It began four years ago with a dream we had to put together a chemistry experiment of sorts. Why wouldn’t the perfect organism of mountain biking, Sun Valley, thrive with a concoction of one part fun, one part silliness, and one part competition mixed with good food and great beer injected into its vein just around the time it ripens into the ideal host? Mountain biking’s unknown paradise needed a festival and so we cooked one up. This summer, the Smith Optics Ride Sun Valley Bike Festival elevated the health of the creature to an all time high, putting together the perfect elixir encompassing four nights and three days of riding, racing, live music, beer drinking and, most importantly, just generally goofing off. The weekend began with the Sheeptown Drag Races, a time honored underground event in the valley which was cooked up years ago much to the (then) chagrin of the local authorities. But since, it has proven that fire is infectious and this event which pits riders against each other in head to head single elimination drag racing has developed a bit of a cult following. While it may not seem like much at first, once you experience what dragging a flaming log is like, you too soon fall under the spell. It’s a true-to-form Sun Valley event which starts early and goes late. By the time it’s over no one really cares who wins, but everyone who races races with the heart of a lion.
Hard to believe that this was just the opening night. But I dare say that next year this event could see double digit growth or double digits lost. Which is why you don’t want to mix bikes and napalm. But we do it anyway. So Friday morning cracked a big happy smile and it was time to get on with all of the greatness which included a “How To” clinic for chics led by the famous local chic, Rebecca Rusch. A big part of the clinics she led included how to fix your bike and how to ride scary stuff. Which was a big hit all around.
Once the evening was upon the streets of downtown, the antics began again with the much anticipated Downtown Throwdown, a Little 500 style of race on the streets of Ketchum with teams of four racing for glory in mandatory costumes.
Meanwhile, as the Downtown Throwdown was keeping the blood thirsty masses outside on the main streets occupied, inside it was all business as the Enduro Cup rider meeting was going down in the Visitor Center and Starbucks building on town square. With rules and regulations kept short and sweet with a non-nonsense call to make sure to go out and party hard while in town, the riders were rapt for a few moments in the eye of the storm which was brewing outside.
And then all of a sudden a bike race broke out…. http://youtu.be/oZK99FiVffc
The Enduro Cup Race sent riders down multiple trails from the top of Baldy to the bottom. Riding was a mix of classic, old school, grip and rip it singletrack, loopy and pedally downhill trails which traversed all aspects of the burg, and some freshly minted flow trail built to let riders open up the throttle and pin it. While the trails and terrain varied, the weather was consistently perfect as is the norm this time of year. When everyone was safely to the bottom, the Sierra Nevada and Ninkasi beer flowed like glass bottled water and you could see from the smiles and high fives that this was a race that everyone agreed was worth the price of admission.
In planning this event, we tried to think of every shape and form and persuasion of rider. Which included kids racing as well as the Local Stoker Rides. These free, guided and shuttled rides took people to magical places and rewarded them with great company, solid direction, and a no-hassle means by which to sample our amazing trails.
And so it was, with a two full days and a night of racing under the belt and all trails on Baldy properly pillaged, the dust began to find its place back amongst the gravity holding the rock and pine needles in place. It was one of the best weekends of racing I have ever experienced, and the hard working crew from Mountain Sports International dialed in a level of professionalism and accuracy accompanied by good vibes that doesn’t always appear in nature. The friends and shared camaraderie which filled the weekend proved why Enduro is ringing true amongst mountain bikers. The format of each day reflects the values and interests of our sort: good times, good friends, and great racing. Sitting on the chairlift or pedaling the to the next stage start or waiting around for your number to be called was about the most fun you can have with your friends. Then the buzzer beeps and the race is on over and over again. I race because I love bikes, but I ride because I love my friends. With so much of both over the course of four days it felt as though every nodule of endorphin, adrenaline, and serotonin breeding brain centers had been turned up to 11. My hand was sore from so much high fiving, my voice cracking from laughing so hard. I couldn’t get enough and it just kept coming. Even with the conclusion of the Enduro Cup, the Ride Sun Valley Bike Festival had not yet come to an end. There were still more good times to be had; namely the Cox Communications Idaho Pumptrack State Championships down at the Ketchum Bike Park. Now an institution, this event brings out the families and their groms who rip the knobbies off their tires day in and day out at the bike park and trails around home. The spirit of the event transcends that which causes us to gravitate to mountain biking and served as the perfect book end to a perfect week of riding and racing.
It was the ideal weekend if you are of the human powered, two wheeled persuasion. We probably left something out, but if we did ,I can’t think of what it could be. Looking around at the pumptrack in the waning hours of Ride Sun Valley, my smile had become a cramp upon my face and I knew that something really great had just happened. So mark your calendars, because we are going to do it again June 25-28, 2015. We will see you here. For results of the Scott Sports Enduro Cup presented by GoPro visit: www.endurocupmtb.com To learn more about the Smith Optics Ride Sun Valley Bike Festival visit: www.ridesunvalley.com Thanks for reading. However if you got this far and are more of the moving pictures kind of reader check this out: http://youtu.be/oZK99FiVffc
Photos: J.Dash/EnduroCupMTb.com and M.Schirf/RideSunValley.com