Mountain Bike

Be Careful Out There! Mountain bike pedal sparks forest fire

California fire ignited by a mountain bike pedal striking a rock, investigation claims.

Fire investigators have concluded that sparks from a mountain bike pedal striking a rock caused a recent fire in a US National Forest that spans parts of California and Nevada.


A statement posted Wednesday on the Inyo National Forest Facebook page claimed that an investigation determined the cause of the blaze to be a pedal strike.

“The cause of the Rock Creek fire that started on August 5th has been determined. Investigators have concluded that the fire was started from a bicycle pedal strike to a rock. Conclusive evidence was found in the fire origin area that was on the Lower Rock Creek mountain bike trail. A fire ignition from this type of trigger is a testament to how dry the area is right now. All residents and visitors are asked to be extremely careful with anything that may cause a fire while you are out in the forest,” the post read.

Inyo National Forest spans portions of eastern California and western Nevada. Extremely dry summer conditions have increased the risk of forest fire. The Rock Creek fire burned approximately 122 acres before it was suppressed.

Speaking on behalf of the Inyo National Forest, fire prevention technician Kirstie Butler told BikeRadar that, while the exact cause of many forest fires go unresolved, the evidence in this instance was definitive.

“All the holes in the Swiss cheese lined up perfectly,” Butler said.

Investigators traced the source of the Rock Creek fire back to a single rock on a trail surrounded by cheatgrass. Cheatgrass is an invasive species in the western United States that is quick to grow back after fires. It dries out in summer, creating a fuel source for subsequent blazes.

The day the fire started, temperatures were high, winds were moderate and humidity levels were in the single-digits — ideal conditions for wildfires.

Marks on the rock and bits of metal indicated that a spark from a pedal strike ignited the cheatgrass.

“It really doesn’t take much for cheatgrass to ignite. Anything could start a fire in conditions like this. It would have been like striking a flint,” Butler noted.

According to Butler, while this may seem like an incredibly unlikely chain of events, the US Forest Service has evidence that this has happened before. She notes that sparks from chainsaws and lawn mowers are frequent causes of wildfires. To date, there have been 4,084 wildfires in California, burning a total of 150,498 acres in 2016.

Butler, who is a mountain biker and has frequently ridden the Lower Rock Creek Trail, doesn’t believe the incident will result in trail closures to mountain bikers, nor does she view mountain bikers as more of a fire hazard than any other trail user group.

“This is not about pointing fingers; we know it wasn’t done maliciously. We understand that mountain biking is a popular activity and we’re not trying to say that this is a reason to stop. It’s just something to be aware of,” said Butler.



The 10 most epic bike rides.




Let’s start at the top. Literally. This cog-busting ride across the Himalayas scales four mountain passes above 4000 metres in altitude, with the option to cycle to the top of the road claimed as the highest in the world – 5600 metres above sea level – as an encore.

The 500-kilometre ride begins in the green foothills of the Himalayas at Manali in northwestern India and crosses to the high desert of Ladakh. It’s breathtaking in every sense, with barrenly beautiful Himalayan peaks crowding the quiet highway, which is usually open for about three months of the year (July to September).



With a fearsome reputation even among 4WDers, Cape York’s challenges and rewards come in equal measures.

From Cairns it’s a 1200-kilometre ride to Australia’s northern tip if you shun the main drag for the more pleasurable Bloomfield Track and Old Telegraph Track – the latter mixes tough sections of sand with the ride’s best moments between a succession of waterfalls.

When I cycled this route, the journey took three weeks and a great toll on my bike, but it remains fixed in my mind as one of the finest bike rides I’ve undertaken. Save your legs by returning from the tip aboard the Trinity Bay cargo ship.



Cycling to the South Pole sounds improbable and likely impossible, but this December the first commercial cycling tour group will set out for the world’s icy southern apex.

Riding on fat bikes (mountain bikes with extra-wide tyres), the expedition will fly in from Punta Arenas (Chile) to Union Glacier Camp and then to the 89th parallel, from where they will cycle for nine days to cover the final 110 kilometres to the South Pole.

World firsts don’t come cheap – it costs US$70,000 to join the expedition, but you get to keep the fat bike.



One of the world’s most difficult road mountain cycling challenges, the Raid Pyreneen has been shredding thighs since the 1950s. It requires you to ride the length of the Pyrenees, but you must do so in 10 days, pedalling 800 kilometres and climbing around 16,000 metres over 28 mountain passes.

The challenge is the brainchild of the Cyclo Club Bearnais and, if you succeed, the club awards you a Raid medallion. If somehow that all sounds too easy, you can always step up a gear to the randonneur version: 720 kilometres, 18 passes and 11,000 metres of ascent in just 100 hours. It’s exhausting just writing that.

Register your attempt online at least two weeks before you begin.



The pinnacle of non-competitive long-distance riding, Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) is one of the world’s oldest cycling events.

It was first run in 1891, 12 years before the Tour de France began, and is held every four years. The task is simple, even if the effort is not – pedal 1200 kilometres from Paris to Brest, by the western tip of Brittany, and back inside 90 hours. To ride, you must qualify through a series of other events up to 600 kilometres in length.

The next PBP will be held in 2019.



Once the most popular trekking trail in Nepal, the Annapurna Circuit has fallen into the clutches of mountain bikers. Realistically, the classic 300-kilometre circuit from Besi Sahar to Beni will take cyclists at least eight days (compared to about 15 on foot).

You’ll cycle as high as you may ever get in life – 5416 metres above sea level on Thorung La pass – and pedal through the deepest gorge on earth, beneath two of the world’s 10 highest mountains.

You won’t be pedalling it all – on the climb to Thorung La, for instance, you’ll probably be carrying your bike for up to five hours at a lung-destroying altitude.




Motorists might more commonly know it as the “Nulla-bored”, but there’s surprising diversity to Australia’s most notorious road when seen from bike speed.

The 1200-kilometre ride from Ceduna to Norseman comes with road trains and caravans for company, but traffic is typically light enough that they present few problems.

The longest stretch between the 10 roadhouses  is around 190 kilometres, so expect at least a couple of nights camped out in the middle of nowhere. The section of true Nullarbor plain is short, pinched between rolling mallee scrub and some of Australia’s most impressive cliffs tipping into the Great Australian Bight.




Every cycle tourer knows that wind is your enemy – do tailwinds even exist? – and this mostly unsealed Patagonian road between Puerto Montt and Villa O’Higgins is a journey into a true wind tunnel.

Despite that, the 1200-kilometre road, built only in the 1980s, sees a steady stream of cyclists, drawn here by the challenge and the postcard perfection of the fiords, snow-capped Andean peaks and glaciers. To get the best of the inevitable Patagonian winds, pedal it from north to south.




The world’s longest set mountain-bike route doesn’t just traverse the entire US, it continues on through the Canadian Rockies into Banff.

All up, it’s a 4400-kilometre ride from the Mexican border at Antelope Wells to Banff, zigzagging across North America’s Great Divide at least 30 times. All those zigs sure add up, with the GDMBR climbing more than 60,000 metres, about the equivalent of cycling up and down Everest twice (the only time you won’t be climbing or descending is through Wyoming’s Great Basin).

The route is remote and committing, and you’ll need to be carrying provisions at least through the New Mexico section.



Cycle the length of Africa, or just a really big chunk of it … it’s your call on the annual Tour d’Afrique.

The ride begins each January in Cairo, ending four months and 11,500 kilometres later in Africa’s other bookend, Cape Town.

If you have the time (and US$17,000) you can ride the whole thing (which includes 29 rest days); otherwise the event is broken into eight distinct sections – Cairo to Khartoum, or Victoria Falls to Windhoek, for instance. It’s no dawdle, with daily distances averaging around 130 kilometres.


Read more here.



The real problem with electric mountain bikes



In the US, the cycling industry must figure out how to keep electric mountain bikes from ruining it for the rest of us
There’s been a lot of vitriol thrown at electric-assist mountain bikes. The arguments against allowing electric mountain bikes on singletrack run the gamut from the somewhat elitist and intangible view that they’re not ‘real’ or ‘pure’ mountain bikes to the much more valid (and worrying) claim that, if not managed responsibly, electric mountain bikes could cost all mountain bikers access to the trails we love to ride.


For readers outside of the United States, this issue may not apply to you. The US is blessed with thousands of square miles of public land — many times larger than some countries — that are administered by a complicated web of federal, state and local land management agencies. Rules on land use can vary dramatically and can take years, even decades, to change.


In general, e-MTBs are classified as motorized. This makes sense as they do, in fact, have an electric motor. Early research shows that their impact is comparable to traditional mountain bikes, but whether e-MTBs should only be allowed on trails that are also open to other motorized users, or if they should also be permitted to pedal alongside their non-motorized brethren isn’t the point, at least not for now.


For now, the primary concern should be making sure that anti-mountain bike zealots can’t turn e-MTBs into a reason to run the rest of us off the trails. Pedal-assist mountain bikes might empower some riders to go farther and faster, but this is not technology worth losing hard-fought ground for. The best defense against trail closures is educating e-MTB riders on where they are currently allowed to ride and in this, the cycling industry is falling woefully short.


A reponsibility to educate

Are electric mountain bikes allowed on my trails? In some cases that’s a murky question, but one that must be answered. In my opinion, the responsibility for educating riders on responsible electric-assist mountain bike use falls squarely on the shoulders of the bike companies pushing their acceptance, not on overworked and underfunded advocacy organizations.


To the bike companies peddling e-MTBs: it’s time to take a slice of the pie from the marketing budget and put it toward educating your customers.


Imagine if you just plunked down thousands of dollars for a motor-assisted mountain bike only to get yelled at by fellow mountain bikers, ticketed the minute you rode onto singletrack, or worse, became ‘that guy’ who got an entire trail network closed to fellow cyclists. Not good, right? And ignorance is no excuse.


Specialized, for one, is acutely aware of what’s at stake.


“We need to make sure we’re out ahead of any conflicts,” says the brand’s global public relations manager, Sean Estes.


Dealer education is the company’s primary approach to preventing e-MTB use in prohibited areas.


“Our biggest concern is getting the information to retailers, since they’re the touch point for most riders. We’ve been really clear with retailers to not jeopardize trail access,” Estes adds.


Specialized has developed what it calls the ‘Turbo Levo Retailer Toolkit’, which encourages bike shops to inventory existing trails in their area that are open to electric mountain bikes and begin a conversation with local land managers about responsible e-MTB use.



Harnessing apps

This is a commendable first step. But the reality is that efforts by one manufacturer, even a large one, are not enough. All the companies promoting e-MTB acceptance need come together to spearhead the development, or at the very least, pony up the cash, to create a platform that lets all e-MTB riders know where they can and can’t ride. Technology is creating this conflict, but it can also be used to solve it.

In short, there needs to be an app for that.

The most practical option would be to use existing platforms, such as MTB Project, which allows riders to browse trail networks all over the world. It would take some work, but it would be possible to have a filter that shows only those trails that allow electric mountain bikes use.

Trailforks, another popular trail app, already has plans to add this functionality. “While many of us are not thrilled about the rise of e-bikes, it’s a good idea to start indexing where they are allowed to reduce user conflict,” says Trailforks administrator Trevor May.

Creating an inventory of which trails allow e-MTBs is a massive undertaking and one that’s important enough that these major trail databases shouldn’t have to have to work independently of one another to compile a list of legal e-MTB trails. I challenge bike companies to work together to fund the development of an e-MTB trail database. Given what’s at stake for all mountain bikers, this should have been in the works long before the first pedal-assist mountain bike rolled off the showroom floor.

In the meantime, if you are thinking of purchasing an e-MTB, please do your homeworkbefore you buy — know which trails you are permitted to ride, which are off-limits, and steer clear of areas where the regulations are unclear. Talk with your local mountain bike club, advocacy organizations and local land managers to ensure continued access for all mountain bikers.


Cannondale sharpens the Scalpel


When the head of Cannondale’s off-road product team says cross-country racing lives in their blood, you know they’ve been working hard to create the latest iteration of the Scalpel, the family of bikes which was one of the first to succeed at a world-class XC level.

Taking cues from the F-Si, Cannondale has integrated a number of new design ideas into its full-bore XC race machine. Longer, slacker geometry, fancy tricks with the rear end, and a few neat frame touches show the engineers haven’t been lazing.

Impact-resistant BallisTec carbon

Initial availability will be in the form of the carbon framed models, built with Cannondale’s BallisTec Carbon. All the usual carbon attributes are present: light weight, strenght, stiffness and so on, and Cannondale claims it’s nice and impact resistant too, because “it’s not a matter of if, but when, you’ll crash”.

Claimed weights are pretty impressive, with the frame, shock, hardware and rear axle reportedly coming in at 2118g (size L) – this compares favourably to the current S-Works Epic (2358g), old Scalpel (2220g) and current Trek Top Fuel (2142g) – all Cannondale’s claimed weights. Cannondale have also published a number of stiffness measurements, all of which look good compared to the competition. Alloy versions will also be available later in the year.

Other nice touches include a modular internal cable routing system, a neat Shimano Di2 battery port, which itself doesn’t get in the way of internally routed droppers – something which we reckon you’ll see more and more of in XC races.

Newly designed pivot systems and a custom banjo for the hydraulically locked-out RockShox Monarch shock are also nice features. For the first time, we’re also seeing the road bike flat-mount brake mounting standard used, which is used on the chainstay to reduce the impact mounting the brake has on the flex of this area – needed for the suspension’s kinematics.

Cross-country slacker, but no slouch

If you come from the world of trail bikes, the Scalpel’s geometry might seem middle of the road, but for XC racers, this is a bit of a departure. Looking at the Large 29er version, we see a reach of 445mm, which isn’t too shabby, mated to a 69.5 degree head angle and 55mm fork offset.


Ride mountain biking trails in the West you’ve never heard of

From the

Colorado, Utah and Arizona are filled with hundreds of miles of outstanding single-track mountain biking trails. But if you don’t live there — or have a local buddy to guide you — you probably won’t know where to go.

That’s why veteran rider Steve Mokan says he started Chasing Epic, a new off-road cycling tour company based in Boulder, Colo.

The company aims to fill a void in the cycling world by offering all-inclusive, locally guided mountain bike trips in the West over long weekends.

Trips are aimed at intermediate to advanced mountain bikers — not beginners — who only need to bring a helmet, shoes and an “an appetite for epic single-track adventure.”

Mokan, a long-time Colorado mountain biker and a veteran of the adventure sports world, has worked with adventure travel companies, outdoor gear manufacturers, and ski resorts across the West as a professional photographer with his other venture, Switchback Photography.

Over the last decade, he said he saw “a glaring hole” in the mountain bike adventure travel industry.

“Participants on most mountain biking adventures today are being asked to bring too much to the table before the fun even begins,” he said.

“Without proper guidance and advice, it can be daunting in busy professional and family schedules to follow a checklist of pre-trip preparation, specialized gear and shipment of your own bike (or choosing from a fleet of rentals) before getting on a trail.”

Chasing Epic’s trips include inn and hotel lodging (never camping), hearty meals, high-end, all-carbon demo bikes, local guides who know the terrain, customized eight-week pre-trip training programs, shuttles and lift tickets.

Cycling destinations include Crested Butte, Durango, Fruita and Telluride in Colorado; Sedona in Arizona; and Park City and St. George in Utah.

Unlike traditional point-to-point itineraries, Chasing Epic takes riders to a single town and stays at each destination long enough to cover a variety of daily rides on the best single-track trails (known and unknown) in each area.

Rates range from $950 per person for three days and $1,250 for four days, regardless of location. For private, exclusive customized trips the per person rate is $1,150 for three days and $1,450 for four days (based on a group of six or more).