2011 MTB Highlights From the Singletracks Team

Road Tripping to Seven Springs

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I have to say my highlight of the year was a road trip with some of my closest friends to Seven Springs. Seven Springs is a resort with runs that last about 3 minutes or so and are a good mix of man-made features with the natural terrain. The funny thing is, the trip wasn’t really about the location as much as it was about the time spent with a bunch of like-minded guys. We spent the entire 7-hour drive talking bikes, reading about bikes, and watching videos on our handheld devices.

When we did arrive in town we spent a few more hours unpacking and watching more video. Needless to say we were more stoked than a blacksmith’s fire to get on the bike! On the trails at Seven Springs we barely stopped for food, hitting all the runs, getting faster and faster on the well groomed (and hard) berms, and going farther and farther on all the jumps. Despite a few minor glitches with the bikes, the perfect weather, picturesque location, and great runs made it a very memorial couple of days.

Thurmond Epic, Racing with Singletracks, and Cyclocross

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I’ve had a bunch of really good times on my mountain bike this year, so it’s hard to pick just one as my favorite. Between fun rides with friends and going deep into the pain cave at various races, I’ve experienced a lot this year. Here are a few of my top highlights, in no particular order:

  • I finally rode the entire Thurmond Epic. I rode all 67 miles solo, and it took just over seven hours. I wasn’t the first person to ride it though, my buddy Ted beat me to it. As far as I know we’re the only two who have ridden it all at once.
  • I had an awesome time racing with Jeff and Greg at the Baker’s Dozen this fall. The fact that we made the podium is icing on the cake. Thanks for making me do that last lap fellas!
  • In late October we had a big unofficial group ride – 17 people started, and 11 of us rode the entire 52 miles. No major crashes, no mechanicals, we all stuck together for the most part, and the fall colors were at their peak. It was a really great day out in the woods.
  • I did my first cyclecross race in early December and it was a total blast – I’m definitely doing more of those in 2012!

My Dream Bike Build: S&S-coupled Breezer Lightning

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2011 was a rad year. In terms of the mountain bike, it was – without hyperbole – the best year Ive ever had. A quick survey of the opportunities Ive had this year yields the following chunks of gnar in no particular order: I landed the gig here bragging writing about one of my favorite topics, I started a new job in the bike industry that included among its perks access to employee-maintained trails on a daily basis, I traveled to Michigan for said job and got a week of insane Upper Peninsula shredding, Utahs White Rim Trail chewed me up and spit me out during a week of rocky, sandy adventure, and I even hung it out at an indoor mountain bike park while the snow fell outside.

Even with all these memories fresh in my mind it only took me 30 seconds to pick my #1 mountain bike moment of 2011: the first ride on my S&S coupled Breezer Lightning travel hardtail. Its more than a bike to me; its a physical embodiment of the whirlwind that was my first three years in the bike business. I went from a frustrated electrical engineer dreaming of my next weekend ride to working directly with a legend in the history of mountain bikes, bringing to market his first new trail-worthy design in a decade.

I met the guys who cast the dropouts, the ones who would butt the tubing. I saw where the frames were welded, painted, boxed and shipped. I thrashed the prototypes in local races. I was there in the desert when the bikes were introduced to the US dealers. I rode them in the mountains above Park City, Utah with my good friends and co-workers. But I never bought one. I had bigger plans than pulling one out of the box, airing up the tires, and hitting the trails.

I finally made one last trip to Taiwan with a pair of gleaming stainless steel coupling lugs in my carry on. The frame builder said no problem, my #1 man at the factory got it boxed up once complete, and after a multi-continent odyssey it landed in my sweaty paws to build from the ground up. After all the efforts of the great people Ive come in contact with in this amazing business, the first time I got air on the Breezer I felt like Id never come back to the ground.

Racing the Baker’s Dozen

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After reflecting back upon all of the things I’ve done on a mountain bike this year, it is going to be so tough to choose just one highlight! From the Sea Otter Classic in April to a week in Crested Butte, Colorado shredding high-alpine singletrack with friends, and from my first race with some of my bros from Singletracks to my first 2,000 MTB mile year, it is one tough decision!

Since I already talked about my mileage goals this year in another blog post, I think for this highlight Id have to choose the Bakers Dozen race with trek7k and dgaddis. Yeah, I know a race in South Carolina beats out an epic week of singletrack in Colorado and the Sea Otter Classic? OK, maybe not Colorado was pretty awesome. Like I said, its tough having all of these awesome experiences to choose from, give me a break! 😉

But hear me out: Ive been mountain biking for 6 years now, and this was my first race ever. It was an awesome experience to get competitive against other riders and myself, to get out on the course and push myself as fast as possible, and to get to share the experience with a couple of like-minded riders. For more of my experiences from that race, be sure to read my blog post entitled 10 Thoughts From My First Mountain Bike Race.

29 Trails in 29 Days

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It already seems like a lifetime ago but my highlight from this year was (just barely) riding 29 mountain bike trails in 29 days in January and February in between the first and second Snake Creek Gap time trial races. Now that the leaves are down and the weather is turning colder, I find myself wishing I was starting the 29 trail challenge all over again. The funny thing is, none of the trails I rode during my challenge would make my top 5 for the year but just the fact that I got to ride so much singletrack in such a short period of time (in the middle of winter!) made it oh so sweet.

A related highlight: completing all three Snake Creek Gap races and earning a coveted belt buckle which I wear proudly every day. That’s not to say my MTB accomplishments ended in March; trips to Oregon and Colorado rounded out the summer and this fall I put together my first FS mountain bike – a Santa Cruz Tallboy carbon 29er. I’m still in the planning stages for 2012 trips and challenges but let’s just say next year should give 2011 a run for its money!

Your turn: What were your MTB highlights from 2011? Which singletracks articles did you enjoy the most this year?

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