Rod Serling’s got nothing on me

5 07 2010

You’ve got to earn it.

As this evening’s ride started a little late, I opted for a short, sharp ride up Burnaby Mountain, just over 36 kms round trip with about 450 meters of climbing. That meant I had to pass the “Shuttlers Zone.”

For anyone on two wheels mashing their way up the climb with only the power of their two legs, that’s the equivalent of going through the “smokers’ pit” that forms beside the entrances to shopping malls and office buildings. The stench of questionable health and dubious hygiene is almost as strong.

You've entered the "Shuttlers' Zone," domain of the weak.

It’s a pullout on the side of the road where mountain bikers rendezvous to pile their 40-pound dual-suspension behemoths with six-inch travel forks and their peared bodies into the back of a designated buddy’s pick up truck or onto the hitch rack at the back of their SUV to be ferried in air-conditioned, surround sound comfort to the top of the trails, so they can coast down with minimal effort and maximum air.

Some of the shuttlers are a little more environmentally conscious, or maybe just poorer; they wait at the bus stop just before the Shuttlers’ Zone, clamping their downhill steeds into the special racks at the front of every bus.

While I’ve yet to be able to wrap my head fully around the logistical arrangements of shuttling (at some point the shuttlee has to get back up to their vehicle; how does that happen), I can understand its logic on bigger mountains like Seymour, where the road up is long and hard, and the trails down are more suited to downhill thrashing.

But as mountains go, Burnaby’s is little more than a hump. The trails that crisscross its slopes are more suited to nimble cross-country rides.

Those heavy downhill rigs exact a toll. Their riders, ever in the search of the “North Shore experience” without the inconvenience of having to cross a bridge, tend to seek out stunts, creating new, rogue trails to take advantage of drops or jumps. Their heft pounds the dirt, hastening erosion, deepening natural lumps.

A couple of years ago, in an effort to distract the downhillers from their destructive ways, the city opened a skills park at the base of the mountain, with ramps, stunts, rollers and beams to test and develop their skills.

It’s a fabulous facility, and it’s mostly ignored.

I haven’t done a trail ride up there in a couple of years. Some parts of my favorite routes became more sketchy than I was confident to handle. But the ride up was always a key part of the experience, especially when I finally conquered Cardiac, the short, extremely steep side trail that vexed me for years.

Riding up always made the ride down that much sweeter.