Piper Allman looks and acts like your average 13-year old Sooke girl. She laughs. She likes stuff. Most of all though, she loves going down courage-defying steep hills on her mountain bike with the same determination that would otherwise take an average cyclist some serious cojones to even try.
In the Allman family though, the way of the bike is a way of life. Always travelling as a pack up mountain, it was all she needed to get inspired and kick off her own career as a professional mountain biker, one that quickly advanced to first place in some of British Columbia’s toughest mountain bike races.
And despite the fierce competition, Allman, who’s been biking her whole life and mountain biking for the last seven years, is pretty relaxed when it comes to tackling a race.
“I don’t get too stressed, I just do my best and see what my result is,” she said.
In her last race, Allman scored first place in the Women’s U15 category at the Silver Star competition in Vernon, B.C. “I was the only one in my category, so I decided to take it slow and just get down the mountain, and I ended up getting a good time.”
Allman’s goal soars much higher than just a few vertical backwoods trails though. She hopes to bring her skill to the world stage of mountain bike racing.
“I want to race world cups. I think I’ll race my first world cup in three years, and junior year, and then move up to elite,” she said. “They are all around the world, with the closest one is in Quebec. Then there’s Scotland, Switzerland, Germany, Australia.”
Interestingly enough, Allman was also the youngest to race in the last few events with the closest rivals being the U17 class.
“It’s tricky for her to compare, because her closest competitor is U17,” said her father, Zack Allman, who’s been mountain biking for the last 20 years.
“My son, Noah Allman, rides too; she would come along with us. We used to push her bike up for her, that’s how we got up in the mountains, but now she does it by herself.”
Allman has also been taking part in up-and-coming series of mountain biking events called the Enduro-series; in these kinds of races, participants are judged on three separate times rather that one downhill run as usual.
“You peddle up, you have a certain amount of time to get up, but then they time you on the down, then you climb to another peak, and time you on the way down,” Allman said. “It’s a little less intense, because with the downhill, everything is on that three-minute run.”
Her pair of Intense mountain bikes, one for downhill and one for trails, are wondrous racing machines even by themselves. Her trail is a Tracer model; all carbon fibre chassis, much like a Ferrari, and her downhill bike, the M16, is all aluminum. Both bikes feature custom components such as handlebars, stem seats, cranks, and pedals.
Mind you, both are different animals altogether, Allman noted.
“This trail one is poppier, it likes to bounce more and the other one is just straight and sticks to the ground and is smoother,” she said.
“Downhill bikes when you hit a bump, they tend to squat, whereas these ones are flow-y. The other one is more of a hang on and try to get the straightest like down the mountain.”
Albeit an adrenaline-pumping affair, downhill mountain biking is still tricky.
During her race at Whistler, Allman endured a pretty rough fall when her front wheel suddenly decided it didn’t want to go straight anymore. She said it wasn’t so much the bike’s fault, but the lack of practice of the course before the race began.
“Near the top, the track was getting super dry and dusty, so my front wheel slid out and got the handlebar right into my stomach,” she recalled of her experience, albeit with a smile on her face. Following her accident, Allman was back into the game the next week — proof that ambition goes beyond a broken rib and a few bruises.
Last weekend, Allman raced in Kamloops, following a very successful season. This summer she will take part in many others, including one in October.