THE DARK HORSE RISES
there’s no reason not to, is that why it feels so much more meaningful when someone or somewhere pushes beyond the limits, and finds a way around every obstacle that blocks a smooth road to success?
Take Rajesh ‘RJ’ Magar, the Nepalese downhill national champion who, for many reasons, should never have been a national champion once, let alone four times, or ever even experienced a mountain bike as a recreational tool. But once he did, RJ’s determination dwarfed the many reasons he shouldn’t succeed, and he eventually rose the ranks despite a lack of adequate equipment, financial freedom or familial support. Now RJ is facing the next big hurdle in his racing career, and if the past is any indication, it’s one he will surely tackle with grit and moxie. On page 42, Joey Schusler and Ben Page tell RJ’s fascinating story in words and photos, which accompany Schusler’s already-award-winning film “RJ Ripper,” also out this month.
The ability to rise above the odds isn’t limited to people; places can too surpass expectations. One such location is New Brunswick, Canada. While British Columbia is practically synonymous with limitless amazing trail, the Great White North’s eastern provinces tend to slide into singletrack obscurity. But, as told by writer Matt Coté and senior photographer Bruno Long in “Acadian Driftwood” on page 54, the dedication of the local club in Fredericton has mobilized a mountain bike movement, with dozens of miles of newly built trail in Fundy National Park and lift-served, Gravity Logic-manicured jump lines at Sugarloaf Bike Park.
No one is claiming New Brunswick as the next Whistler Valley, but aspirations are high, and with the right motivation, anything can happen.
Hylton Turvey is a devoted, passionate trailbuilder from Howick, South Africa. He is responsible for the magical network of trails in the Karkloof, a nature preserve teeming with exotic wildlife and a massive 322-foot waterfall. Turvey’s spent more than 10 years sculpting the otherworldly network that weaves through mountains in a way that only a true trail visionary could conjure. Matt Hunter, always insatiable for singletrack, heard tales of the trails and sought out Karkloof for the “Trail Hunter” video series. He wasn’t let down.
This image is particularly meaningful because it captures the dark power of an unknown landscape with Hunter’s intuitive familiarity of bike and trail. Regardless of how exotic or foreign, Hunter’s commanding ease over both is unmistakable. Shooting Fest is rewarding and tedious at the same time. You wait, wait and wait for the right conditions. Then you wait some more. And they rarely surface. But when it all comes together, things go off. It’s another level of action that’s awe-inspiring to witness.
This year’s Dark Fest was unreal for riding but hard for light—it was dark, an apt name. We were in the shade during the golden hour, not what you want as a photographer.
But when conditions are challenging, you have to get creative and by standing in the shadows, I managed to silhouette Ethan Nell over Franschhoek’s mountains, mixing dark shapes with the warmth of the range and highlighting Ethan’s unmatched style. Before their unfortunate demise, the Post Office jumps were the main reason the quaint, coastal Californian town of Aptos became synonymous with world-class talent. Although the dirt-jump scene is no longer thriving, a nostalgic magnetism to the area lingers for many riders. The jumps ar- en’t on display in the middle of town anymore, but the scene hasn’t quite gone extinct. Instead, it’s found lurking in backyard spots like Freedom 40 (pictured), where the worlds of BMX and mountain bike collide in an off-season retreat for those in the know. I love this corner. Beyond that, I love this trail. It’s steep and tech but still holds onto amazing flow—it runs from start to finish through lush, mysterious forest, a dream come true. The corner hits you as a fast swoop, hugging a massive fern-covered log; it never disappoints. Hannah
Bergemann and I tried different angles but were missing the overwhelming sense of speeding through Bellingham’s dark woods. We were at the move-on point when I noticed a fallen tree suspended 15 feet in the air behind me. I carefully shimmied onto a precarious perch while Hannah pushed back up for another go. And then we had our shot—all the elements of my favorite corner captured in one moment. My body was trembling with excitement as we pulled up. I’d dreamed about this for years. Utah, in all its glory, towered above me. I was staring at a blank canvas: colors, ridges, lines, features, erosion—landscape gluttonously shaped for shredding.
Leah Lind-White was down with the flu and spent much of our time there piled beneath blankets in the car, but couldn’t resist a few morning laps with our pup in between snow flurries and powerful wind gusts. As usual, Tulah stole the show.