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Mountain Biking Multiple Meccas in America

December 5th, 2013
On the road again...

On the road again…

Americans get behind things. I mean, when there is something Americans believe in, they wholeheartedly invest their time and energy into making it a reality. Us laid-back Canadians might poo-poo this idea, but in many ways it is true. How do you think the good ol’ US of A grew into a superpower in the span of a few short centuries? Or, look at the near-rabid following of the Tea Party, or hardcore evangelism. When people wanna believe, they stick to their guns (forgive the pun).

It’s no different with mountain biking, and the way mountain towns have latched onto the sport as a way of bringing tourist dollars into their communities. This fall I traveled to America with some friends from Vancouver, on a road trip to some of the new, and old, mountain bike meccas of the Lower 49.

In the span of ten action-packed days we drove to and rode in Sun Valley, Moab, Fruita and Park City. All mountain bike hotspots in their own right, and deserving of a “mecca” status for different reasons.

Sun Valley, our first stop after leaving Vancouver, was a spot I had visited years ago on a Bike Magazine assignment, driving through the American MidWest in Honda Elements and riding the most obscure spots we could find. Sun Valley is far from unknown, especially in the ski circles, and the riding surrounding Ketchum and Hailey, the two towns that make up Sun Valley, is world class.

Our host this time was Greg Randolph, the director of public relations and social media for the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance. Greg has a rich background in cycling, and straight up loves where he lives, which shows in all of his marketing efforts and events hosted. Lucky for us mountain bikers, he does play favourites, organizing an annual mountain bike festival, developing a detailed trail map and generally stoking out the mountain bike community whenever possible.

Chasing the last rays of sun in Sun Valley

Chasing the last rays of sun in Sun Valley

We rode two days of perfect singletrack, from sinuous desert rips to flowing loops in the forest. We hit the road after riding the Prairie/Miner Loop, a mini-epic that took us up into the fresh snowline of the alpine, and where Greg had to get in a dip in one of the close-to-freezing-over lakes. “I never miss a swim up here!” he exclaimed, surveying all the new snow in the high country. With ambassadors like this, Sun Valley is going to continue to attract keen riders for years to come.

A late night drive, along with a stop at a suspect Taco Bell in Salt Lake City, took us to Moab, our southernmost destination and a spot I had never ridden. Yes, I had never ridden. That’s blasphemy according to many riders who consider Moab the true Mecca, and make pilgrimages whenever possible. I thought I had to check it out for myself.

Ripping down Porcupine Rim, Moab.

Ripping down Porcupine Rim, Moab.

Moab is a place that seemingly needs to do no work to attract mountain bike tourism. Gracing covers of magazines worldwide, the surreal landscape of the Utah slickrock has implanted itself in mountain biker psyche as the place to go, as the ultimate mountain bike experience. This is evident in the number of bike shops, guiding outfits and shuttle services that dot the town. While the Slickrock trail has sustained this mountain bike boom for years, Moab is not one to rest on its laurels. The Whole Enchilada, a 42 km, 7,000-foot downhill epic draws thousands of riders each year, as does Captain Ahab, a newly-handbuilt maze carved out of the unforgiving sandstone that offers perfect flow its entire length. The mountain bike community in Moab has seen the sport evolve, and has evolved the trail offerings to match.

It's not a Moab visit without a Slickrock Trail loop!

It’s not a Moab visit without a Slickrock Trail loop!

Connecting the blue dots in Moab.

Connecting the blue dots in Moab.

We were welcomed to Fruita by a three-story banner of a mountain biker in action plastered to the side of a grain elevator towering over the small town. A sure sign that the community is on board! As we only had the day to check out the riding, we tried to maximize our efficiency and headed to the 18 Road trail system. We were not alone here, and for a mid-week day the parking lot was surprisingly busy. The trails were flowy and fun, and we looped back and forth underneath the Bookcliffs, sampling as much singletrack as we could possibly muster. We ended the day with amazing pizza at the Hot Tomato Café in town, a business born of the mountain bike boom, owned by mountain bikers, and a rad spot that definitely catered to the two-wheeled brethren.

Sampling the sweet singletrack of Fruita.

Sampling the sweet singletrack of Fruita.

Another late night drive (and more shady Taco Bell) took us to Park City, our last stop on this roadtrip. We had planned this stop based on some rumours, and a friend who promised great singletrack. I had not ever heard of the riding here, but was willing to give it a try. When we arrived it was obvious that Park City is ready to show the world what they have to offer. With over 400 miles (yes, 400) of trails, three lift-served bike parks (and some free public bus shuttle zones) this place is a mecca in the making. IMBA apparently knows how good it is here, and this year gave Park City the first (and so far, only) Gold Level Ride Center designation.

IMBA gold-level singletrack high above Park City

IMBA gold-level singletrack high above Park City

It was certainly golden in Park City, with vibrant fall colours from the aspens lining the long singletrack climbs and epic descents. We rode trails straight out of our condo, and did shuttles to 10,000 feet. The mix of trail styles was amazing. The main street indicated the level of commitment Park City had to mountain biking as well. Every lamp post was adorned in bike-focused slogans; “IMBA Gold Level,” “Epic Singletrack” and more. Money abounds in this wealthy area, but smart minds prevail also, and are not letting the mountain bike tourism opportunity pass them by.

Fall colours in Park City

Fall colours in Park City.

Real life was calling the desk jockeys on our road trip, and we sadly pulled up stakes and made the painfully long drive back to Canada. During the drive we had plenty of time to reflect on the impact that mountain biking is making in these small communities, and marveled at how Americans really do get behind whatever they believe is a good thing. Lucky for us, in these cases, it’s singletrack.

adventure, Bike, Osprey Athletes, The Cycling Buzz, Travel , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Riding in zee Alps, Italian Style

October 4th, 2013
Climbing up the tunnel next to the Mauvoisin Dam

Climbing up the tunnel next to the Mauvoisin Dam

Having recently wrapped up three weeks of guiding Big Mountain Bike Adventures trips in Switzerland, my mind is alight with multiple moments of adventure, almost too many to distill singular experiences from. It’s probably easier to just summarize an entire trip as a whole. And while  I was tempted to do this, there was, indeed, one particular day that stood out amongst all the others.

The stark contrast of this day is not so much about the riding itself. The ride did feature some spectacular singletrack, but the uniqueness of the day was more about how it allowed us to travel with our bikes. Travel in the sense of moving through terrain; achieving numerous objectives over the course of a day while focused on a final destination, one very different from the beginning of the adventure.

The day started cold and clear in Lourtier, our sleepy little homebase tucked into the postcard-perfect Val de Bagnes, Switzerland. I had made the executive decision to postpone this particular outing a couple of days due to a low freezing level and poor weather, and looking out the window at a splitter blue sky, I felt very self congratulatory and guide-like. Taking advantage of this perfect weather window, our group powered back a Swiss breakfast (mostly bread, cheese and meat) and headed out.

The climb begins as quintessentially as a Swiss climb should: in a tunnel. The tunnel bores up through the mountainside next to the Mauvoisin Dam, at 250 meters tall, it is the highest arched dam in Europe. The tunnel is faintly lit, with water seeping through the ceiling. We climb up the narrow dirt track, sporadically sniping sights of the dam and lake below us through small ports in the rock. Finally, the tunnel ends, and we emerge, blinking, into blinding sunlight on the other side, a fantastic view of mountains and water and glaciers and rivers spilling out in front of us. Inspired by the sight we bend into a grinding road climb that eventually gives way to an even more oppressive hike-a-bike that finally relents to a merely painful climb, all of this getting us closer to the Fenetre du Durand, a 2800m col that marks the border between Switzerland and Italy.

Into the merely painful part of the climb. Epic views though!

Into the merely painful part of the climb. Epic views though!

As we climb, the air becomes sharper, distilled by the last few days of freezing temperatures. The crisp air seems to bring out our surroundings in flawless relief. Snow-capped peaks tower above the distinct singletrack that stretches out in front of our tires, and as we crest the col, Italy beckons below, a different landscape perhaps only in perspective, but beckoning us onwards in perfect detail.

Approaching the col, with Mt Gele looming behind.

Approaching the col, with Mt Gele looming behind.

The ride down is a glorious amalgamation of flowy trail, technical rock features, and everything in between. While down is the general direction, we traverse through the valley for a long distance on a perfectly graded “bisse,” or ancient waterway designed to re-direct water from the glaciers to mid-mountain fields and towns. As we descend the air becomes warmer, as one would imagine it would, descending into Italy. It all seems so perfect.

Smooth Italian singletrack.

Smooth Italian singletrack.

The final descent is long and winding, on a rarely visited trail that recently revealed itself thanks to some keen map reading and some valuable local knowledge. We revel in the secrecy of the spot, shredding down the rolling singletrack. At one point the trail points down through a perfectly-spaced group of larch trees, the forest floor nothing but knee-high vibrant green grasses, the trail cutting a straight line through. The afternoon sun dapples the grass, as a light wind creates a wild kaleidoscope of light in front of our tires. Minds blown, we rocket through the trees and exit out on the road far below, coasting down to the Italian town of Aosta for eagerly awaited beers.

After spending the day bundled up in the high mountains, it is an abrupt change to find ourselves in the old town of Aosta. The sun is warm, and as we relax and drink beers we witness a perfect slice of Italian life unfold around us. The striking differences between our morning’s departure and where we are now help to gel the unique experiences of the day together, and we celebrate two-wheeled travel, Italian style.

Story and photos by Joe Schwartz, Osprey Athlete

adventure, Bike Europe, Bikes Around the World, Osprey Athletes, travel , , , , , , , , , , ,

Big Mountain Enduro: Moab

October 2nd, 2013

“When people think of Moab, they think of all the red rock, and the rivers, and the canyons and they don’t really think of golden aspens and high alpine peaks — but it’s a big part of what Moab’s all about.”

The Big Mountain Enduro mountain bike race in Moab is all about that, sprinkled with a little bit of competition, by bike. Check it out!

Big congrats to our very own Osprey Athlete Macky Franklin for competing this epic ride.

Active Lifestyle, Bike, Events, Osprey Athletes, Osprey Culture, video , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bicycles Are Vehicles, Granted Rights, Subject to Duties

September 23rd, 2013

We found this photo via TwoWheelsBetter’s Facebook page and had to share it for all to see. First, we’re curious: Have you ever seen a sign similar to this one in your city or state? If so, what are your thoughts? Should those on bikes adhere to the same road rules as those in automotive vehicles?

For the sake of safety (for everyone involved), we argue that bikes should absolutely and 100 percent of the time stop at stop signs, stop lights and the like. Road rules should absolutely apply to those on the road, whomever they are. But some of the questions raised as comments to this photo posting are this: Should cyclists have to pay bike-specific taxes? Should bike commuters be required to have bike insurance in the same way that drivers are required to have auto insurance?

Let us know your thoughts! Share your answers to these queries and questions of your own in the comments section below.

PHOTO Via: Facebook

Active Lifestyle, Advocacy, Pedaling Change, photos , , , , ,

Be Safe, Ride On

September 18th, 2013

If you travel by bike frequently, you’re likely used to the ease of it all; you buckle on your helmet, touch your foot to the pedal and head out! Of course we get it. Bicycling offers a mode of transportation that’s simple as can be, which is part of its appeal. However, we’re with Project Bike Trip when they say: “for your safety and to keep your bike in top condition, it’s important to get into the habit of performing some simple maintenance checks whenever you ride.” That’s why they created this easy-to-following info-graphic, as well as why we’re sharing it, above. Check it out. And more importantly, complete your pre-ride bike checklist every time!

Active Lifestyle, Advocacy, Ditch Your Car , , , ,

Instead of Driving, I…

September 13th, 2013

An oldie, but a goodie, this video is a reminder that transportation by bike (and other more earth-friendly methods, too!) is the way to go. Enjoy!

We challenged our Facebook fans to convey what they do for their daily commute “Instead of Driving…” This video portrays some of the best. Set in beautiful Portland, Oregon this will inspire you to leave your car at home and find a more aesthetic mode of travel.

Active Lifestyle, Advocacy, Ditch Your Car, Lane Love, Osprey Life, Pedaling Change, video , , ,

“The Art of Carrying Things by Bike”

September 5th, 2013

Think you can’t carry that Farmer’s Market haul by bike? Think again. There are many ways to carry many unique things on your bike; this video shows the art of doing just that. Enjoy!

Active Lifestyle, adventure, Travel, video , ,

The Cycling State of Our Country

August 22nd, 2013

Ever wonder who’s riding where within the bounds of our United States? The good news is, more and more Americans are forgoing their gas-powered vehicles and pedaling for transportation. What’s more, according to this graphic, some cities are slated to garner some serious protected bike lanes, which is something we all have to look forward to. Take a look at the photo above to learn a bit more about the statistics of our state’s bicycle riders, via Bicycling Magazine.

Active Lifestyle, Ditch Your Car, Lane Love, Pedaling Change, The Cycling Buzz , ,

Pro Cycle Challenge 2013: Tougher than Ever

August 14th, 2013
“7 Days, 683 miles, the world’s best pro riders, 60 mph, 1 inch of rubber and did we mention – it’s in the Rocky Mountains. This is the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.”

Get ready folks, the Pro Cycle Challenge is returning to Colorado shortly — and the course proves to be more challenging than ever before. The Pro Cycle Challenge will take professional cyclers to new heights (literally), as it challenges them both mentally and physically with unprecedented elevations throughout the Rocky Mountain range. Osprey will be following the pros from one stage to another to catch all the action and bring some Osprey love to our home state!

Not only will we be handing out stickers, tire levers and cozies, we will also have different activities happening at our tents that you won’t want to miss!

Limited Edition Pro Challenge Pack

Limited Edition Osprey Comet Packs will be for Sale: That’s right, get ‘em while they’re hot! These packs are a perfect mementos for your life after the Pro Cycle Challenge Experience!

Fix a Flat Contest: So you think you can fix a flat the fastest? Prove it at our booth as we challenge gear heads and reward the fastest time with various prizes ranging from cycling socks, jerseys and even a couple of packs.

Osprey Cycling Jerseys and much more for sale: We will be showcasing our new Colorado-themed Osprey cycling jersey and selling them at a discounted price in celebration of the Pro Cycle Challenge. Same goes for our Osprey cycling socks and trucker hats too. Be sure to check ‘em out because they’ll go fast!

Have you seen the Talon Pro Challenge: Have you ever seen Talon, our mascot? If not, keep your eyes peeled! He will be making spontaneous appearance along the course, so you’ll want to get a photo with him! If you take a shot of our mascot along the Pro Cycle Challenge course this year and tag Osprey with the hashtag of #SpotTalonProChallenge on either Instagram or Twitter, you will be entered to win a limited edition Pro Cycle Challenge Comet Pack!

Tweet for Prizes: While you are tweeting your photo of Talon also check our Twitter feed as we’ll sporadically be tweeting prize words! The first person to visit our booth and shout that particular prize word will win the prize of the day!

We may have just given you a few reasons to stop by our booth and can’t wait to see you there!

Active Lifestyle, adventure, Advocacy, Events , , , , ,

Where to Ride: Breckenridge Mountain Biking Tips

August 1st, 2013

So, you’re in Breckenridge for the myriad of cycling events that are happening, and you need to know where to get out and ride yourself. We’ve got you covered! Rachel Zerowin from bikebreck.com has the inside scoop on the best trails to get after, and she’s shared those with us here. Read and ride!
French Gulch
The French Gulch area of Breckenridge offers both short loops that can be ridden by a variety of abilities (try the B&B trail to the Reiling Dredge for a mellow out-and-back), as well as access to the community’s vast trail network. Connect to pristine singletrack along the Colorado Trail for a major ride or keep it short with an afternoon loop through historic mine sites.  French Gulch is incredible in fall.
Carter Park
Easily accessed from town, the Carter Park switchbacks lead to a loop via Moonstone and B-Line (an advanced trail with wooden features). Or, continue uphill on the Barney Ford trail and descend big berms on V3, one of the newest additions to the town trail network. V3 drops riders into the French Gulch area; how convenient.
Baker’s Tank/Aspen Alley
Boreas Pass Road, once a railroad route, offers a graded, mellow climb. Descend via the Baker’s Tank trail; advanced riders can descend all the way into town via the Aspen Alley and Illinois Gulch trails. Make the ride longer by adding an out-and-back on the Blue River Trail. This area and French Gulch are
spectacular in fall.
For Breckenridge maps, trail conditions and more, visit BreckenridgeTrails.org.

A dedicated fan of fun, Rachel Zerowin loves exploring and writing about the outdoors, especially when it relates to cycling. As the public relations manager for
GoBreck, she gets to do a bit of both during work hours in Breckenridge, Colorado. Check out more of Rachel’s work on BreckConnection.com or say hello on Twitter @ColoradoSummit.

Active Lifestyle , , , , ,

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