Words by Barry Wicks

Editor’s Note: In an effort to help you aspiring summer stage racers prepare for your singletrack challenges, Kona XC/Marathon racer Barry Wicks gives some key tips on how to survive--and hopefully enjoy--the races you set out to slay. In this episode, Wicks--who is the athlete ambassador for the new Singletrack 6 race through Western Canada (the world-famous TransRockies Challenge that is reinventing itself with a new focus on some of Western Canada's prime singletrack destinations)-takes us through his bike-maintenance checklist.

Back in 1996, when I was just getting into mountain biking, my mom bought me a subscription to a mountain bike magazine. Back then, you had to wait for those thick glossy pages to arrive in the mail to get your mountain bike fix. I would race home from school on the days when the magazine was supposed to be delivered and disappear into my room for hours, consumed by a world of dream bikes, race tips and adventurous stories. Pretty soon my mom had to start hiding the magazines from me when they arrived, so I would actually get my homework done for the day.

In every issue there was always a big shopping section in the back and I would totally geek out on all the sweet gear, lusting after all the high-zoot components on offer and building up my dream bike in my head. My ride at the time was a fully rigid Trek 7000, which I thought was pretty radical. It was bright purple and had a ZX bonded alloy frame with grey Tioga psycho tires. I thought it was pretty tits. I really wanted some shocks though. I figured they would make me at least 100 percent faster. All the pro guys were rocking the bright yellow Rockshox Judy SL at the time. But I knew with my meager budget I was destined for the golden hued XC model.

That summer I got a job building a boardwalk through a wetland marsh. It was hard work: laying footings, screwing down decking and building toe-kicks, all 12 feet at a time. I labored away diligently and by the end of the summer had saved up enough scratch to pull the trigger on the Judy XC. While I waited for it to show up in the mail, I would lay in my bed, thinking of all the awesome rides, how fast I would shred and how awesome it would be once I got that Judy in my hot little hands.

Finally the day arrived when the UPS dropped the coveted oblong box at my front door. I was so fired up about the fork that I immediately blew off swim practice and rushed down to the bike shop to get it installed. I even kept the box it came in and hung it up on my wall with all my race plates and Paola Pezzo posters-an alter to the world of Judy.

The Judy took me to the next level. When I didn't have time to ride or was killing time trying to avoid physics homework, I would go into my room and push my fork up and down, over and over again, imagining my next race or how rad I was going to get on my next ride.

I became a devout reader of the maintenance manual, disassembling and resembling my fork with fresh grease after every 15 hrs of use, just like the instructions said. Eventually I even got the coveted speed springs and Risse Racing cartridge upgrades. My Judy was the shit and by extension, so was I.

Those feelings of excitement and anticipation waiting for that fork and the satisfaction of finally getting it, are what got me hooked on riding and racing mountain bikes. Having such intense fantasies about riding my mountain bike in the woods was addictive-and one I think we can all relate to.

Mountain biking is the great escape, the anticipation, the defining characteristic of how we, the mountain bike tribe, exist. In the dullest moments of the classroom or the office, we can always call upon the last awesome ride we went on or dream about the next adventure, esdcaping into that blissful state we reach when it is just the bike, the trail and the world, all working in perfect harmony.