becky gardner

Endless Summer Days At Highland Mountain Bike Park

Last week I took the 35-hour drive from Colorado to Northern Vermont to attend the coveted NEMBA fest. During my time there, I met up with Wilson; the fun-loving and talented Kona Demo Tour driver and his loyal fur companion, Fred.  After a fun weekend at the Kingdom Trails, we decided we were not ready to end the fun yet, and headed a few hours east to Highland Mountain Bike Park. Growing up on the east coast, I have spent many days ripping trails and watching this New Hampshire bike park grow into one of the best parks in the country. I was excited to show Wilson around, and we even convinced Kona CX Pro Becca Fahringer to come to take some DH laps with us.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG


We all met up in the morning amped on our new friendship and ready to make the most of this long summer day fitting in as much riding as possible. Luckily on this particular day, Highland offers lift access all day and then after hours pedal laps up the mountain until 8 pm making it perfect for our energetic crew.  


After our meet up we took to the trails with our posse of Process 153’s. We rode everything from smooth jump trails to rugged and rooty race trails. The Process 153 is by far my favorite enduro bike I have ever owned, and Highland Mountain was the perfect place to showcase all of its capabilities. However, our day wasn’t all just fun and games. We took advantage of the wide variety of terrain Highland has to offer by doing some suspension testing and tweaking. Wilson worked some magic on my bike and suspension, setting it up perfect for my upcoming race this weekend.
Before we knew it, the mountain was about to close, and the lift laps were coming to an end.  With a quick snack break and dog walk, the enduro phase of our day was about to begin. Highland’s “Wenesduro” has become the hot new hangout for all the locals.  It is the only night that the mountain allows uphill traffic and riders like to see who can do the most laps of the evening. We took it pretty causal but used every once of light we could squeeze out of the day. 


Beat from a day of park laps, filming, and pedaling, we all cruised up the road to a friend’s house.  After another full day of fun, we once again decided we still weren’t quite ready to say goodbye to our new pals Wilson and Fred. We decided to keep the partying going by headed up north the next day to check out some more ripping trails and make the most of these endless summer days. 

The Final Rays

Words by Kona Ambassador Becky Gardner. Photos by Ryan Wiegman. Becky rides a Process 153 CR DL 27.5.

It’s 5 pm and I’ve just finished with whatever was on my plate for the day. I debate with myself if I have time to quickly get changed and head for the trail. Of course, I am cutting it close. The sun is setting soon, but I scurry out the door inspired to chase the sunlight I have left. Evening rides just like this are some of my favorite. There is something really special about riding bikes while the sun is going down and chasing that last ray before the sun sets behind the mighty Rocky Mountains. Maybe I head out solo or maybe some friends join. Either way, the lighting and temperature on these spring days are prime during the last few hours of daylight.

Here in Salida, we have an extraordinary trail system at the base of the town called the S Mountain Trails. These trails are designed for all riders from beginners to advanced and have some of my favorite downhill trails in the valley. The best part of the S Mountain Trails is that all the trails easily link together so depending on how much you want to ride or how much time you have you can put together a perfect ride. The trail system is heavily maintained by a group of volunteers, local support, and passionate trail builders. The trail builders are always on the lookout to build more singletrack and have an open mind to building difficult and technical terrain which is a rare treat amongst public trails.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

My all-time favorite trail on S Mountain is a rocky, loose, technical trail called Sand Dunes. I am notorious in the valley for riding this trail at an obsessive rate. On a solo day, I can lap it in 45 minutes making it a prime selection for a quick evening ride. I never get sick of this trail and it always brings a smile to my face as I drop down through multiple rock gardens and deep loose dunes of sand with the Collegiate Peaks and the Arkansas River as my backdrop.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

The trail ends at the heart of town where you are dazzled by the small town vibes of Salida, Colorado. From here I can grab a beer from one of the many local breweries and restaurants or hit the grocery store and head home. 

Chasing down the sun will always be one of my great joys of mountain biking and there is nothing quite like coming home from weeks on the road to enjoy some of my favorite local dirt.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG


Crosstraining in Telluride

Words by Kona Ambassador, Becky Gardner.

Telluride, Colorado is an old mining town tucked away in a box canyon within the beautiful San Juan Mountains. Hidden away from mainstream Colorado, it is the winter gem of the western slope. Telluride is a dream for any winter enthusiast with an amazing resort constantly recognized as one of the best places to ski in the country, epic backcountry runs, miles of Nordic recreation, and a community full of talented athletes. Although this quaint town is a skier’s paradise it does push you to be creative in order to train for a bike season. After many winters spent in this small ski town I have created a training program to help myself get ready for the up and coming bike season.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

The first part of my training plan is to transition from riding bikes into snowboarding. Luckily for me Telluride’s resort is full of steep terrain with plenty of hike-able areas to keep my legs strong all winter. When the snow is good I always hit the slopes. Tree runs are my favorite and I never seem to get bored of Telluride’s rugged runs. Once the snow settles and the storms die down a bit I typically switch gears into more touring and splitboarding than resort riding. This is my favorite outdoor recreation and reminds me so much of enduro racing because you can spend hours hiking up a hill for one epic run down. I love the feeling of earning your turns and touring at 10,000 plus feet can really get you in great shape quickly.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

The second part of my training is cross country skiing, more specifically skate skiing. When the resort is crowded and sunbaked, the backcountry is unstable and I’m looking for something outside to do, I turn to skate skiing. I live right across the street from some awesome nordic trails and we often take the dogs over for a ski. This style of skiing works out muscles you never knew you had and is a fun way to get in a good workout while soaking up the bright Colorado sun. Here in Telluride, we have multiple Nordic trail systems making it easy to sneak in a quick workout wherever your day takes you.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

Next up on my training plan are gym workouts and spin classes. I am religious about these workouts and keep to a strict schedule. We are fortunate enough to have a twenty-four hour gym called FUEL and a spin class studio called Pedal Den. Spin classes are taught by local powerhouse ladies who can kick your butt no matter what class you jump in on. These classes are crucial for me to keep my riding legs under me since riding outside daily is impossible. In addition to spin I frequently train in the gym as well. I have had several bad injuries throughout my years of biking and playing college soccer, including breaking my back which has forced me to become as lean and strong as possible. My go-to exercises consist of kettlebells, plyometrics, stretching, and running.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG Photo by Ryan Wiegman

Lastly, I try and ride my bike whenever I can and am constantly on the lookout for dry trails to ride. Living on the western slope puts you a few hours from Grand Junction and Moab making it easy to get away to ride for a few days. I also make weekend trips to Salida, Colorado, where I live during Summer, to find rideable trails. This winter has been harder than most due to the amount of snow, which means little riding and a lot of winter sports.  As the snow dries up in the surrounding area I will find more and more trails to ride to get as much time in as possible before spring.

Caleb Smith | KONA COG Photo by Ryan Wiegman

Telluride and the surrounding area also put on fat bike races throughout winter, such as the Silverton Whiteout and the Lone Cone Challenge. This year was my first time competing in a fat bike race and I was stoked to win the Lone Cone Challenge, a 25 mile fat bike race through the backcountry of Norwood, Colorado.  Although training for bike season in a ski town can be difficult, with a little creativity and a lot of inspiration it’s more than possible to get ready for the upcoming season.

I have about a month left of the ski season before I head west to California to hang out with my brother, and fellow Kona Ambassador, to get some pre-season riding in and kick off the bike season with the Dirty Sanchez Enduro.

Kona at EWS Ainsa Spain

Last weekend members of Kona’s enduro team hit the Spanish countryside for a weekend of heated (literally) enduro racing. With temperatures topping out near 9oF/32C, racers were battling the intense sun, extreme heat, and a whole lot of challenging terrain.

Swede Alexander Kangas finished up the two days of racing with a 46th place.

American Ryan Gardner raced in his first EWS of the season and was amazed by the speed of the pack. Gardner finished in 87th place on the weekend and is looking forward to testing his mettle in the final round in Finale, Italy this weekend.

Becky Gardner, also racing in her first EWS of the season pushed through the heat to end up 28th.

 

Under 21 racer Leah Maunsell of Ireland is fresh out of high school and ready to put the pedals down hard. She finished the weekend with a 2nd place in the U21 class.

 

Next up: Finale Ligure- perhaps the most beloved course on the EWS circuit. Riders are looking forward to the tracks and race. Practice starts tomorrow!

 

 

 

Becky Gardner Scores Two Podiums in Colorado

Becky Gardner had a a great weekend of racing in the high altitude events of the Vail Mountain Games and the FIBARK cross country race. She landed in third in the enduro and scored a victory in the XC event. Congrats Becky!

“For the past few years, the first two weeks in June I have taken a break from DH laps and gravity enduro competitions to compete in two endurance oriented races, The Vail Mountain Games Enduro, and the FIBARK cross country race. I skip the full spandex kit but try and give it my best to compete against some very fit ladies.

 

First up is always The Vail Mountain Games. This event is really cool for me because it is the only race that combines my love of bikes and whitewater sports. My day job is running marketing for a Colorado rafting company, Dvorak Expeditions. So, when I am not on a bike I am on the river rafting, whitewater SUPing or exploring new and amazing rivers and canyons. The Vail Mountain Games brings both these worlds together with tons of whitewater events, bikes, and all sorts of outdoors inspiration. It’s awesome to see such diverse athletes at a single weekend event.

 

Although the atmosphere of the Vail Mountain Games is spot on, the enduro course has always put me out of my comfort zone. The Enduro is located just outside Vail in Eagle Co. The courses are buff, fast, dry, loose, and pedally. Not really the forte of an east coast downhiller, and to top it off the big prize purse brings in a lot of heavy hitters- especially in the cross country world.  But over the years of living in Colorado and training hard on my endurance, the Vail Mountain Games Enduro has become a race I can succeed in.

This year I opted out of practice because of work commitments and showed up the night before the race. I quickly got ready the next morning, picked up my plate, timing chip, ate some food and got on my way to start the race. The first climb takes about an hour to reach the top of stage one which was one of the faster trails of the day. This stage has a few steep pitches, fast and flowy turns, and one major hill in the middle of the track to really make your lungs burn. I finished stage one seamlessly and was sitting in second place which felt awesome since most times my first run of the day is always a little slower than the rest of my stages. We immediately started our transfer to stage two which is a hot, long climb with little shade. Once reaching the top we quickly went onto stage 2 to try and finish our laps before the hottest part of the day arrived. Stage two had the most pedaling of all the stages but I felt strong and tried to really let go in the fast areas trying to gain as many seconds as I could. I pedaled as hard as I could and felt happy with the effort given and went on the repeat the same climb to get to the last two stages of the day. Stage 3 was another awesome lap and I felt confident going into the shortest, easiest, and last stage of the day. Unfortunately for me, I took a corner a little too hard and a rock flew up breaking a spoke into my cassette. I quickly stopped, wrapped the spoke up, and got on my way to finish the run. Luckily I didn’t lose too much time and I ended up sitting in 3rd place at the end of the day. This was my best finish at the Vail Mountain Games Enduro and I can’t wait to keep working hard and get faster.

 

Next up is a race I would never have thought I would enjoy competing in, the FIBARK Cross Country race. This race is held on my local trails in Salida, Co. It’s also held during the busiest weekend of the year in my town which for me means working long days and nights. I showed up to the race a few minutes beforehand after catching up on some much-needed sleep and went straight into the start gate. Before I knew it the race started and we were on our way! I thought I had a great start and was feeling confident in my fitness but then I noticed a lady pulling way ahead of me up the fire road start. She looked strong and I knew I couldn’t pedal that hard or I would be spent in a few miles. So I let her go and I kept a solid pace for the first 20 minutes. Once we reached the trail I felt on fire, I was riding fast, taking clean lines and felt like I could go forever. Finally, I reached the woman that seemed impossible to catch. I passed her in a rock section and kept pedaling as hard as I could. I wanted to get as far ahead as possible because I knew on lap 2 she could catch me on the uphill. I charged my way through lap 1 and went on the lap 2 with no one in sight. I finished the race in first place and minutes faster than last year. Although the downhiller in me is laughing I am really stoked how far my fitness has come and I’m excited to see the benefits of it in my DH and Enduro racing!”

 

Becky Gardner Finishes Salida 720 12 Hour Solo!

Kona Rider Becky Gardner recently completed her first 12-hour solo race aboard her Process in Salida, Colorado at the Salida 720. She was the only female solo finisher! Congrats Becky! Check out her race report below.

 

After a few weeks of racing, riding, and traveling around Northern California I finally made the trip back to Salida, Colorado where I call home for the majority of the year. Although Salida is home to countless amazing biking trails, we rarely see many races taking place on the amazing terrain. Except for this year, thanks to my friend Keith Darner of Chocolate Bunny Productions, Salida was to host its first 12-hour race on Cinco De Mayo called the Salida 720. The race uses Salida’s S Mountain trails system which is jammed packed of technical, rocky, and loose terrain, making it far more technical than most other 12 hour races. Being primarily a downhill racer most my life, the thought of doing a 12-hour race was terrifying to me, but I put fear aside and decided I was going to participate in the local event anyways. To really top off my 12-hour experience I decided to push my limits and to do the race solo!

Getting hooked into a last minute surf/bike trip to Santa Barbara, I showed up from my month-long California trip the day before the race started which didn’t give me much time to prepare. I had just enough time to quickly get my bike tuned as well as I could and try to get a good night’s sleep before the long event started. My mechanic and beastly single speed endurance racer friend, Andrea gave me some advice saying to just ride slow and take my time.

The morning of the race 130 plus racers lined up on Salida’s F Street Bridge ready for a good old fashion Le Mans start. As the whistle blew and we ran to our bikes at 7 am, I remember Andrea’s words and tried to get in the back of the pack. This was almost more mentally harder than riding for 12 hours straight. Being a competitive person I had to let people pass me as I watched them charge up the hill into the trails. I had to tame my inner competitive nature and let it go as I took my time up the hill. In a 12 hour race, a majority of the people are on teams of 2,3, or 4. These people will be doing only a couple laps as they relay with their partner while the solo riders will be riding all day alone. Throughout the long tiring day, you’re passed by fresh riders doing their first lap of the day.

 

The start of the race did not go ideally as a few minutes into the race as I started climbing I realized that the cassette on my bike was not working like it should. I had two working gears and was forced to ride the 15-mile course as a single speed. Luckily my awesome boyfriend who was filming at the race got someone to bring a spare wheel to the bike to the shop, and after my second lap of single speeding I was able to swap out wheels and was dialed for the rest of the race.

 

I was feeling good on the bike and was having way more fun than I thought I would. Usually only participating in races that you’re sprinting the entire time it is nice to do a race that allows you to pedal at a reasonable pace. That is until I got into lap 4. This was around mile 50 when Colorado’s intense afternoon sun decided to beat down on us. I slowly finished my lap and was 100% convinced I was done for the day. I sat down at my pit, tired and beat from the day, my friends and other participants tried to convince me that I should be super proud of how much I had ridden. I wasn’t satisfied and I knew I wanted to do another lap and finish the race strong but I just wasn’t sure I could make it happen. And just in the nick of time, some local Salida shredding galpals showed up and gave me a little pep talk and I knew I could get it done. So I headed out at 5 pm for my 5th and last lap of the day. To my surprise, this lap was the easiest of the day! Turns out after a while your body stops trying to convince you to stop, and I finished the day with ease.

After riding from 7 am to 7 pm I finished the day up being the only woman to do the race solo and completed 5 laps which is about 75 miles of technical single track- definitely the most techy trail I have ever ridden in a day. Three years ago I was strictly racing downhill and now I am competing in 12 hour races as a solo athlete…. Times sure have changed!

All photos by Curtis Gillen.

Ryan Gardner reports from Mexico’s Trans Puerto Vallarta

With the major portion of the enduro race season still a few months away but a month or two of training already on the books, Becky and I decided to head south for a few days and check out the Trans Puerto Vallarta. The Trans PV was new this year and included some awesome trails we had already ridden in the little mountain town of Mascota Mexico. We were also treated to some new trails in San Sabastian and mountains surrounding Puerta Vallarta. The whole race took four days with travel to Mascota and included 15 special stages. It was the perfect opportunity to test new bikes, dial in suspension, and shake off the cobwebs from a few months away from racing. Plus, it’s hard to say no to warm temps, tacos, and those chill Mexican vibes.

After flying into PV we built up bikes including my brand new Process 153 29”. I only had one day on this monster before I crammed its big wheels into my Evoc bag, but I had already set a few PR’s on my home trails. This bike breathes fire.

 

After a bike building session, 5-6 tacos, and a margarita (It’s ok to go full gringo) we were off to bed and excited to travel to San Sabastian the next day.

 

The trails of San Sabastian (and neighboring Mascota) are old. Really old. Most of the trails we raced are leftover mining trails and roads from the 1700’s. Even the estate where we camped for the first two nights was built sometime around 1750 and was the center of gold and other mineral mining for the surrounding areas. From here, mules carried the valuable metals down to the Puerto Vallarta so they could be exported. From these ancient paths, the riders of Mexico have reclaimed (sometimes very) narrow single tracks. This, coupled with the dry season, made for some exiting blind racing as riders struggled to find speed, traction, and flow throughout the day. Ryan had a solid day placing second behind good friend and training partner Cory Sullivan by just one second, and ahead of the rest of the field by over 30 seconds. Becky crushed the first four stages before taking a big crash, splitting her knee open, and taking a stem to the sternum. Even with the crash, she finished the day in first place.

Once back to camp, riders were treated to cervecas and a mountain of carnitas. This particular combination results in near instantaneous sleep. Not even the snoring of racers and barking of extremely photogenic Mexican dogs could keep us awake.

Day two of racing saw us move to the steep and fast trails of Mascota. The tracks here are varied and include some wide open sections, some incredibly tight switchbacks, and some pretty gnarly rock gardens. It was in the latter that I made a critical error. My Process 153 had been egging me on all day, seemingly frustrated by my pace. The whole bike comes alive at speed and it’s a constant battle to keep things under control on a trail you have never ridden. I got just a little too excited in one gnarly rock garden and instead of rolling a 4ft boulder, I pulled up and hucked out towards a side hill hoping to keep some speed. Unfortunately, I landed juuuuust a bit to the right and clipped a knife-edged rock which put a 2.5-inch slice in my tough casing WTB vigilante. It was an immediate flat for me and a 30-minute time loss as I finagled a fix to get me back to town. After some Mexican ingenuity and the incredible durability of my Vigilante, I was able to get it patched up and win 3 of the 4 remaining stages including a super tight trail on which my “dinosaur bike” was supposed to be slow.

 

Becky, denouncing stitches which would have taken her out of the race, soldiered on to the amazement of everyone in the field. Rocking last season’s Process 134 and fueled by ice cream stops and adorable Mexican puppies, she rallied through the day only losing one spot on the timesheet by day’s end.


That night we set up camp at a beautiful ranch outside Mascota. There was only one cold shower, but the home-cooked food and late night pizza delivery made up for it. Talking that evening with friend and event promoter Alvaro Gutierrez Leal, he confided that the next morning’s transfer to the stages was what he was most worried about. It was a three-hour drive through 4×4 roads, in two-wheel drive Toyota vans. Turns out he was right. After a few sketchy river crossings and putting some serious wear on the clutch plate, we arrived in the coastal mountains above Puerto Vallarta.
Where the first two days were loose, these trails were on another level of negative traction. No front breaking here. Every stage of the day was wide open with almost no traction, some sand, and scary off-camber corners. We were also given some “Mexican surprises,” like a trail that enters a backyard, loops around a house, and then exits through the front gate. A flock of chickens presented a few opportunities for nose-bawks.

After finishing on a steep and sandy track known as El Scorpion we gathered together for a chill ride back to the ocean, buckets of beers, more tacos, and a bit of Raicilla (the traditional liquor Mascota made from wild agave and brewed in backyard stills). Due to the tire fiasco, Ryan finished off the podium. Becky finished the race in second place, injury and all!

 

 

Photos by Nico Switalski

Words by Ryan Gardner

 

 

5 Girls That Shred – Featuring Kona Super Grassroots Rider Becky Gardner

OutThere Colorado has recently started a five-part series focusing on women in the outdoor industry, one of which being Kona Super Grassroots rider Becky Gardner.

“Over the course of five weeks, OutThere Colorado’s ‘Girls that Shred’ series will profile five women with roots in Colorado who have made a lifestyle out of outdoor adventure. From climbing to mountaineering, snowboarding to mountain biking, these five women are out there kicking butt on a daily basis. OutThere Colorado is so excited to showcase women who make strong beautiful everyday and who are beautiful in their strength.”

Head over to OutThere Colorado to read up on the project.

Third times a charm. Becky Gardner’s Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals report.

Last weekend I traveled with Fort Lewis College to Snowshoe Mountain located in West Virginia. It took three flights and a three hour drive but the twenty-something of us made it to the mountain late Wednesday night.  Growing up on the east coast and enjoying the rowdy and rocky nature of the courses which play to my strengths, left me in anticipation for the weekends race.

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All Photos: Max Thilen

The next day we walked the course and to my surprise we were given a relatively smooth track with a massive pedal section that appeared to be much faster and less technical than most east coast courses I’ve encountered. Although at first glance the course seemed easy, Fridays practice showed us just how tricky the fast paced track was once you were up to speed.

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Quick turns and fast straightaways had everyone feeling pretty awkward and slow. I told myself to take it easy in seeding later that day and just see where my time would put me. My seeding run went smooth and as planned with a couple encounters from other racers, but still put me in the top spot going into race day. 

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Saturday’s downhill race was late in the day and the gloomy sky showed signs of rain. However the trails stayed dry and my run went as planned as I came down in 1st landing my third National Downhill title. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to race and attend Fort Lewis College and I’m stoked on being the National DH Champion for three years in a row. However my achievement wasn’t the only highlight of the weekend, the rest of the team crushed it in their events as well giving us the overall team win and crowning Fort Lewis College as the Division I National Champions. 

You can follow Becky on her Blog here.