Biking near Sun Valley
"Some people go to church. This is kind of my church and a way to get back to my core being."
––David Beck, Mountain Biker
Idaho's mountains have always been a lure for hikers, horseback riders, hunters and anglers. And with advances in mountain bike technology like lighter materials and suspension, the mountains are now more accessible to bicyclists as well.
This piece follows a mountain biking group into the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains for a calorie-burning ride up several thousand feet.
Biking on Fourth of July Trail
"It's good, hard fun," says Chris Cook of the Southwest Mountain Biking Association (SWIMBA). "It's got a lot of solitude to it, great scenery. We saw a wolf out here last year. We see elk. We see very few people. It's just a great backcountry experience that is hard to find in a lot of areas, and this is one of the rare opportunities we have in Idaho to experience it."
But soon, bikers may not be able to make this ride. The area is proposed for wilderness, and under federal law, mechanized vehicles are excluded from wilderness. Although they have no engine, bikes are considered "mechanized."
"We don't feel it's right because a mountain bike has the same impact on the land as a hiker," says Cook. "And even at times we have less impact because we go in one day and we'll do our loop and it may take a hiker three or four days, and they're setting up camp, creating campsites, going to the bathroom."
But other bikers say they'd be willing to give up some biking trails for more wilderness.
"Wilderness allows you to escape into the wild, escape into the quiet and escape our mechanized world, and no matter how you look at it, this is mechanized," says biker Teri McKenna.
"I believe that there are certain places this bike shouldn't be, so I would..be willing to give that up for the generations of people behind me."
Wherever you decide to mountain bike, it's important that you learn about safety. Endurance racer Barb Kreisle and her business partner Michelle StanWiens teach mountain bike courses.
"If you don't have the proper equipment and have it put together right, have your helmet on right, know the basic fundamental skills of mountain biking, then it can be incredibly dangerous," says StanWiens. "We don't want that. We want people to have a wonderful time out there and be hooked on it for a lifetime and do it forever and ever."
Mountain biking is one of the best forms of exercise available, but it also provides a relief from the stresses of daily life.
"It focuses you and it makes you think singly," says StanWiens. "In our world where we are so used to multi-tasking.I think first and foremost that is a relief to me. It's a time when you can let your mind focus in on one task and forget everything else."
"You can't find yourself daydreaming about work or other things when you are going down a single track," says McKenna. "You have to be in the moment and think about where you are riding and also take the opportunity to look around. That's one of the great things about mountain biking is how quickly you can get to these places and they will, if you let them, take you away from the worries and stresses you have in your life."
"I seriously use it as a vehicle, as a means to clear my head and think of solutions to problems that would have escaped me back at home," says Buck Drew, a mountain biker.