On Sunday, Oct 28, Chile Pepper Bike Shop hosted its annual Ho Down Festival, featuring riding, racing, and a Jump Jam where riders of all ages came together in a competition that sent bikers flying through the fall foliage.
The contest took place at the bike park on 500 West, which, to the non-biker might look more like a field of termite mounds with its array of mud peaks. The community park that provides 24-hour access to riders was built by Chile Pepper and a collaborative of local riders. The Jump Jam was a fundraiser to help keep up with the maintenance of the park, which gets matched by a private donor. Last October restroom facilities were added to the park by the city. Chile Pepper Bike Shop owner Tracy Bentley said, “The park needs a lot of ongoing maintenance to keep the jumps in good shape, and weeding. We need a shade structure next.”
Bentley encouraged all riders to participate, especially women. “It’s nice to see girls in a sport dominated by boys,” she said, trying to inspire more women to get out on the track.
In addition to Bentley’s encouragement to diversify the riders, the announcer, Crash Nau, who’s been dirt jumping in competitions since age 11, kept a positive momentum with the crowd, offering $20 bills to anyone attempting jumps. When riders failed to land a jump or had a particularly big wipe out, he complimented the smoothness of the dismount. Everyone cheered for everyone; there were no losers.
The broad age level and skill sets of the riders, and seemingly absent competiveness amidst the competition, had both young and old newcomers anxious to try it. Riding coach and contestant James Gillespie of Denver quipped about his riding buddy Kelvin Benedict, “I still have friends that are 14, and I’m 47, and I’m gonna dirt jump till I’m 70!”
Benedict, 14, said the best part about the jam was “getting up from a crash and being like, (motions as if dusting himself off) yeah, I’m good!”
Moab resident and neighbor of the bike park, Desiree Westfall, expressed her support: “I love having the jump track in our neighborhood. My son loves riding there with his friends. Additionally, the older kids are super fun to watch and supportive to the younger kids. It’s a really neat community."
The winners of the Jump Jam contest were determined by three judges, all bike industry professionals and long-time riders. Cody Gessel from Sandy took first place, Breidan Phipps from Grand Junction took second place, and Erik Obermeyer from Basalt, CO took third place.
What Gessel had in skill, others made up for with style. After hearing compliments to his unique and humorous movements when up in the air, Obermeyer said “I guess I like to have fun with it.”