If a perfectly meandering stretch of buffed-out singletrack is ridden in a forest of new-growth redwoods and there are no iPhone snaps or GoPro footage to prove it, can the ride still be considered ‘epic’ or ‘awe-inspiring?’ After spending a recent holiday weekend in Mendocino County with the capable guides of Mendocino Bike Sprite, we’re inclined to believe it so — and you’ll just have to take us on our word (and our GPS data).
The city of Fort Bragg is essentially the last stretch of civilization before Highway 1 surrenders to the rugged coastline and heads inland. From here, it’s only a few miles to the start of California’s fabled “Lost Coast.” Many of the characteristics of the Lost Coast are already at play here, from the Pacific smashing against jagged rocks, to the heavily wooded canopies that line Highway 1. It’s beneath these canopies that Bike Sprite introduced us to a staggering network of mountain biking trails in a largely untapped forest system. Nigh poetic in its isolation, it is here where you could ride incredible singletrack for entire days at a time and not see another soul, nor enjoy all the area had to offer — quite possibly one of very few places in the United States where this is possible.
We quickly learned that having a guide in the Jackson Demonstration State Forest wasn’t just a luxury reserved for MTB vacations, here it was an absolute necessity. The forest is a disorienting maze of mostly unmarked trails (though some ridden more than others), making it a goldmine for trailblazers and amateur cartographers alike. Nick Taylor, a local artist and our Spritely guide for the weekend not only knew the trails like the stories written across his palms, he also knew where in Bragg to get burritos that would make Mexico City blush. Taylor is something of a quiet legend in mountain biking; most publicly known for his construction of the jaw-dropping “Ibis Maximus” 59er, and slightly less known for his impressive bike-handling savvy and a penchant for mapping out, linking, and maintaining many of the existing trails up in the Jackson Forest.
Though small in number, the well-connected Sprites have been hard at work on multiple fronts in Fort Bragg to better position the city as a true mountain biking destination. While Taylor shepherds guests beneath the redwoods on trails he helped build, his wife and Bike Sprite co-founder Amy Wynn works to secure the necessary permissions from the forest landowners to ensure that the forgotten CCC trails, defunct logging roads, and overgrown forest floor achieve their greatest potential for cyclists. Bike Sprite also employs a mechanic who maintains a small workspace right in town, to keep the bikes of guests and locals alike riding smoothly. This is where whistle-stop destinations and cycling legacies are born — all through the dedicated seeds of a passionate community of mountain bikers.
As a growing sport in need of an active support network, mountain biking is largely only as good as the community that endeavors to responsibly expand its geographical influence. It seems natural that with this blessing of an epic backyard and a concerted focus on the future, Bike Sprite has all the trappings of creating a much larger snowball; one that will be fueled by an ongoing cycle of curious mountain bikers who could never ride all Mendocino has to offer in a single season. [zp]
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