And I say “little” because I’m 6’3″ and it was a size medium Kona Operator. It was more than a little cramped, it was teeny. Actually, it was all wrong. The whole bike was all wrong. Yes, it was a modern downhill frame, but it was the wrong spring rate for me, the front end was super low with the bars rolled way back, the brake levers were in the wrong place for me, it had a rear Nevegal and a hard compound 2.5 front tire pumped up to about 35 psi, and to top it off the entry-level 888 was blown out. Apparently it had 400cc’s of oil in each fork leg, and while I can’t confirm the fork’s oil level, I do know I was achieving hydraulic bottom-out around 180mm of travel.
Basically it was 46 pounds of perfection. I borrowed the bike from this stoked as hell 16-year-old named Andrew Wiley from Bellingham. A big thanks goes out to Andrew. He races XC and bought the bike for $800, and he raced his first season of downhill on the bike last year. He just rebuilt the rear wheel himself and he told me “it’s basically indestructible,” so I made sure to test that theory by following people blind into 30 foot doubles on the Kona. I can’t say I damaged the wheel, but I did bottom the piss out of the 888 about 888 times. I Operated for half the day on a bunch of scary fast trails I’d never ridden before, and, apologies to all sponsors past and present, but it was the most fun I’ve had on a bike in a long, long time. Following locals on a beater bike = good times. The Operation was a success.
As we were pedalling back to the car after another run, one of my friends mentioned something like “the hip with the soft duff on the outside.” I nodded and acted like I knew what he was talking about, but I couldn’t remember a single thing that happened in the five minutes prior. I just remember being terrified and going really fast the whole time.
I’ve spent a lot of time dorking out about bikes, dorking out about trails, and generally dorking out. I definitely overthink things sometimes, and it’s gotten in the way of my racing, my riding, and my happiness level many times.
Riding someone’s clapped out downhill bike was the perfect reset to all of that. Knowing your bike is important, and making sure your bike is prepped and race ready is important too, but the most important thing is just riding the damn bike.
And I rode the hell out of Andrew’s Kona. It was awesome.