DEFINING THE ROCKY MOUnTAIN CYCLIST
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A Great Overlooked Feat in Clunker History
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Downieville Bikes Demand the Best of Up and Down
The Tour Divide
The Pain, the Triumph and a Tribute to the Racers
South to Sonora
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An Insiderâ€™s Guide to Spicy Trails and Cold Cerveza
THE RIGHT GEAR 100 miles, 14,000 feet of elevation change, and two records broken on SRAM 2X10 at the 2010 Leadville 100. This years top five finishers, Levi Leipheimer, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, Todd Wells, David Wiens and Jeremiah Bishop all rode faster on XX. SRAM’s 2X10 XX is faster, lighter, more efficient, and has a full range of usable gears. SRAM 2X10 doesn’t mean more gears; it just means THE RIGHT GEAR. SRAM2XI0.COM
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editor/publisher brian riepe publisher steve mabry managing editor caroline spaeth art director chris hanna creative editor james e. rickman roving artist gloria sharp copy editor trina ortega writers Than Acuff Jordan Carr Cameron Chambers Eddie Clark Steve Coleman
Stephen Eginoire Chris Hanna Scott Leonard Shawn Lortie Steve Mabry
Matthew J. Nelson James E. Rickman Justin Schmid Kurt Smith Brian Vernor
photographers Devon Balet Eddie Clark Christopher Cowen Stephen Eginoire Xavi Fane Kevin Krill
Brian Leddy Shawn Lortie Colin Meagher Chris Miller Matthew J. Nelson Jake Orness
Allan Porter James E. Rickman Caroline Spaeth Brian Vernor
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mountain flyer p.o. box 272 gunnison, co 81230 970.641.1804 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com www.mountainflyer.com send your letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org subscribe online at www.mountainflyer.com or mail subscription card to: mountain flyer magazine, p.o. box 272 gunnison, co 81230 Mountain Flyer magazine is published quarterly and is available nationwide through select Barnes & Noble, Borders and REI locations, as well as fine bike shops and coffee stores throughout the Rocky Mountain region. When you’re finished reading, pass it on! Nothing in this publication can be copied or reproduced without prior written permission of the publisher. All material and images are compiled from sources believed to be reliable, but published without responsibility for errors or omissions. Secret Agent Publishing assumes no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts or images. But we’ll sure consider them.
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McDowell Park—A Haven for Bikers by Justin Schmid
Angel Fire Resort—Easy Does It by James E. Rickman
Cyclocross—Prioritizing Your Life by Cameron Chambers
A True Education in Humanities by James E. Rickman
Tire Tracks and Red Earth by James E. Rickman
A One-Day Family Classic by Steve Coleman
Tour Divide 2010—Doing it for Dave by Eddie Clark
Portraits of the Tour Divide by Eddie Clark
Colorado Trail Race by Than Acuff
Frazer Mountain Madness by James E. Rickman
Laramie Enduro by Shawn Lortie
All-Mountain World Championships by Brian Vernor
Paraphernalia—Pivot, Ibis, Argonaut and Raleigh
The Bikes that Win Downieville by Jordan Carr
118 Riding the Trails of Northern Mexico by Matthew J. Nelson 130 Tailwind: Ponzi Scheme of the Damned by James E. Rickman DEFINING THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN CYCLIST
Cover Photo: Josh Tostado chases Jeff Schalk up switchbacks on their way to the top of 12,470-foot Wheeler Pass during Loop 1 of the Breckenridge 100. Tostado took his sixth Breckenridge 100 win in front of Joey Thompson with Schalk finishing third. No, he did not clean the corner. Photographer: Chris Miller
CORRECTION In Issue No. 17, we listed the incorrect price for the Chris Kopp Bicycles Works road frame. The correct price for the custom steel road frame, Chris King headset and fork is $1,775. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Mountain Flyer Magazine (ISSN 1944-6101) September 2010 is published quarterly by Secret Agent Publishing, LLC, 125 N. Main Street, Suite A, Gunnison, Colo. Periodicals postage paid in Gunnison CO and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Mountain Flyer, PO Box 272, Gunnison, CO 81230
what’s on Bikes: Preview Tomac 2011, Specialized 2011 and Trek 2011; Mosaic 29er, Trek Fuel EX, Specialized Enduro, Diamondback Mission 2 and Raleigh Pro XXIX.
Race Coverage: Weekly cyclocross coverage; Dakota 50-Spearfish, S.D; Steamboat Stage Race; The Big Gulch, Durango, Colo.; and the Red Bull Rampage.
Gear: Giro Prolight and Rudy Project Sterling helmets, Kuat NV hitch mount rack, SRAM 2011 X-0 2X10, Magura 2011 Durin Race and Marta SL Magnesium Brakes.
Store: Mountain Flyer Race Cut Jersey $69.95, Swiftwick 7 Socks $17.95, T-Shirts and Hats $16.95. Subscribe online and get package deals.
Aidan Harding heads out of Silver City, Wyo., and into the Great Divide Basin in Wyoming during the self-supported Tour Divide Race from Canada to New Mexico.
No better place to be than on a shady hill watching the best slopestyle riders send it in the finals of Crankworx Colorado, a four-day event held in Winter Park, Colo., featuring dual slalom, cross-country, downhill and slopestyle competitions.
With each labored step, the rubber tip of his cane meets the pavement. Each placement is methodical and accurately timed to move in sync with his crooked right leg. I see him several times each week, nearly every time I ride the four-mile stretch of road from my house to the trailhead of our local stomping grounds. What is most remarkable about him is the distance he travels and the frequency of his journey. Sometimes I see him early in the morning, other times in the evening. Presumably, he travels the road more than one time each day. The road is long and straight—I can spot him from a mile away. Walking his crooked walk, he must travel from two to four miles each trip. He used to walk with a big white, old and crippled dog, but lately he’s solo. Now when I see him, I always wave, more of a nod and raised hand, and he typically responds with a subtle nod. Nothing more, but I think he recognizes me. Each time I see him limping slowly down the road, I’m inspired, overcome really, by his drive and determination and I think of how his example relates in so many ways to the same drive that pushes people to test the limits of human fortitude. I think of how I can relate his example to the stories we cover in Mountain Flyer of riders who push the limits of cycling. Each time I see him I wonder what pushes him. I wonder what pushes any of us. Nobody is watching; there is no hero’s welcome when he finishes each day’s journey. One day in late August, I was riding back late in the evening, and there he was, same as always, ticking off the miles down the lonely stretch of pavement. I wave again but after passing him I realize I have my camera in my pocket and decide I should photograph him. So I turn around and get out my camera and ride back to him. Not wanting to be rude, I take the photo stealthily from behind him and, thinking I’ve pulled it off, I look down to check the camera. Just at that moment, my front wheel hits a pothole, I grab a handful of front brake and in a painful, split second, I’m on the pavement.
I lie still for a moment—camera safe in my right hand—dazed and shaking my head at my own stupidity: riding with one hand, eyes off the road, not good. Just as I begin to sit up, I hear the cane tapping against the pavement behind me. He’s coming to check on me, probably thinking, “How does a sober man fall off his bike on the pavement with no obstacles in sight?” He reaches me, holds out his hand and helps me up without a word. To break the silence, I swallow my pride, thank him and introduce myself. His name is Dennis. More silence follows, and he begins to walk away and I almost let him go but finally come out with, “Hey, thanks. I see you walking this road often, and I just want to tell you it’s inspiring.” He pauses and turns, looks at me and says, “Son, running water don’t freeze, so I just keep going.”
S O L I TA RY U N C O N F I N E M E N T
THE 29” MOOTO X YBB C H E C K I T O U T AT M O O T S . C O M
EST. 1981 STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO
HANDBUILT TITANIUM BIKES
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A Haven for Mountain Bikers
by Justin Schmid FORT MCDOWELL, Ariz.—With all the breaking bumps, berms, cacti and rocks in front of me, I really wasn’t looking for a desert tortoise. But there it was, inches from the trail—a living, moving creature disguised as a small boulder. I blew past it before realizing I’d just had my first encounter with a wild desert tortoise. That’s the McDowell Mountain Regional Park experience distilled: thrilling mountain biking with a hefty scoop of stunning mountain scenery and desert wildlife. For nearly 15 years, McDowell Mountain Regional Park on the outskirts of Phoenix has been proving what’s possible when government officials and mountain bikers collaborate rather than collide. Even with all that the park offers mountain bikers, it’s not a finished product. Volunteers and park officials continue to collaborate to build trails beyond the park’s extensive crosscountry trails, starting with a new pump track that opened in late August. The future promises a flow trail, a skills area, possibly even some dirt jumping. “It could set the standard for a lot of other parks,” says Stan Klonowski, trail advocacy chair for the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona (MBAA). The park, managed by Maricopa County, is 21,000 acres of decomposed granite garnished with saguaro and jumping cacti. It’s not only a haven for mountain bikers but for javelina, coyote and rattlesnake. Two varied, expansive sets of singletrack networks are the main forage for mountain bikers. The park’s heftiest slice of multi-use trail is the Pemberton Trail, a smooth, fast-rolling, 15.3-mile mountain bike autobahn. The park uses it for organized night rides during the blazing hot summer months in the desert. In addition to improved trail signs and permanent restrooms, park managers added connecting trails to bring the total mileage to 50. The Pemberton is the choice for the annual Dawn to Dusk bike race, equestrian events and ultrarunning races. A few miles to the east, the Competitive Track is the legacy of the Cactus Cup’s final years in Arizona. Specialized funded the trail’s construction in 1998. It’s nearly 15 miles of winding, rolling, rocky, washboarded mayhem and hosts MBAA championship races, the 24 Hours of Fury and, this year, an inaugural women’sonly bike race. Klonowski is revved about the can-do spirit that forged the latest addition to the park, the pump track. Advocates hustled to nearly eliminate out-of-pocket costs for the county. Fill dirt came from donations and other county projects. Park staff identified a
Photos Christopher Cowen
corner of the Competitive Track parking lot where a pump track would have no impact on the park’s fragile plant or animal life. MBAA contributed $500 for irrigation. “We finally found some place that we can build something legitimate,” says Alan Shelton, a longtime trail volunteer who organizes the track-building sessions. “And helping build it gives us a voice in it.” That’s been possible at McDowell Mountain Regional Park, Shelton says, because of its supervisor, Rand Hubbell. Hubbell has been the go-to person for event organizers— and also for user groups. During his seven-year tenure as park supervisor, Hubbell says mountain bikers have been a positive force, bringing in revenue and volunteer help for the park. Hubbell admits that he’s been skeptical of some ideas— especially the summer night rides. Users lobbied for it before the staff gave its blessing. Now, it’s one of Hubbell’s points of pride. Up to 140 riders show up for the night rides. Since county officials like to tackle projects one at a time, Hubbell wants to finish the pump track before looking too far ahead. But he already has an idea: a flow trail parallel to a stretch of the Pemberton Trail. He calls it a “bobsled run” for bikes that will allow riders to cruise nearly two miles through the park using only momentum. That project is still 18 months or more in the future. The park staff will perform a battery of studies to fit the new trail into the master plan, evaluating potential impacts on flora, fauna and cultural resources. Hubbell is also mulling a dirt-jumping area. Klonowski would like to see a jumping park, somewhere riders can get big air. Shelton is interested in a skills area that would feature teetertotters and skinny trails. Whatever the future at McDowell Mountain Regional Park, mountain bikers will have an advocate in Hubbell. “All this creates more work for him,” Shelton says. “But he likes fun ideas. He’s open. He really wants to turn this into a premiere mountain bike destination.”
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Angel Fire Resort Hoping Easy Does It by James E. Rickman Angel Fire, N.M.—The gravity capital of New Mexico is expanding with the intention of becoming the mountain biking center of the state. Angel Fire Resort, long renowned for its challenging portfolio of downhill and freeride trails, has embarked on a multiyear effort to expand its summer cycling season with the addition of more trails suitable for riders of all abilities. “We’re trying to build the bike scene here,” said Dave Dekema, the resort’s marketing director. “We’re getting riders here from all over the state as well as from Arizona and Utah, but the people who are coming up here aren’t the kind who rent bikes at the bottom or take skills clinics.” Ever since Angel Fire hosted the UCI World Cup in 2005, the resort’s hair-raising technical trails and steep, rocky terrain have been a steady draw for advanced riders and racers competing in the Mountain States Cup Chile Challenge and the Red Bull Burner 12hour downhill festival or participating in chairlift-assisted summer riding. However, for resort owners and managers, the lack of trail diversity meant that the market share at Angel Fire would remain as flat as the terrain the visitors were fleeing from each weekend to come here. Inspired by Whistler Mountain Bike Park in British Columbia and other ski resorts successful in creating year-round playgrounds catering to the mountain bike crowd, Angel Fire created a new bike park director position. The resort hired Hogan Koesis, an accomplished downhill rider with experience building trails at Whistler, to fill the position. Hailing from Austin, Texas, Koesis seems at home at Angel Fire, much like half of the Lone Star State’s residents do when they make 20
James E. Rickman
their annual pilgrimages to New Mexico and Colorado ski resorts during winter holidays. But the energetic Koesis says he is not just passing through. “Next year we plan to open the resort to mountain biking from May 1 to Oct. 1, which will give us one of the longest [lift-assisted] riding seasons in the United States,” Koesis said. Working 50-hour weeks, Koesis and his crew are pulling triple duty as trail builders, test riders and the resort’s bike patrol. This summer’s efforts have concentrated on making the trails more sustainable—mainly getting water off the course to reduce erosion—and filling in gaps in the existing trail network. Among the season’s partial tally of improvements, crews normally accustomed to snowmaking activities used Angel Fire’s stable of heavy machinery to construct 40 berms, three new bridges and 20 jumps. In addition, the resort has added a new intermediate trail called Lemonade and a new jump park near the base of the mountain called Candy Land, where riders can catch big air over a series of massive tabletops and other stunts. The efforts have paid off so far with ridership doubling this season, according to Koesis and Dekema. In August, the resort rolled out the red carpet to riders to highlight the season’s improvements during Angel Fire’s inaugural Freeride Festival. Riders enjoyed open lifts until sunset and a casual day of skills competitions, such as tire changing and a slow-ride contest. Resort managers plan to keep the improvements coming next year and beyond. A beginner trail and a long intermediate trail are next in the queue, as well as a bike shop and rental program and lessons for budding freeride or downhill enthusiasts. “We’re trying to build high-quality, groomed Whistler-type trails up here,” Koesis said. “A lot of builders concentrate on what they want to ride, but that only covers about 7 percent of the market. I can easily see this place being the Mont-Sainte-Anne of the States. There’s so much potential.”
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Prioritizing Your Life with Mud and Dirt by Cameron Chambers
Have you ever tried to explain cyclocross racing to your friends and relatives who do not ride? Ride around in a park for an hour on funny-looking bikes. Place obstacles in the way so you’re forced to hop off the bike, run, jump over and hop back on the saddle. A normal citizen does not hear that synopsis and think, “Yeah, I should do that on the weekends.” I remember the blizzard in Kansas City, Kan., the night before the Cyclocross National Championships three years ago when I was having supper with my mother-in-law. I was trying to explain that the race was not going to get cancelled because of snow and ice. She did not believe me until we were standing on the starting line at 8 a.m., waiting with an army of singlespeeders ready to charge the frozen course. Yet cyclocross is blowing apart at the seams. No other cycling discipline is seeing the growth in participants like ’cross. This is plain Jane, good old-fashioned fun. Think about the ’cross season schedule first. On my local race calendar, every weekend from Sept. 7 to Dec. 5 has a race scheduled within a two-hour drive from my house, some a bike ride away. I love to race bikes but driving long distances weekend after weekend in the summer to race is excruciating and not sustainable. During ’cross season, you wake up at home, throw your gear in a bag, grab your bike and go race. It’s simple and straightforward. A fall sport, ’cross is a muddy sport. Getting dirty has been fun ever since we were making mud pits in the backyard, tromping around in slimy creeks and getting grass stains on our pants. Nothing feels more liberating and youthful. And in a ’cross race, the good line is often the wettest one. Sometimes just getting covered in dirt helps prioritize life a little better. It has a way of taking a nagging question and answering it with, “It really isn’t that important.” Going hard always hurts, but going hard is what ’cross racing is. Races start like the field of racers were shot from a cannon. Hang on and survive the first wave of pain and you are almost worse off for the slow torturous death that follows. Even if you are off the front, you can be looking at the lap cards thinking, “Five to go?! Crap! There is no way I can hang on for five more laps of this.” Your hands and feet freeze solid, your lungs scream and your groin feels like if you stride over one more barrier it could rip apart. And then, all pain comes to an end, replaced by the sweet chemical bliss that floods your brain. Epinephrine, endorphin and serotonin, how we love you. At the jubilant festive atmosphere of ’cross races, you’re having beers on the side of the course with guys who won’t look up from their aero tuck position in the summer. Bells ring, dollar trees are 22
constructed and you yell for the guy in 36th place wearing a skate helmet just as much as you do for the dude off the front. After every race, you load your gear back in the car and head off to devour 4,000 calories, feeling good about your cycling community and renewing your hope for the future of the world. So why not? Make this your best racing season yet. And I don’t mean you need to place top 5 in the series or even sniff on the front of the pack. Just revel in week after week of hiking your britches up and going to the starting line to throw down all you’ve got. And if you do find yourself on the front, then put your hands deep in the drops, get out of the saddle and sprint for all you’re worth. There is really no other way to live. Cameron Chambers was the U.S. 24 Hour Mountain Bike
National Champion in 2005 and now helps Carmichael Training Systems athletes prepare for endurance events of their own. Of course, he also crushes everyone during office mountain bike rides…on a fixed-gear 29er, no less. For information about CTS coaching, camps and performance testing, visit www.trainright.com or call (866) 355-0645.
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Callum Read, 17, turned bad luck into good fortune for his high school’s cycling team.
A True Education in Humanities New Mexico Teen Rides to Oregon for His School by James E. Rickman Albuquerque, N.M.—After suffering through a year of bad breaks, 17-year-old cyclist Callum Read has turned tragedy into triumph for himself and his schoolmates at Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School in Albuquerque, N.M. In August, Read completed a nearly 1,600-mile trek from Albuquerque to Corvallis, Ore., to raise funds to support his school’s cycling team and represent his school at the International Baccalaureate Leadership Conference—a gathering of 300 baccalaureate high school students from 10 countries. “I’ve always done sports,” Read said. “Once I started cycling, running and swimming, I found that I loved being outside. I just enjoyed it so much. I wanted to do something to make a difference, something to help other kids. Our school doesn’t have an athletic budget. Some of the kids who go to my school are poor; they can’t afford bikes. Hopefully we can raise enough money to create like a scholarship that will help them get bikes.” While the idea of pedaling more than 100 miles a day for 11 days during the last precious weeks of summer vacation may seem daunting for any high school student, consider that the budding bike racer had only weeks to train before embarking on his journey. After breaking his leg twice in separate accidents, he had spent the previous six months in a cast. Read’s ordeals began in December 2009. An aspiring bike racer, he was about to compete in his first national cyclocross championship. While he was riding the Bend, Ore., course the day before the competition, he collided with an adult rider and went hurtling into the dirt. He felt searing pain in his right leg, but 24
James E. Rickman
because the collision took place at the farthest-out point on the course, he had no choice but to ride back to the start to the first-aid tent. A trip to the doctor confirmed that Read had broken his tibia. Confined to a cast until March, Read could hardly wait to get back on his bike. But bad luck would strike again. About two weeks after riding the 25-mile round-trip back and forth to school, Read and his younger sister were crossing a city street when a teenage driver plowed into them. As he sailed 10 feet through the air, Read remembers having the presence of mind to be thankful that his much smaller sister wasn’t riding in the lead. “I remember when I was being hit, thinking, ‘I can’t believe this is happening; I’ve been on my bike only two weeks and I’m being hit by a car,’” Read recalled. “I must have had bad luck. It wasn’t my year. I’ve had road rash here, road rash there, but that’s just cycling. All of a sudden I’ve broken a leg twice in six months.” Earlier that year, when Read was selected to represent his school at the International Baccalaureate Leadership Conference, his mother joked that he should ride his bike. The idea led to the fundraising effort and a tremendous challenge. On July 28, just two months out of his second cast, Read and several of his classmates left Albuquerque on what was dubbed the “HumanRace”—a collaboration of coaches, parents and students cycling together to demonstrate that community service and academics are an integral part of education, according to Antonia DeHorney, Read’s mother. The ride took the troupe through sweltering stretches of back roads and miles of self-doubt. At one point in Utah, while huddling under a tarp stretched between two bikes for shade, Read was fixing
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a mechanical and wondering whether he could continue. “The support I got from my family and friends was great,” Read said. “They kept me going.” When they rode onto the Oregon State University campus where the conference was held, Read and companions were met by the entire international congregation of students. It was the first time in eight years the conference had been held in the United States. Back home and back at school, Read is a lot thinner and a little wiser. The mega-journey has given him even more appreciation for riding. “I don’t have a driver’s license because biking is my transportation,” he said. “A lot of other kids my age have Mustangs. I ride a carbon fiber Giant. It’s almost as good as a Mustang, right?” To contribute to the Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School bike program, visit www.CottonwoodClassical.org.
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The only refrigerated, uncovered outdoor ice rink in New Mexico offers competitive ice hockey, ice skating and lessons from November through February and is open 120 hours per week, weather permitting. Located in a beautiful shaded canyon, the rink has been in existence for more than 50 years! Learn more about enjoying winter in Los Alamos. visit: www.losalamosnm.us/rec or call the Recreation Division at 505.662.8173 Los Alamos Recreation . . . Where Discoveries Are Made!
Walatowa Bike Club member Ayesha Ortiz, 9, rides in front of the signature red cliffs at the Pueblo of Jemez, N.M. Below: After a warm summer bike ride on their pueblo lands in northern New Mexico, members of Walatowa Bike Club had plenty to smile about.
A New Mexico Pueblo Uses Bicycles to Get Fit Words and photos by James E. Rickman JEMEZ, N.M.—At the Pueblo of Jemez in Northern New Mexico, bicycling could become as much a part of life as pottery making. In an eight-week program designed to combat obesity and promote a healthy lifestyle for its children, the pueblo this summer launched the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds Walatowa Bicycle Club. Walatowa is the traditional name of the 2,100-member pueblo, which sits nestled among spectacular red rock cliffs in the Jemez Mountains. The people of Jemez come from a traditional farming ancestry and are well known for their beautiful pottery crafted from the red clay found near their village. But as western society, with its convenience stores and soda pop, has slowly encroached upon the traditional Native American lifestyle of the relatively isolated pueblo, it has brought with it some of the plagues of the modern world, such as obesity. According to Kristyn Yepa, a registered nurse who grew up in nearby Albuquerque, N.M., the pueblo is seeing about a 60 percent obesity rate among school-age children. “What concerns us most is the high rate of obesity,” Yepa said. “With one out of every two children overweight, we are trying to focus our interventions with the youth.” Yepa and Public Health Manager Marianna Kennedy wrote a grant proposal to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to become one of 44 communities nationwide working to promote better health for their citizens through the Communities Putting Prevention to Work program. The Walatowa Bike Club was developed as a way to keep Jemez children active during the summer months, said Cheryl Shendo-Toya, CDC Program Coordinator. The grant provided resources to hire Shendo-Toya, a staff of health advocates, an agricultural coordinator and implement the summer-long bike club program as one of numerous coordinated wellness activities. Fifty kids, ages 6 26
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to 14, became eligible for a summer of cycling based on an elevated body-mass index. For these kids, the grant meant fun, improved fitness and an introduction to a potential lifetime of good health. Each week through most of June and July, kids rode for two hours a day, four days a week. In addition to riding, the youngsters and their families learned about a different topic each week, including nutrition, good hygiene, setting goals, safety and chronic disease prevention. Before each ride, bike club members enjoyed a healthy breakfast and a pre-ride warm-up of stretching and calisthenics. Kids who rode all four days each week were rewarded with field trips, such as a trip to the zoo in Albuquerque. “We wanted to incorporate getting healthy with our traditions,” Shendo-Toya said. “Every Tuesday night a family night was presented for bike club members and their parents. A healthy dinner was prepared, we played games and learned a special wellness topic. Our whole thing is to keep the entire community healthy, from the kids to the adults to the elders.” Being able to hop on a bike and tour the Jemez lands on dirt roads was a highlight for many of the children. “As the weeks went on, the kids really began to enjoy riding their bikes,” said LaTanya Yazzie, one of four health advocates who used their experiences helping out with the bike club to prepare for duties as health educators in the Jemez schools this year. Health advocates Cornell Magdalena and Vernon Shawn Tosa recall spending the days of their youth running for miles on pueblo
Small town, mountain living: locate.losalamos.com
Visitor information: visit.losalamos.com
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Visit our historic town in the foothills of the Jemez Mountains and enjoy clear blue skies, extraordinary views in all directions, and an exciting variety of outdoor recreation opportunities.
Visi t Lo Jem s Alamo ez M s oun during t Octo ains El this yea k r ber 2–10 Festiva ’s l
lands. Jemez has been known for decades for its standout crosscountry runners and track team. Magdalena, Tosa and others hope the bike club will provide a basis of fitness that will prepare and encourage the youngsters to participate in running programs later on. “It’s made a big difference,” Tosa said. “Some of the kids, when the program started, couldn’t do very much, but by the end they were riding a lot farther and a lot better. Many of the kids lost weight and got more toned. It’s been pretty good.” Shendo-Toya, who coordinates all facets of the CDC program, says the pueblo is working to incorporate locally grown foods into school meal programs and will continue to encourage bike club members to participate in other sports during the school year. “If I can hit them with breakfast and lunch and then a healthy snack before they go home, then we’ve done well,” she said. Though the bike club had been tried previously, its popularity this year has been unmatched. In fact, riding was such a big hit that Shendo-Toya is hoping to host family rides on one or more Sunday each month as long as the weather stays warm. During a bonus ride in August, health advocate Anne Marie Loretto handed out water at the top of a big hill west of the village while the warm Southwest sun illuminated wide smiles and sparkles of sweat on the faces of the kids who had made it to the top. Just below the crest of the hill, one tiny boy stood on his pedals, pushing down with all of his might, determined to make it. “How’s it going?” asked one person as the boy crept ever closer to his goal. Cresting the top, he hopped off his bike, took one of the waiting water bottles and said, “This is fun!”
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A One-Day The Lunch Run to Aspen by Steve Coleman
Courtesy of Steve Coleman
Courtesy of Steve Coleman
Itâ€™s never a good idea to kill your brother. It may be why the name Cain never really caught on. In July 1981, an epic Colorado bike ride through the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness came close to claiming my sibling. Instead, it became one of the great overlooked feats in early mountain biking history. Actually, describing it as mountain biking is a bit of a misnomer since that term was still a year away from entering the popular lexicon; we simply rode clunkers. That spring, my backcountry ride was a five-speed Univega beach cruiser that I rolled over every possible dirt road, obscure trail and cow path in the broad expanse of sage beyond Hartman Rocks in Gunnison, Colo. 32
In those pre-singletrack days, aside from a few riding companions, there was virtually no one else out there. I have no illusions that I was ever off the front, except in some of my explorations, but I certainly became the fittest of my life. By summer, I launched myself full bore into the high wilderness of the Elk Mountains, riding everything between Taylor and Schofield passes. A favorite of mine was the 11,800-foot East Maroon Pass, and I resolved to ride over it from Crested Butte to Aspen for lunch and then return. It wasnâ€™t unheard of; the Cook brothers and other Mountain Bike Hall of Famers routinely set land speed records on those trails, but it was a bit of a push on the 40-pound bikes we were riding.
Opposite Top: Ken Coleman approaches the top of East Maroon Pass during an adventurous family bike ride in 1981. Opposite Bottom: A hair-raising descent off East Maroon Pass en route to Aspen, Colo., was just part of a momentous day in which two brothers took off on their clunkers and made a little mountain bike history of their own. This page: The two Coleman brothers used the Copper Creek Trail, pictured here from the top of Whiterock Mountain, to access East Maroon Pass and descend to Aspen at a time when few people rode bikes across the pass. The entire area is now Wilderness and closed to bikes.
I casually mentioned to my older brother, Ken, that I planned to go, and he impulsively said he wanted in. Not only had he moved to Colorado a month earlier, but he was completely non-acclimated, had just quit smoking and had never really cycled. In fact, it would be his first mountain bike ride ever. I gave him an “Are you out of your mind look” and said, “Okay, we leave the Butte at dawn.” By today’s endurance riding standards, it wasn’t that daunting: about 50 miles round trip with maybe 7,000 feet of vertical. But try climbing off the couch and having that be your introductory ride. In high school, Ken had been a recruitable, all-conference type, so I had confidence in his dormant athleticism despite the fact he had
let his body languish a bit in the 13 years since. He also demonstrated real zeal for our high mountain valley and readily embraced the active outdoor lifestyle we all were leading. Those were the halcyon days of mountain biking, telemark skiing and rafting, and Ken eagerly clamored aboard. The faint light of dawn found us straddling our matching clunkers ready to ride down Crested Butte’s Elk Avenue. I wore Nike Lava Domes, black wool shorts and a cotton Campy cycling hat, de rigueur apparel in those days; helmets were, of course, still a few years away. My brother sported a Hawaiian shirt, ’70s-era gym shorts and Chuck Taylors. He pulled up his tube socks with confidence. One water bottle apiece and a granola bar would suffice to get us there where we could 33
The Lunch Run to Aspen
Courtesy of Steve Coleman
Left: The author poses near Triangle Pass during another ride in the Elk Mountains during the summer of 1982. The bike is an original Specialized Stumpjumper—the first one ever sold at Gunnison’s famous but now historical bike shop: The Tune Up. Right: Nearly 30 years after his fateful lunch run to Aspen, Ken Coleman scares the living hell out of more than 350 racers with a shotgun blast signaling the start of the 2010 Gunnison Growler mountain bike race. The man knows their pain more than they realize.
replenish for the trip back. It was a cold July morning, as they generally are at 8,800 feet, but the climb from Crested Butte up the Gothic Road pavement to the ski area quickly dispatched the chill. Ken was immediately gasping in the thin air and was way behind me when we reached the dirt. He was hurting 15 minutes into our little adventure; little did he know that this would be a grueling 15-hour day. As we coasted down the little hill into Gothic, the old ghost town that is now home to the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, I pondered the biblical ramifications of fratricide. The steep climb shot directly up from the biological laboratory, where a bleary-eyed scientist clutching a coffee cup stared at us incredulously. As we rode past the roaring Judd Falls, my red-faced brother, spittle surrounding his mouth, looked increasingly distressed, but we pushed on relentlessly. The difference in our level of fitness meant that I waited at the top of each steep section as he labored to reach me. Each time he caught up, I told him, “No breaks. We have to keep the hammer down,” and we continued to slog upward through the high-altitude meadows and forests. By 10 a.m., we had climbed past Copper Lake and stood high above tree line on the saddle that marked the top of the pass. Ken looked stunned that he had made it. There was heady exuberance between us. It was all downhill, right? The descent proved more grueling than he expected, and I continued to look anxiously at him as he faded on the downhill. I told him we had to punch it to stay on schedule, so we raced along the little alpine trail, charging through stream crossings, oblivious to the muck and mud that coated our faces and clothing. We continued to cross the roaring creek and came across some well-heeled Aspenites carefully taking off their expensive Swiss leather boots and folding their socks to gingerly ford the raging current. They looked at us aghast when we exploded from the brush and vaulted from our bikes running through the rushing water and shot down the 34
trail spraying rooster tails of water and mud up our backs. Somewhere in there, I snapped a few spokes on my rear wheel, but there were multiple bike shops in Aspen, and I figured it would easily be repaired. We finally reached pavement and accelerated downhill toward the town originally known as Ute City. My rim started to complain loudly as it rubbed on the frame. Fixing it became the first order of business when we reached Glitter Gulch. We made it about 12:30 p.m., and my brother looked more haggard than I had ever seen him, actually more haggard than I had ever seen anyone. Ken had bonked spectacularly before we actually left the trail and was slack-jawed and desperate for food and water. I made him wait as I tried shop after shop, but no one had spokes for a clunker. In fact, one shop owner looked at the bikes and at us with disdain, like something smelled. Maybe we did. Finally I said screw it, and we went to a delightful French bakery to scarf food. A woman in line, wearing a fur-trimmed jacket, clutched her lap dogs and shrank back from us as if we were filthy barbarians invading from over the mountains. The counter-help served us anyway, and we purchased voluminous amounts of food, including pastries to take back to my wife, who was a talented baker in Crested Butte. We collapsed on the outdoor seating and inhaled delectable sandwiches and desserts, drinking more water than humanly possible. Around 2:30 p.m., I said, “Let’s saddle up,” and my brother looked at me blankly. I said firmly, “Look, there’s only one way home, and we’re taking it.” We slowly got back on the bikes and rolled away from the gentrified haven, starting the long, slow climb to the trailhead. My brother looked particularly pitiful, and I was periodically kicking my rear rim to see if it would quit rubbing. By the time we left the pavement, lather had already started to form around his lips, and his eyes darted about nervously. The ascent back to the top of East Maroon took forever and took every ounce of energy he had and ever thought about having. Time
The Lunch Run to Aspen slowed, and I made myself stop leaping too far out so I could keep an eye on him. Hours passed. We moved into the summer evening with the summit still a few miles ahead of us. We began to swill water from snowmelt while pikas whistled something shrilly at us like, “There might be giardia in there, fellows.” Finally, Ken collapsed onto the pristine tundra. His pale face was pinched, his cheeks hollow, and dark circles formed under his eyes like a bad mascara job. He wasn’t dead yet, but he looked like he considered it an attractive option. I looked at him and reached into my little pack, ripped open the carefully preserved bakery bag and shoved a chocolate croissant into his face. His eyes glimmered like a resurrected terminator. He polished that off, and I pushed some other puff pastry delight at him. The setting sun was turning the peaks red, and I started in on him like some parody of an athletic coach. “C’mon on, get up! You’re making this happen, you’re who they wrote home about, you can do this, you will persevere, you’re a beast, let’s go!” He staggered uncertainly to his feet, grabbed the bike and started pushing it upward. We finally reached the awe-inspiring summit. There was no photo op or jubilation; the light was fading fast, my rim was bent and it was time to let ’er rip. We rocketed like madmen down the trail past Copper Lake. Rocks flew as we skidded through turn after turn, blazing downward to Gothic. The last little hill up out of Gothic nearly crushed him, but somehow he muscled through it until we were humming along the pavement. My rim, hitting the chainstays now, sounded like a baseball card in the spokes. We rolled onto Elk Avenue at 9:40 p.m. with just enough light to claim it wasn’t actually night.
Someone asked, “How was it? Would you do it again?” I excitedly said, “Tomorrow!” Ken just stared out into the vastness like he could see a hundred miles across the western foothills to Paonia, Colo., and crawled into the car for the ride back to Gunny. Some might describe what happened that day as ill-advised, foolhardy, even lunacy. I think there is only one way to describe my brother’s legendary clunker ride: absolutely heroic. Interestingly, the ride didn’t engender any bitterness, ill will or rancor. We both knew that he had pulled off something incredible. When Ken recovered, he continued to ride with me, though not the daunting stuff, at least not then. The next spring he bought his own bike and joined me on our own “Road to Ruins” tour of ancient Puebloan cultural sites. We even cycled into Utah’s Grand Gulch and climbed ancient handholds carved into the cliffs near the ancient Anasazi ruins in Chaco Canyon with our bikes on our shoulders. This year, Ken turned 60, which makes me 55. Since those days, he obviously grew and evolved as an athlete. Today, he is an accomplished mountain biker, telemark skier and the city manager of Gunnison. In the years since our epic ride, many times he has been in better shape and put the hurt on me. We remain close and currently are signed up to ride the Bicycle Tour of Colorado together. We trade photos of our training rides to encourage each other. In 2009, Ken helped the Gunnison Growler mountain bike race get off to an explosive start by unloading a shotgun into the air. I wonder how many elite racers looked at that old guy in a cowboy hat wielding a weapon and wondered whether he knew their pain.
ifbikes.com MTN_FLYER-Indy_Fab_AD_2.indd 1
8/19/10 9:45 AM
With the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming in the background, Forest Baker pedals along the Oregon Trail during the Tour Divide Race, the longest bike race in the world at 2,754 miles.
Tour Race2010 2010 Tour Divide Divide Race Doing it for Dave Words and photos by Eddie Clark
“Look at the light and shadows on the trees across the valley,” Matthew said. “They call it specularity in photography,” I replied. It seemed meaningful to say, but truthfully, it was just a reflex response. We both drifted into confused thought, a futile attempt of comprehension and soul searching that was crushed by the realization of our own mortality from the sudden loss of fellow rider Dave Blumenthal. A long moment of contemplative silence passed; there wasn’t much else to say. Matthew Lee was leading the Tour Divide Race, and I spent that day shadowing him as a dutiful photographer would. Under glorious evening light and a rising new moon, we sat in the grass along the Conejos River outside of Platoro, Colo. Earlier that evening, our fears were confirmed with a phone call, and we had stopped to say our peace with only the mountains and each other as our witness. It was a heavy moment, and I was glad I wasn’t alone. You see, the Tour Divide Race isn’t just a bike race. It’s a very personal commitment and an unyielding test of character and die-hard determination. Its adventurers are part of a select club that become family, brethren and even best of friends while living and riding along the Continental Divide. Covering 2,754 miles from Banff, Canada, to Antelope Wells, N.M., the Tour Divide is the longest bike race in the world. Top finishers ride 140 to 160 miles a day, rain, shine, snow, mud or whatever sort of ravaging headwind blows their way, and it’s not uncommon for the very fastest to ride back-to-back double centuries in their quest for glory. This year’s first three finishers completed the journey in less than 20 days. To understand this sort of journey, you must live it. This merciless, unsupported race along the Continental Divide hardens you or it breaks you. There are no alternatives. Twenty of the 48 starters dropped out within the first week. The struggles of pushing a loaded 40-pound bike through miles of mud and over snow-covered passes and suffering through long days in the saddle are its only guarantee. However, the life experiences of immersing yourself into the wilds of the Continental Divide and the satisfaction of surviving are the rewards bestowed upon the finishers. Impressive as riding a double century sounds, sometimes the best of plans backfire. Race winner Lee rode nearly 195 miles in the first day of racing to get a jump on his competitors only to be thwarted by high school kids partying at the remote cabin that would serve as his 37
The 2010 Tour Divide Race was dedicated to fellow rider Dave Blumenthal. Ride in peace, Dave.
Tour Divide Race
shelter for the evening. Faced with bivouacking in active grizzly bear territory of the Canadian Rockies, his sleep and recovery were sacrificed, putting him behind the eight ball on just the second day of riding. Practically every Tour Divide rider has a story about sleeping in restrooms to seek shelter from the elements or wildlife. Undoubtedly, thunderstorms and grizzly bears in Montana and northern Wyoming are a driving factor for such unpleasant impromptu shelters in which many riders find safety and debatable comfort. Although, not all wildlife encounters are so dangerous. Perhaps some of the more entertaining are the pronghorn antelope that run parallel to you at full speed for no other reason than what seems to be the joy of running fast. Herds of majestic elk dashing across high mountain passes are yet another wildlife encounter that makes the Tour Divide such an incredible journey. Equally memorable are the interactions with other riders and regular folks encountered along the divide. In Wyoming, it’s refreshing to pass by friendly ranchers who always wave at each other when crossing paths on the numerous dirt roads. Of course, veteran racers look forward to stopping at the Brush Mountain Lodge in northern Colorado where lodge manager Kirsten Henricksen overwhelms them with hospitality and a healthy supply of burgers, fries, cold watermelon and even a cold beer or root beer. Turns out, most people are pretty nice after all. The dynamics of riders finding their rhythm and forming alliances with other riders along the way is another unique aspect of the Tour Divide. An unmistakable form of camaraderie develops as the proverbial wheat is separated from the chaff over snowy mountain passes and the many unridable miles of muddy dirt road. Strangers become acquaintances and often become friends who revel in their shared trials and tribulations of riding along on the divide. If for no other reason, it’s nice to have someone to talk to after listening to the voices in your own head for mile after seemingly unending mile. Since most of the miles of the Tour Divide are in desolate and remote areas, sleeping on-course is often mandatory. It’s these times of quiet solitude underneath the great heavens during which one can gaze upon a sky full of countless twinkling stars and feel fortunate to partake in such a grand adventure. In spending time following racers for a day or two at a time, I eagerly waited for the riders’ rest stops and their end to the day for a chance to sit down and chat with them. By the time I had caught up with Matthew again at the lodge in Platoro, Colo., we both knew there had been an accident involving Dave Blumenthal and that he was flown to Denver on a Flight for Life with severe injuries. Matthew and I were both optimistic for good news that he would pull through but instead were relayed the opposite news. As we sat on the bank of the Conejos River that evening, it became obvious that this adventure was indeed bigger than one could imagine. It seemed a horrible injustice for such a fine person as Dave to be taken from us, his numerous friends and loving family. But deep down, in our brief time spent with Dave, we knew there was only one thing to do. With heavy hearts, we said our goodbyes and vowed to press on with our Tour Divide missions—to “Do it for Dave.” 39
Rookie racer Aidan Harding was the lone rider to make the trip across the ocean for this year’s race. A primary school road safety instructor in London, the Englishman decided the time was right for an attempt at the Tour Divide. “I read about it years ago, and this seemed like the right year to do it since I could properly train for it. It’s just fantastic being out here,”
Harding said of his decision and the varied terrain that makes up the Tour Divide. If it weren’t for valuable hours lost because of a sliced tire on the very first day, Harding very well could have set a new singlespeed course record on his Singular fully rigid steed. Harding was the fastest finisher on a singlespeed. He also finished in third place overall with a time of 19 days, 14 hours and 12 minutes.
Portraits of the Tour Divide
Hailing from Carrboro, N.C., 39-year-old Matthew Lee is the only Tour Divide racer to score multiple wins in addition to holding the current Tour Divide Race course record of 17 days, 21 hours and 10 minutes, set in 2007. Riding the entire course from memory with no map, phone or GPS, Lee is clearly the most experienced Tour Divide racer and has also been instrumental in the event organization. Lee, a sponsored professional cross-country racer for the Cannondale factory team, also holds a full-time job at home to support his family. “I feel a year older this year,” Lee said in regards to his 2010 Tour Divide return. “I came back this year
because the weather was so bad last year. I thought I could improve my time.” Unfortunately, forest fires in New Mexico and a mandatory course reroute negated any possible record breaking before he even got to the finish line in southern New Mexico (in a time of 17:16:10). Even still, Lee is widely known as the Zen master of Tour Divide racing with his efficient and constant forward-moving progress for the race’s three weeks. It remains to be seen if Lee can let go of knowing that he’s capable of breaking his own record or if other commitments will see him passing on next year’s race.
If there was an award for rough luck, Tour Divide veteran Erik Lobeck of Steamboat Springs, Colo., would be a prime candidate. During last yearâ€™s race, Lobeck had the misfortune of getting giardia, forcing him to abandon days short of the finish. In this yearâ€™s edition, Lobeck was riding fast and looked to be very close to catching Lee as they rode toward Lima, Mont., until he suffered a mechanical meltdown with his bike. Fresh rains turned the roads into a gravelly mud concoction
that stuck to his bike so badly that it wore through the sidewall of his rear tire. The concoction also destroyed both of his derailleurs, leaving him stranded with more than 20 miles between him and replacement bike parts in Lima. Faced with hours and hours of walking, Lobeck hitched a ride into Lima to acquire new parts; and in doing so broke one of the Tour Divide rules. The infraction cost Lobeck an official finishing time even though his final time would have qualified him as a third-place finisher.
Portraits of the Tour Divide
Adventurer David Tremblay of Moretown, Vt., was also a rookie coming into this year’s Tour Divide. He and Dave Blumenthal were friends back in Vermont and after some research and deliberation decided to have a go at this year’s race. Undoubtedly, losing a good friend must have been quite difficult considering the duress of racing alone. However, there was no real option of quitting, so Tremblay pressed on and did it for Dave, too. “The lightning was just crazy after we left Hartsel, Colo., yesterday,” Tremblay said of the previous day’s ride toward Ute Pass, Colo. “Thankfully, I still have the GPS coordinates that Dave Blumenthal researched and plotted for the Tour Divide, and we were able to use them last night to find our way to the cow camp cabin to seek shelter from the storm. Dave is still with us in spirit.”
No stranger to adventure racing, Tour Divide veteran Blaine Nester of Invermere, Canada, had completed the BC Bike Race to get a taste of adventure racing. “Those guys were a little too gung ho for my tastes,” Nester said of the more competitive nature of the BC Bike Race entrants. At 47 years old, Nester represented the oldest segment of racers and was even the oldest finisher in last year’s edition. To put the odds in his favor, Nester switched from his 26-inch wheel mountain bike, which he
rode last year, to a new Cannondale 29er replete with a Lefty fork, hoping the change would help improve his finishing time. “These big wheels sure do roll nice once you get them going,” Nester said. They rolled so well that he shaved 2 days, 15 hours and 25 minutes off his previous finish time to come in second overall at 18 days, 11 hours and 35 minutes. But it should be noted, too, that this year’s course was shortened due to a forest fire in New Mexico that engulfed a segment of the course.
Portraits of the Tour Divide
A rookie to Tour Divide racing, Forest Baker proved his merit and toughness by finishing in fifth place with a time of 20 days, 9 hours and 13 minutes, a very impressive time for a rookie. Working as a marketing strategy guy for a biotech company leaves little time for Baker to train for this adventure. To make up for his lack of training, Baker rode from his home in Sunnyvale, Calif., to Banff, Canada, towing a heavily loaded Bob trailer to prepare for the long days ahead. However, once race day came around,
he opted to leave the trailer behind for a faster, lighter approach. “I love the informal nature of the Tour Divide. You’re pushing so hard, and you stop and look up and see just how beautiful it is out here,” Baker said, while restocking at a gas station in Pinedale, Wyo. “I’ve done a lot of touring and got this window to do the race, so I took it. Maybe it was a mid-life crisis thing, but the challenge was what attracted me,” he said of his first ride in the Tour Divide.
[24 hours in the enchanted forest]
James E. Rickman
Living up to its name, 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest comes alive as dark sets in on Saturday evening. As the event date drew near, the U.S. Forest Service had a last-minute problem with the course route, which threatened the race itself. The resulting compromise turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Not only did it allow the route to be held almost fully on singletrack, the change put the staging area under the big pine trees. The new location also allows the event plenty of room to grow in the future. “The real message here is that the Zuni Mountains have been off the radar, but the secret is out,” said race organizer Lindsay Mapes. “We have some of the finest singletrack in the Southwest.”
Top Right: Heavy snowfall in winter brings with it a speckling of flowers across the landscape well into New Mexico’s dry summer season. The gentle rollers of the Zuni Mountains allow a rider from the Wingnuts team to take in the enchanting views while cruising through a meadow of purple lupine during the 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest near Gallup in western New Mexico. Held for the first time this year, the June 19 event was well organized. “I love it, man. I can’t wait to come back with gears and carbon next year,” racer Geoff Stein said.
Bottom Right: Amid stands of scrub oak, Pat Murrish swoops down the Burma Trail during the 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest in the Zuni Mountains of western New Mexico. The Burma Trail is a great example of what a dedicated crew of youth conservation corps trail builders can do to an old two-track road. Once nasty and rutted, the new singletrack takes racers down a three and a half mile descent. Most of the area’s trails have been built and ridden by a grassroots crew of dedicated locals, but when it came to the heavy lifting, the youth conservation corps trail experts worked on a sustainable trail. Their dedication already has paid off and may go even further; talk of designating the trail network as an IMBA Ride Center is in the works.
[24 hours in the enchanted forest]
Under the cool shade of tall ponderosa pines and scrubby oaks, a racer speeds through the 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest course. Set in the Zuni Mountains just east of Gallup, N.M., the 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest event was New Mexico’s first 24-hour race and is the culmination of several years of dreaming and planning by race organizer Lindsay Mapes. “Everything fell into place. It was meant to happen, and the timing was right,” Mapes said. “New Mexico was ready for a race, the community was ready for a race, and these mountain bikers were ready for a race.”
rider: Seamus McGrath
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Above: Pro racer Cody Eichorn from Australia keeps it pinned through a techy wooded section during his qualifying run. Unfortunately, sudden rain showers prior to the race run produced a slick, muddy course, and he finished in 12th place on the day. Left: Winter Park Resort has been leading the charge for developing challenging trails in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service to create a premier downhill and freeride destination. For 2010, the resort upped the downhill race stakes by making the Crankworx Colorado event a UCI-ranked Pro Gravity Race Tour (GRT) points race. With valuable points on the line, Michael Buell launches a boulder in qualifying to shave fractions of a second off his time.
[crankworx] A quality course and plenty of prize money lured the most talented field yet to the 2010 edition of Crankworx Colorado in Winter Park, Colo. Even top slopestyle riders, such as Canadian freeride phenom Darren Berrecloth, made the trip to Winter Park for this competition. After riding the initial corkscrew feature, Berrecloth spun a giant 360 off the 35 step-down road gap for the fans during the qualification round.
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[colorado trail race]
[colorado trail race] A lone rider pushes the final meters of Fooses Creek Trail and reaches a high point on the Continental Divide during the 2010 Colorado Trail Race. The race takes riders nearly 500 miles from Denver to Durango, unsupported, through some of the most rugged and remote trails in the state. This year, racers were faced with a very wet monsoonal weather pattern, resulting in a higher than normal attrition rate among the starters of this endurance test.
The Colorado Trail Race, affectionately called the “monster,” takes endurance mountain bike racing to an entirely surreal level, pushing the envelope psychologically, physically and metaphysically for individual racers. Starting just outside of Denver, the course follows The Colorado Trail for close to 500 miles across the state, taking the occasional detour to avoid designated wilderness areas, and climbs a total of 65,000 vertical feet before reaching the finish line at Junction Creek outside of Durango. Riders spend anywhere from five to 14 days in and out of the saddle and are entirely self-supported from start to finish, carrying everything they need to survive on their bikes or on their backs. While they are permitted to make food stops along the way in the towns they ride through, no food drops or support team stations are allowed. To ride the 493 miles in winning time, riders must continue to make forward progress of about 15 hours each day, taking catnaps on the side of the trail throughout the night. At 6:30 a.m. Aug. 2, 40 riders hopped in the saddle to take on the fourth annual monster. Only 19 would make it all the way to the finish line. Team Alpine Orthopaedics rider and Crested Butte resident Ethan Passant is the only one to have participated in all four years of this race. He won his first Colorado Trail Race title in 2008 and returned to take the title again this year, covering the course in a time of 4 days, 13 hours and 43 minutes. Second place went to Jesse Jakomait, who finished just under two hours behind Passant. Jefe Branham, who had won the first Colorado Trail race in 2007, took third this year in 5 days, 2 hours and 10 minutes. Only two women finished the race. Eszter Horanyi was the first woman and fourth overall, completing the course in 6 days, 5 hours and 25 minutes. In her first attempt at the grueling race, Horanyi shattered the women’s course record by nearly 12 hours. “I spent a lot of the last morning thinking how I could do the route faster next year. I’m
not sure if these thoughts are normal or not,” Horanyi says. Fourteen hours behind Horanyi, Cat Morrison, the only woman to ride the race in 2009, came across the finish line, riding a singlespeed and improving her time by 18 hours. This year, right from the start, riders were met with a blast from Mother Nature. There were occasional breaks in the weather but, for the most part, participants were pounded by the elements the entire time. “It wasn’t just sprinkling, it was torrential,” Passant says. Later on the first day, Passant took over in front and after riding the peaks between Breckenridge and Copper Mountain in the rain, he rolled into Copper Mountain Ski Area at midnight with fellow racer Jeff Kerkove to find shelter from the storm and a little sleep. Three and half hours later, he got back in the saddle. “At 3:30 a.m., I had to get up and put all of those wet clothes back on. Not cool,” Passant says. At shorter endurance events, Passant has followed a strategy of redlining and then easing back a half step in his pace. But The Colorado Trail Race demands a different plan altogether. “Don’t sweat, don’t breathe hard, and don’t reach a red line—ever,” Passant says. “The more you can conserve early on, the better off you are.” Passant took the lead again and rolled into Leadville in search of food and brake pads. Fortunately, he found both: the brake pads at a local bike shop and a sandwich at Subway. He set his sights on Buena Vista. Buena Vista is the last major chance to restock and regroup before a 200-mile section of the course. The siren song of local burger joint K’s Dairy Delite is hard to resist, but Passant has vowed never to make that mistake again. “You’ve got a long climb out of Buena Vista, and you don’t want that bomb sitting in your stomach,” Passant says. Instead, he opted for City Market sushi and stocked up on Powerbars, Swiss cheese, 55
[colorado trail race]
In his fourth run at The Colorado Trail Race, Ethan Passant took along his trademark great attitude and unyielding enthusiasm and snagged a second victory.
Eszter Horanyi enjoys a fine beverage in Durango, Colo., after setting a new record at The Colorado Trail Race in her first attempt.
salami, granola bars, beef jerky and a pound of salted cashews to carry him through to Silverton. In addition, Passant maintained his strength with the help of Vespa Power products, a Japanese tincture that includes wasp extract. With no watch to regiment his sleep, Passant turned to a sleep plan that got him the rest he needed without giving up too much time to his competitors. “When I saw the sun was coming up, I would go to sleep and wake up when it hit me,” Passant explains. The plan gave Passant between two and three hours of sleep each day. After a stretch of singletrack, including classics such as South Fooses Creek and the Crest Trail, the course heads out onto a section Passant calls “Nowheresville.” Nowheresville consists of a long hike-a-bike on a disintegrating trail that follows Cochetopa and Sargents Mesas. He took the lead back on North Pass when his closest competitor folded, allowing Passant to ride ahead. Early Thursday morning, Passant was on autopilot as he pressed on toward Slumgullion Pass. “I was definitely feeling tired and maybe seeing things,” Passant says. “I was still moving forward but my eyes were so heavy.” Passant’s pace led him into Silverton at 10 p.m., just in time to get a spaghetti and meatball feed at a restaurant and some supplies from a tourist shop. From there, the course heads up Molas Pass and back onto The Colorado Trail bound for Durango.
“It ain’t easy and it ain’t over yet,” Passant says. “It’s one of the best pieces of singletrack riding in the state, but you’re just a little cooked.” It was on his final stint of sleep that Passant thought he might have blown the race. Just before Bolum Pass, Passant had lain down only to wake up and see the sun higher in the sky than he had hoped. According to Passant, 2007 champion Branham follows a slow, steady and sleepless strategy in the race and passed Passant in a prior race near the end while Passant slept. But it was Jakomait, just a few hours behind him, whom he should have been worrying about. Passant gathered himself as quickly as possible and set off for the finish line in a small panic. “I was looking in the mud for tracks but didn’t see any,” Passant says. On Friday evening, Passant dropped down the final descent, a long, steep technical section, and when he rolled into the finish line at the Junction Creek trailhead, the only person he saw was his dad; he realized he’d won. “I truly enjoy the race,” Passant says. “It’s got to be one of the most truly epic rides and so scenic.” Horanyi had not known what to expect on her first attempt and quickly found out that The Colorado Trail Race defied all standards of any normal bike race. “The sheer variety of terrain and trail that the route dishes up is beyond belief,” she says. “And being out on it day after day, sunrise after sunset makes for an unrivaled experience.” –Than Acuff
[frazer mountain madness] During the peak of the rainstorm, Todd Resch of Albuquerque, N.M., reaches the top of the climb and moves out from under the protective pine boughs that had provided some shelter during the 2010 Frazer Mountain Madness. His effort earned him second place in the Category 1 Expert Men ages 40â€“49.
James E. Rickman
[frazer mountain madness]
With a stiff upper lip and legs spattered with mud, Joe Prinzivalli of the Café Guiseppe cycling team out of Albuquerque, N.M., looks like he could use a nice hot café latté after spending 2 hours, 23 minutes on the trails in the rain during the 2010 Frazer Mountain Madness cross-country race. James E. Rickman
TAOS SKI VALLEY, N.M.—If authors of the Old Testament had been around for parts of the sixth annual Frazer Mountain Madness crosscountry race, they might have thought they were witnessing the Wrath of God. Heavy rains were the story this year. But the deluge didn’t wipe out the wicked fun of the nearly 100 racers in attendance. The madness is actually two events in one. Day one is a hill climb to the 12,163-foot-high summit of the mountain, which is privately owned and located next door to New Mexico’s highest point, Wheeler Peak. The second day provides cross-country racers with a chance to enjoy singletrack and fast descents. With a starting line located about 9,500 feet above sea level, the Frazer Mountain Madness is notorious as one of the highest-altitude races in the New Mexico. The backdrop of the race this year was every bit as breathtaking as the altitude. Frazer Mountain was clothed in the lush, green splendor of summer. Patches of blue columbine, red Indian paintbrush and various yellow wildflowers adorned the mountain like crown jewels. Even under the cold gray light, the colors dazzled. The damp dirt beneath the lines of singletrack crisscrossing
the area was the color of rich chocolate cake and every bit as sweet. Though rain was not officially falling at the starting area at the beginning of the cross-country race, everything at 10,000 feet and higher was choked in cloud cover. By the time the Category 1, 2 and Professional racers were reaching the top of their second and third laps, they rode in a downpour. Conditions became as sloppy as a lunchroom table beneath a group of third-graders learning to use chopsticks for the first time. On the first lap, Professional rider Damian Calvert of Albuquerque, N.M., charged up the steep climbs with rival Cameron Brenneman chomping at his heels. The seven-man pack of Pro men was divided by young rider Lewis Gaffney of Angel Fire, N.M., who was riding in the 18 and under Category 1 Expert division—and the only one of the three racers in that category to complete the race. When all was said and done, Gaffney would finish just 10 minutes behind the Professional winners, in fourth place overall. Calvert slowly pulled away from Brenneman and eventually won the event by a full two minutes, finishing in 2:10:35. Even in the worst rain, sole Pro woman Nina Baum of Albuquerque wore a cheerful smile as she pedaled—providing her own self-contained rays of sunshine on the dreary course. Baum, who won the hill climb the day before and holds the world record for the hill climb from 2009, finished the 21.4-mile cross-country race in 3:08:35. –J. Rickman 59
[frazer mountain madness]
Sixteen-year-old Caleb Maher, right, uses a tree to steady himself as Donald Mercer of Las Cruces, N.M., passes through a tight spot on the Frazer Mountain Madness cross-country course. Mercer made the maneuver without dabbing and went on to finish second in Category 2 Sport Men ages 19â€“29. Maher later flatted high on the course; undaunted, he walked his bike for miles, shivering intensely, to cross the finish line and avoid a DNF for the race. James E. Rickman
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If the sheer volume of riding and quality were not enough for Breck Epic racers, the Mount Guyot loop during Stage 3 of the six-stage race offered some epic Rocky Mountain weather to further challenge their resolve. After a gut-wrenching but sunny climb up Prospect Hill, racers made their way over Humbug Hill and back down to French Gulch where the weather turned sour. Leg-splintering grades above tree line had racers walking up in harsh winds, rain and bone-chilling temperatures as they fought to gain French Pass at 12,046 feet. A good spirit and past experience in the European Alps helped Swiss teammates Clint Muhlfeld and Thom Parsons get over French Pass and then a snowy Georgia Pass to retain their Duo Open leadersâ€™ jerseys.
It may not be the biggest or baddest stage of the Breck Epic mountain bike stage race in Breckenridge, Colo., but the intensity of the Stage 5 Wheeler Loop and its spirit-breaking hike-a-bike climb over steep switchbacks had every racer second-guessing their tactics for the day. Regardless of whether he was saving his last matches for the final stage or not, Colby Pearce was one of the many top riders off and pushing his bike up one of the steeper hairpins on the climb up to 12,470-foot Wheeler Pass. Ross Schnell was first over the pass, but it was overall winner Jeremiah Bishop who reeled him in to win the stage by a mere 8 seconds.
[breck epic] Besides the six days of epic trails, Pua Sawicki substantially raised the bar for women’s racing with her top performances in every stage of the six-stage race in the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado. Seen here descending the Gold Dust Trail during Stage 6, the women’s solo champion and U.S. 24 Hour Solo National Champion essentially rode a one-woman race by finishing with an almost two-hour overall lead over the rest of the Women’s Open field. In fact, two-thirds of the Men’s Open field would swallow their pride daily as Sawicki repeatedly dropped them on the climbs during what would be a top-15 overall finish time for her at the Breck Epic.
Billed as The Colorado Trail stage of the Breck Epic six-day stage race, Stage 2 sent riders on a circuitous 41-mile route around Tiger Road. After nearly 35 miles of riding and 6,500 feet of climbing, Grand Junction, Colo., resident and all-around nice guy Ross Schnell makes his way through the lush forest on his way up the last big climb of the day on the Blue Sky Trail. On the next-to-last stage of the day, Schnell noted, “I haven’t ridden this much in one week for several years.”
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[laramie enduro] Late in the day, the Laramie Enduro course climbed to its highest point at the top of The Headquarters Trail. Here, the racers dealt with a harsh environment. The day heated up, and the two-mile climb up The Headquarters Trail was loose, steep and technical. Coming around the 70-mile mark in the near 80-mile race, this section of the course had quite a few people off the bike, heads hung low and pushing for the top.
[laramie enduro] Deep within the drainages of the Happy Jack and Vedauwoo trail systems, the singletrack of the Laramie Enduro race in southern Wyoming alternated between buttery smooth goodness, sections of damp roots and rocks, and a bit of primitive cow trail to mix things up. Early in the race, the woods were still wet from rain the day before, which made for sweet trail conditions.
LARAMIE, Wyo.—Wyoming is a rugged place. Wide-open, windswept plains roll out to meet steep, rocky hills and snow-covered mountain ranges. Drainages thick with aspen and pine drop into dense wetland areas infested with bloodthirsty mosquitoes and flies the size of small rodents. It’s rugged, but it’s also beautiful, and for those who enjoy a bit of adventure mixed in with their dose of fat tire fun, the Laramie Enduro is just such an event. With 8,600 feet of climbing and more than 70 miles of dirt, the Larmie Enduro is no walk in the park. The race, set in the Laramie Range of Southeastern Wyoming, starts and finishes in the Hidden Valley Picnic Area, which sits within the Pole Mountain trail area about 10 miles east of Laramie. As Ward Baker, a Pro/Open racer from Boulder said, “The Laramie Enduro is a challenging race with a great variety of singletrack riding, from fast sagebrush sections to steep, technical wooded climbs. The two-track and dirt road sections are nice because you can eat and drink
while getting ready for the next killer section of singletrack.” Killer is definitely a fitting description of the singletrack in this area. Sections of smooth, banked hardpack through the forest will quickly deposit you into rocky, rooty sections of technical goodness, then spit you back out into an open field of prairie grass with the big Wyoming sky above you. The Enduro course gives riders a taste of it all. The kicker is the last climb on the Headquarters Trail. The steep and loose two-mile climb coming at about the 70-mile mark had many a racer off the bike, head down, wondering how much farther to the finish. With a great after-race bash including lots of food and refreshments, the Laramie Enduro has become an annual event on many endurance racers’ calendars. It fills up quickly, and there is talk of a lottery entry system in the future. If you get the chance to gain entry into this race, you will not be disappointed. It is a challenging race through unique and beautiful terrain. –S. Lortie
Photo: Colin Meagher
[leadville trail 100]
With spring runoff raging through what should be a small creek crossing, organizers of the Palisade Classic Bike Festival took extra precautions in their Grand Mesa Grind bike race by adding a safety rope. Losing a rider downstream would be embarrassing indeed.
[leadville trail 100] As evidenced by the more than 1,500 entrants, the Leadville Trail 100 isnâ€™t just about elite racing, but instead is a chance for riders to race one of the most famous 100-mile mountain bike races in the country. Leadville resident Henry Fischer (#35), seen here ascending the Sugarloaf climb, was the first local to cross the finish line with a time of 8:06:04 for 32nd place.
[leadville trail 100]
At the top of the Leadville Trail 100’s infamous Columbine climb, humor is tough to come by. At this point, nearly 50 miles into the race, most racers either have raw determination or a far, far away look in their eyes. This year, Dan Edmiston and Nate Boone set up shop three-quarters of the way up offering a bite of wiener, a sip of PBR and a good dose of comedy to any rider willing to partake. Not wanting to skimp on quality, the dogs were genuine Ball Park Franks. “If they made Bike Park Franks, we’d serve those,” joked Edmiston when a rider grabbed one of the bite-sized beefy energy bundles. Of the first hundred or so riders, there were few takers, but this rider saw that unmistakable shiny blue, red and silver can and didn’t hesitate to slam it, gaining cheers and respect from the proprietors of the silver platter hot dog stand.
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[leadville trail 100]
With a few thousand feet of climbing already in their legs at the Leadville Trail 100, Colorado racers Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Ned “The Lung” Overend headed up the lead group of five on the approach to the summit of the 11,071-foot Sugarloaf climb. During the 100-mile race in Leadville, Colo., Overend played the role of valuable teammate by giving his front wheel to current U.S. National Cross-country Champion Todd Wells after Wells collided with eventual winner Levi Leipheimer. The crash took place when Leipheimer made an unexpected wrong turn just before the Power Line descent. Horgan-Kobelski eventually finished second to Leipheimer, both of them breaking last year’s record set by Lance Armstrong.
[leadville trail 100]
Top Right: To Twitter fans, she is the thequeenofpain. To her competitors, she is the queen of victories. Rebecca Rusch has used her methodically cool-headed approach to racing and training to mold herself into one of the top endurance racers in the world. Returning to Leadville for her second year in 2010, Rusch built a safe five-minute lead over second-place female finisher Amanda Carey by the halfway point 50 miles into the race. Despite the lead, Rusch didnâ€™t let up and pedaled herself to a new course record, finishing in 7 hours, 47 minutes and 35 seconds, and breaking Laurie Brandtâ€™s long-standing record set in 1997 by more than 11 minutes.
Above: How tough are you? Well, if you finish the Leadville Trail 100 within the 13hour time cut, one of these medals will be waiting to grace your tired, salty neck at the finish. Competitors from 22 different countries descended on Leadville to try and take home one of these prestigious medals that verifies your mountain biking credibility.
Mark Weir shows the younger guys how itâ€™s done, on his way to winning the Downieville downhill race this year.
All-Mountain World Championships A photo journal by Brian Vernor Mark Weir is undeniably The Man at Downieville, winning both the downhill and all-mountain categories numerous times. This year, Carl Decker smoked everyone with a record-setting time on the cross-country course, but Weir, 37, took first place, once again, in Sunday’s downhill race and showed us that old guys with kids can still hang it out. His time of 44 minutes, 1 second in the downhill wasn’t enough to even out the difference between he and Decker for the all-mountain title, so he settled for fifth place overall for the weekend. For the all-mountain title, the Downieville Classic in northern California is split into two days of racing in which racers have to ride the same bike on both days. Day one begins with a 29-mile, point-to-point cross-country course that follows a rugged Gold Rush era route. Racers depart the mountain town of Sierra City, Calif. (elevation 4,100 feet), climb to the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains (elevation 7,100 feet) and then plunge 5,200 feet into downtown Downieville, Calif. Day two’s downhill course drops 5,000 feet in 17 miles and has a stiff 500-foot climb mid-course. Top finish times are near two hours for the crosscountry and 40 minutes for the downhill leg. Most racers wear conventional cross-country race kits or skinsuits, and very few full-face helmets are seen. The course certainly favors the fit, and bike choice is a big part of the strategy. Decker won this year’s all-mountain title on a prototype 100 mm travel Giant 29er, besting past champions Weir, Adam Craig and Ross Schnell by crushing them in the cross-country leg (by more than 5 minutes) and hanging on for his life in the downhill leg on Sunday to a respectable 14th place, only giving back 2 minutes and 40 seconds to Weir. To put it all in perspective, multiple Downhill World Champion Greg Minnaar was only good for 11th place overall at Downieville. To win this one, you have to go up and down fast, that’s why they call it the All-Mountain World Championships. For an overview of the pro racers’ bikes that topped the podium at Downieville this year, jump to pages 88 to 91 of this issue.
downieville High Sierra trails offer the rocky and mean version of California mountain biking. This field of jagged minerals was part of both the cross-country and downhill courses and caused much blood to flow throughout the course of the weekend. Shooting photos with my head right on the ground, I could hear the slate spreading out under tires like broken glass. 78
Dense forests, skinny trail and high Sierra granite and shale are defining characteristics of the Downieville Classic. This shot was taken right after a sharp, rocky, speed-killing corner, so all of the racers were coming out of it mashing the pedals and out of the saddle. I had about 2 seconds to get off the trail before this guy would have barreled through me. 79
downieville Sean Walker took a bloody fall near the end of Saturdayâ€™s cross-country race. He had the foresight to carry his own bandages but lacked any medical tape, so he made do with the zip ties he also carried. As he bandaged himself, he wore the heaviest, most profoundly disappointed look on his face; the crash itself seemed to crush his spirit. He didnâ€™t say exactly what bothered him so much about it, but I know from experience that a hard race can either expel personal demons or bring them to the surface. 80
I’ve always called Downieville, Calif., a vortex. It is a place where cell phones and watches don’t work, and memories get a little fuzzy. I wouldn’t like to admit it, but the vortex effect might be more a factor of the copious amounts of beer consumed throughout the weekend of this classic race. This two-pack was just the beginning of a weekend long relationship…with New Belgium Brewing. 81
WTB held its World Championship Pixie ’Cross race at Downieville on Saturday night. I’m pretty sure this won’t be a UCI-sanctioned event anytime soon, but nonetheless, this kid is the future of the sport. Despite heavy competition from inebriated, elbow-throwing grown-ups four times his size, this rambunctious carrot-top walked away from the field with perfect cornering and an unending enthusiasm for ripping around in tight circles while being pursued by the drunk and disorderly.
downieville Singletrack trail and the Yuba and Downie rivers are the main features at Downieville. Around every other corner, there is a chance to extinguish your life with a fall to the rocky waterways below the trail. Much of the course at the Downieville Classic hugs the Downie River, with the finish in town where the Yuba and Downie rivers join. This spot on the downhill course is about four miles from the finish. These last miles are flatter than the preceding 13 miles, and racers are often spent by this time, losing a lot of time to the more fit riders. 84
Brakes that help you fly!
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by Jordan Carr
Carl Decker, 2010 Downieville Classic
Risk and Reward Dissecting the Bikes that Win Downieville Downieville is a pint-sized town nestled in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. And once each year it is the home front for a bike race, a festival and a movement: The All-Mountain World Championships.
To coin an event the world championships of anything isn’t easy to do, but the Downieville founders pulled it off, mostly because they invented the format. The year was 1995, and they were way ahead of their time. In hindsight, defining an all-mountain event seems easy: To win the all-mountain title at Downieville, riders must be fit enough to ride fast on a 29-mile cross-country course but also skilled and daring enough to blaze through a 17-mile downhill course. The only stipulation is that each rider must complete both stages on the same bicycle. The best all-around rider wins. This racing philosophy is so obvious, yet sometimes the obvious is overlooked. It takes an innovator to see it, and Downieville’s founder Greg Williams had that vision. What Williams didn’t realize at the time was that this event also highlighted the need for a new type of mountain bike. Back in 1995, the all-mountain bike segment really hadn’t been invented yet. But what really defines an all-mountain bike? In general, all-mountain bikes allow for backcountry adventures geared around big climbs and monster descents. So is it up to the manufacturers, who tell us a 6-inch travel bike is what we need? Is it the bike that is fastest overall—up and down—or just the most fun one to ride up and down? The definition really depends on a lot of factors, including where you are willing to make a sacrifice and where you really want the bike to shine. And Downieville has proved to be the best testing grounds to help define the category. Challenging the definition of an all-mountain bicycle, Giant rider Carl Decker won this year’s combined title by riding a prototype 100 mm (3.9-inch) travel 29er to victory with an overall time of 2 hours, 37 minutes and 31 seconds. Decker won the cross-country by more than five minutes but placed 14th in the downhill, giving back 2 minutes and 40 seconds to the winner of that day’s race. Downieville racers have historically opted for longer travel bikes mainly aimed at the downhill stage, usually landing between 130 and 160 mm (5.1 to 6.3 inches) of travel. Downieville’s race format has aided in the racers’ shift toward these all-mountain style bikes. Nearly every bike manufacturer has a bike geared toward some type of all-mountain riding, and as these bikes get lighter and surprisingly efficient, the line between all-mountain bikes and cross-country bikes is getting fuzzier. But some riders, like Decker, also realize that going too big in travel may not be the answer to overall success, figuring instead that more time could be gained in the cross-country aspect of the race with a 100 to 120 mm (3.9 to 4.7-inch) travel bike, particularly on the uphills. Downieville is a true test of bikes and riders, a test like no other event that UCI or NORBA could have ever dreamed up, and it’s reshaping what a race bike can be. Decker’s win this year may have shattered previous beliefs but his strategy also assumed considerable risk on the descent. One flat tire on Decker’s bike during the rocky downhill could have cost him the win. To highlight the different strategies for this type of race—and the wide range of bikes that can be considered all-mountain—we took a closer look at two bikes that placed well: Carl Decker’s Giant 29er, which was best on the cross-country and good enough on the downhill stage, and Ross Schnell’s Trek Remedy, a 6-inch bruiser that gave Schnell victory at Downieville in 2008 and carried him to second on the downhill stage in this year’s race.
Carl Decker’s Prototype Giant Anthem X 29er Carl Decker knows that Downieville has historically been won on bikes with 130 to 160 mm of travel usually atop 26-inch wheels. But having raced on a prototype, pre-production 100 mm travel 29er bike (a design Giant will offer in 2011) for the greater part of 2010, Decker opted for familiarity. The 29-inch wheels add a dimension of stability, he said, making 100 mm feel more like 120 mm or more. Racing an all-mountain event is a challenge just in deciding what bike to ride, especially at the pro level where you have at least a few options. But as a seasoned veteran to many types of bike racing, Decker knows the key ingredients to success. “After some practice, I decided to stop thinking about bike setup and go with what I know: that more time can be gained on the uphill sections of the cross-country course,” he said. Decker’s bike was spec’d with full XTR components with full 3x9 gearing, adding a little more weight but also allowing for more gear options than the traditional all-mountain bike. In the downhill world, running three rings up front creates much more opportunities for chain derailment, especially on the rough descent of the Downieville course, a risk Decker decided was worth it. For wheels and tires, Decker rode on Stans rims laced to XTR hubs, the front hub boasting the 15 mm thru axle for increased stiffness. Opting for a Michelin 2.1 WildRace’R tire kept his bike’s rolling resistance low but also offered a little less durability for the downhill. That was a risky choice for Downieville’s notorious tireeating rocks. Decker opted to keep his bike almost identical to what he would run in any cross-country race. “I made no changes to the bike from my normal cross-country setup: no adjustable seat post, same Michelin tires, same position,” he said. Not running an adjustable seat post made his bike slightly lighter but made handling technical descents a little more of a challenge.
Feeling confident with his decision on bike choice and also feeling confident with his skills contributed to Decker’s victory this year. But there is always room for improvement, and next year if he were to change anything on his setup, he said it would be “to upgrade to a 170 mm front rotor, as there is a lot of weight and grip up front on this bike.” In many ways, Decker got lucky. He took plenty of risks in his strategy. Hardcore Downieville racers argue that the spirit of the race lies in the downhill and should be done on a bigger travel bike, but this is a bicycle race that allows competitors to choose their own bike that suits their needs for both the cross-country and the downhill. Maybe more riders will show up with cross-country bikes next season and redefine all-mountain even more. Or maybe they’ll shred their skinny tires into scraps of rubber. It’s a race that’s all about how much you risk and how well you’re rewarded.
DECKER DECKER DECKER
Complete bike details:
Frame: Giant Anthem X 29er prototype, size large Fork: Fox 32 Fit RLC 100 15QR Rear shock: Fox RP23 Bar, stem, post: Shimano pro cross-country Drive train: Shimano XTR 3x9 Rapid Fire Brakes: Shimano XTR, 160 mm rotors Wheels: Shimano XTR hub w/ 15 QR front, Stans 29er rims Tires: Michelin WildRace’R 2.1-inch tube type w/ Stans sealant Grips: ODI Ruffian dual density Pedals: Shimano XTR Bottle cage: King Ti Seat: Fizik Arione Tri 2 Weight: 26 lbs
Ross Schnell’s Trek Remedy Another favorite for the 2010 Downieville race was “Rad” Ross Schnell, who won both stages along with the overall in 2008. When he chose his bike for the 2010 race, he also chose to go with what was comfortable and what worked for him in previous years. This season, Schnell has been competing in a mix of cross-country, super D and enduro races. When asked why he chose the Remedy for the Downieville race, Schnell replied, “It’s the bike I ride on a daily basis. It’s what I’m most comfortable with.” Schnell respects the prestige the downhill portion of the event carries and follows tradition with his bike choice. “The downhill race carries a lot more weight and respect than the cross-country, so I typically choose a setup that will allow me to win the downhill.” 90
To run a bike geared more for the downhill portion of the race, Schnell decided on an aluminum Trek Remedy because it has tabs to mount a chainguide. Having a chainguide allows the bike to be bounced around at much higher speeds with less of a chance that the chain will come off. The bike had SRAM’s 1x10 XX drive train and an MRP chainguide. “I think it’s pretty important to have a chainguide at Downieville because the downhill course is so rough,” he said. For suspension, Schnell runs all Rock Shox products and was fortunate enough to build up his bike with brand new 2011 products. Up front he chose to run a 2011 Rock Shox Lyrik, boasting a massive 170 mm (6.7 inches) of travel. His fork is a little different than the production models with a custom damper and the “super secret” DLC-
SCHNELL SCHNELL SCHNELL SCHNELL SCHNELL Complete bike details:
Frame: Aluminum Trek Remedy with magnesium Evo Link and Full Floater suspension design Fork: 2011 Rock Shox Lyrik, 170 mm travel, DLC stanchions Rear shock: 2011 Rock Shox Vivid Air Drive train: Full SRAM XX with a 38-tooth single ring and 11-36 cassette Cranks: Truvativ Noir carbon w/ ceramic GXP BB Chainguide: MRP G2 SL Brakes: Avid XX Rotors: 203 mm front, 180 mm rear Wheels: Crank Brothers Iodine SLs Seatpost: Crank Brothers Joplin Saddle: Fizik Tundra Ti rail with custom colors to match the custom-painted Remedy Pedals: Crank Brothers Candy 4ti Bars: Crank Brothers Cobalt 11 bar, 680 mm wide Stem: Truvativ World Cup stem, 65 mm Tires: Bontrager 2.35-inch FR3 tires Weight: 27 lbs
coated stanchions. Maybe we’ll hear more about DLC in the future but for now, that’s all he’d say. For the back end, Schnell went with Rock Shox’s new Vivid Air shock, offering a similar feel to the coil shocks preferred on bigger travel bikes, but allowing much more tunability at a lighter weight. Another aspect of feeling comfortable and in control on descents is saddle height. Having the ability to raise and lower your saddle on the fly helps with control and efficient pedaling. Without it, riders tend to have less ability to maneuver the bike over rough terrain. Schnell equipped his Downieville bike with the Crank Brothers Joplin heightadjustable seat post. Schnell opted for the light and very stiff Crank Brothers Iodine wheelset, which he specs on most of his bikes no matter the race.
Mounted on the Iodine was Bontrager’s new FR3 tire, which provided Schnell with “a fast-rolling, high-volume tire that I haven’t ever flatted at Downieville,” he said. One flat in the race can quickly knock a rider out of contention. Although Schnell didn’t win the All-Mountain title at Downieville this year, he took second in the downhill, only 9 seconds behind past overall champion Mark Weir. Schnell was clearly off a bit in the cross-country leg, as was another race favorite, Adam Craig, who won the all-mountain title in 2009 but placed second this year, six minutes behind Decker. As this year’s race proved, any of these riders could defend their own “all-mountain” bike strategies as the winning plan in years to come. 91
167 mm of Pedaling Efficiency At the top of Schofield Pass, 55 minutes into our ride, we turn right onto narrow, steep singletrack. This is where the climbing really begins. It seems my body must be getting used to the 167 mm (6.5 inches) of suspension under the seat as Huck and I matched pedal strokes at full throttle for the last 30 minutes of moderate climbing. Huck is on a cross-country race rig, and he typically puts me on the ropes up long climbs. He’s tenacious as hell and his quads are twice the size of mine, so I’m happy to be hanging with him today. This is the entrance to Trail 401, one of the classics in Crested Butte, Colo. It’s not particularly long but boasts a solid one-hour climb that gets steeper every mile. The reward is a postcard view from the top and a high-speed descent that ends with a series of tight switchbacks through aspen groves that return you—with sore forearms, adrenaline in your veins, and bugs in your teeth—back to a 45-minute spin into Crested Butte. Taking the lead, I set a moderate pace through the huge stand of Douglas fir trees. Immediately, there is an 18-inch-high, eroded set of 92
Price: $2,199 (frame only), $6,900 (as tested) XT kit: $5,475 | XT/SLX kit: $4,599 Weight: 6.95 lbs (frame only, size S), 28.5 lbs (complete as tested)
roots, which put me on my chin a few weeks ago. Today, on the Pivot Firebird, I hit it smooth and power over the top. Behind me, I hear Huck hit it with a crank arm or pedal and make a groan of sorts, meaning it got his attention. With a full helping of rear suspension and a relatively colossal Fox 36 Float RC2 FIT 160 mm (6.3-inch) travel fork, you’d think the Firebird primarily excels on the downhill leg—and of course, it does —but the Firebird is a surprisingly agile climber. The premise of the Firebird was to make a versatile 6.5-inch travel bike that can climb as well as it descends. That’s a bit of a pie in the sky and should be taken in context. The Firebird can climb efficiently but, no, it’s not going to go head to head with a cross-country race bike on a fire road and make you feel like Tour de France winner Alberto Contador. But the fact is, when the trail turns gnarly, technical, rocky and root-strewn, the Firebird will out-climb anything. “The more horsepower you have, the more this bike will perform on steep, technical climbs,” says Pivot’s founder Chris Cocalis. “You can climb stair steps on this bike all day.” That’s all true, even if the stair steps are built from 12-inch sandstone blocks bound together with sand and clay. And don’t worry
Pivot’s Firebird is one of the most versatile long-travel bikes around. Set up as shown, with ultra-light and strong DT Swiss carbon wheels, a fox RP23 shock and a custom SRAM 30-speed drive train, this bike is built to handle all-day epics on any terrain.
about it, either, when the trail tilts the other direction. The Firebird’s generous, triple-butted, hydro-formed aluminum frame is built around the patented DW link suspension design. Using eight cartridge bearings, the linkage is solid, and ample bracing makes it stiff laterally. This is the true heart of the bike. The DW link’s position-sensitive, anti-squat design eliminates pedal bob and squat during hard pedaling efforts. For the first onethird portion of travel, the DW link creates a rearward wheel travel path for better square edge bump performance (picture the angle of the rear wheel travel path when you first hit a large rock, it wants to travel backward, not up) and then goes to a more vertical path. The travel path of the DW link creates a progressive-to-linear shock rate compared to direct arc designs like four-bar link or singlepivot designs that are either linear throughout the travel or become progressively harder (ramp up) through the travel, depending on shock choice and tuning. In the words of designer Dave Weagle, the design works by balancing the opposing forces of the bike’s forward momentum against your body’s “rearward” motion. DW link’s position balances this rearward mass transfer, increasing efficiency and traction. The same principles also make DW link bikes very predictable in the corners, as the bikes will not squat out from G-forces. Another benefit of the initial rearward travel is it allows for a lower bottom bracket—keeping the bike’s center of gravity low—because the bottom bracket does not drop as low during compression. “This is also what makes DW link bikes climb so well,” Cocalis
adds. “The rear suspension will not compress and squat out under pedaling pressure, but if you hit a large root or rock midstride, the suspension eats it up.” When designing the Firebird, Pivot set out to make it tremendously versatile. With a full 1.5-inch head tube, the frame can handle a 1 1/8-inch tapered single-crown fork or a dual-crown fork with a 1.5-inch steerer and up to 170 mm (6.7 inches) of travel. Pivot team rider Kyle Strait has won downhill races on the Firebird. The Firebird was developed by Cocalis in conjunction with Weagle and downhill specialist/composite engineer Kevin Tisue. The trio designed the bike with a floating rear shock—floating because it’s not fixed to the front or rear triangle of the frame. The shock is mounted at two points: to a carbon fiber rocker up top and to the DW link below, providing a constantly variable shock rate. The result, Cocalis claims, is the perfect balance of traction, acceleration, squareedge bump performance, superior braking and the ability to handle big hits like Mike Tyson. Three months prior, I had taken my first ride on the Firebird on the Monarch Crest Trail. I was lucky enough to have Cocalis meet me for the ride, giving me an opportunity to gain more insight into the bike. The Crest Trail is a four-hour buffet of sustained singletrack starting atop Monarch Pass along the Continental Divide and finishing 4,600 feet below in Poncha Springs, Colo., with several uphill stingers to remind you it isn’t just a downhill ride. It’s arguably some of Colorado’s sweetest singletrack. 93
Top: Pivot’s patent-pending floating derailleur hanger is a brilliant solution to improving chain retention and shifting on a long-travel suspension bike. It can also be removed and replaced with an international standard chain guide (ISCG) mount if you’d prefer to run a single chainring up front. Bottom: “This picture does not do this climb justice,” says test rider Steve Mabry. It’s a 15 percent grade 15 minutes into a 40-minute climb. “The Firebird took it surprisingly well, but I used all 30 gears.” 94
After two hours of riding, we took off down the first big descent and let the bikes go. The Firebird’s handling is precise. Halfway down, we pulled off the trail briefly to dial in the suspension a little more. As Cocalis was working on the suspension, he proudly pointed out the patent-pending floating front derailleur mount and explained that it is there to keep the chain alignment perfect while the suspension is loaded. The front derailleur moves in relation to the rear axle as the suspension moves through its travel, keeping the chain positioned in what Cocalis calls the “sweet spot” within the front derailleur cage to eliminate the problem of dumping your chain as you are cranking through the gears. If you want to run a single chainring, the floating derailleur mount can be removed and a single chainring chain guide can be installed on the Firebird’s ISCG (international standard chain guard) 05 mounts. As we linked up the different sections that make up the Crest Trail, I had the chance to ride steep, soft descents, creek crossings, rock drops and singletrack filled with baby heads. I used up all the suspension I could, but the Firebird had plenty more to offer. Our test bike was packaged to be a lightweight, epic, ruggedride machine set up with the Magura Marta SL brakes, a DT Swiss EXC 1550 wheelset (with handmade carbon hoops) and a SRAM XO triple crank mated with SRAM XX 10-speed in the rear. Yup, Cocalis made this work—very well, actually—although it took “several hours of custom modifications with a Dremel tool,” he admits. (These modifications aren’t included in the tested bike’s build and price.) I rode this bike packaged with a Fox RP23 rear shock and a Fox 36 Float RC2 FIT fork, but this bike easily adapts for those pushing the limits. You can swap out the rear shock for a Fox DHX 5.0 air or even a coil-over shock if you want, making it a big drop-eating monster. The Dremel-modified SRAM 30-speed mix is an example of how Cocalis thinks. He’s a self-proclaimed tinkerer who got his start in the bike industry when he was 9. Pivot is the fusion of all of Cocalis’ experience and philosophies and, although the frames are welded overseas, he keeps a tight grip on the manufacturing. All of the prototypes are built in the company’s Tempe, Ariz., shop. “We don’t throw drawings over the wall and see what comes back,” says Cocalis, who travels overseas regularly to keep and eye on production. “We design the production methods in-house, make all the machined hardware ourselves and assemble the bikes in Tempe to ensure all the tolerances are met.” Pivot is so particular, it supplies its own custom welding rods to the frame fabricator. As Huck and I begin to descend off of Trail 401, my confidence on the bike lets me put a little gap on Huck (sorry, Huck) right off the get-go, and noticing this, I start to grin and think to myself, “Let’s tick it up a little more.” Now at what feels like full race speed, I have the opportunity to see how the Firebird handles. It’s soaking up the highspeed bumps, and I’m able to bleed off speed to make the 180-degree switchbacks, then a few quick cranks and I’m back into the groove. After riding the Firebird for the majority of the summer and on this particular ride, I realized you can ride it everywhere—and I mean put on the big boy pants and really ride it; you’re not handcuffed to lift-served downhills or shuttle rides to enjoy all the plush suspension travel. This is a bike that is very versatile and wants to deliver you, somewhat fresh as a daisy, to the top of any climb before it devours the downhill and spits it out in the form of dust and rocks for the other riders behind you to choke on. –Steve Mabry
DT SWISS TRICON WHEEL SYSTEM
Two piece hub The two piece flange and hub shell design keeps the bearing seat free of tension. This allows the bearings to spin as smoothly as possible.
Star Ratchet Thanks to the proven DT Swiss Ratchet System 速 the hubs can easily be converted to different axle standards and rotors.
Straight double threaded spokes This spoke connection is considerably stronger as it is playfree on both ends and therefore subject to smaller peak loads.
Open Crowfoot Spoke pattern with combined radial and crossed spokes for high stiffness and perfect transmission of torques.
Torx nipples Thanks to the Torx design the truing tool has a better grip on the nipple.
Rim insert The spoke inserts are supported on two sides in the rim creating a big contact surface. The rim can be designed lighter, is airtight and tubeless compatible.
Concave rim profile The concave shaped sidewalls counteract the expansion force induced by tire pressure and spoke pull.
For more information check out www.dtswiss.com
Transcending into a New Style of Riding For seven years—like a meditating monk seeking clarity—I waited for the next leap forward in suspension travel technology. My patience finally paid off with the Ibis Mojo HD. When I took my first jump on the longer travel mountain bike, I transcended into a whole new kind of mountain biking. My first ride on the Mojo HD left me with a sense of euphoria. Even with its added weight, I climbed steep technical sections with only a tad more effort than my cross-country bike. At that point, I was thinking that I might be onto something. Then I experienced the Mojo epiphany on my first jump. Before I knew it, I was sailing through the air like a bird and landing spot-on jumps, while my buddy looked on in wonder. The downhill riding was even more enlightening. The Mojo HD is an outstanding example of a new class of lightweight, long-travel 160 mm (6.3-inch) carbon bikes that are blurring the lines between the capabilities of cross-country and 96
Price: (with X9 build kit and Fox 36 Float 160 upgrade): $4,199.99 Weight : 28 lbs
freeride bikes. In the past, these disciplines have been separated by a freeride bike’s need for heavy gusseted frames and burly parts, built to withstand the punishment of drops, jumps and hits. Ibis intentionally built this bike to be ridden aggressively and to be jumped but still retain some cross-country qualities. The company’s goal was an overall 30 percent increase in strength over its original Mojo, which has been more of a cross-country bike with 140 mm (5.5 inches) of travel. Ibis accomplished this by beefing up every part on the HD. The upper shock linkage and main link are burlier, forged and machined aluminum pieces. The main pivot bearings have been upgraded with the use of dual-row angular contact bearings and larger rear bearings. The HD has a 1.125-inch to 1.5-inch tapered headset. A 12 x 135 mm Maxle thru axle anchors the rear wheel. The bike also comes spec’d with a 20 mm thru axle Ibis hub. Ibis believes that thru axles, which are becoming more popular in use, provide safety, ease of use, enhanced trail response and steering precision. The bike’s ability to take flight is assisted by its 6.2-lb frame weight with the Fox RP23 rear shock. Its X9 build kit is a blend of SRAM X9 derailleurs and shifters, Truvativ Stylo cranks, Formula RX
brakes, Stan’s Flow rims and Kenda Nevegal tires. Ibis brand grips, seat post, stem, handlebars and hubs round out the build. By adding the fork upgrade of a Fox 36 Float 160 FIT RLC to the Ibis X9 build kit, the bike’s final weight came in at just under 28 lbs— light for a bike with this much travel. The HD could easily be built in the 26- to 27-lb range with a lighter wheelset and other pricey but lighter bits and pieces. The frame can fit tires up to 2.55 inches, and the 2.35-inch tires that came with the kit had plenty of clearance all around. There are no ISCG (international standard chain guide) mounting tabs built into the frame and so an all-mountain crankset like the Truvativ HammerSchmidt—which needs an ISCG mount—won’t work on this 98
bike. For other single-ring setups, a custom MRP Mini-G chain guide is available. The Dave Weagle-designed rear suspension (DW link) has garnered accolades throughout the industry, and I think Ibis made a great decision to adopt this suspension for the Mojo. The HD was designed to have a more bottomless feel to its travel. This means bigger hits are handled with more stability because the suspension is able to soak up the forces without ramping up sharply at the end of the shock stroke. Initial travel in the DW link design is slightly rearward before moving upward. This allows square-edge objects to be sucked up with an ease not normally felt with other suspension designs. If you build up this bike with the Fox RP23, as I did, and you want to hit big jumps, you may not get that bottomless feel if you don’t have enough pressure in the shock. I solved this problem by adding more air pressure to the shock—but at the expense of small bump performance—so I only did this when I headed out to downhill trails. Up front, the 160 mm Fox 36 Float with its large 20 mm Maxle thru axle has many tuning options. The result is a well-damped fork that has minimal brake dive. Smooth climbs did leave me reaching for the ProPedal platform damping on the RP23, though I really never felt the need to lock out the fork. I was surprised by the climbing ability of the HD. I expected a big hit machine but not an aggressive climber. When climbing in open mode, the rear will dig in deep while sucking up rocks and roots. If standing climbing becomes necessary, pay attention to gear selection as there will be noticeable bob while standing in the granny gear. A switch to ProPedal will help to alleviate the bob but does not cancel it out completely. When the trail turns downhill, the HD comes into its own. It has a seamless quality of going from firm while pedaling to sucking up big hits and all the time smoothing out all of the smaller stuff. In one change on this test bike, I took one look at the rear brake cable running along the down tube, and I was persuaded to install the optional polycarbonate cable guard. This foam-back guard installed smoothly and does not detract from the bike’s good looks one bit. Knowing that rocks will hit this guard long before they contact that beautiful carbon down tube also brings additional peace of mind. Even with its ability to function as an everyday cross-country bike, and with a few quick adjustments to the suspension, this bike is ready for big hit terrain. After my 25 years of mountain biking, new experiences and terrain are opening up to me. I know now that the search is over, my meditative wait was justified and I have reached Nirvana with my selection of the Mojo HD for my do-it-all mountain bike. –Kurt Smith
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custom road bike
Paris-Roubaix Style Road Bike: A Classic for Every Day Western Colorado is laced with brilliant gravel roads that cross mesas, link river valleys and breach rugged passes. These rough roads are littered with steep climbs, fast descents, loose gravel, washboard and potholes. Ironically, the template for an “ultimate” gravel mountain road bike that masters these surfaces doesn’t come from the mountains; rather it comes from the wind-swept plains of northern France where cyclists race on cobblestone paths—the famous pavé du nord. For the last 100 years, professional teams have been racing on special bikes for the famous and brutal one-day race, Paris-Roubaix. Roubaix bikes are designed to float over the 33 miles of pavé and ease the pain of the brutal 166 miles of this race, and others like it. The basic principles of Roubaix bikes are increased vertical compliance, more stable handling and more tire clearance than a standard road race bike. The front triangle is strengthened to maintain 100
Price (as tested): $6,750 Price (frame and fork): $2,825 Weight (as pictured): 21 lbs
lateral rigidity, while the fork and rear triangle are stretched out and “softened” to add the stability and compliance. This is exactly the kind of bike I need for those Western Colorado roads. My search led me to Ben Farver of Argonaut Custom Cycles at the Rocky Mountain Bicycle Show in August 2009. Based in Portland, Ore., Argonaut Custom Cycles specializes in steel road bikes using lugs and fillet fabrication methods to build custom bikes, whether ’cross, track, road, commuter, touring or fixie. “I am a product of the Portland framebuilder boom,” Farver explains. “I was fresh out of college, and I saw and was inspired by what guys like Sacha White, Tony Pereira, Joseph Ahearne and Ira Ryan were doing.” Several years later, and after winning Best in Show and Builder’s Choice awards at the 2008 Rocky Mountain Bicycle Show, Farver has evolved into a top caliber builder and a fillet brazing specialist. During the design phase, Farver asked me insightful questions and gave clear explanations of what he needed to know and why. Before he made any drawings or picked any tubes, Farver was thinking
Argonaut built this custom road bike to handle steep and rough mountain roads, so using Paul’s powerful Racer Medium brakes was a great choice. Running these brakes requires a specific, custom pivot boss position.
Ben Farver of Argonaut Custom Cycles has a clean, genuine style that fit the bill for this custom road bike. The frame has a subtle look from afar and beautiful features up close.
of the same bike, both performance-wise and aesthetically, as I was. While Farver went to work on determining the tube set and brake set options and finalizing the design of his new rear dropouts, I got a proper fit. Since I couldn’t go to Portland for a fit, Farver used his professional network to get references for Colorado-based fitters. The most highly recommended was Chris Jacobson at the Sports Garage in Boulder, Colo. Sports Garage is a Serotta dealer and Jacobson used to teach bike fitting for the Serotta International Cycling Institute. The Serotta fit system begins with a detailed interview, body assessment and measuring process. Through a combination of video analysis, subjective questioning and information from a Size Cycle, which shows the shape of your pedal stroke, power output and output bias per leg, adjustments are made to the various fit parameters. The fit also includes trying several saddles and handlebars. All of the detailed information gathered from the fitting was neatly recorded in a worksheet and emailed to Farver, and I left with my new saddle and bars. Jacobson determined that my hip flexors are stiff and, thus, I needed a particularly steep seat tube angle to achieve my optimal position. “The geometry has to do both with your physique and how the bike was going to be ridden. The top tube is relatively short as you’re all legs. The head tube angle and chainstay length are in realm of a typical road geometry but intended to be more on the stable side for loose gravel descents,” Farver explains. Since the bike would be used on steep, rough descents that require a full grip on the drops and one-finger brake operation, I wanted something more powerful than road caliper brakes. I expected to end
up with a cyclocross cantilever brake, but the custom build gave us the option to use a very cool brake set from Paul Component Engineering called the Racer Medium. The Racer Medium is a center pull brake with short, stiff arms. The braze-on version, which is particularly compact and stiff, is perfect for a custom bike because the pivot boss position is specific to the Racer Medium and is incorporated into the frame design. The Paul brakes are machined 6061 aluminum art: simple, clean and elegant. The quality and execution of the construction is exquisite, and the brakes were easier to install and set up than the water bottle cages. Once we were clearly aligned on the concept and important points—like the brakes—Farver formally designed the bike, drafted the specs for fabrication and decided on the tube set. “The intention of this build is to replicate a classic Paris-Roubaix style bike, which should feel lively and responsive on the road but forgiving enough to spend long hours on remote gravel roads,” Farver says. For the frame, Farver used Columbus Life steel tubing. The front triangle uses a 36 mm oversized head tube, a 35 mm, 6/4/6 triplebutted down tube (.6 mm thick on the ends and .4 mm thick in the middle), a 28.6 mm top tube and an externally butted seat tube. It doesn’t stand out since the frame is so big, but the head and down tubes are fat by steel standards and give the frame significant torsional rigidity and bottom bracket stiffness. The vertical compliance and the stretched wheelbase are achieved by extending the trail of the fork, stretching out the rear triangle and strategically biasing chainstay and seatstay flex. 101
Buying a custom frame has its drawbacks: higher price is part of the deal and instant gratification is not. But the payoff comes in owning a unique bike with clever details like this brake cable guide Ben Farver added to the frame.
These interchangeable rear dropouts are a custom Argonaut design, machined out of a combination of 4142 alloy steel and 6/4 titanium. This was the first bike Ben Farver made with this new design, and he included a set of horizontal inserts as well.
Farver explains this concept: “The chainstays are longer, 425 mm, and beefier than a normal road bike and paired with lighter seatstays, this adds vertical compliance without sacrificing lateral rigidity. The seat tube angle is steeper than normal, 75.5 degrees, to accommodate your lack of hip flexion, and the front end has a trail that stretches the wheelbase, adds compliance and inspires confidence when descending.” The fork is uni-crown style with chromed tips and Breezer-style dropouts. The rear dropouts are a custom Argonaut design, machined out of a combination of 4142 alloy steel and 6/4 titanium. The piece that is brazed into the stays, which the rear dropout bolts to, is a type of steel that increases in strength once brazed – the brazing heat gives its finish temper. The dropouts are titanium and bolt into position with three Torx head bolts. Farver included a horizontal set of dropouts as well to set the bike up as a singlespeed. This was the first bike he made with these new Argonaut dropouts. Like many custom builders, Farver partners with Spectrum Powder Works almost exclusively. Spectrum painted the frame anthracite with a blue pearlescent clear coat. The logos and small paint details on the bike are wet paint to match a Lotus sports car color called isotope green. The stem, seat post clamp and frame pump are painted anthracite to match the frame. The frame and fork have a unique aesthetic; the look of the front and rear dropouts complements the smooth lines of the fillet-brazed junctions and uni-crown fork. When you get a hand-built custom bike that you intend to use the rest of your life, it makes sense to build it with nice parts, so I did: Cane Creek 110 headset, Easton EA70 bar, Ritchey stem, Thomson
seat post, Specialized Avatar saddle, Dura-Ace levers and drive train, the Paul brakes, DT Swiss R1600 training wheels and 25c Michelin training tires. The operation of the group is flawless. The brakes lived up to the lofty performance promises: I can easily overwhelm the contact patch of a 25c width tire with one finger. In addition to exceptional torque, their modulation is subtle and precise, proving a perfect brake for rough, slippery descents. The first time I rode the bike, got settled in and spinning, I felt like I was sitting on the Size Cycle—the fit is dead on. From the comfort, to the handling, to the position over the pedals, the ride was revelatory. The steep seat tube placed my hips in the right spot; the power delivery and pedal stroke shape feel awesome. The bike feels exceptionally stable, predictable and smooth. The Argonaut is a great descender since it is essentially the road equivalent of a long-travel, cross-country bike. On my first fast gravel descent, the bike felt so planted that I came close to not leaving enough braking area for a tight corner. On my long, mixed-surface rides, which the bike is intended for, it rode perfectly. The Roubaix style of bike is a practical choice for mountain bikers who use a road bike to train for marathon cross-country events and dice it out in club-level criteriums and time trials. The Roubaix style Argonaut could even be ’crossed in dry conditions since it has clearance for up to a 34c width tire. With the Roubaix-style Argonaut, I can explore Colorado’s pavé in comfort and style and develop my own circuit of brutal classics. Ronde van Roaring Fork anyone? –Scott Leonard
MF_Schwalbe_10.ai 3/12/2010 12:29:17 PM
They‘re BIG, MUDDY, WICKED and DIRTY! C
Choosing Schwalbe as your weapon of choice is easy. The hard part is choosing a trophy cabinet!
AARON GWIN SHREDDING IN CALIFORNIA
Raleigh’s versatile Record Ace combines sensible retro styling that is equally at home on the street or at the races.
Definitely Worth a Bleedin’ Nose The Raleigh Record Ace stirred in me something very old. One glimpse at the bike’s retro stylings, and I felt as if I had run into a lost friend—the kind you can’t wait to sit down with and rekindle a very long-running conversation. Turns out my last conversation with a Raleigh lugged, steel road bike had occurred about 35 years ago. I was on the cusp of adolescence when my brother went off to college and left his very cool, red Raleigh racer at home in storage. The bike was a shiny steel beauty, but I was expressly forbidden from riding her. My brother had painstakingly logged dozens of hours on the bike in preparation for a multi-day journey to a friend’s parent’s cabin located someplace in the wilds of Colorado along the Conejos 104
Price : $1,900 Weight (59 cm): 22 lbs
River far away from home. After hundreds of miles on the bike, my brother proudly announced to our family that he had finally broken in the Brooks leather saddle so it conformed perfectly to the contours of his butt. Anyone else riding the bike would ruin the luxurious fit he had created after great pains, and therefore I was never to sit upon her. Of course, that prohibition ended about an hour after my brother had left the house in pursuit of academia. My big brother’s larger-than-life Raleigh offered me something that couldn’t be found anywhere else in my formative teenage life: freedom. Even though I had perhaps a scant millimeter of standover height on the great red machine, I rode it every chance I got—so much, in fact, that when my brother eventually returned home the following summer, I got the tar beaten out of me because I had inadvertently refitted his saddle to suit my much narrower ass. At the time, I never understood why my transgression enraged
James E. Rickman
him to the point of bloodying my nose. But thanks to the appearance of the Record Ace, I now do. Like its predecessors, the Record Ace harkens back to the days when steel ruled the road. Subtle yet elegant lugging at the joints of the slim Reynolds 520 butted chromoly steel tubing add to the retro feel of the bike as much as the flat-crown lugged steel fork. A luxurious Brooks Swallow saddle and leather-looking handlebar tape complete the old-school look of the bike. A suite of Shimano Ultegra 6700 components updates the bike to modern days. My first conversation with the new Record Ace lasted about two and a half hours and was every bit as pleasant as time I had spent with its predecessor. In an age when carbon fiber seems to dominate the landscape, the ride of a steel bike was as pleasant as stumbling across a stash of Mike & Ike’s that had warmed to a delightful softness while sitting in your front pocket through a game of kickball. In short, the feel of steel on the road is awesome. Period. There really is nothing like it. The material nicely absorbs bumps and rattles on the road, yet provides snappy acceleration and confident cornering. Less compliant materials like carbon or aluminum can make me feel like I suffered déjà vu of my big brother’s wrath at the end of a long
ride. The genial feel of steel consistently made me wish that each ride on the Record Ace hadn’t seemed so brief. While talking about comfort, I was pleased to discover that the Brooks Swallow wasn’t my brother’s saddle. Riding companions winced when they saw that the new bike came outfitted with a leather seat. Most of them urged me to hang in there, assuring me that “the saddle will feel wonderful after about a year of riding.” They were wrong. The saddle felt terrific on its first ride and has maintained its comfort ever since. The only downside to the Brooks Swallow, if you want to call it that, is if you really want to maintain this work of art for a lifetime and ensure lasting comfort, the manufacturer offers a kit that includes a very necessary adjustment wrench and a specially formulated leatherpreserving compound that must be purchased separately. The kit was spendy, but of nominal cost relative to Things Cycling. The real issue turned out to be finding a Brooks distributor nearby. I had to break down and purchase the kit off the Internet instead of at my local bike shop, which gives me heartburn. On a different note, the Shimano Ultegra derailleurs, cranks, shifters, brake levers and cog set, coupled with a Shimano outboard105
James E. Rickman
James E. Rickman
bearing bottom bracket, added to the worry-free riding vibe of the Record Ace. In the tested 2010 version, I did find the braking to be slow enough that it was somewhat unsettling, given that the bike can really haul ass when called upon to do so. On the new 2011 models, Raleigh has addressed this issue by swapping out the slow-to-stop (but very light) Tektro R710 brakes with Shimano 105 brakes. A very nice aspect of the Record Ace is what I would call a middle-of-the-road geometry. The bike is not set up to push the rider forward into an extreme racing position that makes prolonged riding uncomfortable. Nor does the design provide for such a priggish, upright arrangement that you feel like you’re steering a comfort bike. Instead, I found myself riding in an extremely natural and comfortable position that allowed me to go fast when I wanted but allowed me to have a casual touring feel the rest of the time. While I have no aspirations of being a road racer, I would feel as at home atop the Record Ace in Lycra in a triathlon or casual road race as I would in khakis and a collar on my way to the café for a bite and a beer with friends. Frankly, after months and months of riding, I have been thrilled with every aspect of this bike. I was at first alarmed by the 22-pound weight of the largest-size model fully outfitted with pedals, but I quickly forgot about any weight penalties as soon as I experienced the comfort of the ride and benefited from the Record Ace’s smart styling. Nevertheless, I have heard some comments denigrating the “low-end” Reynolds 520 steel as the material of choice for the bike. I have never been one to get into material snobbery, so I don’t see Reynolds 520 as any sort of liability. The Record Ace provides the supple ride of quality steel, an outstanding component package, including the awesome Brooks saddle and Vittoria Rubino Pro tires, at a dynamite price. While use of another material would whittle away a couple of pounds from the overall weight, the ride would remain pretty much the same, and the price point definitely would soar beyond my reach. But fear not ye deep-pocketed lovers of higher-end steel, Raleigh plans to unveil a deluxe version of the bike featuring lugged Reynolds 853 steel and a full Shimano Dura-Ace groupo. I expect my Raleigh Record Ace might actually outlive me, but in the meantime I expect to enjoy a long, satisfying friendship together. For those of you who might like to try mine out to get the feel of it, I’m giving you fair warning: Plop your butt on my saddle, and I’ll sock you right in the nose. Hmm. Maybe this is the first time my brother and I have ever seen eye to eye on anything. –J. Rickman
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$849 | weight: 1,785 grams set | www.EastonCycling.com I can’t help it. Say the words Easton and aluminum, and I instantly think of the “ping” sound of my big barrel aluminum bat from Little League. I felt nothing but power and confidence when I picked up that bad boy. Easton still has the power and confidence thing going for it. For such a burly wheelset, the Haven 29” is light at 1,785 grams. And by burly, I mean bomber. The Haven is optimized to run the 15 mm thru axle but is still compatible with the standard 9 mm quick release. It also has an inner rim width of 21 mm compared with a traditional cross-country rim, which is somewhere in the 18 mm range. The additional rim width widened my slimmer 2.2-inch Continental tires and gave them a whole new feel on the trail. A stiffer front axle to complement a wider footprint means more speed and stability. Think “ping.” Some excess weight is saved because the tubeless-ready Havens require no rim strip. This is possible because of Easton’s patented system, which allows the nipple to thread into the eyelet in the rim (with threads on the outside of the nipple) while still threading onto the spoke (with threads on the inside like a traditional nipple). All of this is done without penetrating the outer casing of the rim, resulting in a smooth, airtight surface. The Havens are also handbuilt by Easton, and the company maintains that its wheel-building process allows for exceptionally high spoke tension, which makes the wheels laterally stiffer and more responsive under acceleration. What really surprised me was that a 24-spoke wheel could be so strong. In the past, I have built up 32- or 36-spoke wheels, looking for the stiffest, strongest wheels I could get. This came at the cost of weight. Easton is using straight pull spokes with high spoke tension and delivering an equally strong but much lighter wheel “ping.” The Havens claim to be an all-mountain wheel so I have purposefully been riding terrain that would challenge the integrity of these wheels. One of my favorite after-work rides is right out of Crested Butte, Colo., and up Gunsite Pass with a rocky, hour-plus climb up an old mining road. That being said, the way down is fast as hell and on a hardtail, it’s a true test of a wheel’s mettle. I have also enjoyed these wheels on some of the finest and fastest singletrack Crested Butte has to offer. On rides such as Doctor Park (outside of town) and Strand Hill, it was obvious to me, as I leaned my bike hard on twisty singletrack, that the wider rim width does offer additional surface contact with my tires and the wheels are indeed stiffer. The technologies featured on the Easton Haven wheels are not colossal advancements, but companies like Easton are making our sport better every day by improving the basic bike components. Wheels like these make it possible for everyone to worry a little less about his gear and a little more about keeping up with his buddy on a hardtail. Now I just need to find some Big League chew to go with that Easton aluminum ping. –Chris Hanna 108
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The CrossMark is a cross-country tire for hard pack and trails with loose stuff over hard dirt. The signature feature is the center ridge of closely spaced blocks at alternating heights. The blocks are siped (a process of cutting thin slits in rubber) with a signature “cross mark” to displace loose sand and dust. The CrossMark’s round profile isolates the ridge and perches you up on the top of the tire for straight-line travel. Tip the bike into a corner and these tires really hook up. In fast, sweeping turns with loose gravel, sand or dust on hard pack, the CrossMark has exceptional grip and a progressive, predictable feel. I wish I had these tires for the Bailey Hundo, a 100-mile endurance race held near Denver. They would be perfect for the ball-bearingcovered singletrack and smooth gravel roads in the South Platte region of Colorado. The CrossMark is not a mud tire, however; it is not at home in muddy conditions and tends to pack up and hold the muck. I raced and rode these tires hard on rocky, ledgy terrain and have not had any sidewall or bead issues in their new fresh state. I don’t anticipate these tires will last very long, though; the sidewalls are thin as is the rubber casing under the tread. The 2.25-inch size looked and rode like a fat, high-volume tire despite being a light, fast-rolling race tire. For the price, this is a great all-around tire and is also available tubeless. –S. Leonard
My first ride on the Continental Trail King tires was on Raider Ridge in Durango, Colo. This trail is known for exposed riding on a rock-strewn ridge. The long rock gardens and frequent trials-style sections are a great introduction to this 2.4 all-mountain/freeride tire. The UST tubeless tires are German-made and feature the company’s “Black Chili” compound. This compound is a blend of natural and synthetic rubbers enhanced with nano-soot particles. The company claims that these tiny particles (10 nanometers to be exact) impart the rubber with increased grip, longer wear and less rolling resistance. To help with wet-weather riding, Continental has studded the large rounded casing with widely spaced, square-edge knobs that are siped (small slits cut into the knobs). Continental also built in additional material just above the bead to give the Trail King additional stability, durability and a better seal on the rim. They call this design the APEX, reinforced sidewall design. I call it more confidence and the ability to run lower pressure for better traction through rock gardens. Riding Raider Ridge, I found out right away that the Trail King performs best at higher speeds and has a ride that helps to absorb the rockiest of terrain. The aggressive center knobs hook up tenaciously when climbing, allowing me to focus on spinning over obstacles instead of dodging them. With these tires, I am now riding terrain that, in the past, received only wistful glances. –K. Smith
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specialized:2011 s-works mtb shoe $350 | weight: 305 grams (pair) | www.Specialized.com
The first mountain bike race I did was in 1991. It was dubbed the King of the Rockies, and we raced a 30-mile point to point from Fraser to Winter Park, Colo. I raced beginner. I wore a fanny pack filled with tools but carried no tube. It was epic. I won. I stood on the podium proudly (not noticing that all the other racers had gone home) and shook hands with the second and thirdplace riders. We headed off to the awards tent where I was handed a certificate for a new pair of Shimano shoes and SPD clipless pedals. The pedals were brilliant, and the shoes were a huge step up from the Hi-Tec hikers I’d been using. Since then, I’ve worn many a mountain bike shoe and have become considerably more difficult to please. No shoes have impressed me enough to buy the same pair twice. Instead, I’m always hoping for something better. I first pulled these S-Works shoes onto my feet in July this year, and one ride was all it took for me to know that the crew at Specialized had made something different. Shoe success, apparently, starts with understanding the biomechanics of the foot. To demystify this wooly subject, Specialized tapped Dr. Andy Pruitt at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. Pruitt has studied all parts of the human body in relation to sports and has worked with Specialized on numerous occasions. During his podiatric studies, Pruitt identified three problems with the human foot when subjected to pedaling a bicycle and found solutions in adjustments to the shoe design. Because the human foot is canted for walking (with the big toe higher than the little), that same varus (inward) angulation during pedaling can cause the foot to collapse inward, leading to knee strain. To solve this, the S-Works shoes have a 1.5 mm varus wedge under the toes to compensate and create better alignment for the foot and knee. Better alignment means increased efficiency and comfort. Hot spots or numbness in the forefoot—caused by tight shoes that compress nerves and arteries between the metatarsal bones—are another issue riders can experience. To alleviate this, Pruitt added a metatarsal button, or a small raised spot under the forefoot, to lift and separate the metatarsals and alleviate the compression.
Again, when you’re walking, your foot’s arch is great at absorbing shock, but unless the arch is well supported while riding, it can collapse and limit performance. The footbeds and outsoles of the S-Works shoes are constructed with a longitudinal arch support, adding to the efficiency of the pedal stroke. The footbeds and varus wedge shims are available in three different levels of support to allow for individual custom fitting. The construction of the shoe itself is also very well-thought-out with two independent Boa dials (a patented ratchet wire retention system) and a form-fitted, foam mesh tongue liner, which really helps distribute pressure across the top of the foot. The tread is replaceable and accessed with internally mounted bolts, and the stiff full-carbon sole has a nice rubber stomp pad midsole, so when you miss the pedal/cleat connection mid-stride you won’t be sliding the carbon sole against metal. These are absolutely positively the best fitting shoes I have ridden in. The connection between my foot, shoe and the pedal feels determined, as if my feet have been duck-taped to my pedals, and I mean that in a good way. When these S-Works shoes wear out, I’m buying another pair. –B. Riepe
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rudy project:swifty rx sunglasses
There are two ways a well-informed Dutch cyclist can enjoy a stroopwafel. She can place it over a warm cup of espresso, let the aroma infused steam warm it for a minute, dust with powdered sugar and savor the flavors with the espresso while reading the latest copy of Wieler Revue. Or it can be gently stuffed into a jersey pocket and nibbled on while churning out mile after wet and cold mile during training rides in the southern foothills of the Belgian Ardennes. The pocket-sized waffles, prepared by joining two thin, cinnamonflavored waffle halves together with sticky caramel-like syrup, are often sold by street vendors as a quick snack to passersby. Lance Armstrong—who discovered the deliciously complex flavors of the stroopwafel on his various soirées through northern Europe—claims it to be his favorite on-the-bike snack and is bringing the tradition stateside through his recent partnership with the Honey Stinger brand. Taking the stroopwafel-as-energy-food idea one step further, Honey Stinger binds the waffle halves together with its own honey blend. These certified organic Stinger Waffles are sold individually wrapped. I’d rather get three or four in a package—one is such a lonely number—but they do pack a punch with 160 calories, 21 grams of carbs and 55 mg of sodium per waffle. Now how do I get a subscription to Wieler Revue? –B. Riepe
Anyone with less than perfect vision knows the dilemma when it comes to riding: go with contacts and deal with the drawbacks and limitations or go with prescription sunglasses and…deal with the drawbacks and limitations. Thankfully, the technology on both fronts is getting much better. For me, prescription sunglasses are the way to go given that my eyes hate contact lenses. Rudy Project is well known for its high-quality Italian design frames, and now the company also offers the most advanced digitally surfaced Rx lens production technology, combined with what Rudy calls the most advanced lens materials available. Rudy loves trademark names and for its Rx glasses, the company has several: FreeForm TEK for the Rx program, ImpactRx for the material and Eyepoint Technology for the lens analysis and shaping. ImpactRx is Rudy’s exclusive lens material. It’s guaranteed to be unbreakable for life and, this is important, has a higher Abbe number (a measure of a material’s light-dispersion properties) than common polycarbonate lens material. Lower Abbe numbers result in the presence of color fringes above and below or to the left and right of a high-contrast object, causing distortions. Eyepoint Technology is a lens analysis technique patented by an optics company called Shamir Optical Industry. This technology combines lens surface topography data with a mathematical algorithm. Essentially, when creating the lens surface, the company claims its technology aims to simulate the human eye at every angle, prescription and field of vision. Clearly, it’s all very complicated but the result is an optically perfect, unbreakable sunglass lens that will not cause peripheral distortions. The lenses are designed specifically to fit into Rudy’s superb frames and are available in a variety of colors and even with photochromic (light sensitive) options. Just put them on, and you’ll see the difference—in perfect clarity. –B. Riepe
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$715 | weight: 3.6 lbs | www.SRAM.com/RockShox With the 2011 Revelation, RockShox has produced the go-to fork for the rider wanting a lightweight yet stiff trail fork. The most notable feature is the new Maxle Light 15 mm thru axle. With this offering, RockShox has stepped down from its original 20 mm Maxle to a 15 mm version, made popular by its biggest competitor. Will we finally get a standard here? Mounted up on my trusty Trek Fuel EX, the 140 mm (5.5-inch) Revelation transformed the overall feel of the bike, which usually comes stock with a 120 mm (4.7-inch) fork. The Maxle added a very minimal amount of mass to an already light fork weight of 3.6 lbs. While descending, I felt in control and remarkably smooth, and my climbing was aided by the lighter front end. Even with the added travel, the handling was still predictable. The new Revelation has a stable, positive feel. At first, I found that the small bump absorption was a little off, but after I adjusted the air a few times, I found the ride of the Revelation to be exceptional. In a major update for the 2011 Revelation, RockShox has paired the Dual Flow Air rebound system with super stiff 32 mm stanchions. To meet the various demands of a trail bike, a fork needs dual personalities during the same ride: less rebound damping to stay reactive in rock gardens but more damping to keep from jerking back up after big drops. According to the company, Dual Flow uses independent damping circuits that result in one rebound speed for big rocks and drop-offs and another speed for the small stuff along the trail. For the small bump rebound setting, there’s a knob you can adjust to control the beginning stroke of the rebound. But RockShox takes care of the big hits with a pre-set rebound setting that controls the ending stroke of the shock. Our test fork was equipped with RockShox’s Blackbox motion control lockout system, which sports a fancy carbon lockout dial. A lockout is nice because it provides ample adjustment for those long fire road climbs and still allows for a little give on those rocky uphills we find so often on all-day epics. You will also notice that this fork and other new RockShox forks sport an interesting bulge on the middle section of the fork lowers. This so-called Power Bulge creates material reinforcement at the bushings in the lower legs of the fork. For 2011, the Revelation comes at you in a variety of different flavors, guaranteeing a Revelation for any bike/rider combination. Options include 130, 140 and 150 mm (5.1, 5.5 and 5.9 inches) of fixed travel. RockShox also has a version with an Air U-turn option that features adjustable travel between 120 and 150 mm. All travel options come in a variety of steerer tubes, including tapered or straight, carbon or aluminum, as well as standard quick release and thru axle options. Also offered as an option is X-loc, the hydraulic remote lockout. The Revelation has proven that RockShox has spent a lot of time developing quality suspension products for an extremely demanding market, and the time has paid off with a superior product. Providing a lightweight trail fork with ample stiffness and adjustability is exactly what the Revelation does. Adding the Revelation to any trail bike would be a worthwhile upgrade for a rider of any level. –J. Carr
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a r o n o S e d s a t s i P Words and photos by Matthew J. Nelson
Riding the Trails of Northern Mexico
Images of La Virgen de Guadalupe can be found throughout Mexico, and roadside shrines offer travelers an opportunity to receive blessings.
sounds of laughter and the smell of carne asada filled the air as sunset burned orange and purple layers of light across the desert sky near the trailhead at El Bachoco. A few dozen mountain bikers gathered for their weekly ritual of food, friendship and fat tire fun at the oldest and most popular trail near the city of Hermosillo, Mexico. Riding at high speed past organ pipe cactus and paper bark trees, dodging bats and rattlesnakes, I rode the last sweeping descent back toward the group of riders. I was handed a cold cerveza and initiated into the local mountain biking community.
Pistas de Sonora
The cycling community in Hermosillo is as strong as any city north of the border, and every day you’ll find two-wheeled traffic as local riders hit the trail.
As a child, I fell in love with Mexico and often spent weekends surfing in Baja California. Since that time, I’ve backpacked through the canyons of Chihuahua, climbed volcanoes in Puebla and chased giant iguanas in Guerrero. Within the country’s 31 states exist some of the greatest diversity and beauty anywhere on Earth. Increased militarization of the international border, drug violence in border towns and economic crises on both sides of the border have given Mexico a bad reputation. If you watch certain television stations, you might think the country just south of us is among the most dangerous. A little research into the facts exposes the truth. Being afraid to visit a city like Hermosillo, Sonora, because of shootings in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, is like being afraid to visit Durango, Colo., because of crime in Phoenix (same distance and similar geography separating the two). Fortunately, most of the country is safe and pleasant. The northern state of Sonora, which shares a border with Arizona, is mellow, cheap and ripe with adventure. From the crystal blue Sea of Cortez to the high Sierra, Sonora has it all. The mountain bike community is just as large as any state in the Southwest, and I can’t think of a better place for your next road trip. The pistas (trails) of Sonora feature all of the elements of an international adventure not far from home. A mountain bike adventure in Sonora is easy and doesn’t take much more than a passport, a reliable vehicle and perhaps an amigo. A few reliable adventure travel companies offer tours in Northern 120
Mexico, but it’s just as easy to do it yourself. Proficiency in Spanish is nice but not always necessary. If you have a long weekend or as much as one week, a tour of Sonora’s finest singletrack should be on your radar. The adventure begins by driving through Southern Arizona and crossing the international border in Nogales, Ariz. Although there is some good riding around the borderlands, the farther south you go, the fun and safety factors increase exponentially.
HERMOSILLO Less than three hours south of Nogales, Ariz., on Highway 15, is the city of Hermosillo, the mountain biking capital of Sonora. This should be your first stop, and the riding here is so good that it may be as far as you get. Hermosillo’s cycling community is impressive, and it’s not uncommon to see 30 to 40 riders on one of the local trails after work, and more than 150 people regularly participating in weekend races. The city has five active cycling clubs and numerous events throughout the year. Locals are proud that some of the country’s fastest riders are from Hermosillo and that their trails are the best. Team Coyotes Extreme has more than 40 racing members, many of whom have worked tirelessly to build and maintain trails on nearby ranches. The younger collection of Team Adrenalina is pushing even farther, carving trails higher into the sierra. If granny gear climbs and adrenaline-filled descents are your idea of fun, they’re the ones to ride with. Hermosillo has four major pistas, all of which offer short, spicy riding opportunities near or within the city. Start with Pista
A group of Mexican riders gets ready for an early morning ride around one of the many exciting pistas built within Rancho La Caridad.
La Caridad, since there is easy access off Highway 15 when you drive from the north. After paying 61 pesos ($5) at the tollbooth, look for a blue sign for Bahia Kino to the west. This is marked as Highway 88, Carretera a Minera Niko, and Boulevard Jose A. Healy Noriega, depending on which signs you read. Follow this winding road for five miles, and just past the first paved road on your left (Boulevard Solidaridad) park on the right side of the road near the giant sign for La Caridad. Toss your bike over the fence, climb over and ride north into the mountains. La Caridad is located on a conservation ranch, and 37 kilometers on six individual pistas have been developed. All of the routes are well marked, and I recommend La CaĂąada, the longest and most popular of the pistas. Each kilometer is marked with a small sign so you can track your progress, and many of the trail sections are named. El Leon (The Lion) is named for the thorny acacia trees that tear at your flesh if you wander off trail; La Culebra (The Snake) marks the beginning of a serpentine route
through the forest; and El Coyote is a speedy ramble downhill. Pista La CaĂąada features some of the best of what La Caridad has to offer, including expertly carved turns through exotic vegetation, technical challenges over bedrock and fast, flowing trail. If youâ€™re here when the acacias are blooming in the spring and summer, your ride will be scented with a heady perfume from the tiny pink flowers. After 11 kilometers of fun, hop onto another pista and enjoy more riding. You could spend most of the day riding around these hills, and you probably should. The oldest and most popular pista in Hermosillo is El Bachoco, and the trailhead is located near the corner of Avenida Morelos and Juan Bautista de Escalante on the northeast side of town. Park just north of the Pemex station and follow the obvious trail into the hills. El Bachoco is a diverse and thrilling trail system of about 11 kilometers where Sonoran mountain bikers hone their skills, ride with their kids and escape to watch the city lights of Hermosillo twinkle in the distance. 121
Pistas de Sonora
Marco Tulio Cusi and Bertha Isabel Quijada finish a loop called La Cañada on the La Caridad trail system.
Like most pistas, El Bachoco has small signs every kilometer so you know just how far you’ve ridden. After smooth, fast turns through the foothills you gain elevation steadily up a series of switchbacks. Granite outcroppings and dense stands of palo verde trees provide visual stimulation, and if you ride here at night, be prepared for reptilian encounters with the numerous species of lizards and snakes living among the rocks. When the trail flattens out and you get an impressive view of the city, turn left and descend down a steep slope of decomposing granite. This begins a slightly more technical option, known as El Cimarron, that should not be missed. The narrow trail rises and falls over the next four kilometers, and soon you’ll be sailing downhill back toward the trailhead. El Bachoco is an excellent racecourse, and it’s often used as such. Show up here at sunset on a Thursday night and you’ll have a few dozen amigos to ride with. After getting to know the trails at La Caridad and El Bachoco, the next stop on your Sonoran road trip should be La Jolla. This urban mountain bike park is located near the corner of Periferico Norte and La Jolla, and its history is just as interesting as the trails themselves. About 10 years ago, a developer bailed on a golf course project after the initial stages of development. A wise investor bought it for cheap and decided the property would serve more people with less water if it was developed as a mountain bike park. So instead of putting greens and polo shirts, La Jolla features singletrack and Lycra kits. La Jolla isn’t the wilderness experience that often defines 122
mountain biking, but the 7.5 kilometers of fast, fun trails are about as close to a roller coaster as you’ll find in Sonora. Pista Santa Clara is another Hermosillo destination, just south of town near Parque Santa Clara. This has become one of the most popular racecourses in the area and features eight kilometers of fast, flowing trail with little elevation change. Pista Santa Clara is where Hermosillo riders nail their cornering, sprinting and big ring skills. Hermosillo has events throughout the year, and you can combine your road trip with a little friendly competition. Races in Mexico are so much fun and involve more carne asada, cerveza and music than most events north of the border. Everything from pista sprints, to 12-hour endurance races, to multi-day stage races can be found throughout the state of Sonora. In this city of nearly 1 million people, the options for food and accommodation are plentiful, but there isn’t a good place to camp. Drive down the Zona Hotelera when you first arrive in Hermosillo, and take your pick of establishments. Hotel Bugambilia (on Highway 15) is a favorite, and Hotel Santiago (on Luis Encinas near Boulevard Solidaridad) puts you close to the pistas at La Caridad and El Bachoco.
SAN CARLOS No visit south of the border would be complete without some time spent near Mexico’s incredible coastline. This is the place where cactus-covered mountains plunge into turquoise water, where natives hold ceremonies to honor giant sea turtles and where whale sharks
The coastal city of San Carlos.
shimmer just beneath the surface. Sonora has dozens of amazing coastal towns, but San Carlos stands out. This town was founded less than 50 years ago as a seaside retreat for folks on both sides of the border. Since that time, San Carlos has become world famous for its scuba diving, sport fishing, kite surfing and mellow pace of life. It’s the kind of place you’ll return to over and over again. Naturally, there is some outstanding riding nearby. San Carlos offers mountain bikers a few options, including a fast and fun pista known as El Soldado, the site of regular sunset rides and occasional races. To locate the trailhead, head north of town and go east on the paved road toward the Delfinario (Sonora’s version of Sea World) at the 3Km concrete pillar. Just beyond the 1Km green sign, turn left on an unmarked dirt road. At the first fork, turn right. Look for the first dirt road on your left and follow it to an obvious turnaround area near an old stone well. Park here and begin your ride. Pista El Soldado is most spectacular at night or during high tide.
This pista consists of two distinct loops, and you should ride both of them to maximize your time on the dirt. Begin by riding north on singletrack and follow this fast loop for two kilometers. When you end up back at your car with a big grin, turn left on the doubletrack and ride east for a tiny bit, then turn right on singletrack heading south. This is where El Soldado earns its reputation as some of Sonora’s smoothest. You’ll fly along a narrow trail past octopus-like cacti and trees that resemble an elephant’s legs. Incredible views of Tetakawi, the twin-peaked mountain looming over San Carlos, will make you stop for a moment and admire the exotic environs. Refreshing ocean air will fill your lungs as you roll along this unforgettable trail. Every kilometer is marked with a sign, and remnants of flagging from previous events still hang from ocotillo and limberbush. After the 6Km sign, the trail leads toward the paved Delfinario road. Be sure to stay to the right and on the trail because there are a few quality kilometers still to ride. When you spill 123
Pistas de Sonora
Traveling in Mexico
The state of Sonora has developed a tourism plan to make it easy for American travelers to visit without much paperwork or hassle. All you need is a valid U.S. passport and a sense of adventure. After driving 13 miles south of Nogales, Ariz., follow the big blue signs to the tourism office and stop in to get your temporary visa. You can also buy Mexican auto insurance here and exchange dollars to pesos. If you don’t plan on driving south of San Carlos, you don’t need to register your vehicle. However, if you decide to continue toward Obregón, you’ll need to fill out some additional paperwork and pay for car registration. Make sure you have your original vehicle registration (or rental contract) with your name on it. Highway 15 has toll (cuota) and free (libre) options, and you’d be wise to pay the nominal tolls to cruise on the fast, well-maintained highway. You’ll encounter occasional check points where young armed men will ask you where you’ve come from (donde viene), where you’re going (donde vas) and what you’re doing in Mexico (y que haces), almost always in that order. As long as you’re not transporting guns south of the border or drugs to the north, you’ve got nothing to worry about. All of the highways are well marked, and you should have no problem finding your way from place to place. If not, stop and ask anyone. Most Mexicans will go out of their way to help a traveler. There are comprehensive maps of Northern México available through International Travel Maps (www.itmb.com). ¡Que te vaya muy bien! (May your journey be a good one.) Matthew J. Nelson is a travel writer, professional outdoor guide and mountain biker who lives southwest of Tucson…mostly because of its close proximity to Sonora.
A desert tortoise shell found along Pista El Soldado near San Carlos is a reminder of the fragile nature of life in this harsh environment.
out onto doubletrack, turn right and the trail continues on the left toward the top of a small hill. This leads you back to the start. Many of the well-groomed corners and screaming descents of El Soldado’s eight-kilometer route can be credited to Manuel Espriu, coowner of Chollas Voladoras, the best bike shop in San Carlos. When he’s not teaching water skiing on the ocean, he’s maintaining trails and organizing 12-hour events in Sonora’s favorite resort town. Chollas Voladoras is the place to go for basic bike needs, mechanical support and information about other adventures in the area. My favorite way to ride Pista El Soldado is at sunset with a few friends with a cooler full of cervezas waiting for you at the trailhead. Ride a lap as the sun sinks into the Sea of Cortez, then strap on your lights, suck down a cold Tecate and ride another lap. Repeat. Once hunger begins to creep in, ride back to town and find Taqueria Don Lalo near the 11Km pillar. It’s open all night and is famous for serving up the best tacos in San Carlos. They don’t serve beer, but it’s cool to bring your own. San Carlos is a resort town, so there is no shortage of reasonably priced hotels, restaurants, scuba dive shops and much more. If you want to really dirt bag it, camping on the beach is allowed. Just head north of town a few kilometers and drive as far as your vehicle will safely navigate the sand. Pitch a tent or sleep under the stars, and enjoy the sounds of the Sea of Cortez kissing the golden sand beaches. Then you’ll know why it’s impossible to say “San Carlos” without a huge smile.
Ripe prickly pear fruit (tunas) provide a juicy trail snack while mountain biking the pistas of Sonora.
CIUDAD OBREGÓN Once you’re in San Carlos, it’s worth your time to keep driving south to Ciudad Obregón. This is Sonora’s third-largest city and is among my favorites, featuring beautiful architecture, great food and classic Sonoran Desert mountain biking. Obregón is less than two hours south of San Carlos and is home to El Dique 10, a famous pista that cruises around Presa Alvaro Obregón, a reservoir filled with water from the Rio Yaqui. Before you reach the city limits of Obregón, look for a sign for Tesopaco opposite a Pemex station in the town of Esperanza. Drive east on this road (Highway 117) for 11.7 kilometers, passing a golf club and numerous ranches along the way. When you see a sign for Rancho La Nopalera on your right, turn into the property and park immediately past the first large organ pipe cactus on your left. Ride along the doubletrack to the north. Within seconds, it becomes singletrack and leads you along a serpentine route through the lush desert. This is an excellent trail for beginner
riders and is known as El Flow among locals for its smooth character. The track includes a few wooden bridge crossings over sandy arroyos. Just take care not to crash into the bright yellow boxes on one section of trail as these are beehives. No matter how fast you ride, chances are you can’t outride angry bees. Pista La Nopalera is a short one (less than three kilometers) but will make you hungry for more. If you don’t ride the trail a couple more times, you can get back in the car and continue driving north for another eight kilometers on Highway 117 toward Presa Oviachic, avoiding the turn toward Yécora. You’ll pass through the town of Hornos, Spanish for “ovens,” famous for bread and pastries. Stop at one of the roadside stands where you can buy fresh coyotas (pastries made with piloncillo, crystallized cane sugar) and empanadas, sweet breads that taste like little pumpkin pies. Turn right at the large sign, “Distrito de Riego del Rio Yaqui S de RL.” After a few minutes, turn right on the first dirt road, which will lead you down to a large concrete 125
Pistas de Sonora
Left: The riding around Ciudad Obregón features freshly built singletrack, rocky doubletrack and cow paths through lush Sonoran Desert habitat. Right: Local rider Enrique Miranda rolls past El Mirador, a scenic vista on the classic El Dique 10 pista outside Ciudad Obregón.
parking area. This is the staging area for rides around El Dique 10. The classic El Dique loop is a six-kilometer adventure that begins with an uphill climb to the south. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you spot a trail sign saying “Diviertete!” meaning, “Have fun!” The doubletrack winds uphill to the east, and at the top of the hill you’ll arrive at El Mirador. Views of the lake and surrounding mountains are breathtaking. Far below you’ll see great blue herons hunting along the shoreline and ripples in deep water where fish feed off the surface. From El Mirador, blast down the teeth-chattering descent that will make you glad you’re not riding a rigid. Don’t miss the singletrack to the right, marked by a white trail sign. It’s not too technical but requires that you find a smooth line through the rocky terrain. The pista is fast for a while then slows to a crawl as you grind up a moderately steep climb. Avoid the baby heads if you can, then pick up some speed on the final descent. It’s badly eroded but tons of fun. El Dique gets a lot of fat tire traffic, especially on Thursday nights, and is the pista where riders in this part of the state learn to shred. But you can only ride six rocky kilometers so many times before you’re bored. That’s why locals have developed a pista nearby known as Laguna Encantada (The Enchanted Lagoon). It begins from the same parking area as El Dique 10 and heads north along doubletrack for a while before carving through gorgeous Sonoran vegetation. Laguna Encantada is a 20-kilometer adventure on doubletrack, 126
singletrack, cow paths and creative connectors. This route is especially fun at night, as the desert completely comes to life. Bats swoop inches from your face, snatching insects attracted to night lights, and jackrabbits the size of coyotes bounce chaotically through the brush. In the summer months, tarantulas dance across the trail while lightning streaks across the distant Sierra Madre. It’s enchanting. The kilometers of this pista pass quickly as you enjoy gradual ascents and descents, firm soil and sandy arroyos. After nine kilometers, leave the doubletrack and hop onto wild Sonoran singletrack. What was once a cow path has been reworked into a mountain bike trail, but beware of bovines because this is a shareduse path. The trail is marked with white rocks and white-and-blue reflective tape, but because of the complex network of roads and trails, it’s better to ride with a local to avoid getting lost. After you encounter pavement, ride west for a short distance, then cross through a gate on your right and get back on to dirt. Stay right at a small shrine and soon you’ll pass by Restaurante Paraiso Escondido (Hidden Paradise Restaurant), located on the waterfront. This is a great place to take a dip in the lake and enjoy a meal before you continue riding. Pedal north and soon you’ll be back on singletrack, which stays close to the water for the next three kilometers. This section of trail is exhilarating and somewhat technical; it cruises through a dense canopy of mesquite and palo verde trees. The trail wraps around the
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lake, past some outstanding campsites and back to the start of Pista El Dique 10. If you link Laguna Encantada with El Dique 10, you’ve got a nice route that can be ridden multiple times. If you’ve got the legs for it, I’d recommend this combo: Pista La Nopalera; Laguna Encantada; El Dique 10; a second round of Laguna Encantada; and one last romp around El Dique 10. This gives you a 55-kilometer ride and takes in all the best riding in this part of Mexico. Back in Obregón, you’ll find a lot to do off the bike. There’s live baseball at Yaqui Stadium and two incredible museums celebrating Sonora’s history and the culture of the native Yaqui people. You can run around Laguna Nainari located next to a beautiful park, zoo and children’s area on the west end of town. Live music is easy to find, and like most cities in Mexico, Obregón has regular events, festivals and street parties. There are so many options for food and accommodations that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Ride or drive down Miguel Alemán through the middle of town and take your pick. The most impressive joint in town is Red Hat, which serves Indio, Mexico’s finest beer, on tap. Refrigerated lines deliver a cold, smooth pour at each individual table and outdoor seating puts you high above the city streets. Red Hat also has a great sound system, eclectic food and ambience you wouldn’t expect to find in this cowboy town. 128
For a caffeinated boost or post-ride refreshment, stop by D’Volada. You’ll find a variety of tea, espresso and coffee drinks, and fresh fruit smoothies. D’Volada is located just south of Red Hat, and the owner is a mountain biker.
NAVOJOA, ALAMOS and BEYOND The further you get into Sonora, the better it gets. From Obregón, there is an amazing pista called Santa Rosa outside the city of Navojoa. And once you’re that close to Alamos, you’d be foolish not to spend a few days in this incredible colonial town nestled within the ecologically diverse Sinaloan thornscrub forest. The riding outside Alamos is a pleasant mix of exploration and cultural interactions. Yécora, only a few hours from Obregón, is another destination worth considering. It’s the gateway to the Sierra Madre, where trails and roads lead you high into the mountains. And if you get to Yécora, you should continue another hour east to Basaseachic Falls National Park, which contains Mexico’s most incredible waterfall. Riding trails around Hermosillo, San Carlos and Obregón is just the beginning. Sonora has so much to offer, and whether you have a long weekend or an entire month, your experiences south of the border will be filled with laughter and adventure.
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by James E. Rickman
Ponzi Scheme of the Damned I know how you think. I know what you want. I am the demon perched on your left shoulder, the monkey on your back, urging you to go faster, ever faster, until your heart pounds so relentlessly it feels as if it will shake apart in your chest—like an overtaxed water pump with cracked seals fastened by rusty bolts to a block of dry-rot timber, hastily activated to deal with a storm surge in a Louisiana bayou. You cannot resist my seductive whispers. I know speed will bring on the orgasm you crave. You know it, too. The rhythmic grind of the crank arms, the motion blur in your periphery, the dry taste of the wind: this is how I talk dirty to you, subliminally, insidiously. Oh, you say you are above such pettiness? Well, think again. I see you at your club rides sizing up the others, picking out the fatter and weaker members—easy marks that you can leave in the dust even on your worst days. You’ve never been competitive; you only ride for fun, right? But once the niceties end and the ride begins, I will urge you to chase down and devour the stragglers and the weaklings. And you will comply without a second thought. You will feel a tingle in your loins as you overtake them. A giddy glee will well up in you as your legs involuntarily pump ever faster. You will know how the cheetah feels when it overtakes the gazelle and feasts upon its blood. Once you have had the taste, you will be mine. How did I begin my ignominious career as the ultimate corrupter? It started innocently enough one day as a game of “Ditch the Fat Guy” between my girlfriend and me. She would ride as fast as she could, tucking around tight corners, sprinting through the straights, standing on the pedals on the uphills, slowly increasing the gap between us. I was not a very good cat, but she was a superb mouse. She bested me consistently, handily. For weeks this continued, until one day I caught a glimpse of that 130
dark devil Hubris, who produced a mirror that replayed my pitiful performances like a series of shameful reruns broadcast on mental television screens as domineering and ubiquitous as the black boxes you find blaring Fox News from every nook and cranny in airports and restaurants, from behind every bar and on the backs of vehicle headrests where impressionable young minds are easily influenced. My head pounded with cognitive dissonance, my self-esteem sagged like boiled pasta. Faced with my own frail failings, I longed to find an edge, a way to come out on top when my girlfriend and I played our games. So I struck a Faustian bargain and signed a contract with a spot of blood from a wound I opened up on one of the many solo rides that I began to sneak in while my fair competitor was at work, buying groceries or, worse yet, at the movies because I had made up some feeble lie so I could ride alone instead. My solitary obsession sealed my fate. I had cheated on her, sold my soul. Our new game became “Catch the Fat Guy.” Her futility became my ecstasy. But I have a shot at salvation. A clause in the infernal contract I signed says that my pitiful soul may be traded for 10 others. So here I am, riding with you today, your Stygian co-pilot, holding up a mirror so you can view your own sluggish shortcomings. I know that one of you will sacrifice everything you hold good and true for a chance to go faster, for an opportunity to clean that rocky climb of self-doubt that has held you back for so long. This Golden Age of Bicycling ensures that I shall find deliverance. My soul shall be released. Every new 29er and hand-built machine hardened by fire yet softened by angelic pistons provides potential for others to bite the apple and become slaves to the same cruel mistress that ruined me. And for your sake and mine, let us pray it never ends.
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