Back before #vanlife started trending, Dean Jensen found a way to get paid while exploring new mountain bike trails. As an Over the Road (OTR) driver, Dean has been able to ride mountain bike trails in 26 US States–and counting! I caught up with Dean to find out what it’s like to travel the country with a mountain bike
Singletracks: When did you start riding mountain bikes?
Dean: I’m a relative newcomer to mountain biking. I started in 2012 at the age of 44. I got a cheap hardtail, just to ride sidewalks. Riding around Bentonville one day, without a clue what was there, I saw some bikes come out of the woods and thought I could give that a try. I did, and it seemed like a pretty good way to break my fool neck! You could say I was hooked right away. I went back the next morning and found [Slaughter Pen.]
What kind of bike do you ride?
I’m currently riding a newish Specialized Camber Comp Carbon, (something like that) that replaced a base model 2012 Camber. I [also have] a Framed Alaskan Carbon fat bike. Both [have] GX11 builds. In the truck I’m somewhat space limited to one bike at a time, usually the Camber, but I know of drivers that bring several.
Describe a typical work week, and how mountain biking fits into that.
I’m generally out for two weeks at a time. Being subject to Hours Of Service regulation means that when I start out there’s lots of time available to drive, up to 11 hours a day, and 70 hours per eight days. If business is good I run hard, to get ahead of schedule, then find somewhere to ride, sometimes planning days ahead for that one chance to ride. If I’m not so busy, then I just have to pick out the right spot to stop. Occasionally on the spur of the moment I can pull off somewhere and just pull the bike out and go. I lean heavily on NOAA weather and recent precipitation maps and Singletracks.com to find a good spot. I don’t always have to wait for the weather to come to me, when I may be able to go to it. I’ve been lucky, fortunate to see a wide range of trails, in about 26 states, if I counted right.
Tell us about the logistics of bringing a bike with you on the road, and the challenges associated with getting to certain trailheads.
Fortunately, I have room in my current truck to keep my bike and accoutrements on the top bunk. (In my last truck it had to be in my bunk.) Getting to the trailhead is a balancing act, between how far and what kind of roads I’m willing to ride on to get there, and dropping a trailer, often, and burning diesel. Mostly I like to ride if at all possible, but there’s something nice about pulling up and just heading out on the trail, without dodging cars first. I’ve shared some of my adventures on my YouTube channel OTR-MTB and Fitness.
What is your favorite place to ride?
I’ve ridden close to 200 trail systems, almost all east of the Rockies. Many of them [are worthy of mention], but If I were to pick one I’d go with Raccoon Mountain (Chattanooga, TN). I can’t take my truck up, but there’s a truck stop three miles away (and 1000ft below). The trail system is extensive and diverse, ranging from at least a little easy stuff up top to hard rocky parts up and down the side of the mountain. You could say all that about Coldwater Mountain in Alabama as well, and Green River in North Carolina. I could go on…
Do you tend to circle back to old favorites, or do you prefer to explore new trails?
Both. When I find a place that’s convenient and fun, of course I keep it in mind for future visits, but I’m always on the look out for the new spot. Singletracks.com has been a part of the deal from the start for me. I get to play Lewis and Clark, creating maps to share to the website.
Any good stories to share from the road?
There was a week last summer, where I rode Raccoon Mountain on Saturday and Coldwater on Monday, with only one minor crash and no significant injury despite thousands of feet of descending. That Thursday I rode Hodges Park near Kansas City (a fairly tame few miles of trail with 50 yards of black diamond-ish rocks), where I went over the bars, getting scraped by barbed wire and bruising a rib. Friday, almost in sight of my house, I messed up on a berm and landed hard on my left shoulder, breaking [my] collarbone. It seemed like a nothing spot to get hurt on, but at least I knew where the Ortho clinic was and they knew me.
Ouch. Do you know other drivers who are into mountain biking? Or is mountain biking considered an unusual pastime among others in your profession?
I’m aware of a few other drivers who do, but it’s fairly rare. There are several Facebook communities dedicated to bicycling in general like Truckers with Bicycles. Part of my mission of my YouTube channel is to spread the word. I think bikes and trucks go together naturally, for local transport, fun, and fitness.