Mountain Biking – Albion, ON

Years ago my buddy Matt took me out mountain biking in Durham Forest. It was my first time using clip-less pedals (a name I’ve never understood, as “clip-less” pedals are the only kind you clip into). Under practice conditions, I could snap my foot out of the clip-less pedals fine, but when I really needed to, such as when I was falling, the odds lowered to about 50%.

On one such occasion I was about to fall sideways into an evergreen tree, but rather than risk my delicate skin on the pines, I fell to the other side of the trail into what appeared to be an open clearing. Visually deceiving, the open clearing had the remnants of a small sapling – and I landed ass first into that damn stump. I’ve never admitted it publically, but I’ve avoided most real cycling ever since.

Fast forward 6 years, and Matt’s invited me out to the Chico 24 hours of Summer Solstice – a 24 hour mountain bike race in the hills of Albion, Ontario. It’s a 17km looping course that teams of 1-12 people (yeah, some go solo), try to tackle as many times as they can in a 24 hour period.

I arrived just in time for the start, which had been delayed two hours because of a downpour. So the 24 hour marathon had now become a simple 22 hour sprint. The race is the largest of its kind in North America, and loaded with a lot of first time racers who seem drawn to the energy and team/camping experience.

Many teams carry a laid back, “have fun” attitude,  enjoying the capacity campsite and taking turns spinning out through the woods.

Matt’s brother’s team, 3 Rox Racing, hooked me up with one of their bikes, some gear, and a guide in team member Corey who took me for a lap around the track.

The course had some highly technical portions, and while I still knew how to pedal and steer a bike – trying to flip gears, brake, and avoid other riders on a wet course proved to be a challenge. The typical routine had me failing to pick up enough speed into an uphill, sliding off a tight turn as we descended, and thanking Corey for waiting up every few minutes.

I couldn’t stick around for the night ride, but after navigating the forest and hills during the daytime, I think it’d be amazing to watch some riders tear through that course in the dead of the night with just a few lights guiding them.

Anyways, the experience has motivated me to inflate the tires on the old 18-speed, spray some WD-40 on the gears and invest in a non-purple helmet that’s less than 10 years old. Keep an eye out for me near Heber Downs or up in Durham Forest.