Last weekend we were up in the fabled Northeast Kingdom and did some mountain biking, and came away with a few important tidbits of wisdom. First off, it's a pretty killer setup they have going on up there, like a surf town but with bikes, instead. Secondly, it was very clear that we were significantly under-equipped. And finally, that we need to become better equipped.
We camped in the town of Brighton but the area where it's all happening is Burke. Best of all, it's not that far from us, and what a cool town. I didn't quite make the connection at first, but many of the shops have bikes hanging from the signs, and you see that all the cars have racks with killer MTBs on them. And of course, you have the hip, good looking, outdoorsy biking crowds milling about. It was actually a cool town, reminiscent of something like Stowe but on a smaller scale, with crunchy restaurants and outdoor shops. Plenty of bike shops, as well.
We went riding at Burke, and it was all about downhill riding. We got lift tickets, which for the record were cheap; a lot cheaper than Killington, which set us back $60 when we went way back when. It was pretty cool and as usual I was holding N back. He was zipping down the trails, which were a little precarious for an old man like me. We took the easiest runs, which were like ski hills with green dots, blue squares, and black diamonds. We didn't even go near the black diamonds, which require full body armor (a fancy name for padding) and a full helmet, neither of which we had. This was fine by me, because I for one found the green dots challenging enough. N stuck with the blue dots, and eventually came to the green dots to keep his old dad company. For all it's worth, he had about a 5 minute wait time until I hit the bottom. As I've gotten older I just can't handle too much speed, and definitely can't keep up with him, so he's on his own.
As the day progressed the crowds starting showing up, and it was at that point that it became painfully clear that we were under-equipped. First off, every kid N's age was fully suited up, with trunk pads (i.e., body armor), knee pads, and full helmet. We had out dinky street bike helmets, so we stood out as rank amateurs. We were also amongst the handful of riders (maybe 5-6) who did not have dual suspension bikes. Everyone else had high-end, or at least what looked like high-end, bikes. One kid even asked me what kind of bike I was riding, which was sort of embarrassing. In the end out bikes are not archaic, they are just not the optimal bikes to have to do this sort of hardcore downhill riding, which is a sub-culture in and of itself. Plus, N was probably under-protected, which leads up to the injury part of this story.
N is a good rider but the trails are a little precarious, not to mention in the middle of the woods. During his last ride he lost it a little and crashed. He was hurt but not so bad that he couldn't finish the ride down. He thankfully didn't hit his head, but he scraped and probably bruised parts of this trunk. We took him to the doctor they determined that nothing was cracked, broken, or bleeding, so recovery was just time and rest. I was really bummed and felt like I screwed up by not preparing N enough for the ride. It was a learning experience.
So, with that in mind, we now know what we need to do, or rather dad has another thing to feed his OCD - getting proper downhill gear for N.
This will not occur until next year, and it's not going to be cheap, but with some legwork, patience, and diligence, I'll hopefully find some killer deals. It helps that time is (sort of) on our side.
Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to pjen for the pic.