Today I took advantage of a long standing invitation to go to Bryce Resort and try out their new-this-year mountain bike park. Thanks, Rob.
My experience doing downhill is zilch. There was a day at Killington about a dozen years ago, of which I remember pretty much nothing. This was a whole different kettle of fish. Sam got me started with bike setup and told me something about the faster you go the better the bike works, and try to push into the bike hard through the turns. In this case, less was absolutely more - his advice was stellar. The bike was a Trek Session - well more than a match for the terrain on hand, and phenomenally far beyond my ability to ride it. I think he said it had 6" of travel, 26" wheels, 180mm rotors, fat mother tires with crazy knobs, platform pedals, and a seat about a foot lower than mine would normally be. Oh yeah, I was also pretty much swathed from head to to in armor plated bubble wrap.
The whole thing of putting the bike onto a ski lift and then putting my ass on the following chair took about .000001 seconds to get over. I think I got on the mountain at noon, and stopped to pee for about 3' once. Apart from that, I was either being carried up or riding down. Total pedal strokes through the day? Maybe 1000. That's about 11' worth of pedaling on a road bike. Over 5.5 hours. Yup. Awesome.
You can pedal pedal pedal all you want, but if you are racing bikes that have knobs on the tires, if you suck at turning the bike, it's going to be hard to do well. I've been bumping up against this hard all year - the number of minutes I've given away in 10 foot increments through turns could choke a horse. It's not good. So from that perspective, this might have been a productive day. Who knows, right? By the end of the day, I went from being super tentative at everything to being pretty much aggressive at everything but the gaps and drops. I just didn't have the stones to them on, they're intimidating as hell. But the turns, holy shit.
Also, who knew, but apparently when I turn with my right foot back, I pretty much rule at turning a bike. Talk about a light bulb moment. Weird.
That's one way to look at it. The other way to look at it is that it was maybe the most fun I've ever had on a bike. Nasty crazy stupid fun. Of course I waited until the end of the season to try it. The park's open until October 27. I'm going to try hard to get back there before then. It was awesome.