Start Here: Open Course, Amateur Driver

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By Joe Parkin
Photo by Justin Olsen

Early in my first season as a professional mountain-bike racer, I traveled to Durango, Colorado, to race the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, which included an event called the roostmaster Shootout. The roostmaster was a spectator-friendly circuit race that combined all aspects of mountain biking—as we knew it then—in an attempt to pit downhillers and cross-country riders
against each other in a race that would equally reward bike-handling skills and endurance.

On either the first or second lap of my qualifying heat, I scrubbed a bit too much speed as I approached a small double-jump. I cased it but was still carrying enough momentum to keep moving forward. What ensued was perhaps the longest unintentional nosewheeliein history. And my ridiculously long, 140-millimeter stem ensured that my body weight balanced precariously between my front axle and the Durango dirt.

Ultimately, I got the gravitational equation wrong and wadded myself up into a dusty heap on the ground. Slightly scuffed and completely embarrassed, I spiraled into a period plagued by a terrible condition known as ‘Air Terror.’

Air Terror is not 100-percent curable in every patient and manifests itself in many different ways. In mild cases, it acts as a governor, limiting the amount of space between a rider’s wheels and the ground. In extreme cases, it has been known to send the victim into rabid fits of self loathing, in which they disparage all forms of fun. They’ll attack anything that isn’t old and outdated as they attempt to limit the definition of mountain biking, declaring anything different or progressive as “not real.”

I have never been fully cured of this affliction, and perhaps never will be entirely, but I am happy to report that my case of Air Terror is in a state of remission.

Several months ago, I was chatting with Chris Denison, who is the editor at one of our sister publications, Dirt Rider, and also a former professional freestyle motocrosser. The two of us were comparing story ideas, and I told him about wanting to learn to backflip a mountain bike, for a story about old dogs learning new tricks.

“I don’t know about a mountain bike, but I could have you flipping a motorcycle into a foam pit in about an hour,” he said nonchalantly.
Ah, yes, the infamous backflip is now something within reach of the common rider—at least one with an extraordinary desire to fly upside down and access to a foam pit. Through readily available videos and good old-fashioned personal interaction, our mountain-biking species has learned how to build appropriate jumps, as well as how to execute every step of the trick itself.

Sure, flipping a bicycle may not be your vision of mountain biking, but with all of the great new trails and amazing new equipment, don’t you feel like trying something big?

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