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Rhett Lindsey: The freedom of a bike

 

The freedom of a bike is granted to any and all who seek it. And all I was looking for was that freedom. No sounds, no thoughts, no need to worry about school, a world wide pandemic, just the time you and your bike spend together.

I remember back a summer ago, I rolled up to the Truckee Bike Park, the freestyle line, seeing and feeling the movements in my mind. Eyes on the jump, my head pulses while my body tenses. At the top I position my bike next to Caedon and Luke carefully, we give each other knuckles and share the stoke. I look over at Caedon, big smile, sweat on his brow, one of his most precious items in his hands, admiring the bike as it granted him freedom from this pandemic as well as unity with his friends. Caedon starts with, “I haven’t been here in so long!”

I agree. “I know you say it’s sketch, but you will love it by the time we leave.”



Luke sounded unsure. “I don’t know, it seems kinda sketch.”

Before meeting, I had to convince Luke and Caedon to come back because we have all been casualties of the park in the past. I wanted to avoid a mouth of dirt, but the reward of riding is greater than a broken tooth and a bruised ego. So, I drop in for my warm-up lap, the sound of rubber on solid dirt was something comforting. Steep lips with steeper landings coat the area ahead, an endless amount of options to get floaty on. Gaining speed, I fly into a berm, the forces of inertia gluing me to the wall of dirt. With new speed and joy, exiting the berm, I air the last few jumps and get a glimpse of the freedom. Back at the top, small talk lets our minds rest from the biggest jump here known as Jaws. I have sent it before, and I trusted my muscle memory, but the lip still taunts me. Luke and Caedon had no clue that they, too, were going to air this mass of earth. With eager intent I drop in confidently, all eyes on the path ahead. It seems to approach like a shark in the water. As I make my way through the setup jumps, I get into the zone, no noise, no distractions, just the plan and the soon-to-be reward. At the last second I take one more pedal stroke and prepare for takeoff. Fully compressed, I release my body’s tension and I become weightless. No gravity or strain keeps my body or mind connected to the ground …




THE TRUCKEE BIKE PARK

The Truckee Bike Park was founded by Cortney Knudson and Brooks McMullin in the hopes that kids like me and my friends would want to come together for some fun. With a passion for jumps in mind, they started the journey in 2012 after a trip to Sun Valley where the pump tracks brought the community together and engaged the youth to try something new. They brought their dream home, teamed up with Mark Featherstone, and the park was born.

The Truckee Bike Park was first funded by local bike shops and trail building groups: Cyclepaths, Olympic Bike Shop, TAMBA and Biking for a Better World, which are still represented around the park with signs and banners. Since the beginning, starting with the pump track, they have added flow trails called: Medusa, Free rider, Mint Chip, Dual Slalom, Straight Rhythm, Dual bmx, a whole dirt jump zone, and freestyle and slopestyle courses. Now there are fundraisers for large construction projects for new lines, such as the most recent, “Drop Zone” and work has already started on a second slopestyle line that is for the more advanced riders. Looking around you see smiles on faces and friends to follow; everyone from “groms” on Striders to pros flipping jumps can find a place to “sesh” at the Truckee Bike Park. One drops in to show many others that what looks impossible is actually fun.

Parents can relax (or at least try to) while riding with their kids who aspire to ride like the pros. No matter where you start, you can find a place to enjoy the outdoors, chill with friends, and learn, sometimes without even realizing it.

… there is no struggle or panicking, what my body feels is a free fall. Just freedom. My stomach rises and falls with the force of gravity. I lean over the bike and it takes me, we are connected and one. The freedom of which it has given me is unnamable. I close my eyes and relax. Peacefully re-entering the world, I see the landing and my body glides towards it. A smooth transition from air to earth is made. I am grounded. The trail takes me where it pleases and I follow with glee.

The gift this park and staff have given me is inexplicable. I have reached the end of my ride. But rather than be sad with this reality, I focus on the time I had spent in the air. And as I walk back up, the boys’ faces seem unsure but also stoked. Ready to push the limits of their freedom, Luke takes the first few run ups, gauging his speed; I lead them into the jump once or twice for the timing and sensation of entering into Jaws. I know they can do it, they just need to believe they can fly.

“I’m just gonna do it,” Luke says, ripping off the bandaid of fear. But underneath was a splendid surprise. Caedon and I watch him on every jump leading in. He has the speed. He has the line. He was in the air sooner than any of us realized. With a call from deep within, he is free of Jaws’ grasp. A burden of the mind that is like a shark attack on the body. Paralyzed with fear, freedom becomes even better when you conquer your own self. But looking at Caedon, he was not scared, his face was lifted with relief and reassurance. He knows he can do it. A quick “Dropping!!” And he’s off. Up top Luke and I watch; the tension is viable, we know Caedon can clear the jump. As Caedon rides up the lip, I can tell almost instinctively he has the right speed. He soars through the air with style and grace. A triumphant holler fills the empty air. Smooth landing and exchange of high fives later and the boys have cleared Jaws.

“I told you, man, the people that build these jumps are pros!” I exclaim excitedly.

Rhett Lindsey is a sophomore at North Tahoe High School, an avid mountain bike racer and ski racer


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