Rebecca’s Private Idaho Race Report, Part I

09.3.2013 | 8:16 am

You know how you go on vacation somewhere and you just fall in love with the place? And before long — maybe it’s while you’re still there, maybe it’s sometime soon after you get back — you find yourself thinking, “I wish I could call that place home.”

That’s pretty much the short version of why pro mountain biker Rebecca Rusch lives in Ketchum, Idaho. And she loves it so much she wanted to show it off to other people who love riding. Which is why she created Rebecca’s Private Idaho, a 95-ish (or 55-ish, if that’s more your distance of choice) mile dirt fondo, the first edition of which was last weekend.

And as Rebecca’s number-one fan and blog stalker, I was able to score an invite for The Hammer and me. 

Friday Evening

Even before we started our five-hour drive from our home in Utah to Ketchum, Idaho, The Hammer and I needed to resolve a dilemma: what bikes should we bring?

This was not an easy decision to make.

See, we knew that most people would be riding cyclocross bikes — but The Hammer doesn’t even have a cross bike, and I have never gotten comfortable on mine; for whatever reason, I seem to be the last cycling enthusiast in the world who hasn’t fallen in love with CX.

So: no cross bikes. But the problem wasn’t resolved, because I had made the foolhardy boast that I could do Rebecca’s Private Idaho (RPI from here on out) on a World Bicycle Relief Buffalo bike: 

IMG 7252

As you can see here, this one has been upgraded with a Selle Italia SLR saddle (the saddle I use on all my bikes), Time ATAC pedals, and a Garmin 510 bike computer (More on this later).

Otherwise, it’s stock. Which means it weighs fifty-five pounds. Which is not a problem when you’re riding on the plains of Africa, but which may not be ideal for a dirt (almost) century. With about 5000 feet of climbing.

I’d have a Buffalo bike waiting for me in Ketchum, but — just to be safe — I decided to bring along my geared Specialized Stumpjumper hardtail.

As for The Hammer, she brought her geared Gary Fisher Superfly hardtail, as well as her Specialized Stumpjumper singlespeed, which she’d ride if I went with the Buffalo. You know, just to keep things interesting.

The five-hour drive was relaxing; since this wasn’t a race, we didn’t have to be nervous. I drove; The Hammer read The Cuckoo’s Calling (a recently-published detective novel by JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books) aloud to me.

And then, about half an hour before we arrived in Ketchum, we started coughing. 

The smoke was thick. Ash was falling from the sky.

I knew that there had been a fire here recently; it had been touch and go as to whether Rebecca was going to be able to hold the event at all. Had the fire started up again?

No. This was, in fact, smoke that had blown in from the Yosemite fire. Still, The Hammer and I agreed: if it was this bad on the day of the ride, we’d skip it. 

Oh, Sure, I’ll Be Happy To Ride In A Parade

As it turns out, we didn’t need to worry; the smoke had blown through by the next morning. Saturday dawned with blue skies. 

And The Hammer and I were due to join Rebecca, Katie and Jen from World Bicycle Relief, a couple of Rebecca’s friends, and Levi Leipheimer in a parade.

We would be right behind the high school marching band, and right before a guy riding a camel. 

So we donned cowboy hats, except The Hammer, who wasn’t a big fan of the idea of being in a parade in the first place, and drew the line at wearing a cowboy hat.

IMG 7269

Obviously, I have no such problem. Nor, evidently, does Levi:

IMG 7245

And Rebecca looks right at home in a cowboy hat:

IMG 7229

Levi stopped at a firetruck to borrow a wrench and adjust his saddle height down 1.5mm. Rebecca was astonished he knew how to work on his own bike.

IMG 7243

So, for the next two hours, we rode around, very slowly, being careful not to ride through horse poop or to startle the camel. We gave out lots of World Bicycle Relief stickers, and dared each other to try doing wheelies. None of us took up the dare, because it’s not that easy to pop a wheelie on a 55lb bike. 

Numerous people yelled, “Get a horse!” at us. Since — apart from the marching band, the camel, and us — every entry in the parade was horse- or mule-powered.

Difficult Decision

With the parade behind us, I really had only one more responsibility for the day: decide what bike I was going to ride the next day. 

I decided the best way to make the decision would be to set up the bike the way I would ride it, and then do the first part of the ride…which was also the biggest climb of the day.

So The Hammer and I went to The Elephant’s Perch — a local bike shop — and borrowed some tools (and got some help) to get my pedals and saddle on the Buffalo.

And then Katie, The Hammer and I headed out on the paved Sun Valley road, which — we were told — would eventually turn into a dirt road…and the biggest climb of the day.

IMG 7270

We never even got to the dirt. 

“I don’t have a spare tube that will fit this bike,” I thought to myself. “Nor do I have the wrenches I need to change a tube, much less fix anything else.”

“And most importantly,” I said to myself and anyone who was nearby and happened to be paying attention to a guy who was talking to himself, “Riding in this position for 100 miles would turn this ride into a death march.”

I was finding, in fact, that even fifteen miles of riding in the bolt-upright position of the Buffalo bike was remarkably uncomfortable for someone (me) whose butt (mine) was much more accustomed to the leaning-forward position I usually have on road and mountain bikes.

And in short, I wussed out.

And the next day, I would not regret aforementioned wussing, even for a second.

Which is where I’ll pick this story up tomorrow.


  1. Comment by barton | 09.3.2013 | 8:23 am

    The Buffalo is really a good looking bike. I know I shouldn’t be astonished, but it looks quite a bit like what the vintage bike riders around Mpls like to jump on. Also, I love the kick-stand (there are just not enough kick-stands in the world these days — and not enough trees for the rest of us to lean our bike up against on group events).

    I agree: It’s a good-looking bike, and it’s fun to ride around. You’re very upright and can look around and have conversations and everything!. And the kickstand is absolutely bomber. You can stand it up and it’s stable enough to get on and ride in place (or to load with goods, which is the real reason it has that super-stable kickstand). It’s a bike and a stationary trainer! – FC

  2. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 09.3.2013 | 8:58 am

    I’m unconvinced. I think the real reason for the bike switch was you realized how hard it would be to Race with a Buffalo Bike. And since there be at least three riders on this event……….

    How to Size Up the Competition:
    06.17.2005 | 3:14 pm
    When there are three or more riders: If there are three or more cyclists, there will be racing — whether it be a race to the summit, a race to the next signpost, or a race of fatigue. The race may not be aknowledged, but it is there.

    (sorry. I can’t find the citation for this quote.)
    Also it appears Strava does not record KOM’s by bicycle weight.

  3. Comment by Nic Grillo | 09.3.2013 | 9:01 am

    You aren’t the only one who hasn’t fallen in love with CX.

  4. Comment by rob w | 09.3.2013 | 9:30 am

    Yo Fatty!
    I am glad the smoke died down for ya! Next time you are up this way, give us a holler. We have a great group of riders in the Burley/Rupert area.

  5. Comment by Jacob | 09.3.2013 | 9:37 am

    I’ve noticed bike saddles and posture make a difference. My tri saddle was comfortable in a low position. Sucked in the more upright road bike and vice versa. Maybe the fat-butt saddles are really more useful for cruiser/cargo bikes.

    Yep, I expect it’s possible to set a Buffalo up for a long gravel grinder. But with the time I had to experiment with it (a couple hours), it just wasn’t going to happen. Another time, maybe? – FC

  6. Comment by Brandy | 09.3.2013 | 9:56 am

    I love love love Sun Valley ID as well. And dislike CX too!
    This ride is on my bucket list.

  7. Comment by Justin L. | 09.3.2013 | 10:00 am

    HAHA, i thought i cant believe you would ride that bike 100 miles!!! Smart move bailing out on that.

  8. Comment by Jeff Bike | 09.3.2013 | 10:02 am

    I feel much better that you didn’t ride the Buffalo. It is hard enough for us lay people to do a MtBike (almost) century much less you showing us up by doing it on a 55 lbs. Buffalo. Thank you for not making the rest of us really feel like wuss’.

  9. Comment by Clydesteve | 09.3.2013 | 10:12 am

    Sweet! You wussed out! I have been training so little this season, I was thinking of wussing on the 100 miles event at Levi’s Gran Fondo, and doing something shorter…. You have, once again, Fatty, given me inspiration!

  10. Comment by JRGdeCT | 09.3.2013 | 10:37 am

    Wussed out? The Swimmer wouldn’t have wussed out.

  11. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 09.3.2013 | 10:39 am

    You look good in a cowboy hat, by the way.

    The Hammer would, too.

    And that is all there is to say about that.

  12. Comment by Christina | 09.3.2013 | 10:50 am

    Dang. You gotta do what’s right, though.

    I’d still like to see a Buffalo Ride. Can you put together a ride in SLC where everyone brings their heaviest bikes and we all cruise somewhere easy? Then when you pass me I can sing, “Guy on a buffalooooo!”

  13. Comment by MattC | 09.3.2013 | 11:15 am

    Am I the only one hoping you were going to do the century ride on the Buffalo? Sheesh…I can’t believe yor let me down Fatty! I mean, come ON…anybody who can do 25+mph for 53 miles (and RACE a SS at Leadville AND come in sub-9…and not once either…we’re talking multiple times!) can certainly suffer thru a century on a 55lb bike…think of the missed training oppportunity! Oh sure…you’d have done some serious suffering…but isn’t that why you race? To see just what you can do? (and oh, sure…it’s ok for the poor kids down in Africa to ride it 100 miles, probably carrying stuff…and possibly an extra PERSON, and LIKING it).

    I’m so disappointed…

  14. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 09.3.2013 | 11:24 am



  15. Comment by Tom in Albany | 09.3.2013 | 11:39 am

    The B-52s have a song called ‘Private Idaho.’ There’s a line that goes ‘I’m living in my own private Idaho.’ Please do make sure to work that into your Part II.

    Sincerely, well, you know…

  16. Comment by Steve | 09.3.2013 | 11:51 am

    I’m with you on cyclocross. Of course, I’m also still not sure this whole “Mountain Bicycling” thing isn’t just a fad.

  17. Comment by Wife#1 | 09.3.2013 | 12:24 pm

    How can you people NOT love a good CX bike?


    Would have loved to read the 100 mile buffalo ride blog I hafta say.

  18. Comment by Li-Chin's Hubby | 09.3.2013 | 12:58 pm

    Citation for @Davidh-marin,ca’s quote, “If there are three or more cyclists, there will be racing…”

  19. Comment by Li-Chin's Hubby | 09.3.2013 | 12:59 pm

    Wonderful website, thanks for all of your hard work!

  20. Comment by ScottR | 09.3.2013 | 1:36 pm

    I wonder if my cross bikes are just more to the relaxed end of the spectrum (Salsa Vaya definitely is, Redline Conquest (disc ~2006?) being the other), but I’ve always found them very comfortable (similar enough to my road bike).

    Disappointed to not get a Buffalo century report, but enjoyed today’s pics.

  21. Comment by Andrew | 09.3.2013 | 2:19 pm

    Shocking how a bike becomes uncomfortable when you put an entirely inappropriate saddle on it.

    Ever notice how the more upright the riding position, the wider the saddle tends to be? This isn’t a coincidence.

    In many ways, I’m very unlearned about bikes. – FC

  22. Comment by UpTheGrade SR CA | 09.3.2013 | 3:23 pm

    Aww, I’m dissapointed that you wussed out and we won’t get to hear about your surprise at how fun riding a buffalo bike turned out to be. Maybe that saddle change was a mistake as Andrew points out? I believe these bikes are being given out to little girls in Africa, would they have wussed out?

    Probably not. If the action weren’t wussy, it wouldn’t be called “wussing.” – FC

  23. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 09.3.2013 | 4:01 pm

    Touche, Andrew, touche.

    Here’s a redemption challenge for you Fatty. How ’bout when you come out for The Gran Fondo you take a little time, hook up with Mr Fisher, Mr Ritchey, Charlie Kelley, Otis Guy, and/or Joe Breeze. Have them take you and Levi on the original Repack Downhill ride on ‘Klunkers’. Kind of a ‘way back experience which I’m sure you could make a good story of. 1200 ft downhill, 2 miles, coaster brakes… of course you have to get to the top first.

    how are you at drift turns?

    This other image is too large so linked only:

  24. Comment by Doug (Way Upstate NY) | 09.3.2013 | 6:35 pm

    So Fatty, how was your race? :)

    Will there be blood?????

  25. Comment by Kenny | 09.4.2013 | 6:34 am

    Andrew is right. You can’t sit upright on a selle itallia race saddle.

    Well yeah, I know that NOW. – FC

  26. Comment by Brant | 09.4.2013 | 8:37 am

    I don’t quite understand your fascination with this person? Isn’t she the one who was “to busy” to do your charity ride until she found out some famous actor would be there? Not really someone to look up to in my book

  27. Comment by Josh Kline - Team WBR Indiana | 09.4.2013 | 12:49 pm

    I have ridden a non-modified and a modified Buffalo this season in the WBR Red-Bell Century and the WBR Wrigley Field Road Tour. With CX season upon me, I haven’t had time to write a blog entry but count on one as soon as I have a down weekend. Gotta get those Garmin files up to Strava. ;)

    I would argue that the Buffalo is a perfect ride for a long haul. The gear-ratio is fantastic and worked well for me in the flats of Chicago and the foothills of the Cascades. Slight-to-no risk of a mechanical. The steel bell works well to signal a pass of $10,000 Pinarello Dogmas during climbs. ;)

    The difficulty level of riding a Buffalo 100 miles in a charity event on a gorgeous day pales in comparison to what the charity’s beneficiaries face on a daily basis. It’s a powerful bike on so many levels and I am honored to be associated with the charity.

    Check our FB page out at:

    We will put some pics up from the two Centuries shortly.


    WBR Red-Bell (Redmond, WA to Bellingham, WA) Stats:
    Rig: Non modified Buffalo
    Distance: 103+miles
    Moving Time: 6:53.31
    Average Moving Speed: ~15.15mph
    Max Speed: 30.2
    Elevation Gain: 4990ft
    Avg Heart Rate: 136
    Average Temp: 75F
    Max Temp: F
    Winds: peach of a day.

    WBR Wrigley Field Road Tour Stats:
    Rig: Gen2Buffalo Gen1 with SRAM Red Cranks, Zip 404 wheels, 3 speed hub, and a Brooks saddle.
    Distance: 96.56 (it was 100+ miles but I had the Garmin paused after a few rest-stops)
    Moving Time: 5:23:55
    Average Moving Speed: 17.9 mph (Chicago traffic to blame for the <18mph avg)
    Max Speed: 30.6
    Elevation Gain: Garmin file wrong. Was less than 1000ft.
    Avg Heart Rate: 148
    Average Temp: 82.4F
    Max Temp: 96.8F
    Winds out of South of 15+ mph on the return

  28. Comment by Josh Kline - Team WBR Indiana | 09.4.2013 | 12:50 pm

    And if anyone wants to throw down next year on non modified Buffalos in Idaho or Seattle or Chicago, I am ready to go. ;)

  29. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 09.4.2013 | 9:24 pm

    @Josh You’re our kind of Fatty! I’m as confident I couldn’t hold your wheel as I am of my ability to persevere. I’m marking you down for Buffalo in Idaho 2014!


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