What’s it take to build a custom trike to race down a winding ski trail complete with hay bale chicanes?
“No secrets,” said tricycle racer Orion Palmer of Conway.
Palmer had some triumphs in the Red Parka Pub World Championship Downhill Tricycle Grand Prix. He started competing in it about eight years ago on a Delaney’s restaurant team before moving onto the Red Parka Pub team where he built some trikes leading to the team’s success.
He ventured out with his own team, Palmer’s Custom, and has also done well.
“If you have half a brain, are mechanically inclined and know how stuff rolls you can make one go fast,” he said.
Some 36 riders turned out Sunday for one of the valley’s top spectator events, the Red Parka Pub World Championship Downhill Tricycle Grand Prix on Bear Peak at Attitash. Palmer’s Custom won for the second consecutive year; Campbell Wales was the individual winner.
Eleven years in the running, the event is an afternoon of thrills, spills and frosty adult beverage chills.
A fundraiser for the Dewey Mark Red Parka Scholarship Fund awarded to senior Kennett ski team members planning to continue ski racing in college, the gravity-fueled race has four riders at a time careening down a grassy Bear Peak ski slope with winning low riders advancing to the next heat.
“Coming out the gate is huge,” Palmer said. “The first corner and second corner are probably the most critical corners on the course. If you can get out in front by the first corner you have a pretty good chance of making it to the next round.”
A 21-plus event, competitors must wear helmets and many over the years have embellished that requirement by incorporating various types of headgear like horned viking-style helmets into costumes or adorning bicycle helmets with accessories from dinosaur heads to video game characters.
Entrants either bring their own tricycles or may borrow some from the stable of event founder and organizer George O’Brien.
Restaurant-owner Dick Delaney was back in knee and elbow pads for the race after a multi-year hiatus. Along with fellow Team Delaney riders Zac Quinn, Josh Shone and Tim Jackson, he rocketed down the course that fuels total adrenaline rushes.
“You don’t get to do something like this all year,” said Delaney. “I’ve done this maybe seven times, when it first started at Cranmore, went to Black and is here now. It’s a lot of fun, challenging.”
Entrants get a practice run and that’s where a lot of strategy takes place.
“Every year is different,” said Delaney. “You can learn a lot during the practice run. Get out and quick because that’s where there is a lot of rubbing. Get out clear because that’s where there can be a lot of accidents.”
Delaney’s return was because of scheduling conflicts at Delaney’s.
“I wasn’t here for a couple of years because my sister went on vacation and I had to work,” he said. “This year I made sure she didn’t go away.”
The majority of trike racers only ride those rigs on race day.
“We just pumped the wheels up this year and went over a little maintenance,” said Palmer, his team rounded out with riders Ben Mahn, Kyle Bennett and Eddie Munroe. “But my daughter does ride it around the driveway when she’s bored. Besides that, they’re just put in storage, come out for this and here we are again.”
But some riders do ride their trikes a lot — drift trikers.
“Drift triking is adults on big wheels,” said Concord’s Jason Labrie of 603 Drift Trikes. “We ride down mountains with PVC on the back tires so we can drift around the corners and do 360s and stuff like that.”
Rider Tim Riley is part of a team called N.F.A. (No Fooling Around) Drift Trikes which rides around the country and has included places in Vermont like Killington and Okemo.
“We’re just a bunch of guys getting together and having a good time,” said Riley of Chester, Vt.
Riley loves drift triking and has the scars to prove it. Learning how to construct a trike was a learning process as many would disintegrate under the G-forces.
“We ride paved roads,” he said. “It’s a gravity-fed sport. We ride with Push Culture (an apparel company) which is long boards, luges, butt boards and gravity trikes. Basically it’s all gravity sports that run on pavement.”
There’s no fooling around with that.