On getting pulled into things
minding the gap with Jed
I spent my youth getting lost in the woods around these parts with Jed. Now at fifty, he and I are out there again, getting lost, smashing through trees and attempting to find where that ‘youth’ part of me got left behind.
Jed is an insistent and resilient dude. He builds mountain bike trails. He’s insistent because he makes trails whether people want them there or not. This leads to things like outlet malls or new subdivisions being created where he and others had spent countless hours building trail.
He’s resilient because he just keeps building more trail. When it comes to ‘borrowing’ a bit of unused land to ride bikes on, the ‘correct’1 approach is to get permission. Ask the landowner. Then get the lawyers and insurance involved. Next? Someone gets hurt. Lawsuits happen and the trails die. It takes years before a shovel hits the dirt. Years? Jed and I are getting old. We don’t have years.
Jed’s approach? Fuck it. Build it. If they don’t like it, they can put a mall on it later. Jed could spend countless hours on applications, approvals and permissions only to run into a planning committee dedicated to making things that everyone can go on. They want muliti use trails for everyone. This inclusivity tends to exclude skill, competence and a lot of fun.
Though inclusion is wonderful, every cyclist does not belong on every trail. The trails that Jed builds are created so that people with skills actually have a place to ride. Jed is more inclusive than most city planners who create mobility plans. They look to eliminate rough terrain, lips, gaps and barriers. Jed looks to include these. Jed’s trail building techniques are inclusive in a different way. They include creating opportunities for flying through the air, shredding berms, adding adrenaline and shouting ‘yew!’
Jed builds jumps with gaps. A gap is what it sounds like. You take off in one place, there is a gap and then a sloped landing. If you clear the gap, you instantly accelerate when you hit the landing. Smiles form. Everything is scary and fun. Gaps are not for beginners.
If you don’t quite make it - if your back wheel catches on the edge of the landing? That’s called casing. Casing frequently results in crashing. If you really blow the jump and hit the lip of the landing with your front wheel? That’s called eating shit. Casing can be escaped. Eating shit is just what it sounds like. Nobody ever wants to eat shit.
He creates these gaps on purpose. I hate them - especially how Jed builds them. He starts with the big rocks, then small rocks, then dirt. The rocks? They all look like variations on sharks teeth or dinosaur fangs. They look scary.
I’m not the only person who is a bit intimidated by Jed’s creations. Others who ride Jed’s trails have over the years taken to ‘improving’ the jumps. They’ve filled in the gaps with rocks, logs, boards and even some signage from highway nearby. Wheels on the ground family fun? Jed shakes his head with disgust. They don’t know what I’m doing here. It’s frustrating.
It’s frustrating because Jed wants to help people become better riders. Gaps are intimidating. Getting over them is critical. The space between take off and landing messes with your head. You need to commit. You need to hit them at the right speed. That’s why they’re there. You want to improve? You want to be a more confident rider? Clear gaps.
That’s what I wanted. That’s why we were there, standing in the bush on a nearby utility service line. On 24, most of the jumps aren’t huge. They mostly aren’t that steep. They are mostly all gaps. They have scared me for years. Today, was set aside to fly over the gaps.
The launches aren’t that steep. They don’t send a rider very high. The gaps range in size from around eight feet to twenty feet on a bigger step down jump. How does one cover spaces that size? Not going fast enough results in casing, or worse, eating shit. Go too fast and and you’ll fly past the landing. this can be painful tool
According to Jed, they were designed to be ridden at ‘trail speed’ Hit them all at trail speed and you’ll be just fine. The problem? What’s trail speed? The solution? Jed.
We had a system for me to learn.: Upon arriving at a jump, we’d walk it to check out the approach, the slope of the jump, the size of the gap and the landing. Jed would hit it twice, then he’d pull me in.
Getting pulled into a jump involves riding at the same speed as the person in front of you to hit jumps. In that situation I don’t need to think about my speed. I merely need to keep about six feet behind Jed and pull up on my handlebars when the ground disappears.
Getting pulled in requires a few things. First, as a rider, I needed to be comfortable rolling at trail speed, knowing full well that once I landed, that speed was likely going to increase rapidly. Next? Getting pulled in requires me to trust myself. I need to trust that I’ll be able to land the jump. I also need to trust that Jed’s not going to eat shit in front of me leading to a bike pile up disaster.
Essentially, all I had to do was ride my bike at the same speed as Jed, with confidence and commitment. Jump by jump we worked our way down the trail. Jump by jump, Jed pulled me in. Once I knew the size, the speed and the shape of the movement, I hit the jumps without the tow.
There are gaps everywhere in our lives.
I’m like Jed. I resent the people who want to fill them all in. And, even if that was our intention or within the scope of our control, I wouldn’t want the metaphoric gaps to be fully filled in. I want to be with the people who want to fly.
Getting pulled in by someone who’s been there before?
That’s an entirely different story. By getting pulled in, we can learn to leap. We learn to fly.
Who pulled you in?
Who are you helping mind the gap?
How does speed factor into things?
How big are the gaps you’re sending?
as determined by the helmet wearing bureaucrats who work in dedicated cycling organizations and non profits.