I’m standing in a pack of shivering strangers and the longer I wait, the more I feel like chickening out. Its dinnertime, I should be at home – warm and comfortable. Instead, I’m outside, out of my element. I don’t know anyone, it’s raining and I’m underdressed and worrying my lack of protective gear will leave my arms and legs covered with cuts and bruises? What the hell am I doing?
I’m biking, about to drop into my first Monday Night Ride with the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA). I signed up hoping to learn to ride my newly purchased second-hand cross-country bike (and because a $45 WORCA season pass—plus two bucks a ride— is the best deal in town.) That Mother Nature decided my maiden voyage would be a cold and rainy one is just the way it sometimes goes in a coastal rainforest in June.
The rain is the least of my worries however, I’m more focused on the task at hand – making it through this bike ride. As the WORCA organizer welcomes all 75 participants to the first ride of the season we are broken into groups based on ability level. Brian, our guide, leads my group of 8 off to the trail and I immediately recognize it as one I have enjoyed in the past… as a hiking trail. Yikes!
After all but the most timid riders drop in, Brian encourages me down the start of Cut Yer Bars and I quickly discover that all that my bike (and nerves) needs to manage the rain-soaked rocks and muddy roots is a bit of gentle coaxing. Wheeee, gravity rules!
Correction, gravity rules when it works with you. The uphill stretches are much less exhilarating (mental note – work on cardio) but I huff it out and eventually meet up with the rest of the pack at the first feature of the ride—a steep, man-made, wooden hill-drop thingy. From the looks of the crowd I realize, to my horror, that I’m expected to ‘ride’ the feature. Despite Brian’s advice and encouraging cheers from the group, I opt to ride around it (this time). No one makes chicken noises at me at least.
The Author (LEFT) shows off her form while her Monday Nite group waits patiently in the rainforest (RIGHT).
As the ride progresses so do my skills and, while pausing atop of a particularly burning hill climb (note to self – cardio, cardio, cardio), Mother Nature rewards me. I’m metres away from a massive Pileated Woodpecker about to dig into a tree. These notorious forest birds are often heard but rarely seen. Amazing.
Straddling my bike, watching the woodpecker in the rain, I take a moment to soak in my surroundings. From the smell of the wet forest to the color mash-ups of red cedar trunks and glistening green ferns to the massive trees, taller than I could ever climb, the amount of stunning nature just outside our doorsteps in Whistler is truly incredible, rain or shine. And the ability to adapt to all weather conditions allows us Whistler cross country riders to enjoy it that much more.
As the evening rolls away under my tires, my confidence swells and my fears shift into excitement. Twisting down the last bit of trail, hours into the ride, I’m suddenly in front heading up the pack. I’m the leader.
And then, although the rain continues, the ride is over. I’m muddy and exhausted but the first cold beer at the Wildwood Bistro & Bar is on WORCA (bonus) and I’m still vibrating from the thrill of challenges overcome, new friends, and the deep appreciation for the tireless work of the crew at WORCA. Not only do they host these amazing learning sessions and rides for locals and visitors alike, but they also maintain the entire trail network for everyone to enjoy all season long.
Perfect summer days come in all shapes and sizes – from full-blown, sun soaked beach days with a dip in the lake and a BBQ with friends to hikes providing 360 views of glaciated peaks, to scenic golf rounds with the family. But there’s just as much fun to be had when Mother Nature decides to drop a little rain and feed these lush green forests we call home. Don’t let a little moisture dampen your adventure—this is Whistler and neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor sun will keep us from our outdoor pursuits. It’s just how we roll.
Check out this Interactive Map of Whistler bike trails. There is a version for mobile devices too!
For more info on Monday Night Rides, Thursday Night Toonie Races (that’s the next step up) and Phat Wednesday’s (the bike park version), visit the WORCA site. All riders must have a bike (rentals available at Whistler.com), a helmet and a sense of adventure. Ride on!