THE DARK HORSE RISES

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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.

PHOTO: ROBIN O’NEILL

PHOTO: STER­LING LORENCE

PHOTO: ALE DI LULLO

PHOTO: IAN COLLINS

PHOTO: SATCHEL CRONK

PHOTO: ERIC MICK­EL­SON

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