Racing For Riding

Back in the day, when I was a semi-serious bike racer, I always said that one of my main motivations to race a bike was to see new places. After all, most bike races are in cool locations, at least they were in my Rocky Mountain region. I always tried to get to a place a few days ahead of time or schedule a few days after the race in order to have the time to really get to know a place, to ride the non-racecourse trails, to indulge in the local breakfast diners, and to see what made a place tick.

Then back in 2010, after a rushed trip to the 24-Hour World Championships in Canberra, Australia, where I had time constraints on either end of the trip and was too rushed beforehand getting bikes ready and keeping my legs up and too wrecked afterwards to enjoy the place, I swore that I’d never travel a long ways for a crushing race again.

I could travel to these amazing places without the need to race, I realized.

Then this past April, I got an invite to race on an all-women’s team for the Bellingham Ski to Sea, one of the older adventure relay races in the country up in northwest Washington. They needed a mountain biker to complement their team of runners, road cyclists, kayakers, and canoe racers and were running low on time to put a team together. With exactly zero arm-twisting, I agreed to come up.

When I told people I was traveling with Scott to the far northwest corner of our country to race my bike for 13 miles, I got stares of incredulity. But then I’d go on to explain: I’ve never been to the Pacific Northwest to ride, yet have been threatening to go for years. Here was an excuse!

We drove up with no plan a few days before the race, hitting up riding spots that had been recommended to us via FaceBook, car camping on the Forest Service land that most of the trailheads were located on. We discovered swoopy trails in Boise, ID, complements of a GPS track from a friend, we found big jumps and berms outside of the Bavarian-inspired town of Leavenworth, WA, via Washington’s mountain bike trails site, and we went running on the Pacific Crest Trail, all on the way to Bellingham.

Photo courtesy of Scott Morris

Then there was the racing part of the weekend, which was the shortest race I’d participated in well over five years. But the key was, while hard and making me want to vomit, it didn’t wreck my body, for too long. 

I spent the entire weekend asking any locals where to spend the next two weeks riding. We got advice from bike racers at the venue, from fisherman we met down at the beach, from random mountain bikers we met on the trail or at trailheads. The suggestions and trails were as varied as their sources.

We rode in Galbraith, the Bellingham local trail network.

Photo courtesy of Scott Morris

We rode in Ebee State Park on Widbey Island after a fisherman told us it had amazing trails.

Photo by Eszter Horanyi

We rode part of the new Olympic 420 bikepacking route, climbing up Dungeness Creek and descending Gold Creek on the Olympic Peninsula.


Photo by Eszter Horanyi

We met up with a Washington local who gave us a tour of the Olympic Discovery Adventure Trail.

Photo by Eszter Horanyi

We rode nearly deserted dirt roads high up in Olympic National Park.

Photo courtesy of Scott Morris

We rode around the west side of Mt. Saint Helens through the ash fields of the Plains of Abraham.

Photo courtesy of Scott Morris

We were directed to ride Surveyors Ridge overlooking Mt. Hood during a morning coffee shop session.

Photo courtesy of Scott Morris

We started this trip with no idea of where to ride or where to go, and in the end, just by talking to people and keeping open minds, we were able to link together a two-week road trip that highlighted some of the best riding in the area.

And it was all caused by an invitation to do a race.

So here’s my suggestion, especially to those who feel intimidated by the idea of going to a new place where you have no idea where to ride or what to do: Find a short race, charity ride, or event in a place you’d love to visit but have never been, and sign up.  This is your excuse. Choose something that won’t wreck you for more than 24 hours. Then ask anyone who you talk to where his or her favorite place to ride is. You’ll get far more honest and varied answered using this method than walking into a bike shop and asking for trail beta.

Be ready to be flexible. Be ready to approach anyone in parking lots or trails and strike up a conversation. Be ready to ride some duds of trails. But most of all, be ready to be amazed at the trails tucked into little corners of the world that only locals know about…As it turns out, most are happy to share their knowledge with other enthusiastic cyclists.

It’s a big world out there. Go find a new corner of it.

This post filed under topics: Eszter Horanyi Explore Mountain Biking Spearfish Split Pivot Travel

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Eszter Horanyi

Eszter Horanyi

When Eszter Horanyi was in second grade, living in Tucson, Ariz., her dad bought the entire family Schwinn mountain bikes; she’s been riding ever since, dabbling in racing disciplines from road, to cross, to track and mountain biking. Most recently she’s loving adventurous long rides, bikepacking and exploring the world from two wheels.


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Tom | June 29th, 2015

Nice story and pictures

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JoeyDurango | June 29th, 2015

Sheesh, Ez, that’s a corner of the world I’ve never been to.  Been wanting to go.  Your guys’ pictures just make me want to head that way sooner.  Looks awesome.  Thanks for the vicarious experience!

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mark willmore | June 29th, 2015

well done ezster..truely inspiring

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Sean Parchem | June 30th, 2015

Ez and Scott. Love the pics. And even better I love the outlook on “looking” around instead of staring at the ground in front of you with your tongue hanging out:-) missing out on what you just “raced.” Put the PNW on my long list of places to visit. Thanks again for your wonderful perspective.

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