Words by Packie / Photos by Chuck Waskuch / vid by Brent Buckman^ Let’s set the stage with B2B Productions’ 2002 video teaser for Sniggle Unrest
I can remember the first time my mind was blown by a Mountain Bike photo. It was Wade Simmons hitting a road gap over the Marzocchi Truck. He was 30 feet off the deck and it seemed impossible that he would survive such a drop. At the time, I was a total XC geek, but I was driven to ride like “those guys”. I wanted to float down the trail. I wanted to have that BMX style and be comfortable in the air. I was more than inspired, I was obsessed, and I was not alone.I had landed in Stowe after culinary school for 2 things. I wanted to learn how to ski POW, and I wanted to ride.
At the time there was a crew of folks living the dirtbag mountain biker lifestyle. I had gone to high school with one of them and he was wrenching at Bruce Bell’s shop. Group rides on Tuesdays were something I’d never seen before. 40 people would assemble and ascend Weeks Hill in two groups; you better believe the climbing was fast and relentless. In this group there were 4 Daves. We needed a way to discern ourselves and so the prefixes were added. Toe-clip Dave, who rode with only 1 toe clip. Tele-Dave. Round-Face Dave. Jersey Dave. We rode a lot.
Scott-pelier ended up leaving Stowe to wrench at Onion River at which point I started taking my bike to another shop, the one across the street that was decidedly more “Dirt-bag”. They stunk, they were rude, and they rode everday, sometimes twice. Dana Jordan was the first real Vermonter I got to know. Despite the fact that the distain directed at me was palpable, the crew could ride so I kept showing up. Fortunately I was accepted by the long-haired baker turning out croissants from “Baked in Stowe” located behind the big green door adjacent Irie Cycles, and so could turn up for post-work rides without too much ridicule. As a former College athlete I could hang, and that’s all that really mattered. There was so much ego in that group, and so much love for bikes it was intoxicating.
I had seen Wade’s photo. It just didn’t make sense. I would be riding, and thinking about it. I could not see the path to go from where I was to where he lived. Then it happened. Tony C., the Godfather, was on his new Bullet. We had just topped out on the last climb on the Wall, and Tony, pedaling through impossibly deep suspension travel standing up the entire ride and making all the nasty climbs, vaulted the 18 inch high obstacle and took off.
“How’d you DO that?” I asked as he started to drop me.
“Lower you seat!” he called back as his voice faded into to rush of wind. Ding!
Everything changed in that moment. Over the next year I morphed. Our bikes began to change, and that riding style that came to define all of us as a group to varying degrees developed. For a time we were in Limbo. While never abandoning our XC roots, we began to incorporate these new-school lessons. We could be seen on DH bikes, spandex, no shirts, clipless pedals, seats slammed, dialing in our wheelie-drop techniques around town on retaining walls, boulders, stair sets, ect. We were odd. A weird mix of genres, we were the MTB version of Klessmer-rock. We were part Joey, part trustie, part redneck, all riders. We were strangely attached to traditional XC equipment and tackling a new set of skills.
Our trails began to change. We would ride off trail in search of anything steep, or any precipus that offered a good lip and good landing, even a marginally good one. I rode ALL THE TIME. I realized that the low speed XC skill set I developed in the impossibly rocky and technical terrain of North Jersey served as a great base level to build on. Over the course of the next years a lot of illegal building happened. Terry O. Will King. Sick Rick. Skinny. I-Bob. Buckman. H Ball. Hoonie. Wolf. Zimmer. Myself. Others. We hunted out drops, gaps, downed trees and good transitions to huck, roll off, and session. For a time, we had some lines with 30 or more features, and we would head out in groups of a dozen where every single rider was hitting this stuff. It was spectacular!
^ H-ball on the teeter up on the Jersey Shore trails. This “stunt” was iconic in Stowe for years.
People would come from out of town and get crushed, humbled, and sent packing. I remember on visitor, Gas-man, got served so hard on Will’s Trail he threw his bike and sat, unresponsive in the ferns. Hoonie was literally hugging him, coaxing him back on his bike so we could get him out of the woods. Other riders would “perp out” at the top of some nasty road climb in August heading for the goods….and puke. We were a rare breed. We pedaled. We hucked.
A ton of work, all volunteer, went in. Soon we were hitting DJs out at the Shack Jumps in Morrisville. And the gaps we were hitting kept getting bigger. Log rides longer, higher, and narrower. It was just trail. They weren’t stunts and we weren’t hucking so much as just riding though, cleaning up tech line after tech line. The progression was rapid. Winters came and went and for me, terrain park laps on skis helped my jumping ability on the bike. It was Glorious.
Then it ended as quickly as it began. Hoonie blew out his knee. Tony broke his back. Zimmer met Ali and they split out to Joshua Tree to climb and make a Baby. Dana left the shop and it closed 6 months later to reopen as Iri(d)e. The Stowe Mtn Bike Club formed and the pressure began to be applied to stop the illegal building that put Stowe on the map.
A scene that grew like mold around a handful of passionate riders and builders that started a decade before I ever got to Stowe was “legitimized”. It was also neutered. The landscape changed and the skiddish group of dirt baggers struggling to keep their beat old hand-me-down rigs running diverged. All that remains is a vestige feature or two on the old town trails. Trail builders began building for the masses and attempted to sneak in the odd, hidden feature that offered a tease of what it was once like to go out for a ride in Stowe. Dirt bags on Banshees were replaced with bros in trucker hats on $10,000 carbon bikes riding tame trail as if…
I read once that real Mountain Bikers are like roaches. They live right under our nose but when the light is shined on their home they scatter for darker corners. They are viewed as pests by those who prefer well-lit, squeeky-clean surroundings despite the fact that they were there first. And they will remain after the light goes out, crawling out from under some forgotten pile of shit to spread their filth: Illegal, technical, under-built lines for the dirt bags, by the dirt bags, with scavanged lumber, built on their own time for the love of riding and their own personal progression, Dirty and untainted.