Dirt Bag Diary

Racing, Pizza and Kellogg, Idaho

Words & Photos by Dirt Bag Racing

Once again I find my scrawny 6’5” self crammed back into the cracked leather seats of the infamous 95’ GMC Z71. The feeling is all too familiar. The air is thick with the scent of knee pad and stale fart – exactly what I look forward to on race weekends! The next adventure is well on its way and Dirt Bag Racing is cruising up the highway headed to Bend, Oregon. One of the hottest mountain bike destinations in the world, Bend is exactly halfway between Hidden Valley Lake, California and Kellogg, Idaho, our race destination for the week. After a somewhat uncomfortable night at Bend’s cheapest motel, Connor Armstrong, Will Perez and myself set out to gorge ourselves at the famed Jake’s Diner. As three Californians with eyes much bigger than our stomachs, we were surprised by the 18” pancakes that got placed in front of us. We left Jake’s stuffed but fueled for the day.

We headed straight to The Lair a dirt jump spot we had seen in plenty of videos and knew we needed to check out. The slalom trail at Phil’s trailhead is extraordinary, with the groomed line snaking down the hill into one of the longest dirt jump roller sets we have ever ridden. We could have spent multiple days perfecting all the lines but after riding the jumps, we ended our session with a short shred on the pixie bike. After riding we stopped in at Bend Burger Co, as directed by Loam Wolf’s very own Drew Rohde, for a mean burger.

The second half of our monotonous seven hour drive seemed endless so we filled our time setting off bottle rockets in the cab of the truck and sticker slapping semi trucks we happened to pass. Around 11 PM we cruised into Kellogg, Idaho and met the last member of our team, Kameron Swank.

Kellogg Livin’

Kellogg, Idaho is a unique town with a different type of vibe. The town itself has a population of 2,081 residents and was founded as a mining community. The lead mines are no longer in operation and the river, which was once polluted by mining sediment and other contaminants, now runs clear. Besides biking there isn’t a whole lot to do. The town has a new water park which piqued our interest, but we never actually made the trip. There’s also a golf course, but that can’t keep four downhill racers occupied for long. We spent the majority of our time off the bikes swimming at our hotel or messing around at the WalMart down the road. The locals are nice, but by the end of the week I’m sure the ladies working at the $1 a slice pizza joint were pretty annoyed with us.

Our first day on the Idaho trails started with a seemingly endless gondola ride, which takes a whopping 30 minutes to complete without stops. At the top we were greeted by the sheer brutality of teeth rattling braking bumps on all the trails. It was quite the welcome. Our first practice run was somewhat of a disaster because I crashed immediately and we accidentally went all the way down the mountain. We followed the National Enduro Course, still taped from the previous weekend, as we thought it was our downhill course. After about 15 minutes of riding we decided it was much too long to be our track, but had no option other than to finish the ride to town.

Connor Armstrong, our CAT 1 racer, had no such issues. Both the CAT2 and CAT1 courses fit the crew. The tracks were filled with high altitude moon dust and off camber root sections. The CAT 2 course was short with runs just over two minutes, while the CAT 1 course was littered with technical features and a really fun wood drop to step up that we all poached because it was THAT good. Our weekend of practice was phenomenal and the party laps on both the practice courses together with the plethora of single track added up to be some of our favorite riding moments of all time. Silver has a great mix of chunky downhill and smooth singletrack, but my favorite trail combination of the weekend was Jack Ass, a flowy single track, to Log Jammin a very technical off-camber, rooty trail reminiscent of old European World Cup tracks to Hammer, the resort’s main jump trail. Hammer was the icing on the cake. We typically ended our day with that selection  since it satisfied all our big bike needs.

Race Day

Race day rolled around like any other, both too soon and not soon enough. The bikes were prepped, breakfast consumed, and we headed up the hill. There are so many mixed emotions that I can’t put into words, but the ratio of expectation to performance is one that is difficult to get right, and even harder to produce every race. That’s why we keep coming back.

The NW Cups are very well organized and they keep racers dropping on time – a feat which any competitive cyclist knows, is extremely hard for event organizers to get right. I was the third racer of our team to go down and my personal race ended terribly with a flat only a quarter of the way down resulting in the three letter time everyone hates: DNF. The rest of the team made up for my poor performance with Will Perez taking 6th, Kameron Swank taking 2nd, and Connor Armstrong coming in 10th in his fist CAT 1 race! Another podium and another NW Cup taken home with proof of results and supreme dedication. Races never pan out exactly how you intend, but the uncertainty is half the fun. There are always more races on the horizon and no end in sight for our racing escapades. Until then, we’ll keep fueling up the trusty rig and hittin’ the road on the quest for that checkered flag and good times.