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Here in Utah, in the midst of February’s blustery winter weather, we’ve been daydreaming quite a bit about shorts weather and the activities that come along with it. If you’re also catching yourself daydreaming about beautiful sunny weather and thinking about heading out on a bike trip later this year, we’ve compiled ten good reasons why you definitely don’t need to hire a bike guide.

  1. You’re excited to cook your own dinner after an 8 hour day in the saddle.

It was a longer day than you expected, with a few wrong turns that led to a lot of extra miles. You had an early lunch and have been eagerly anticipating your freeze dried dinner. You roll into camp, 3 hours later than expected, lightheaded and stomach growling. You think about sitting back and relaxing but instead, you remember you have the pleasure of cooking dinner yourself as a perfect cap to the long, long day. 

  1. You’ll have the opportunity to troubleshoot a new mechanical problem, right as the sun starts to set. 

You’re always up for a mechanical challenge! The past few days have been going great, no major issues, no flats, no hiccups, and thus you convince yourself to push the extra 10 miles to camp. After all, luck has definitely been on your side this trip. Around 7:30pm you’re a few short miles to camp and it’s an all downhill technical trail from here. Suddenly your dropper post is stuck in the highest position and won’t go down. What a fun opportunity!

  1. You can make up your own stories and unique facts about the landscape.

You’re a storyteller. You always have an answer to share at weekly trivia (whether it’s right or not). Therefore, even though you haven’t been to the area you’re biking through, you can convince almost anyone about the history of the land with elaborate details made up by yours truly. Who needs to know the actual factual history of the land anyway? 

  1. You’ll get to ride the road or trails most traveled since that’s where the Outside Online article told you to go. 

The article was “The Next Great Undiscovered Adventure Hubs” and it showed up as the lead story that went out to Outside’s 350,000 Dispatch newsletter subscribers. The narrative and descriptive language brought this destination to the top of your bucket list. You show up a few months later prepared for a real adventure, only to find yourself standing next to dozens of like-minded, like-looking adventure seekers ready to take on this adventure, which will include following one another turn after turn and flip flopping for days. 

  1. You get to weight-train by carrying your own gear, beer, and food for your multi-day trip. 

Your pack might weigh more than your suitcase when you went on a month-long trip to Europe a few years ago, but that doesn’t bother you – you’re looking forward to the extra workout. Halfway through your trip after your tenth technical ascent, you start giving away cans of beer to anyone you run into, in the hope that dropping those ounces might get you up the next big climb with a bit more ease.

  1. You enjoy putting yourself in stressful, uncomfortable situations way over your comfort level.

Walking your bike is part of the fun, right? It doesn’t bother you to walk your bike 4+ miles on trails that are way over your ability and comfort level. That’s what mountain biking is all about, right?

  1. You took a first aid class 10 years ago.

You are prepared. You have vague memories from a first aid class you took back in college that will definitely come back if you get yourself into a tricky situation. You’ll absolutely remember what to do if your partner falls and you have to stop excessive bleeding from their knee and elbow. You got this, saving their life is all part of the adventure.

  1. You enjoy being glued to your phone to follow the GPS directions and trail maps.

Your partner often jokes that you’re “addicted to your phone” which you always just laugh off. For your upcoming trip, you are glad, however, that your eyes won’t have to take a screen time break since you’ll be required to have your phone with you to check your map and gps signal to make sure you aren’t getting lost. It’s not that you couldn’t leave your phone behind (remember: not addicted), it’s that you need it too much for your safety. 

  1. You enjoy spending half the day in your car setting up a shuttle. 

Half the fun of a bike adventure is the part where we squeeze too many bikes and people into one car to leave the shuttle vehicle. We all get to drive to the end location and then double back to the start, spending half the day getting car sick on windy roads so that we can enjoy the epic ride.

  1. You love making online reservations through Recreation.gov

Who wouldn’t enjoy sitting in front of their computers waiting to compete with thousands of other adventurers for those prized White Rim campsites. Never mind those conspiracy theories of bots grabbing the best sites milliseconds after they come available. After all we used to score Bon Jovi tickets on Ticketmaster no problem! And if we strike out, surely they’ll be some scalpers just outside the park boundaries when we get there for my wife’s 40th birthday trip. She’ll understand if we just end up doing some Ahab laps with the crew.

And there you have it, 10 reasons you definitely don’t need to hire a bike guide for your upcoming trip. If for some crazy reason after reading this you think, “wait, maybe a guide sounds nice” then head over to WesternSpirit.com and inquire today about one of their many customized, fully supported trips that are available for all levels of riders and in some of the country’s top (lesser known) riding locations.

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By Ashley Korenblat 

The below is an update from Ashley about the 30×30 America the Beauty initiative. The original blog on this topic focused on what it means for the bike community.

The Biden administration’s America the Beautiful initiative was inspired by the idea that we need to protect 30% of the earth’s surface by 2030, thus 30 x 30. This goal was first proposed by climate scientists from around the world. Yet some elected officials, particularly in Western States are painting this effort as a land grab. They see 30 x 30 in the black and white context of land is either available to use or it is locked up for the benefit of ‘nature’ not humans.

Of course, there is a natural tension between using the earth’s resources to improve the human condition and the inevitable disruption of our natural systems. The question is at what point does our short-term use of the land to meet today’s needs threaten our long-term survival?  We can all probably agree that if we disturb 100% of the earth’s surface that it will be very difficult for the planet to produce the clean air and water critical to our survival.  But at the same time, we need resources, including food, and our current systems require us to disturb natural ecosystems. The question is the ratio—how much of the earth can we disturb to meet our needs without throwing off the whole system?

For now, the answer is 70% since our best researchers have told us that we need to keep at least 30% of the planet in its natural state. This does not mean that all of the lands involved must be owned by the federal government or that they must be protected by the Wilderness Act.  If we look at the problem from a county-by-county perspective, the question is what lands in your county are contributing to processing carbon? –to protecting water supplies?  –regardless of who owns them.

We know that all people need access to healthy landscapes. Green space of all types is in high demand, a trend that the pandemic has intensified. Prosperous cities and towns across the country are planning with nature in mind for all of their citizens. Quality of life is a key component of economic progress and businesses of all types are investing in places where their employees can get outside.  Land in its natural state has economic value that will only appreciate over time.

The America the Beautiful initiative is a framework we can use to break the dichotomy between development and conservation. We can find the right balance between use and preservation using these components of the program:

  • Pursue a Collaborative and Inclusive Approach to Conservation
  • Conserve America’s Lands and Waters for the Benefit of All People
  • Support Locally Led and Locally Designed Conservation Efforts
  • Honor Tribal Sovereignty and Support the Priorities of Tribal Nations
  • Pursue Conservation and Restoration Approaches that Create Jobs and Support Healthy Communities
  • Honor Private Property Rights and Support the Voluntary Stewardship Efforts of Private Landowners and Fishers
  • Use Science as a Guide
  • Build on Existing Tools and Strategies with an Emphasis on Flexibility and Adaptive Approaches

The administration has made clear that America the Beautiful is an opt in opportunity which nearly every county in America could use to their advantage. If you are a western county with large amounts of public land, are you optimizing that use to keep your air and water clean? If you are an eastern county with very little green space, what steps can you take to make nature available to your citizens? Today’s challenges require new ways of thinking about the land around us and America the Beautiful is an opportunity to do just that.

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There is no doubt that, whether we like it or not, the oil and natural gas industry plays a big part in our day-to-day lives. As oil and gas users, it is crucial that we take on the responsibility of asking our government and the producers to use best practices when developing oil and gas, as we all work towards a transition to more climate-friendly sources of energy.

Methane is a primary ingredient of natural gas, and when wells are drilled, methane escapes into the atmosphere. Methane traps over 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide. (Note: Methane referenced here is specific to oil and gas. Cows do affect climate, but that is a different topic.) Methane from oil and gas production is responsible for around 25% of the environmental impacts we are experiencing today. 

The oil and gas industry knows that leaking methane is a problem, and there are many companies working to produce better valves, piping, storage tanks, etc., to better control methane leakage. The Obama administration issued a Methane Rule that was established to require operators to use these improved products and techniques on their well pads. However, the Trump Administration rolled back this rule. In the past few weeks, both the House and the Senate voted to reinstate this rule, and President Biden is expected to sign the joint resolution.

Many bike trails around the west travel across and through active oil and gas fields where methane and other unhealthy gases are affecting air quality. It is therefore in the best interest of trail users to encourage and require oil and gas operators to put best practices in place to stop the leaks. 

Additionally, by producing, installing, and monitoring new equipment to capture more methane, oil and gas producers will have more natural gas to sell while simultaneously creating jobs, and reducing the leak of Methane into the environment. The Methane Rule is a win/win solution for both the oil and gas industry and recreation, and we look forward to its reinstatement immediately.

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