The peaks of Wyoming’s Gros Ventre Range might not be quite as photogenic as the towering, craggy summits of the nearby Tetons, but snaking through the Gros Ventres just west of the Continental Divide is something the Tetons lack – a substantial network of mostly-groomed winter trails. I didn’t know much about the trails, but looking at topo maps of the area, it looked impressively rugged terrain, much more so than other places where I’ve done longer rides on a fat bike. Last January, I was in the nearby Teton Valley, and looking for a change of scenery and trails, Kait Boyle and I decided to venture over to the Gros Ventres for a few days to see just what the winter riding was like.
Back in June of 2021, I found myself way up north in Duluth, Minnesota. I was there with my teammate Kait Boyle for a Backcountry Bike Challenge fundraising event for the local advocacy organization, Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS) and to ride the Duluth Traverse. COGGS had been working on the 45-mile-long Duluth Traverse for years, building and linking together trails on the highlands above town, and we wanted to experience what they had created. But this was also a trip back to where I spent quite a bit of time as a kid that grew up just a couple hours to the south near Minneapolis, albeit in a decade when there were far, far fewer trails in the area. I’ll save the story of just how impressive the Duluth Traverse is for another time since you’re probably here to read about Wildflower Bicycles’ beautiful bikes rather than beautiful trails. But first, let me share why I was especially excited to visit the shop of a new-to-the-Midwest frame builder and the only one in the Duluth-Superior area.
Across the road from a sprawling old corral with a dozen or more cattle pens constructed from creosote-laden boards and discarded railroad ties stood a small stone monument. It commemorated an earthen dam, behind which was a very small but empty reservoir at the foot of a butte called Coyote Peak.
“If it were not for strongmen like Bob Crowder,” the metal plaque read, “with the fortitude and ambition to develop water in these vast desert areas, there would be no game and no livestock today.”
The Henry Mountains of southern Utah have fascinated me ever since one of my geology professors in graduate school eloquently described their unique setting and their unlikely stature in the field of geomorphology. As a student, I found myself eagerly diving into a century-old geologic report to learn more, and then as a professor, I found myself taking my own students to the area to experience its grandeur in person. But a deeper understanding of the landscape could only come from moving through it for days on end. I finally had the opportunity to make that happen in late November with the company of my friend Chase Edwards – nine chilly days, 350 miles of pedaling, climbing six range’s most prominent peaks, and endless awe.
We’ve featured Kait and Kurt’s stories here at the Radavist over the past few years and today, we’re proud to host the short film, Fastest For Now, chronicling their 2020 FKT on the Kokopelli…
“Two of Ultra-Endurance Mountain Biking’s best seek temporary records in a timeless place. Traversing 137 miles of majestic high-desert, the Kokopelli Trail is one of the most iconic long mountain bike routes in the West. Wrought with as much challenge as beauty, the rugged Kokopelli provides passage from Moab Utah’s La Sal Mountains to Loma, Colorado. The trail is popular with day riders, bikepackers, and guide groups, and once in a while, a rider will attempt to complete the full trail in a single day. Athletes have tested their endurance on this trail for more than 2 decades, occasionally redefining the possibilities with Fastest Known Times (FKTs) that may have previously seemed impossible. FKT culture grew substantially in 2020 as Covid-19 cancelled most organized races. Long-standing records were being challenged around the world, and the Kokopelli Trail inspired many to test themselves across its desert miles.”
If you’re interested in FKTs and rugged bikepacking experiences, check out Backcountry Bike Challenge.