by Cecilia LaFrance
Jonathan Brookshire coasts back to the Apex Trailhead parking lot where more than 50 vehicles fill the spaces, most with some means of transporting a mountain bike to tackle the rugged foothill terrain. The trail’s proximity to the city earns its 9.7 miles of singletrack heavy traffic, but its technical obstacles rank it among die-hard bikers’ favorite. On this late Friday afternoon, like he does most weekends now that snowboarding season ended, Brookshire completes another tour.
Today’s ascent on his go-to trail was harder than usual, a bit of a slog, Brookshire says, but “really good coming down.” Brookshire smiles and nods his head in satisfaction. “Flying,” he says. “I hit every obstacle.” His confidence comes from practice.
Climbing up to 1500 feet of trail with sharp switchbacks and outcroppings took some preparation for the Ohio native. Mountain biking in the Cleveland area “is obviously not like this,” he says. “It’s nonexistent.” So, when Brookshire moved to Denver two years ago, he ran stairs at a 4-level parking garage to train. Then, he moved up to an 8-level. Soon, he was running the stairs at Red Rocks. After biking other trails in the Front Range area, Brookshire says, “I just landed on this one because you just don’t get the obstacles elsewhere like here.”
The next level of training began. “I like to find the best run and learn all the obstacles.” Brookshire studied the route, picked lines, and practiced technique. “A few years ago I was walking over some of it. Now I’m jumping over most of it.” His blue eyes shine over a proud grin as he rests on the tailgate of an SUV. “I’m not exactly where I want to be on this one,” he says, implying a high definition of perfection.
Strategic and determined, Brookshire disciplines himself on all aspects of performance. At first, he says, his goal was to keep a certain pace, but he quickly revised it. Now, it’s “not to stop.” At first, he gave up one pit stop. “Then you make yourself skip another, no matter how hard it hurts.” Now, Brookshire says he rarely stops, intentionally, that is, even when he gets lightheaded.
Rolling With It
“It’s been a couple of good years.” Brookshire’s 2012 Yeti 575 leans against the tailgate. He calls it the Godfather of all full-suspension mountain bikes. “This is where it all started. I have refused to upgrade as of yet.” He looks at his bike with appreciation akin to Lone Ranger’s trust in Trigger. The bike has rolled with him more than half a dozen times and stays dependable. Of course, a technique Brookshire’s adopted from a fellow biker helps eliminate damage to himself and the bike. When a downhill fall is inevitable, Brookshire rolls with the forward momentum, relying on his front loaded grip on the handlebars, and completes a leap in front of the bike to land on his feet. “I do exactly what the momentum tells me to do.” On one occasion, in an encounter with a cyclist ascending against the posted one-way route, Brookshire tipped, landed on his feet, and managed to catch his bike by the seat in his outstretched palm as it rolled over beside him.
Recently, Brookshire was laid off in a wave of cuts from Kaiser Permanente. “I love what I do,” he says, fixing numb hands and feet as a neuromuscular therapist. But, he’s ready for a change and is looking to switch fields. The work is hard on his body, he says.
Up next, Brookshire wants to pursue downhill mountain biking on the ski resorts that allow it. “Downhill is my forte,” he says, and the greatest adrenaline rush part of the ride. Other interests provide balance—meditation and Tai chi. Although, he hasn’t practiced Tai chi since the move to Colorado. Mountain biking is more fun. “I figure I can do Tai chi when I can’t do this stuff anymore.”