Right now, a shantytown/mountain bike refugee camp is forming in the desert northeast of Tucson, Ariz. It’s there for the Kona 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo mountain bike race (be sure to read “A Note on Kona” below). Even one week before the event, RVs were already starting to stake their claim. At that point, it was mostly locals from nearby Tucson, retirees and Trustafarians. If this is the first you’ve heard of such a thing, let me explain a few things.
1. In epic mountain bike racing, we don’t explain things. So if you don’t understand why someone wants to do this, I can’t explain it to you.
2. The race is open to a number of categories based on number of riders, gender, combined age and even whether your bike has more than one gear. And yes, there are solo and co-ed categories!
3. The idea is to do as many laps as possible from noon one day until noon the next. Now, let’s say you’re coming through the finish area at 11:55. You dawdle a bit, and the next team in your class whizzes by and sends a rider for another lap. Well, if you send another rider, you’ll have the same number of laps. Your rank will be determined by who gets back fastest. So pedal faster, or you’ll hear banjos!
4. Yes, some people stay awake the entire time in the solo class. And they’re still obscenely fast. See Tinker Juarez. And Tinker is no spring chicken. Bow before him, and recognize consummate coolness, professionalism and old-timey good mountain biker vibes.
5. The Old Pueblo course is stupendously fast. No epic climbs, and huge sections of largely straight jeep road.
6. There’s also a lot of twisty singletrack, tons of cactuses and some sneakily placed ditches and ruts.
7. There are lots of cool people racing and supporting the racers. I rode with James (a solo class racer) and his pal, Mike. They were both super-awesome and helpful in showing me around the not-quite-marked course.
8. Watch for bovines. That’s cattle, to the layperson.
So what class am I? Well, I signed up with a friend for the Men’s Duo Class, but he’s come down with tonsillitis. So I’m essentially racing solo in the duo class. He’ll probably take a lap or two, but I’ll be pulling some long stretches.
A Note on Kona: If you’re not familiar with Kona, it is a very sweet mid-sized bike manufacturer. It produces solid bikes for a wide range of disciplines. The company tests its products quite a bit in the northeast U.S. and British Columbia, ensuring that its products are all sorts of tough. Kona is unfortunately overshadowed by all the big companies - their bikes are just as good, if not better. Kudos to Kona for sponsoring this race – for Kona, it’s not just about advertising: It’s about being part of the cycling community and making it better and more accessible. I truly dig Kona’s stuff and recommend its products, even though I don’t own one (but Sarah’s first mountain bike was a very capable Kona Cinder Cone hardtail, and I worked at a Kona dealer).