This article appeared in Utah Adventure Journal and shares narrative history from my pal and backlands mentor Ron Lindley, who taught me and others about how to organize races, events, rides, and participate in a scene. Also Martin Stenger who was the fastest rider and hardest toker and fcking coolest guy around, Cindy who was a badass lady on a Klein and Charlie who ran a ski/bike shop in Park City. All these folks were important influence on a 17 year old renegade.
I added some comments and may yet do a follow up piece but, in the meanwhile, here’s a chunk from Ron, Martin and some snaps of Utah Mountain Biking and Hot Springs circa 1987-9.
The Scene: An Oral History of the early days of Mountain Biking and Racing in Utah….
Racer, promoter, trail builder, etc. Park City
After purchasing my first mountain bike back in 1985, I immediately started dreaming about racing. Not having any bike racing experience, I had grandiose delusions about how I would just get out there and set the World on fire. I started asking around about mountain bike race opportunities but there were virtually none at that time. One exception was a thing called “Bike and Tie” that I believe was produced by someone out of Park City. They had one scheduled for the Provo area in the summer of 1986, but it fell on the same weekend that I was immersed in studying for Physics and a Chemistry final and decided to give the competition a break by postponing my racing debut. Later that summer, I found out about a mountain bike race that was scheduled for the Wasatch Mountain State Park in Midway and attended it with my riding buddy Brad Sorenson. Brad was literally the only other person I knew who owned a “mountain bike” at the time. I figured out early on during this race that I was not only a beginner at the sport, but that there were a whole bunch of really fast guys who were well equipped to leave me way, way back in the dust. I finished second-to-last in that first race (much thanks to my buddy Brad).
Even with that first dismal finish, I was hooked. I was also determined to get to a level where I could compete with all those aforementioned “fast guys”. My path to glory was made much easier the following summer as some really awesome people decided to promote some really awesome mountain bike races: most notably Tim Metos, Bruce Ewert, Charlie Sturgis and Brock (Hansen?). Tim started running the local Salt Lake City classic “Wild Rose” series, Bruce was responsible for promoting the unbelievably cool “Rustler Run” at Alta and Charlie and Brock put together Utah’s first really big-time mountain bike race Park City’s “Bonanza Bonzai”. These events really represent the starting point for the “golden years” of mountain bike racing in Utah.
Since I was a Utah County native, I naturally felt like there should be at least one race somewhere in the Utah Valley area that could draw the best Utah racers that these other events did. Working with Brad, I started looking for a good place to conduct a race. After lots of searching we found the perfect spot: a Boy Scout camp in Payson Canyon. Hence the “Bike-o-Rama” was born in 1988.
This Bike-o-Rama enjoyed a 4-year run and was a real turning point for mountain bike racing in Utah. After a so-so first year, the race just exploded in its second year and with that success a new partnership was formed. This partnership was between me and an opportunistic mountain bike enthusiast named Bob Walker. Bob’s vision was to develop and series of races in Utah that would rival the old C.O.R.P.s Series in Colorado. He got me excited about the idea and I joined Bob to help him create the “Utah Fat Tire Festivals” series. This was the first N.O.R.B.A. sanctioned, state-wide mountain bike series (which has eventually evolved into Ed Chauner’s very successful Intermountain Cup series). Bob and I promoted a few races ourselves but also formed a coalition of promoters from Logan to Cedar City to broaden the scope of the series. We even persuaded the Canyon Country Cyclists (mainly Bill and Robin Groff) to promote Moab’s first big time mountain bike race, “Moab Rocks,” and add it to the series. Things eventually fell apart with Bob and myself and Ed stepped in and saved the day…the rest is history.
My recollection of the “golden years” of mountain bike racing would not be complete without mentioning a few names of some really special racers who earned my respect and admiration for there incredible talent and strength. The top of the list would have to include the following: Martin Stenger, Glenn Adams, Mark Smedley and Jeff Murray. These four guys were the first super stars of Utah mountain bike racing. Other truly notable racers included Rich Perrier, Cyndi Schwandt, Todd Henneman, Tom Noaker, Scott Lung and Jeff Osguthorpe. I’m thinking of many others but they’re too numerous to mention here. These were the people who were making the podium not only at local races, but national races back when they involved thousands of athletes.
I hope this brief look back sparks some fond recollection for those who were there to witness the proud beginnings Utah’s mountain bike racing heritage. For those who weren’t there but love to race, just take pride in the fact that Utah has hosted some of the best local racing anywhere in the World, and it still does today!
From Martin Stenger (now a brewmaster in Sun Valley i heard)
Slingshot team rider, Salt Lake City, Moab, Boise…
On what was attractive about mountain biking early on:
“A lot of the community spirit and grass roots; racing was what you get, it was part of mountain biking. There was a lot of community spirit. Coming from a road racing community, where people were competitive and didn’t hang out much, there was a kind of camaraderie among good-natured people that attracted me.”
“There was no exclusiveness. Everybody was there together; the accomplishment was finishing.”
“That was part of the motivation, to get to the top before the beer was gone.”
Really enjoyed this article. Scanned a few flashbacks from that era to share from various excursions around Utah circa 1987:
* Canyonlands Fat Tire Festival (1987, Moab)
* Ride to Diamond Fork hotspring
* Rustler Run (Alta)
* Time trial races in Park City
* Moab’s Slickrock trail before suspension (incl poker run at Fat Tire Fest)
Team White Salamander representing featuring Ron Legend Lindley, Gabe Alps W. and a young hippie named Weed with cameos by Brad Sorenson and Pyper.