Since the advent of the USA Pro Challenge, Mike Snyder, owner of Ripstoke Promotions, has been bringing his bike trials team to Breckenridge to prove that agility and balance are just as important to cycling as speed and endurance.
“We always love coming to Breckenridge,” Snyder said. “This particular event is a bike-friendly crowd. What’s cool is that the kids get a kick out of it because they ride bikes. We talk to grandparents, too; one guy came up to me and said he’s 85 and had never see anything like that before. Everybody can ride, so everybody can relate.”
Bike trials, or just trails, is a discipline where modified mountain bikes are ridden over obstacles that bikes typically wouldn’t go over, Snyder said.
“We bring our setup, which is man-made, but a lot of times when we train, we’ll go to a place that has fallen-down trees or rocks. We’ll probably be riding at least one of our shows in the riverbed there,” he said. “There’s some exposed rocks right by the visitor’s center. We’ll go down there and jump across the river and hop from one rock to another.”
The Ripstoke riders’ bikes are single speed with 26-inch tires, slightly smaller than standard mountain bikes, which are going to 27- or 29-inch wheels, Snyder said. The bikes might look a bit peculiar because the bottom bracket is higher in the air to provide more clearance and most of the frames don’t have a seat.
“We don’t ever sit down, and having clearance, stand-over clearance, is a good thing for some of the moves,” Snyder said. “The brakes work really, really well, and the bikes from a geometry standpoint are really short from the bottom bracket to the rear axel: The back half of the bike is short, the front half is long, from bottom bracket to front axel, so we can get up on the back wheel and hop around much easier than a standard mountain bike.”
BRINGING IT TO BRECK
Snyder will present three exhibition performances throughout the day on Friday, Aug. 22, with Kevin Shiramizu, whom he’s been riding shows with for more than 10 years. At the start of the show, Snyder and Shiramizu will explain the sport and how the bikes work.
“We’ll set up a sound system and play loud music, so there’s energy,” Snyder said. “We’ll both have a microphone; when one is riding, the other will be on the microphone. That’s one of the fun pieces to our show, we get to interact with the crowd, get up to the yellow tape and ride next to the folks in the front row. We tell corny jokes and get everybody to have a lot of fun.”
It’s obvious the Ripstoke guys are having fun when they ride, which is one reason Snyder said the show has been so popular as part of the USA Pro Challenge, and though the skills they demonstrate seem extreme, they do have some practical applications.
“Everybody knows how to ride a bike, but most of the time, they haven’t seen a bike ride over obstacles like that,” Snyder said. “People go over curbs but never dream of taking a bike over something that’s 6 feet tall.
“I think the mountain bike folks, they can immediately pick up on the skills they see in a show and relate back to a trail, an obstacle in that trail that they have to get off the bike and go around it. … Basic trial skills can really improve your mountain biking, especially on technical trails.”
The intense nature of the sport isn’t without its dangers — Snyder once separated his shoulder after taking a 6-foot sideways dive off the top of a big electrical box — but like any element of cycling, it’s go hard or go home.
“We’re not that cool, but we’re going to do things on a bike that people probably never thought possible if they’ve never seen it,” he said.