Might As Well Jump
This summer I took a leap of faith. Multiple leaps, in fact. The first leap came from a desire to expand my BMX skills into the dirt jumping realm, so I signed up for a two-day jump clinic in Whistler, BC, coached by Women’s Freeride Movement*. Coincidentally, this American heathen had never been to Canada, so it was also about damned time to leap over that border.
The next leap was to invest in my first custom bike, a BMX that I could use specifically to learn to jump. I received word near the end of June that the bike was ready to pick up, and I paced and bit my nails for over a month until I was able to retrieve it at the beginning of August.
The new bike is a thing of beauty. Created by BMX devotee and expert craftsman Greg Heath of Donkelope Bikes in Bellingham, Washington, it’s heavier and sturdier than either of my race bikes and felt solid and reliable on the first little rip around the block, exactly the kind of thing I might like to learn to throw over some jumps. Greg created a masterpiece in spite of the scant information I gave him about what I wanted, because what I don’t know about bikes could fill an encyclopedia.
Frankly, I’m lucky he let me pick the paint.
My friend Steve brought me and the new BMX to the waterfront bike park in Bellingham. I rode the pump line a few times to get a feel for the bike on dirt, then took it through the beginner jump line. It felt right for that first ride to be at that park and to dust the bike with its home turf.
A couple of weeks later, I headed to Fitzsimmons Creek Bike Skills Park in Whistler to learn how to jump properly. The Women’s Freeride Movement coaches were engaged and encouraging, and the first morning’s session was revelatory. Thanks to Coach Paula’s advice and tips, I cleared my first microscopic jumps on the beginner line and felt, finally, what it was like to sail over a jump and hit the landing on the back side instead of flat on the tabletop. We played some fun drills, too. We smashed rubber chickens with our front wheels, practiced bunny-hopping a pool noodle, and played a version of “foot down.” The atmosphere was electric, full of the elation brought about by a string of little successes.
Day two of the clinic was easily in the top five best days I’ve ever had on a bike. As on day one, the coaches explained lessons in many different ways, easy for anyone to visualize and put into practice. The lessons from the first day were applied on the beginner dirt jump lines again, and I cleared my first jump on the intermediate line, but my legs were exhausted and my back and triceps were burning from so much pulling back the day before. I had just about decided to scrub the last half hour so I didn’t do myself an injury.
Then Coach Austin said: “Who wants to try the Snake Run?”
The Snake Run is part of Whistler’s skate park. It’s an S-shaped series of coping-free concrete banks that get progressively deeper on a slope, ending in a lovely bowl with nearly vertical sides. Suddenly I wasn’t tired anymore. I raised my hand, one of two women who wanted to give it a shot, and it turned out to be the biggest leap of the summer. Much to my shock and delight, I love concrete. I love the stickiness of it. I love the tiny zipping sound my wheels make when I carve a corner. I love catching (a little) air out of it. As someone who failed skateboarding decades ago due to my abject fear of falling on pavement, I had come to accept that snow and dirt were to be my primary sportsing media. So I was a little horrified, I mean, it’s still concrete, and I’m bound to fall on it eventually, but I was also super proud of myself for taking the leap. All of the leaps.
Women’s Freeride Movement absolutely killed it with their jump clinic. The whole weekend was an opportunity to once again send two wheels in new directions and to learn that I love what I didn’t know I could love. See you next year, WFM and Whistler, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
*I should note that this is not a BMX-specific clinic. I was the only one on a BMX bike; most of the participants were on full-sized dirt jumpers and mountain bikes.