Full body armour

I do most of my mountain biking with people who are far, far better than me. This means I’m continually pushing myself, but generally feel pretty inadequate when it comes to my own abilities. I’m too much of a weekend warrior, at least these days, to be able to put the time into closing the gap. Mostly I just try to be grateful that my riding buddies are patient types who don’t mind waiting when I have to take the long route around a gnarly descent or crazy stunt.

This summer, though, I started to become more aware of my own progress over the past couple of years. Trails – admittedly not the most difficult trails – that had once seemed hard had definitely become easier, and I’d begun cleaning sections that I’d previously had to walk. The Banshee stepped my game up a notch, proving that it is to some degree about the bike.

Nonetheless, when my riding buddy J proposed we ride CBC, I was unsure. I am not even close to being a double black rider; I’m only just getting comfortable on (easier) blacks, and still fall off skinnies and woodwork with tiresome regularity. CBC? Really? But there was also a lure of adventure and challenge that I couldn’t resist, and so on a bright sunny morning I found myself at the trailhead in body armour and a full face helmet, ready (or not) for the spills to come.

CBC skinnyish woodworkThe night before, I’d dreamed my way through strange realms on the bike: shadowy fantasylands filled with ghosts and caverns, a dark Narnia that I’d find myself revisiting in my sleep before every big bike challenge over the summer. I’ve grown to love it, because it means that the day ahead is about going far out of my comfort zone and into wild new territory.

CBC started off surprisingly reasonably, with armoured berms leading into awkward rocky descents and drops. J and I took one section at a time, pausing when we needed to. He was the best person I could have asked to tackle my first double black with: patient, analytical, and confident without being fearless. Watching him break the trickier lines down step-by-step was helpful for me when I reached spots where I initially balked.

James on CBC

To my surprise, I ended up riding about 90% of the trail. I skipped a couple of the crazier drops and ladders, but got more and more comfortable on the janky rocks and woodwork that made up much of the route. J blew my mind by taking one look at the mad rollercoaster leading to the Millenium Log and riding it clean on his first attempt. I was actually sorry when the trail ended and we spilled out onto Pinch Flat Alley, where we rattled down over the loose rocks and back into sunshine on Cypress Bowl Road.

CBC woodwork

I had fully expected to walk most of CBC, especially after a series of bad choices on my first visit to Cypress a week before that had resulted in my ass being thoroughly handed to me on an eroded skidmark of a black trail. Being able to ride so much of it, albeit a bit slowly and awkwardly, was a huge confidence booster. It was also great watching J push his own limits on some of the sections; his technical riding is infinitely far ahead of mine, and he’d go on to bigger and better things almost immediately, but the trail had plenty to challenge us both.

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