What is it that makes something shift to something special? Why is it that certain weekends stand out? Why are certain moments magic in both present and memory? Is it light, color, smell, feelings, familiarity, newness, old friends, or new friends? Does it require good food, good trails, exploration, jokes, open minds, open hearts, presence, and connection? This year's Yeti Cycles Gathering embodied all of that, and for some reason, just like the last Gathering and the twenty before, it was one of the best weekends of the year.
This year The Gathering returned to Northwestern Colorado, it allowed riders to pass through and dabble in Steamboat Springs and established themselves in Clark, Colorado. Clark is a quiet town near the Wyoming border with rural and rowdy riding. It is an area where most folks ride horses, dirtbikes, or barstools. It was a favorite hideout of Butch Cassidy and the Hole In The Wall Gang in the late 1800s. This year's crew of hooligans were mounted not on quarter horses but instead Yeti Cycles. While the crew did not rob trains or steal any horses, the Yeti Freaks certainly stole some good times and murdered berms along the rides.
Organizers worked with local land management organizations to establish an off-grid lush emerald green meadow for all 400+ participants to camp in. Far from any towns or neighbors, the Yeti crew did not need to taper their hoots and hollers as the only neighbors were a flock of sheep. The remote camp was far enough North that all cell service was also lost. The result, phones disappeared into pockets and bags going untouched for days allowing everyone to slow down, connect, and truly enjoy being present. While there were far fewer photos taken, far more memories were made.
While slowing down was the social theme, the rides were anything but. The monsoonal flow blessed us with a hefty load of moisture leading up to the event. The night before the ride, four separate storms ensured that we would not be staying clean during the rides. Riders made sure to get an early start following some delicious breakfast sandwiches from Mountain Chef and perfectly pulled Espresso from the ladies and gents at Traction Coffee. You can be damn sure that when World Champion and Yeti Factory Rider Shawn Neer pulls the shot, each rider felt the increased pressure to send it. (Despite the fact that a portion of Shawn's ability was not actually in the shot)
The Big Ride, was a 30-mile lollipop loop with gut-punching climbs followed by whooped out berm laden flowing descents. The rain made for slicker-than-snot downhills and turns that begged you to push as hard as you could, could you muster the courage to push. Heers, jeers, and laughter echoed through the aspens as muddy descents made it nearly impossible to stop. Riders would collect at the sponsor supported aid stations where Big Agnes and Toyota staff were slinging watermelon, bacon, adult beves, cold Red Bull, and even freshly oven-baked pizza!! Yes, fresh baked PIZZA at 8k feet in the middle of nowhere. In between bites and sips, mud-covered riders recalled the last descent, told lies about how fast and big they went and fueled up for the next giddyup. The ride started and ended straight from camp. The final descent was a blast, pinning it extra hard as the storm's rain was almost completely swallowed up by the thirsty soil leaving behind absolute perfection in the form of dirt. Open mouthed smiles and deep breaths were rewarded with shots of loam kitty, macaroni in a pot, moist Colorado super grip being flung off of the tires as each rider hammered every straightaway and tried to find the bottom of the suspension off of every kicker.
"as the storm's rain was almost completely swallowed up by the thirsty soil leaving behind absolute perfection in the form of dirt."
The medium ride was slightly shorter and kinder in terms of vertical feet gained but it was just as rewarding and fun in terms of the downs. Wild flower-lined perilously skinny single track along the 20-mile loop allowing riders to enjoy both the dense forest views and open flowing meadows. The descent off of the high point of Farwell Mountain rewarded riders with a bit of everything: roots, rocks, stumps, jumps, and berms. Exactly what a Yeti needs for a balanced diet.
If the riding is the Super Bowl of the Yeti Gathering then Saturday night is the Half Time show but way better. A clear cool evening ushered in a legendary Saturday amalgam of stupid human tricks, mini bike races, dancing, and connection. The afternoon built momentum slowly after riders bathed themselves and their bikes in the creek running through camp. After a little rest period and lunch, riders began to turn up the intensity by swinging by the Hoogarita tent to pick up a signature Hoogarita with freshly squeezed lime and a mountain of ice. The deliciously concocted drink seems to instantly reduce fatigue, almost better than Skratch Labs on a ride. Yeti freaks started laughing louder, and stories of saves and sends got instantly more colorful. Once the social vibes were at an all-time high, Chris Conroy and Hicks, the self-nominated masters of ceremony/announcers/judges of the events, began the games. The games are tradition and include Mini Bike Races, Bike Limbo, Bike Toss, and Foot Down. Whatever tiredness riders felt after the ride vanished as the competitive drive was sparked and the tequila from the Hoogaritas fanned the flame. Riders of all ages entered the ring to test their skills alongside Yeti employees, legends, and World Cup racers. Only the strong, talented, and lucky survive. Due to the expertly crafted technical course more flesh was donated on the mini bike dual slalom than on the demanding trails riders ripped in the morning. Certainly, lots of dirt was eaten on both trail systems. After the champions were crowned the flesh wounds were tended to by the capable EMS staff on hand. The bruised egos of wannabe champions were soothed with dancing and a night cap or two. The lights were bright and the music was loud under the main tent, where tables were cleared to dance the night away.
Outside of the tent, the night is dark and the stars abundant. Yeti freaks who brave the night wandered and often found themselves at the backcountry speakeasy nestled amongst the aspens. This year Mythology Distillery provided top-shelf spirits that were used to expertly craft cocktails. Bourbon, Gin, and American Whiskey matched with recipes to provide something for everyone's pallet. Freshly brewed Traction coffee was also on hand for a one-of-a-kind Rocky Mountain High Irish Coffee. Once riders finished dancing and hydrating, they made their way back to their tents, falling asleep to the babbling creek and the babbling sheep surrounding the camp.
Just like the Johnny Cash song, Sunday morning is definitely a come down. Riders slowly made their way out of their steel or nylon abodes and sauntered down to the food tent seeking one last breakfast and Traction espresso before they hit the road home. The toughest riders fuel up to head out for another rip, albeit a slower one, in the Colorado High Country. With raspy voices from the previous days events riders said their goodbyes and packed up. There was a solemn tone but as the bikes were loaded the mood lifted for the Yeti freaks knew that there were plenty more rides to come, the connections made were as strong as the carbon and alloy they rode, and The Gathering will be that something special we all look forward to all year. See y'all at number 22!
Following the event, Yeti staff walked the entire camping area collecting trash and repairing areas of impact. Combined with their efforts to leave the event site better than they found it, Yeti Cycles also donates to the local trail organization in order to practice collective trail user responsibility.
Holler, if you want to ride, JR @justin_reiter
Full Event Gallery Available BelowYeti Gathering 2022 - Ben Duke Media