Stepping out of
the comfort zone

Words by Fergus Ryan

I kicked 2024 off by challenging myself and setting new goals. One of these goals was to tick off some classic freeride lines in the desert, and like all good plans, this one just fell perfectly into place. 

There's something alluring about the rawness of finding and riding fresh lines in new landscapes. With a trip to the U.S. planned to attend the Sea Otter Classic, I spoke with our U.S. contingent, where the idea of a road trip from our office in Colorado began to form. The idea was simple: James Stokoe (U.S. MTB Marketing manager) and I would drive through Colorado and Utah from The Rider Firm U.S. office before arriving in California for Sea Otter. This was the trip of a lifetime and one I certainly couldn't pass up, so I hopped on a plane and off we went! 

After an incredible few days of meeting the U.S. team and getting my bike built up, James and I set off for the trip's first stop, Cedar City, Utah.  

Cedar City

We cruised through amazing landscapes, and I successfully drank my own weight in Root Beer. Part of our plan for Cedar City was to catch up with fellow Privateer Bikes and HUNT free-rider and all-around shredder Bryce Stroud to show us what freeriding is all about.

To kick things off, we headed just behind Bryce's house and up into the arid rocky trail that was Hidden C. I quickly realized how rugged these trails are, and riding on dust for the first time in 8 months (thanks UK winter) definitely took some getting used to. We hit some sick turns. It was incredible to follow Bryce on his local trails.

Ferg looking at a huge drop

Virgin Utah

I was filled with mixed emotions for our next stop on our trip. I would be lying to say I wasn't a little scared for hitting some lines in Virgin Utah, but I was also excited! How often do you get the chance to ride in the home of Redbull Rampage? 

I have always understood that the guys who ride here are of a different breed, but my eyes were truly opened when I first arrived and viewed the trails and features for myself. If you get the opportunity to visit the Rampage site, you should. The size of these creeks and features aren't given justice on the screen!

We warmed up with a few hits on some of the features lower down before Bryce somehow convinced me that we should head up for a top-to-bottom run. The hike up was crazy. Sheer drops on either side, and a vertical climb with my Privateer 161, it certainly got the blood pumping.

Fergus and Bryce riding huge drops

Having reached the top, the sheer size of the landscape became all too apparent, and I was confronted with the first feature, a vertical drop-in. Bryce was very calm and made it sound simple: "Just hop in, it will be fine." Sure enough, he nailed it, and I followed suit.

I never thought I would get a chance to ride this amazing terrain, so doing so on my Gen 2 161 really was a dream come true. Every hit got wilder, and the bike never skipped a beat.

The final feature on the line was a three-part drop down a near vertical shoot. At this point, my inner chimp had left the chat. Some serious inner monologue and watching a calm, collected Bryce sending it without bother got me on my bike and off the drop-in. Slowing down was my main concern, but once I dropped in, I was committed to the bottom and rode it out, which was such an awesome feeling.

Having made it to the bottom we found no better way to celebrate than a cool beer and smiles all round. What an end to one of my wildest days on two wheels.

Mountain bike riders

Arriving with the dawn of a new day came with it the wind, and on these exposed trails, it was obvious the conditions would be too dangerous to ride. So, instead, James and I relaxed, and he showed me some real America with his Favorite "Chili’s" visit. I won't lie—the food was mega, and the portions were huge! 

James has an awesome eye for shots, and with a perfect sunset brewing, we decided to risk it and head back down to the Rampage site again to capture some of that Golden Hour sunlight. 

Between gusts, we found an amazing hip and got a session going. James caught one of my favorite shots I've ever had on my bike and certainly one I will be getting framed at home. 

We got so many incredible shots, and despite how scared I was coming into Utah, I now have a bug to return and tick off more features. 

Fergus in Simi Valley
Mountain bike riders

Simi Valley

With another day of wind scheduled James and I made the decision to leave Utah a day early and head to Los Angeles to explore some of their local trails. Simi Valley situated in the north of L.A. is a complete contrast to Utah. Plenty of grass and smooth rock made for unfamiliar terrain, but incredible trails. 

We started in an area called Marr Ranch, a nice climb through the grass that has a wicked singletrack feel.

The singletrack descent was really flowy and a nice contrast to the desert the day before.

In the afternoon, we were shown around the Indian Springs trails. These were a real treat, especially since they had just had some work completed on them, ensuring they were running amazingly. I would never describe sand as grippy, but here it just hooked up in the turns, and I was loving it. James and I got treated to another golden hour session, so it felt rude not to get some shots.

Despite a slight mishap on my part, getting a little zesty in the corners, we finished the day with a massive grin and some fantastic times. All that remained of our trip was a beautiful cruise up the coast to Monterey, where Sea Otter was taking place.

Mountain bike riders

Sea Otter

Sea Otter itself was awesome! The sheer size of the event is incredible, but the people made the weekend so much fun for me. Meeting and being on the stand with the Privateer bikes and HUNT crew was super fun and made me grateful to ride and work with truly like-minded people.

Although my results were not where I wanted them to be in the races, nothing was going to dampen my spirits after such an amazing trip. I would like to add a special mention to James for his planning and looking after me throughout the trip and also for taking such incredible photos. I cannot wait to make a return trip in the future! 

Now, back to the U.K. and, hopefully, some sunshine. 

Collage of photos of Starla and Hannah
May 17, 2024 — Jacob Rubio