Magical Outer-Space Unicorn: Pepper’s Timberjack Dreams

Pepper Cook stands with her Salsa Timberjack bicycles surrounded by Alaskan peaks still partially covered in snow.

When I first started building the Timberjack, I dreamt of riding it on wide-open grassy doubletrack in Mongolia and back down in sandy, beautiful Baja, and all over the magical routes across the Lower 48, as we call the rest of the U.S. in Alaska. My whole life so far has revolved around working odd jobs in the bike industry where I was easily replaceable, so when I saved up enough, I could simply quit work for a few months to adventure by bike!

Pepper’s Salsa Timberjack bicycles leans against a rock on a dirt singletrack trail in the mountains of Alaska.

But then COVID hit and I felt the need to help my community in Alaska, which has given me so much friendship and adventure. I quit the bike industry, and for the first time in my life I trained and studied and accidentally stumbled my way into a career as an EMT. It’s a career where I don't want to leave my job, and working is often as much of an adventure as riding my bike! As someone who has spent the better part of the past ten years travelling the world by bike with an IPA in hand and constantly surrounded by new friends, the idea of digging my heels in and setting down roots with an actual career scared me more than any bike trip that’s ever schooled me.

Detail of the seatstay, seatpost, toptube junction on the Timberjack Ti mountain bike, with pink Salsa seat collar.

While I certainly haven’t stopped dreaming of my next big overseas adventure, I am super worried about when I will be able to book it. The idea of going out into a world with new COVID variants, travel restrictions, and my guilt over the American privilege of being vaccinated and able to think of such things has kept me from making any definite plans.

Detail of the bike’s front end, with handlebar and headtube taped to avoid future scuffing from bikepacking bags.

With the help of my friends at Salsa, I was able to build a magical outer-space unicorn of a Timby that can handle any ride on Earth. I can't wait for the day to come when I can dream without fear of traveling in the COVID world (where a cyclist could potentially get stuck somewhere due to travel restrictions, or sick far from home). But for the moment, I am adventuring by bike to the greatest adventure I've had yet: riding to work with clean scrubs in my backpack and helping my patients and fellow Alaskans stay healthy so that they, too, can dream of their next adventure.

Details of the bike’s rear end with SRAM AXS wireless derailleur and Whisky carbon rims, and OneUp Component pedals.

BUT, when vaccinations become more widespread, my work with COVID patients slows, and I’m working fewer hours, these are the dream routes that are next on my list:

  • Idaho Hot Springs Route: about 600 miles of pure hot-spring and fly-fishing bliss, all easily accessible from the airport in Boise, Idaho. I had planned to ride this route last summer on my previous Salsa Timberjack (which unfortunately was stolen from the bike shop I worked at last year). But as more states shut down due to skyrocketing COVID cases, I had to shelf this plan. It's still #1 on my list as soon as I can get some time off and feel good about travel!


  • The new Eastern Divide Trail that is still being scouted: This absolute dream of an off-road adventure goes all the way from Newfoundland, Canada, to Key West, Florida! 


  • And of course, the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route: It seems this one is either on every adventure cyclist's bucket list, or they’ve completed it multiple times and will rave about it until they are blue in the face trying to convince you to ride it next, so you know it's good!

Dressed in shorts, t-shirt and boots, Pepper rides her Timberjack Ti up a narrow, dirt, singletrack trail in Alaska.

What’s on my magical unicorn Timby build?

Salsa Timberjack Ti frame

RockShox Pike Ultimate 130mm-travel fork

SRAM XO1Eagle AXS drivetrain

Whisky No.9 Carbon 25mm riser bar

RockShox Reverb AXS dropper seatpost

Whisky No.9 40W Carbon 29er rims 

Teravail Honcho 29 x 2.6" tires

OneUp Components Aluminum pedals

Sitting on her bike’s toptube along the trail, Pepper smiles enthusiastically.



This post filed under topics: Bikepacking Mountain Biking Pepper Cook Sponsored Riders Timberjack

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