Biker Learns Two Wheels Are Better Than Four
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
SNOWSHOE, W.Va.-- The trail across from the ski lift measures 1,500 feet from top to bottom and is littered with jagged rocks, narrow manmade bridges, boulders, trees, dirt jumps and vertical drops.
None of that fazed Derrick Maready, who peered over the edge, pulled down his full face helmet, adjusted his ski goggles and without hesitation steered onto the trail.
Seconds later, he was cruising down the slope at a top speed of nearly 40 mph on his 50-pound, $5,000 bike with eight inches of shock absorber travel in the front and rear (think dirt motorcycle minus the motor). The sound of knobby tires rumbling over the rough terrain and the jingling of the chain smacking against the aluminum frame pierced the silence on a recent morning at Snowshoe Mountain Resort.
Maready disappeared into the mist.
"The best thing about downhill mountain biking is you never have to pedal uphill," Maready later quipped.
After being forced to retire from professional skateboarding after three knee surgeries -- Maready has a ball and chain tattooed to his left leg because, as he says, "these days I just drag it around" -- the admitted adrenaline junkie gets his fix racing and free-riding.
Maready, bored with navigating the treacherous trail, pointed his bike toward a four-foot-high boulder. At full speed he pulled up on his front wheel, bounded over the rock and launched himself into the air. As if that weren't enough, Maready kicked his rear wheel to the side. He stuck the landing.
As an onlooker applauded, Maready explained it was nothing special. Some of the world's best riders clap their hands behind their back, or do 360s, while pulling similar stunts, he says.
On June 23-25, the 31-year-old will race against professionals for the first time in Snowshoe's inaugural Powerade Mountain Bike Series. Organizers say the series, which will pay out $25,000 in cash and $15,000 in other prizes, is among downhill racing's richest competitions.
Maready will be up against professional riders like Trevyn Newpher of Team 9.8 and possibly Lars Tribus and Chris Herndon, as well as semi-professionals Brad Stone and Kalan Bunch. (Many of the top riders will be competing in a World Cup event in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, being held the same weekend.)
The winner's take at Snowshoe will be $1,200. But getting rich isn't the reason Maready moved here from Wilmington, N.C., two years ago with two bikes and all of his worldly possessions jammed into an old car. He works at Snowshoe as a bike mechanic for $8 an hour during the summer and a little more as a snowmobile instructor in the winter.
When he's not working, he's on his bike. And that, for now, is enough.
"I'm an adrenaline junkie," Maready said. "I don't do this for the money. I get paid in nuts and bolts. I'm doing this because I seriously love the sport. I'm just enjoying my life. My only worry is me and my bicycle."