By Lukas Brinkerhoff
St. George created me. I first learned what sandstone felt like as I flew over my bars on the Red Hill while trying to master wheelie drops. My first off road clipless pedal experience was Gooseberry Mesa which happened to coincide with the first time I was happy that I had spent hours on the curbs in front my house practicing track stands and attempting the things that I had watched in the No Way Rey videos. The idea of thirst reminds me of the time I learned that 3 liters of water is not enough for an early morning trail building excursion on Broken Mesa, in the summer. And cold, well freezing temperatures are the best time to ride Prospector. The sand freezes and you can just bounce right over it. As much as I wish I could say I was special, it is the uniqueness of this place that created me.
Case in point, I met ProZac in 2002 at Red Rock Bicycle which at the time was in a small haunted house on Main Street. I was in search of those little cotter pins that were used to hold your Vee brake pad inserts in place. Mine had magically disappeared while I was out of the country. I walked into the shop and inquired for the needed part. The owner was at the front desk and yelled to the back where the wrenches were hid. ProZac sauntered out and let me know they didn’t have any of those cotter pins. I purchased some new pads and asked the owner if there were any openings. By the time I had made it home, there was a message on the machine offering me a job.
In the early 2000s, ProZac was the resident racer at Red Rock. While everyone else was into big squishy bikes, he was doing everything he could to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible on his hardtail. He was the only person that I knew that owned and rode a skinny tired bike. His life’s aspirations involved being fast and going pro, hence his nickname. ProZac and I had vastly different ideas of what riding bikes meant. He had a coach, spent money on training plans and drove all over the state racing. I, on the other hand, quickly purchased a bike that had more suspension than I had sense and spent my Tuesday mornings shuttling Flying Monkey.
With such differing ideas of what “fun” is on a bike, it’s strange to say that my and ProZac’s riding styles were created by our environment and that they are almost identical.
Seeing that the absolute best way to describe the way someone rides is by comparing it to beer, you could say that ProZac and I ride like a Double IPA, something along the lines of Hops Rising. For the uninitiated, that’s a high point, hoppy beer. Emphasis is on the hoppy. It’s not something that you drink quickly and some would say you probably shouldn’t drink them often. Here in the St. George desert, we suck this stuff down like it’s soda pop. It’s the go to beverage choice for mid-ride stops and recovery.
If you go for a ride with ProZac and he doesn’t come to a stop and begin hopping around, chances are he’s kind of bored.
This past month, ProZac returned to St. George after a 7 year hiatus and began wrenching at the shop. It was on one of our first rides together after his return that it hit me. He rolled up to a gnarly downhill on his 26” hardtail, came to a complete stop and hopped a couple times to get his line right before letting go of the brakes and cleaning the section. It was kind of like looking back and watching someone mimic what I had just done, but he wasn’t. We both developed this hoppy style independently and long before we met.
In St. George, our trails are kind of like books. Each one is made up of multiple chapters that have their own them and name. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say I cleaned the bathtub on Zen. Everyone congratulates them and they then move onto the next chapter of the trail, attempting to clean the many obstacles that stacked together create these routes through the desert. And despite the fact that many of us have different motivations for riding such as going as fast as possible from point A to point B, that doesn’t mean that what was in between those two points doesn’t matter. Ask any racer if it is faster to walk a move or clean it. Learning to successfully clean every trail guarantees that speed can be maintained.
I’ve hosted and participated in many group rides in St. George. Instead of being the “rip the legs off the rider next to you” type of rides, our group rides are characterized by sessions where those learning the moves take the time to practice them over and over again until they are cleaned. This is followed, of course, by much celebrating and moving onto the next obstacle to do it all again. It’s during these sessions that the trails and surrounding landscape mold you into what is needed to solve the puzzle.
And I think that it was it is unique about riding in St. George. The trails are puzzles that were crafted together with a vision of challenging the rider, but also getting them to the edge of the mesa for that mid-ride IPA, all the while being able to enjoy the amazing scenery.
After years of not riding consistently in St. George, it took ProZac no time at all to jump on the bike and to return to cleaning all the lines in the area. Even trails that were new to him, like the Zen, he simply took that hop he had learned so many years ago and figured out the puzzles placed in front of him. Our riding might not be for everyone, but for those of us that live and ride here, there’s nothing that compares. Maybe it’s because we were changed by this place, or if you see things the way we do, it’s just that this place is absolutely amazing.
Lukas Brinkerhoff blogs about mountain biking and life at mooseknuckleralliance.org.