URBAN LIVING: Road bombers hit Scona’s new asphalt

Cell phones blinked a strange text message to a select group of people last Saturday night: Scona Bombing! 10 p.m.!

What did it mean?

Scona Road, which runs from the James Macdonald Bridge uphill to the corner of Saskatchewan Drive and 99 St., partially re-opened to traffic on Sunday, Oct. 23 after being closed for months for widening. But on Saturday night the freshly-laid asphalt was still barricaded, the gravel had been swept, and there was scarcely a mark on the newly-painted lines.

It meant conditions were ideal for crazed people who like to ride skateboards and bicycles downhill really, really fast.

About eight to 10 longboard riders were bombing on Scona Road on Saturday night. One was wearing a leather jacket and a motorcycle helmet. But others just donned street clothes.

The handful of cyclists who were there were of the commuter ilk, part of small group of bicycle riders who seek out freshly-constructed roads so they can ride them traffic-free right before they open. When a new section of Anthony Henday Drive gets built, they’ve ridden it before you’ve driven it. Typically these new stretches are flat, so the chance to ride new pavement down a steep hill like Scona Road was a rare treat.

The online Urban Dictionary describes “bombing hills” simply as “the act of riding a downhill longboard down a hill.” As the name of their boards suggests, the decks are longer and some have dropped decks for a lower centre of gravity for stability and speed, as opposed to regular skateboards which are designed for tricks.

Bombing is also a subset of mountain biking. The mountain bike itself was designed by cyclists who bombed down trails and logging roads on modified Schwinn cruisers in the hills of Marin County, California.

“It can be used to mean any sort of riding but specifically it means to ride as fast as possible to the bottom,” the Urban Dictionary entry for bombing explains. Examples of use include, “Josh loves bombing hills on his longboard,” and “Hey Vicente, let’s go bomb some hills.”

Most of the bombing runs on Saturday night started with everyone, longboarders and cyclists, leaving at once. The cyclists pedalled hard to build up momentum, while the boarders ran with their boards in their hands, then threw them down and leapt onto the decks in a single, fluid motion.

The cyclists, since they had arrived at the hill later than the longboarders, were somewhat timid on the first run and were started to be passed by skateboards. The boarders also weren’t required to slow down to squeeze between sawhorse barricades that were located at the first interchange. Instead, the boarders bent their knees, ducked their heads and shot underneath the cross posts.

Occasionally, a car found its way around a barricade and wandered around the interchange seeking a way out, like a disoriented mouse trying to find cheese in a maze. (It would have been easy for the drivers to get out of their vehicles and lift a sawhorse to the side and drive through, but few actually did this.)

The runs ended under the James Macdonald Bridge where the pavement flattens out and the next stop is the North Saskatchewan River. Unlike skiing, there was no lift, so everyone walked or pedalled to the top. It was a bit like kids trudging up a hill with tobaggons.

Then they gathered at the top for the next run.