“I scouted out a new ridge ride,” said Tom. Upon hiking our bikes to the top of the little summit, I asked “So, where’s this trail?” “Oh. There’s no trail. It’s just a ridge ride,” said Tom. Uh huh… Continue reading

Orizaba Ramblers

Steve Fassbinder watches Mehl play in the surf

Windmilling his kayak paddle into the breeze, Luc Mehl, 34, pulls onto the sandbar at the mouth of Mexico’s Rio Antigua and squints at the novelty of a seascape horizon in the hazy afternoon glare.  Two days of sleepless dysentery have drained Mehl’s prodigious vigor and his hands are blanched and clammy as we high-five. Still, he’s grinning with accomplishment in the salt air.

Eleven days earlier we’d set out pedaling bikes strapped with mountaineering and whitewater paddling gear in Cholula de Rivadavia, a ciudad sixty miles east of Mexico City. Without ever having visited Mexico before, Mehl composed a 220-mile bike/hike/packraft triathlon first to Pico de Orizaba (18,491 ft) and then descending through rainforest hamlets to a whitewater river. Now at sea level, we stand at the end of Mehl’s line. Continue reading

Super Tack

Allison and I shuttled up Guardsman’s Pass around 6am today for a pre-work Crest Trail ride.  It’d rained hard last night and tire tracks from previous riders had been replaced by smooth singletrack dimpled with texture from the torrential thunderstorm.  Only a few minutes into the ride we ran into an F250-sized bull moose grazing from the trail.  Waving and yelling did little to relocate the unflappable moose so we backtracked and pedaled the old trail over Scotts Hill.

For those who don’t mountain bike, just-barely-damp trails (aka tacky) are about as good as it gets for maximum traction.  Even my tired old tires pull around corners like they are mounted to roller-coaster rails.  A week ago I could feel both tires drifting sideways across some of the dustier, higher speed turns. Not today.  For trails like the Crest that have few bermed turns, riding on a morning like today allows you to pull about as many G’s around the corners as you’ll ever will.

photocrati gallery



After getting rained out in Fruita, we headed back to Utah where the NWS was forecasting a foot or two of snow.  Early Monday morning we put on boots and skins by headlamp and discovered that between the three of us we knew quite a few of the other folks doing the same thing in the parking lot around us.  It had snowed two feet overnight but cleared and now the stars were fading into the dawn.  Grant, Dustin and I skied a deep, bluebird lap down Monte Cristo and were headed back down LCC by 8am.

Back home from skiing, Grant and I loaded his truck with the bikes and car camping gear we’d just unloaded the night before and headed a 140 miles East to Vernal, Utah.  By lunchtime we were back in tee shirts and shorts, riding bikes in the red desert.


The Rampage is a spectacle: it’s spectacular spectating.

Mountain bike riders careen down the mountain, hucking off cliffs and jumps while choosing a route that will impress the judges watching from below.  To that end, Red Bull and the riders build themselves personalized jumps and buff out landings below jumbo sized cliffs. Then they push their bikes to the top, saddle up and bomb down.

Redbull might have chosen a tag line less jinxy than “the land will rumble again” for the 2010 Rampage if they’d known what the weather was planning.  On Saturday, while the riders were finishing their prep for the following day’s competition, a nasty little storm rolled in sending vendor tents flying as athletes scrambled for lower ground.

We were out for an evening ride when the sky turned from mildly overcast to murky orange and menacing.  The strengthening t-storms were churning the desert sand and filling the sky with plumes of Zion dirt.  Steering down the trail became interesting as powerful gusts pushed us sideways into the sagebrush.  With lightning striking the ground only a few miles away, we pedaled the trail in record time.

Sunday was lined up to be a repeat of the day before: a few little dawn cirrus clouds were joined by happy little cumulus cottonballs.  Suddenly, the purple underbelly of a cumulus nimbus rose from behind a nearby ridge, coughing out distant rumbles.  It tracked straight towards the Rampage venue.  Wind began snapping the Red Bull flags sprinkled along the cliffs and then the guys next to me tied bandannas across their faces.  The next two riders crashed when gusts carried them away from the transitions they aimed to land on.  The event was postponed.  Wind hold, they announced as fat rain came in sideways.

It rained and stopped, rained and stopped, cleared again, rained once more, then, when I was sure the weather had soured for the day, suddenly went blue.  The helicopter took to the air and the athletes soon followed suit.  The event finished without any serious injuries to any riders.

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Cloud Riding

Hanging out at the coffee shop in Wilson, Wyoming we were displeased see a line of rain clouds stretching across Montana’s extended forecast.  We’d hoped to spend several days riding remote trails in Big Thigh Country but neither of us wanted to camp out in a wet, slow-moving Pacific front.

Allison had prepared for this kind of thing with a collection of maps for other places.  More or less at random, we picked an area in the White Cloud Mountains in central Idaho that had a number of long trails looping from end of a dirt road and off we went.

We didnt have much information about the area, just the topo maps, and maybe because we didn’t quite know what we were in for selected a 40-some mile singletrack link up.  This morning I found a guidebook reference for a smaller variation of the loop that mentions “you’ll be praying to the endurance gods for forgiveness.”  And that’s true.  But, it was also some of the flowiest, narrowest singletrack one could hope to ride.  We just had to earn the long downhill with two dozen miles of loose uphilling punctuated by hike-a-bikes.  The ride through winding pristine valleys was worth the fatigue.  Back at camp that night we drank cold beers and soaked in hot springs along the river.

The next day we rode a more popular loop, though after looking at the trailhead register it still looks like it only gets a few bikers a week.  The Big Boulder to Little Boulder Creek loop climbs 3500′ before dropping over a pass and down to a chain of alpine lakes.  From there it contours along a high bench for a few miles before dropping the remaining elevation back to the road.  This trail was wider, blown out in spots by motos and horses.  Still, there were miles long sections that were ripping fast with plenty of little root and rock drops to keep a me focused.  Plus, the scenery is amazing.

Here’s photos:

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Roll the Coaster

“It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission” -Grace Hopper

Back in 2003 we got permission from the Forest Service to construct mountain bike stunts along an existing trail near Missoula. Following a few years of cat and mouse games as illegal trails were built, discovered and destroyed, the bike community began working to earn the trust of the Forest Service. Once permission was granted we focused on accommodating their rules dictating how stunts could be built. The stunts weren’t exactly what we would have crafted given free reign but, hey, at least the trail was legit.

Hundreds of hours went into building log rides, jumps, drops and berms along the trail. The District Ranger personally inspected our work and approved. It was one of the first legal freeride trails in the US.  Deadman’s Ridge Trail made it into Bike Magazine and the stunts are shown in this IMBA/USFS trail-building DVD.

A year later, the Forest Service District Ranger position changed hands and the replacement chainsawed the stunts to bits without warning.  The bike community was furious.

Work on Deadman’s had concentrated the energy of the community and now that the trail had been dismantled groups of builders splintered and half a dozen new pirate trails were soon under construction. Better to ask forgiveness…  But, with a return to building in secret, the cohesiveness of the community evaporated.

Once a couple hundred riders strong, the freeride scene in Missoula has fizzled. Missoula never became the freeride destination it was briefly poised to become.

That anti-climatic story runs in contrast to the story of Teton Freedom Riders. Their story begins the same: a small group dug illegal skid trails until dog-walkers discovered them and alerted FS Rangers. Like in Missoula, there was initial controversy then eventually riders organized and gained legitimacy. The asking forgiveness strategy worked.

Again like in Missoula, they bargained with the land managers. Some trails were closed in exchange for allowing others to remain open. Unlike in Missoula, the regional Forest Service leaders never reversed their decision; the community was never pushed back into secrecy.

In Jackson Hole, the community’s relationship with the Forest Service has flourished and along with it the trail network has grown.

We spent four days lapping the well-crafted trails. I crashed more in those few days than I have in the last couple years combined. Slowly I wrapped my head around the sequences, re-awakening dormant muscle memory. It was great.

Sunset Boulevard

Kicking off this long weekend, the Avett Brothers concert turned out to be a rowdy, high-impact type of night.  On Saturday morning Allison and were moving half-speed.

Rather than motivate to head out for a long ride we drank agua by the liter and tinkered with bikes.

Finally we rallied for a night ride on the Wasatch Crest Trail.  The sunset was fiery and as the light faded we turned on bike lights and rolled into the dark.  One might think this is an unusual way to spend a Saturday night but on the ride down we ran into Ian, who also seemed to think riding in the dark is a worthwhile use of weekend.  In fact, it was an excellent use of a Saturday night.

Sunrise Ride

The last couple days in Park City have felt like fall. Yesterday morning started off with a literal bang as thunder boomed over the ridgeline so we postponed our plans for a sunrise ride. Today we were out the before sunup and had the trails to ourselves.   After yesterday’s rain and snow, the trails were smooth, tacky, and fast.


I’ve wanted to ride Mt Elbert, the tallest of Colorado’s 14ers, all summer and finally went for it today.  Beginning at Half Moon, the first few miles of trail are mostly climbing but with a few downhill sections to keep it fun.  From Lilly Ponds the climbing really gets going with a 4000′ uphill to the 14,433′ summit.  I wasn’t able to pedal much of that climb and pushed my bike more than I care to remember.

Here’s me on top of Mt Elbert with CO’s second highest peak in the background.

It was all rideable going down but rocky, lose and with plenty of hairpin turns.  Dodging loose toaster-sized rocks, it’s clear that the trail isn’t groomed for biking. I managed to stay upright the entire way but my hands needed a few shake-outs when my braking fingers started feeling crampy.  The riding was fun in a keep-your-speed-in-check, techy way but the slog up was enough to dissuade me from wanting to repeat it soon.

I happened to cross paths with a coworker on top and she volunteered to snap a photo as I started down. The lakes are 5200′ below.

Five years out, I still miss living a short pedal from Bike Doc.

Summer Solstace Slog

Allison and I woke up on longest day of the year in Crested Butte and decided to celebrate the day with a long ride. We pedaled up Washington gulch to the top of the 403 trail then began a technical descent that soon turned to a technial hike-a-bike through deep snow and over many trees felled by winter storms. Eventually we were back on dry ground for a few miles of dangerously fast singletrack followed by a steep trail section that took us skittering down onto the Schofield Pass road.

Against the advice of a fellow cyclist we pedaled up the road grade to the bottom of the 401 hill climb, where he’d turned around on account of snow the day before. What ensued was something of a suffer-fest as we handed bikes over piles of overlapping downed trees and slipped and slid up mushy snow in our skate shoes.

About 5000′ of climbing into the day, we were poised on top of one of the most glorious singletrack downhills known to mankind. We raced down the winding trails, which were extra fast on account of the wildflowers not yet being high enough to hide the next dip or swoop in the trail. Raising seatposts back up, we climbed up to the top of the second half of the trail but caught our breath as we headed downhill again.

More than two hours of dragging bikes through snow left us feeling more depleted than I’d hoped and linking up with Deer Creek trail seemed unrealistic, so we hopped on Snodgrass for a mellow but flowy four miles back around to Washington gulch. We counted down the time to camp during the last climb; I was totally fixated on the True Blonde Dubbel waiting for us in the cooler. And it was there chilled, and waiting for us.

Gooseberry Mesa

Allison and I spent a couple days romping through Gooseberry mesa. The riding consists of lots of techy little ups and downs without any sustained uphill grunts nor fast downhills. The constant up-over-down riding has it’s own sort of flow and is pretty entertaining in an xc sort of way.