the dirt at the bottom of the berm, I knew I was in trouble.
I think I skidded, although I can't remember. When people speak later of their crashes and say it was as though everything was in slow motion, they are lying. There was nothing slow about it as my helmeted head hit the perfectly placed rock — no, boulder — and my right shoulder did this wicked sandpaper thing on the gravel and dirt.
I was lying in the berm with my head downhill, my helmet sitting at an odd angle and my sunglasses uncomfortably jammed into my face. I was breathing and hadn't heard the sound of any broken bones, so I got up. I could hear other bikers asking if was OK. It took me awhile to answer them because I was more concerned that my phone hadn't smashed and that my sunglasses weren't scratched. I was OK, I told them.
I was in shock. Not from the crash, but because I was not the superstar I thought I was. And why wouldn't I be? Why couldn't I have mastered those berms at faster speeds on my second run down? Ah, because it was only my second run and I made a classic Jerry move: I got cocky. On the first run, I had seen a little kid, no more than five or six years old, full gear, fire in his eyes, and I remember thinking: I'm gonna ride just like him some day.
Just not this day.
Born to berm?
I had been negotiating one of the last few berms on the trail, The Speedster was behind me, The Rock was leading the charge and I couldn't even see him anymore. All those previous close calls were warning signs: The perfectly misplaced tree that I came too close to; riding too high on one berm that forced me to call out a cuss word as I managed to remain on the bike and complete the turn; and the whoosh of the air over my arms that I hadn't felt on the first run down, which meant I was travelling at light speed. I'd already cut my leg on the pedals, then got a puncture wound that looked like a snakebite on my left thigh from Jerrying my bike loading for the second run. Those unflappable dudes who help you load your bike on the chairlift rack deserve a raise because of riders like me.
After I got up, I checked my shoulder where I was sure I would find a flap of skin hanging on. I was scratched up, but OK. I got right back up on that bike and rode gingerly, braking the entire rest of the way down. I took the final turn so slowly that the berm might as well not have been there.
It was humbling. And addictive. And I want to ride more after my trail rash heals and a big bruise on my hip fades. I want to go back up to the bike park and show that berm what I'm made of. And I need to get a proper shirt for riding so I'm not in a stylish but ineffective Lululemon tank with bare shoulders. Ouch.
It's not merely the challenge, it is the mental awareness required to successfully ride the trail, and the new muscle memory that develops as you have to train your body to work in a new way. It's not a lot to remember, it's just different. And like the best sports, it's when it gets into your head that it becomes so challenging and rewarding. This type of riding means you are maintaining a constant physical and mental effort to ride in control. Remembering the stance is crucial, and it will take more practice to train your body to adopt that insect-type position with elbows out, knees out and your eye on the trail ahead, not on your front wheel.
My ride ended with a blip, but almost every other turn was a success, especially when I remembered to use my body in the berms, to relax and roll with it and stop grabbing the grips so hard. That's why the second run was so much more fun as I gained confidence. The excitement was contagious as we rode the trail that took us through an echoing culvert in which we all gave a 'woo-hoo!'
After about 10 rides down the same trail, I will get to know where I need to rein in my cockiness, where I can maintain my speed successfully, and where I will seek revenge on that berm at the bottom. The WhistlerBlackcomb website even warns that "injuries are a common and expected part of mountain-biking."
As The Speedster said after the first run: "I could see myself spending a lot of money on this."
Whereas I'm sure I will be spending a lot of my money on Band-Aids.
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