When Interbike moves to Anaheim next year in August, I’m fairly certain the attendees won’t find anything like the below. That’s unfortunate, as I think it’s scenes like this that really make Interbike a truly unique event – something different than yet just another trade and convention show nearby an easily accessible airport.
Back a few weeks ago I had checked out the Outdoor Demo Day’s event map and noticed the downhill mountain bike course. Sorta like skiing – downhill mountain biking is where a 3rd party takes you to the top of the course, and you bike downhill. That 3rd party could be a car, chairlift, truck…or in the case of Interbike, a converted flat bed truck turned bike-bus.
I assumed it merely went up a few hundred feet in elevation and let folks down a relatively benign course. Turns out I was wrong.
You technically you have two choices if you wish to ride the downhill course. The first being to pedal your ass up to the top. The second however, would be to hitch a ride free of charge. It is this second option that is full of intrigue. So I managed to con a ride up in the cab with one of the drivers to get the fully skinny.
The truck is loaded near the main Interbike area – by simply backing up against a little bump in the desert, allowing the bikers to just walk aboard:
From there, everyone piles on pretty quick. Folks were pretty good about squishing in to make as many folks fit as possible – sometimes upwards of 50 people would pack onboard.
Once ready, the truck headed out on the pavement for a brief time…
It’s during this paved section that a few strangles manage to hitch a ride:
Soon after, it was all dirt road…all the time.
Though there was still a steady stream of folks willing to make the hike themselves.
After a few minutes, mountainous walls gave way to monstrous drops. It quickly became clear that one wrong move here would not end well for me or my camera (let alone all the biker peeps hanging out in the back):
What’s not easily understood in the picture above, is that in between that first row of rocks at the bottom of the picture, and the road where the truck is one…is a large drop – perhaps a few hundred feet until you find the bottom.
In many ways, the below really looks a lot like some of the overloaded trucks I’ve seen while in the Middle East or Africa.
Eventually, the truck makes the final climb towards the summit. There were a few times I wasn’t terribly sure that we’d have the horsepower to make it…but thankfully cyclists in general are a skinny lot.
Once at the top though, there’s still a brief turnaround procedure to embark upon. This procedure ends up putting the front of the cab rather close to the fairly significant drop off (where they don’t even allow cyclist down anymore…probably for good reason).
But, the way I figure it, I just keep my eye on the folks in the back – if they start jumping out, then I should too.
After we’re securely parked (yes, I checked…the emergency brake was set), everyone unloaded.
And their reward for enduring the ride up was a pretty spectacular view of the surrounding area, along with the Las Vegas Strip far in the distance:
But there’s no time to enjoy the view, as the truck quickly speeds away, leaving you to contemplate a way down:
Thankfully for me, I choose a method which didn’t require me to put myself in the same position as this guy perched along the edge of a rock cliff:
The good news is, I later saw him a bit further down – so seems he survived:
Along the way back I’d see tons of folks having a complete blast making the descent – most on borrowed demo bikes. Really no better way to spend the day than playing with someone else’s toys…free! And it wasn’t just limited to bike toys – the guy below also had a demo Contour HD Pro helmet cam borrowed from their booth.
However, even if the riders survive the long descent down…sometimes the bikes don’t. During my long walk, I saw a number of folks with either single or double flats making the walk of shame back to the demo booth:
And finally – some of you may wonder just how many miles does the mountain bike man drive each day? Well, he had the answer. Turns out he’s an avid Garmin Edge 705 owner and each year he actually ends up recording and posting it to Garmin Connect. When I caught up with him mid-afternoon, he had driven some 54 miles by that point in the day.
A quick thanks to both of the truck drivers for getting me up and down, and also allowing me to take some great shots along the way. Thanks guys!