Story Time: Your First Day at the Bike Park

Apr 20, 2022 at 18:21
by Mike Levy  
Whistler Bike Park Circa 2000. Photo Greg Griffith. www.whistlermuseum.org


Bike parks are absolutely amazing. Pretty much any bike park, from the mega-resorts to the single-chair outfits, will give you some of the best times you'll ever have on two wheels. The ingredients are simple, really: take away all the climbing, multiply the descending by ten or twenty, and do it all on killer singletrack or a wild jump line. Haven't been lucky enough to get to a bike park yet? Below, I take a tongue-in-cheek look at how it might play out...




Driving into the parking lot reveals a sea of expensive vans and nearly matching trucks, most with tailgate pads and the same 'Ride or Die' sticker on every back window. ''They take this bike'n thing pretty seriously around here,'' you think but don't say to your buddies while gearing up to the competing sounds of Rise Against and various rap songs about drive-bys and drug deals.

You've always liked your medium-travel do-everything bike; it was on close-out but it's never let you down or held you back. It's a great bike, dammit. But it also appears to be about a third of the machine that everyone else is on. You wonder if you really do need a downhill bike, why your handlebar is so skinny, and why are there so many riders here? You just wanted to ride the jump line but now you kinda just want to go home. ''Bro, the jump line is going to be U-N-R-E-A-L. I can't wait!'' you say to the group for some reason that you can't comprehend. ''f*ck yes, let's do it first lap,'' someone replies loud but hesitantly. ''Let's get it, boys!'' comes out of your mouth despite you definitely not wanting to say it.

But first, there's the money and some paperwork.

It turns out that not riding your bike uphill ain't cheap, but you've been dreaming and planning this trip for ages and you're happy to pay any amount of money to be scared shitless. You sign a thing and another thing. Then you print your name and sign just below it. ''Initials as well, please,'' asks the very polite person at the counter before telling you to sign here and here and here. ''Stand in front of the camera, please,'' he says before handing you a very official card with your mid-blinking mug on it. You might have signed something that ensures everything is your fault, but you're also convinced that this is the best DMV in the world.


This photo smells like rented body armor, mild heatstroke, and unbridled enthusiasm.


''Let's get it, boys'' you whoop senselessly for the eighth time as your group rolls into the lift line. An hour and a half later and it's nearly your turn to load bikes. Shit, you hadn't thought about that. Rolling the bike onto the tray looks easy enough, but there are three hundred mountain bikers behind amped up on over-priced pop and Soundcloud rap. What if you mess up and they have to stop the lift? What if your bike falls off? What if you fall off? But aside from getting your shirt caught on the handlebar of your friend's bike and dropping your helmet, it goes fine.

And then you're on the lift. In the frick'n bike park. You all want to put the restraining bar down but no one says anything other than a few too many nervous-sounding 'SO SICK' comments while everyone thinks about how they'd love to start the day on an easy trail...


 during the Crankworx Festival 2012 Whistler Canada
Just an average Wednesday at the bike park, but this certainly isn't you or any of your friends.


Being that it's your first time in the park, you and your crew fully realize that it's best to do some warm-up laps on a blue-rated descent before dropping into a jump line that you've never even seen before. None of you say that out loud, of course, and none of you have the slightest idea how to jump or have even left the ground on purpose before, but you're not about to let any of that stop you from having a good time. Or losing a lot of blood.

Thankfully, you can all easily ride around the scary squirrel catcher at the top that's designed to ward off those who may not have the skills required to make it down the trail safely. Otherwise, you'd have to walk it and that'd be too embarrassing.

One thing that strikes you immediately, aside from outright terror, is how tall the jumps seem to be. You watched countless GoPro laps of this trail and could have sworn they were two, maybe three feet tall and all you had to do was coast into them and yank. But now that you're here, they seem to be five or six feet tall, at least three times that as long, and why are the lips pointing straight up? You wisely took up a position in the rear of your sketchy posse and watch as three of your four friends ride their front wheels across the first big tabletop and miraculously roll down the landing in one piece. Marty on the rental bike with too much air pressure and no rebound damping manages to go impossibly far for not having enough speed but, unfortunately for him, he buries his front wheel well past the landing zone and it disintegrates instantly as Marty cartwheels into the face of the next jump.

He's mostly fine, as usual, but it takes him hours to get off the mountain, most of it under the chairlift while being heckled, where a hefty repair bill is waiting at the bike shop and the hospital. ''Dude, that was so sick!'' you say while abandoning him somewhere on the mountain so you can get the most out of your $173 lift ticket. ''Let's get it, boys!'' he yells back surprisingly encouragingly for a guy with multiple compound fractures and a brutal concussion.


Gone are the baby butt smooth berms of spring. Racing A Line at this point in the season means battling braking bumps large enough to rattle your teeth out.
It doesn't matter how many braking bumps there are just so long as there's no climbing.


After meeting back up with your group and letting them know you're a man down, you all agree that it'd be good to sit in the blazing sun on a patio while drinking one or three too many warm Coronas and eating the world's most expensive frozen chicken fingers. The spicy chipotle dip is very tasty, though, and a few hours pass before you manage to divvy up the bill and leave a $2 tip for your waitress who most definitely didn't want to listen to four buzzed mountain bikers who think they're funny and all smell like week-old underwear.

The lift line is even longer now and, judging by all the team kits, full-on race bikes, and the amount of Kashima ahead of you, there appears to be some sort of World Cup-ish event happening at the bike park today. Everyone looks fast, and you overhear conversations about so and so hitting such and such, how smooth the trails are, how rough the trails are, and that guy that everyone on the lift saw overshoot the first jump and blow up his front wheel. ''I hope he survived,'' someone ahead of you says as a bright red helicopter slowly long-lines a body-shaped shape out of the forest in the distance.

Thankfully, Marty hits the group chat with a ''Let's get it, boys!'' and says that the doctors think he'll probably pull through, but his cartwheels have left everyone a bit nervous about surviving the rest of the day. None of you say a word over the following two hours it takes until it's your group's turn to get on the lift again, and you'll be lucky to squeeze in a third lap before it closes for the day. Time flies when you're having fun.


This isn't you or any of your friends, either, but bike parks are even more fun than they look in this photo.


The rest of the afternoon is a blur of cased jumps, people yelling ''On your left!'' that you assume means they want you to veer sharply to the left, and equal parts terror, excitement, and additional terror.

But not only do you not crash hard enough to need a bright red helicopter, you don't even crash at all; turns out you didn't need all that well-used body armor you rented. Better yet, you actually made it to a few transitions once you relaxed and carried some speed through the tallest, steepest berms you'll ever see in your entire life. No one in your group is going fast or realizes there are twenty angry locals wearing all-black TLD gear and no gloves bunched up behind you, but this is, without a doubt, the most fun any of you have had, or ever will have, on your mountain bikes.

Even Marty agrees.


94 Comments

  • 115 4
 My Topstone NEO is all tuned up, the lefty has had its lower serviced and I'll be sending Easy D all weekend! Be safe be well, Incognito Robin
  • 17 0
 Reminds me of Yoann Barelli sending dirt merchant on a CX bike in full lycra. That guy cracks me up!
  • 7 12
flag SATN-XC (May 19, 2022 at 10:19) (Below Threshold)
 @StrangleTy: link?
  • 69 17
 @SATN-XC: use Google you lazy shit
  • 24 12
 @hhaaiirryy: who hurt you?
  • 83 2
 Pre-ride, re-ride, freeride. There is a reason there are giant signs that say this in Whistler. And there is nothing wrong with hitting Crank it Up (best blue square ever) over and over and over. Not everyone can get sendy on Dirt Merchant.

I'm old,
  • 3 0
 There are loads of these signs at Bike Park Wales as well since you'll struggle to get a helicopter rescue
  • 1 0
 Good saying, first time I'm seeing it. I got too scared of injuries compared to my teen years, that I would be riding my over-biked ass Crank it Up all day (if my crappy stamina would hold up).
  • 1 0
 No you are not! But I prefer Schleyer and Crack Addict!
  • 30 0
 "...any bike park, from the mega-resorts to the single-chair outfits". [Blinks in British bike park]
  • 12 0
 From the mega-resorts to the tractor trailers
  • 11 0
 We have 10 chair outfits. All 10 being in a Transit van.
  • 1 0
 BPW could benefit from a chair lift. even an ancient fixed grip
  • 27 0
 Bravo. I suspect this is an accurate account as I have never been to a bike park but hope to this year. Double props for actually writing an article and not blasting another promo video under the guise of an edit.
  • 15 0
 This July I'll be in Whistler for my first time in a bike park, this sounds like a good cautionary tale hahah. Done my research and nothing but the bluest of trails for me, in the beginning at least.
  • 10 0
 Since I dont ride much bike park aside from Whistler once a year, I ride every blue flow trail on the mtn before stepping it up to blacks and select double blacks. Has worked well for me so far
  • 12 0
 Jokes aside, really important to ease into it. Have seen so many people broken off first feature first lap of their trip...you'll get to ride plenty...take it easy the first day.
  • 8 0
 The best part about whistler is every trail is so damn fun regardless of "rating". You literally can't go wrong.
  • 14 0
 @peterman1234: TBH, i've had more heinous crashes over-cooking it on blue trails than blacks and doubleblacks. FWIW
  • 2 0
 My first bike park was Whistler. Levy’s story is bullseye, except the lift line that day was mercifully short. It wasn’t until after lunch that we realized the Garbanzo was included with our lift ticket, lol. What an epic day! My hands and forearms fell off just before closing. Got my money’s worth.
  • 1 0
 @flipoffthemonkeys: 100%!!! My worst injury ever was going 2-3 MPH, washed out front tire in sand on a rolling drop that I should have launched and went OTB = fractured L1 & L2. Off the bike 7 weeks.
  • 1 0
 it's the greatest. Every trail is worth riding, there are blue rippers from the top of the gondola that go on forever...ride as much as you can before you show up so you don't get arm pump. Roast blue trails all damn day long!
  • 1 0
 @DirtyHal: you can go down Easy Does It and that's pretty close to wrong
  • 1 0
 @AndrewHornor: lol. That’s the first trail we did to get used to the rental bikes.
  • 13 0
 That first picture though...
  • 9 0
 either that picture is from 1998 or that person is a time traveler who brought their bike with them into the future
  • 4 0
 Photo editor nailing it!
  • 1 0
 @SATN-XC: i have a 98 hoo-koo-e-koo thats almost brand new.
  • 2 1
 Whistler Bike Park Circa 2000. Photo Greg Griffith. www.whistlermuseum.org
  • 1 0
 @SATN-XC: Nope. I have seen all kinds of bikes and riders in the line up. I have suggested/helped MANY riders take off their kick stands before going down a bumpy trail (basically any trail in Whistler after opening day).
  • 9 0
 "No one in your group is going fast or realizes there are twenty angry locals wearing all-black TLD gear and no gloves bunched up behind you" - waaaaay too accurate for comfort.
  • 5 2
 fuck em! there are no locals at whistler.
  • 10 0
 @owl-X: there are. We call them Aussies
  • 7 1
 I'm in Vancouver for a meeting in June and heading up to Whistler for a couple days. Never been to a bike park either but I'm doing trail riding the first day and hitting the bike park the second day, only easy bike park stuff for this 57yo, I can always go back...right? Have to admit, this article did put an itty bitty lump in my throat....
  • 3 0
 There's a ton of really good super easy trails there too. And they usually don't have many people on them.
  • 13 0
 I am a crappy 43 year old from Illinois. Two years ago I was a crappy 41 year old who went to Trestle, rented a downhill bike, and had a great time without hitting anything huge. Just don't clog the trails, yield to faster riders, and smile until it hurts.
  • 9 9
 @fly4130: Yielding to the faster rider is not the rule of Whistler or any other bike park. The slower rider has the right of way and can choose to yield or not. Don't let anyone try to make you pull over and stop riding because they are faster.

I've seen a lot of people wreck or ruin their flow completely because they are pressured to immediately pull over when someone comes up behind them which definitely doesn't need to happen. It it is the following rider who needs to stop or slow down to to create the space.
  • 21 0
 @DirtyHal: personally I think yielding needs to be a mixed effort by both parties. If you're blazing down a green/blue or easier trail, yes then you should yield to the slower folk and don't put pressure on them to go faster or find some awkward spot to pull over and eat it.

On the other hand, if you're going slow or perhaps even just scoping out a black or advanced trail out, be ready to get out of the way of more experienced riders. On some trails its very difficult to slow down in time or at all, if you suddenly come up on someone slowly rolling down the trail or worse, stopped. Its kind of like being on the freeway, you'd never expect someone to be parked on it and that can cause incidents.
  • 5 0
 @Canadmos: That's more what I meant. Real world example, I wanted to check out the bigger jumps but suck too much to clear them. So I would pull off and clear trail when others came behind me as to not ruin their run. But yeah on a run where I was in the proper skill zone and someone was just better I was not constantly pulling over.
  • 2 0
 @Canadmos: its good to have established rules like fast rider yields to slow rider and yield to uphill riders on 2 ways but in reality its best if all parties use common sense and do whats best on the fly.

Most slow riders are more then happy to pull over to let folks fly by its no fun knowing you are holding people up, even if they are following respectfully.
  • 2 0
 @DirtyHal: on blue and green trails maybe
  • 10 1
 This! This is actual journalism right here…..shouldn’t it be behind a paywall?
  • 9 0
 Maybe if I win that helicopter whistler trip
  • 7 1
 lol...Bravo. but you forgot the mandatory bike wash callout and spraying your buddy and somehow not getting your bike clean at all...SPRAY DOWN: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uIOdIG1lTc
  • 1 0
 Ha ^^ this. Although I don't mind it on a hot dusty day. Feels good taking some hose water
  • 8 0
 No mention of unbuttoned Hawaiian shirts? Doubt this guy has even been to whistler

Dudebromanguy!
  • 7 0
 If you'd like to imagine what a British bike park is like, it's this, but pissing rain the whole time and freezing cold
  • 5 0
 As someone who lives and works in a crowded city, those lift lines give me PTSD. A younger me was all in on that action though....
  • 3 0
 First run down green trail at Snowshoe and get to lift line. Super short because it has only been open for 20 minutes. Never been on a lift and watch a couple people load their bikes on trays. We are next up and push bikes to trays and both of my kids expect me to put their bikes in the trays. Operator has to stop lift. Bikes get loaded and we sit down. Operator: "no you stand over here and wait for the chair, idiots."

Just kidding they were nice about it but we were idiots. Every other lift the kids got their bikes 90% in place. No further lift stoppages on our account.
  • 3 0
 Real question: How many laps on average do you get at a bike park? Ex. North Star at Tahoe? I know it depends on crowds, but can it get as gnarly as high winter ski season? I HATE lines almost more than I like to ride my bike. I enjoy roller coasters, but I HATE the lines so much that I don't even go anymore.
  • 5 0
 Totally depends on the bike park. Out east, if you go to Highland on a weekend, you'll be lucky to get 5 or 6 good laps in, as there is one lift and it is slow AF.

If you go to Killington, you can do 10 laps or more and never wait in line. (Your hands will be absolutely roasted after a day there, cuz its fast and rough).

Burke is somewhere in the middle.

Bolton has no lift lines, and a slow lift, but the trails are so friggin rough that you only want to do 5 laps... after that your shoulders and quads start to scream from absorbing boulders.

I'm sure its the same story out west. Some parks are busy and/or have fast lifts. Some parks are slammed.
  • 1 0
 Expect 5-6 laps most weekend days at N*, if 2022 is the same as 2021. 40 minute average wait, 10 minutes on the chair, 10 minutes riding per lap or so. If you get lucky it can be much better and there’s no wait sometimes, but don’t count on it.
  • 1 0
 I went on a week day to avoid huge lineups. The limiting factor for QTY of runs we could do was our stamina .. after about 6 times down the mtn I was worn out.
  • 3 0
 First time to Whistler ten years ago, had just bought a 2011 SX Trail. Bought a Giro Remedy with the Demon on the side and a TLD mesh armor suit that looked like something out of a ‘80s music video with a ginormous TLD moto jersey that I had over the top of it. I almost passed out from heat and dehydration in the lift line. I looked like the most ridiculous stormtrooper. Those were the days.
  • 6 0
 Fingers crossed for @AngelFireBikePark for rain and some relief from these fires...Definitely the best bikepark in the SW US
  • 1 0
 On my list for a potential late June visit. Hopefully everything will be ok.
  • 7 1
 First mountain bike: 1984
First time at a bike park (Whistler): 2021

Don't wait as long as I did.
  • 2 0
 I waited till I was 40, last year was the first year for my son... at 6 and we are going back in June for 10 days!
  • 1 0
 @dinosaurmonkey: Excellent - very fun. Enjoy the trip.
  • 3 0
 Visited several bike parks last year from anglefire to snowshoe. Best experience on a bike ever. With that said, at snowshoe, and feeling the flow of the fast jump line called Skyline. I came upon and dude/father following his 11yo son, sloooooowly not jumping anything. Skyline is fast and tons of jumps. Ave speed 23mpg top speed 35-37mpg.

With that said I patiently waited behind them for 3-4 minutes. They were crawling…. So I passed with plenty of room, about 4’(in motocross you barely need room, and nobody cares), the dad looses his marbles and starts swearing and chasing me, of course leaving he kid behind. I apologize saying I also had tons of room. Whatever, the guy finally stopped chasing me.

Moral of the story. If your going to take you’re 11yo down the fastest jump line in the park and not jump anything/go slow as molasses. PAY ATTENTION TO WHO IS BEHIND YOU. They were going so slow I’m surprised I didn’t run them over, it was hazardous for them to go that slow. Think people!!
  • 4 0
 Haha, spot on with the terror. First time at Whistler i go up thinking I'm starting with B-Line... at the top we find its closed! First run ever down Crank It Up! Made it!
  • 7 1
 Levy such a millenial. Rap now is about being heartbroken and mumbling.
  • 7 0
 My bad
  • 1 0
 I convinced my wife once to hit Whistler with me, I did the exact opposite, did not hype anything up "its easy honey" "don't worry" "follow me"...I remember hearing "rider down" behind me, she did not injure herself too badly and she never joins me on any downhill parks anymore but we still have good laughs about that day years later .... "rider down!!" being yelled at by complete strangers is an experience
  • 1 0
 Pretty much sums up my first trip to Whistler, I quickly realized that my 140mm cross country bike that I thought was the most badass thing ever was severely outgunned. I also bought a full face helmet that morning that ended up saved my ass a couple hours later when I went sliding head first into a rock after eating it on freight train.
  • 3 0
 Also the constant complaints from that one guy: "I'll hit it next time for sure" "If my suspension was better I'd totally do it" and "My tires just don't have grip"
  • 2 0
 The comment about the ride or die stickers.... please everyone stop trying so hard. Bring back denim jeans with flannels, cotton t-shirts, and noisy chain guides that makes it almost impossible to pedal the bike by hand.
  • 2 0
 It was in 2003 with a Grey Norco Atomik with 2.1 tire on it. Lost my way in the track and ended up riding in the ski slope on double pinch flat. MSA can be brutal some times, but been riding the area since then!
  • 2 0
 Haha, brilliant! That's a very accurate description of my first bike part visit (although I had jumped a bit before but I was and still am far from an expert).
  • 1 0
 BRAVO sir, BRA-VO.....well written
(haven't done a DH bike park before...XC and all, but early memories of my teenage snowboarding years came flooding back while reading this)
  • 2 0
 This almost perfectly captures my first bike park visit, all those years ago. Thanks for dredging up the memories!
  • 4 0
 Let's get it, boys!
  • 1 0
 Well done Levy..My old brain can't handle that scene anymore...Peaceful gnarly backcountry is bliss...plus the ridiculous $$$...Smile
  • 3 0
 Every time at the bike park feels like my first time at the bike park
  • 1 0
 I don’t know about you, but that was funny as f$$k! Looks like someone got his M-O-J-O back! Really enjoyed the article. Or rather : Yeah, baby! YEAH! Smile
  • 1 0
 Dang Son, those lift lines are how long?? I've only been to one DH park on a weekend and it was no line.
  • 2 0
 Levy has been hanging with Henry
  • 2 0
 To each their own.
  • 1 0
 They said it would be fun: The joys of growing your sport
  • 1 0
 You nailed it with this right up, too funny.
  • 1 0
 Pro Tip: Turn your rebound all the way up.
  • 1 0
 the most factual pinkbike comment
  • 2 0
 also....go on a tuesday.
  • 1 1
 Next to losing my virginity I’d say it was biggest smile on my face when I took that first run down a trail at Trestle.
  • 1 2
 Why do the riders in these articles always sound like their wife hasn't orgasmed in 10 years hahaha If you don't like riding park noone's making you
  • 2 0
 Because it's meant to be tongue in cheek, making fun of those people Wink
  • 2 0
 @mikelevy: well it was a good read haha!
  • 1 0
 so well written Mike
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