bike at the top of “Dragontail”
back in April.
(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.
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.”
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:
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.
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!