adam billinghurst whistler-5
adam billinghurst whistler-5

Adam Billinghurst is the king of bike bums. He moved to Whistler just to ride bikes and everyday of his life has been oriented around maximizing his riding time...

From Dirt Issue 139 - September 2013

Words by Seb Kemp. Photos by Sterling Lorence.

Lot’s of people wish to do that or attempt it, but not many commit to it as much as Adam does. It has required a steady progression of casual jobs with flexible hours – trail building, coaching and evening restaurant work. He is the Berminator, star of Anthill movies and multiple–time Chainless B–Line Champion. However, this summer was the pinnacle of all his years of cranking out downhill laps: One million feet of downhilling in just 57 days.

One man’s dream might be another man’s misery. Adam made his dream come true when he cranked out one million feet of vert in the Whistler Bike Park this summer as part of a Sony Action Cam funded project produced by Anthill Films. Adam has been thinking about this ambition for 14 years and no doubt what he has achieved is the fantasy of many riders. However, it isn’t that easy to punch out that much vertical, especially in record time. And don’t for a second think that any of those laps were easy cruisers; the guy lives on the speed–metal thrills of downhilling. Dirt caught up with him just before he reach the milestone…>>

Click through to keep reading...

[part title="A Million Feet of Downhill in 57 Days - Page 2..."]

adam billinghurst whistler
adam billinghurst whistler

Adam: Tomorrow. I just need to do five Lowers and ten Garbanzo, or six Top Of The World laps. I’m at 974,000. I had the worst hangover of the whole summer today, I’m shocked I got 22 grand today. So now only 26,000 to go!

Dirt: Flipping hell. That's ridiculous. My arms would fall off doing one day of that. They would straight up fall off and flap around the floor. How many laps is that in total?

561 Lower Mountain laps, 160 Garbanzo laps and two from the Roundhouse. I’d like to finish it off on Top Of The World tomorrow.

Blimey, are you not burnt out on the park?

A little bit but going 80kph keeps it pretty fun. No uphilling helps.

Dirt: OK, let's backtrack a little. Who is Adam Billinghurst and what is this monstrous task you have set for yourself? I'm assuming it was your idea and not forced upon you.

Adam Billinghurst is just some guy that rides bikes. I've wanted to do this for about 10 years. Testing product for SRAM I thought it would be a good amount of vert to put on a product; a lifetime for most people I’d guess?

So you set out to lap out a million feet of vert in the whistler bike park. In how long? A year? A summer?

My original goal was to do it in a full bike park season, then Anthill (film makers) told me that the video deadline for this was September 1st. So I had to do it before that, which was pretty much 100 days. I really thought that would be a stretch but tomorrow will be day 57… I took two days off.

That's ridiculously fast. So this has been more than a full–time job. What has a typical day been like during this?

I’ve done a lot of riding alone. The days have been so different. At the beginning I was pretty stressed about getting laps in, then there were days when I was really tired and unmotivated. I did 500 laps in the Lower Mountain before Garbanzo opened. So I got a little bored down there. Then there were the rainy days... followed by more rainy days. Riding with new people kept me motivated.

Were there days you couldn't drag yourself out of bed to go ride the bike park? Now, before you answer that, someone in the UK might be reading this and saying to themselves 'Lucky bastard. He don't know how good he got it,' but I imagine it was a lot harder than it might seem.

There were days when I would have rather sat on the couch. Can't complain too much about ‘having’ to go biking every day.

How did your body hold up?

My body held up shockingly well. I feel like I’ve ridden myself into shape. All of my biggest days have been in the past two weeks. Having ridden so many big days in a row it makes me wonder how hard I was trying at the beginning. I’ve been training for this my whole life by always doing as many laps as possible. I actually didn't really ‘train’ at all for this. I quit the gym this year for the first time in nine years. I did a pretty heavy six week trail building job at the end of the winter then a six week XC stint. Then a week of rest before the park opened.

adam billinghurst whistler-4
adam billinghurst whistler-4

The last time I arm–wrestled somebody it was Curtis Keene and my shoulder dislocated. It was in front of 300 people at a Phat Wednesday after party.

Your hands must be like two blocks of concrete covered in leather

They feel strong right now. All the bones in them hurt though.

What about your bike? You have spare bikes or a mechanic on call? That sort of mileage must do serious damage.

The bike held up quite well also. I have a few people that work on my bike for me. SRAM kept me rolling with everything I needed. Bontrager gave me some tyres to melt off. My Trek Session 9.9 is still amazing.

So, you are the king of the Whistler bike bums now, I'm sure you always held that position, but this solidified it because you got paid to have a summer throttling laps. How did that come about?

Last year I was talking to my friend Drew Pautler and he convinced me that I needed to make this thing happen. I wanted Anthill to film it. It went through a few different variations of how we were going to get this done. For a bit I had given up, thinking it wasn’t going to happen. Anthill then got this Sony project and figured that what I was doing would fit into what they were doing.

Sony head cams? So are you telling me later this year there will be a full directors cut of one thousand hours of you burning brake pads in the Whistler Bike Park?

I feel so sorry for the editors.

Surely you could have cheated and just sourced a few of the Seattle Huck Squad to sell you their headcam footage. There’s server after server devoted to headcam footage from sketchy laps down Crank It Up.

I did this for me. No cheating. I got my dream job after 14 seasons of wishing for it. Nobody gets this job. Even if it was only for 57 days it’s a small life win in my books.

What was worse? Riding when hungover or when it was wet? Did you have to end your Phat Wednesday parties early so you were in good condition for the next day? What was the biggest sacrifice to all this?

Hungover riding is worse than wet riding. My girlfriend has been amazing and very understanding of my goal this year. Besides the Chainless B–Line Phat Wednesday race I've been more focused on getting this done than racing this year. I do ask myself ‘Could I get this done in a month if I trained for it?’

Could you?

No... maybe.

Ha ha, so what is next? Two million? Are there going to be challengers?

I’d go for 2 million. Not this year. I think I’ve set a decent benchmark for getting this done pretty quickly. It’s beatable for sure though.

Would you be tempted to try the million feet of ascending set by Mark Weir if you could get million descending?

No. I set out to do something fun. That’s not fun for me.

Ha ha, now I have to ask this because I bet there's people wondering to themselves 'But riding downhill is easy. You just sit there and roll along.’ Your thoughts?

They are right. Anybody can do it. Go for it.

Blimey, you are upbeat about all this. Maybe it was fun. I can't do more than half a day at a time without getting bored/tired/scared/all of the above.

I had fun 90% of the time.

So what is next on the bucket list?

Try to figure out how to get paid to ride the Whistler Bike Park. Just ride. Not coaching or guiding or patrolling. Just pinning laps. Maybe it will take me another 14 years to figure it out.

Thanks Adam. Anything else to add?

A sponsor shout out?

Yeah, do it old school.

SRAM, Trek, Chromag, Bell Helmets, Oakley, the GLC, Giro gloves, Bontrager, Sony, Lenco, The Wizard at Fluid Function, all the guys at GBB, everybody I did a lap with in the past 57 days. I hope I didn’t forget any. Oh yeah, Anthill. It wouldn’t have been possible without them. Oh yeah, and if you think this is easy, go try it. I want people to try to beat it and fail. I wish I had done it faster. You never know how hard you can push it up there though. Riding tired can bite you in the ass...

Are there any issues/topics/thoughts that you would like to speak about? Perhaps long days in the park got you thinking?

Most of my alone time on the chair was spent listening to death metal, reading about greed, corruption and the assholes that are f–king up our planet.

adam billinghurst whistler-3
adam billinghurst whistler-3

Things that come up on Twitter. I’m addicted to my phone. I didn’t bring it a couple of days and the chairlift rides were way longer. What am I supposed to do, look around? I’ve seen all that.

So greed and corruption...

I’m, unfortunately, pretty interested in that stuff.

Are you optimistic that things could be straightened out if certain things were changed? Or do you think we are screwed, too far down the line, because humans are dirty animals?

No, we can change things. And quickly I think. It just takes millions of people.

I've become a real cynic. There're too many people on this planet. Too many people too confused and dazzled by nonsense to do anything.

Things just aren’t that bad for us yet. Look at Brazil a while ago. One week of protesting made a difference

Take a look at our own lives. We ride bikes, perhaps to distract ourselves from the misery that goes on. I know I do. But sometimes I think maybe I should be doing more than recycling, not drinking out of disposable cups, sharing car rides, etc.

There is enough technology, smart people and money on this planet. If everybody cared the world would be very different.

But the problem is we don't all care and because there's billions of people not caring – people willing to flitter away life caring about Justin Bieber’s haircut or riding bikes in the bubble – and lots more people willing to persecute each other because of colour, creed or orientation, caring about the kind of things that really make our situation on Earth even worse, there seems to be no hope.

Yeah, I don’t know what it’s going to take for things to change, but one day they will. I probably wont be here. I often wonder what the world would be like without money and religion.

Shells and Hollywood stories. I think starting at home is the only thing we can do. Little changes in the way we consume, produce, reuse, etc.

I consumed eight sets of tyres in the past two months.

Now here's my conundrum: I think life should be joy and happiness, riding bikes is joyful and happy, but at what cost to the greater good is our fun? I don't advocate banning bikes or using stone tyres, but perhaps... I dunno. I snort at people buying a new TV just because it’s bigger than the last one last year, but then biking becomes a consumerist exercise and I think, 'I'm no different’.

I don’t think too much about how much I consume. I think more about how governments are spying on everybody and starting wars and taking away all of our environmental protection. Or how Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize and has a kill list.

Yes... peculiar…