© 2023 State Bicycle Co..
by: State Bicycle Co. team member, Alex Steadman
I was on my way to Los Angeles when Mehdi asked about my availability for a trip he was planning six days in advance. He didn’t give me any details at first, but he already had my interest. He needed someone to go to Denver and shoot photos for some new color ways, and even though I had just been chewed out by my boss for not requesting work off properly, I sent him an email and took Wednesday and Thursday off. Bikes before bosses, right? A few days later I was at Sky Harbor Airport meeting up with Jeffrey Olsen for an early morning flight.
Before we got to Denver International, Jeff told me that it’s “the most metal airport”, and I agreed with him when our shuttle passed a thirty foot tall, blue horse of the apocalypse with glowing red eyes. Apparently when they were putting it together, a part of it fell and killed its artist, which is indeed pretty metal. We picked up our luxurious minivan and headed to the hotel but not before stopping to get food at Illegal Pete’s to chum it up with the locals (a guy polishing off a pitcher at nine in the morning). After killing enough time, we checked into the hotel and started building bikes. Well, I started building bikes while Jeff took a nap.
I rode the first day at no more than 20psi because I couldn’t be troubled to use that damn hand pump any more.
Mehdi told me to bring stuff to change flats so I brought my saddle bag with me. It seems as if my emergency supplies of a matchbox sized multitool, a fixie tool, and a tiny hand pump are enough to build two bicycles, luckily. The bikes had only been assembled once, for stock photos, so I had to tweak plenty of things to get them in good, working order. The bikes also both had 55cm frames, which is about as big as I can ride, so there were even more adjustments I had to make.
The minivan was an excellent workshop. Nearly as good as the table in the hotel room.
Once everything was ready to go we realized that we were totally clueless as to where to shoot. Scott was in Arizona until Thursday so we had no guide. A quick Google Maps scan and I found roads that looked like squiggly lines and that were presumably dirt. We took off from the hotel (after Jeff held up traffic to take a picture of an overpass) and a few minutes later were in an alpine setting full of pine trees, rolling fields, cabins, bridges, creeks, Saint Bernards, elk, and all that other cool forest stuff. It was getting to be late afternoon and, as we learned from Scott, it always rains later on in the day. The rain made for some cool shots, even if it was a pain sitting there and waiting for a picture to be taken.
Does anyone have tips on shouldering? Scott and I can’t figure it out, it hurts our shoulders. Should we work out our traps?
My black metal band’s new album art is coming along nicely.
After some on and off showers the rain really started to come down, so we decided to explore the area in hopes of finding future spots to shoot. We ended up at Red Rocks National Park and were in awe. Keep in mind that we’re used to red rocks (Sedona and Arizona in general) but this place was beyond our expectations. Especially since we had no plan of going there, so we had no expectations. The most shocking thing was Red Rocks Amphitheater. Not the venue itself, but the people who were there. There were the usual tourists (us) but apparently that place is a cross fit mecca. Before we even saw the venue we were greeted by a guy doing pushups and leg lifts in the rain, grunting like a pig in heat before he side stepped down the bleachers and proceeded to climb walls all the way back to the top to do it all again. Natural wonders of the modern world.
Red rocks and jabronis behind me.
After showing an STI how a minivan can rally we kept driving around the park and found a perfect place for a shot just as the rain started to clear up. The clouds were still over the tips of the mountains around us with a little sun poking through to illuminate the red rocks, and when I looked to the right I saw an enormous rainbow. Before leaving the park we talked with a couple of runners who were doing a shoot of their own and gave us some tips for trails in the area, but at that point we decided to call it a day. I had been cold and wet for long enough.
Track stands aren’t just for the track.
I’m not sure where this end of the rainbow ended up, but I’m confident the other side touched down at the brewery we hit later that night.
The next morning we went to Scott’s house after knocking on a random lady’s door (a copilot is only as good as the address he’s given, Jeff). He has a husky that is without a doubt the most energetic dog I’ve ever met, and across the road we saw his neighbor: an Asian guy with a tramp stamp who was chopping wood using the one hand he still had left. We caught the end of a Giro d’Italia stage, talked about Denver’s greenery, ate some apples, then headed for the local trails.
C’mon dad, let’s go!
Now, I’m used to Arizona trails which are made of loose rocks on top of slightly less loose rocks, which doesn’t make for the best traction. The trails Scott took us to were more grippy than any I’ve ever ridden. I think that, other than roots, they gripped better than the road. But still, no matter how much grip there is, it’s tough climbing mountain bike trails without a mountain bike. There were some especially difficult climbs with especially offensive names (check Scott’s Strava, I’m sure) that the camera couldn’t do justice to. We found ourselves hanging out at the base of this particular climb for a while because it was a playground. There was some mud, a natural spring, a creek, a little water crossing, a jump, berms, and plenty more.
I kind of pinch flatted my front tube popping off a rock.
Drink plenty of water but keep your tires dry by jumping mud.
Scott wasn’t content with our little playground and set his sights for a steep clearing on the hill opposite us that he decided we should ride down. “I go down that kind of stuff on my fixie,” he said. It was steeper than that, and maybe it was the slightly too big frame, or bad form, but shortly after I thought to myself “I can’t get farther over the back wheel, I might go over the bars” I hit a little drop with my front end and went over the bars and almost into Scott’s back tire. On that note it was time to check out a new location.
Since we were on bikes and Jeff was walking, we had to entertain ourselves while waiting for him to catch up.
This trail had been on the side of Lookout Mountain, so we headed to the road section that most people ride up and down. We hiked up a trail and rode back down on enormous rocks that probably wouldn’t even be very fun on something with suspension. Scott had the good idea of riding the remainder of the road back into town, and after spinning to our top speed of thirty miles per hour we tucked up and bombed/skidded down past confused roadies and thirteen year old kids joyriding matching gold Dodge Intrepids. (“Those bikes have more flat spots than my fixed gear.” -Trashcan)
Scott was helpful during this tube change.
Before we caught up to a car with an affinity for crossing the double yellows.
Our final bicycle stop of the day was a strange, sedimentary rock formation mudslide kind of thing. I don’t really know how to explain it other than it was in the backyard of an apartment complex but looked like it was from a land that time forgot. I was getting really tired at this point so we mostly let Jeff take pictures of our bikes while we sang Limp Bizkit songs. After recuperating and packing up at the hotel we had dinner in downtown Golden with Scott (who supplied road sodas) and Kate (Scott’s better half). We stuffed ourselves, put honey on our pizza crust, gave our awful server a bad tip, then felt bad about it, and parted ways. It started pouring on the way to the airport and the lightning flashing behind the Satanic horse was a clear sign that my flight wasn’t going to leave on time. Three hours and many (free) beers later I was sneaking a bottle of wine onto the airplane with a middle aged woman, the past forty hours feeling more like a week.
Bikes are tiresome
Photographed by the consummate pro, Jeff Olsen