Dirt Bags

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.

 

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^ Hoonie the baker

 
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^ Hardy Avery and Dana Jourdan, co-owners of Irie Cycles

 
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^ Hardy Avery wrenching in the shop 

 
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!

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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.

 

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^ Hardy off the shop drop. The landing of this huck was in front of Irie’s Cycles’ front door. 

 

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^ Sick Rick on the Jersey Shore

 

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^ Jersey Dave on the last hit on Freeride Trail located where the Town Loops are today.

 

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!

 

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^ Sick Rick on one of the longest bridges on the Jersey Shore

 

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^ 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.

 

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^Jersey Dave with his local rendition of the “Marizocchi truck drop” called the Fern Gap. Huge for its time. Big even today!

 
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25 Comments

  • Trey Clay says:

    Great article. I’ve enjoyed the old pics and commentary. The last paragraph, i especially liked. I guess bike parks are providing the big-hit, gnarly tech terrain, even if it is somewhat “sanitized”.

    There is just something special about building your own line in the depths of the forest and ‘nutting-up’ to hit-it for the first time…not knowing if you’ll have the right speed and trajectory.

    My latest creation:https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152778755896173&set=a.49559931172.64270.715626172&type=1&theater

  • Mark says:

    The sport has definitely morphed a bit over the past decade or so and things have become a bit more sanitized than I’d like at times too. While more into non-hucking, XC riding myself, I really enjoyed the story here. Very nice read.

  • WunderskiVT says:

    Yawn. $10K carbon? As if. I was huge back in the day too…just ask me.

    • Dave Packie says:

      Funny Matt Swartz. Maybe you can write about how your scenes developed in Cambridge and Montgomery and why you don’t want them in the guide book.

  • Hardy says:

    Nice piece of work.

    Love the K2 4000 shot. It had a THE fender with custom flap, a rollamajig, a ball frog, nightsun lighting, and gem of all gems, the 1999 Marzocchi QR20 fork! Classic.

  • Dave Packie says:

    Evil Bikes.

  • Add says:

    I can’t thank Hardy, Brooke, and volunteers enough for what they bring to the bike community here. First class work boys. I enjoy it daily and truley believe we have some of the best trails anywhere. That being said I would love to see some “old school” technical trails either built or revived with jumps, drop, hucks, skinnies, or whatever difficult feature. Well marked and signed with legit B lines to allow progression. Bring back the fern gap and others! I doubt I’m the only one.

  • knight says:

    Hey dave, why don’t you stop whining about it and build some cool shit again.

  • Dave Packie says:

    Hey Knight, I was asked to write this. T-Bow wanted a piece about the “Glory Days” of freeriding in Stowe. I wrote it 9 months ago. I do build cool shit. I put in a ton of time on my own, in my town, for free, so I have trail to ride. ‘Course there’s no Enduro event here, no VMBA marketing, no Super D, no Nambla fest so why would anyone come ride here? No one’s making any Money! Why don’t you go build another flow trail for someone to sell. Where are you, Florida now? Sounds sweet.

  • Thibault says:

    Easy boys. Take it out on the trails. Hardy and Dave, we need to build a new Dock Drop in Stowe… I’ll buy the nails.

  • Tony C says:

    I get a little choked up reading this article. Good times gone forever.

  • Meagan says:

    This article is fantastic. What a great group of people with tremendous talent. Glad I got the opportunity to ride, watch and hang with you “dirt bags.” Dave I am still riding your old Marzocchi QR20.

  • Mattcini says:

    Skibike (aka Tony C)

    Isn’t Fern Gap actually TC’s Kidney Crusher? Where it all ended (4U), sniff sniff.

  • Thibault says:

    Tony, I have images of you hitting the the tree when you broke your back. Dirt Bags part 2 maybe?

  • TonyC says:

    T-Bo let’s see those pics and yes write the prequel of this story. Hardy and Dana at 15 years old, helmets were optional and flex stems were state of the art.

  • Knight Ide says:

    Dave, I liked the article and I know you build cool shit, just giving you a hard time. I am I the same page as you with regards to how good the old Stowe stuff was, jersey shore was rad! You guys wee the first real freeriders I net and I looked to you for inspiration. I’ve often wondered what happened and stayed as much in this interview.
    http://mtnadvisor.com/article/knight-ide-the-baron-of-vermont8217s-northeast-kingdom/?id=269
    Sorry if I offended, keep up the good work man!
    Ps. Add Orion to the list of people who hit the fern gap.

  • David sullivan says:

    Great read, Wow there are a lot of “Daves” out there!

  • Tyler Merritt says:

    Great article Dave. I remember around that time you, Hardy, and Jonathon came over to Richmond to ride what we’d been building. It was a classic Stowe crew ride that day – no shirts on any of you. Our scene was still classic agressive XC with lots of climbing and lots of lycra (hasn’t changed much!). Our goals were to try to make trail enough to link up huge loops (circumnavigate Camels Hump, Mansifield, etc….) A little differnet then the freeride focus going on in Stowe, though always loved the big adventure rides the Little River Valley had to offer. On our brutal climb focused ride that day you guys slayed it, though I could tell you were wondering where the “hits” were. One indelible memory is the final descent to the river valley floor unfortunately was on pavement for about 500 verticle feet, but you could surpass 50mph. Going brakeless, somehow Dave passes me doing a constant manual with one hand on the bar. We were close to 50mph. Blew me away. Anyway, old shool trails have given way to modern design. Time to come back over for a serious link up of Cochrans (Richmond), Sleepy Hollow, HTF, Carse and back!

  • Kenny H says:

    Nice read JD. Takes me back. I still remember some dude from J state talking BA till he rolled up to Will’s big log ride over the river. Made him cry. I need to get out to Northfield.

  • Dana Jourdan says:

    Love this post. I wish we were still hitting those trails hard. Great words Dave, awesome that we set a non forgettable path.

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