Our couch was old. We were the proud third-owners of a tattered, dog-chewed black pleather beauty when we were first married and it was our nicest piece of furniture. Loving family and friends who generously gifted us with cash to set up our little place and really get it looking like a home surrounded us.
Imagine their surprise a year later when the furniture was still exactly the same but shiny new 100 mm cross country mountain bikes adorned the walls like beautiful artwork. I really wanted to use a great pop-culture phrase like, “we didn’t choose the mountain bike life, the mountain bike life chose us,” but clearly we chose it.
At first, my husband Nick and I got bikes to utilize the coulee trails of the city we lived in. It was a perfect way to get the dogs some exercise, (as well as ourselves) while spending time outside getting a rush popping off rocks or steep descents. Watching for snakes and mini cacti became a natural part of our outings, and we rode. A. Lot. Being married in your early twenties was great we thought, look at our fancy bikes. Why doesn’t everyone do this? We were well-balanced people spending normal amount of times on our jobs, education, friends and family while maintaining a good level of fitness enjoying time together and in nature. Then we learned about downhill bikes.
Driving back from Koocanusa Lake one sunny weekend afternoon, we were passing through our favourite winter town of Fernie, B.C. We loved skiing and snowboarding at Fernie Alpine Resort, but had never been there in the summer. Who goes to a skill hill in the summertime?
“Wait, did you see the lifts running up on the hill?” Nick asked excitedly. Of course I didn’t because my eyes were down on the chocolate bar I was eating just like every other long drive we took.
“Do you want to rip up there and check out what’s going on?” Of course I did – more time in the vehicle meant more time to eat chocolate bars.
We popped up the drive to the resort where our eyes were greeted by the sight of some kind of athletes that looked like morphed motocross racers with just enough blood trickling down shins to cause intrigue. People were loading big, beefy, double crowned bikes up on to the lift, and from what we could see from the parking lot, were then careening down at break-neck speeds hitting jumps, drops, and berms along the way.
The next day we went back out and cruised around on cross-country bikes on downhill trails hearing the sound of tires skidding and brakes screaming as people had to drop all their speed for the turtles on the path – (in case I have to explain, WE were the turtles.) We were hooked. The next few weeks we started shopping for bikes for our newfound obsession. It’s also when we fell in love with Rocky Mountain Bicycles.
The bike community is absolutely massive in some respects, a worldwide common ground for many, many people. Walking into bike shops and enquiring about our first ever downhill bikes had everyone chattering excitedly, but we were constantly drawn to Rocky Mountain Bikes. They were so solid, and were Canadian-made. Across every genre of riding they were our favourite bikes over and over. Dealing with Rocky also felt like dealing with family. Our first big bikes were the Rocky Mountain Flatline and the Rocky Mountain Slayer SS, and in spite of having zero skills we were so proud schlepping them back and forth between Lethbridge and every bike park in Western Canada all the way to Mt. Washington on Vancouver Island and back. Our balanced life of working, spending time with friends and taking early morning, and after work pedals spun completely out of control. We loved every minute of it.
Next came kids 1, 2 and 3 and our world look like a compilation of run bikes, training wheels and many hours at the jump park. Riding took place in the house, on the porch, in the shop, on the sidewalk, down the hilly ditch and everywhere in between. It’s truly one of those things you don’t understand until you have kids of your own, but seeing them pedal away from you for the first time, or size up a rooty section they think unsurmountable before bombing down with a little coaxing is beyond magical. Riding with kids means a lot more time packing snacks, ensuring everyone is hydrated and time off your bike cheering and walking them through parts then would typically take place in an hour of riding without them - oddly though, there is nothing better.
Many people steer away from downhill biking at the point when having toddlers in tow, the same as they take a break from big mountain skiing. It makes sense. It’s logical but It didn’t seem very fun to us. During that crossroad period, we were celebrating our tenth anniversary and I was pregnant with baby #3. Nick spent months online and on the phone with every bike shop in Canada, and much of the United States looking for a new Rocky Mountain Maiden to surprise me with. He had recently bought one, and after I tried riding it, I was hooked. The only problem is, shamelessly the colour mattered as much to me as the bike. There was only one bike that looked as cool as the one I wanted – and there were none left in my size anywhere.
After being told by dealer after dealer that they have the right bike, that was the right size and even upgraded components, but unfortunately not the right colour (a small detail to most) Nick gave a disheartened thank you, hung up, and returned to the drawing board. He wanted the gift to be absolutely perfect. He went back to Rocky’s website and gave them a call directly.
Upon regaling the same story of how much biking meant to our family, and how Rocky Mountain bikes had always been apart of that story, he told them that he needed something so much better than gold or diamonds. There was only gift suitable for a tenth anniversary gift - he needed a bike.
The story did not fall on deaf ears, and the kind Rocky rep. pored over shipping orders, invoices and files, spending hours back and forth with Nick on the phone before saying that just maybe, there was the right bike, right size, right COLOUR in Vancouver. The rest is history.
Now with two 200 mm Rocky Mountain Maidens (one with a notably impeccable colour), a Thunderbolt trail bike, and even a Rocky Mountain blizzard for snow biking and coulee cruising with the littlest in tow, our quiver is pretty complete. We didn’t give up on either big mountain riding or each weekend spent riding with our kids. The combination of bikes allowed us to do it all. We are able to spend hours riding with our three smalls, maintaining the versatility of some quick shuttle laps, lift-access riding along with our many hours as a family at pump tracks and on easy green single track trails. Riding bikes teaches to get back up after falling, an incredible degree of self-reliance, and that hardship (breakdowns and crashes) are intertwined with the rush of a lifetime. In order to enjoy the highest of highs, you must be mentally and physically ready to embrace the lows. I’m pretty grateful these are all lessons we can learn together as a family. It’s why we bike.