From single-speed to downhill, if it’s a bike, Fraser’s Christine Tucker, 55, will ride it — and rack up national titles
Christine Tucker was just a middle-schooler in Mississippi when she and her dad embarked on a mission that was ahead of its time.
Mountain biking was still in its infancy — you might even say it was a zygote. It was 1977 (or ’79) and Christine was 10 or 12 years old, she says. The youngest of six kids, her parents were so busy, “there are very few photos of my childhood,” she adds. But she loved riding bikes on dirt and up hills and over jumps so much that she and her dad built , effectively, their own mountain bike prototype.
“We found a bike frame in a junkyard and built it up using whatever parts we could find,” she said. “I think the frame was a Schwinn and I spray-painted it black. The wheels were 24 or 26 inches. My dad and I built it in our carport in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.”
The first time she took that slick, black machine out for a ride, “My front wheel came off and I landed on my chin and I had to get stitches,” she says. “My mom wanted my dad to take the bike and throw it away because it wasn’t safe. They bought me a new one but it was a road bike. I took it off road and on local dirt trails anyway.”
As she used bikes to launch herself off of jumps, she fell in love with the sensation of flying.
Some years have passed since Tucker was the biggest tomboy bike fanatic in her Deep South neighborhood; she’s 55 now and splits her time between Flower Mound, Texas, and Fraser. But she’s just as crazy about mountain biking — and road biking, single-speed cycling and criterium racing — as she was when she and her dad built her first bike.
She says she’s been racing mountain bikes since 1991, “but I’m not very good at climbing.” She competed in her first downhill race in Texas in 2003, and did well, so she kept at it. She and her husband bought a place in Fraser in 2012, and ever since, she’s been pedaling the high-hundreds of miles of trails that unspool throughout Grand County, plus road riding and downhill mountain biking.
Tucker competes on the Bike Mart/ LIV Team. She also road races for BikeMart women’s elite team and did a crit series in Texas not that long ago. She placed fourth, with a teammate, in track nationals. And last year, she competed in single-speed nationals and took third. Then two weeks ago, at Winter Park Resort, she got third in her age group at the 2022 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships in the cross-country division. But the real big deal is that she also took first place in the downhill nationals.
The event takes place on Trestle, the resort’s steep, banked and technical mountain bike park. The first time she rode there, someone told her she should ride the green trails. Tucker didn’t like the greens — she said it was too much like cross-country trails with all that climbing. So she tried the blues, and then Rainmaker, which Mountain Bike Project describes as “Three and a half miles of tabletop jumps, berms and buffed out singletrack!”
“Drop into Rainmaker and you’ll be immediately greeted by two step-down tabletop jumps that are easily cleared with a decent amount of speed,” the website reads. “Most all of the jumps on this trail are either able to be rolled over or bypassed completely by slower, non air-seeking riders.”
But once you cross a gravel road and ride a wooden boardwalk in the trees, “you’ll encounter a series of small dirt to dirt gap jumps. Following those doubles is the first section of tabletops with steeper take-off ramps. The jumps were designed with the speed offered by the trail in mind, so if you’re planning on getting airborne, go wide open!”
If there’s one thing Tucker likes, it’s flying. “Just the thrill of flying is the best,” she says. “And that was it. Rainmaker was it. I would ride it over and over and over again, and then a couple of years ago, I signed up for the first downhill race at Trestle and it was on Rainmaker. It was a bunch of girls in their 20s and 30s and me in my 50s. I didn’t care. I love that trail. I didn’t do very well,” but she stuck with it.
These days Tucker says she sees “more and more girls going downhill now. Some of them, their boyfriends encourage them to go out. But we’re seeing more women camps — like Gravity Goddess Camp. Women are encouraging women to get out there and try it. I would love to start doing that: helping out with camps and getting other women out to ride.”
What about older riders? They were at nationals as well. There was Lynn Childers, who got second place in the women’s 55 to 59 age group, and Ellen Guthrie, who placed first in the 60-plus category. No, they didn’t have the mountains of competitors that exist in, say, the men’s 25 to 30 category or the women’s 35 to 40 group. But these women can charge, like Tucker did on her winning run.
The goal: to ride as fast as possible top to bottom. Last week Tucker’s run started with “technical rocks, fun jumps, and berms, and then, on Upper Boulevard, it’s flowy with some technical stuff,” she says.
“Middle Boulevard is super fast, with some jumps and stuff in it. That’s my favorite. Given the choice between technical downhill and flow, I love flow. After Middle Boulevard, you drop into waterfall. It’s a really gnarly rock garden section and I pre-rode it. I went super slow through that section for the first three times I pre-rode it, because you have to really, really find your line. At the end, there’s a gap jump that scares the crap out of me. It sneaks up on you and I forgot about it on my run. I was like, ‘Oh crap!’ I didn’t do very well on it — I almost went over the handlebars. And that’s where everyone is standing and watching.”
Tucker didn’t crash. She finished first.
She says when she tells other women her age that she mountain bikes, “They’re like, ‘Oh, that’s so scary. How do you do that?’” One answer Tucker could give is that she’s been doing it most of her life. All that time in the saddle makes a riding a bike feel like flying.
Now retired, she sees this time of her life as her “second childhood,” in which she’s “getting a chance to try things I wasn’t able to do as a teenager or a young girl. All of a sudden I’ve been given a second chance to things I couldn’t afford to do as a kid and now as an adult I can.”
And her advice to anyone — not just women, or people her age — is to get out and try something you’re not used to.
“Don’t be afraid to step out. Just ’cause we’re in our 50s, who cares? Even at Trestle, you can ride anything. If a section scares you, just get off your bike and walk it,” she says.
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