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First the West Hills, now the World; Zoobombers will vie for gravity crown

Posted by on July 31st, 2008 at 11:55 am

Gravity Biking - Bald Peak-31.jpg
Chuck Bridge and his gravity
bike at the top of “Dragontail”
back in April.
More images
(Photos © J. Maus)

Three Portland men who honed their downhill biking skills while “Zoobombing” down the West Hills are taking their sport to the next level.

Team Zoobomb — which consists of Chuck Bridge, Aaron Truman, and Gabriel Tiller — are set to go up against the world’s best “gravity-bikers” at the 2008 Maryhill Festival of Speed held in Goldendale Washington at the end of August. The event will be the World Championships of gravity sports (earning it a live broadcast on ABC Sports).

The members of Team Zoobomb were inspired by what they saw at the event last year, and since then, they’ve been training at Maryhill and other downhill courses in the region.

“They’re highly addictive bikes, and the feeling of flying along, barely a foot off the ground at 50+ mph, with nothing but the wind and the hum of your wheels in your ears is incredible.”
–Chuck Bridge, Team Zoobomb

Back in April I joined them, along with several other mini-bike-riding-gravity-lovers, on a training session at a hill known as Dragontail (Bald Peak), about 25 miles west of downtown Portland. The hill was so steep most folks would think twice about riding down it on a regular bike, much less a bike with 16″ wheels (or even 12″), fairings, handlebars just inches from the ground, and weights attached to the bottom bracket.

That day, the gravity bikers reached speeds close to 60 miles an hour.

Gravity Biking - Bald Peak-21.jpg
The flying Dutch-man.

John “Dutch” Paglia, a Portland transplant from New York, towers over his tiny, 12″ kids bike. But the fact that he’s riding a cheap bike from a department store that you can barely see beneath him as he rides doesn’t stop him from going all-out. After a run down Dragontail, his first, he told me, “I don’t know if my heart can take much more of that. I’ve never gone that fast before.”

A few of Portland’s gravity bikers at the bottom of Dragtontail. From left to right: Top – Zane Fischer, Clif Middleton, Chuck Bridge, Gabriel Tiller; Bottom – Emily O’Connor, Jon “Dutch” Paglia

According to Chuck Bridge, gravity-bikes or “g-bikes” came onto the scene in Portland last October. He says they’ve been around since the 1980s but that interest in the sport — which is officially recognized by the International Gravity Sports Association (IGSA) — has waned. Bridge says he hopes Zoobomb’s participation at Maryhill will “help breathe life back into the sport…. I think our youthful exuberance, creativity, and enthusiasm will help the sport re-emerge.”

To get a better handle on gravity-biking, I asked Chuck and Gabe a few questions:

Gravity Biking - Bald Peak-41.jpg
Emily O’Connor gives it a go.

How is g-biking different from Zoobombing?

Gabe: Zoobombing is a weekly social event, racing fast is just one aspect of it. Nearly all g-bikes are 20″ wheels which are clearly “Cheater Bikes” in zoobomb racer-class regulations. Gravity biking has been around since the 80′s as a racing activity, zoobomb has been around 6 years.

What exactly is a “g-bike”?

Gabe: It’s a stretched, 20″ BMX bike frame modified with slick tires, small handlebars, foot pegs, knee rests added weight and small fairings, all to give the rider a more aerodynamic profile and increase the top speed.

Here’s a photo of Gabe’s bike (notice the low, dropped handlebars, “superman” positioning, and knee plates and weights at the bottom bracket):

What sort of training have you been doing?

Chuck: Aaron and I have been riding our Gravity Bikes on Zoobomb pretty much non-stop since we built them. They’re highly addictive bikes, and the feeling of flying along, barely a foot off the ground at 50+ mph, with nothing but the wind and the hum of your wheels in your ears is incredible.

Gabe: We have been riding together as a team practicing our drafting techniques, which is where the competitive edge will really come into play on a windy 2 mile course with 8 riders abreast.

Gravity Biking - Bald Peak-24.jpg
The view from Bald Peak.
Gravity Biking - Bald Peak-22.jpg
Zane Fischer showing fine form.

What speeds do you expect to reach at the Maryhill event?

Gabe: It is very dependent on the wind direction and speed. At last year’s race the wind was very strong and gusty, and for the most part in the right direction. With a good downhill wind near the top of the course the turns face you straight into the wind a few times. But the second half of the course you feel like you are in a vacuum. A vacuum that shoots you straight into the gnarliest corner of the course – Cowsers. If the wind works with us we’ll be reaching speeds of 50+ mph.

Tiller says Team Zoobomb is “thrilled and honored” to compete at Maryhill but that they expect to rack up $2,000 in expenses. To help offset the costs, he’s looking for sponsors (logo on their leather racing suits anyone?) and he’s putting on a benefit party next weekend.

If you’d like to help Gabe, Aaron and Chuck in their quest to be crowned the World Champions of Gravity Biking, send an email to teamzoobomb [at] gmail [dot] com.

Good luck guys!

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Comments
  • SkidMark July 31, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    The best thing about ZB winning is that the bike are essentially made from junk, and there are people out there throwing thousands of bucks into their g-bikes. Cheap DIY is the root of almost anything fun and interesting, it would be nice to see them triumph over big-budget riders on b@lls alone.

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  • chuck July 31, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    thanks for the coverage, Jonathan. We\’re all way excited about Maryhill, and we\’re hoping for a good turnout for our benefit. I encourage everyone who likes fun to come, as it will be epic on multiple levels. There will be music, food, games, prizes, and a whole lot more!

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  • RyNO Dan July 31, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Good Luck gentlemen.
    May the G be with you.

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  • jeff July 31, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    awesome.

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  • Lillian Karabaic July 31, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Zoobomb loves our team!

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  • bahueh July 31, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Let me guess….no health or life insurance.

    When does the fundraising start?!!

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  • Icarus Falling July 31, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Gravity Bikes have been around I think since the mid 70\’s even.

    I had the opportunity to ride a monster hill on a Hutch Gravity bike in about 1999, which was specifically made for that purpose alone. Much like the ones shown here:
    http://users.pandora.be/jjrbmx/hutch/HUTCHarticles5.html

    Full fairing, no brakes, bad ass.

    I would do it again in half a second. Even at my ripe old age…

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  • chuck July 31, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Bahueh:

    Actually, Health Insurance is required for all IGSA sanctioned events.

    HA! Zoobomb! bustin\’ sterotypes since 2002!

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  • SkidMark July 31, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    They also require brakes.

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  • Galileo July 31, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Interesting sport but what\’s with the added weights on the bottom bracket?
    Lower CG?
    More frame stress and less ability to turn?

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  • Chuck July 31, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Galileo:

    The added weights means added momentum down the hill, and through any slow spots. because of the lower center of gravity on the bikes, we actually gain stability at high speeds through corners. I used to ride without weights (and generally anytime I\’m not getting my ass carted to the top of a hill), and noticed a huge increase in both my acceleration, through corners and in general, and my stability.

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  • Diogo July 31, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Awesome!!!!

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  • SkidMark July 31, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    They are BMX frames not weedy road bike frames so a little added weight doesn\’t bother them. Also the weight is centered so it doesn\’t effect lean angle. This style of G-bike has been around since the 80\’s, the 20 inch geared road racers (like the Hutch and the Haro Dart) came along later. Once again DIY lead the way to something cool and interesting.

    Now if you\’ll excuse me I\’m going to make my Schwinn cruiser into a mountain bike with parts from a Schwinn Le Tour and the handlebars off my (motorcycle)dirt bike…

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  • Mr DeJerk July 31, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    Go Team ZooBomb!!!

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  • Dutch July 31, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    zoobomb for the win!

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  • revphil July 31, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    Thanks, Jonathan!

    The FUNdraiser will be pretty spectacular as you might guess. I\’d love to see lots of fresh new faces come out!

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  • PJ August 1, 2008 at 8:19 am

    zoobomb powers activate!

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  • andy August 1, 2008 at 9:39 am

    go bombers, go! make us proud!

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  • Matt Picio August 1, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Go kick non-zoobomb butt! Best of luck, and many cold ones at the finish!

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  • Brad August 1, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Hmmmmm…added weight…knee plates…leather racing suits…

    Pro riders routinely hit 50+ on winding mountain descents on 14 pound standard geometry bikes wearing nothing but lycra. Plus they also have to pedal up the beast first. Multiple climbs and descents as a matter of fact.

    Just sayin\’…

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  • Chuck August 1, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Brad:

    that\’s like comparing apples to oranges. these bikes are completely different animals. also, I question the logic behind riding at those speeds in just lycra. road rash much?

    oh, and my bike was free. no need for a several thousand dollar ride for me thank you very much.

    just sayin\’…

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  • Flying Frenchman August 9, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Wow, I knew this guy Chuck before he was a celebrity! Good luck and may the Force(s) of Gravity be with you. I\’m definitely going to have to Youtube this sport.

    -Peace & Grace

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  • Aaron August 13, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    I\’ll I have to say is that 3 kicks and a tuck gets me going 55 in less than 30 seconds. That\’s also considering that we are in the city limits and have to obey traffic laws. The rest is taking the turns and keeping as aerodynamic as possible to keep your speed.
    I recently packed my touring bike & rode to the coast and hit 38mph down a mountain-pass (with full panniers). Kudos to the pro riders! I\’d rather be closer to the ground while hitting over 45.
    On closed courses g-bikes can hit over 65mph. That\’s from stats in the early 90\’s.

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