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Vienna | 2.10.2006 | 22:10 
Letters from a shrinking globe: around the day in 80 worlds

Zita, Rotifer, Steve

Eyes Like Clockwork Orange
  I had been very brave the night before in the bar where we hatched the plan. I was still quite plucky when renting out a tank-like bike, wrapping on the body armour and reciting the most testosterone-rich quotes from Gladiator. But now, 15 seconds into my career as a downhill mountain-biker, I wasn't feeling brave any more. In fact, I was petrified.

It's a bit like this...
  Everything is rushing towards you surprisingly quickly, far too quickly, then a hump-back roller brings the ground suddenly close, alarmingly close, and then it's falling away, and your stomach's gone there's the dreaded silence of air, and then the hanging on for dear life at the tight corner and into a tunnel of trees, and the root-strewn forest floor is against you, the front wheel biting up like a yapping dog at your feet...

  and it's narrow between the trees, very narrow and claustrophobic - like on a computer game - but now you've started there is no stopping - momentum is a bitch - and besides there's your pride and the clank, clank, clank of someone coming up behind...

admittedly NOT me!
  so you grit your teeth and you let it go and you're trying not to think 'what if'; and round a hair-pin bend it's brighter, suddenly brighter, and the fear is still there but it's softer because the roots are gone, and you are no longer just fighting the speed but also embracing it; and your teeth are still gritted but a smile is spreading wide inside your stomach....

so you let go of the brakes, just for a second, just to see, and you are getting cocky now, too cocky, even trying the little ramps, hoping your friends have seen...
  and now you can see the finish, but you can't relax because the gravel is a terror, a silent prayer and just keep the wheel pointed straight, but don't brake too hard and you've made it, and you're down and your legs are like jelly but you are laughing out loud at no-one...

and, for the first time in ages, you feel completely like a child, a giddy, stupid little child with a new toy in the Austrian mountains.
We might not be the best bikers, but let's face it - we look damned cool.
The Facts
  The Bike Park Zauberberg Semmering was opened on the 1st of July this year. There is a steep 'Downhill' course and a 'Freeride' and a longer Family run, which is a good place to learn the skills.

Opening times: July-September 9am-6pm and then until the 26th October from Wednesday to Sunday 9am-5pm. You can rent a specialized downhill bike and body amour there - it's a good idea to reserve the bikes beforehand.

For those of you lucky enough to live in the West, there are also great downhill courses in Schladming and Leogang.

As the New Zealander who got me into this trouble so eloquently says: "this does not suck".
The only victim of the day - my orange trousers.
fm4 links
  Bike Park Semmering
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