Daily Archives: 08/22/2019

Stopping Time On The Monarch Crest

Words by Ambassador Becky Gardner.

Life can get hectic. Working, traveling, racing, all while trying to be part of this human race thing—sometimes feels like your life is one big episode of Star Wars and you’re traveling around at the speed of light. My job entails a lot of time away from home, which is fantastic but can also leave you feeling a little frazzled from time to time. Luckily, I have developed the ability and tools to stop time for a moment. Not really, but it sure feels like I have stumbled upon the holy grail of resetting my life by adding in this one activity. So what is this Star Wars force I have found? It’s called the Monarch Crest, and it’s located right in my backyard. 

The Monarch Crest and all trails surrounding it is a vast high-country trail system located in the heart of the Colorado Rockies.  As soon as I get home from a long work trip or even a stressful day, I head up the pass to indulge in one of the radical, loamy, rocky, and high-speed trails that orchestrate the Monarch Crest. High above treeline and away from most people you instantly feel better as you pedal across the ridgeline of the majestic Rocky Mountains. You may think, ‘What is this lady talking about stopping time by riding her favorite bike trails?’ It’s true. Riding up away from people, streets, and buildings give you time to reconnect with nature and truly makes you feel like yourself again. It doesn’t matter how busy my life is, I always have time to go for a high country Colorado ride. In return, I feel like I give myself a break from the hectic life to-do’s and return to civilization with a smile on my face and purpose back into my life. 

Life is always going to feel like we are time traveling around at a million miles an hour, so our job is to take time to slow it down. Maybe it’s the thin air and lack of oxygen at 12,000 ft getting to my head. But for me, the best way to put a pause and get back to reality is to take a spin on my Process 153 high above any of life’s nuances and to get back to nature and remember what makes me happy.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

 Oh, and the views are not too shabby either!

Back to Basics

Words and photos by Kona Ambassador Colt Fetters.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “the best bike for bikepacking, is the bike you already have.” Typically said by an experienced bikepacker (or blogger) who just also happens to have the absolute latest and greatest the industry has to offer. Dynamo hubs, custom bikepacking bags, and titanium frames. To be fair, I’ve said the same thing. I’ve found myself writing it in blog posts for prominent websites, preaching it at workshops and conferences, then I realized that it’d been an awful long time since I myself had bikepacked with the basics.

Mountain biking for me started with rigid single speeds. We’d tear through the humid forests of Alabama, all the while claiming there was no need for silly contraptions like suspension and derailleurs. But eventually bicycle technology got the best of me and I started riding more complex bikes. 

I miss the simplicity. So my plan was to get back to the basics. I borrowed a steel frame 29er, the Kona Unit. Complete with flat pedals, mediocre brakes, a sorry saddle, and one lonely cog. I grabbed a couple specific bikepacking bags, a luxury no doubt, but not necessarily extravagant for most. In the spirit of minimalism, I forwent a stove and a tent, instead opting for cold food and a homemade Tyvek bivy sack. 

I set out with an ambitious plan to cover a loop of techy singletrack around the La Plata mountains not far from my home. Just about as soon as I left the car, dark clouds rolled overhead. The monsoon season was in full swing in SW Colorado and it surely wasn’t going to take pity on me. Just as soon as the showers started so did the lightning. Up and over 12,000’ foot passes I’d alternate between pushing and riding. Careful to time the passes between bouts of lighting. Descending from the final pass, the cold set in. Drenched to the bone I hopped into my DIY bivy. There I lay shivering for the next hour. 

‘How silly of me,’ I thought. In an effort to get back to the basics, I minimalized to a point where my margin for safety was too slim. After fighting with my pride, I realized there was nothing to prove. So I packed up. And in the sliver of daylight left, I pedaled 20 miles to the nearest town. I paid for a hostel, took a hot shower, and found the nearest brewery. To be honest, I felt like a failure. I’d set out to prove that bikepacking could be simple. However, due to my minimalist kit, I couldn’t stick out the storm. 

There I sat, drinking my beer when a local approached. “Is that your bike out there? Are you on a bike tour?” he asked? And so we struck up a conversation. He shared stories of his cross country travel via bike and expressed how he missed those times. Through this I realized, although my tour didn’t go as planned, it was far from a failure. Perhaps this was the simplest style after all. Riding through the mountains, staying in towns, and carrying even less than I set out with. 

The next morning I pedaled back the way I had come. Typically I opt for loops during bikepacking trips but again I reveled in the simplicity.  No longer were dark clouds hanging overhead. Thunder and lightning were replaced with blue skies and singing birds. Slowly, the rhythm of grinding uphill single-speed came back to me. No worries of a dirty drivetrain or of rogue rocks that could easily rip off a derailleur. After an hour of moving through the mountainous landscape, my mind grew restless. Usually it’d be about this time that I’d slip in an earbud and listen to music or a podcast but instead, I refrained. I was set on embracing the ethos of the trip. And again, I surprised myself. Soon the boredom passed and my thoughts wandered, my brain unencumbered by its regular artificial stimulation. 

Maybe my original plan didn’t quite work out however, I found what I was looking for. A solo cycling experience carrying only the bare minimum.