Continuing Education 2012 - Kurt Refsnider

We continue our series of 'what we've learned via the bicycle in 2012' posts. -Kid

Writing this, I’m sitting in a cheap motel room in Colorado. The lime sheets don’t quite match the olive drapes, which clash with the asparagus wall paint, and coincidentally, none of these quite match the slightly dressy harlequin shirt I’m planning to wear to a friend’s wedding tomorrow. I’m now second-guessing the color choice. Hues of green aside, it has been almost exactly a year since I upended my comfortable graduate student lifestyle in Boulder, Colorado to take a faculty position at Prescott College, a tiny, slightly kooky liberal arts college in Arizona.

The new back yard...

Reflecting on the past twelve months, I have realized that I am slowly discovering what’s important in my life – what I need to remain sane. Here are a few highlights to which my fellow adventurous cyclists may be able to relate:

Time. Let’s be honest. Why do you ride your bike? I challenge you to list ten reasons. Then cross off each item that is even moderately selfish. I’m willing to wager that most of us would have rather short lists once this is done. I’m no exception. I ride because it makes me happy. It calms me. It helps me to see the world. It keeps me healthy. And the more I ride, the happier, calmer, worldlier, and healthier I become . . . sort of. The point is I live to ride. I’ve learned over the past few years that there’s nothing more valuable to me than having ample time to devote to riding and exploring. I grappled with the decision to take the job I now have. The pay leaves a lot to be desired, but my schedule is quite flexible, summer commitments are minimal, and I still get all those great breaks that I did when I was a student. And heck, my Geology Through Bikepacking course for next fall was just approved. I could have probably landed a job that would have paid considerably more, but I would have lost out on countless hours and days of “my” time. Frankly, I don’t think such a deal would be remotely fair. Apparently my time is worth far more to me than it is to most potential employers.

Places To Explore. When you strike out for a long ride, where do you go? Is it your favorite trail? The toughest climb or descent near you? Or do you aim your front wheel at a place you have never before been? On or off the bike, discovering and investigating new places is incredibly fulfilling for me. It’s the draw of the unknown and the process of gradually filling in a mental map of my little corner of the world that often guides me. I stare at maps and satellite images for hours on end, conniving and imagining what special places must be out there. These locales can vary in scale from an isolated mossy sandstone shelf beneath a haunting sycamore to a secluded canyon network that extends in all directions for tens of miles. Colleagues that have lived in central Arizona for years remark about how much I’ve seen for having just moved to the area. Conversely, I’m in fact a bit frustrated that I’ve only seen as much as I have in that time. But more importantly, I can confidently say that it will take several decades for me to explore all there is in my new backyard, as long as I can call my backyard anything within a four-hour driving radius. This enthuses me almost beyond belief. I can’t imagine what I’d do living in a place that didn’t have such opportunity.

Public Land. Where do you ride? Who “owns” your favorite trail? There’s a very good chance that we all own it. A small factor in my decision to initially move to the West was the abundance of public lands. This is now perhaps the primary reason I now cannot see myself living many places in the U.S. other than out here. Sometimes the signs read “Welcome To Your Public Land” in an outdated, 1970s era font. City. County. State. Land Department. Game and Fish. USFS. BLM. NPS. NWR. The list of agencies and abbreviations could go on. Management aside, these lands are my playground. These lands are most likely your playground. We own them, we share them, and we need to take a more active role in planning their future. Right after moving, I found myself on the board of directors of the Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance. I’ve ridden for years, but never before had I become involved in any of the legwork required to promote, maintain, protect, and increase recreational opportunities for mountain bikers on public lands. The work is far from glamorous, many of the meetings anything but enthralling, and negotiations with other groups can be downright depressing. But trails and access exist for us because someone else put in the time to make something happen, and it is particularly satisfying to actually help in this process. Management decisions made today often affect policies for years or decades to come. Support your local mountain bike advocacy groups so they can be our united voices through these processes. If you have the time and energy, get involved.

Perhaps I’m finally growing up after 30 quick years. Or maybe I’m just realizing what it takes for me to remain a curious, excited kid at heart. I’d like to think it’s the latter. I’m guessing it will take another decade or two to figure out, but I think I learned a few important things in 2012.


Read the previous Continuing Education 2012 posts:

Tracey Petervary

Tim Ek

Danielle Musto

This post filed under topics: Bikepacking Explore Kurt Refsnider Mountain Biking Sponsored Riders

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Kurt Refsnider

Kurt Refsnider

After growing up in Minnesota, I’ve been lured away by the rugged charm of the mountainous west. I relish every opportunity I find to spend a day (or days) on the bike, linking together unknown trails and forgotten routes through deserted country, enjoying the simplicity and unpredictability. When driven to race, I am growing ever fonder of pushing the limits of endurance and sanity. [url=][/url]


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Ken | December 28th, 2012

I’ve always enjoyed your articles, as I seem to easily relate. Things you’ve done or are doing are the very things I’d like to do, as well. Keep up the contributions.

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Greg | December 29th, 2012

Kurt, congratulations on the job choice.  You will look back and find the decision a good one, such as I.  Keep writing and riding, and good luck!

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cmherron | December 31st, 2012

Kurt, you and everyone at Salsa embody everything that I love about cycling.  I love that you all can put the things that we all feel into words so eloquently.  I now want to go for a long ride, Thank You.

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Mark S | February 19th, 2013

Hey Kurt, Congratulations on your many accomplishments. You are a superhero. It looks like you rode your full suspension Spearfish on the Colorado Trail. I saw your photos from a couple of years ago of what looked like a hardtail El Mariachi Ti with a rigid fork on the Tour Divide route. Also, I have seen photos of Jay P’s Fargo Ti with a rigid fork on that same route. So my questions are: Do you think full suspension is necessary on the Colorado Trail? Is suspension not necessary (neither front nor rear) on the Tour Divide Trail? Wouldn’t it be nice to have it anyway or is it not worth the weight? I am hoping to ride both of those routes sometime soon. Thanks and happy trails.

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kurt | February 19th, 2013

Thanks, Mark! And I’m excited to hear you’ll hopefully get to experience both the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route AND the Colorado Trail at some point. For the GDMBR, suspension is not necessary. Most of the route is not particularly rough, and suspension is just one more thing to add weight and complexity to your bike. I loved my White Brothers carbon rigid fork out there. The Colorado Trail, on the other hand, is pretty dang rough. I really liked having full suspension out there. That being said, plenty of riders tackle that trail every year on hardtails. Some even do it fully rigid, but I can understand how their hands and wrists survive it.

Best of luck out there, and have fun with the planning and riding!

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