Luca Silverstar
Luca Goes to Silverstar

A 12-yr old Boy's First Bike Park Day

Words Cam McRae
Photos Cam McRae (unless noted)
Date Jul 26, 2018

My son’s MTB upbringing might be seen as one of neglect; a failure to provide the necessities of fat-tired life. While he’s always had a bike, we haven’t spent much time pushing him to ride. He plays soccer and basketball and he even won his school’s athletic award this year, but his exposure to trails has been somewhat limited.

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The little skills park seemed like a good place to start. 

Luca Sivlerstar

Part of the blame goes to weekends filled with skiing and various games and practices and part goes to his parents who wanted to do their own rides on occasion. Add the intimidating difficulty of the North Shore, both up and down, and you have a perfect recipe for an impoverished mtb childhood.

Luca Silverstar

Berms were a little tricky for Luca to begin with. 

One of my industry buddies just sorted a new bike for his son who is 6 or 7 years old. It’s an extra small carbon-framed top of the line machine with 170mm of rear travel, carbon wheels and a group that would make a pro rider drool. My son is riding a 26” wheeled 10-year-old hand-me-down from his mum. It’s a solid bike to be sure but considering the standard, it’s a bit tragic. Each to his own, but even if I could afford to buy my kid the bike of his dreams at 12, I’m inclined to see him pay his dues and learn to appreciate what he has. That and I’m mostly Scottish.

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When your bike weighs a third of your weight loading can be tricky.

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It didn't take long for Luca to sort the process out though. 

Luca is pretty keen to ride, when the weather is good and he’s not wiped out from a practice of some sort that is, but he’s ridden virtually nowhere aside from Mount Fromme on the North Shore. Many of my friends summer in Whistler with their kids and that means these lucky younglings have grown up in the bike park. They went to camps, got expert instruction, and shredded thousands and thousands of vert with packs of like-minded groms every summer.

The results are clear; nothing teaches a kid how to handle a bike better or faster than amazing terrain accessed by lift. These wee gaffers* shred like nobody’s business but Luca has spent his summers without a bike park close at hand. Before this past Monday poor Luca had never set foot in a lift-accessed bike park. When a window opened for us to hit the excellent trails at Silverstar, I pretty much pushed him into the truck.

*One of these ’kids,’ Ben Wallace, just got 11th in the junior men’s category at the Val di Sole World Cup.

Luca Silverstar

Air opportunities are surprisingly rare on the North Shore, and those that exist are generally very large or very small. 

Silverstar used to be a yearly stop for NSMB.com when we were running AIRprentice, but I haven’t been back since we decided to give the comp a rest in 2012. This is a travesty because it is one of my absolute favourite places to ride. To be sure it’s no Whistler, but there are many upsides to that. No lift lines, amazing conditions, and some inventive and diverse trail building. Silverstar is one of the few places I’ve visited where top riders lap blue trails because they are so much fun. It was the perfect place for Luca to get his first experience on the lifts.

Luca Silverstar

No problem!

We pulled up on a Monday just before opening and there were 9 cars(!) already there. Luca can be a little risk averse so I had a look at the trail map to choose an appropriate start. Many of my favourite trails, Double Dog, World Cup and Rock Star seemed like poor ways to start but a couple of others I’ve enjoyed, Shazam and Super Star, seemed just right.

Luca weighs about 86 lbs so I wondered how he would do loading his bike onto Silver Star’s 4-bike tray carrier. The first time was a bit of a struggle but after that he did just fine, confidently pushing his bike into place.

Luca Silverstar

Silverstar has no shortage of cool trail features. 

Luca Silverstar

This place was made for progression.

My wife and I made Luca the meat in our sandwich, one of us riding in front and the other behind alternately like over-protective parents. Neither of us were keen on spending the afternoon in the Vernon ER and Luca’s inexperience had us a little nervous. Soon after starting, he nose-wheelied a long table top inadvertently and thought it was the best thing ever, amplifying our parental anxiety.

Luca Silverstar

Silverstar is an incredible place for riders of all abilities. 

The North Shore over-educates riders for some trail conditions and glosses over others. Gaps, tablestops and berms are in very short supply, while steeps and tech-gnar are plentiful. Speed is also hard to come by and braking bumps are almost never seen. Luca started the day with very little experience in the air, but I was confident we could change that, considering the 400 jumps (and more than 800 berms) punctuating Siverstar’s 60 km/ 37 miles of trail.

Luca Silverstar

“Wasn’t that so fun!”

Berm education came first. To begin with Luca was entering banked corners a little late and low and not angling his bike adequately. When I pointed this out to my son he was certain he was doing it correctly and if anything was wrong it was my power of observation. Despite his contrary nature he seemed to be listening and he started linking sections better and carrying more speed.

Luca Silverstar

"After you taught me the proper technique berms felt fun and I could carry more speed through."

I’m not much of a jump instructor but it seemed like seeing me make some trannies was enough to get him to figure it out and he was revelling in his time spent off the ground.

I pointed us toward Bugaboos Bakery Cafe for lunch and it was, of course, one of Luca’s favourite parts of the day. The nutella croissant was, unsurprisingly, a big hit.

Luca Silverstar

Getting his form down.

At Cristina’s urging we avoided Blast Off on our first run down to the lift in the morning so I was keen to hit it after our snack. Berms worthy of an Olympic bobsled run snake through the trees, speed controlled by occasional grade reversals, this is one of the best trails on the hill. This could have killed Luca's mojo earlier in the day (my wife, as usual, was correct) but with a full belly and a morning of experience our lad was all smiles.

Luca Silverstar

I was afraid this would turn into a Berenstain Bears moment. Photo - Cristina Piccone

After a refresh on Super Star it was time to drop into our first black trail. There is a mandatory jump over a rock garden at the entrance to a trio of the most difficult trails but we snuck around this since I knew World Cup is mainly tech singletrack rather than big doubles. When things got steeper and trickier Luca did fine and soon we arrived at the famous wall rides. The first wall requires heaps of speed and it’s pretty scary but I figured Luca and Cristina were up for the second one.

In fact they were both keen to run at it multiple times for my camera and came out smiling. These unique features are so much fun they’ll keep you lapping World Cup for hours and riding the second one was a big confidence boost for Luca.

Jedi Mind Trick was a new trail to me and I knew nothing about it but soon I was wishing we had tried it earlier. It’s a little like parts of Whistler’s Crank It Up, but with more jumps and enough larger ones to foster progression. When I told Silverstar trail guru and Bike Park Manager Cameron Sorenson how much Luca liked the trail he nailed it with his reply; “Ahhh! Jedi. Every kid’s sandbox. Who doesn't want to learn to fly?”

Jedi became our favourite trail and Luca got faster and more confident with every run. And he kept saying to me, “wasn’t that sooo fun!” At the bottom Luca was always in a big hurry to load the lift to do it all over again.

Luca Silverstar

"I felt really free when I was in the air and it was really fun. I felt a little uneasy but when I was in the air it was really fun but my landing was a bit crazy a lot of the time (with mum gasping and panicking behind)."


Luca Silverstar 2018

"I’d love to go back and do some harder trails next time as well."

I was thinking we’d ride the park from 10:00 until about 3:00 but, despite sore fingers and wrists Luca was having too much fun to stop. Unfortunately, as is often the case, storm clouds rolled in and around 4:00 we were notified that there was a storm watch. At the first sign of lightning the lifts are shut down and we rode our last chair at 4:20. Pro tip: bring some warm clothes if you ride Silverstar because the temp can drop precipitously when the weather rolls in.

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What do you think of Silverstar Luca?. 

We strolled through the village with big smiles on our faces. Hopeful the MTB child welfare agents will take me off their list now that Luca has (finally) had his finally first bike park day. He kept saying, “wasn’t that the best day ever?” Followed shortly by, “when can we come back?”

It was enough to make me stop feeling guilty for being a bad MTB dad. Thanks Silverstar!


Silverstar has been voted the #2 bike park in the world (behind Whistler of course) and it's easy to see why. 


Silverstar Bike Park Facts
  • Chair lifts: 1 High Speed Six Person Chair (holds four bikes in roll on racks per chair); 7.5 min ride time
  • Number of Trails/Runs:  50+ km of downhill trails, ranging from green (easy) to double black (expert only)
  • Degree of Difficulty: 15% beginner, 40% intermediate, 45% Advanced
  • 800 + berms
  • 400+ jumps
  • 1600 feet of vertical
  • More than 30 km of new style XC trails located around the village and at the top of the hill

If you are planning a riding trip in B.C. you should add it to your list. Click here to learn more about the Silverstar Bike Park.

Comments

crimedog
+1 Cam McRae
crimedog  - July 26, 2018, 7:52 a.m.

As a dad of two, and soon to be three, boys I had a lot of fun reading this. Loved Luca's quotes and especially the pig-headed start. Only problem is that I have to start hitting the parks and learning how to do all this stuff so that I can take my boys when they are ready...

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pete@nsmb.com
+2 Cam McRae Mammal
Pete Roggeman  - July 26, 2018, 8:10 a.m.

Nice work Luca! And your dad too, of course ;)

Next stop, whistler?

Reply

hypa
+3 Pete Roggeman Cam McRae grambo
hypa  - July 26, 2018, 11:27 a.m.

Great article! 

With my son only a few years older than yours, reading this reminded me of simpler times. Back when a trip to the watershed was gnarly, and Crank it up was a pipe dream.  

Now he's dragging me to A-line, and kicking off one handers and big moto whips on the Whistler tabletops. When your kid starts throwing appendages to the wind while in mid air, is when you really get to feel parental anxiety    :D

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IslandLife
0
IslandLife  - July 26, 2018, 11:33 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

IslandLife
+3 Pete Roggeman Cam McRae grambo
IslandLife  - July 26, 2018, 11:37 a.m.

This is great to see... as a father of very active twin 7 year old boys... I've been strategizing the best way to safely and cost effectively get them more into riding. I've currently got them on some great 20" hardtail aluminum bikes (tons of options) and they've done the local pedal heads camps... we take them for casual gravel rides all the time (they've done up to 20K return). I've been taking them to the local dirt jump park where there's some small fun jump lines and pump tracks.

And I've been slowly introducing them to trail riding as well but my issues going forward are #1: Access - Victoria has a similar problem to the North Shore... very few to no easily accessible green to easy blue trails for them to learn on. There are other riding areas that have them, but it's a bit of road trip to get to them. 

And #2 - the cost of the next level of bikes... this is the last year they'll be on their 20" bikes and will need to size up to 24" next year. At the same time their skills are increasing rapidly and I'm thinking it would probably be wise to just get them on FS bikes as well because if I don't, I think their skills and needs will quickly outgrow a hardtail, then I'll have to buy FS bikes anyway. But, equipping 2 kids with 24" FS bikes in not cheap! I'm looking used as well... but damn, it's still a lot of $$$. So I'm thinking... if this is what they want to do, they (and we) will have to make a decision and some of the other sports they do will have to fall by the wayside as we can't afford to do everything.   

Anyway... just everything that's in my head right now as I'd love to do some trips like this with my boys in the future!

Reply

mammal
+1 IslandLife
Mammal  - July 26, 2018, 12:49 p.m.

Victoria is indeed limited.

I'm sure you're aware of this, but you need to take those lads up to Tzouhalem for day trips. Those trails are "the Silverstar" of traditional hand-built single track mountains, and probably one of the best places to casually cut your teeth as a young mountain biker. Other great options further up the Island too, but require more travel time (weekend road trips).

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+2 IslandLife Pete Roggeman
Cam McRae  - July 26, 2018, 1:11 p.m.

Opus used to make a very reasonable 24” bike with a light aluminum frame and solid components. Shimano hydraulics too. Waiting until 26 for a duallie is good for the wallet because there are great used options. Tougher with twins though!

Reply

xy9ine
+1 IslandLife
Perry Schebel  - July 26, 2018, 2:29 p.m.

Agreed. unless you're banging out bikepark laps on a regular basis, i certainly see no need to rush into a dually.

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IslandLife
0
IslandLife  - July 27, 2018, 10:51 a.m.

Probably a good idea... keep them on a 24' hardtail with a proper fork until they're ready for 26".

Reply

IslandLife
+1 Cam McRae
IslandLife  - July 27, 2018, 10:50 a.m.

Thanks Cam... maybe you're right... waiting until 26" would also open up the availability of a lot of solid used bikes as well.

I have also come across a couple 24" FS bikes that allow the use of 26" wheels later... which seemed like a good value proposition.  But you're suggestion of waiting until 26" has me thinking of finding the right sized 26" bike that could be run with 24" wheels.  Beyond watching the bottom bracket heights anything else you think would be an issue with this idea??

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+1 IslandLife
Cam McRae  - July 29, 2018, 10:18 a.m.

I guess bb height is the biggest one but tire and rim availability might be others. Luca just passed on an XS 26" duallie (that was also his mum's) to a smaller lad. Standover was pretty good but age and size variables may make that still too big. 

The results from Speedster and hypa are compelling though so maybe that's the way forward if the bank account allows it. Strong resale is a big bonus as well.

Reply

IslandLife
0
IslandLife  - July 31, 2018, 2:47 p.m.

Thanks again... I'll keep my eyes and options open.

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
0
Tjaard Breeuwer  - Sept. 2, 2018, 5:53 a.m.

Every adult bike, and most kids bikes, comes with cranks that are too long. Once you swap in some appropriate size cranks (trailcraft makes great, light, direct mount cranks), you will gain lots of pedal clearance.

I swapped my daughters cranks on her(mom’s) 29 Epic, and then when we went to Whistler, and I wanted slacker geometry, I installed a 27.5 rear wheel.

Think about it: 175mm > 150 is 25mm lower, that is almost the difference between a 29 and 26 wheel radius.

You can do the same with 27.5 > 26 or 26 >24(+).

Especially with older used bikes, which tend to be very steep in the headangle, this kills 5 birds with 2 stones:

Slacker head angle

Lower standover

Lower center of gravity

Better ergonomics for pedaling

Shorter reach.

Tire availability shouldn’t be a problem, even in 24” the choice is small but adequate:

XC, super light and fast: Rocket Ron

PLus: Specialized Roller 2.8 or Kenda Slant Six  2.6

Front for trailriding or front and rear bikepark: DHF, Hans Dampf

Reply

speedster
+2 Cam McRae hypa
Speedster  - July 27, 2018, 9:26 a.m.

I started my son on a 24" hardtail when he was 8 or 9, and he did ok.  I stepped up and got him the Transition Ripcord 24" dually, and wow! did his game step up too.  He had the confidence and the fun factor went way up.  He did extremely well with it.  He rode it for a couple of years and then I sold it for only a few hundred bucks less than I bought it for.  Kids bikes hold their value better than adult bikes.  Just get a dually and prepare to be amazed.  After all, you wouldn't ride anything less, why would you put your kid on something that you wouldn't ride?  Get them 5.10 shoes too, same reason we wear them.  They don't wear out in the time that they fit.  I think I'd bought them on sale for $60 and sold them for $40 a year and a half later.

My son is 12 now and rides both uphill and downhill better than most of the adults we ride with.  I put him on a closeout XS Rocky Mountain Altitude 730 carbon.  He's not tall for his age or anything, but the 27.5" wheels fit him well and roll much better than 24s.  He's had it for 3 years, and it happens to be the same frame size as mom's Thunderbolt, so we can recycle it through her too.  I figure it's cheaper than hockey, and we all ride together.  No more waiting for kids, he's going to be waiting for us soon.

Reply

hypa
+2 IslandLife Cam McRae
hypa  - July 27, 2018, 11:51 a.m.

I'm with you speedster.

When he was 10 I got him onto a 24" hardtail just to get up to the hill. We would finish 3-4 laps a day before he was done. The next year I rented him a L'il Shredder and a ripcord, and we jumped to 10-12 laps per day. The dual suspension just makes it easier on their bodies.  I bought him a Commencal 24 supreme and he's been on that for a year and a half. 

After this season the 24" tires have to go. Like your boy, my son is loving the 650b and can be found riding my Patrol more often than his own bike. Once October hits, it's time to look for a replacement bike. Like Cam said, once you get to the taller wheels there are so many more deals and options to be had.

Cheers!

Reply

IslandLife
0
IslandLife  - July 31, 2018, 2:50 p.m.

That's sort of what I'm thinking... they're picking it up quick and already out-riding their 20"s.  I feel like putting them on a bigger hardtail may just hold back their progression and limit the fun factor which I'm trying to keep as high as possible to keep them as interested as possible so we can all ride together properly.

Reply

Tbone
+1 Pete Roggeman
Trevor Hansen  - July 27, 2018, 5:43 a.m.

Reply

jon
0
Jon Harris  - July 27, 2018, 11:14 a.m.

Nice one Luca!

Having coached a bunch of kids over the past 3 years, it is amazing to see their own character change through challenging themselves on a bike. Self confidence to try new things soars and translates in the rest of their lives. Stoked that he's out there pushing him limits with you both!

Reply

ReductiMat
+2 Niels Cam McRae
ReductiMat  - July 28, 2018, 1:23 p.m.

That was a good read..

Reply

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