The kid flies through the air. His bike, many years too big for him, looks ungainly and out of control. His small build seems no match for the gargantuan weight of the steel hulk beneath him. But with finesse worth more than his 12 years, he guides the bicycle to the backside of the jump, smooth as a whisper is the landing, only accompanied by the rattling of the accessories flimsily attached to his ride. He’s at Valmont bike park – the newest addition to the Boulder mountain bike scene. And the best for many years. The cross country trails are tame; they reward a slow steady pace down the minimal elevation drop, gently cruising down berms designed for all abilities and over rollers that all ages could conquer. This is not a bad thing.
This morning I got held up behind a couple of riders on the trail; the first was about 4 years old, his strider bike flying courageously down the trail following his father, himself on a commandeered commuter bike. His older son, maybe 8 or 9 years old, was flying off ahead – pedals cranking in the hardest gear his gummed up twist shifters would allow him to change into. He mustered all the speed he could to hit a berm fast, flying around the top like a pro and cruising, wheels on the ground over the next table top jump. He skids to a stop at the bottom and waits for his dad. His smile is one of accomplishment, achievement, and that of a newly formed life long addiction: the poor child just experienced his first adrenaline rush. He’s hooked, and its his dads fault.
I wheel slowly past and head for another lap, meandering leisurely up the sandy switchbacks to the top of the mesa. I’m riding in Lycra, maybe one of 3 people who are. My carbon XC bike with a foot of seat post showing suddenly seems awkward, gangly and uncool. My team kit seems to stand out against the sea of padded elbows and and denim clad dirt jumpers.
I get to the top where I take a break and look around at the view; the flatirons are standing proudly above the town, fluffy clouds are preceding the thunderstorm that you can see collecting over the divide, ready to water the town in the afternoon. The slopestyle tracks, taking up the front portion of the park, are marked by a line of people pushing steadily up the dirt road back to the top.
Unbelievably small and young looking children, girls and boys, freewheel nonchalantly past the ‘XL’ trail marker and off the six foot drop, into the wooden wall rides and over the doubles. A brief hubbub ensues as someone comes up short, mangling with their bike to produce a blood red shin and grazed palms. I look at the young boys’ face: He’s smiling proudly. He can’t wait til Monday morning when his friends ask him how he got that ‘gnarly’ scar. He’ll announce, to anyone who will listen, that he did it at the Bike Park. Biking in Boulder is cool. Valmont is the new place to be cool.