Setting Gears In Motion

“It’s about getting away from the city and getting out into the country, or the mountains,” said one of the organizers

Published : Friday, July 10, 2009 | 6:19 AM

Mountain bikers of all ages and ability levels will be tearing through the San Gabriel Mountains later this month when Naked Crow hosts the third annual Mountain Bike Challenge on July 26.

Naked Crow founders David Smith and Ken Marshall, former president and vice president of the Altadena Chamber of Commerce, respectively, established the mountain biking event in 2007 as a means of bringing together communities of mountain bikers while drawing crowds to the area to support local business.

Both mountain bikers for more than 20 years, Smith and Marshall set out on a path to organize their event back in 2000. But getting a permit to host the challenge proved to be an uphill climb for the duo – it took seven years to secure permission from the National Forestry Service.

So in 2007, with permit in hand, Smith and Marshall established the first Naked Crow Mountain Biking Challenge, a festivity that attracted more than 75 bikers to its course. Now, two years later, the duo have a permit to set up three events a year – the 2009 Mountain Biking Challenge is scheduled for July 26 and a 2009 Runners Challenge will step off on Oct. 4. Plans for the third event, which are designed to kick off next year, are underway.

“We’re the first to pull this off in the area,” Smith said. “It’s an event people like because it gets them out to head out in a pack and put themselves against others when they normally wouldn’t because they don’t see themselves as racers.”

“We don’t call it a race because we designed it as a course for general riders, for beginners on up,” Marshall added. “But we also have one elite class because, especially in LA, we have a large population of professional mountain bikers. They pay a little more but they race for money prizes.”

Mountain biking has been around for more than two decades but has really grown in popularity over the last few years, Smith said.

Though the sport tends to draw a younger crowd, mountain biking boasts many cardio-pulmonary benefits for riders of all ages and is a great way for individuals to reconnect with nature, Marshall said.

“It’s about getting away from the city and getting out into the country, or the mountains,” he explained. “You get to go into the forest, similar to a hiker, except you have a bike underneath you.”

The first five to six miles of the trail is uphill, with a surprise for riders at the crest – soaker girls in “scantily clad outfits” will await riders at the top and hose them down with super soakers, Smith said. Mountain search and rescue workers will also set up camp at the top of the crest in case of accidents and injuries, he added.

On event day, participants will register at 6 a.m. at Loma Alta Park, located at 3330 North Lincoln Ave, where the local chapter of the Rotary Club will host a pancake breakfast. Bikers will then travel down to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to begin their ascent into the San Gabriel Mountains.

The course for “weekend warriors” – beginner and intermediate bikers – is 10 miles long, and the course for elite bikers is roughly 16 miles long. Each course will end in Loma Alta Park, where a family-friendly festival featuring a luncheon, a beer garden, arts and crafts booths and performances by 12 local bands will take place.

“There’ll be something there for everyone,” Smith said. “We’re working to develop this into something that’s bigger than a race – it’s a day long event for the racers and their families.”

Attendees are encouraged to pre-register online, but individuals can also register the day of the event. Registration costs $29 for the general public or $41 for the elite/professional class.

For more information or to register for the event, visit

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