24 Hours in the Old Pueblo

Have you ever wondered what could happen when MTB-enthusiasts converge in the desert for a weekend of sunshine, hero dirt, and partying with 4,000 of their closest friends? The 24HOP answers it all.

Each year, over the Presidents’ Day weekend, the Sonoran Desert plays host to Epic Rides 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, a.k.a., 24HOP. Standing as one of the worldwide leaders in the 24-hour event category, this race draws singletrack enthusiasts from far and wide. From single speeders and drop-bar riders to full suspension gear heads, die-hard hard tailers, and tandem rig’ers, 24HOP is a staple in the mountainbike community. For 21 years, riders have endured torrential downpours, freezing temperatures and indulged in hot desert days on their annual pilgrimage to this event; and this year, I was one of them.

I joined sister teams, Team Archer and Team Hustle for three days of sunshine, good times and all the singletrack miles I could muster. Admittedly, I had not been on a trail bike in months. It’s ski season in Colorado and, quite frankly, my legs were not in “racing” shape. Thankfully, while we dedicated 24 hours of those three days to “race mode”, I spent the majority of the other 48 hours geeking out on the scene and the new gear from Archer Components, Hustle Bike Labs, and Pivot Cycles among others.

The Event

The 24HOP is a unique experience. First and foremost, this event has a one-of-a-kind vibe. Quite honestly, it doesn’t feel like a race. In fact, it feels more like a community coming together to simply have fun riding bikes! While there are definitely riders in all-out race-mode, it was easy to find others that just wanted to indulge in the incredible singletrack in Arizona’s Willow Creek Ranch district.

Then there is rider diversity. This year’s 24HOP racked up 6,338 laps ridden by 2,003 riders (either solo or in one of 533 teams) ranging in age from 8 to 75 with a full spectrum of skill levels and experience. To put this into perspective, a long-time rider with zero races under her belt (me) raced the 24HOP with Rebecca Rusch, a 4x Leadville 100 winner, 7x World Champion, and endurance cycling athlete. Feel free to commence awe-induced jaw drops.

The Gear

As part of Team Hustle, I had the opportunity to scope out the latest magnetic clipless pedals from the Colorado-based company, Hustle Bike Labs. Their REMpedal is a 7000 series aluminum alloy pedal inlaid with Neodymium N52 magnets (with Stainless Steel Cap) and will be available this spring. Each pedal features two magnets with a pull power of 64lbs (total of 128lbs vertical force) to hold your foot in place and 15 grip pins per side for added traction.

After 30 miles in the saddle with these pedals, I wished I had them for the remaining 16+ miles. The REMpedal works with any 2-bolt SPD shoe and I paired mine with the Scott MTB AR Boa and the connection was solid: perfect placement with no slipping, yet easy to break away. I couldn’t have asked for a better connection to the Mach 4 SL (by Pivot Cycles) I was test driving for the weekend.

Also installed on the Mach 4 SL was the Archer Components D1X. The California-based company makes this high-performance electronic shifter in-house and the shifting is spot-on. Compatible with any bike, it’s synchronized between the easy-to-install shift system (near the derailleur) and a simple-to-use micro-adjust remote (on the handlebar).

While traditionalists might snub this techy derailleur accoutrement, after a test ride, they will likely reconsider. Traditional shifters are (often) tried and true, but the benefit of the D1X is its ability to take gear management to the next level. Packaged in a relatively light and streamline casing (and boasting an 80-hour battery life), the D1X features programmable and fine-tuning shifting, shift tracking via a user-friendly app, and most importantly, it shifted incredibly smoothly and was fully capable of handling days of riding in the desert dirt and dust.

Image courtesy of Helena Kotala/@helenakoala

And speaking of days of riding, let’s talk about the Pivot Mach 4 SL. This bike was as smooth and responsive as could be on the trail. I’ve ridden full suspension rigs before, but the Mach 4 is next level. Arizona-based Pivot Cycles’ latest release is purpose-built for XC riders looking to go fast and fluidly. As an intermediate rider, standing 5’3”, full suspension bikes are sometimes intimidating, but this bike was quite the contrary. The Mach 4 was wonderfully light and the 100mm travel was fast and efficient thanks to the dw-link suspension (and Full Fox Live Valve Integration). I had complete control across all aspects of the trail, from techy rock sections and downhill swoops to uphill climbs and double track hauls. Plus, while this bike is more or less geared toward pro-level riders, the Mach 4 is a total confidence booster for intermediate riders looking to take their riding to the next level with an ultralight powerhouse rig.

The Takeaway

If you want to break into the MTB race scene—and partake in an incredibly unique desert party experience—24HOP might be the answer. Of course, if simply cruising unbeatable singletrack is more your jam (and indulging in unreal desert sunsets), this event is still the answer. Plus, with a plethora of demo gear and vendors showcasing on-trail nutrition, bike components, accessories, and more, the gear stoke alone is worth the haul to 24 Hour Town.

 

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