In September 2012 I made my first mountain bike trip ever. Since 2003, when I started mountain biking seriously in my mid-teens, I had dreamed of taking a trip out to a bike park. A few of my riding buddies from back home in Mexico had decided that Winter Park was a worthy destination and asked me to come along. Best trip ever. At that time I had biked Mexico, Florida and part of Texas. All regular trails with mostly XC people running the show. Upon arrival at my first Bike Park, I was stunned. My Disneyland. I clearly remember I had nothing to eat that day. I clocked 15 runs on my first day, 11 on my second and finally 9 on my third. I also signed up for a downhill race happening on the morning of my last day at the park. I could have died and gone to heaven for all I know.
Fast forward to the summer of 2016 and my 3rd trip to Winter Park just ended. A lot has changed since 2012. I've finished my Master's degree, lived in 3 different cities and ridden quite a lot more. I've met countless great people in North Carolina, New York and now Chicago. I've gotten more in tune with local organizations that help improve the sport and have come to terms with the fact that riding downhill regularly is a hard thing to do. As a Finance Consultant living in a flat city that's part of a flat state, most of my riding days now involve XC rides.
It had been two years since I set foot on a proper bike park and I knew it was important for me to go back. My buddies from Mexico kept doing the annual trip so I decided to join. It was a good idea to re-connect with my old riding buddies and indulge in a part of the sport that I so dearly savor.
Riding with The Chainlink t-shirt definitely got some odd looks and conversation started. Mostly people were impressed to hear that Chicago has some decent trails and a solid bike community. Talking about it made me realize how lucky we are to have seriously driven bike organizations such as The Chainlink
that drive the sport in Chicago and ensure we have legit trails. I remember the hiring manager that interviewed me for my current finance consulting position in Chicago saying explaining to me that Chicago most likely did not have any mountain biking at all. Little did they know, that mountain bikers always find a way.
Unfortunately or fortunately I had a nasty crash on the last run of my first day at the bike park. My pedal hit a rock that sent me up and over a wooden feature and a few feet below o to a tree. My shoulder took most of the hit. It hurt, a lot. It's one of those crashes where you know something wrong happened, but you can still ride, just at a much slower pace. Major scrapes and bruising.
Initially, I was quite disappointed, but then I remembered I had taken my camera with me. Enter the photographer within me. I decided to take it easy from then on and do selfie photo sessions. A remote shutter and some patience later, a few pictures emerged.
I started with the simple stuff, trying to capture some of the beauty of the scenery at the top part of the mountain.
My shoulder started feeling better (I got excited about taking pictures) and decided to go for more aggressive terrain.
Some of the trails had stunning scenery that I wanted to capture.
Finally decided to go for the big stuff, after all, I would have lots of time to recover from my shoulder in my tiny office cubicle once I got back to Chicago.
My last run was an easy one, though. I popped in my headphones and listened to my favorite tunes. It will probably be my last park run for a while.
A few moving images from the trip below. Until next time Winter Park.