September 7, 2022
Biking has been an integral part of my life for the past 10 years. I’ve changed career paths, committed to seasonal work, and moved around to pursue my dream of being in the bike industry. And, even more so, to share my passion for biking – whether it’s getting a customer excited about an upcoming tour, empowering a beginner rider to feel more confident on their bike, or guiding a guest through new terrain in SW Utah. These moments remind me to reflect on the why I ride bikes.
Grassroots Gravel Bike Race in Island Park, Idaho
I’ve driven the road that takes you through Island Park, Idaho (longest main street in the US), many times, but have rarely stopped. It’s a snowmobiler’s paradise in the winter and a fly fisherman’s dream in the summer. The continental divide also runs through the area and attracts hikers and backpackers from all over the world. It’s a beautiful area that I have always wanted to explore, but it always seemed that I was in a time crunch anytime I was passing through.
This year, I chose to spend my summer just south of Island Park in Driggs, Idaho. Being in close proximity, I knew I could create opportunities to get up there and explore. When I found out about the Gravel Pursuit, a grassroots gravel race that goes through the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, I signed myself up.
I didn’t think twice. I’ve been in over a handful of 50+ mile mountain bike races—it couldn’t be much harder, right? My biking schedule is pretty sporadic, but I try to ride 4–5 days a week. Following a training routine for biking is not my favorite thing; I would rather just go out and have fun on my bike. I knew 60 miles was going to be a slight stretch, though I always go into challenges with a positive attitude and a strong mindset. No expectations were set for this gravel race. I was participating to have fun and experience a new area by the seat of my bike.
We lined up, the countdown started, and off we went. Everyone started their own journey to the finish line. Some were racing, some were riding for fun, and others were out there to challenge themselves. When I came upon a tandem bike with a dad and his seven-year-old son, I couldn’t help but smile and think, what a cool event to do with your dad at that age. Later, I found out those two were seasoned bike packers and have been on many multi-day adventures. What an awesome way to grow up.
Facing the Gravel Challenge with New Bike Friends
Shortly after, I took note of how I was feeling. I was still warming up, and my legs didn’t feel completely loose—they felt slightly heavy. I hoped this wasn’t an indicator of how they would feel for the entire ride. I caught up to a new friend, who I’d met the night before. He is an ultra-bike racer recovering from a hip injury and just out for a joy ride. We talked about many of his adventures and how excited he was about riding this route in the summer, as he had only fat biked it in the winter among groomed snowmobile trails for the Fat Pursuit race. It was familiar terrain, but he was utterly surprised by the surface—a fun mix of everything and very little of what “gravel” seems to mean these days. The route took us on mostly forest service roads that were loose, rocky, sandy, and rutted out in some areas. There was about a mile of riding through a swamp, 4 miles of singletrack on the continental divide, and a punchy hike-a-bike section that sat just below the high point, Mount Two Top. The 360 views of surrounding mountain tops, green meadows blanketed in yellow, orange, purple, and pink wildflowers made the struggle to the top well worth it.
From here, there was a fast descent amongst the endless fields of wildflowers into aid station 1. The challenges went on, my legs continued to feel heavy, and all I could think about was how am I going to finish this race if I’m already struggling and not even half-way. I mentioned to my friend that I thought I was in trouble, and he said “why?” After telling him how I was feeling, all he said was “we have all day”—and he was right. I had to remember that I’m here to ride and have fun, not compete. He ended up supporting me through the rest of the race. Could I have finished it without his support, yes, but it would have been much more of a struggle.
Gravel Bike, Mountain Bike, Road Bike: Just Ride
We eventually made it to the finish line 6.5 hours later. It was the longest I had ever been on a bike, and it was worth every second of pain and second-guessing my ability to complete that big of a ride. As I reflect on this adventure, and it was indeed an adventure ride, I realize that I had put no pressure on myself, which is very unusual for me. It made the ride so much more enjoyable and it’s a good reminder of why I ride bikes. To have fun, explore new areas, meet incredible people, and to be part of a growing community. This event was like no other—It was grassroots, there were no big banners, the vibe was laid back, and there was a potato bar for lunch and a cook-off for dinner. It was a group of like-minded people coming together to ride, eat good food, and build community.
Our Sacred Rides motto is live life to the fullest & explore the world by mountain bike, but in reality, exploring the world by any bike will create an incredible experience. Ready to create your own memories or test your limits? Whether you want to ride mountain or gravel bike, Sacred Rides has a trip that you are sure to enjoy. Check out our schedule at Sacred Rides Mountain Bike Tour Schedule — Sacred Rides.
Why do you ride bikes?