Monday, July 21, 2008


Downieville is a little town in the Sierra's nestling in a valley along the North Fork of The Yuba River. Like most of these little towns it was settled during the gold rush of 1849. You can still come across people panhandling for gold in the river. These days the town is more likely to be populated with mountain bikers than bearded old prospectors. It's the location of the annual world famous Downieville Classic mountain bike race, which consists of two events, a cross country race and a gnarly downhill race where you descend over 5000 feet of heart poundingly steep and technical single track. We went up to ride the downhill course. It's perfectly possible to top 30 mph as you descend, and many of the pro racers go at over 40 mph. We witnessed some of them on a practice ride (the race was the weekend after we were there) and it's amazing the speeds they travel at. I think it helps to be a little crazy to race mountain bikes downhill. The course is a constantly changing roller coaster of a ride, carving dust tracks give way to gut wrenching steep, slick, speedy sections, which suddenly change terrain and the trail cross multiple streams before entering a rock strewn forest where the slightest loss of concentration will be punished. And that's just the first ten minutes. Of the five of us that rode the trail (we did it twice, once each day) three crashed, none seriously...well not very seriously. Some nasty cuts. To add to the excitement, one of my mates who was right in front of me rode right past a brown bear! My eyes were so glued to the trail that despite being twenty feet behind I never saw the bear. However another friend who was a bit behind us was spooked when the bear ran right across the trail on front of him. I'm not sure if I'm glad I missed the bear or sad I never got to see it.

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OpenID Primal Sneeze said...

I'm sure the bear was thinking "hey, I'm getting out of here now before one of these mad eejits runs me over"

10:50 PM  
Blogger John Mc said...

Too right Primal. Funny thing was my mate was shouting behind to me "bear, bear", but at speed with the wind rushing by me, I thought he was shouting "air, air" as he took off over some of the bumps on the trail!

We came across this poor women a few minutes later, who was way out of her depth and was basically cycling with her brakes fully engaged, and a very frustrated guy trying to encourage her to move a little faster (slow = falling over on steep trails, no momentum). After we told them about the bear she very suddenly discovered a new found mountain biking skills. Being on the wrong side of the food chain is a great way to learn!

9:39 AM  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

"It's perfectly possible to top 30 mph as you descend, and many of the pro racers go at over 40 mph."

I would be a complete nervous wreak at those speeds.
Poor old bear, he was probably more alarmed than the chap who spotted him.

3:24 AM  
Blogger John Mc said...

FMC - its actually safer to go fast, or faster. You tend to cruise over obstacles rather than slam into them. We were on full suspension bikes which makes it easier.

I'm sure the bear was more spooked than we were, but if someone had actually hit it, we might have ended up bear food. There have been a lot of fires so I think the bear was escaping the smoke, apparently they don't come that close to the town normally.

9:34 AM  

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