TR: Downhilling at Keystone

@skiNEwhere and I seem to be a good pair – he’s more comfortable with wooden features; I’m more comfortable with drops. I have a fair amount of coaching and technical riding knowledge under my belt, but I get hung up on how scary a section looks; he will try a lot of things that I initially want to walk, and then I give some pointers and in the process often decide to try it, too. We push each other in good ways.

I had my little-used GoPro attached to my handlebars and taking photos every two seconds. It was a lot to sift through, but I did get some decent stills.

We skipped the green warmup trail (it involves a fair bit of pedaling and takes a lot of time) and instead started on the easier blue, Mosquito Coast. We’d both felt good riding it the previous weekend, so it was a good, confidence building warmup. skiNEwhere rode the elevated wooden feature several times; I never got up the nerve. It will happen some other day.

skiNEwhere rolling off the end of the wooden feature

After Mosquito Coast, we headed back up and rode the other blue, Eye of the Tiger. I last rode it years ago, on a sloppy, muddy day, and the steep pitch, tight turns, and wet roots, all in mud you couldn’t brake in, did not instill me with fond memories. SkiNEwhere had just ridden it last weekend in mud with a flat front tire. So … yeah. The top part went well, although I balked at a root drop right inside a tight turn and just couldn’t bring myself to ride it. Shortly thereafter, skiNEwhere got a flat – so, that wasn’t so hot. He managed to fill it (and then some) with a CO2 cartridge, and we were off, although a little concerned about the tire. Nevertheless, when we got to the branch where Boy Scout and Wild Thing split, I somehow convinced him to try Wild Thing. I remembered riding it years ago, and there were lots of technical features, but no huge jumps or anything. So we went for it. Right at the entrance, you have the option of riding around a log drop, but we decided to go for it. Next time I need to remember to look ahead more – in the middle of the drop, I was pretty sure I was going to endo, but I didn’t. Speed would help, of course, but that doesn’t play well with stopping to evaluate the obstacle.

Wild Thing entrance / log drop

So we rode the log drop, and felt pretty great about that. Next was a wooden bridge with a slight curve that I’ve never been able to ride – wooden features just freak me out somehow. It doesn’t help that I recently lost a lot of skin to a wet wall ride. But skiNEwhere rode it like it wasn’t even there, then encouraged me to ride it. Not only did I ride it, but I managed a series of decently sized root drops right after it. I felt like a superhero.

Wild Thing wooden feature

.. and that was the last time I was going to feel like a superhero on Wild Thing. It was jam packed with root and rock drops, often in the middle of tight turns. We walked most of it and saw some crazy riding – apparently, if you don’t touch the ground, you don’t have to worry about the roots and rocks at all! SkiNEwhere’s tire was also deflating very gradually – I would bet it was 50 psi when we filled it on Eye of the Tiger, and somewhere around 30 by the time we got back to the base.

We searched for a bike shop. Keystone Sports wasn’t going to be able to look at the bike for 45 minutes to even evaluate it, but they helpfully suggested NorSki, which isn’t right in the village. They were able to look at the bike right away, find that there was dirt in the tire ruining the seal, and got the tire cleaned and mounted in less than 20 minutes, for less than $20 including a whole lot of Stan’s. I would definitely take my bike there if I needed a quick fix during the day.

Lunch time! It was actually already 1:30. We shared an outdoor picnic style table – from which we could see our bikes – with a lovely couple and had an extended conversation. He no longer skis due to MS. We suggested lessons and we suggested that he check out EpicSki – I hope he makes an appearance.

Honestly, by the time we were done with lunch, I was ready to be mellow. SkiNEwhere wanted to revisit Eye of the Tiger and build some better memories, but I had wanted to ride a series of black runs that I swear are less difficult (except for a few specific spots) than that blue. Cowboy Up -> TNT -> Paid in Full -> Money. Despite the Wild Thing fiasco, he was up for it. As it turned out, TNT was closed, so we rode Motorhead (umlauts go in there somewhere) instead for that section.

There’s a famous rock garden on Cowboy Up. Just last week, while getting my bike fixed, I told the shop guy that I would happy if one day I could just see the line through the rock garden – never mind riding it. Shop guy told me he was sure I could ride it. So anyway, I had told SkiNEwhere repeatedly that we were just going to walk that section, no worries, and everything after that would be gravy. So we get to the rock garden, I start walking alongside the trail, and he says he’s just going to ride it like a fool and see what happens. I think he’s joking until I look over from where I’m walking the bike and see – he’s actually riding it! Well. I re-evaluate. I hem and haw. I finally go to the top of the section and – actually ride it! We both had a couple of spots where we had to, um, pause for reflection, but we rode that damn impossible rock garden.

Cowboy Up rock garden
Last bit of Cowboy Up rock garden

There was another technical rock section that we sessioned. Again, I was just going to walk it, but skiNEwhere decided to ride it. His first two attempts were not entirely successful, but in the meantime, I worked up my nerve and decided I could ride it (those 9″ of travel on my downhill rig are awfully confidence inspiring). SkiNEwhere said that he half wanted me to make it, and half didn’t, and I totally understood. The problem was that the entrance had a rock that created a ledge and then there were two rocks that formed a pinch. It just plain looked intimidating and tended to get you to do stupid things in an attempt to avoid those bits at the top. As I stood at the top, I saw the solution: don’t look at the intimidating bits at the top. Look straight ahead to the bottom of the section. And when I did that, it all just worked and I rolled right through the whole thing without a problem. So then SkiNEwhere rode it one more time, after I’d explained my “brilliant” tactic, and he made it, too. There was much rejoicing.

Not quite clearing it
bounceswoosh giving “expert” advice

When we finally got to the main section of Paid in Full and Money, it was all swoopy flow trail with lots of low-consequence tabletops scattered in. A couple of the banked turns on Paid in Full are steep enough to give me serious pucker factor, enough that I remember yelling “Oh SH*T!” and then “Oh JESUS!” about 5 seconds apart from each other. Kinda like a roller coaster. Super fun.

We got back to the lift with minutes to spare before they closed down. This time, skiNEwhere was up for riding the blacks again and reinforcing what we’d learned. Me, I was pooped and just wanted to get to the bottom without hurting myself. I felt I needed to take it down a notch (as per A Conversation with Fear). Plus, I wanted to see what Eye of the Tiger felt like after doing those more intense rides. Specifically, that one root drop in the middle of a turn that I’d been unwilling to ride earlier in the day. And hey, SkiNEwhere hadn’t had a chance yet to ride Eye of the Tiger without a flat. So we rode Eye of the Tiger, and honestly, I was exhausted, but it was still fun as hell. I had this weird two-brain experience; whenever I got to a technical piece, I had both the memory of it being scary, and the memory of riding things just so much scarier than what I was on. My only real problem was that I was so tired that I kept sitting down on the saddle and being super lazy with bike handling, so everything felt pretty off kilter. This time, having learned that Wild Thing is not for us just yet, we finished off on Boy Scouts.

Overall, a super great day. It doesn’t sound like we did a lot of riding, but we really worked the hell out of the trails we rode.

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