In August a group of Rodeoers in Colorado struck out on a ride through roads not-yet-ridden-by-us. The ingredients that make these sorts of rides are always dynamic. Peder had been brewing on a Mosquito Pass expedition for years, Jered was in town and wanted to do big high mountain rides, and I tossed out the invite to the team. Eight of us jumped in on the adventure.
The word “Adventure” is rapidly transitioning from an awe-filled catalyst to a very tired marketing word these days. Flip through any cycling magazine and you can’t go very many pages without seeing a tidal wave of products advertised as the very keys you need in order to unlock this mythic “new” genre of our sport.
And yet, true adventure is unimpressed by the collective marketing departments of our industry. True adventure has been happening for centuries and will continue to happen long after humanity has achieved singularity with holo-lenses and virtual experiences. Adventure just means pointing your willing self into the unknown and having the naivete, courage, or even audacity to proceed directly into it. No fancy gear required.
Our group had all manner gear for the Mosquito Rally, everything from dual suspension mountain bikes (both 29″ AND 26″!!!), a steel touring bike, a classic cantilever brake cyclocross bike, a couple of farm animals, and everything in between.
When I looked at our motley crew in the parking lot I smiled to myself.
“This is Rodeo, I thought.” Steel, carbon, rigid, dual suspension, fat, skinny, knobby, slick. Baggy and shrink wrapped.
The road from Alma, Colorado didn’t take long before it tilted upwards towards the upper heights of Mosquito pass. Down low the going was easy. The group splintered into go-getters up front and lollygaggers with cameras behind. It was unspoken but somehow assumed that we would all just wait for each other at the top.
I hung towards the back. When I’m in a new place and being pummeled left and right by breathtaking views my forward progress slows to a crawl.
“LOOK AT THAT! JUST LOOK AT THAT!” Is all I can say to myself. I have to take pictures when I go adventuring, I have to share the view.
There was an inverse relationship with road quality and altitude on this initial ascent of the day. Down low we rode pleasant gravel. Up high the road turned into a bit of a joke, rideable for only the fittest and most determined among us.
We walked sometimes. Some might have you believe that walking your bike is some sort of failure. I disagree. When backcountry skiing, hiking up the mountain is a point of pride. You earn your turns. To me the same applies to backcountry biking. If you want to see the world’s most rarefied views and vistas one simply has to earn them. The price of admission is a certain level of inconvenience and discomfort. If that isn’t for you then that’s fine but it is for us. We’re an Adventure Lab. We see beautiful things with our own eyes and have blisters and smiles as a record of payment.
As we climbed Mosquito Pass we passed the remains of mines and small settlements along the way. Structures had mostly crumbled but a few remained as testaments to people who experienced a level of Adventure that I’m wholly unacquainted with. Perhaps in their time Adventure wasn’t even a thing to aspire to. Was it a word that simply conjured up images of suffering and adversity? We have squishy shocks and wicking technical garments. We have electrolytes! They had wooden wagon wheels, 10 foot skis, burrows, and smelly wool. We have carefully curated nutrition bars in fancy wrappers that make big boasts. They had jerkey, biscuits, beans, and coffee filtered through their very socks.
A sign at the top of Mosquito Pass drove the point home:
ELEVATION 13,185 FEET
… Six-horse teams pulling loaded wagons, passing each other during a summer snow; the year 1878.
… 80 timid passengers, certain they would find their gold in a halo instead of a hillside.
… Father Dyer traveling with 10-foot Norway snowshoes on night’s hard snow to deliver the U.S. Mail to Leadville.
I certainly don’t resent the modernity of the gear that takes us to the top of mountains these days. What was previously a dangerous chore is now a day out with friends, smiling, whooping, eyes wide in amazement that places this beautiful even exist. I’m certainly grateful that on that day in August we could all be up on that pass, the highest through-pass in North America, and we weren’t even miserable.
We spent about 20-30 minutes at the top of Mosquito. When riders had had their fill they descended one by one down the spectacular and spectacularly rocky road that ended in Leadville.
I had a moment by myself at the top to reflect.
2016 has been a really big year for Rodeo and for me as it’s “leader”. We started in 2014 as a very small, very unorganized team and we’ve morphed and evolved into a small company while keeping the team and community very close to our center along the way. We are putting products out on the market based on the type of riding and adventuring that we do. The risk and investment required to push things forward has been for me quite immense and sometimes all consuming. I’m exhausted a lot.
And yet as I saw each rider disappearing around the bend each with equal measure of awe and amazement at our surroundings my thoughts didn’t drift to our bikes or our clothes or any of our products, it went back to our small community.
“At least we’re here” I thought.
“Right here, right now, we’re doing what we set out to do on day one: Ride bikes with friends in new places. Shared experiences, no rules”.
At that moment I felt content. I felt like I had distance from obligations, from business, from finances, from stress, from fear, from expectations, and from everything else. I too would descend back to reality soon but for the time being I was up above it all and it felt great.
Months later I’m back at my desk. I have a full slate of Rodeo things to work on today. It’s a full time job. I’m excited about it. I’m excited about where we are going and what we’re working on. But when I want to step away from all of that I can step back in time, go through photos, and re-live August 8, 2016.
It was one of those great days when we all got on bikes together and went out on an adventure.
Photos by Stephen Fitzgerald and by the very generous Jered Gruber.