Gravity Team in Alaska

Mar 24, 2011
by Harookz ...  
 
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Alaska, The Last Frontier: The largest state in the USA guarantees you an adventure with its rugged landscape and unforgiving climate. We heard an endless number of tales from the locals of people dying out in the wild. Kelly McGarry, Eric Porter and Chris VanDine put the rubber to the ground in a state which is still largely untouched by freeride mountain bikers.

A huge thanks to Gravity Components, CLIF bar, Jason Motyka (who owns most of the businesses in Healy) and our fearless guide from Downhill Addictions, Carlos Crowl. Drop him a line at info(at)akdownhill.com to experience the best of AK on mountain bikes. You can check out some videos of the trip on the Gravity website (link at bottom)
  A huge thanks to Gravity Components, CLIF bar, Jason Motyka (who owns most of the businesses in Healy) and our fearless guide from Downhill Addictions, Carlos Crowl. Drop him a line at info(at)akdownhill.com to experience the best of AK on mountain bikes. You can check out some videos of the trip on the Gravity website (link at bottom)



SKINNY DlCK'S HALFWAY INN - This place raises quite a few eyebrows. It's a Roadhouse about an hour outside of Fairbanks. The warning sign is no joke.
  SKINNY DlCK'S HALFWAY INN - This place raises quite a few eyebrows. It's a Roadhouse about an hour outside of Fairbanks. The warning sign is no joke.


This massive mountain side we scoured hid a secret little stash of hoodoos and shark fins. Nothing really lined up, but we had to make something happen with such a cool feature. A long day of side cutting a run in helped Porter pull off a surf inspired cutback at the top of the fin as the edge crumbled down the vertical face on the other side.
  This massive mountain side we scoured hid a secret little stash of hoodoos and shark fins. Nothing really lined up, but we had to make something happen with such a cool feature. A long day of side cutting a run in helped Porter pull off a surf inspired cutback at the top of the fin as the edge crumbled down the vertical face on the other side.


What you can't see in this hipped pocket step-down photo is that the run in is literally 2.5 bike lengths long. The guys started off with a track stand and squeezed in a pedal stroke before having to lift off. Kelly cracked a flattie on his second go.
  What you can't see in this hipped pocket step-down photo is that the run in is literally 2.5 bike lengths long. The guys started off with a track stand and squeezed in a pedal stroke before having to lift off. Kelly cracked a flattie on his second go.


Long hair, backlit... this setting was made for McGazza, shot on the road where Christopher McCandless' journey started.
  Long hair, backlit... this setting was made for McGazza, shot on the road where Christopher McCandless' journey started.


This was the closest we got to seeing a Grizzly bear. Probably a good thing.
  This was the closest we got to seeing a Grizzly bear. Probably a good thing.


One of the longer descents Kelly McGarry had on deck ended with a vertical wall, perfectly aligned for a step-down. All we had to do was buff in a run in and she was good to go. Nothing beats the usage of natural big mountain terrain.
  One of the longer descents Kelly McGarry had on deck ended with a vertical wall, perfectly aligned for a step-down. All we had to do was buff in a run in and she was good to go. Nothing beats the usage of natural big mountain terrain.


We discovered a zone with extensive opportunities for long steep ski style descents. We played the waiting game to try and bag some shots here with long backlit dust trails, but the weather shut us down forcing us to shoot in sub-par conditions. The flat light diminished the fin-like features that bordered the descents we had picked out. In an effort to bring the terrain back to life, I strapped a camera body onto Kelly McGarry's chest and fired it remotely as he rode down behind Eric Porter. This is a prime example of a time when you roll into an area with pre-scouted shot angles but end up having to adapt on the fly due to uncontrollable circumstances. The first run didn't go so well as I had the camera angled too low. I hiked Kelly's bike back up the steep mountain because Porter's bike was lighter, and we nailed it on the second attempt.
  We discovered a zone with extensive opportunities for long steep ski style descents. We played the waiting game to try and bag some shots here with long backlit dust trails, but the weather shut us down forcing us to shoot in sub-par conditions. The flat light diminished the fin-like features that bordered the descents we had picked out. In an effort to bring the terrain back to life, I strapped a camera body onto Kelly McGarry's chest and fired it remotely as he rode down behind Eric Porter. This is a prime example of a time when you roll into an area with pre-scouted shot angles but end up having to adapt on the fly due to uncontrollable circumstances. The first run didn't go so well as I had the camera angled too low. I hiked Kelly's bike back up the steep mountain because Porter's bike was lighter, and we nailed it on the second attempt.




Right off the main highway in Cantwell, Alaska was this abandoned four story igloo hotel. It was built in the 1970's, but the hotel never opened due to building code violations. The interior was unfinished with signs of heavy vandalism and pitstop use, but provided us with sheets of plywood to create a lip and LZ. VanDine was towed in so he'd have enough speed to highmark the igloo. When he had the speed figured out, it started to rain turning the surface into an ice rink, guess it was an igloo after all. He managed to bust out some tables and even tried to ride up and over the 2nd story window. That attempt didn't end too pretty as his bike tagged the apex of the roof and fell straight down as he somehow hung onto the igloo, saving himself from a nasty fall.
  Right off the main highway in Cantwell, Alaska was this abandoned four story igloo hotel. It was built in the 1970's, but the hotel never opened due to building code violations. The interior was unfinished with signs of heavy vandalism and pitstop use, but provided us with sheets of plywood to create a lip and LZ. VanDine was towed in so he'd have enough speed to highmark the igloo. When he had the speed figured out, it started to rain turning the surface into an ice rink, guess it was an igloo after all. He managed to bust out some tables and even tried to ride up and over the 2nd story window. That attempt didn't end too pretty as his bike tagged the apex of the roof and fell straight down as he somehow hung onto the igloo, saving himself from a nasty fall.




Sleeping in a ten person army tent, camping and roughing it to keep the budget under control... it sounded like a text book experience for all of us outdoors men. We raced inside the tent and unrolled our thermarests and sleeping bags to claim our ground. Some pimped their quarters with an extra layer of foam while others splurged for the Ritz Carlton way, upgrading to a fold out camping cot. Upon re-entering the super-canvas on our first night, we had a cold and dank welcoming due to a torrential downpour that flooded the ground and soaked every piece of sleeping gear we had. Everyone had overlooked the holes in the tent, sending VanDine and Porter into the trailer where the bikes were stored. I decided to switch over to the Ford-Seasons (F-350) while Kelly McGarry who knows a thing or two about really roughing it took it like a man, making the soggy quarters his bitch for the entire trip.
  Sleeping in a ten person army tent, camping and roughing it to keep the budget under control... it sounded like a text book experience for all of us outdoors men. We raced inside the tent and unrolled our thermarests and sleeping bags to claim our ground. Some pimped their quarters with an extra layer of foam while others splurged for the Ritz Carlton way, upgrading to a fold out camping cot. Upon re-entering the super-canvas on our first night, we had a cold and dank welcoming due to a torrential downpour that flooded the ground and soaked every piece of sleeping gear we had. Everyone had overlooked the holes in the tent, sending VanDine and Porter into the trailer where the bikes were stored. I decided to switch over to the Ford-Seasons (F-350) while Kelly McGarry who knows a thing or two about really roughing it took it like a man, making the soggy quarters his bitch for the entire trip.


VanDine's choice of weapon for taming the beasts of Alaska was created using
  VanDine's choice of weapon for taming the beasts of Alaska was created using "Japanese military BallisTec carbon fibre". At the time, Cannondale only had 2 prototypes of the space-age Jekyll, so CVD was handcuffed to his bike as if it was his first born child. After a 10 hour scout day fueled only by Clif bars, his mind was overridden with thoughts of bison meatloaf. He impatiently rushed off to the pub before the rest of the crew even had a chance to remove their helmets. We took full advantage of his vulnerable state and hid his unlocked bike high up in a tree... and locked it. VanDine isn't known as someone who panics or worries much about any situation, so we witnessed quite an unfamiliar show.


This was one of two golden light action sessions we were provided with. It's funny how the light always fires early on in a trip when we're out scouting and building the goods. The dirt in this zone is what we all dream of. Endless scoops of chocolate fudge with an absence of roots and rocks. It didn't take us long to build an A-line inspired line with chicanes connecting lofty jumps which overlooked the valley. Here's McGazza padding his air miles.
  This was one of two golden light action sessions we were provided with. It's funny how the light always fires early on in a trip when we're out scouting and building the goods. The dirt in this zone is what we all dream of. Endless scoops of chocolate fudge with an absence of roots and rocks. It didn't take us long to build an A-line inspired line with chicanes connecting lofty jumps which overlooked the valley. Here's McGazza padding his air miles.


'No Room for Error' - The trail name sums this one up! The fall foliage and exposure on the left put this trail high up on the hit list for a bagful of whoppers.
  'No Room for Error' - The trail name sums this one up! The fall foliage and exposure on the left put this trail high up on the hit list for a bagful of whoppers.





Aurora Borealis - Northern Lights - The most mind blowing natural light display I've ever seen. With all the talks of AK's magnificent light show, we had our camera gear ready with anticipation every clear night. It wasn't until the final evening on our drive to the airport that we were able to witness the sky spew a heavy dose of the green stuff in true AK form. The trip couldn't have ended on a better note! Even saw an Arctic fox on the side of the highway prior to the show.
  Aurora Borealis - Northern Lights - The most mind blowing natural light display I've ever seen. With all the talks of AK's magnificent light show, we had our camera gear ready with anticipation every clear night. It wasn't until the final evening on our drive to the airport that we were able to witness the sky spew a heavy dose of the green stuff in true AK form. The trip couldn't have ended on a better note! Even saw an Arctic fox on the side of the highway prior to the show.

Check out Harookz website here
Check out the videos from this trip on the Gravity website.
Must Read This Week

98 Comments

  • + 177
 I agree with all of the above comments. Best pinkbike article ever: fantastic adventure, amazing riders, beers, shitty tent, stunts, a tough-guy bar, exposure, (proximity to) grizzly bears, PODs everywhere, poetry ('Endless scoops of chocalte fudge...': that's the best description of hero dirt I've ever heard), a prototype bike, a remotely-fired chest mount camera, tons of cool little detail stories that make riders seem more human AND more like superheroes at the same time, big lines, big commitments, big mountain, singletrack, big mountain singletrack, and AURORA FREAKIN' BOREALIS!

Dear pinkbike and Gravity crew: On behalf of your readership and your fans, I ask you to please send Harookz on another trip, with the same gang of guys. I think I speak for all of us when I say, I want to know where they are going next. My suggestion is Switzerland. Or Wales. Anybody else have any ideas?

Big up my comment if you agree.
  • + 9
 I agree with Phillemaistre this is a badass article, every single photo is POD worthy and it just sounds like an epic adventure. Plus Kerry's hair makes any article worth reading haha
  • + 1
 they should come to little corner of the world known as the 'mountain kingdom' or 'roof of africa' - lesotho pristine crystal clear rivers winding through sheers mountains climbing upto 5000' in no space at all, littered,ribboned and veined with endless goat and cattle and rural footpaths - true freeride heaven drop me mail and I'll organise a guided tour
  • + 2
 the peaks are all well over 9000'
  • + 1
 I wanna go to Alaska now! Thankfully I have family up thereBig Grin
  • + 7
 I wish I could fave an article:P
  • + 7
 Next time someone asks me what is freeriding, or downhill mountainbiking, or why I ride, I'm going to show them this article.
  • + 10
 The only thing this story didn't have was a 4 story igloo ... no .. no.. wait, my mistake, it had everything!
  • + 1
 Less is definitely more - less story-telling through words and more story-telling through incredible photos that paint a picture - love it! And it's not just about bikes and lines (which we all love), but also about the place, the people, and the in-between cool stuff (skinny dicks & igloos!).

I vote for the next trip to be to Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta - www.cbc.ca/sevenwonders/images/pic_wonder_drumheller_lg.jpg
  • + 2
 Yeah no doubt. This is the best thing I've ever seen on Pinkbike. Great story with just as great of photos. Keep up the solid work!
  • + 1
 i agree with phillemaistre completely! one of the best articles ever! i glad i took the time to read through it because every word read was made up by amazing pictures that could get any mountain biker stoked to ride.
  • + 1
 Alaska is really the pinnacle of big mountains and beauty...doesn't get much better than this.
  • + 1
 I agree wholeheartedly, incredible images and write up. I also think South Africa would be an amazing option, albeit as far away from BC (save Antartica) possible.
  • + 1
 British Columbia
Smile
[Reply]
  • + 6
 Great article, nature is where we came from, no matter how far the technology and urban life style is taking us from it. Go out there and embrace it, allow it to embrace you. This great outdoors stuff from the article is cool, but we all have nature close to us, whether it is a preire or small woods. Let us don't forget that these vast Alaskan areas are still there in a virgin state, only because no one reached his hand for them, it's no interest land... yet... It's good to have bikers and hikers there to show these beauty to us tied to screens, maybe one day it will be only us fighting for survival of wilderness... BTW I'm not on any drugs, I just read about the Natives lately, ok ok... I admit it, I was just listening to Springsteen with Down to the River when I wrote this...
  • + 4
 Its true though. We all banter about parts and suspension designs and blah, blah, blah.......... when its so far from the point. THIS is the point, get on your bike and explore.
  • + 5
 I have to do an experiment one day, I have to take a note paper with me and a pencil on few rides.
1.Just after every ride, I have to write down what did I like about it and what I didn't. The best would be just after the positive negative experience, when I'm still pumped up. What made me super happy and what made me pissed off. Maybe a short evaluation of a race day for someone? Why was I fast there and there, and why did I lost time there and there.

2.Then put every report into a box and don't look at it for half a year

3.Then there will be a cold winter evening or just simply rainy day, when sitting by PB and CRC I get all these great ideas what is it that I can buy to my bike that will make me faster, harder, stronger. That will allow me to take fun and performance to higher levels. Write down exactly what i want to change and what is it going to improve.

4.Then take out the papers from rides/races and compare them with the arguments for "performance" improvement. How will these purchases improve what is already good? are there any problems that they adress? can they solve them? won't they diminish some positive thing?

I have to write down that experiment and hand it out to a couple of people Big Grin
[Reply]
  • + 9
 BEST ARTICLE ON PINKBIKE EVER!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 i agree whit a lot of people saying this is the best article on PB ever, if not , it's definatly the most memorable. hard to describe how it related to mountainnikers , basicaly , it hits our heart and soul. not one mountain biker i know wouldnt want to be there , ridding that exposed , mountain dorsal trail. hard to grasp the grandure and beauty of Alaska , final frontiere sumerizes it's pretty good. make us feel small , ....as we should be.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 everyone needs to go to alaska before they die, most beautiful place i've ever been, so much open space and BIG ASS mountains, went there to ski... and it will not be the last time i go, looks like i need to take a trip in summer as well. great article, amazing pictures, gnarly riding, good shit pinkbike!
[Reply]
  • + 4
 Straight up awesomeness. Amazing job everyone. If this doesn't make you stoked to ride you might want to check your pulse and see if you are still alive. Ken
[Reply]
  • + 5
 that's dead awesome! Now I've got a serious case of the wants.
[Reply]
  • + 4
 Fuck, makes me nostalgic. I gotta get back to Alaska and ride there someday.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Its amazing what bikes are able to handle, and where they are able to go... And its also amazing where people can get to on bikes and what they can do... This is awesome guys! keep up the good work and pictures!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Fully agree with everyone else! If the photos look that good, it must be even better in when you get there! Hmmm how much spare cash can I find...
[Reply]
  • + 2
 ha i love this i grew up 30 min away from skinny dicks nice to see my home state in such a great article god knows how many pics i have taken of that igloo
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Excellent article,with sik photography.

Gringo. Camera Helmet Beer
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Its such a trip to see these pics. I lived in Alaska for 3 years and have driven by that white massive igloo like 100 times. Awesome pics and a cool story. There are so many places to ride there and millions of ways to DIE!
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  • + 1
 Sick. The photo of VanDine ripping the scree reminded me of freeskiers ripping huge spines. It's incredible how mountain biking and freesking/riding have sort of co-evolved. Best PB feature...ever.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Awesome article/report - and some of the best photography I've seen on here in a while... it's been a while since photos made my mouth water like that. thanks!
[Reply]
  • + 3
 My God there is not one bad photo...Ian here are your POD selections for the next week.
[Reply]
  • + 3
 ....yeah i'm agree come to switzerland and i'll show you the best spots....:-)!

I promise.......grx Ryme
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  • + 1
 I was really impressed by the igloo shot. Great stuff! Living around the state, I have learned that no camera can do the views justice, but you guys did a pretty good job. Awesome article!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Alaska is so epic... best state in our nation for the outdoorsman/naturalist.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 thought i wanted to go to AK bad before this article, now even moreso. so sick.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 oh damn.. now every photo i look at for the next few weeks is going to look like shit..
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Somebody in Anchorage likes to Freeride??
I'm new in Alaska and I would like to have fun in my bike!! I don't care if I have to hike up with the bike!!!
=D
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Amazing article and pix! Well done! AND, congrats on not writing in white with black background!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Incredible photos and presentation.
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  • + 3
 that looks SICK Big Grin
  • + 8
 SO sick. wow.
  • + 13
 SO MANY PODS!
  • + 2
 agreed but whats with that one guy waring dirt bike boots?
  • + 3
 I'd say the photographer used the Dirt Bike to get around for photos.
  • + 1
 makes sense didnt think of that one.
  • + 1
 That's VanDine he drove up to Alaska with his bike and his dirt bike...
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Such an amazing set of words and pics. PODs everywhere, huge stoke factor. Can't wait to go ride AK this September!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 brilliant article and photography, best I've seen on pinkbike in a long time!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 cool stuff! It's always great to hear that mountain bikers are shredding at the corners of our world!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 thats something you would never wont to forget Big Grin
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  • + 3
 Living the life.
  • + 4
 Thats the best article I've ever seen on pinkbike
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Some of the most amazing outdoor photography I have ever seen. Stunning. Absolutely!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 looks like epic, untapped terrain, sick!!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Great write up. I was planning to hit up YK but maybe I need to look a little further to AK.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 and people say im nuts for wanting to move to alaska... love the into the wild reference
[Reply]
  • + 1
 This is one amazing set of Pictures here dudes, really felt these pics, love the Inn Razz
[Reply]
  • + 1
 i can see how the riding would be amazing there. but the short season would kill me, id have to have a few snow bikes..
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Looks so good, great pics and an adventure many of us have a chance of having.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Hahaha Skinny Dicks... I have that same picture from my trip to Alaska.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Wow that was amazing reading and even beter photography. Simply awesome.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 absolutely amazing article!!! Alaska is so beautiful!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Fantastic foto's and article! Nice! :-)
[Reply]
  • + 1
 what camera setup you used to take the chest pictures?
[Reply]
  • + 1
 this is where we are going this weekend. STOKED www.jgsconcepts.com
[Reply]
  • + 1
 1 ticket to Alaska please!!!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 AOD !!!! (Article Of the DAY!)

Awesome article!!!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 amazing picture I think we could pull out like three POD's from there
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I remember the photo from the cover of Decline...wicked shot
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Bikers and Dicks these days, why not Vaggies! Wink lol
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Wow, article FULL of POD's. This is amazing.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Fantastic read - inspiring as hell.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 gorgeous photos! riding is pretty fantastic too
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Wow. Worth the trip even if I couldn't bring my bike.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 this was amazing! thank you for sharing!
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  • + 2
 I love the aurora pic
[Reply]
  • + 1
 it's just a POD collection!!! WOOOOOOWWWWW
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Could you see Russia from the top of that mountain? hahaha
[Reply]
  • + 1
 this are probably some of the best photos i've EVER seen!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Unreal... so amazing!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Speechless. . . AMAZING and EPIC!!! tup
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Amazing article, this is the reason why i love pinkbike so much!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Harookz is legit. Thanks for the tour!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 awesome work harookz, really liking some of thoes shots, you da man.
[Reply]
  • + 0
 We have family there so I go there every year!!!
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  • + 1
 Waaaaaaaaaaa a-ma-zing!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 all of those are POD's
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