Bike Mag’s Heavy Pedal Tour: Final Episode
Mammoth, Northstar and more...
By Natty and Trey
Photos by Devon Balet
Well, it’s done. We mashed our pedals at twelve different bike parks within the United States. No complaining here. The experience is one that we will never forget, and one that we hope to do again next year on the 2013 Heavy Pedal Tour. We’re thinking the East Coast Bike Parks deserve a visit and/or the B.C. Bike Parks. We think our followers should cast a vote and dictate the 2013 HPT itinerary. It was totally worth all the long drives, packing and unpacking, and too many gas station meals. We’ll miss the routine of drive, check-in, charge Go Pros and cameras, do laundry, maintain bikes, upload photos and video, etc… Arguments about Flat Pedals vs Clipless, Super D vs Enduro racing, and Black Diamond trails vs Blue trails as a proper warm up, are all things we can laugh about now (sort of…)!
After leaving Stevens Pass, we rolled though Olympia, Washington, as our friends threw us a rockin’ pump track party on a Monday night. At least twenty of our friends showed up, even with work pending the next day. We do have some awesome friends! After leaving Oly, we headed down to Bend, Oregon, to meet up with the good folks at American Licorice Co., one of our sponsors. (though, we don’t need an excuse to go to Bend, because we absolutely love it there!)
We got to see American Licorice’s head-quarters and stock-up on more of their strawberry “Natural Vines” licorice that we had become so addicted to. Then, a mandatory stop at the Ten Barrel restaurant for tasty brews and our favorite pizza in town. We hit the road again after a night spent camping in the parking lot. Our only disappointment was that we didn’t get to ride “Whoops”, our favorite trail in the area. Rolling though Bend was a quick trip this time, but we will be back, no doubt.
Following our check-in to a plush condo at Northstar Bike Park near Lake Tahoe, we crashed hard after the long drive from Bend. The next morning we were bright eyed and bushy tailed! Ready to crush rocks under our tires. We headed out to meet up with Forrest Philpot, bike park manager, at Northstar to get the scoop on their impressive trail system.
Northstar is known for hosting multiple downhill races throughout the year, on trails with steep, gnarly, rock gardens. “Livewire” is Northstar’s signature trail that’s irrigated daily to keep the dust down to a minimum and provide tacky dirt while riders send it on over 50-foot-plus jumps! Northstar has 33 gravity-fed trails with another fifteen multi-use trails that can be accessed from the lift system. There are so many trails that we didn’t even have a chance to ride them all.
Northstar is a well-established bike park with some really cool features. One feature in particular was off a trail called “Little Trees”. It was a huge, diagonally-oriented boulder with ladder bridges on either end, allowing mountain bikers to hit it like a giant wall ride. This feature was intimidating at first, but with a little bit of commitment and the right speed, it was no problem.
We soon became fixated by “Boondocks” (double black), a trail that was packed with eye-appealing, natural lines that challenged our bike handling skills. On the other hand, “Karpiel” and “Dog Bone” are ‘big bike’ trails that had us crying out for a full-on DH rig. Having said that, our Diamondback Scapegoats’ killed it on all but the most heinous of rock gardens. Ideally, we would have had two bikes at Northstar. One for park-style riding, and one for the required, big-baller moves. This mountain had everything. We were never bored or left wanting for more. At each day’s end we were completely worn out!
Thanks to Jessica VanPernis, Senior Communications Manager, at Northstar, who was able to get us tickets to their “Autumn Food and Wine Festival.” Yep, right place, at the right time, again! Tapatio tequila and gourmet food after a long day of riding never tasted soooo good!
Natty’s Northstar Favorite:
“Boondocks” (double black diamond) and the start of “Little Trees” (black diamond).
Trey’s Northstar Favorite:
Such a huge variety of trails, I can’t decide. The fish tacos at the Mid-mountain cantina were delicious.
Mammoth Mountain Bike Park lives up to it’s name. For sheer size and beauty, Mammoth beats out all the other bike parks that we’ve been to. It’s close proximity to both Yosemite National Park and Devil’s Postpile National Monument, plus the epic views of the Minarets’ 12,000-plus foot jagged peaks from the trail system, all make for an unforgettable experience.
The volcanic nature of the mountain, however, creates a unique, and sketchy, trail surface under tire that is extremely challenging for the uninitiated mountain biker. Two-wheel drifting through every turn and floating over the deep pumice marbles is the local’s technique for shredding this mountain. It was apparent from our first run down the trails that we had a lot to learn.
Mammoth holds the distinction of being one of the first lift-served bike parks in the world. They run multiple lifts and shuttle buses to service over 3,000 feet of vertical descent. Mark Hendrickson (Mammoth’s Bike Park Manager) and his crew have done an amazing job using tons of paver bricks, wood and metal in harmony with the spectacular natural terrain to create a very progressive downhill trail system.
“Pipeline” and “Twilight Zone” are signature double black diamond trails that have a plethora of must-do features. The aptly-named, “Concrete Jungle” is a super flowy section of trail with berms linking (hipped) tabletop jumps, made entirely of paver bricks! Holy traction batman! We had never before seen or experienced anything like it. Also, not to be missed, is the “deep end”, a 50-foot long and 12-foot wide, banked wall ride. Sir Isaac Newton would approve. We certainly did!
True gap jumps are few and far between at most of the bike parks we’ve visited in the U.S. Mammoth, however, is not scared to throw in some mandatory gaps on their trails for those with the huevos to hit ’em. If this description fits your style of riding, then head over to “Pipeline” for your fix. On the other end of the spectrum is the “Techno Rock” trail with it’s steep, rowdy, rock drop features best sent on 8 inches of squish between your legs, for those inevitable bad line choices. If, like us, you need a good warm up before hucking your meat, head up to ride the “Off The Top” trail before getting a dose of the “Shock Treatment” downhill. You can thank us later.
Natty’s Mammoth Favorite:
Trey’s Mammoth Favorite:
“Twilight Zone” and “Techno Rock” trails. Mammoth Brewing Company’s tasting room and their Epic IPA!
What a crazy trip it has been. The “2012 Heavy Pedal Tour” is a wrap. However, we are continuing our travels. We still have the passion and desire to explore this great planet and document the adventure in words, pictures and video. Check us out at www.nattyntrey.blogspot.com
Natty and Trey