From hitting gates to shredding switchbacks
Special to the Daily
Being a sponsored mountain bike athlete is a big time commitment, with the constant juggling of competitions, riding, bike maintenance, and of course — that 9-5 job that actually pays the bills. But for 31-year-old Summit Cove resident and Norski Sports mountain bike rider, Nick Baker, one more challenge exists on top of all this. Baker is the proud father of a 3-week old baby girl, named Lily Jo.
“It’s been a great fall of fun, a whole new adventure,” said Baker with glee.
Undertaking challenges like this though, has been nothing new for Nick.
Baker grew up ski racing in New Hampshire, and by the time he was in his teens, was regarded as one of the best junior downhillers in the country, earning a spot on the US National Ski Team. Unfortunately, a number of injuries caught up with Baker, and by around the age of 20, his ski racing days were done. Six years later, he found a new outlet.
“Around mid-twenties I picked up a downhill bike, and how you say, it’s been all-downhill since then,” said Baker with a chuckle. “Three years ago I got hired as a bike tech, and fell in love with downhill biking. It’s just one of those amazing sports where it blends all aspects of athleticism into one thing, and with a ski racing background especially… I love going fast and having to make those split-second decisions and downhill totally took that and ran with it.”
He started with downhill riding, but gradually started to explore different areas of the sport as well, like jumps and enduro.
“I love cross-country routes up from Summit Cove, up through the Colorado Trail over to the Peaks Trail in Breckenridge and back and around — those are really fun loops up there. The Boreas Breckenridge trail that the town provides, those trails are a lot of fun. Those are a really fun, subtle bike for either dirt jumpers or enduro, or even downhill bike depending on the day… . The amount of things you can do under the general umbrella of mountain biking is amazing,” said Baker.
Nick’s competitive side kicked in shortly after he picked up biking, entering races like the Big Mountain Enduro and Winter Park Gravity Series. Surprisingly, Baker found little difference between hitting gates, and sending switchbacks, and that his ski racing background, carried over perfectly, to the new downhill bike format.
“Ski racing, downhill racing, and enduro racing — they all have that high intensity, tons of adrenaline, and you’re getting so amped up before the race. You really got to focus on calming yourself down before you go and that same competitive edge. It’s not just you versus the mountain, it’s everybody else too; you know everyone wants to see how fast they can go.”
Baker already has shown rapid progress since he started competing just three years ago. This past summer, he placed 6th in the pro division of a Gravity Series race, and 2nd in the 30+ age division, of the US Cup in Colorado Springs. But one of his proudest feats, came in the jump park this past summer, when he landed his first back flip. After practicing the trick into foam pits last summer, Baker decided to try it off a real jump, while riding with a friend at Anglefire Bike Park, in New Mexico.
“We looked at each other and he’s like, ‘Backflip?’ and I’m like, ‘Yep, let’s do it,’” Baker chuckled. “It was the coolest feeling — stomped my first one… . You can feel the mechanics of your bike working, and when you come around, it’s just touchdown. It’s really cool.”
Baker already has a Stryder bike ready to go for his daughter, and plans to show her a thing or two about mountain biking, as soon as her balance will allow. For now though, Baker is doing his best to multitask work, being a parent, and getting last laps in, on his custom built Giant Glory Zero, before winter starts to take its grip.
“This time of the year is some of the best riding out there… . It’s the perfect temperature where you can just ride all day,” said Baker.
However with a young protégé in the ranks, and a high-level adrenaline outlet, that not even ski racing can match — there’s no doubt, that Baker will be riding this passion, long after this fall has passed.
“With anything, ski racing or biking, you know things happen, snow erodes, and you get ruts and things that weren’t there when you inspected. With downhill biking, you’ve got people going ahead of you that’ll knock a rock out of place, kick a stick into somewhere. Things are constantly changing from what you’ve planned, and you’ve got to be reacting that much quicker, especially if it’s the consequences of what’s around you. You don’t have any protective netting on a bike.
It’s definitely a goal of mine to do this in the future. As far as where I can end up, I have no idea, but I’ve definitely got the drive to see where it’s going to go.”
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