Posted July 6, 2004
Fun and fatigue in Whistler

It's been four days, 49 runs and 96,200 vertical feet of single- and double-diamond downhill love. I'm super stoked, but my muscles, joints and brain have threatened to crash me if I don't rest. This is a perfect time for a little update.

I've ridden all of the black-diamond trails with my bro' Brandon Sloan and my favorite desert pixie, Wendy Reynolds. Brandon was in town testing new Marzocchi forks for possible spec on the Specialized bikes he manages. He ran a works 888 on a Demo 8, and they seemed to do the job. Wendy drove solo from Moab -- without a radio -- because she is hard core and a bit quirky.

The Garbanzo expansion
The new Garbanzo runs triple the park's vert and quintuple the fun. No Joke is raw but flowy and a bit pedaly. Original Sin is steep and rough, but in its way more flowy. It feeds to a set of interesting trails, like Goat's Gulch, with its bomb-holed dropins, and In Deep with its gnarly switchbacks. Somewhere in there is The Manager, a 80-degree rock drop to a wooden tranny -- the only obstacle I've yet to ride. Also in there is a triple rock hump that rewards survivors with a rocky, rooty G-out. If you look back, you'll see a backboard is stowed next to the main rock hump. Lovely. Other than these few "freeride" stunts, these trails are pure DH.

The top of the Garbanzo lift, shrowded in mist.

About to drop into Original Sin. Delicious.

Wendy makes the forest pixies jealous.

Mr. Sloan gets some on In Deep.

Fun train. Check out those eyeballs.

Wendy and I behold the grandeur of Whistler Valley. That and goof around.

The Manager. That first roll-in wants to get you slipping sideways. The second wants to pitch you onto your noggin. Brandon exercises ultimate brake control.

The Manager is so steep you can't get far enough back to balance between your tires. As your rear wheel rotates forward you just have to lay off the brakes and wait for the wooden ramp to catch you.

More Original Sin. With sin like this, just enjoy yourself and go to confession once in a while. "Father, it's been one week since my last confession. Yesterday I railed some sweet corners ..."

This rock just screams, "Carry speed up me and carve across my face!"

Brandon savors that delicious moment between wall ride and smooth landing.

Classic Whistler: That isn't Richie Schley -- it's Super Sloan!

The "old" trails
The lower trails still kick almighty ass. A-Line is pure berms and tables. Dirt Merchant is the same but with more gnar. Clown Shoes is no joke: A DH-ish entrance feeds to bridges and log rides culminating in an elevated right turn with a drop on the exit. Silly. You get a few feet of dirt, then it's time to walk the plank. A bridge pops out of the trees and ends 8-15 feet above a steep, rocky slope, aka a "landing." I've been worrying about this since last year when I walked the section and watched Lopes nail it on his XC bike with a broken ankle (jerk). I rolled it with the Specialized/Marzocchi crew, and they all got it. So I was left there on the plank, heart pounding at 200 bpm, saying to myself, "OK, you know how to do this. You wrote a freaking book about it. Just visualize it, stop thinking and do it." And I did just that. I can't tell you what happened between takeoff and landing, but I landed smoothly. The guys said it looked great, except for the huge eyeballs filling my helmet.

Photo: Brandon rolls a log ride on Crack Addict. Yesterday he lost his front wheel here and drilled his hip and helmet into the roots on the left. "What does it mean when the vision in one eye is blurry?" he asked a tree. The tree replied, "You better have a rest and let me try that Demo 8."

National Downhill is supersteep, rocky and rooty. One 30-foot near-vertical slab abuts flat ground. The first time, I rolled halfway down and hopped out to a front wheel flat landing. BOOM then a nose wheelie. It was pure deltoids, man. Thank goodness for weight lifting, or I'd be dead.

Joyride links some nice rocks sections with swoopy turns, a terrible root tangle and a sequence of supersteep switchbacks, You ride the brakes, shucking and diving through ruts and among trees, and when your hands are about to give up, you hit a steep wooden bridge -- about a foot wide -- that drops you through rocks, between trees and back into the sun. All this at about Mach 5.

Marzocchi madness
We did a few runs with the Marzocchi crew, all of whom can definitely ride their bikes.

Back in the day, Tom Rogers duked it out with John Tomac in pro XC and DH. He worked at Manitou for almost a decade, where he earned patents for TPC damping and other things. Now he's with the big M, and he's digging it. Marzocchi is the kind of workplace where you have an enormous amount of responsibility, but you also have the authority to get things done the way you want. This might be a key to Marzocchi's famed reliability.

I hammered Dirt Merchant twice on a Demo 9 with the new 66 fork. The 66 has a single crown and seven inches of travel. Imagine the bottom half of a 888. The bike felt quicker and more nimble than my Demo with DH fork, but it still handled Dirt Merchant with smoothness and alacrity. This fork would be sweet for freeriding and less brutal DHing. You know what would be extra sweet? A Demo 8 with the 66, to go with a Demo 9 of course!

I've had a chance to compare an X-Works Dorado and a 888, back to back on my own Demo 9. I've been digging the X-Works' pedaling platform in all my racing this year, but I must admit I haven't missed it here at Whistler. The big Marzocchi fork is noticeably stiffer in the rough corners and plusher everywhere. It's definitely heavier, but the weight hasn't bothered me; the big bike already requires aggressive riding. In three days of hammering, the 888 feels as smooth as ever, and all of its oil is still on the inside. My freshly redone Dorado was sticky and weeping by the end of the first day. I'll keep hammering the 888 and tell you how it goes.

To do:
I still have 11 days here!

Yesterday I did a non-stop run from the top of Garbanzo, down Original Sin to Goat's Gully and In Deep, then to A-Line. It was a powerful exercise in pacing and arm-pump management. With every option except The Manager and quite a bit of traffic, the run took 19:56. I want to whittle that down to 17:00.

I'll ride all of the green and blue trails on the Enduro or the SX. Gotta ride everything, right?

Scope out the photo spots for when Brian Lopes arrives next week. The terrain here is perfect for showing riding technique.

My Smootchie is here doing a bump skiing camp. It's fun to hang out with her, especially when she has the same stoke I have.

Ride with all kinds of cool people.

Fun, fun, fun!

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