Moving countries can be pretty traumatic, and when David and Darrell Farrow (both geologists) emigrated from South Africa to Deep Cove four years ago, leaving one son behind in school in Cape Town, they had to adjust, regroup, and rebuild their social network. Mountain biking became David’s de-stress valve and biking and the North Shore trails quickly became his passion. David went from being unfit, a few pounds overweight and a total novice on the trails, to completing the four-race Helluva Series in 2012.
Looking at the high tech mountain bikes hanging in his garage, it’s hard to believe that David’s first bike in Canada was a heavy electric bike, intended to help him make it up the hills on his daily commute to Burnaby. “I found riding on the road a little scary though – all my reactions were based on many years of driving or riding on the left. The other problem was that the battery used to run out on Mt Seymour Parkway on the way home and it was tough riding a 40lb bike up the hill”, says David. The electric bike went and was replaced by a hybrid.
“To get fit, I started to ride up Mt Seymour … I made it up a couple of km and then down again. Very boring! Then, one day, I saw a track going off into the woods, so I decided to follow it – that was Old Buck. Fun! The next time, I followed Old Buck and got onto Empress Bypass .. on a hybrid!”. David’s first experience with trails made him realize that he was on the wrong bike!
The next bike was a used Brodie, an early-style mountain bike with dual suspension. While out riding one day on the Brodie, David bumped into a group of mountain bikers he later found out were the North Shore Riders. “I followed them, brakes squealing, as I tried desperately to keep up. A really friendly bunch, they invited me to join them and become a member – so I did – but my fifteen-year-old bike was not going to cut it. Time for an upgrade!”, he adds.
David’s next stop was Different Bikes at Parkgate, and he left the shop with a dual suspension Kona Dawg, and an invitation to join a group of riders on Tuesday nights. “I still ride with them today, a great group.”, David adds. “We always do a similar route and the pace is the slowest person – which was me in those days (2009). The leader used to make everyone stop every couple of hundred metres so I could catch up!”.
With one year of mountain biking experience under his belt, David signed up for his first race, the Test of Metal, in 2010. “I was totally unprepared, technically incompetent and 10 kg overweight but I finished (albeit 6 hours later), that was my goal. However, time for a bike change – I bought a Niner RIP 9 – moving to 29” wheels, its a beautiful bike! In 2011, I finished the Test of Metal in well under five hours. Huge improvement”, he adds.
Last year, 2012, David completed the prestigious Helluva Series .. Ore Crusher in May, Test of Metal in June, Gear Jammer in July and JABR in August. This time, he completed the Test of Metal in 4:32 despite really tough (muddy) conditions.
When asked about his favourite areas to mountain bike, David mentions Seymour, as it’s ‘in his backyard’, and Squamish for the ‘challenging, but not life-threatening’ routes. However, he also has a soft spot for Moab, Utah, which he has visited the last couple of years.
But what’s so special about mountain biking? David explains “I love the total focus, biking allows my mind to relax. I have the type of mind which doesn’t disengage easily – but when I ride, I have to commit 100% and focus on keeping my butt on the bike rather than over the handlebars. And you are going to go over the handlebars on a regular basis”, warns David. “That’s just the way it is! My tip is to learn to roll, and don’t put your hands out to save yourself”. David’s worst injury was broken ribs, but common injuries are dislocated or broken shoulders and fingers.
“Mountain bikers are a great group of people. It’s not about testosterone – if you have to get off your bike to walk, that’s fine. No-one looks down on you and no-one will ever pressurize you to get out of your comfort zone if you don’t want to. I’m not comfortable doing log rides or in getting the wheels more than two feet into the air – so I don’t do it”.
Having changed bikes on average every six months, David has become somewhat of an expert on mountain bikes. After trying an assortment of dual suspension, aluminium, steel framed bikes, he is currently riding a Titanium Kona Raijin. “Titanuim Hardtail is the way to go – lots of flex, it doesn’t rust if it gets scratched – I’ve found the near perfect match for my riding and have no intention of changing any time soon”, he adds.
Goals for next year? A Test of Metal time closer to 4 hours, Nimby 50 in Pemberton, and no injuries…