The Good Buzz: Angie McKirdy on Mountain Biking and Community

WORDS BY
Pete Harrington
PHOTOS BY
@alexhinkson1

Ask almost any rider how they got into mountain biking, and there’s a good chance they’ll tell you about a friend or a family member who first showed them the ropes. Inevitably they ate dirt and got a good buzz, returning home roughed up but happy. Sometime later, somewhere between lazily waving the hose at the bike and collapsing on the sofa, there was only one thought that came to mind: What was that, and when can I do it again?

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For Squamish rider and 7mesh Ambassador, Angeline McKirdy, it was her hard-charging sister; Jean Ann (McKirdy) Berkenpas, who first introduced her to mountain biking. “I had an awesome role model,” says Angie, as we connect to chat Dream Rides. “My sister was riding for Team Rocky, racing all over the world. She got started with what became the Valemount mountain bike club in B.C where we grew up, enjoyed the experience and just excelled from there. A total natural athlete!”

Later, after moving to go to school in Squamish and qualify as an X-Ray whizz (don’t ask her to X-ray your cracked carbon frame), Angie stepped out of her sister’s shadow, taking a top 30 at the Whistler EWS and second in the brutally hard Trans BC Enduro. Although after the tame trails of Valemount, mountain biking in Squamish came as a shock. “It made me realise what bikes are actually capable of,” she says. “Most of the rides back home in the Rockies were on eroded horse trails. So when I got to Squamish and saw what a dedicated mountain bike ecosystem with an active community could create, I was blown away.” And even though Angie arrived in Squamish with the skills to shred, she still had to contend with a steep learning curve. “The fact that someone would ride their bike down a rock roll was a pretty unique concept to me!” she says, laughing at the memory. “West Coast riding is pretty different from anything else in Canada.”

“Strong women like Jo Peters, Laura Battista, and Ruby Morrissey who pushed me to ride things that are faster, steeper and more technical than I could ever have done on my own.”

It’s no surprise then, to learn that Angie’s post-pandemic Dream Ride isn’t to head off to some savoury far-flung destination, but instead to ride in Squamish and reconnect with the friends that first showed her the ropes. “When I moved to the West Coast, I got lifted up by an awesome group of welcoming, wicked shredders,” she says. “Strong women like Jo Peters, Laura Battista, and Ruby Morrissey who pushed me to ride things that are faster, steeper and more technical than I could ever have done on my own.” Which is all well and good, but the problem with experienced mountain bikers is they tend to make it look easy. Too easy. Before long, you’ve forgotten that hurling yourself down a hill is a risky business, and it’s all hands up, phone’s out for the ‘gram. As Jeff Bridges sang, for a while, falling can sure feel like flying.

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So to avoid riding off the deep end too soon, Angie’s advice for new mountain bikers includes not being afraid to take a lesson or two, whatever your experience level. “Not only does a lesson give you good skills, but it also connects you with other riders that might be of a similar ability,” she says. And of course, her top tip is to connect with your local mountain bike community, which for her meant SORCA, the Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association. “Getting stuck into trail building days, social rides – the anti-social rides – are all huge for someone getting into mountain biking,” she says.

“Getting stuck into trail building days, social rides – the anti-social rides – are all huge for someone getting into mountain biking.”

With some great race results under her belt, and the year ahead looking ever clearer, Angie is ready to roll up to the start line once again. But for new riders, isn’t racing absolutely terrifying? “Haha, yes and no,” she laughs. “I’m incredibly competitive, and that competitiveness tends to overrule any fear I might have.” However, she does admit to some anxiety. Just not much. “On the course pre-ride, there might be a certain feature that gives me pause. But what I learned during the Trans BC races was that no matter what comes up, I’m a lot more capable than I give myself credit for.” In other words, don’t beat yourself up? “Exactly,” she says. “Be yourself, and be confident in what you can do. Don’t put up barriers. There are enough people in life who want to do that to you. Don’t join them!”