2016 Gratitude: Neil Beltchenko

Salsa sponsored rider Neil Beltchenko shares some of the things he’s grateful for from 2016.

We continue our series of post expressing gratitude for moments in 2016. This time were hear from Salsa sponsored rider Neil Beltchenko. -Kid

2016 was a rewarding year, but it's hard not to think about how I got here. As I visited my folks for Christmas in the Chicagoland area, it brought me back to my roots where I rode my BMX bike off the dirt jumps and around the neighborhood. I had no clue at that moment, or even 5 years ago, that I would be so enthralled with these ultra endurance rides, but I'm not complaining. Life experiences have brought me here, and life experiences continue to shape who I am both mentally and physically. Below are a few things I learned in 2016 that will continue to shape the future of my cycling life.

I love singletrack...

Bottom line, this was a huge realization as the snow melted out this past spring. Two years ago the focus was on the Tour Divide (TD), and while I got plenty of riding in on singletrack after the TD that year, it didn't dawn on me until this past spring. Sure I knew I loved singletrack before last year, but being reintroduced after a long winter had me all giddy.

Short races are not for me...

After the Arizona Trail Race in April, I participated in two short local races in Southwest Colorado. While I know these types of efforts are great for long distance training, I decided after cramping extremely bad at the Gunnison Growler, I should stick with what I know I'm good at - and for now, that is what I'm going to do. No more races under 100 miles for me.

I really enjoy new events...

Getting out of your comfort zone is so important. It allows you a new sense of adventure and vulnerability, and in turn makes you stronger. This summer I took on a race called the Comstock Epic, which traverses the state of Nevada. I'm so grateful for this experience as it allowed me to see a part of the country I have never seen, while racing on an extremely desolate, remote and unknown route. If you want to see Nevada, this is a fantastic way to do so.

Rest is crucial...

By the end of my racing season, which was September, I needed some time off. Both to heal my body and to rest my mind. So far the rest has helped me feel better on the bike and has given me motivation for 2017.

Photo courtesy of Nico Barraza...

Records are made to be broken...

Racing the Arizona Trail Race and the Colorado Trail Race this summer reminded me that records are made to be broken. My mindset never veered away from the ultimate goal, to finish, but keeping hope of breaking records always remained in the back of my mind. While I had plenty of skepticism while racing, keeping the push forward and testing my body allowed me to break those two records this year. The best thing about those records is that they will be broken and I look forward to racing those routes again once they are.

Support system and family...

Moms, dads, sisters, brothers, fiancee, friends, and partners. I'm extremely grateful for my support system not only in my cycling life but in everyday life. Trying to balance a race year like I do while earning a living is not easy, and I have certainly had some trying moments in 2016. Thank you for the support everyone, it certainly does not go unnoticed and it continues to push me.

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Bike Mag Bible Video Review of the 2017 Kona Hei Hei Trail DL – “One of the most fun bikes I’ve ever ridden…”

Bike Mag has just published their 2017 Bible of Bike Tests review of our 140mm, 27.5″ wheel Hei Hei Trail DL, including the always-informative three-way debate. Both Mike Ferrentino and Brice Minnigh were taken with the Hei Hei Trail’s capabilities, to the point that Mike doesn’t want to give us the bike back. “Testers spent
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2016 Gratitude: Kim McNett

Sponsored rider Kim McNett shares a moment of gratitude from 2016.

Salsa sponsored rider Kim McNett shares a moment of gratitude from 2016. -Kid

When the year starts to come to an end and the nights grow long, it’s time for solstice celebration. This year, Bjorn and I decided to get into the spirit by heading out on the Iditarod Trail route for a 4-night bikepacking trip. We loaded up our winter shelter, complete with a Titanium Goat woodstove, and made the drive from Homer to Willow. We parked the truck and packed the bikes.

“There’s no trail for you down there; it’s soft and there’s open water. I’m afraid you’ve jumped the gun,” said a local old-timer from his truck window. Our hearts sank. Had we just made that long drive through the bad winter weather and holiday-advertising horror show just to get shut down at the trailhead? We were so greatly looking forward to leaving the hoopla behind for some wild tranquility.

“Well, I’m just going to go check it out anyway,” I said and took off with my loaded Blackborow. Down the hill, and past the boat launch, I suddenly realized that I was riding on the frozen river. There was a trail! It wasn’t hard-packed, but it was totally ridable. Under a late afternoon snowfall, we gleefully embarked on our solstice ride.

Last spring, Bjorn and I were on the opposite end of this iconic, 1,100-mile trail. Like muscle memory, the feeling of being underway on the Iditarod settled in. Except this time something was different. We weren’t even remotely concerned about how far we would make it. We weren’t trying to get over Rainy Pass, or between two far-flung villages. We were here simply to celebrate our love for the winter world and the shortest days of the year.

Riding only by daylight meant riding, well, not all that long. Our days consisted of admiring the frosted trees, the soft pink light on the mountains and the long shadows on the river as we wound our way down the Susitna, then up the Yetna. We shuttered at the sight of open holes where we could see the cold river flowing under rising plumes of ice fog. Our faces and fur ruffs collected frost as the temperatures steadily dropped day by day.

Our nights were long and luxurious. We spent time doing our standard chores: pitching the tent, assembling the stove, and harvesting firewood. Bjorn, having forgotten his inflatable sleeping pad, collected spruce sprigs and dead grass to help insulate him against the snow. And then, when we were all settled in and the stove was glowing bright, we feasted on delicacies, read our books, and relished the calm simplicity of life on the trail.

About half way up the Yetna River, we were beginning to wonder when we should turn around. We rounded a big oxbow bend and there was the sign for Yetna Station!

Roadhouses, or trailside stations, used to be far more common in Alaska, but you can still find them now. They are often large log homes where families live and take in travelers, providing them with necessities such as food, water, coffee, lodging, supplies, advice, and good stories. Each has an incredibly unique character because, essentially, you are just visiting someone’s home. Cheerful holiday decorations festooned the ceiling and historical posters covered the walls. In the living room, we kicked back with the lodge owner and his nephew as we enjoyed cold beers and a hot meal. It was a fine destination, indeed.

As the sun set on our last day, Sleeping Lady (Mt. Susitna) dressed in a pure white gown and wrapped herself in a purple blanket of fog for the night. By then, we were well versed in our routine, perfectly adapted to survive the longest night of the year.  The stars jingled and the temperature dropped to 10 below. Perhaps the northern lights came out to dance. We would never know. We were fast asleep.

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2016 Gratitude: Greg Gleason

Sponsored rider Greg Gleason shares some of the moments from 2016 he’s grateful for.

We continue our series of 2016 Gratitude posts from our sponsored riders. Today we hear from Greg Gleason. -Kid

2016. Gratitude. Appreciation. Thanks.

Here are several of my most grateful cycling life moments from 2016.

#1 - THE ADVENTURES BY BIKE

The opportunity to explore, learn and challenge myself while riding my bike.

Trans Iowa v.12 – Walter Zitz and I riding into the nighttime hours. Grateful for the amazing sunset...  

Photo courtesy of Wally Kilburg: Studio 46 West (http://www.studio46west.com/)

Black Hills Expedition attempt number one just after a massive rain and hail storm. Grateful for having the proper gear to stay warm during a very cold downpour. 

Photo courtesy of Randy Ericksen: legendaryrandyericksenfilms (http://www.legendaryrandyericksenfilms.com/)

Tatanka Epic 100 mile single-track mtb race in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Grateful for my health and well-being. This is just four weeks after having major surgery and I love this photo!  

Photo courtesy of Randy Ericksen: legendaryrandyericksenfilms (http://www.legendaryrandyericksenfilms.com/)

Black Hills Expedition attempt number two 103-degree temperature day. Grateful I was able to mentally overcome all the hike-a-bike sections of the rugged course. 

Photo courtesy of Randy Ericksen: legendaryrandyericksenfilms (http://www.legendaryrandyericksenfilms.com/)

Black Hills Expedition attempt number three. Grateful for the mass start comradery and completion of the entire course overcoming some very difficult temperatures and course conditions.  

#2 - FRIENDS

Perry Jewett and I preparing to race the Tatanka Epic. Grateful cycling has crossed my path with some of the most amazing ambassadors of cycling. 

Photo courtesy of Randy Ericksen: legendaryrandyericksenfilms (http://www.legendaryrandyericksenfilms.com/)

Sarah Cooper and I lined up to start Trans Iowa v.12. Grateful cycling has crossed my path with some amazing and inspiring athletes.  

Photo courtesy of Wally Kilburg: Studio 46 West (http://www.studio46west.com/)

Trans Iowa v.12 finish. Grateful to share the TI v.12 win with Walter Zitz’s. 

Photo courtesy of Wally Kilburg: Studio 46 West (http://www.studio46west.com/)

Jay Petervary and I enjoying the bikepacking adventure at the Salsa RideCamp. Grateful my cycling has connected me with the best adventure cyclist in the world.

Not pictured but very blessed to have friends that love taking pictures of all us crazy adventure cyclists. Thank you Randy and Wally for capturing all our special moments!

Photo courtesy of Randy Ericksen: legendaryrandyericksenfilms (http://www.legendaryrandyericksenfilms.com/)

Photo courtesy of Wally Kilburg: Studio 46 West (http://www.studio46west.com/)

#3 - FAMILY

Start line of Trans Iowa v.12 Guitar Ted front and center.  90 of my gravel loving family members!  Grateful for all the time Guitar Ted (aka Mark Stevenson) and his family invest in creating amazing challenges like Trans Iowa.

Photo courtesy of Wally Kilburg: Studio 46 West (http://www.studio46west.com/)

My wife Kit and my daughter Sawyer surprise me at the 4am finish of Trans Iowa v.12. Grateful that my family loves me enough to pull an all-nighter to cheer me into the finish of Trans Iowa. 

Photo courtesy of Wally Kilburg: Studio 46 West (http://www.studio46west.com/)

My son TJ and I on top of the world.  Grateful to have a son that is willing to go see the world on a bike with me!  (insert family3.jpg)

All in all, 2016 has been challenging but also very rewarding year. But I have some amazing people surrounding me that my bike has connected me too. Thank you to all of you that fill my life with awesomeness!

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