Doing Something Different

I've been burned before. Everytime Cary suggests we do "something different", I immediately add a headlamp, jacket and twice the food to my pack. - Forest Dramis

Cary Smith

Living across the street from the Putt Putt trail is both a blessing and a curse. It’s obvious why it’s a blessing, but it’s a curse because it’s so easy to go there I struggle to branch out. I try to make a conscious effort to ride different trails without using my car, so Teton Pass is the next closest thing. Luckily, I have a favorite ride that’s worth checking out. Just think of Hwy. 22 as a nice warm-up and cool-down. And when the bike path is completed, it’ll be a no-brainer.

I call this ride the Dumbbell Loop - it was all I could think of today as I was climbing. It’s roughly shaped like a dumbbell with two loops at either end of a trail you ride in both directions. If this seems like more than you want to tackle, the loop at either end would be a great ride by itself. Or you could split it up however you see fit.

No matter when you ride it, the views are superb. But if you time it right, you will also have the bonus of popping wildflowers, vibrant mid-summer foliage or glowing fall colors. Really, you can’t go wrong. And for any backcountry skiers, it’s cool to see this area in summer and try to pick your favorite ski lines.

So, here’s the nitty gritty...

Ride down Fall Creek Rd. out of Wilson and turn right onto the dirt Mosquito Creek Rd. After several miles of low angle climbing, you will come to a road on your right with a gate. This is the entrance to an outfitter’s camp. It’s the way I went today (and the track from my Garmin) but I was told in no uncertain terms that I was trespassing. Luckily, the outfitter was very friendly and told me a different entrance. Instead of turning at the gate, continue up Mosquito Creek Rd. until it forks. Take the right fork and cross the creek. This should put you on the single track (I saw the junction today). Go left on the single track and follow it. There are a couple braids, but I think they all come back together. The outfitter has done work on this trail so it’s quite rideable. I only had to go over about 4 logs all day. There are some steep sections, so be ready to push your bike if needed-these are short.

You will climb to a saddle. Turn right and follow a faint trail for about 100 feet, then the trail becomes well-defined again and continues up. This is a tough section so have a Gu if you’re struggling. Now you’re on the ridge and will continue to roll up and down along an awesome trail. You will pass the junction to Mail Cabin (at Windy Ridge) on your right. There is an old sign on a tree that is easy to miss. Continue on this trail for several miles. As you start your descent into Mike Harris, pay attention to the trail coming in from the left at about 7 o’clock. That is your return trail.

Rip the Mike Harris descent. It’s a blast all the way to the highway. Go left on Hwy. 22 toward Victor. I get more water either in Victor or at the real estate office at Teton Springs. They’ve always been very friendly if they’re there, and if not, there’s a spigot on the outside. Follow the signs to Pole Canyon Trailhead.

Take trail 31 (not to the left and up the power lines, but to the right and up Pole Canyon). This trail has seen much improvement over the last couple of years and is a challenging but enjoyable climb all the way to the saddle. There are no forks in the trail.

Just after the last rock step, you will top out, looking into Swan Valley. Turn left, ride a few hundred feet and start pushing. It’s only about 5-10 minutes of walking up the ridge then there’s a steep 50’ descent and then you’re climbing back up to the ridge and having a ball. Very fun trail with all types of terrain. When it’s fast and smooth and you’re flying along, remember to look for a trail coming from your right at about 5 o’clock. This is your hard right turn to head back toward Mail Cabin. If you miss it, you will start descending back into Mike Harris.

Backtrack along the ridge to the sign at the top of Mail Cabin, turn left and follow it down. The first 1/4 mile is fun with some root features, then it’s a little bit of shale to the saddle. From here, you get on the new reroute, which is still a work in progress but a blast with sweet bermed switchbacks and little features to pop off. Follow this trail all the way down Mail Cabin. Just before the first creek crossing, look for a faint trail going left. Take it and you will avoid all the creek crossings. Don’t take it if you want to cool your feet and wash your bike. There’s a bridge over the last crossing, after which you will climb up to Hwy. 22.

Climb the highway and turn right in the pullout at the top. You can either take the single track from the road or the access road. I recommend the single track as it’s a nice trail. Follow this trail until it tops out at Mt. Elly and the start of Black Canyon. Alternatively, you can descend Lithium (steep and challenging). It’s starting point is a couple hundred feet before Mt. Elly. Descend Black Canyon trail until it spits you out at the Old Pass Rd. Trailhead.

Coast down into Wilson and enjoy your cool-down back into Jackson!


Full Loop Stats: 69 mi, 9,295' of climbing, 6:45 ride time, 7:30 total.

Cross Country Nationals - Mammoth, CA

By: Cary Smith

When it was first announced by USA Cycling that Mammoth Mountain was going to host a consolidated National MTB Championship, I immediately knew I wanted to attend. I hadn’t been to Mammoth since the early 90s when they hosted the NORBA Nationals and I was curious as to how much it had changed. And, thanks to the magic of Red Bull TV, I have become an avid DH fan even though I have been an XC racer my whole MTB career. Now I would have the opportunity to see, in person, just how fast they go.

I figured if I was going to drive 850 miles for a race, I should make it worth it. To that end, I rented a condo for the whole week and entered three races: Single speed XC, age group XC and age group enduro. Getting there a couple days early was pure luxury. I could relax, get the lay of the land, figure out single speed gearing and tire choice and watch the Tour.

I have raced my single speed at several XC and Marathon Nationals over the last few years, experiencing a fair amount of success with 5 wins in 6 tries. Unfortunately, the last XC race I entered I didn’t finish so that weighed heavily on my mind. In other words, this is the race in which I wanted to do well.

Some people find it hard to believe, but even after entering all manner of races for most of my life, I still get incredibly nervous, even easily agitated, as race time draws near. I start to second guess my preparation, my equipment, my nutrition, even the lens color of my Smith glasses. I believe that this shows that it still means something to me and there is still a draw to toe the starting line.

This self-induced pressure, however, can sometimes backfire. My last few training rides before the single speed race went well, with my heart rate coming up easily, even at the 8000’ elevation of Mammoth. Outwardly, I expressed this as a good sign of being rested, but I knew that, for me, this can sometimes also mean that I’m too keyed up.

I haven’t raced in California for 20 years. Since most of the field was from California and Arizona I wasn’t familiar with my competitors. So, my race plan was to start fast to be with the leaders as we entered the first single track. Mission accomplished as I hit the single track in 2nd. Kyle Trudeau and I quickly opened a gap on the field and traded leads throughout the first half of the 22 mile race. I was pushing hard but couldn’t ride him off my wheel. I knew he was also trying to get away from me and wasn’t having any luck. It was good, hard racing but I didn’t feel overextended…until I lost my focus and he opened a slight cushion. I didn’t respond and he kept the pressure up. Now I was reeling. I started having some slight cramping issues and the floodgates of negative thoughts opened wide. My 3rd lap was significantly slower than the first two and I was passed by two competitors. I didn’t even try to ride with them. In a classic “too little, too late” situation I finally ate some Gu gel, which brought me somewhat back to life. Up ahead, I saw a single speeder who I thought was the 3rd place rider slowing down. I picked up the pace, got around him and drilled the final descent. Well, drilled it until I brushed a sharp rock with my front wheel and heard the sickening hiss of a flat tire. My sealant tried to plug it but every time my tire flexed, I would get sprayed and I was quickly riding on my rim. I made a game-time decision to ride it in for the last few minutes, trying to be light on my front end through the rocks and on the off-camber sections. I rolled across the finish line only to learn that the guy I thought I passed was actually a lap down. Oh well. At least it was a good test for an Enve rim. When I got home and cleaned my bike, I pored over the rim and there was not any evidence of damage. Chalk one up to Enve durability.

Looking back on the race, I made two conclusions. One is that I was too hyped up and let the pressure get to me. The other was that I was hungry. I was drinking Gu electrolyte tabs and only had about one gel packet. I needed more on that day and should’ve realized it sooner.

I spent the afternoon moping around, debating whether I even wanted to race the XC the next day. I knew I would, but the doubts were there. Luckily, enduro practice was in the evening so it was nice to go clear my head with some good old-fashioned fear!

Warming up for the age group XC the following day, I harbored no expectations. My plan had changed to one of riding a smart race and seeing how it pans out. I figured I would ride my race and see where that got me by the end. I didn’t want to be moving backward through the pack as the race progressed.

When the starting gun went off and we rounded the first corner I didn’t need to worry about moving backward, as I was in last place! I made some passes before the singletrack but just settled in, not worrying about making aggressive passes, but passing when I could. I was having a much better time today, riding smart and not burying myself. And I kept making passes, which made it easier to push a little harder. By the end of the 2nd lap, I thought I might be in the lead of my class but it’s hard to tell with all the other age groups out there. As I came through to start the last lap, I heard the announcer say I was in the lead. I felt some pressure at the top of the first climb of the last lap and decided it was time to make some space. I upped my pace slightly and rode in for the win. My lap times were markedly different from yesterday. Instead of decreasing each lap, my first lap was my slowest, 2nd was fastest and the last two were identical, which is a much more enjoyable way to race.

I had successfully learned from my mistakes the previous day. I ate more before the race, switched my drink to Gu Brew and ate a gel earlier in the race. I also hadn’t applied any pressure on myself to perform so I rode smoother and more calmly.

I was a little disappointed in my enduro performance as I rode worse than I did in practice. But, I didn’t crash, learned a few things and stoked my fire to learn some new skills so I can be more competitive and have fun riding unfamiliar terrain.

All in all, it was a fun week and so nice to have all the different disciplines at one venue. I hope that more races incorporate XC and gravity events into their schedule.

As with any good road trip, there needs to be a little drama. Instead of driving halfway home Sunday night, I had to be in Carson City, NV, Monday morning to get my new van checked as the computer was telling me it was going to shut down in 150 miles. This is not the first time this has happened-the first was driving home from the dealer with only 200 miles on it! They couldn’t fix it immediately, so I rented a U-Haul and drove the entire way home Monday, arriving in my driveway at 3am. I was excited to get in my own bed for three hours of sleep before work, only to find that the friend who was watching the house had taken the spare key with her. Not willing to break a window, we slept in the cab of the U-Haul in the driveway until I called her at six so I could get some clothes and go to work. 

SRAM Replacement Cog Review

By: Kyle Mills

I admit it—I’m a serial granny gear user. 

There’s just no climb mellow enough that I don't want to throw my chain onto my 36 and spin away. This tendency was one of the reasons I liked the idea of the XX cassette. It had an aluminum large cog and because of that metal’s propensity to wear, SRAM was making it replaceable. Unfortunately, they reneged on that promise and steadfastly refuse to sell the part, leaving me with two very expensive cassettes sitting on a shelf, virtually pristine except for chewed up grannies.

Companies like OneUp and Wolf make innovative systems to put larger cogs on a SRAM cassette, but the last thing I need is the temptation of a 42. Enter Ari, an Italian maker of custom bike components. For 70 Euros and another 30 Euros for shipping, they’ll send you the replacement that SRAM won’t.


The website is a little confusing, written in a mix of Italian and creative English. I was having trouble making heads or tails of it and decided to just send an email. Valentina got right back to me and I ended up just ordering through her and paying via PayPal. A day later, I got confirmation that my cog had been shipped and four days after that it was on my doorsteps in Wyoming. I wish there was a cheaper shipping option, but at least you get service proportional to the price.


If you can remove and reinstall a cassette, you can put this thing on with no problem. The hardest part was separating the worn out cog, a process that took about a minute with a flat head screwdriver. Simply slip on the new cog and included spacer, line up the holes, and drop on the cassette body.

It appears that the cassette doesn’t press fit to the cog like the SRAM version, so they never become one unit. I've always found the way XX cassettes engage only a small section of hub spline a bit disconcerting and this seems to make the situation worse. Having said that, I’ve never heard of anyone stripping their hub with a SRAM cassette, so the engineers seem to be doing their magic.



I can't perceive any difference between this and the OEM cassette. Shifts are fast and smooth, even when I do them under more power than I should. No slipping, no vibration, no drama.  Basically, everything you want with the added benefit of a fun selection of colors.



This thing isn't cheap, particularly with the lack of a slow-boat-to-China shipping option. Beats throwing away a $250 cassette, though. And let’s face it, most of us don’t have anywhere near enough bright red Italian stuff on our bikes.