WTB. The Semper Fi Fund. The private ranch in Novato, California. 16 service members. WTB/Cannondale OverMountain Team athletes Mark Weir and Jason Moeschler. 2 days of rain. 1 day of sun.
It all came together to create a rowdy weekend of perfect dirt, seemingly endless shuttle laps, high-speed descents and a level of camaraderie that made it impossible to end each day without a smile. The service members who protect and serve our country have done so much for all Americans, while many of us are often unaware of all they've had to endure in the process. While no amount of thank yous will ever be enough, WTB partnered with the Semper Fi Fund to help create an unforgettable experience for a group of service members who have used their love for mountain biking to aid in their ongoing recovery from a life of service, both mentally and physically.
Photo: Ken Viale
Even the service dogs, such as Sequoya here, had a blast. Photo: Ken Viale
Photo: Ken Viale
These guys have been riding bikes with each other for years. They’ve known each other since Mark was wearing Lyrca and Jason didn’t have any of his four Downieville Classic All-Mountain titles. The number of miles they’ve logged and hours of demoralizing climbs they’ve conquered together are beyond anything reasonable. Times may have changed in the sense that they’ve left race tape behind and are both fathers of rambunctious young boys, but their ability to tear down a trail has not diminished in the slightest. The combination of their different skills and riding styles provided well-rounded skills clinics where the service members could learn technique at the top of each lap and then immediately put it into application on the descent.
Photo: Ken Viale
Jason explains how to ride an off-camber section of trail by pointing out the angle of the trail and emphasizing where to keep your weight. Verbally, he explains what riders are going to encounter and how to handle it. Some would say he takes the preventative approach to riding where he keep everything tight and under control.
“I’ve taught mountain bike skills to a lot of people over the years but it was incredible to see how much better and how much more confident the servicemen were from start to finish in such a short period of time,” Moeschler explained. He added that having the support from their friends and the people who worked to put the whole event together helped to convey the normal every-day scene that he and Weir love so much. “I was honored to be able to share it with them. It’s our little slice of heaven that we wouldn’t have without their bravery.”
Photo: Ken Viale
Mark takes the experiential and visual approach. He wants riders to get a feel for what he’s talking about. “Keep your tire on the high side of the trail, hold your line like this and trust your side knobs. Here we go…” Equal amounts of finesse and manhandling meet each other every time Mark touches a bike and it’s apparent in his instruction.
“I’ve spent my entire life racing, which is a fairly vain way of going about things in comparison to what these guys have done,” says Weir. “It’s my turn to give back to each of these service members and the least I can do is provide them with a weekend of rowdy trails and good times. I can’t thank these guys enough for the sacrifices they’ve made for all of us and hopefully this is only the start of something much bigger.”
Trails don't get faster than this brake-free, fully-committed line down the steepest grassy pitch we've ever seen. Photo: Ken Viale
See those nearly unnoticeable rollers wrapping the grassy knob? The rowdy speed through this pinned section turns those little rollers into 20-foot senders for those who are willing and able to commit. For the rest of us, it still provides a rare experience to see hundreds of feet in front of us with no obstacles. Photo: Ken Viale
Shuttle laps were put on repeat...
Photo: Ken Viale
Again and again...
Photo: Ken Viale
Six professional athletes and six of the service members...all waiting for the photo to be over and the sendage to ensue. Well worth the wait. Photo: Ken Viale
It took us a few days to find out the secret behind Jon Disbro's skills on these trails, which often eat people up. Turns out, he lives only a few hours away and spends his days riding the trails around Reno and Tahoe. Not a bad region to put your practice laps in.
That saddle's got AMERICA printed all over it! Photo: Ken Viale
Each of the service members were handed their own limited edition WTB Volt Team saddle on the first day of the event, featuring a star spangled design of red, white and blue. For the remainder of the weekend, flashes of the patriotic colors were seen ripping down the trails of the Novato ranch. Through this saddle, the service members were able to return home from the event with not only the memories of the weekend, but also a tangible reminder of our appreciation for each of them.
Outside of this small batch, WTB will also be doing a limited production run of the Volt Team saddle. It will be available for purchase on the WTB website late this summer and a portion of the proceeds from the saddle sales will be given to the Semper Fi Fund to help support future opportunities to allow recovering service members to experience the activities they love.
Ryan Beamish installed his saddle with haste and treated it with the same love he would anything that bears the stars and stripes.
Pedaling is great, but the ranch is steep. Painfully steep. There were four flavors of shuttle experience. 1. The Everyday Ride: Jason Moeschler’s pickup brought everybody to the top in the tried-and-true mule for mountain bikes, the Tacoma. 2. The Backwoods Whip: Graciously provided by the Sanchez family, organizers of The Dirty Sanchez Enduro, riders could reach the top slightly more roughed up, but with a bit of extra grit for the descent. 3. The Dream Truck: Fox brought one of their Ford Raptors out, for anybody looking/willing to reach the top at highway speeds. 4. The Comfy Couch: Mark Weir’s Old Blue may not go any faster when he lays on the gas, but it sure as hell gets louder. Photo: Ken Viale
Jorge Arreola jumped on a Cannondale Scalpel the first hour of the weekend and never looked back. With the rest of the crew on Jekylls and Triggers, he chose the pedal-friendly option, but never let up on the descents. On the end of the third day, he was asked if he wanted to do another lap. “Of course!” he responded with a puzzled look, as if it were a question with an obvious answer. Photo: Jeremiah Newman
Daniel "Danimal" Riley examplifies why there are no valid excuses for not getting out there and doing what you love. Faster than many of us on two wheels, he always refuses to take the easy line. Photo: Jeremiah Newman
Would you put your life in the hands of Mark Weir on a dual slalom course? Normally we’d be terrified to hear somebody say their leg fell off somewhere along the way. Only Daniel would be able to following it up with a hearty laugh and toothy smile.
How did we make it happen? Duct tape….camo duct tape.
Ryan Beamish is a Marine who now makes it rain...torrential downpours...of dirt that dreams are made of. Photo: Ken Viale
Not only does he have the ability to keep up with the pros on the trail, but he also has an artistic side that makes repurposed saguaro cactus sculptures out of bike parts. Check out some of his creations here.
Mark Weir rides at a speed that leaves you constantly wondering when he’s going to merely tap the brakes. Here he demonstrates the “Brakes are for sissies…dirt drifts keep the speed down.” Free dirt showers for all spectators. It's still up for debate whether him or Ryan had the better drift. Photo: Ken Viale
Events sponsored by WTB have become synonymous with muddy, greasy conditions. We’ll take it though. One day of sun and two days of rain gave the riders two different riding experiences at a single riding location. WTB Vigilante tires were run, both front and rear, to keep the traction dependable and the mud flying. Photo: Jeremiah Newman
"Fez" Christopher may be the only guy we know rocking 20" tires, but he does it so damn well that it's hard to argue it! Photo: Jeremiah Newman
Mark and Jason headed the skills clinics with the service members, but there was plenty of other elite talent out there as well. We can only assume Aaron Bradford, professional racer for Evil Bikes, is giving some “Grip it, rip it…then send it” advice. Photo: Ken Viale
Jaime Sigala’s only known facial expression is one of a massive smile. Full of stories and always willing to share, he’s quick to become friends with anybody, and everybody he encounters. After decades of service, he retires this November and is contemplating building a van conversion to travel the country in. Mark Weir finally found somebody who can match his level of stoke! Photo: Ken Viale
Oh yeah, Jaime also made the dual slalom course look simple. But that apparently wasn’t enough, because he was also the first at the ranch after the pedal back from the Stafford Lake Bike Park.
Jaime reppin' the W. Side note: Jaime pedalled from San Fransisco to Los Angeles...two weeks after getting his first bike. No big deal!
Axial Racing provided a handful of RC scale crawlers for the Service Members to crawl around with in between shuttle laps. Even with exclusive access to elite level trails, it was often hard to pry them away from the crawlers! Photo: Ken Viale
Can you blame them? The Axial crawlers even evolved into snack trucks that delivered Hi-Ball energy drinks and Red Vines to riders as they rested.
Photo: Ken Viale
Eugene Power (far left) was generous enough to have the entire camp at his house, two nights in a row, for incredible dinners, a welcoming environment and campfire conversations that led from one story to the next. Thank you, Eugene. Photo: Ken Viale
Many hours we spent around this campfire as we knew a big day was ahead of us, but didn't want to leave the circle of great people and conversation. Again, thank you Eugene, for welcoming us to your home. Photo: Ken Viale
Check out this video, made by OTR Media, for a further look at what went down at the Team Semper Fi Mountain Bike Camp.