Speeder Bikes

Posted by on Jun 17, 2010 in Bike, Races | 11 Comments

return of the jediI’ve always loved Star Wars. And really, what male, in the 29-40 age bracket hasn’t always loved Star Wars? And while I appreciate each of the 3 original films*, Return of the Jedi remains my favorite. And not just because Princess Leia spends much of the film in an amazing gold bikini. But of course, that didn’t exactly prevent me from watching the film again. And again. However, despite the gold bikini, what I liked most about Return of the Jedi was the speeder bikes. (And yes, that link leads to “Wookieepedia)

*Don’t even ask about the “prequels”. Every time I hear Jar-Jar Binks speak, I throw up in mouth.

The famous chase scene between Luke, Leia, and some uncharacteristically accurate and skilled Storm Troopers, is one of the great scenes in cinema. And I always thought, despite the risk of fiery death, that a speeder bike would be an amazing mode of transportation. Who wouldn’t want to float through a redwood forest at 100 miler per hour? But there’s really no way to ever reproduce—safely—a ride on a speeder bike. Despite Disneys—Star Tours— best effort.

Except that there is.

Mountain biking.

During last nights XC race at Deer Valley, as we sped through the thick trees and narrow single track, I could not help but think of the speeder bike. And while nobody behind me was firing blasters in my general direction, the effect was the same. Greenery, tree trunks, rocks, and meadows all zipped by in a flash of speed induced glee. And even though I’ve ridden those very trails—and others like them—countless times, the speeder bike connection had never occurred to me. And it was… spectacular.

As was the actual racing.

In fact, the race was, perhaps for the first time in the history of mankind, actually a “Wednesday Night World Cup.” At least in effect. Reigning Marathon World Champion** Roel Paulissen, and 2008 US National Champion Jeremiah Bishop, along with the rest of the Cannondale Pro Team—including our very own Alex Grant—stormed the castle, and put on a veritable clinic. No Storm Troopers were going to catch those speeder bikes. Blasters or not.

**With an actual World Champion in attendance, it was probably good none of us local hacks had any rainbow jerseys on.

But then I wondered: had I already made this obvious analogy before? In fact, yes. Last year, when describing… the Deer Valley race:

The only viable way to describe the Deer Crest descent is to conjure up the classic speeder bike scene on the Moon of Endor in Return of the Jedi. Sans giant redwoods of course. But you get the point. The rain left the trees heavy and wet. Many were hanging low over the trail and as we sped by would brush our backs and shoulders. It was if they were cheering us along, like a throng of drunken race junkies running along side the peleton on some mountain road in the Alps. Except we were speeding downhill on singletrack, rather than inching up European pavement.

Which leads me to believe that the Deer Crest downhill, and the larger Park City trail system are actually part of some alternate reality, based in the Star Wars galaxy. A world wherein Star Wars imagery is conjured up in a fantastical throw-back to childhood and fiction. Where we all are, like we did as kids, imagining ourselves as Jedi Knights, gallantly fighting off the forces of evil and darkness and authoritarian, planet destroying, madmen.

Or, at the very least, fighting off the attacks of accountants, lawyers, teachers, salesmen, and all the other Local Heros that line up each and every week for a chance at eternal glory.


  1. Jeff Higham
    June 17, 2010

    Utah may have many Star Wars alternate universe parallels. Driving I-15 construction at night during the “Extreme Olympics Makeover” of 2000 closely resembled that X-wing fighter v.s. Death Star scene. Admittedly not nearly as fun as flying through trees on singletrack.

    • Grizzly Adam
      June 17, 2010

      Haha. So true. Nothing like being 2 inches from a concrete barricade on one side, and an 18-wheeler on the next.

  2. KanyonKris
    June 17, 2010

    Look at you on the podium – nice work!

    • Grizzly Adam
      June 17, 2010

      In the picture? No that’s not me.

  3. mtb w
    June 17, 2010

    “And again.” Ain’t that the truth.

    I think you nailed it. Tight, fast, curvy, flowy singletrack through a cool forest is just like being in the movie. Wow – can’t wait for tonight’s ride. I have a feeling I will start thinking about the movie while riding and then crash.

  4. mark
    June 17, 2010

    Good analogy, but wanna know what I think is even more like the speeder bikes than MTB? Tree skiing. The absence of a trail seems to bring with it a certain thrill of spontaneity that singletrack doesn’t quite conjure. Which is not to say singletrack isn’t very, very close.

    • Grizzly Adam
      June 17, 2010

      And in my case, a much greater chance of smashing into a tree.

  5. Greg
    June 19, 2010

    While I agree with you Grizzly about the trees zipping past while on a mountain bike, I definitely agree with mark about the spontaneity of tree skiing. I spent a full winter skiing power in the trees at Big Mountain, Montana. Some of the best tree skiing anywhere. It takes time to get good at choosing a line through the trees on the fly.

    Sometimes you shoot through a gap and find something totally unexpected on the other side… like a wall of treebranches in the face, or a small cliff…

  6. Brandon
    June 21, 2010

    I was shooting blasters at you all race long trying to catch you. You didn’t feel them? Nice write up and race.

  7. Mom
    June 21, 2010

    Maybe your love for Star Wars has something to do with the fact that we took you to the opening of the first movie when you were 8 days old. I think Luke and Hans and Leia imprinted on you. Not to mention Taun Tauns and Storm troopers.

  8. dug
    June 21, 2010

    okay, geek to geek, did you notice the obvious homage to return of the jedi in the new toy story movie?

    think giant baby and a big bear and a dumpster.

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