The San Juan effect

Photos and words by Sarah Zoey Sturm

The premise of this trip was simple, three friends wanted to ride trails we’d never been on and right in our back yard mountain range. Oh, and we wanted the route to highlight some of the best descents around. Over 4 days, through the heart of the San Juan Mountains, we gained 11,723 feet in elevation, rode 53.7 miles and descended enough to make anyone squeal. More importantly, the three of us came together from our busy lives to simply ride our bikes in the mountains and have some laughs.


Every bike trip is different, depending on where you go, whom you go with and the amount of suffering your crew is ready to endure. The trip takes on it’s own personality that’s a combination of the people that are participating. Our mishmash adventure squad covered all bases, from comic relief and berry picking to serious navigation and mechanics we had all we needed. When you’re riding in the back country where seeing other humans is a rare occurrence you can’t help but feel immense appreciation for the specific adventure crew you’ve assembled to conquer the ride.

club-ride-collection-7On a ride there are so many things you can’t control, like the weather, flats, crashes and mechanicals. All are pretty significant parts of a ride. Perhaps that is what makes mountain biking so appealing for some. For those addicts of detail, the lovers of control it’s a space where you can only prepare for the anticipated hunch of possible failure.indian-ridge-1sarah-blog-photos-25

Teal and Sabina taught me how to ride mountain bikes, they were the cool girls who raced on dirt and I was fresh off of the road bike. I still feel like I’m indebted to them for showing me the beauties of the single track. Since then we have all gone our separate ways pursuing our different careers in geology, bike racing and art. This trip brought us back together, even for a short 5 days. In planning, we each brought something different to the table, Sabina mapped our routes, Teal got us bikes and I made us custom Vans (a necessary item for a bike trip). Sabina’s route showcased single track winding through aspen groves, steep climbs to summits you can only dream about and ripping 30 minute descents through roots, loam, rocks and berms.

The trip was like nothing I had ever done, every single trail we touched was “the best trail ever”. We rode tracks that really aren’t ridden by many bikers and felt like we had discovered some secret of the San Juans. We got to reconnect through the best scenario ever, riding bikes and seeing new places. Even with 4am wakeup calls there were jokes flying left and right. Chamois were put on backwards, allergic reactions were had, beers were cracked and memories were made. You know you’re doing something right when the last climb of the trip is passed by planning more trips, and man, I can’t wait.

Statue-like friends waiting at the “top”.


This is what I brought to the table, custom Vans. They were vital in doing this trip.
A pretty but useless map of our trip. (Drawing by Sarah Zoey Sturm)
We found some sweet natural hot springs too, that was a plus. (Photo Sarah Zoey Sturm)


Speedy tree rider. Photo by the real Benjamin Kraushaar
John and Ben met up with us for our last day. It’s important to say ‘yes’ when friends want to join in on the fun.



High country rides involve a significant amount of pushing your bike. It’s something you just have to accept and embrace. Pictured here is the moment where you start doubt that decision to embrace the hike-a-bike.


Sometimes your friends choose tires that are meant for XC races and have tissue paper thin side walls. Lessons were learned. Norman knew it was a bad idea from the start.


Ska makes emotional bandaids. Thanks Ska Brewing.
Riding from the moon.
This moment isn’t fit for a public explanation.
Teal, blending into the wildflowers.




Add yours →

  1. marjory weinstein October 16, 2016 — 4:31 pm

    Such beautiful photos from an epic,life-changing trip. The narrative is so descriptive and beautifully written.I am so proud of you every day! I love your strength,toughness, and lust for life!!!


  2. Awesome story and photos! Where are the natural hot springs?!


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