I hopped back on the ride today for a bit of zone 2 building. I’m still trying to decide if I’m going to race the True Grit, but if I am I need to start riding my bike more. Hard to do with a big storm on the way that could last for 10 days. I want to take advantage of this epic winter.
After talking about my story with backcountry skiing yesterday, I wanted to tell my story of mountain biking.
It all started when I was 6 years old. My two older brothers were going biking with my Dad and uncle at Lambert Park in Alpine. I of course wanted to join them, and because of the kindness of my fathers heart, he was willing to sacrifice more fun, to teach his little boy a little bit about riding on single track. I told him I could just ride back and forth on the dirt road at the bottom while they actually went and rode on the trails, but obviously when we got there that wasn’t what I wanted to do.
All I had was a Walmart BMX bike with no brakes. I somehow managed to ride it up Rodeo Up to where it turns to middle spring. Thankfully my Dad had thought ahead and brought a rope that he tied to the front of his bike, a 1990’s Schwin. We then began the treacherous descent as he broke for both of us. I’m not sure I even remember actually doing this, or if I just remember the story being told to me, but either way it’s epic.
I didn’t go much after that, maybe a couple times a summer. My friends, and older brothers and I would often build jumps/tracks in the 50 acre field that bordered my backyard in Highland UT. We spent many summer afternoons “messing around” on our bikes in the same way that many kids do. It was fun.
Then when I turned 11 I got a Gary Fisher kids mountain bike for my birthday. I felt like the coolest kid in the world with my navy blue bike and red and orange flames.
Every fall break we would go on a boys camping trip that usually involved backpacking somewhere in the snowy Uintah mountains and fishing. But one year we decided to stay closer to home and do some mountain biking up American Fork Canyon. We headed for the Ridge trail 157 from the summit parking lot, over to the Tibble Fork DH. It was pouring rain, and I knew we shouldn’t keep going, but I was the youngest and no one listened to me. Because of the mud, and due to our novice abilities, it took us 6 hours to get from the summit to Tibble Fork. For reference I can do it in around 30 minutes now. I think the mud added about 5 years of wear to our already old bikes, and it wasn’t my happiest experience on the bike. I didn’t like it.
Then when I was 14 years old I was starting to get tired of soccer. I had been playing since I was 4 with several of those years being competitive on a club team. We practiced rigorously and we weren’t a very good team. It got to the point where I was dreading going to practice and games were just okay. I started looking for something else.
I explored the idea of playing rugby, and ice-hockey, but neither was really calling to me. At the same time one of my good friends and I started going mountain biking a few times a week. I used my brothers 1998 Santa Cruz Heckler and loved it. We would go anytime we could get a ride from our parents to the trailhead at Lambert Park. I was hooked on the progression and exploration. Every ride felt like a new adventure.
I remember spending what felt like an entire Saturday exploring all of the trails at Lambert and fixing several flats. It was simply good times with good friends. No stress about riding a certain way or looking a certain way. We were simply enjoying the sport in one of the simplest ways.
I wore what I had, my short soccer shorts with a t-shirt.
At around this same time, I found out there was a mountain biking team. I’m a naturally competitive person and like the idea of winning and so to have a chance to race seemed like something I would like. In the early Spring of 2014 I went to the mountain bike info team mtg right after a soccer game and loved what I saw. The head coach, Erin Tetro, was warm and welcoming. The older riders were kind and supportive.
In soccer it always felt cutthroat. It was hard to let loose and just enjoy playing. I felt a different energy around cycling. It seemed like everyone was there to try to have fun and help each other to be the best they could be. I quickly found out that Parker Hoopes was the fastest kid on the team. He was two years older than me and an absolute legend.
I messaged him on Facebook asking if he’d be willing to go ride with me. He was super cool and we spent an afternoon at Lambert Park. I learned a ton. He recommended that I ditch the camel back because it added a lot of unnecessary weight. He helped me with some climbing and descending technique, and he was just overall super kind. The whole team looked up to him and he was a legend.
I then had a super supportive young mens president, Matt Tennison who found out I was starting to mountain bike. He told me had an old kit he could give me. I went over to his house and he gave me a super nice Pedal Industries kit. I was starting to look the part. Matt Tennison had already been racing for a couple of years and so he was able to guide me in a good direction and help me grow in my understanding of the sport.
My plan was to race the first season on my brothers 1998 Santa Cruz Heckler, but I quickly realized that having a good bike was a big deal in performing well. So I got to work.
I got a one time job at one of my neighbors house to do some yard work. And while I was there pulling the weeds, their next-door neighbor, who I’ll call the caseton’s asked if I would work for them. I was thrilled. I spent nearly every summer morning talking to Sister Caseton and doing whatever she wanted me to do. We would sometimes just chat after about her kids, and the simple things of life. I saved up nearly $1000 to buy my first bike. My parents were going to help me out as well for my Birthday and Christmas.
I spent a lot of my afternoons on KSL looking for a good fit. At some point my Dad said, why don’t you just filter and say “Carbon” and “XTR.” This led us to finding a 2011 Joe Breezer Cloud 9 ltd carbon. I think we ended up getting it for around $1300 and it was soooo awesome. The difference was remarkable.
My dad had a 2010 Specialized Stumjumper Comp 29er. It was fun to ride, but switching from an aluminum frame to a carbon frame was incredible. I remember going over Rock Gardens on the River Trail at Lambert and it felt like I was on a cloud, like the name suggested. I was thrilled with the capabilities of the bike and it made my love for the sport grow even further.
I remember when I showed up to practice after I got it and I had one of the lightest bikes on the team. It’s crazy how High School racing has changed since then.
My first race was a scrimmage with a few of the other teams in the valley. I did pretty well, placing 3rd in freshman. While I was there I saw Cameron Larson, who quickly became an idol for me. I found out that he had podiumed at Nationals or something and that he was SUPER fast, which is still true.
Then a couple of weeks later I raced the Alpine Days Race. This was my first official race. I went off the line with Tyler Christansen and Truman Glasgow (who I’ve been racing ever since) and after a couple of miles I dropped them both. I was ecstatic! On my way to win my first race!! And then on corkscrew I shifted into my easiest gear and my chain got stuck in my cassette.
It was pretty frustrating as it took over 15 minutes to get it out, even with my Dads help who was also racing. I ended up just finishing and I think I got last place. But I was still hooked on racing and the adrenaline and flow that came with it.
About a week later I crashed head on into a scout troop and thankfully none of us were injured, but I snapped my carbon bars. I wasn’t sure what to do, because carbon bars were expensive and I didn’t want to downgrade, especially right before the race season. I was talking bout it with the team when Caleb Baker said, “My Dad owns a bike shop.”
This was when I met Wes Baker, the owner of Spry Cycles who I was thrilled to buy a carbon bar from for around $30! Compared to the $100+ options elsewhere, this was a big deal for me. At this point a long relationship was formed, but more on that another day.
Soon after the Nica Season began. The first race was at Solider Hollow. After a mid-pack start I just passed as many people as I could the entire race and slid into the top 10 with a 9th place finish. The second race was at Corner Canyon which didn’t offer very good passing. And with temps in the mid 90’s combined with deep moon dust, I didn’t perform super well but managed 8th. The following race in Moab I won an intense sprint finish with Jacob Draper and got 4th! My first time on the podium!
Then at Eagle Mountain I got 3rd and was within sight of 1st and 2nd. I knew I had it in me to win.
The final race was State Championships in St. George. I did everything I could to prepare and felt ready on race day. At this point there was only one region, so were racing against the same people at State Champs that we were during all of the other races. On the first climb at the green valley course, Connor Lacey and I dropped the rest of the field. On the final steep pitch we probably had at least 30 seconds on everyone else. At this point I shifted into my easiest gear, and again my chain was sucked into my spokes which broke a spoke, which gave me a flat tire. And then in order to get the chain out we had to snap it. Basically my bike exploded. After two 5 minute penalties and 30+ minutes to get my bike fixed, most of the racers had already finished the two lap race. I rode all alone to finish out the second lap and came in sobbing.
I was devastated to be so close to a big win, and then have everything ruined because of mechanical failure.
But that was just the beginning of A LOT of racing. I’ll keep telling you the story of my journey, but for now I hope you enjoyed the beginnings and the foundation of what has been one of the most rewarding parts of my life.
Let me know if you have any questions.