Ned Overend Shares Tips for Endurance, Why Durango MTB Culture is so Strong

Ned Overend is a mountain bike Hall of Famer and highly accomplished racer living in Durango, Colorado.
Photo: Ned Overend Facebook fan page.

Ned Overend is a mountain bike Hall of Famer and highly accomplished racer, winning the first ever UCI mountain bike World championship in 1990, the XTERRA world champion in 1998 and 1999, and the UCI Masters World Cyclocross Champion in 2012. Today he’s the Specialized XC mountain bike Team Captain and lives in Durango, Colorado.

In this episode we ask:

  • How did you end up settling in tiny, out-of-the-way Durango?
  • When did you first hear the term “mountain biking”? What was your initial impression of the sport?
  • How do you train for bicycle hill climb races? What are the keys to building endurance in general? Do genetics help?
  • Does fat bike racing require a specialized skill set, or is it pretty similar to XC racing?
  • Tell us a bit about the local cycling community in Durango. How has it grown and changed over the years?
    • What was it like last year seeing hometown rider Christopher Blevins become the first American to win a WC mountain bike race since 1994? What are some of your fondest mountain bike racing memories?
  • Tell us about the Test Track in Durango, an area that’s now known as Overend Mountain Park. Did you help build the original trails there?
    • What were some of the innovations tested on the trails?
  • You appeared in one of the first mountain bike videos ever, in 1988. Do you think it’s even possible for a video to fully express what it’s like to ride?
  • What’s been the biggest innovation in mountain bike equipment over the years?
  • Do you have a favorite trail in Durango?

Find out more about Durango’s Spoketober festival, including a meet and greet event with Ned Overend and other MTB legends, at

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Jeff 0:00
Hey everybody, welcome to the Singletracks podcast. My name is Jeff and today my guest is Ned Overend. Ned is a mountain bike Hall of Famer and highly accomplished racer winning the first ever UCI mountain bike world championship in 1990, the Xterra World Championship in 1998 and 99 and also the UCI masters world cyclocross championship in 2012. Today, he’s the Specialized cross country mountain bike team captain and lives in Durango, Colorado. Thanks for joining us, Ned.

Ned 0:35
Yeah. Great to be here.

Jeff 0:38
So, I read that growing up, you lived in several countries all around the world. How did you end up settling and tiny out of the way Durango?

Ned 0:47
Well, my dad worked for the State Department. So we I was born in Taiwan. And in between these trips, different countries, we would live in Bethesda, Maryland, because it was close to Washington DC, the headquarters for the State Department and would be in Maryland for a couple years and then would go for three or four years overseas, and we lived in Tehran. Pretty interesting. We also lived in Ethiopia for three and a half years. Wow. And also something that we would do is you know that you get a couple months r&r, they call it when you work with government overseas. And during these couple of months, my parents would take the whole family and there were six of us six kids, and they would travel to some exotic places. We went to the Seychelle islands. We did a lot of trips to Europe, and stuff like that. Pretty amazing that my parents would drag 66 kids. So Wow. Doing a lot of traveling. When my dad retired, we moved to the Bay Area. I went to college a Moran and then I went to San Diego State. And I had done some running was mainly a runner and in in college and in junior college and high school and stuff and pretty well accomplished runner mainly cross country and loved running and MYRIN in particular, right. I mean, they’ve got some amazing trails through the redwoods and stuff and learn rails that are mostly illegal to mountain bikes. Right. Then I went to San Diego State and when I was in a sporting goods store in San Diego State, I saw a flyer for the International Alpine school. And they were having an ice climbing class, which was a new array Colorado. And San Diego was kind of too big for me. I knew I wanted to get more into the mountains. And my wife Pam, she was my girlfriend at the time. You know, I said, let’s, let’s move to Colorado. So we did a lap around Colorado. And we went to Boulder Gunnison, Colorado Springs and Durango and we decided, hey, let’s move to Durango. They have a hospital. She was a she was a nurse at the time. I was also a car and motorcycle mechanic. So I got to get off as a car mechanic there not really intended to be a professional athlete at that time, but yeah, we ended up in Durango. And we liked it. We liked the fact that the winters weren’t too hard because the 6500 feet. So you know, it’s not as high as Vail doesn’t get as much snow as some of those, you know, higher ski towns. Plus, it was pretty close to the desert. So we figured we want to get a break from where because neither of us had lived in a winter environment before. You know, California. So yeah, so we chose Durango. And it took a little while for it to grow on us. But it’s

Jeff 4:09
yeah, that’s, that’s fascinating. Well, yeah, I’m curious to when you were growing up, I mean, moving kind of all over the world. Did you? Did you have a bike? Like did you grow up with bikes at all? Or was that like too much of a luxury back then?

Ned 4:26
No, I didn’t. I had a flat tire single speed in Ethiopia. And I actually have I have a picture of me on a three wheel trike in Tehran, but I don’t really remember riding it that much. I was pretty young at the time. But I did ride this fat bike, this fat tire singlespeed in Ethiopia, but mainly just you know, we had a long driveway and it was dirt. And that bike had a flat tire. So but I had a horse So in Ethiopia, we actually had our family had three horses. So I was actually spending, you know, I wanted to go out and explore something I could, I could pick a horse and go, but we live in a country outside of Addis Ababa. So it was it was pretty remote.

Jeff 5:17
Wow. Yeah. That’s fascinating. Also, it sounds like so you went to school in Marin. I mean, was that around the time that mountain biking was getting started? Were you aware of it? Or like what was happening there at the time?

Ned 5:30
I was not aware of mountain biking at all in high school. I graduated in 73. So before the mountain bike time, but also I had a buddy of mine, Lars molar, who was from Sweden. And he bought a Cresson bicycle. And the bicycle was too small farm so I bought it from him. He had gone back to Sweden and bought it at Kent equipment and, and tubular tires on it even. And so it was that it was a nice bike. And it was literally my first not my first bike but my first bikes and riding like a paperboy bike as a kid. Yeah. And we were on the cross country team. So I was, you know, I was into training and, you know, was pretty athletic and started riding that bike around Moran and I wrote it on the fire roads. Another bike, flat tires pretty often, but I figured out that I had to do tubular repair. So I got pretty good at Yeah, definitely ended up with a lot of puncturing. And I raced that bike when I got into bike race, and I had that bike for a long time. When I moved to Durango. I had it and ended up racing the roadways to Silverton, which is one of the events that really got me into bike racing.

Jeff 6:54
Yeah, yeah. Well, so I’m curious about mountain biking specifically, like when did you hear about that term and think about, you know, riding off road and maybe even racing off road was that was kind of your introduction to the sport.

Ned 7:10
So in 1983, I moved to Durango in 1980 and was working as a automotive mechanic. And in 1983, I had been running and like all runners, I got injured stories. So I started road biking, because there was a road race in Durango, Durango to Silverton road race, 50 Miles 11,000 foot pass, and that’s my super mountainous road race. But, you know, because this race was promoted, it was you know, it caught my eye and I was a good climber on the on the in running. So I took the road racing immediately, especially these mountains, Colorado road races. And I was doing well, you know, I went from a cat four to a cat one the first year. And in 1983, I actually did the course classic on the Raleigh team. Some famous writers, it was Thurlow Rogers. Andy Hampsten went on to that. And so I decided, Okay, I’m going to quit working as a mechanic, start working at the bike shop the Schwinn dealer and focus on trying to become a road racer, or potentially a triathlete. I was also doing some platforms, right, because I was running something. So I was doing some swimming. Yeah. And about that time, mountain bikes started showing up on the on the float the showroom floor, and I worked in a sling and I think it might have been a High Sierra, or something called a king’s thing. Really early mountain bikes, and I thought this was fun because I also something I hadn’t mentioned. But I had a motocross background when I was in high school, I did some motocross race, and I was a motorcycle mechanic, I was trained as a as a mechanic. But so I kind of knew how to you know, put the bike together and kind of modify it because in the early days, there was a lot of a lot of renting on your own bikes to keep up. Yeah, but I thought this is great. And then I noticed that there were some mountain bike races starting to crop up right I was I was always reading about the racing because that was looking at being a road racer. And I went out to California and did the Pacific Suntour series on my stock swim High Sierra. And I ended up winning a couple of the races and I won that series overall. I’m gonna say that was 1983 and as against guys like Joe Murray, George Theobald rivers Steve Cook famous names You know, ring a bell with anybody but the early days. Fisher sponsored a team. Ross sponsored a team. Tom Ritchie sponsored a team, specialized sponsor a team. Schwinn did not have a team yet. So I call swim with these results that I had talked to for 10 minutes. He said, we were thinking about starting a team. So let’s do it because I, you know, I had some great results right away and, you know, they started paying my way to a few races and a couple 100 bucks start money and some bonus and, and that’s how it started. So I started racing for Schwinn and in 1984. But the combination of having some some motocross skills, along with being a mechanic and hill climbing, on the road bike, as well, you know, having trained on the road bikers is kind of a great combination for jumping right into mountain bikers.

Jeff 10:58
Yeah, yeah, that’s so cool. So you mentioned that you had a running background and that you were good at climbing, you know, running and on road bikes. And I noticed that you’ve won a number of bicycle hillclimb races, which that sounds absolutely brutal, especially to mountain bikers, right? Because, you know, we all most of us ride uphill, just so we can go down and have some fun. So I’m curious, how do you train for a hill climb race? Like, you know, just going straight up and not worrying about the downs? Is it any different from training for like a normal race?

Ned 11:36
Well, I think it’s unique, it’s important to try and mimic the course you’re going to be riding on. And that’s tough for a lot of people that I mean, it’s easy living in Durango. Right? We have some long climb from Durango, we’re fortunate. And I had actually realized I was good at running uphill. When I was running cross country in Moran. A lot of a lot of the I was pretty good on the cross country team. But in Marin, you know, a lot of the Cross Country courses that were working, we were racing, in college sport, you know, they tend to be rolling. I don’t tend to be helplines. And we had a, a multi school event in Yosemite Valley. And there was a 10 mile run one morning, and we had like five schools. And it was to the top of Glacier Point from Yosemite Valley. And I had been getting maybe top 10 and Sundays, the 5k races, which required more leg speed. But I found that I ran up Glacier Point and, and I won. And it wasn’t that hard, seemed like running in the valley in the flats at a higher speed. So that, you know, was the kind of one of the first times I realized that, you know, the power to weight climbing thing seems to suit me and I went on to win several mountain runs. And in Colorado, I was second on Pikes Peak marathon twice, before again, getting injured and switching the bikes, but, but it’s important, you know, so I was doing intervals on climbs, as a runner, before I ever started, mountain or bicycle hill climbs. And one way I like to train on them is that in a race, you’ll find that you’ll be you’ll be on a climb and people will be surging, or this steepness will change. And it’ll be undulating, but still climbing all the time. And what I would do is find a long climb, do intervals within that climb several of them, you know, maybe for, let’s say, two minute intervals, and at the end of those two minutes, I would be pretty well maxed out. And I would give myself a minute recovery, but at the same time, I would still be going uphill, right? So I was forcing my body to recover while I was still under the stress of climbing. And I think that kind of interval really helped me because it you know, it really mimics a race situation, you know, where somebody may surge or you have a steep part of the climb, so you have to go harder, but then you need to continue at a pretty good pace and try and recover while you’re actually climbing. So I mean, that’s just one technique I had, I am a perceived effort climber. So I don’t use a watt meter and I don’t use heart rate monitor. So I just I, I trained based on how I feel. So so it’s a little hard to extrapolate that into. This is how people should train You know what I mean? I mean, I’m an advocate of heart rate monitors and, and walk meters? For sure. I think they’re, they’re really invaluable training tools, but perceived effort. Climbing or training has worked for me.

Jeff 15:13
Yeah, interesting. Well, yeah, I mean, I know, for a lot of people, I mean, for one, most people don’t enjoy climbing. And then there’s also sort of a lot of people kind of put themselves into a category of like, I’m good at climbing, or I’m not good at climbing. And it’s interesting, you know, your experience talking about that race in Yosemite, where it almost sounds like you kind of surprised yourself, and like, how good you were at it? Do you think do you think genetics plays a role like is that some people are just naturally going to be better at it? And it’s gonna be easier for them? Or is that something that, you know, someone who would say, I’m a terrible climber? Like, can they become a really great climber?

Ned 15:55
I think there’s a lot of things that play into it. Genetics. I’m not sure how they necessarily affected but I’m absolutely sure that, you know, athletic ability, and genetics, you know, are connected. Now myself. I don’t, I don’t have other family members that have have shown, you know, talent, my dad actually passed from a heart attack when he was 56 years old. His third heart attack at that time, so of course, that’s, that’s different. I mean, he worked his whole life. He wasn’t he wasn’t into training, he didn’t have a really unhealthy lifestyle. I mean, he didn’t smoke or, or, but he was high stress. And I think, at the time, when he died, you know, they weren’t doing stents and they didn’t have statins, you know, so, in his life could have been prolonged for a long time, I think, with more modern medicine, but the, so genetics, I’m sure it plays a part. And you know, I’m not that qualified to speak exactly how. But one thing that definitely plays a part is mentally, you do have to believe, you know, that you can achieve it. And you really have to embrace the, the hard training, and ways that I’ve done that are, I think my attitude towards heart intervals and pain, is I’ve actually grown to love that aspect of training. And I think what I think, is that while I’m training, and while I’m really pushing hard, and it’s painful, to me, it’s a positive thing. Because I say to myself, Okay, this is what’s really going to make me better, this is what’s gonna make a difference, this is what’s gonna develop my cardiovascular system, and this is going to pay off. Right? So, and also the, I like the fatigue, the satisfaction of having a hard workout afterwards, now, when you’re really tired, and you feel like you’ve, you’ve accomplished something physically, you know, because you’ve pushed yourself and, and, you know, and then with proper rest, you’re going to be more fit. So I’ve got a good attitude towards, towards pain and hard training. And also, I somewhere along the line, and I’m not quite sure, where exactly I developed it, I mean, I had results, but I started thinking of myself as a guy who is going to win. Alright, that is what we’re going to that is going to be my goal for the races, you know, not to do well, not to get on the podium, but to win. And, you know, I’ve had some success with it and success, obviously, you know, breeds that kind of motivation. So, of winning and but, but yeah, and I had, I had success in running races, not running races and, and had success early on in bicycle races, and then just continue to think of myself as, okay, my goal is to win. And you also have to look at when you’re when you don’t win, how you react to that. Right? Because obviously not going to win all the time. And I have races when I’m when I’ve been bad. And I think what I do is I you have to examine what went wrong in that race, you know, and maybe nothing went wrong. But, you know, you just weren’t properly prepared for, you know, and adjust your board training, or your pre race prep to say solve whatever, whatever, whatever problem you had. And I’m, I’ve been really good at saying, Okay, I didn’t perform that well. But I can still improve on that, you know, maybe I can’t, maybe I can’t, as I get older, maybe I’m not going to improve on it, but I go ahead and tell myself, I can improve on, you know, so I’m essentially fooling myself, you don’t want to fool yourself too much. That, you know, trying to have a short memory from my failures. So I’m motivated to try again, to improve my performance, instead of saying, oh, you know, I wasn’t that good. Last time, I guess I’m just not going to be able to perform at that level. Instead, I forget about that. And I’m like, okay, firstly, we’re gonna try again, if you know me, I’m trying

some of the attitudes that I think have led to my success over the years and longevity. So not just kinetics, but mental and obviously, taking care of yourself and, and the proper training adapted to the individual.

Jeff 21:06
Yeah, it sounds like the mental game is a huge part of it. And it also, I mean, did you figure a lot of this stuff out on your own? Or did you have a coach that was able to kind of help you figure this out? Or are other athletes maybe even that were sort of mentors for you?

Ned 21:24
I got the information. From all over the place. I didn’t have a coach who specifically coached me and gave me a training program. But I’ve known many coaches, and I’ve always tried to learn as much as I can from them. You know, I’ve read Eddie Borssele. Its book. I mean, there’s so many coaching books, I always I read the books, and I try and glean information from them. That pertains to me, like Joe, Phil, fast after 50 Joe Friel, I think is it’s got some great coaching information. And he presents it in a, in a way that’s very easy to understand. So I’ve adapted people’s coaching techniques to myself. Plus also, I’ve learned a lot from successful athletes that, that I’ve been around over the years, guys, like Christoph Sauser, and Todd wells. And so just kind of going information from all different sources to try and apply to my situation.

Jeff 22:30
Yeah, yeah. Well, your book mountain bike, like a champion I know is one that I’ve personally read. I think I was actually looking it up the other day. And Amazon told me that I bought it in 2004. So that was, what, almost 20 years ago that I bought that book. But yeah, I mean, still such a relevant text and you know, inspiring like the next generation of mountain bike athletes, and then obviously, you as a coach now, being able to share all that information. Do you think mountain biking is different now? Like, because we have those resources, then kind of when you were starting out?

Ned 23:09
Yeah, I think there’s definitely more information not just for mountain biking, but I think for all athletic sports, right? i There’s no. A lot more testing, you know, as far as nutrition, especially in different methods of training, their methods of recovery. So and especially the equipment, changes of mountain biking. been pretty drastic, of course. So yeah, different information and a lot of information to learn from, and it’s important, I think, to, you know, look at as many sources of information as you can to try and

Jeff 23:51
so looking at your resume, I mean, I’m just fascinated by the number of sports and disciplines, even within mountain biking, or within cycling that you’ve been able to have, you know, tons of success in. And the one of the more recent ones was 2015, you became the US National Fat Bike champion. So, how did you get into fat biking? Like, what made you want to give that a try in 2015? And is it all that different from cross country racing? Or is it is it kind of just the same thing, but on snow?

Ned 24:29
It’s got some similarities to cross country racing, but but some things, of course, are very different. And what got me into fat biking, I had always, always kind of looked at it, and the fat bike races I had looked at was the fat bike Berkey which is related to the Super Bowl of fat biking, and it’s, it’s in Wisconsin, and it it’s on the Birkebeiner ski course and I’ve done the Birkebeiner a couple of times, you know, it’s a 60k I cross country ski race. So I was familiar kind of with the terrain and with that race, and then I noticed that they were racing fabrics on and it’s a big event. I mean, at that time, they would have six or 700 people on the snare line. Now now it’s well over 1000. So it’s a big event. So that kind of interested me plus, you know, the fact that it was on the Berkey course. But I didn’t actually pull the trigger because we didn’t make that bike that specialized. And the one of the things that has kept me interested in cycling in longevity is the fact that I worked for specialized and, I mean, I like riding all the different disciplines roads, cyclocross, you know, obviously a mountain bike, but also, you know, fat bike as well. And they said, we’re thinking about building a fat bike, you know, you live in Colorado, can you go to some events, and, and help us out with this, you know, and kind of figure out what the geometry needs to be. And you know, what size, what size wheel is ideal and dif, different things like that. So, I mean, I really embrace that. So I think the first step bike race I did was in Steamboat. And it was pretty cool. They actually had fat bikes and Nordic skiers on the course at the same time. It was pretty crazy. Because Nordic skiers, if you if you’ve been around, I mean, they have long, really long ski poles, Nordic skiers, and they’re swinging on the way out there. And I remember trying to have the time, some passing with these Nordic skiers. They didn’t want to give an inch they didn’t want to pass, which is very unusual to have skiers and bikes? Of course at the same

Jeff 26:44
Yeah, because the skiers are worried you’re gonna mess up the snow for them too. Right. So they probably really didn’t want to be behind. Yeah, this was

Ned 26:50
in the early days. You don’t I’ve never really seen another race that does that. But they you know, steamboat was doing something neat. But it was interesting, and, and fun. It’s exciting. You’d be surprised most people haven’t ridden fat bikes, and how fast fat bikes up. I mean, literally 40 plus miles per hour on the downhills, if you want to come to Strava and those tires glide over the snow really quickly. And you know, it’s of course, it’s all different snow conditions, but you can have snow conditions that is super fast. Yeah, so um, so that’s what got me into it was they asked me to, to, to help them develop it. And of course, you know, they also want to have help marketing and there’s no better marketing really, I think for a fat bike that is going to be used in races, of course, except for someone who does well on races, right. So, so winning races. So I went back and did the VAT bike burpee. The year after that, I think I was still may have been on an aluminum frame it at that time, we started out making an aluminum fat by before we went to carbon and the fat by Berkey. They were calling themselves the national championships, although they are not a UCI fan or a a USA Cycling sanctioned race. So I mean, but they gave out a jersey and and the whole nine yards, but I you know, there was like 800 guys on the line starting that race. And the Midwest is really where fat biking has grown up and where it thrives. Not they have some fat biking in the Rockies, but the Midwest is really where it’s happening. So that that was really a big deal for me to to win the fat bike Bercy. And then the year after that, USA Cycling said, Okay, we better you know, fat Boykins popular, we better have a national championships. That one was in Utah, which was at a skier and so that suited me even even better, I think, because it was a lot of climbing high altitude and that, and I won that fight that bike race as well. But the Berkey was really more satisfying because it had a much bigger field. And, and the guys in the Midwest are fast. But it’s interesting when you say how is it different? The the terrain is, you’re never fully connected to the ground, right? Because there’s there’s always a little bit of slip there. So for instance, in the fat bike Berkey, there was a couple inches of fresh snow, and a lot of turns a lot of undulating train and turns. So literally, as you’re pedaling through these turns at a pretty good speed, like 25 miles an hour, you’re drifting. So you have to you have to keep the power on if you stop pedaling, you’re just gonna lose all momentum. So so it was a matter of drifting all over the place. Now it’s a control drift or fat bike. If people have written those, they know that you’re riding four or five psi and the tire. So you’ve gotten great traction, but it’s not fully connected to the song, but it’s it’s controllable. You know, you’re not like, right, you know, you’re not having even that many near misses, you know, if you’ve got your tire setup, right, but tire setup is key. And, and so being able to put the, the your power through the snow as a word is really important. In fact biking, I think there’s a little extra resistance. So it probably seats, a guy who’s climbing maybe somewhere declining. But you know, obviously it’s not rough when you’re fat biking on snow, but all your suspension is in the tire. And that’s all so it’s a little different in that respect, right? Technically, what they’ve started doing is doing Fat Bike single track, and actually have these special machines, you know that it was a two foot wide pulley that they they drag mount snowmobile, and they’re packing single track. And they try and put single track races or single track sections in the fat bike races now, which makes them much more interesting. And more technical.

Jeff 31:03
Yeah, yeah. I mean, it sounds like the the main technical aspect of a lot of those races is is just the bike handling is learning to, like you said, control your bike, and cornering and all those things are a little bit different. Not necessarily technical. But yeah, just kind of a different different bike handling skill, a different

Ned 31:24
kind of technique. Sure, but it is bike handling skill.

Jeff 31:29
Yeah, very cool. So I want to talk a little bit about Durango. Durango is promoting spoke Tober next month, and that’s the community’s first annual cycling celebration. So tell us a little bit about the local cycling community in Durango. How’s it grown and changed over the years since you first arrived?

Ned 31:53
Yeah, Durango has an incredible bike culture. And you know, it actually it had some bike culture when I first arrived there in 1980. And in sync with a guy who started and promoted the Iron Horse classic. Right. And I don’t think race promoters get enough credit, right. I think a lot of times, it’s a tough job. We got a lot of bike racers who were complaining about that how slow the results came out or how much he was stuff. But if you think about it, without the promoters, we don’t really have a sport. You know, the promoters of Mammoth and Big Bear in Durango mountain biking was created out of the sport of racing. You know, it started with the very first guys on on repack right back downhill in Marin County. So the promoters deserve a lot of credit. I mean, that’s, that’s what got me into into cycling now seeing this event that we’re having in Durango. So the promotion of races in Durango brought attention to Durango as a cycling town. And the edge zing, the amateur who also owns mountain bike specialist in that it passed away a couple years ago. His wife patty is the current owner. Ed also had the foresight to once mountain bike started growing there to start a trails advocacy group called it was called trails. 2000 at the time right now, it’s called Durango trails. The head of that group currently is Travis Brown’s wife, Mary Monroe brown. So, but we’ve been fortunate that a lot of people have joined the group, it’s got a lot of political clout, so that it’s interesting in Durango. If somebody wants to build a housing development, the city council will come to the triangle trails group and say, What do you think about this? Do we need fairly smooth flow there? reverses laters and another city. So we’re very fortunate because and one reason that visit Durango has started spoke Tober to celebrate cycling is because cycling is very important to the economy of Durango, the destination mountain bike spot. The people who live there, I think there’s like over 500 Kids in the Durango Devo program that starts from everything from push bikes on up to the high schoolers. And that’s a big number. We’re a town of 20,000 people. So if so many aspects to but early on. They recognize that having quality Trails is important for the cycling community for the people wanting to move there for the people. The quality of life. For the people that so you have the race promotion. You have the trail advocacy. You have people who started Durango Devo, which is Sarah, Tasha and Chad cine, and they started with the attitude. They were both racers themselves, but their attitude for Durango Devo is, this is about having fun. The primary goal here is for kids to love to learn to learn to live love bikes, right? They have a saying, it’s an F t. F, which stands for never forget the feeling. And never forget the feeling of the first time you rode a bike. So it’s pretty cool. So that same philosophy is similar to Nyquist philosophy, right? Nika High School race. You know, they have a motto, which is there is no bench. By that they mean there’s no bench warmers, everybody rides, right, everybody races? Yeah, so. So all these different groups really helped create the current culture of cycling in Durango on top of that Fort Lewis cycling, more National Collegiate cycling championships than any other school in the country. And it’s not a good school. So

Jeff 36:22
yeah, all of these

Ned 36:23
things have have created pros that want to come they’re trained because the great trails to altitude is good. heights are training, and they live there. And the whole mix has been amazing. I mean, we have created the rango I’m gonna I’m gonna make this statement. More talent for I think road, and mountain bike, especially mountain bike has come out of Durango than any other city, in the country. And in a lot of places in the world. I mean, it’s turning out that now we are competitive worldwide, with kids like Chris Blevins and Lila and this mountainside roadside that the kids are coming out of Durango set coos and Semmens. So some world class road races as well. road races that used to be mountain bike races.

Jeff 37:25
Right? Well, yeah, I wanted to ask you what it was like last year seeing Christopher Blevins become the first American to win a World Cup mountain bike race since I think 94 What was that? What was that like to see him up there? It was

Ned 37:39

  1. And I was one of the guys who won a World Cup of 94. There are three of us. So crisp lemons. One at snowshoe the World Cup and UCI World Cup this past summer a couple months ago. And it was the first time an American had won a World Cup since 1994. Which seems crazy. Really. It’s been that long. And we have so many bike racers and in the US mount bike races. But in 94 some toMac won a World Cup, I won two World Cups, one in Switzerland, one in Italy. And then I believe Tinker won the World Cup finals in Vail Tinker was actually the last one to win a workshop but we all won.

Jeff 38:32
Yeah, but three in one year, I didn’t realize it. Yeah, all three of you had won in 94. So then Then what happened after 94? It gets

Ned 38:41
a little complicated. I will say EPO happened that definitely had an effect on and and I’m not just casting aspersions. I mean there was you know, whether it’s Jim Jerome, God, or several other athletes that went on to be discovered to test positive, you know, if I’m just making accusations about. So it, and that really is the year that it started making a big difference. And it was it was very discouraging to a lot of American racers who kind of stopped doing the World Cup because for several years there, they didn’t have a test for EPO. But it come I think kind of bled over from the roadside where obviously they had a serious problem with it as well. But not so too far down that I think they solve that problem, for the most part with better drug testing and stuff like that, but we still didn’t win any World Cups. And I think it’s it’s partially one of the reasons that we haven’t been successful is that the teams, the sponsors haven’t invested in having us athletes racing a lot in Europe. It’s expensive. They’re not getting results because they’re not living in racing over there. Right? So they you need to make a several year investment before the riders can rise to the level to be able to compete at that level on those horses. So they just weren’t making that investment. I think what’s changed that is, for one thing, Nika High School racing, you know, there is a much bigger pool of junior racers that have developed right, the cream rises to the top. And, and I think that’s one of the reasons that it’s so competitive over here now, because of NIDA, that we now have globally competitive mountain bike racers, you know, like Christopher Blevins, Riley Amos. And, and you know, if you look at Kate Courtney, she she was a night pass high school racer as well. And Haley baton, also probably two of the best and the women, the women have fared better than a man for sure. Over the years, but but now we have both men and women are competitive. It’s pretty exciting.

Jeff 41:06
Yeah. Well, what did you enjoy most about racing at that World Cup level? What it was hard

Ned 41:13
to win in Europe. So it was I mean, I won the world championships in 1990. And that, that was a big deal. You know, I’ve won several world championships, actually three before that. But they were not UCI recognized World Championships. Before 1990. Starting in 87, we would have two world championships, one in one in Europe, and then one in Mammoth, they would call themselves to worlds and they were very competitive races. They tended to be the most competitive races. But but it was a little wonky, right, because you had two world championships. And 99, it was important for me to actually win what people were calling a real world championships. So that was an important race, right? You have, you know, World Championship stripes on your sleeve for the year career and stuff like the end, and people recognize that term world champion. But really those World Cups I won in 1994, one in Italy and one in Switzerland, it was more competitive than you know, because in the early 90s, mountain biking blew up you’d have, you would actually have to have a qualifier to get the field down to like 100. Guys, a couple of 100 racers would show up to try and race the elite World Cup and a couple days before they would have qualifiers to prepare the field. So super competitive. So when you know that the most satisfying thing about winning a race is who your competition is, the more competitive it is, you know, more guys are being I think the more satisfying it is. So some of those races too haven’t won in Europe. Right? So the tougher you go over there, you have to adapt to the the travel and, and the different food and stuff like that. So those races were were big, and it was a long time until somebody won one after

Jeff 43:08
that. Yeah. Yeah. Well, it also it sounds like we need to have more World Cup races here in the US.

Ned 43:14
Yes. Absolutely. That’s a good point. So snowshoe and Mount Saint. And were the two that we have in North America now, but we need them on on more variety of terrain, we should have one in the West, and hopefully that that will be coming.

Jeff 43:35
Yeah, definitely. So tell us a little bit about the test track in Durango. That’s an area that’s now known as over in Mountain Park. Did you help build the original trails that were there? And what were you testing on the test track?

Ned 43:53
That’s, that’s good. Question. B. First of all, they call it over in Mountain Park. Because I own 60 acres that they’re over on that side of park that are part of what they call test tracks, and I still have a hard time calling it over.

Jeff 44:15
Must be weird having a park named after Yeah, but you’re still around.

Ned 44:20
It’s strange. Yeah, I think my son so I was running on those trails. They there’s, it’s a shale. It’s kind of a grayish shale dirt, which is very easy to make a trail and you know, if you if you ride down the hillside, you know, it leaves a track and you’ve already started a new trail, but it’s it’s pretty smooth. So there’s a ton of flow on those trails. It’s less rocky than any other part of town, because it’s a different kind of dirt. But I own 60 acres over there because it was sold to me by a friend of mine and I was saying okay, well I’ll you Ottawa. You know, maybe I’ll build a house on. And because it was raw dirt right on the edge of town, I soon found out that developing like one house on this, the city wasn’t gonna let me do it without oil, you have to put like sidewalks you have to have a street with a turn around. And so it turned out I was not a developer. But then I had the opportunity to sell it to the city for basically what I paid for it. And, and require that it be preserved as an open space. And it was added to by other acreages that were owned by other people that sold it to the city. And they preserved the whole thing, but the fact that a big part of it was property that I had on at one time. So that’s when you know, somebody proposed, we change the name to over a mountain park. Yeah, but all kinds of stuff was tested there back in the day, right? Because when I was running there before I was even into cycling, so some of the earliest stuff probably like the RS one rock shock fork, which came out in 1990 was the first time I had I’d written and I wrote it in the world championships. I mean, it had like, you know, maybe 65 mil of travel, but it was hydraulic for. So with, with an air chamber as well. So an air and hydraulic fork and there was some other bumper forks out there, I think minute two and Scott might have had a bumper fork at that time. This was the first hydraulic so it was pretty interesting testament for in there, I mean, the early clipless pedals when Shimano first made the SPD pedal. That was an interesting pedal to test and a huge and a big step forward and, you know, performance of the mountain bike. Well, road racers were all using weapon pedals like the I think time was one of the first road pedals. But Shimano made the first really good within pal

Jeff 47:05
for mountain biking. Is that specifically Was it one of the first for mountain biking there was a clipless pedal.

Ned 47:11
Yes. Okay. Yeah, that’s, that’s the first one I remember other people made some but none of them were could compare at all with with the, you know, the spring loaded design that that Shimano had made with it SPD, there was other ones, there was an Onza and Suntour had one, but they had the spring was a rubber grommet kind of thing, right. So when you when you clipped out, you had to like, squeeze the rubber. That was that was the spring you were clipping out against releasing against. And those were really inconsistent because the change in temperature change the spring tension. So with a smile, use a steel spring, and it had it had some issues with with mud clearance, especially in the early days, it would jam and you wouldn’t get out at all, when things got muddy. By that, I mean, the brakes, especially and I remember when we first would get disc brakes because it there’s some super steep downhill sections and in overend Mountain Park, so grateful for pre testing.

Jeff 48:24
Yeah, I was gonna say I’ve written there in the park. And there are some very steep trails. And yeah, I’m curious. I mean, are some of those the original trails that you were using to? I mean, it was it basically. You turned it over. And those ended up being adopted as

Ned 48:40
Yeah. Learning in those trails were actually a lot more creative by motorcycle, okay. People ride their bikes over there. And then you know, it was it was right next to town and thereby just tearing it up, because it’s pretty fragile, a pretty fragile, kind of dirt. So finally, they kick motorcycles out of there. And but the trails were pretty much created by motorcycle five hang, and they were kind of tend to be a bunch of trails are right on the top of the ridges. Yeah. Yeah. But then since then, Durango trails, who has built some amazing trails through there and closed a bunch off, right, because there was just too many. And we had to actually do a real outreach to the mountain bikers to try and get them to stop, you know, just creating outlaw trails. Which is, you know, work for the most part that’s ongoing.

Jeff 49:33
Right, right. Well, yeah. Are you one of the ones that still run the old trails, and that was my favorite one. You guys closed?

Ned 49:41
There is. It’s interesting. I mean, the politics of you know, we had trails and other sections that have of town that riders have made, and they’re great trails, but they’re outlawed trails. And the city is actually said, even even if it’s a sustainable trail there, they’ll say, we’re not going to encourage this. We’re closing this trail down. You know, we’re gonna go out there and cover it up and put barriers up. And we’re not giving you these trails, because we’re not, you know, we don’t not want to encourage this people go down.

Jeff 50:20
Right? Yeah. Yeah. Which is true.

Ned 50:23
I mean, it’s unfortunate to lose. And there was some good trails lost to that stuff. And you have to go through the process, or it doesn’t

Jeff 50:32
work. Right. It’s tricky, for sure. Because, yeah, like you said, a lot of a lot of trails were originally created that way. And they were later made official. But yeah, if, if we keep doing that, we’re going to run out of places to ride. So I’ve also read that you appeared in one of the first mountain bike videos ever, back in 1988. And obviously, today’s videos are a lot different, a lot higher production value. And, you know, we have drones, we have YouTube, we have all these things. I’m curious, what are your thoughts on the idea of mountain bike films? Do you think any of them truly capture what mountain biking is about? I liked that acronym that you shared. Never forget the feeling. And it’s to me, it’s almost like, Yeah, can you capture that feeling in a mountain bike video?

Ned 51:31
I don’t think you can completely capture it. It’s interesting. I, I find myself even before the days of, of GoPro and drones, right, I would picture myself writing down a trail. And having somebody else be looking through your eyes, right? Like maybe your wife, so people who don’t have the physical ability, you know, like my sister,

Jeff 51:59
my mom, I always say to my mom, I’m like, Oh, she doesn’t get it. She doesn’t understand because she’s never done it. How could I show her

Ned 52:06
Yeah, and you know, the kind of terrain in Mumbai is can can ride through is incredible. And the kind of scenery you see and you know, the, the extreme angles for, you know, both up and down. So, but it’s really the feeling that the combined feeling of the physical effort, right with the exhilaration, you know, of, of the speed and the technique. And I think some films come pretty close to giving you that feeling that you can never experienced the whole thing not without the the physical exhilaration, right, of, you know, the work you’re doing, and the the feeling of movement and everything, but there are some amazing films my son is, is into filming and we’ve done we’ve done some filming together. And you know, the combination of having a GoPro on the back of a bike, filming a person and that person, you know, having a GoPro on his front wheel and the combination of having a drone my son fly his drone to you can get some trouble. Really incredible feel for for riding. It’s it’s impressive what they’ve done. You know, and not to mention that all the crazy extreme videos, right? Like, like Red Bull Rampage and things like that.

Jeff 53:35
So you mentioned some of the early brakes and shocks and and pedals that you were able to test what do you think has been the biggest innovation in mountain bike equipment over the years?

Ned 53:47
That is a difficult question, because it’s hard to pick one. without the benefit of the other like full suspension. I started out as a motion NASM lacrosse racer, you know, raced in high school motocross and Hare scrambles. So I really appreciated full suspension. And I was embraced full suspension early for cross country road cross country is my sport. So I wanted to use full suspension and cross country. I use the FSR FC when I won the external worlds in 98 and 99. But specialized was always trying to get the World Cup team to lose full suspension. And, but we wouldn’t force him to write we want to use full suspension because everybody basically, at that time in the 90s we’re selling aluminum hardtails. Alright, and we’re all hanging in. You know, all the manufacturers were using rock shots are Fox and we are hanging Shimano, or SRAM components on right so it’s hard to differentiate ourselves. So specialized really wanted you know, we had four bar length gauging. And we’re working with horses, you know, on different suspension systems. But getting the cross country World Cup guys, it wasn’t efficient enough for, you know. So eventually we made the in 2001, we had the first specialized epic. And that is a bike that has an inertia valve built into the shock. So when you hit a bump, the shock open, and when you’re riding on smooth ground, the shop closes again. So it’s kind of a hard tail when it’s smooth and active when when it’s rough. And that was really an important bike that was the first bike that won the world championships as full suspension. Christoph Sauser was the guy who was riding it at the time, I had already moved on to x, Terra. But so I think full suspension has done a lot to make cycling more enjoyable, you know, can increase the ability of what riders can do. And I live in Durango where it’s rough. So in order to enjoy cycling, it’s it’s really nice to have a full suspension bike. I mean, you know, places like Michigan and other places like that just having a high volume tire can be enough. But full suspension wouldn’t be that much fun without this.

Jeff 56:26
Yeah, yeah. It’s interesting. You’re You’re right, how it all is connected. And once we had one thing, then that led to another development and it is hard to to pinpoint one thing, although the suspension I mean, the way you describe it, it almost sounds like magic, right? I mean, where you can have a bike that that rides like two different bikes, without any input from the rider really? And so yeah, yeah, so many great things about bike innovation. So my final question for you is about trails, you have a favorite trail and Durango. What

Ned 57:01
ends up being my favorite trail is kind of what what mood I’m in, right? Because sometimes you’re not in the mood to write a rough draft, why you don’t have the energy. You don’t have the flow, you know, like you’re not relaxed. Yeah, it was something like that. So different days, it’s kind of different trails. But there is a trail in test tracks are over in Mountain Park, called the Spirit trail. And I really never get tired of it. It winds its way up against the edge of the cemetery in Durango on the west side of town, so. So it winds itself kind of around, you can see gravestones from it. And you know, the grass fields of a cemetery from different spots. So the spirit trail, but it’s up and down. It’s not really long climbs, but you go up just enough that you can really accelerate, you know, through different turns coming up. It’s got a ton of flow to it. And I was it’s only it’s probably 15 minutes for each section. And part of that part, but it’s my favorite. I never, it always puts a smile on my face. For sure, you know, not that hard, but you can’t you. It’s easy to keep momentum on.

Jeff 58:14
Great answer. Well, Ned, thank you so much for taking the time to chat. It was a real honor talking with you and yeah, thanks. Thanks for all you’ve done for cycling.

Ned 58:24
Yeah, it’s been my pleasure. I’ve been the benefactor of of, you know, the development of mountain bikes and trails and everything so. So I feel I feel very lucky. But it’s been good talking to you.

Jeff 58:38
Absolutely. Well, if you want to get more information about both October, we’ll have the link for that in the show notes. So we’ve got this week. We’ll talk to you again next week.

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