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Rider Down! Downhill Is Gnarly - Vital's 2022 DH Bike Test Sessions | Episode 2 4

After a heated race-bike selection, the first day of practice brings some unforeseen issues that are just the beginning of an exciting weekend.

Rider Down! Downhill Is Gnarly - Vital's 2022 DH Bike Test Sessions | Episode 2

When we arrived at Mountain Creek Bike Park, our objective was simple: take four test riders, four test bikes, and put them against the clock in a race environment to see which would stand victorious on race day. Unfortunately, downhill racing is a sport littered with uncertainty. No matter how much you prepare, endless factors outside your control can make arriving between the tape challenging. 

Day one of testing was consumed with testers riding each bike to decide which they would race over the weekend. With bikes selected and number plates mounted, the first day of practice was met with immediate disaster. From there, 48 hours of unfortunate events unfolded, changing the whole direction of our DH Test Sessions.

 

Soldier Down! Dennis' Injury Update

Losing Dennis on the first day of practice was a huge setback. Dennis is not only an incredibly talented and analytical rider but his hilarious personality and knowledge of Mountain Creek made us feel lucky to have him a part of this year's Test Session. Our local tour guide and our stiffest competition, Dennis was the one bringing the laughs and helping direct the test on day one. 

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Seeing a friend get hurt is always terrible, and at the time, we were unaware of the severity of Dennis' injury. We didn't receive an injury diagnosis until Friday evening, and by Saturday morning, Dennis was under the knife to repair a broken tibia plateau. So what happened? Simply put, the crash was a fluke incident. "Towards the end of my first practice run, I ended up dabbing my foot going across a muddy off-camber. My foot must have got caught in a rock which twisted my foot and ankle so bad that it broke my tibia plateau."  

Dennis' crash was not caught on camera, but Nik Nestoroff's course preview shows him getting tended to trackside.

"The surgery required a plate and four screws to put it all together. I was non-weight bearing for ten weeks total. Right at ten weeks, I was cleared for Physical Therapy which has been incredibly painful. I've now got five weeks of PT under my belt and am able to put full weight on my leg, walk and spin on the trainer. I am still working on getting full motion back. Currently, I'm only at 110-degrees of bend with the goal of 150+. I am working extremely hard to get back to where I was and out on the mountain. The doctor said recovery is about 6-9 months, but I expect it to be more like 12 months until I'm back to where I would like to be, strong and healthy."

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Dennis' first go as a Vital tester did not go to plan and ended before the fun had begun. But, all that means is redemption is needed, and we look forward to roping Dennis into a future Test Sessions (That is, if he lets us. Maybe this time with some knee braces, huh?).

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With Dennis out, our goal of racing test bikes went out the door. Racing four bikes with only three testers doesn't quite add up. We flirted with the idea of tagging in an on-site rider or converting our filmer Logan into a test rider, but to properly review all four bikes, we resorted to our usual Test Sessions format. Four bikes, three testers, and lots of riding. Saturday brought its own headaches, with a classic east coast thunderstorm rolling through and shutting down the gondola for most of the day. On top of that, Mountain Creek had begun to show its brutality, with lots of loose spokes and a cracked Nukeproof wheel as casualties. 

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As the problems stacked up, team morale took a serious beating, and we worried we might not get enough seat time on each bike to consider this a true Test Sessions. But, never underestimate the power of a positive attitude! We woke up Sunday morning to blue skies, cool temperatures, and extra motivation to maximize our final day of testing. 

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The final episode of this year's Downhill Bike Test Sessions drops Friday! Stay tuned for our final impressions of where each bike shined or underperformed, what components stood out or diminished the ride experience, and explain why we would pick one bike over the next. 

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