Slipping into the flow

Yesterday I rode the Stumpy on trail for the first time in six weeks. Since then it’s been hard training, a few sessions on the Enduro, way too much work and the kind of stress that makes decent men into jerks and me into something worse.


Cohort: Pro slopestyler and gravity pinner Nick Simcik

Bike: 2010 Stumpjumper FSR with 2007 Fox 32 Talas RLC, 2.3 Eskar Controls (33 front, 35 rear), stock air settings, 70mm Point One stem and clip-in pedals. The perfect tool for this job.

Trail: Picture Rock Trail, which drops from Heil Ranch to Lyons, CO


I won’t claim causality, but there’s a definite correlation between what I’ve been doing — focused trainer sessions, gym violence, penitent burpees, hiking with the big bike, tons of work, heaps of stress, seething like a caged animal — that makes me feel like a monster on the bike.

Yesterday I clipped in, started pedaling and was like, What the heck? Is this thing locked out? Every stroke squirted the bike forward. No loss of energy between my anterior posterior lateralis and superior inferior transversus. None of that. I just felt comfortable. Relaxed yet engaged. Mellow yet ready to kill.


With Nick on my wheel and a camera on his handlebar, it was time to Go with a capital G.

Ready Nick?


OK. Pedal pedal pedal quick and tight and it’s on. Lean right, boost over the rocks, crush the left, unload over the rise and land — already edging — in a flat right. Tires groan as 180 pounds of pentupness scrapes them across the ground and jams them into a rut. Braaap! The bike bottoms and launches a weightless transition into the next turn. Pedal!!!

It went like that for a while. Snapping the pedals, setting easy angles, forcing hard edges, pumping everything, jumping the rest. Nick’s yellow t-shirt in my caveman vision. The friendly pressure of a young pro bringing out my best.

Speed and clatter and powerful pump. Wind and tears and blurred reaction. Drifting, perfectly centered, until your tires grab. The cataclysmic entrance rewarded with the volcanic exit, which fuels the next entrance, and on and on, and the wave gets bigger and longer and faster and you’re on it. You’re in it. You’re it.

I’m pumping this tricky S into a tight left across a creekbed. Line up wide, cut in, pump the left and .. WHU? Metal and rocks and flesh collide. Nick is falling into the creekbed. Slowly. Awkwardly. One of those crashes that never ends, but it does, and his kidney finds a kidney-shaped rock. Ow.

He resumes breathing and we do the CSI. He entered inside, laid into the rut, leaned, inside grip near the ground … and — oh man! — his knuckle punched a pointy stump. Let’s call NASA for the satellite footage. That would win Vital MTB’s Bar Drag Bounty contest.


Near the end, the grade mellows and there’s a nice slalom section with this one hole I love to pump. Yesterday I’m going twice as fast as normal. I see the hole. I hop in from 20 feet out. Heavy load, looong unload as I arc through the air — getting sucked into the top of the wave, about to drop in — and SLAM! In a millisecond I bottom both ends into the back and completely erase the front. The bike rockets forward. Icy air blinds me. Branches lash my frozen lips. WHOA TOO MUCH!

I splash to the surface, gasping. Wow.

I dab the brakes, reel it in and slip back into the flow.

Know more. Have more fun!

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