IN THIS SECTION
The Smoky Mountain Bike Ranch [pg. 2]
Roller-Skiing: A Summertime Rush [pg. 3]
Ride Like a Girl
Rusch's Wheel Girls [pg. 4]
Ladies Have Fun Too—Mud Honeys [pg. 5]
Cutting New Paths
Adaptive Cycling [pg. 6]
Motocross Madness [pg. 7]
Behind the Wheel with Double D [pg. 8]
The Smoky Mountain Bike Ranch [pg. 2]
Roller-Skiing: A Summertime Rush [pg. 3]
Rusch's Wheel Girls [pg. 4]
Ladies Have Fun Too—Mud Honeys [pg. 5]
Adaptive Cycling [pg. 6]
Motocross Madness [pg. 7]
Behind the Wheel with Double D [pg. 8]
THE SMOKY MOUNTAIN BIKE RANCH
Idaho's Coolest Training Ground
To ensure safety on the tracks, all the coaches at the Bike Ranch are certified mountain bike instructors. Photo courtesy Bike Ranch, Jennifer Biondi.
Three summers ago, the Idaho Smoky Mountain Lodge decided to open a ranch, but instead of breeding cattle, this home on the range raises mountain bikers.
Better known as the only fly-in heli-ski lodge in the lower 48 states, the Smoky Mountain Lodge now offers a summer option for serious mountain bikers and folks who want to get out of Dodge for a while. But don’t worry, grazing on this ranch doesn’t require any hot iron branding.
The goal of Smoky Mountain’s Bike Ranch is to teach comfort and safety while riding, specifically when it comes to technical maneuvers. “As a mountain guide, I want to keep you safe and show you where the good stuff is,” said Mark Baumgardner, who owns the lodge. “Much like what we’ve done with heli-skiing, we want to do with bike ranching.”
According to Baumgardner, there’s been lots of synergy between Smoky Mountain’s well-established heli-skiing operation and the growing mountain biking program. As he explained, “People who stay at the lodge in the winter often ask, ‘What do you do in the summer?’ It’s a very easy segue.”
Yet until recently, Baumgardner didn’t have an answer to that question. He bought the 160-acre property, originally a mining claim, in the early 1990’s to serve as a no-frills base and fuel cache for Sun Valley Heli-Ski. A Canadian-style lodge was eventually built in 2001, leaving only the summer season on the property to be filled. Friends suggested that Baumgardner build a private trail network and the idea took off.
After connecting with Dirt Series instructor Jennifer Biondi, who now runs the program, ranch construction began. What have the two created since? “We have a BMX track. We have a pump track. We have a trail network and it keeps building every year,” she said. Stunt features, like A-frames and teeter-totters, are produced on-site by the lodge’s own sawmill and can be found throughout the nearby woods and meadows. Said Baumgardner, “You learn to ride these things without consequences. If you fall off, it’s no big deal, so you’re able to build your skills and confidence up before taking it to the trail.”
The idea of taking mountain bike lessons is, however, still new. “The challenge is convincing people that this is a valuable experience,” said Baumgardner. Yet as a heli-ski guide he sees real parallels. “Everything is based on progression. It’s very much like teaching skiing,” he explained. Bike Ranch customers receive personal attention throughout the day from the lodge’s team of professional coaches, working on everything from bike-body separation and balance to braking and cadence. Feedback from the clinics has been positive. “It’s really amazing to see the progression,” said Baumgardner. “You truly get your skills dialed.” And that’s the idea: teaching clients how to dominate the difficult sections of their favorite trails by training on similar features at the Bike Ranch first. Where else can you session a pump track, dirt jumps and single track in the same day, not to mention getting a massage and a gourmet meal that evening?
Despite the progress, Baumgardner says his biker’s playground is far from finished. “Our hope down the road is to partner with the Forest Service to improve the single track network out there,” he says. With logging roads in abundance, including old pack trails from the area’s mining days, the potential for expansion is obvious. Even so, the current Idaho Smoky Mountain Bike Ranch has more than enough trails, tracks and coaches to satisfy any rider hoping to wrangle some new skills. -Alec Barfield
ROLLER-SKIING: A Summertime Rush
You’ve seen them. It’s the middle of summer and they are out there in their bright neon shirts and helmets, holding ski poles and skiing … on pavement. No, you don’t have your seasons confused. It really is summertime and these athletes, most of whom are Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) Nordic ski team members, are roller-skiing.
Roller-skiing is a training method for cross-country skiers during the off-season months. It is used to emulate skiing on snow. The equipment consists of two approximately three-foot aluminum or composite shafts with rollerblade wheels on either end. There is a cross-country binding fixed in the middle so your boots can clip right onto the skis. The poles are your basic cross-country ski poles with special tips that will grip the tarmac.
To learn more about these brave roller-skiers and to get advice from a roller-skiing expert, we talked to long-time SVSEF cross country post grad head coach, Chris Mallory.
Sun Valley Magazine: No brakes right? That seems pretty terrifying.
Chris Mallory: If you’re not a cross-country skier, you’re going to want to learn the sport first on snow. The lack of brakes can definitely be a challenge. There are different techniques you can use to slow your speed, and for a last resort, hopefully you’ve got a grassy shoulder. You always want to make sure you take the proper safety precautions, and while some might chose to use more, at a bare minimum, you want to roll with a bike helmet.
SVM: How much of an athlete’s off-season training is devoted to roller-skiing?
CM: In the spring and summer, our team might devote around 30% of training to roller-skiing. Then once fall hits we are on roller-skis around 50% of the time.
SVM: Is it important to supplement roller-skiing with other training?
CM: It is definitely important to mix in other training modes to keep the body and mind fresh. We try to develop a big endurance fitness base through running, biking and ski-bounding with poles, as well as putting an emphasis on strength. But roller-skiing has been a key advancement in our sport in helping athletes develop technique and ski-fitness faster and better. It has also been important in helping athletes develop upper-body power.
SVM: Is it something that anyone could do or is it recommended in a team or training atmosphere?
CM: I’d be hesitant to recommend it to the average Joe. They would lose some skin. But for athletes who are already accomplished skiers, it can be a useful training tool. For rookies, stay on the bike paths, and in the beginning, keep to the flats.
SVM: What is the best route in the Valley for roller-skiing?
CM: We like to use the bike paths up through Elkhorn. They have good rolling hills with ski-like terrain. The hill down past Dollar Mountain is fast though, so you’ve got to be careful through there. Any of the chip-sealed roads generally aren’t too friendly to roller-skiing. It is a huge asset to have the Blaine County Recreation District bike paths that stretch all the way down to Bellevue for distance sessions.
SVM: Now honestly, how similar is it to on-snow skiing?
CM: It’s pretty similar but there’s nothing quite like gliding on snow. -Katie Matteson
RUSCH'S WHEEL GIRLS
The Second Season of a Girls-Only MTB Club Returns to Town
Rebecca Rusch discusses techniques with Nicole Roos with Jen Biondi’s assistance. Photo by Karoline Droege.
It’s not often that aspiring athletes get the chance to train with some of the best athletes in their sport.
But for the second straight summer, aspiring local female mountain bikers will get a chance to train and ride with one of the best in the business—the “Queen of Pain” herself, one of the world’s most successful women mountain bikers, Rebecca Rusch.
Rebecca’s resume and experience as a professional mountain biker are massive. In August 2011, she not only won her third straight Leadville 100, the high altitude “Race of All Races” held each year in Colorado, she crushed her previous year’s course record by 16 minutes. She regularly competes in 24-hour races, marathon bike races, cross-country races and pretty much anything with studded bike tires and dirt.
Last summer, Rebecca decided to start sharing her passion and get more girls on bikes. With fellow mountain-biking rock star and Sun Valley local Karoline Droege, she launched the first-ever season of the Wheel Girls Mountain Bike Club in conjunction with another one of Rebecca’s projects, the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour.
The SRAM Gold Rusch Tour was created as a series of events focused on “getting girls on bikes.” Throughout the summer, Rebecca travels the country to host workshops focused on getting women of all ages and abilities to ride. This summer’s tour includes a “Ladies’ Lounge” at the famous Sea Otter race in Monterey, California, and girls’ clinics in Pennsylvania, Whistler, B.C., and France. But the real highlight of the 2012 SRAM Gold Rusch Tour will be the second season of Sun Valley’s own Wheel Girls.
“Watching how willing these girls are to try, how fast they learn and their huge smiles from little victories, it all gives me a renewed sense of excitement, achievement and inspires me to try new things as well,” Rebbeca said.
“This is the first girls-only club in this Valley. But we aren’t just a club, we want them to learn, participate and volunteer,” Karoline said. She admits that, ideally, they would love to see the girls race but last year, one of the Wheel Girls hadn’t even been on a mountain bike before. “What we really want is for them to have a sense of what this is all about. If they don’t race, that’s ok. Seeing the progression of the girls as athletes and people is amazing.”
Last year the girls in the Wheel Girls Club, which is sponsored by SRAM, Specialized, Galena Lodge and the Blaine County Recreation District, had six girls join and they spent one afternoon a week (the two-hour scheduled sessions always ran longer) learning how to: understand basic mechanics like changing flat tires; about nutrition, hydration and fitness; they also did skill work on some of the area’s best trails.
This summer, Wheel Girls will set the same high standard for mountain bike fun and education. Their only hope is to grow the program and continue to “give girls the confidence so they can do it all on their own,” Droege said. With cool extras like a one-of-a-kind biking jersey, swag from the Gold Rusch Tour, coaching in a clinic-style atmosphere from Karoline and the Queen of Pain with guest pros every week, mountain bikers of all ages, abilities and genders are wishing they could join!
If you or another aspiring female mountain biker you know wants to join, visit goldruschtour.com and get on your bike! -Katie Matteson
RIDE LIKE A GIRL!
Ladies Have Fun, Too
It’s fun to be a sweet girl and then go play in the mud, get all dirty and show the boys how to really ride a bike—and that’s what mountain biking with the Mud Honeys is all about.
Being a member of the Mud Honey Cycling Team means that a mildly talented rider like myself has a chance to ride with and become as fierce a competitor as local bad asses like Simone Kastner (the Super D National Champion), Brooke Hovey (the XC National Champion) and Karoline Droege, to name a few. While I wouldn’t exactly call my near-last-place finishes a threat to anyone, I am out there. I am riding. I am racing. And I am having the time of my life.
While bicycling offers something for everyone—you can ride when you’re young and you can ride when you’re old, you can ride a road or BMX bike, a single speed or a cross bike—there’s something about mountain biking that brings out the need for a little (or sometimes a lot) of self-induced torture. Cross country, downhill, short track—whatever style you choose—nothing beats the rush of single track and the mind-boggling speed it can offer.
Unfortunately, mountain biking has long been male-dominated, a sport “for the boys.” Luckily, a group of local women started asking, “Why are we leaving all that excitement for the boys?” And thus the idea for the Mud Honey Cycling Team. It’s an all-women’s race team designed to break down barriers, build self-esteem and encourage women to test their limits.
Mud Honey India Wysong cruising Lane’s Trail in Adams Gulch. Photo by Tom Robertson.
“It never even dawned on me that you’d ride a bike on the road,” said India Wysong, founder of the Mud Honeys.
India picked up her first mountain bike in 2000, when a co-worker in Vail asked her to join the town race series team. After trading over a Ralph Lauren jacket and a couple hundred bucks, she had her first mountain bike. Granted, it was two sizes too small, but that didn’t stop her from being totally engulfed by the sport. That was it, she was hooked, and shortly thereafter she started her first all-female cycling club, dubbed High Maintenance (sort of appropriate for Vail, isn’t it?).
After moving to Sun Valley in 2003 Wysong began noticing that women were riding here, but they weren’t coming to races. A true advocate for women and cycling, Wysong began thinking of how she could put together a women’s race club in Sun Valley, and thus the Mud Honeys were born.
The goal of the Mud Honey Cycling Team is simple: to get women out on the trails, to encourage one another and be part of the community and the local bike culture.
Each year, the Mud Honeys gather for races, skills clinics, social outings and just hitting the trail. The club has requirements to be a member, so don’t think you can just walk right up and join just for the super-cute cycling outfits (called ‘kits’). Each member has to attend or volunteer for at least three races per season.
“We are here to contribute to the enthusiasm of getting together and riding bikes, a social group of women with a motive,” India explained.
Keep your eye out at this summer’s Nationals held here in Sun Valley because several of the group’s 45 members have qualified and have great shots at making the podium.
The Mud Honeys’ spirit, courage and humility are contagious. Personally, I feel fortunate to have befriended such a group of female athletes and, as a result, I am a better athlete and a better person. I now have the confidence to hit any trail with skill and enthusiasm … well, almost any trail. -Nancy Glick
A Different Type of Pedal Power
Ever seen a mountain bike with three fat tires?
Poised face-first over a six-inch-deep creek, Jet Turner has to drop in or go home. There’s a bridge that other bikes—typical two-wheeled mountain bikes—zip across, but it’s out of the question for Turner’s adaptive bike, which is simply too wide. He plunges forward into the chilly water before coming to an abrupt stop in the middle of the creek.
So he summons his arm-generated strength—right, left, right, left, arms pedaling, not legs—and he makes his way up and out of the water to the rocky Adams Gulch trail and continues through the warm August day. The great dirt and Wood River Valley scenery that mountain bikers live for abounds. Soon the single track widens, then narrows so much he’s plowing brush on the right side. But his trek continues.
“I think it took six hours,” Turner later said of his ride. “It was only six miles, but it was pretty rocky and tough.” Pausing, he added, “It’s not very fast, but it’s nice to be out there.”
The “One-Off Handcycle” is property of Sun Valley Adaptive Sports (SVAS). It has 24 gears with the standard eight-speed cassette in the rear and two mountain drives up front. “Each mountain drive reduces the drive ratio by two-and-a-half times by simply pushing a button. In the lowest gear it’s very low and a person can spin the three-inch-wide knobby tire,” said Turner, who has partial strength in his arms due to an incomplete quadriplegic c-5 injury. He compares the mountain bike to his other ride, a hand-pedaled recumbent road bike, explaining:,“The mountain bike works more with gravity. You can use your physical strength better, because it gets your body over the cranks. But it takes a lot of strength. A lot more.”
Adaptive mountain bikes are expensive and rare (hence the name “One-Off”), so it’s a great advantage to the local community and visitors that SVAS has a fleet of bikes to lend at a moment’s notice so that riders of all abilities can enjoy the world-class mountain biking around Sun Valley.
“We keep several adaptive bikes at the office for anyone in town who wants to use one for a day or a week at a time,” said Kate Weihe, operations manager at SVAS. “It’s a great way to get out and about.”
Other bikes in their cache include road bikes, a double-seater, a motorized bike and several cruisers. Turner got so much mileage on the office’s recumbent road bike that he bought his own four years ago. Now he does eight miles a day, which includes the roundtrip from his home in Bellevue to his job as a geothermal power plant structural designer in Hailey and a lunch trip in between. He’s clocked 1,200 miles annually since 2010.
“The bicycle provides a lot of freedom of movement and ability to get outside,” said Turner. “There’s not all that many riders here, but I sure enjoy it.”
It looks like this summer he may have more companions on the trails than ever before, as SVAS continues to expand its bike programs, and prominence about the sport of hand cycling continues to keep rolling along. -Dana Nichols
IMRA Raises the Bar
Dave Sundholm is an equal opportunity two-wheeler. He considers himself an avid mountain and dirt bike rider. But when asked what the real difference is between the two and what he loves most about riding his motorcycle, he is quick to answer. “On a motorcycle, you can just keep going,” he said.
As a member and the de facto president of the Idaho Mountain Dirt Riders Association (IMDRA), Dave gets to share this love and enthusiasm for all things dirt bike with his community. Founded a few years ago to give motocross riders a unified voice in this activity-crazy community, the club has been reinvigorated in the past year, gaining non-profit status and forming an unofficial board, made up of five equally excited and equally passionate motocross riders.
Their official mission reads: “Dedicated to the rights of the individual and family who want a fun and safe experience when riding. It is our commitment to work with all user groups, to maintain existing and create new trail and track opportunities, as well as promote the unique riding in the state of Idaho.” While that might seem like a huge undertaking, to those involved, the IMDRA mission is simple: Love to ride and share it with others. Whether that is through promoting awareness and trail etiquette, working on trails with fellow riders and other user groups, partaking in the Bureau of Land Management Travel Planning Process, grant writing for track improvements, developing new tracks and trails, hosting weekly clinics and group trail rides or organizing used gear exchanges, IMDRA is well on its way to accomplishing its goals.
“We just want to keep trails and tracks open for enjoyment and for motorcycle use,” Dave said about the club’s goals. As for the multiple user groups that enjoy the recreation areas that this community offers, he believes that everyone can work together, can share the trails and be happy. “All users damage the trails in different ways. And what a lot of people don’t realize is that a lot of the Valley’s best trails, the ones that aren’t deteriorating as quickly, were built by motorcycle riders,” he said. Because of this, IMDRA and many of its riders have been asked to help create and build new trails of all kinds. They might be a two-wheeled motorcycle club, but none of the trails that motorcycles enjoy are user-specific. They do their best to live in harmony with fellow users and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds.
The other big item on IMDRA’s agenda for this summer is the creation of a brand-new, state-of-the-art motocross track that will blow the Valley’s existing tracks out of the water. A project spearheaded by fellow IMDRA board member Chase Gouley (check out the profile of Chase on page 70), this is a dream come true for riders who love the track. Located on a piece of farmland near Carey, this commercial track facility will be privately owned but managed by the club and enjoyed by just about everybody who loves to ride.
When you add the new track to the club’s already long list of projects and goals for the motocross community, it might seem daunting. But these dirt-loving, motorcycle-riding folks are really just helping to be good stewards of the land, get along with others and have a darned good time. -Katie Matteson
BEHIND THE WHEEL
With Double D
It takes a big dose of courage—and maybe a shot or two of crazy—to get behind the wheel of an off-road race car. So it should come as no surprise that the extraordinary life of driver Paul “Double D” Robinson has been full of courage—and a little bit of “loco,” too.
After growing up surfing along the Southern California coast and then learning to ski at Sun Valley, the 54 year-old with long ties to the Wood River Valley has made a name for himself in off-road racing.
Since most of us will never get the opportunity—or have the nerve—to drive an off-road race car, Double D shares what it’s like to sit behind the wheel as the dirt flies.
“So much work goes into getting ready for a race,” says Double D, who does everything from rally up sponsorship to build the car, assemble the team and then do the driving. “So when I finally get in the car to start the race, that’s the best part.”
The car is a Pro 9 model (which runs anywhere from $7,000-15,000 in racing shape). It’s open-wheeled and has a four-speed, 95-horse, 1600-cc stock Volkswagen engine purring under the rectangular hood—a “VW on steroids,” as Double D puts it. There is no windshield. There are two seats, one for the driver and one for the only person whose sanity could be more questionable than the driver’s, a navigator.
They’re both wearing helmets, fire resistant race suits and are harnessed into the seats like they’re practically wearing straightjackets. “It can get a little claustrophobic at first,” says Double D, who started racing cars at the age of 16.
The average off-road race runs about five non-stop, bone-rattling hours across hot, dry desert terrain. The driver alone will sweat off about 10 pounds.
On average, only a little more than half the cars will even finish a race. But those kinds of odds don’t bother Double D. He’s spent most of his life defying such statistics.
As they roll up to the starting line, Double D isn’t worried about just finishing, he’s thinking about making the podium (something he’s done over 40 times in his career). “I’m a nervous wreck until we hit that starting line. Then I’m fine,” says Double D, whose first dance with danger came when he was diagnosed with bone cancer as a teenager. “Then it’s just time to do my thing.”
Double D (left) launches toward a 5th overall finish at “The Battle at Primm.” Photo courtesy Paul Robinson.
A DUSTY DOWNHILL
Like a ski racer exploding from the starting gate, the car takes off. Speeds will hit up to 100 mph. Sand, sagebrush and the carnage of crashed cars fly past.
“The best way to explain it to someone who skis is, imagine you’re running down the famous Hahnenkamm downhill for five hours straight, except it’s all bumped up like Exhibition,” Double D says with a grin. “It seems like nothing else is moving but you.”
Despite growing up on a surfboard, Double D actually got his nickname from skiing. After high school, he left the coast for the friendly confines of Ketchum where locals taught him how to ski. He eventually became a solid ski racer and even made appearances as a skier in beer commercials. Sometime during his skiing heyday, Double D earned his well-known nickname. Some say it stands for “Downhill Dillman,” others say “Dare Devil”; either way, he got it for his near-reckless abandon on skis. It’s the same trait that serves him so well on the racetrack.
“When I get in that car I think, I’m going to war—with the other racers, with the car. There’s only so much it can take,” says Double D, who has not only overcome cancer, but has also survived a couple near drowning experiences. “You’re not letting off the throttle when a bump comes up. You just jump it.”
Of course, jumping dirt mounds is nothing to a guy who once had to jump from a burning house. He was caught in a natural gas explosion while shellacking a house on Knob Hill back in 1989. He was knocked down and engulfed by flames, but managed to make it out. Double D suffered 3rd-degree burns on 75% of his body, but he kept right on skiing, surfing and racing.
“I thrive on challenge and off-road racing is about as challenging as it gets. It’s the most brutal sport on four wheels there is,” says Double D, who credits his dirt driving skills to his time swerving through the snow of Idaho.
“It’s a lot like driving in snow. That’s why I’m so good at it,” he laughs.
THE FINISH LINE
Dirt-covered, exhausted, drenched in sweat, but lucky enough to finish intact, the race comes to a close. It usually takes about three days for the driver and navigator to feel normal again. Double D can barely even lift his arms to get out after most races, but he usually finishes—and more often than not makes the podium.
As Double D, who named his team 9 Lives Racing in honor of his several crazy run-ins with death, explains, “I’m just as lucky a person as you’re ever going to find.” -Mike McKenna