2023 was a big year for my family and for mountain bike riding. Starting slowly, I was able to get into my rides this year and I got to have a whole lot of fun along the way!
The family uprooted from San Jose, California and made the big move to the high country. For those of you who know me, you know that I have fallen in love with Durango, Colorado. This town, located in the extreme southwestern corner of the state, is filled with great people, amazing beer, fantastic parties, and incredible trails.
We shoehorned our way into the townhome and settled in for a heavy Winter. The storms rocked the town and the snow was too deep to ride – even on the fat bike! As a result, I spent a few months out of the saddle. But I spent that time getting to know the town a little bit better. We ate, drank, skied, and got to party at the annual Snowdown festival!
Time off the bike, in my opinion, is time wasted. After several months of being sedentary, I rigged up the trainer. Yup, I still hate it! But at least I’m spinning.
The bikes were growing older in the garage. I was starting to really need to get back out on a ride! Fortunately, March would help fix that problem. I got out to California to bring a truckload of goods back to Durango and I was able to get in a short ride while I was in town.
Well, it’s a start…
The warm weather was holding out for as long as it could, and it was taking my spirit with it! I was jonesing for a ride, and I knew that the 2023 Sedona Mountain Bike festival was around the corner! I loaded up the snowy 4Runner (and my pup Aspen) and I headed to Arizona! With so much desert, there’s gotta be riding somewhere in that town!
No such luck. Sedona and nearby Flagstaff were both completely socked in with snow and there was no riding to be had until day three of the four-day festival. Even then, it was wet and sloppy. We ended up recording a few podcasts in the rental and I was privileged to meet Lee McCormack, Mia de Paula from MTB Women’s Network, and Jess the Maker!
John, Josh, Joey, Mark and I loaded up our vehicles drove south to spend a day with Ryden Dirty, Brett from Unspoken MTB, and a bunch of other awesome riders. I struggled on the climbs as we rode the trails at Hawes, in Mesa, just east of Phoenix. It was the same fun and amazing place I remembered it to be. With only a minor AXS battery issue, which led to me swapping batteries with the one and only Braydon Bringhurst, it went off without a hitch and we all had a great time!
The next day, we met up with MTB Rad Dad and MTB Desert Rat in nearby Cottonwood. The elevation was lower, the trails were dryer, and the downhills were a freakin’ blast! We tore through Dead Horse Ranch State Park and ended the day on a tired, but satisfying note. Everyone involved took a few chances and leveled up on that ride!
The month of April saw me back in Durango waiting out the winter weather. It still wasn’t dry enough to ride, but I was able to travel a bit with a friend and hit Phil’s world, which is at a lower elevation and was dry a bit earlier. I was having so much fun that I overlooked a drop and cased my bottom bracket.
Later that week, the local Horse Gulch trails were partially opened and I was able to get a few miles in on the dry side of the trail system. I rode those trails three days in a row. I loved every single tired minute on the bike. This was a sign that I was clearly ready to start riding in earnest.
The townhome was great, but we were living on top of each other. I started looking for a house, and we found a fantastic little cottage on the other side of town! It is located in a beautiful neighborhood with fun people and nice views of the hills.
My project this year is to get this adorable little garage space set up as a bike shop and bar. Stay tuned…
Although the trails were getting drier, the storms were pushing down on us relentlessly. Everything was wet, and it was still unrideable. I took this time to work on the new house and get the new Spokesman bike shop up to snuff. It was a lot of work, but I had the time!
Durango did hold its annual Bike Parade. More about beer than bikes, we rode to Ska, drank a couple, then rode with what felt like half the town to Steamworks where we enjoyed even more beer and some great music!
The month of May also marked the kickoff of the Durango Trails volunteer season. We attended the local party at Ska Brewing and were able to help out a few times during the Summer. It felt good to give back to the trails I love so much, and it also felt good to put my Son to work after such a slow winter!
A fun visit from Patrick and Sheryl (and Hailey) made the Spring even more fun than usual! We hung out, rode local trails, and even attended a rodeo!
A ride with Robert at Beyond X ended in a technical issue. The shop that worked on his brakes, well…, they forgot a few parts and the brake pads fell out on a downhill! Fortunately, he felt the change before it became a safety issue and we addressed the problem enough to get him down the trail back to the car. Remember to always check your shop work!
July was the month that really had me ramping up my ride portfolio for the year. I got a few great rides in with Patrick and Hailey the month prior, but I had more friends visiting soon and I had to get the miles in to make sure I was in good enough shape to climb those steep mountains with them!
A few local climbs and challenging descents helped get me ready for several amazing weeks!
Josh, Amanda, and John arrived ready to ride! We got them all set up on their bikes and prepared for three days of hard local riding. The rides were fun, as always, but they held a few surprises.
On day one, we rode Test Tracks and Twin Buttes. Just like the issues with Beyond X the month before, John ran into a problem on the Yeti with the brake pads! They popped out of one of the wheels, so I rode the bike down the hill and got them replaced at the shop so we would be ready for the next day’s ride.
Day two was the big ride of the trip. We climbed Elbert’s Gap and topped out well over 10,000 feet above sea level. It was a hard climb, but the payoff was miles of downhill, both smooth and rocky. Dutch Creek was intense, but fast and fun.
While sailing down the mountain, Josh caught a thistle bush with his brake lever and it pulled him down on his shoulder. It was a long hike back to the car, and a long drive to the emergency room, but he was diagnosed with a shoulder separation and was simply told to take it easy for a while. It could have been a lot worse!
Day three was pretty mellow. After deciding to take a break from riding, we enjoyed each others’ company and hit the town for lunch.
I hated to say goodbye to my friends, but I’ll see them again and we can ride together soon enough!
At the end of the month I was able to jump on a plane and fly to San Francisco where I saw the final Dead & Company show with my pal Johnny! It was an amazing and emotional show! But then I jumped back on a plane and headed back as quickly as I arrived.
July was also the month I attended my very first Yeti Gathering! Always held in Colorado, Yeti held this year’s party in nearby Mancos. Most attendees camped out, but I was close enough to be able to sleep in my own bed and drive to the festivities each day.
We ate, drank, enjoyed the crazy party games, and rode the backcountry. The 20 mile trek took us above 10,000 feet and led us through some of the best and challenging downhills I’d ride that year.
I’ll definitely be back!
I had to get rides in! I had a major road trip planned at the end of the Summer, and I needed to make sure I was ready for it. From Colorado, north through Canada, east to Maine and Boston, and back across the great plains. This was going to be one for the history books!
The first week of August was warming up. As a result, I was looking for more riding at elevation. This brought me to Missionary Ridge just north of town.
This ended up being the fourth consecutive week I’d be riding above 10,000 feet. The Dutch Creek ride, the Yeti Fest, and a ride up Junction Creek Road filled up my three previous weekends, and this ride down Stevens Creek filled up my fourth.
It was a long but fairly easy climb up a gravel road. The ride down, however, took me from the beautiful vistas to a rocky trail that shook my fillings loose.
As the month progressed, I took a break from the high country and started doing early morning rides to beat the heat. I developed a short and fast loop that I could get to on my bike right from my front door. A hard climb, a fast downhill, and rolling hills back to the house. This ride turned into a staple of mine that I rode several times a week through the end of the year.
I started using the Star Wars trail as a way to gauge my progress. I was getting pretty fast on this patch of steep dirt, and it was making me a better rider!
Johnny and his family came out from California to see Durango and to help ease the blow that I felt when I got laid off from work. It was a lot easier to adjust to the unemployed lifestyle with friends to party and ride with, but times were a-changin’!
I had to cancel my 5-week road trip. I’m not gonna lie, it was an expensive endeavor. And it hurt to make the decision not to go. Maybe next year, or maybe not…
My therapy was to ride my short loop at Test Tracks. I rode Star Wars over and over again and got better and better at it. I could feel my skills and reaction times improving.
Instead of the big trip, I jumped in the 4Runner and decided to take a more economical trip out to California to see family and friends. It wasn’t the same as the big road trip, but it would surely be a lot of fun!
First stop: Moab! I was driving to Park City, Utah, but the stop on Moab made me rethink my timeframe. I had the time to hit the slickrock trail on the way north! I was traveling alone, so no one would care if I was stinky from Moab to Salt Lake City, right?
My second ride was in Park City. I stayed one night and rode a public trail system just north of town called Jeremy Ranch. The massive climb up to the Flying Dog trail was pretty and really took it out of me. The downhills were fun, but not the most amazing. Overall, getting rained out was the frustrating part of the ride, but I still got a lot of great miles in.
After driving west across Utah and Nevada, I stopped in Nevada City to ride the Harmony trails at Washington Ridge. John met me and showed me what is so special about this amazing trail system. The dirt is fun and flowy, and it’s WAY too easy to let confidence take over. I loved every moment I was riding, and I always love spending time with John.
My layover in San Jose was four days. I got to see family and friends, and I got to ride a few local trails. A loop at Calero was fun and about as plain as I remembered it to be. I took the bike out to the UC trails in Santa Cruz, but I was attacked by a dog on the trail and it really rattled my cage. I was in a bad headspace for the rest of the day, so I decided to play it safe and just take the road to the top and back without riding a few of the more advanced sidelines in the park. It could have been a lot more fun, but my shot nerves increased the chance of a crash and I wasn’t willing to take that chance knowing that I had a lot of great riding days ahead of me.
Heading south to Los Angeles brought me to Orange County where I visited my Daughter. We got to go to a John Mayer show together and had the most wonderful time! Seeing her is a treat!
I rode Caballero near Westridge and Gizmo Peak. It was filled with interesting trails and fun climbs. Those hills are filled with all sorts of odd places to ride. It was a fun day!
The September days were running out! I next drove to Murietta to visit my friends Mark and Joey! We kicked back for a while and they took me out to Greer Ranch! What an amazing place! Greer was filled with the most awesome trails, gnar, and riders!
Joey lent me his e-bike, a YT Uncaged edition, and it changed my life. I quickly learned first-hand why it is so dangerous to ride an e-bike. It can be pretty hard on the wallet…
Yeah, I bought one…
October started out slow, with a few local short loops and an awesome hike with my Son! We could feel the Winter air slowly ebbing into the area, and I felt the pressure to get rides in before it got too cold!
Chet came to town and we shuttled the bikes up to Engineer Mountain for a quick ride! I had only been there in the hotter, Summer months, but Fall was also amazing! The colors were incredible, and the trails were riding fast!
I dragged my butt back to Park City to pick up a few bottles of rare, hard to find High West whiskey. On the way back. I stopped in Fruita. Aside from the amazing Colorado monument, which I had no idea existed, their mountain biking trail system was filled with some pretty aggressive terrain.
Kokopelli Loops was worth the trip. Hawkeye, Mack Ridge, Wrangler, and the legendary Horse Thief were all incredible trails that tested my skills and my resolve. Although I was filled with confidence when I cleared the occasional tricky obstacle, I got off and pushed the bike more than a couple of times. This place was incredible!
In late October, the legendary Sepp Kuss returned to his home town of Durango to celebrate his personal and team victories in the Goro D’Italia, the Tour De France and the La Vuelta De Espana where he took the red winner’s jersey. The town rallied around him and there was a bike parade down Main Avenue in his honor.
I was able to travel with my Wife to Sedona during the last weekend of October. I took a short ride on Airport Mesa and did the Airport Loop Trail. This is a hiking trail. I’m not sure why it is marked as a mountain biking trail online, but it really is more of a punishment than a ride. But the tech coming back down Brewer Trail is worth the climb!!
On my second day in town I got to do some shooting with Mia and Lauren of the Women’s Mountain Biking Network. We enjoyed a long day on the red rocks riding the Llama trail, Little Horse, and checking out Chicken Point, where I most definitely did NOT contemplate riding the White Line.
We hit all sorts of tech along the way, laughing and riding and shooting crazy video! It really was a perfect day with fun and friends – this is what mountain biking is all about!
I feel like the year’s end is closing in on me. I’m not looking forward to the impending winter months, but I know I got a great year of riding in that makes it all worth it! I can still cram a few more rides in before year’s end, right?
I dedicated a week of my life in November to building out my Garage bar. It was a fast build, but it made the space a lot more friendly and I know we are going to use it during the winter months!
I was also able to get out to California for the Thanksgiving holiday. I rode Calero, St. Joe’s, Santa Teresa, and I got to participate in another Turkey Day Ride with Patrick! I PR’d most of the trails I rode, thanks to the change in elevation from Durango to sea level, and I returned to Colorado with a renewed confidence and optimism for the ski season!
The air just kept getting colder! Durango allowed me just a few rides before it was too cold and icy to use the trails. I enjoyed riding local dirt, but I wasn’t able to do much more than lay down a few last miles before the season ended.
Durango’s weather decided to hit early. I returned to Colorado after the Thanksgiving holiday and was met with conditions that weren’t very good for riding. I got out and traveled the 35 miles to New Mexico so that I could try out the Alien Run trails. They were supposed to be open and relatively snow-free, and they were! It was a short but fun day.
I rode Horse Gulch and Test Tracks before the weather hit. I suppose I’ll need to hold onto those sweet downhill vibes for a few months until I find a way to ride in the new year, either locally or by traveling.
Twin Buttes was a great way to wrap up the year. A good solid climb and a fun downhill led me into the holidays with optimism and a desire to continue to better myself for next year’s potential trails.
Heading out to California was my saving grace. I was granted a temporary reprieve from the Colorado weather through the new year by having access to some Bay Area trails. With or without friends to ride with, it’s great to be able to ride the trails and celebrate the sport before it was time to dig in and hibernate until the spring comes.
I have once again been able to enjoy some epic rides and spend some time with friends that make this sport even more amazing than it ever could be without them. I may not have been able to take the big road trip, but I still got to travel to a lot of places around the western United States and hit some very challenging dirt.
The new year will bring with it new experiences and new opportunities. I’ll be attending the 2024 Sedona Mountain Bike Festival, but this may be my last year for a while if it turns out to be the third consecutive year with bad weather. There are hopes all over the MTB community that they are able to move that event to a warmer and drier month.
I’ll also hope to see my first Bentonville Bike Fest! I watched everyone enjoy that event last year, and I’m aggressively making plans to attend with all my pals in 2024. I have never put the tires down in Arkansas, it looks amazing!
I may attend the 2024 Yeti Gathering, depending on when and where it falls in Colorado. I may also make another effort to take the canceled cross-country road trip. But that may take a back seat for a year so that I can finally go ride Whistler – I still have not ridden in the Pacific Northwest!
There’s also a chance that I may be releasing a new kind of cycling content in the coming new year. The idea is still on the drawing table, so please don’t wander too far away in the Winter months if you want to see how it turns out!
No matter what happens, I’m sure the year will be filled with good times! I feel so lucky to have these opportunities to see what our sport has to offer with so many of my friends and riding buddies!
I have to thank everyone for joining me on my crazy adventures! It means a lot to know that I can make someone’s day brighter through my rides. Keep tuning in and I hope to provide you with another great year of great times and awesome trails.
In the meantime, let’s all raise a toast to everyone who made 2023 so amazing, and another toast for the potential that next year has in store.
Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you when I see you!