Reader Story: Doodling & Painting in Anticipation of Riding Season in 'A Spring in Paintings'

Jul 9, 2021 at 7:55
by Cy Whitling  
Where I live, spring comes slowly. Our trails all lie under feet of snow for months, and we’re stuck rolling groomed singletrack on fat bikes, or chasing pow turns on skis or boards. Eventually, though, winter’s icy grip starts to loosen, and we start to think about mountain bikes once more.

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The upside of lacking anything close to year-round mountain biking is that the months of anticipation make our short riding season even sweeter. As soon as the skiing stops being good, folks head to the desert, packing in hours of driving to ride ribbons of ledgy singletrack. I’d never really done the desert riding thing before, so I hitched a few rides down with friends, rode techy trails, and a long bikepacking loop.

I’m not as comfortable with this arid ecosystem, and its foreign inhabitants haunt my mind as we make the long drive back home from a riding trip.

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Once home I’m impatient, but there’s no real riding to be done yet. Instead, my days are occupied taking first aid classes and recertifying so I can coach young riders this summer. I kill hours of boredom mixing my notes with doodles, playing around with new ideas and techniques.

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I ordered a new bike in the fall, it finally arrives and I build it up, bunnyhopping it over the snowbanks still melting in the streets. It feels good, so good, but you can only get to know a bike so well on the few miles of open singletrack in the Tetons in late April. I’m eager to ride, my mind drifts off to serpentine singletrack as I work.

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So I pack my things and drive north and west with a car full of bikes and art supplies. I have no real plan, other than riding trails that have ferns near them, meeting new people, and painting everything I see. The first night I almost hit a deer, moseying across the highway in the dusk, so I pull over and sleep in a closed ski resort parking lot, waking early to find a porta-potty and paint.

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Hours of mindless driving later and I’m ready to ride, meeting an internet friend in the parking lot and finally attaching a face to an Instagram handle. I’m out of shape, or more precisely, in ski touring shape, not mountain bike shape, and I spend my first climb wishing I’d invested more time on the trainer.

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The pandemic’s impact is still evident, masks rot in the undergrowth and we gather in groups uncertainly, still shy to stand too close together.

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Wouldn’t it be cool if somewhere, someone found a crashed airplane in the woods and built a jump over it? That would never happen, but it would be pretty cool, hypothetically.


I’m terrified through that first ride. Slippery rocks and roots funnel me down steep chutes and I feel like a beginner again, trying to remember the fundamentals that I spend my summers drilling into youngsters. Look up! Anticipate! Calm body, separated from the bike!

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I thank my new friend for the tour guiding and head further north, further west, trying to catch a glimpse of the bay as I weave through rush hour traffic. In town, I find a bike park with a porta-potty, and set up, painting at a picnic table as the sun goes down. I feel a bit like a voyeur, watching locals session the pump track, taking reference photos of the new jumps that are being sculpted.

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I post on social media, fishing for internet friends to ride with, and then retire to a big box store parking lot to sleep, praying the street sweepers don’t chase me out, imagining potential camping setups.

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The next few days are a blur. New friends, new trails, bikes, beer, arm pump, fist bumps. Every chute is steeper than home, every jump a little less predictable. I feel like I’m starting to warm up though, my ski mind is giving way to my bike mentality and every foot of trail feels better. I’m slow, friends wait for me to catch up after every descent, but I’m so stoked, eating it all up, in love with it all. The trails here have legacies, I recognize features from edits, hear stories of local legends building, sending, rebuilding.

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Bike culture runs deep. The kids are fast, the old people go big, and everyone in-between seems to ride their bikes everywhere.

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I understand the terrain my bike was built for now, and how to optimize it for this kind of riding.

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As my trip nears its end, I feel like an addict, trying to stuff in as much riding as possible every day, trying to make the most of every duffy corner and every loamy chute. I’m hooked, I want it all.

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Too soon though it’s time to bid farewell to new friends and hit the road home. The trails are melting out, and the dog misses me. So I turn my back on the Canadian border and cruise south and east, swapping the Cascades for the arid central plains and finally the Rockies again. As I drive I listen to bike podcasts, nerding out on gear and thinking about the classic buzz lines we like to use.

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At home I’m restless, trying to articulate what was so special about the places I visited, desperate to harness some of that magic for my hometown.

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I’m more aware than ever that trails don’t just happen, there are no trail gnomes leaving ribbons of singletrack in their wake.

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So we head out into the rain and snow and start digging. We’re moving dirt slowly, reclaiming an old trail from the clutches of nature, trying to respect the mountains we move through as we re-shape them into a playground.

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When it dumps snow late in the spring I huddle inside, watching edits and trying to contain my excitement for the future these young riders represent.

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I crank through a glut of ideas, putting out too many drawings with no time to paint them all. They’re extras, coloring pages for anyone else who might want to fill in the lines with their own colors. [L=https://www.pinkbike.com/u/bemorestoked/album/Coloring-pages/]Download as many as you’d like.[/L]

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[PI=20919598[/PI]

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Eventually, our trails dry out, it’s time to start coaching, and self-care rides become viable again once more.

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I’m busy with bikes, I spend my days drawing them, desperately trying to put down all my trip’s inspiration onto paper before it escapes me. Ferns, moss, big jumps, rutted turns, and steep chutes. I have too many ideas, too many bikes to draw, and not enough time. So I set an arbitrary deadline, a number of paintings to complete, and no more before I take a rest. Here’s the result, the culmination of a spring and early summer of riding bikes. A resting place before I dive back into the magical world that two-wheeled machines take me to. If you want to follow along for more, check out my Instagram.

So much thanks to everyone who showed me around, gave me a place to stay, and made me feel welcome. I can’t thank you enough. You’ll all have to come sleep in my driveway sometime.

Author Info:
bemorestoked avatar

Member since Aug 27, 2012
8 articles

57 Comments
  • 70 11
 “No e-bikes - No Youtubers”.
  • 6 17
flag TrevZ (Jul 10, 2021 at 7:43) (Below Threshold)
 "no gatekeeping"


"no ebikes"
  • 14 5
 @TrevZ:

“No youtubers”

:spends entire life posting to Instagram
  • 32 0
 The Little Tikes car with the balance bikes is fun.
  • 2 0
 Love that!
  • 25 0
 There is a crashed airplane in the woods in northern BC with a jump that goes over it. I’ve sessioned it and can confirm it is cool to jump over a plane
  • 10 1
 We also have a wrecked train in Whistler.
  • 5 0
 @TrevZ: Dang! All I have here in the Tetons is a wrecked snowmobile and an old couch!
  • 5 0
 @bemorestoked: there’s a trail in Kelowna where you drive through the front seat of an old car. Enter through the driver’s side and exit out the passengers side. It too is fun.
  • 4 0
 theres the remnants of a crashed plane on cartier in revelstoke too. and maybe a helicopter rotor from a crash in the 80s
  • 4 0
 there's one in north bend too if you know where to look Smile )
  • 1 0
 @Fondler Piper Down in Smithers!
  • 1 0
 @nickkozak: that is the one good sir!
  • 22 0
 A few of these would make amazing t-shirts, I'd totally buy the Little Tykes/Striders on the back as a shirt, Trail Gnome, and Less Whining!!
  • 3 0
 I'd buy for sure!
  • 19 0
 I quite enjoyed all of this. Quite refreshing and fun.
  • 13 0
 Incredible work! Stoked you made the trip to the northwest, come back any time. Cheers!
  • 5 0
 You meant cheese, because he shredded it.
  • 10 0
 Newschoolers 2.0
  • 7 11
flag Jackso (Jul 10, 2021 at 6:35) (Below Threshold)
 pee in her butt
  • 4 0
 @Jackso: oh god
  • 5 0
 Kinda sad that incredible art is going the way of incredible music. A band used to get paid after making a song , and sell it for someone to listen to. Now it goes on Soundcloud for free. Used to be able to sell a picture to Dirt Rag (or Bike), and now it goes on Instagram for free.

I propose "more merch".

Pinkbike (or someone) could one-off these shirts Etsy style, and share the profit. Same for Taj and that Mint Sauce guy.
  • 5 0
 Yeah, it's an interesting conundrum, and something yesterday's PB podcast with RC had me thinking about a lot.

For what it's worth, I used to offer a lot of apparel for sale, and the cost/benefit just didn't make business sense.

That's why most of my focus now is on making illustrations to license to brands so that they can use their existing infrastructure and channels for distribution.
  • 4 0
 @bemorestoked: your work is awesome! great illustrations and the storytelling is compelling. you're onto something here, i hope it can produce some work for you
  • 1 0
 @bemorestoked:

The Outside Family of Media thanks you for donating your artwork.
  • 3 0
 Super kewl!

Cy, checked out your profile, everyone, check out his profile!

www.pinkbike.com/u/bemorestoked/album/Coloring-pages

He has COLOURING PAGES! Cy, I just saved one down and printed it out for my Son, he's already colouring away!! I'll see what he comes up with.... amazing work and interesting artistic thought!
  • 4 0
 Glad you had a good visit to our town and enjoyed the riding! Also, I REALLY want to know where to get a t-shirt with that PlaySkool car with the shuttle run-bikes!
  • 5 0
 That's really well done Cy
  • 5 0
 The Little Tykes with the north shore is sick!
  • 1 0
 T shirt please
  • 5 0
 Holy shit!
  • 4 0
 More!
  • 2 0
 i love how accurate he painted the transition scout! one of the nicest bikes atm. great work.
  • 1 0
 This is marvellous. I was lucky enough to ride jetboy in North Vancouver with wade simmons . It Has a crashed plane but unfortunately no jump over it but close enough
  • 1 2
 Tracings over photographs. Rotoscoping is the technical term.

Makes you wonder, if someone is so comfortable with casually lying about something so silly like tracing pictures and telling people theyre legit drawings — what else are they comfortable casually lying about?

Such a dumb thing to lie about.
  • 4 0
 I've actually been very transparent about my process, to the point of making a video explaining it: www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_ap_GcMBXo
  • 2 0
 Good work. Thanks for sharing.
  • 2 0
 Incredible article and art! That sounded like an amazing trip!
  • 2 0
 Three people died in that plane.
  • 11 13
 the hypocrisy of the "no gatekeeping" with the "no ebikes and no youtubers" sign is f*cking hilarious. not to mention the hypocrisy of "no youtubers" from someone who spends all day every day trying to be an instagram star.

the drawings would be a lot cooler if so many of them weren't so obviously digitally traced over photos.
  • 11 4
 It's only gatekeeping if there's no reason for distinction except for elitism. But with e-bikes there are many practical reasons for distinction.
  • 3 2
 @BenTheSwabian: now you’re gatekeeping my gatekeeping of his gatekeeping. We’ve reached ludicrous speed.
  • 8 1
 @shralping-the-cube:

“Gatekeeping” the latest buzzword used to excuse ignorance of etiquette. If you go build an unsanctioned trail, I think you have every right to request that youtubers don’t go posting it
  • 2 3
 @TheDeadSailor: please. This dude builds illegal trails and then posts them himself on strava and Instagram.
  • 1 3
 And your artwork us where….to be critiqued!!??
  • 2 4
 @RennyG: actually my work has been in artforum and museums in multiple countries but go off.
  • 1 2
 If you can't tell these are tracings then you're blind.
  • 2 0
 We’ve got a plane down with a jump over it in Smithers! Piper down
  • 2 0
 I read the article, then smoke and read again, second time got it
  • 2 0
 Very cool way to tell a story. Congrats!
  • 2 0
 Mushrooms? Check.
  • 1 0
 These are awesome! The more/less one would be a great tt-shirt. .
  • 1 0
 tisk tisk, put this on pb but not ns. sad
  • 1 0
 So cool thanks man I'm stoked!
  • 1 0
 Great imagination and creativity, loved it all!
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