How to Bike Fest, Trail Run, and Eat Like a King in Just a Day
Whizzing down singletrack trails shaded by trees, I focus on the path ahead of me as my bike tire rolls over tree branches and loose rocks on a seemingly endless winding trek down the Bald Mountain Trail in Sun Valley. Pro mountain biker, Rebecca Rusch, is behind coaching me on balance, braking, and avoiding driving my bike off the cliffside into oblivion. After countless switchbacks that I (mostly) stay on the bike for, we make it to the base where we celebrate arriving in one piece amidst towering mountains and a river surrounding us. This is Sun Valley.
Sun Valley, Idaho has always been somewhat mythical to me. I’d long heard rave reviews about the town, but had never visited…until this summer!
The third iteration of the Ride Sun Valley Bike Festival rolled back into town from June 26-29, and I was lucky enough to get a press invite to visit and participate in the action. Unfortunately, a packed summer schedule meant we could only visit for Thursday night and Friday’s events, but my friend’s and I decided the experience would still be worthwhile so we loaded up the car and pointed north!
We arrived in time to catch the Sheep Town Drag Race where riders race bicycles down the street with flaming logs attached to the back as they drag along the ground. Open to the public, this ridiculous race is mildly competitive, but is mostly an excuse to kick off the festival weekend with a cold brew as you watch the spectacle.
After settling into our digs at Sun Valley Lodge, we rested up for a busy day at Ride Sun Valley Bike Festival that began when we met up at the Festivallage with a small group of strong women and famed endurance bike rider, Rebecca Rusch, for her SRAM Gold Rusch Tour.
This amazing event travels throughout the summer and the free clinics are designed to teach women to mountain bike better in an relaxed setting. Did I mention the clinics are free too? As a newbie mountain biker myself, the all-levels women’s Mechanic Skills and Enduro Clinic seems like the perfect starting point.
After checking in we collect some incredible swag including chain lube, GU packets, and treats from sponsors before learning basic bike mechanicer-y like lubing chains, checking tires, and making adjustments.
Then we load up our sweet SRAM demo rides into vans and head for the hills! The ladies gather atop Sun Valley Resort’s popular Bald Mountain Downhill Trail (part of the Enduro course for Sunday’s big race), and I immediately realize I’m outmatched and outgunned as people share their relative skills levels around the circle. So after practicing techniques at the top, I voluntarily take my place at the back as riders fly down the mountain ahead of me.
Reba, the Queen of Pain herself, goes behind me and coaches me down from a Level 9 on the terrified scale to a solid 6. My posture relaxes as I start to enjoy the terrain. Unfortunately, my realization that I, much like Derek Zoolander, am not an ambi turner happens as I try to link the switchback going left for the first time…and find myself off the bike instead. Right turns come easier, but coaching from the other pros finally helps me nail a few at the end. Still, I am last to the bottom, but I reach it with nary a bruise or scratch along the way.
The SRAM Gold Rusch Tour is a fantastic way to meet other biking women and gain new skills in the sport. I highly recommend attending next year wherever it travels, especially if in Sun Valley! Though the Ride Sun Valley Bike Festival’s pinnacle event, the Enduro Cup, had yet to come, we had time to stay for just one more bike race before driving back to Salt Lake City.
The Downtown Criterium Team Relay is another for fun competition that pits teams of four costumed riders in a speedy loop course throughout the downtown streets. The zany costumes, vendors, and great vibe make this competition the perfect way to wrap up a day of bike riding and spectating.
Sawtooth National Forest
This impressive national forest spans 2 million acres and is home to hiking and biking trails, camping spots, and ski areas. Since our time was limited, we explored a nearby trail just a few miles from Sun Valley Resort that was perfect for trail running! We ran three miles through shady singletrack that wound up and down along the mountainside before climbing to over 7,000 feet. This short nature break calmed my mind and readied me for the whole day of adventuring! If you prefer camping to hotels, there are a plethora of possibilities here for tent types or RV vacationers.
Lodging and Dining
We stayed at the historic Sun Valley Lodge, which provides convenient access to Sun Valley Resort, town, Sawtooth National Forest, and events, but a massive remodel is beginning on Labor Day that will close the Lodge to overnight visitors for nine months. If you plan to visit in this time frame, go to sunvalley.com to find other condos, cottages, and hotel rooms to stay in. Definitely check out the Lodge next summer when it features remodeled rooms, a new spa, and improved facilities.
Though the hotel rooms will be closed, most of the Lodge’s restaurants and shops will remain open. Konditorei, the restaurant so nice we ate there twice, has high-quality pastries, crepes, and breakfast dishes in the morning; it was their well-thought dinner menu that truly made Konditorei a stand out. Executive Chef John Murcko’s carefully crafted menu of classic alpine cuisine includes unique dishes like spatzle and quinoa salad along with traditional comfort foods. Don’t skip visiting here!
Sun Valley is a 4.5-hour drive from Salt Lake City and navigating there is easy. Just hop on I-15 North for about 70 miles, take I-84 West toward Boise, use Exit #173 to take Highway 93 that turns into Highway 75. Stay on this road while following signs for the Sun Valley stops of your choice!
Direct flights from Salt Lake City are also offered year-round.