Skibike - Pre-History

Posted: Thursday, 1 January 2009 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

Every story has to begin somewhere and mine can be traced back to the 1990's......Life was good, I had found a job I liked doing and I was in demand for my services, but work was stressful, the hours irregular and often sedentary.

Having witnessed my Dad die of a massive heart attack far too young and his younger brother just surviving one made me realise that I would have to do something sporty to save myself from the same grisly fate.
I had been forced to play rugby at school and had no wish to return to the pitch; golf seemed too cliquey, swimming would be good but public pools in London are gross. The turning point came when my work buddy Alastair asked if I would join a group heading off to the Alps for a chalet holiday.

Dutifully I did my preparation on the Bromley dry ski slope, learned how to snowplough and side slip; was donated a horrendous pair of electric blue salopettes, bought a jacket, a beanie hat and some sunglasses. I was ready.

That first trip was awesome, I was spoiled, Meribel had far too much to offer a novice, the weather was perfect, the snow conditions ideal. 7 days were too short, I could have stayed for ever, I was eager for more.

I realised that I needed to improve my fitness and stamina to get the most out of skiing. So I began to hill walk, climb and jog more.

Over the next four years I managed to fit in a week or two on the slopes per year, unfortunately my injury level was high. A twisting fall left me with a knee that locked and clicked, eventually I went into hospital and had it cleaned out.

The real disaster was yet to come in Val d'Isere.

Val d'Isere, makes my knees hurt to think about it
On the first run of the first day of a holiday I came off the chairlift, crossed my tips and fell, a foolish novice error, no pain or drama involved but when I tried to pick myself up, my left leg buckled under me.
I went back down the hill on a stretcher and straight to the doctors, I had snapped the anterior cruciate ligament on my left leg.

Back in the UK, physiotherapy was to follow, the therapist said that jogging was out but using an exercise bike would be good for recovery. I have never liked gymnasiums and the prospect of sitting in my garage on a static machine wouldn't work for me.

An abandoned Bernard D'Anger 70's road racer got me on the road to recovery, it had Mavic alloy rims and centre pull brakes, a high tech novelty for someone who's last bike was a Raleigh Arena. I learned how to maintain a bike, replacing transmission parts, broken spokes and worn tyres. I even took it on a short tour from London to Amiens, France to watch the Solar Eclipse of 1999.

Trusty DiamondBack in the snow
An inexpensive but sturdy DiamondBack mountain bike was to follow, I took it to Gran Canaria in winter time and rode/carried it for 5 hours to the top of the island, then rode back in 45 minutes
The same bike later evolved into my hack commuter hybrid and thus far refuses to die.

Watching downhill mountain bikers on YouTube lead me to videos of skibikers on the piste in the USA, but very little from Europe; still the seed had been sown in my head....