Issue 11.1

Welcome to Issue 11.1

Mountain bikers have long been a communal bunch. We ride together, we build trail together, we drink beer together—everyone is welcome. Therefore, when faced with an unprecedented challenge, there’s no question of our ability to overcome whatever we might be up against. Whether exploring the war-torn regions of the Balkan Peninsula, finding a new connection to ancestral land, recognizing an unprecedented new generation of rippers or striving for up-close-and-personal photos of the world, it is ingrained in our culture that strength comes through unity.

The Oregon Coast is known as a guarded place. Spend enough time there and you will realize it’s protected because it’s so special.

The Pacific Ocean delivers constant swell to beautiful beaches while verdant forests cover endless ridge-lines. Mix in sand dunes, pristine rivers, maritime culture and deep indigenous roots, and it’s truly a beautiful anomaly.

For mountain bikers, though, it has a noticeable lack of trails. The North Coast Trail Alliance (NCTA)—a subchapter of Northwest Trail Alliance—led by President Steve Blakesley and Vice President Chris Quackenbush and backed by many volunteers, is actively changing that with the Klootchy Creek Trails. The NCTA saw how well a curated trail network was received in Oakridge, Oregon, a small community outside of Eugene, and felt Seaside could be a destination trail experience in a place tourists don’t associate with mountain biking. As it turns out, a network of trails on the coast has a lot of advantages other areas in Oregon do not...

Words and Photos by Brandon Sawaya

Almost 20 years ago, my wife Allison and I started a lifetime of family adventures in the mountains while the eldest of our three children was still in the womb.

We were living in Austin, Texas, and much to the chagrin of our midwife, we headed out on a road trip to Colorado in our old VW Synchro Westy. Eight months pregnant with sprouting plant jars on the dash and the phone number of a midwife in New Mexico (just in case), we took an amazing monthlong journey of hiking, climbing and hanging out as a twosome. It was our last trip before family life, but in many ways it set the tone for our next 20 years.

We’ve wild-schooled our three kids their entire lives, as they spent their formative years on our organic farm in the Colorado Rockies. Barefoot and fancy free, they learned the fine art of living and recreating in the quiet, wide-open spaces of their backyard. Mountain biking, climbing and feeling comfortable in the wilderness became second nature to them...

Words by Josh Elmore | Photos by Col Elmore

Putting one foot in front of the other is all I can think about.

It’s hot, I’m dripping with sweat and we’ve just begun pushing our bikes up the day’s first climb. I gaze past my handlebars and behold the beauty of a golden landscape glowing beneath a bright blue sky. It’s mid-October in the Korab mountains of Southeast Europe’s Balkan Peninsula, and the autumn colors have reached their peak.

I stop to catch my breath, taking in the immensity of my surroundings before making my last push to the top. As I join my teammates, Germans Julia Hofmann, Daniel Schaefer and our Albanian guide Endrit, at the pass, we look back at the lonely border checkpoint we’d been shuttled through in a four-wheel-drive vehicle earlier this morning. Three men guard this solitary outpost, a recently constructed building with flags delineating the border between Kosovo and Albania.

We’ve spent the past two days riding in Kosovo, starting just outside of Pristina, the country’s capital and largest city. Our plan is to ride across these mountains, which straddle the borders between Kosovo, Albania and North Macedonia, and as we dip into Albanian territory, we know we have a long day ahead of us...

Words and Photos by Carlos Blanchard

You might well know the feeling: You’re fully pinned on your go-to trail, railing corners and generally having the ride of your life, when suddenly a pack of tiny teenagers flashes past you in a pint-sized flurry of speed and fury, leaving you in dust clouds of shock and disbelief.

If you haven’t experienced this phenomenon, then brace yourself. Because it’s coming soon to a trail near you. And when it comes, this runaway train of little humans will blaze by you so quickly you’ll only wish you could be the caboose.

In the past few years, a new generation of next-level rippers has emerged, giving glimpses of raw brilliance seldom before seen at such tender ages. We’re talking about kids 11 and 12 years old who are dropping their semipro-level parents on some of the world’s most challenging trails. Or 15-year-old downhill racers who are qualifying at times faster than some of the World Cup circuit’s elite men. Even on the freeride front— until recently the domain of male riders—15-year-old

girls are joining massive jump sessions with the likes of Logan Peat and Brandon Semenuk. The sheer talent of these young shredders has many predicting we’re on the verge of a quantum leap in progression—one that is bigger and more profound than anything our sport has ever seen...

Words by Brice Minnigh

It was 2012, and Patrick Lucas was working as a consultant, the liaison between First Nations in British Columbia and community development grants from the federal government.

“Lots of it was unsatisfying work,” he says. “I was the white dude flying in to a First Nations community to write a stupid, thick report no one was going to read.”

Lucas had gotten into riding while doing development work in the jungles of Laos, spending weekends exploring the backroads and paths linking indigenous villages. When he moved back to Canada, he started riding on Vancouver’s North Shore. Soon, mountain biking was all he talked about. It was his escape from a tough, often thankless, job.

“It was usually stressful work, so I’d go for rides on the way to a meeting or after,” he says. “Sometimes both.”

For years, he worked with the Boothroyd Indian Band, a small community a few hours northeast of his Vancouver home. When he’d show up at Boothroyd, there was always a bike on his car, and an elder in the community took notice.

“He asked me, ‘What do you know about mountain biking?’” Lucas remembers.

The elder pointed out that the kids of the community were always riding their bikes, building jumps out of any pile of dirt they found and stunts out of any wood they could scrounge or steal.

“We don’t want them to stop,” the elder said. “Can you help us build them a bike park?”

Words by Ryan Stuart

It all started with a cold snap at the end of October.

Halloween was only a few days away when the temps began to drop. By the time trick-or-treaters headed into the neighborhoods of our hometown of Sainte-Adele, in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec, conditions were well below freezing and the forecast showed nothing but snow.

As Quebec natives, neither my wife Jennifer nor I are strangers to the cold; we know how to settle into the province’s frigid, white winters. This October, however, we weren’t ready. To truly appreciate the next six snowy months, we needed one final dose of warmth.

Desperate to escape the cold and tired of our previous camping arrangements (sleeping in the bed of our truck), we decided to devote December to a biking road trip and bought a Dodge ProMaster van to facilitate the adventure. It took a month and hundreds of YouTube tutorial videos, but by the end of November we’d turned the ProMaster into a camper/bike garage combo we dubbed the Black Rocket.

Now we just needed to come up with a plan...

Words by Alain Denis and Sakeus Bankson

What do pearl earrings, darkrooms and a Polaroid camera have in common?

They’re all elements that led Colorado-born Leslie Kehmeier to her profession as an adventure photographer. At only 9 years old she started her journey via a school program that eventually steered her into the process of developing images in a darkroom— even though she was afraid of the dark. Those early analog years of developing film, coupled with a camera that her parents gave her after a trip to Asia, ignited her interest in photography.

Her passion for adventure was also kindled at an early age. Her parents regularly took Kehmeier and her sister Carrie on trips that entailed flying on planes to far-away locations. Even at the young age of 10 she was adamant that her camera be loaded with film so she could document these travels. The Polaroid and pearl earrings were given to her later in life—after a close aunt passed away—but they are sources of significant inspiration. Kehmeier has since traveled to all of Earth’s seven continents, and wherever she goes, she wears the earrings as a way of bringing her aunt with her.

She recently carried the Polaroid on a bikepacking trip to Nepal in April 2018. As she made her way around the Annapurna Circuit, she photographed locals and left them with pictures of themselves. The joy of gifting the photos far outweighed the actual weight of carrying an additional piece of equipment along a self-supported journey that climbed above 17,000 feet of elevation...

Words by Elladee Brown | Photos by Leslie Kehmeier

My good friend George Vandercook and I grew up on the Beaverkill River in upstate New York, where besides boasting world-renowned fly fishing, the conservation-focused valley also has miles of techy singletrack.

Even though my house was within a stone’s throw of one of the river’s finest fishing holes, I can count on one hand the amount of times I cast a fly into what I considered the perfect swimming hole. Maybe it was my attention span. Or maybe it was because of the dirt jumps we were building on the other side of our house. I always saw fly fishing as a “retirement sport.” For George though, the river became his thing.

Two decades later, George, along with our good buddies Jack Porter and Rudy Babikan, runs Los Locos, a fishing operation along Baja California Sur’s Magdalena Bay. The trio makes its annual pilgrimage south in October and spends the next two months guiding clients and hunting for marlin. Mexico’s Baja Peninsula is a mecca for dedicated fishermen, dirtbag surfers, throttle-twisting enthusiasts and individuals willing to ride their touring bikes for 1,000-plus miles. I do not fit into a single one of those categories...

Words by Cody Wilkins | Photos by Jay Goodrich