Manitou R7 Waltworks NSMB Andrewm.JPG
EDITORIAL

Trepidation

Words Andrew Major
Photos As Noted
Date Sep 30, 2021
Reading time

The Hunter/ed

Stalking low. Silent... I’ll be upon my prey in seconds. It's an ancient and unwieldly plank that shoots out across a downed tree, mated to a steep second plank that will take me back down to the ground. I've ridden it many times and walked it a few as well. As a hunting strategy goes, I’ve long found the best way to bag this wee beastie is to catch it by surprise. Just roll up and tag it, I say. Usually, it's just a matter of fully committing for a moment, but not today. Today, I come to a halt with a long sigh and an overwhelming sense of trepidation. Chances are everything would have gone smooth-as-silk but apparently, I don't trust my percentage on the go/no-go graph.

I scan 360° to make certain the coast is clear before I begin the awkward act of disembarking. Now I skip plenty of features in a calendar year, so why suddenly so self-conscious? It's not just that I regularly kill this one; it's one of those moves that is impossible to walk without looking like a tool. Can't go around it, can't go under it, and so there I am clambering on to it, lowering my bike down and then jumping the few feet to the ground below. Ugh. The worst part is I know the next skinny plank is going to get the same treatment today. Sometimes, my rides are just like that.

Scolio Coaster NSMB AndrewM.jpg

It took a lot of self-talk to nail the Scolio Coaster for the first time. Now I hit it most of the time when I'm riding Lower Crippler except when I'm solo - when I normally give it a pass. Photo: JacAttack

Team Pangor NSMB AndrewM.JPG

For whatever reason, I'm comfortable hitting some features on a whole range of bikes from the word go. I can't always explain why one thing is easy and a similar section is impossible. Photo: Mr Lungtastic

I wish I had a solid reason. I'd love to just up and blame the AXS rear derailleur I'm pulling along, or the head angle of the bike I'm riding, or a lack of bike-body separation, or what I ate that morning, or drank the night before, or anything really. But the simple truth is I was feeling more like the hunted than the hunter at that particular moment on the ride.

Sure, I have written off a few derailleurs on moves like this, including one on my Titus El Guapo years back on the very plank I'm awkwardly navigating. It doesn't matter that I've ridden it many times without incident, it's still fresh in my mind. I really can't blame my bike as I cleaned it beautifully multiple times on my twitchy old Scandium Niner One9 with a head angle that gravel-roadies would call steep. This is mountain bicycling; awkward off-the-bikes happen all the time and, for me, that's especially true when navigating old-school jank.

I'm guessing most everyone is the same. Sometimes I attack a trail with all the confidence in the world and magically find traction on even the most treacherous and greasy parallel roots. Other times I'm strong mentally but simply unable to cruise and I pick a trail apart in sections. I'll walk a few bits, sure, but it's never a downer because they represent a few seconds of time over the course of a ride and I love mountain biking. But sometimes I get in such a funk, that repeatedly hitting my brain's reset button won't disengage the mode that has me taking my rig for a nice walk in the forest.

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Sometimes I attack all of a trail with confidence. Sometimes I methodically pick it apart section by section, skipping a couple of bits. Sometimes I scare myself. Photo: Deniz Merdano

Physical Comedy

When I talk about the "awkward act of walking" I want to clarify that I'm not bothered by skipping a move or feature in someone else's presence. I mean, either it will be there next time or nature will drop a massive tree on it and gnomes will build an equally challenging line to replace it, and I've never been one for peer pressure, so who gives a hoot? My personal hang-up is hard-earned and entirely related to what can go wrong once I'm walking the awkward move itself. I suspect we've all told ourselves that a feature would be "easier to ride than walk." I like to imagine that I'm not alone in occasionally wishing I had stacked riding rather than slipped or tripped while portaging a section of trail.

Back when I was new to the North Shore, with only a few rides under my belt, the day finally came when I was having an awesome experience. It was an amazing outing: dark, dank, damp, and muted. I was actually feeling like I knew how to maneuver along the gnarled forest floor. I had ridden hard trails in other places - Burke, Eagle, Woodlot, Bear - but the weight of a moist and misty Fromme day on my psyche made every move tighter, steeper, and greasier than I had ever known.

Coming to the end of a really solid ride down 7th Secret, I somehow found myself standing on the long log ride that acts as an optional exit. The gents I was riding with had all done it and honestly, it looked like traction wasn't an issue at all. The Maxxis Mobster mounted on my D321 rim was fresh and the next thing I knew I was clipped in to my Shimano DX pedals and my internal dialogue was screaming "BREATHE!" At the end of the log, there's a tame exit ramp and at the end of the exit ramp, I stopped and silently congratulated myself. I remember it being such a big deal that I'd overcome my trepidation and conquered what was, at the time, a terrifying bit of mountain bicycling.

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I've always possessed the exact opposite of an extra boost of courage when the camera comes out. I call it 'Kodak Cowardice.' Ride loose. Ride loose. Ride loose. Photo: Kaz Yamamura

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These are some of the first photos taken of me for NSMB, in 2016. When I look at them I cringe like a mountain biker with FOMO and a full bladder. Photo: Kaz Yamamura

Back in the world, I realized two things when I heard the voices carried up from the road below. Firstly, a number of riders connected to my party had melded with us on their way up the gravel road and secondly, that I was not yet finished the trail. I clipped in and rounded the corner to find myself staring straight down an armoured wall. It looked slick and slimy. There were rocks missing. There was simply no way I was riding it and at that moment, I became prey for the forest.

I unclipped my Shimano dancing shoes, put my hands on the ODI grips bolted to my Easton Scandium bar, and took a single scintilla of a step forward. Suddenly only the top half of my body knew gravity and as my torso planked backward, my feet levitated above my head. I somehow kept one hand on my bike as I both slammed and skimmed the steep, rocked-in surface approaching the bottom in an unhurried hysteria. I collapsed in an Escher-inspired pile of body and bike.

There was complete silence until everyone, myself included, realized I was okay. The future bruises on my ass cheeks hurt but not as much as the gleefully twinkling eyes of my companions and the mirth in their waggish comments. At that moment it was either find a new group of riding friends or accept that I'm not going to hear the end of this tale of trepidation for a long, long time.

"Commit Or Eat Shit," as they say.

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Comments

craw
+3 Andrew Major Mark Pete Roggeman
Cr4w  - Sept. 30, 2021, 8:23 a.m.

Scintilla of a first comment! Honourable mention to that first blind ladder/a-frame-over-a-log on Bookwus which makes me suck through my teeth every time with hope that I'm properly lined up.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 30, 2021, 9:17 a.m.

Hahahaha. Bookwus is certainly the trail I’m talking about!

Reply

JakeE.Pooh
+6 Andrew Major Cam McRae Mammal Adrian White Pete Roggeman Stretch
Jake Smith  - Sept. 30, 2021, 9:34 a.m.

Hehehe, sometimes it seems like nsmb is universal, and sometimes what you all do up there looks like a totally different sport. Oh well, keep on keeping on, you weirdos!

Reply

AndrewMajor
+3 Pete Roggeman Paul Stuart rolly
Andrew Major  - Sept. 30, 2021, 9:59 a.m.

There’s a nexus on our local mountains of how it was and how it is and certainly anyone can visit the Shore now and find challenging trails they will love - whatever variety of spice they like in life. 

I’m beyond biased but I think everyone should come ride here at some point. The area has hugely influenced how and what we ride. 

Ride some newer school stuff sure, but also don’t leave before you ride Ladies Only, Boundary, etc.

Reply

morgan-heater
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Morgan Heater  - Sept. 30, 2021, 10:21 a.m.

I'm so bad at skinnies, but I think they're so fun. Maybe next year the border situation will mellow out a bit, and I'll manage to stop and check out the north shore instead of blasting directly up to Squamish.

Reply

DanL
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
DanL  - Sept. 30, 2021, 10:51 a.m.

Pangor is my current favourite skinny ride - I like the fact you're right on top of them before you know it and just hit em or miss em, no time to pick them apart. Ladies also rewards this in spades.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Pete Roggeman
Andrew Major  - Sept. 30, 2021, 11:27 a.m.

Pangor is one of those trails folks love or don’t. Personally, I love it (and Boogeyman is next door for folks who want a faster experience).

Sven has been doing great work and he’s a great dude to build with. I always tell folks to keep an eye on his Instagram as he semi-often is looking for a hand for trail days (sponsored by Giant).

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 khai Pete Roggeman
Andrew Major  - Sept. 30, 2021, 11:23 a.m.

Gotta stop and check out Andi’s work on Lower Crippler. It’s a master piece. 

Also, all the work the NSMBA has done on Karen’s Boundary trail. 

So much great work on the Shore!

Reply

khai
+3 Andrew Major Mammal Butch White
khai  - Sept. 30, 2021, 12:16 p.m.

"Some days you eat the barr..."

I have those days when I come home and tell A "I rode like a bag of smashed assholes..." a tiny bit more frequently than I have those "hero" rides where everything I even glance upon is a cakewalk. Even so, any day on a bike is a good day.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 30, 2021, 3:38 p.m.

Where does “like a bag of smashed assholes” come from?!

I suddenly know 2-3 people using that regularly or otherwise can’t remember when it became part of the local dialect.

Reply

khai
+1 Andrew Major
khai  - Sept. 30, 2021, 3:58 p.m.

I don't actually remember where or when I first heard that saying, or when I started using it.  It's been a while now...  Seems like something a drill sergeant might yell so perhaps it's from Full Metal Jacket?

Reply

Dogl0rd
0
Dogl0rd  - Oct. 1, 2021, 8:13 a.m.

Rob Warner said something similar in Danny harts champery run

Reply

DanL
+3 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman viccuus
DanL  - Oct. 1, 2021, 12:06 p.m.

Not sure about that line in Full Metal Jacket , but I definitely shout "you climb like old people f$ck" internally to myself quite a bit

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 2, 2021, 6:56 a.m.

Hahahahaha. Only in your head?!

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 khai Butch White
Andrew Major  - Sept. 30, 2021, 3:39 p.m.

Any day on any bike!

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Cam McRae  - Sept. 30, 2021, 12:41 p.m.

I can relate to Andrew’s ignominious exit. A few years ago I decided to pass on a steep line, not unlike the exit after the Seventh Log. I was walking down and my foot slipped and I too landed on my ass. To add injury to insult, I spent six weeks with my hand in a cast after that.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Greg Bly
Andrew Major  - Sept. 30, 2021, 3:13 p.m.

Ow. Argh. Eh…

What was worse, the pain of the breakage or answering the question “what happened, did you crash your bike” over and over again?

Reply

ackshunW
+5 Allen Lloyd Andrew Major Pete Roggeman Butch White viccuus
ackshunW  - Sept. 30, 2021, 1:57 p.m.

So relatable, great editorial! When a lot younger, I used to absolutely torture myself when I was having a scared/ off day —  rolling up to the lip of a feature 5 times... 10 times... more??? If it was something I’d done in the past, I wouldn’t let myself skip it, figuring progression was only linear and one-directional. 

Now 3 is my max, if I’m not comfortable and everything’s flowing by then, I give myself a pass. Ahhh, wisdom. Or age..?

Reply

mammal
+2 Andrew Major Butch White
Mammal  - Sept. 30, 2021, 2:18 p.m.

Both. "With age, comes wisdom (sometimes)".

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 mrbrett
Andrew Major  - Sept. 30, 2021, 3:16 p.m.

Cheers! 

It’s been a rare day that I’ve been hard on myself about not riding a feature (even one I’ve ridden before)… it is probably why I’ve progressed so slowly over the years.

Although, I’m actively trying to get better / more comfortable about having my wheels off the ground and I’ve had some hard crashes this year… so age and wisdom may only be applicable sometimes.

Reply

rigidjunkie
+4 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman Butch White viccuus
Allen Lloyd  - Sept. 30, 2021, 3:04 p.m.

This past weekend we rode a new to us bike park and one of the tech lines had a short shoot that spooked me so I walked it.  Later in the day we rode that trail a second time.  We got to the bottom and couldn't even remember riding the same feature.  

I have found that my brain almost perfectly captures everything about features I can't ride.  There is a drop that got in my head and I swear I knew the placement of each nail in the feature.  Then I rode it and now I just think of it as an easy drop.  Currently in my head is another shoot that I have walked a couple times.  I know the entrance and the whole sequence needed to get through it, I can even vividly feel my gut tied in knots just thinking about it.  

Having something just outside my abilities is a gift, most nights I fall asleep walking through lines in my head convincing myself that I will ride them next time.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Velocipedestrian
Andrew Major  - Sept. 30, 2021, 3:35 p.m.

I was talking with a friend last week about the plateau he’s at where he feels he’s out of “almost moves.” 

He’s riding really well and hitting plenty of stuff I don’t so I can’t really commiserate but I guess it’s a ledge where he’s super comfortable or not ready with no small progression step in between.

Reply

viccuus
+1 Andrew Major
viccuus  - Oct. 3, 2021, 7:44 a.m.

I find I obsess about stuff, but usually the feature either doesn't live up to the hype or is so much worse.  Right now I'm studying the big drop on C4 in Vietnam. I watch videos on YouTube saying I'm learning, but I'm really just driving myself crazy. I completely understand the strange effect of being on and off some days/rides and the resulting ease of some features. I just wish I was more consistent. Sometimes all it takes is finding a trail system that consistently challenges you. That's what Vietnam did for me.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 4, 2021, 10:31 p.m.

Is that the Vietnam trail network in Milford, MA, or riding in Vietnam the country?

Reply

oldmanbike
+3 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman Butch White
OldManBike  - Sept. 30, 2021, 3:38 p.m.

Courage is a funny thing. In my crew, these days I'm often one of the least brave about attempting a new hard feature. Everyone else may hit it and I'm still standing there, filled with fear and dread, knowing I can do it but too afraid to try. But then when I finally hit it once I can talk myself into a couple repeats, and then after that the fear is mostly gone and soon I'll look forward to it every ride. Over time, I become one of the people in my crew who's walking the least. For my addled brain at least, there's a huge difference between first-try courage and what comes after.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 OldManBike
Andrew Major  - Sept. 30, 2021, 3:48 p.m.

That’s an interesting take. I have a couple riding companions who are infuriating because they’ll ride some genuinely hard moves “because I rode it on my [POS bike] 15 years ago” and then walk way easier stuff on trails with newer features.

I’m more in your camp (the planks on Bookwus aside) where once I have it in my head I’ll ride the move on any bike - my single speed v. Banshee Titan.

Reply

RAHrider
+5 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman Butch White Velocipedestrian ackshunW
Reed Holden  - Oct. 2, 2021, 12:08 a.m.

I've been very interested in what consequences riders are willing to take in order to attempt challenges on their bike. Friday fails is a great example of this. I think of my riding as a fraction; skill on top, consequences on the bottom. I may have the skill to pull a move 9/10 times but if the consequences are too high, it still doesn't make sense for me to try. I just watched Brage Vestavik's extended cut for his x-games video. I wouldn't be willing to take one of the crashes/falls he took in filming that video and he must have taken hundreds of them! He also broke his leg! I sometimes wish more riders would post the videos of their crashes/attempts. It gives a lot of context in terms of the failures required to pull off what they do. When you watch a mtb video, you are tricked into thinking everything was ridden perfectly when in reality there was a lot of crashing involved in creating the video. Danny Macaskill is another one who shows a "blooper real." It's really sobering for me and crushes any desire I have to develop high risk mtb skills.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+2 Andrew Major Velocipedestrian
Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 2, 2021, 4:54 p.m.

It's a good point, and it extends to almost everything we see these days - other sports, skills, anything produced, really. And yet time after time the audience connects almost as much or more when they're allowed to see behind the curtain. Failure, practice, repetition, frustration...it takes a brave hero to show that side but it almost always serves them well to show it.

Reply

craw
+1 Andrew Major
Cr4w  - Oct. 4, 2021, 7:53 a.m.

Friday Fails are a perfect example of what not to do: drop into a high commitment move with no warmup, no skill development to build you up gradually to the requirements of that move, limited ability to crash well. Most riders in FF have no business trying those moves. There are lots of ways to work your way up to a big move that reduce risk. Find a similar but smaller version of it to get a taste of the dynamics and ways to bail safely, that way when you do the real thing you're less nervous and can focus better.

Reply

cooperquinn
+1 Andrew Major
Cooper Quinn  - Oct. 4, 2021, 1:01 p.m.

You've discovered the concept of "hazard", and how it differs from "risk" and "consequence". 

Even if the risk (probability) of something happening is low, but the consequence is high (this is big, and if it does go wrong you're gonna get really hurt), the overall hazard can still be high. 

As your skill increases, the risk may decrease, but the consequence of a move is still the same.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 4, 2021, 10:27 p.m.

That's a great way of summing it up.

Reply

lamar454
+1 Andrew Major
Peter Appleton  - Oct. 4, 2021, 6:01 p.m.

keep riding that rigid beast, love it!

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 4, 2021, 10:28 p.m.

Cheers! Haven't been doing a ton of rigid mtb days lately - testing a suspension fork on the front of my V2 and V1 is built as a commuter - but my fork and 2.8" Vigilante is always ready to go!

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