For road cyclists in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, there’s nothing more motivating than the sonorous whine of a faraway train whistle. That’s the sound of their top competitor: the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The road biking race was born in the early 1970s, when beating the train to Silverton on a bicycle was deemed impossible—until cyclist Tom Mayer pulled it off in a bet with his brother, a train worker. Now, the race has expanded to a full weekend of festivities, including a kids’ race, mountain bike race, and the Cruiser Criterium, a cruiser-bike parade and costume contest held on Main Street.
The Silverton race is still the marquis event, with around 1,000 racers who compete in pro divisions and 1,500 amateurs, who race the train over a 50-mile course with two 10,000-foot passes and 6,650 feet of climbing. Though pros have sped through the course in as little as two hours, most riders take a more leisurely pace to enjoy the cheers of locals on the roadsides and ogle the views of 13,000-foot snowcapped peaks.
The first Winter Teva Mountain Games comes to Vail, Colorado, this weekend with competitions in big-air bike, ski mountaineering, mixed climbing, and much more. Top athletes and weekend warriors will compete their chunk of a $60,000 cash purse. Stay tuned for updates.
Two years ago Scottish street trials rider Danny MacAskill was just a guy working a nine-to-five job as a mechanic in an Edinburgh bike shop, crafting his vision of what was possible on a bicycle in the hours after work. In March 2009, he took a risk and left his job to pursue riding full time. A month later his roommate, Dave Sowerby, released a video of MacAskill leaping, flipping, and balancing across Edinburgh’s famous buildings, parks, and back alleys on his bike. No one had seen riding like this before.
The video went viral. First friends and then total strangers forwarded it via email and posted it on Facebook. MacAskill’s audacity, skill, and grace spoke to people, even those who had never heard of the obscure sport of street trials, where bicyclists use existing structures to create physical puzzles that are solved by moving from obstacle to obstacle. Some even chalked MacAskill’s mind-bending moves up to a special effects hoax. The video went on to be viewed 27 million times.
MacAskill could have been a one-hit wonder. But when his 2011 short film Industrial Revolutions—which featured him riding through Scotland’s abandoned factories, leaping between train cars, and riding across two-inch beams suspended 15 feet above concrete—generated three million views on YouTube in a month, he proved he wasn’t. What MacAskill can do on a bicycle, his body shifting, pausing, and then exploding upward in a seamless tangle of man and bike, makes us reimagine our daily environments.
Groundbreaking adventure has always made us examine and then redraw the fine line between the possible and the impossible. Like the great performance artist and tightrope walker Philippe Petit, who captured New Yorkers’ attention with his 1974 walk between the towers of the World Trade Center, MacAskill has taken the the landscapes of his everyday and turned mundane into a physical canvas.
Since 2009, MacAskill has used his newfound fame and monetary support to log over 40,000 miles in an RV, traveling across Scotland looking for the perfect trick in the ideal location.
“I never had the goal of being a professional rider,” says MacAskill. “I just wanted to ride my bike.”
“Riding on top of Table Mountain was something I had to do,” says professional mountain biker Kenny Belaey. “The landscape is just perfect for trials—but I had to be really careful.” Belaey pulled out every daredevil trick imaginable, from wheelies to bunny hops, to explore the famous 3,558-foot slab of granite overlooking Cape Town. To reach the top at sunrise, he hiked through the night, carrying his 20-pound bike on his back.