Michelle Reagan’s path to McCall was an increasingly common and well-trod one: she and her husband Scott were tired of the rat race of Seattle, ready to leave their corporate jobs behind in order to find a quieter, simpler life. Both loved to bike and ski, and decided to move to a place that offered both, finding jobs that would support their dream lifestyle once they got there.
Arriving in McCall in 2008, their new circle of friends included the then-owners of Gravity Sports, and they learned that the store was for sale. While Reagan had worked at REI for a short time during her twelve years in Seattle, her background was in risk management, not retail. Yet the thought of owning Gravity Sports intrigued her; she liked the idea of learning about and being around all the latest outdoor gear. “I jumped in,” Reagan said. “I mean, retail couldn’t be harder than fraud, right?”
Reagan has always been into the outdoors and participating in sports, including cycling. She raced road bikes while in Seattle. “I got my first mountain bike after moving to McCall, and I totally fell in love with the sport,” she says. Because there are so few paved, safe cycling routes available to us in McCall, and our long winters mean a short road cycling season, Reagan no long rides a road bike and instead focuses on mountain biking. “There’s a lot of skill involved,” Reagan explains, “not just fitness. It engages the mind, always having to pick the right line, maneuvering your body and bike through challenging features. You can always keep working on skill development.” She extends the dirt cycling season by riding a fat tire bike on snow in the winter.
To gain skill early on, Reagan attended a multi-day mountain biking camp. She found it immensely helpful, and now recommends such camps to those new to the sport. For the past five years Reagan has been mountain bike racing, participating in events when she can get away from managing the store; she would race more but summers are when things are busiest at Gravity. Three years ago she began participating in the Idaho Enduro Series, which usually holds one or two of the races in its annual summer series in McCall.
Enduro is a type of mountain bike racing where riders make several trips up and down a mountain; the downhills are timed, while the uphill “transfer” stages are not, although riders usually must get to the top within a certain time frame. “This mimics typical riding style,” says Reagan. “You’re stoked on the downhill, talk with friends on the uphill. It’s all about how well you can ride through technical terrain on the downhills.”
There are usually four to six stages per race, with different downhill routes to test each rider’s skill. Racers participate in categories depending on age or skill, such as Beginner, Sport, Expert or Pro, and Junior or Masters. Those in the Pro category typically have sponsors, and can win cash or bikes; amateurs like Reagan win trophies, gear and a spray of champagne on the awards podium. Not a competition for the faint of heart or those afraid of the occasional spill and scrape, most Enduro racers wear a lighter version of full-face helmets similar to those worn by motorcyclists but with removable chin bars, and some body protection, for example on their knees.
To add to the challenge, racers in a particular category start with an uphill transition stage, then start racing, leaving just 30 seconds apart. This means that even though the uphills aren’t timed, the racers are bunched fairly close together so that when racing a downhill stage they might be overtaken by a faster rider who must maneuver around when it’s safe to do so, with the slower rider yielding the trail. Race results are determined by adding each racer’s downhill stage times together, with the lowest accumulated time in each skill or age category winning.
With each season she races, Reagan improves. The first two years she raced in the Idaho Enduro Series, she participated in the Sport category, coming in second woman overall in 2015 and third woman in 2016. This year, Reagan upped her game by racing in the Expert category. The 2017 Idaho Enduro Series had five races – the Eagle Enduro, the Pocatello Pedal Fest Enduro, the North American Enduro Cup in Kellogg (an optional race in the series, with points that could be substituted for one of the other races), the Jug Mountain Enduro and the Wright Brothers Enduro at Bogus Basin. Reagan was in first place after the first four races and was looking forward to the fifth and final race in September but it was cancelled because of snow. Still, Reagan’s earlier performances secured her the overall series win for women in the Expert category.
There are other Enduro-style races in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest, according to Reagan, including one in Sun Valley; she participates if she can get away from the store. When asked about creating an Enduro race for McCall, Reagan admits she’s thought about it for several years, but so far, there aren’t enough local racers to support the effort required to create and direct such an event. Reagan hopes that the sport will become more popular locally, which in turn would make creating local events feasible.
In the meantime, Reagan blends her love of mountain biking with her civic spirit by volunteering with groups that promote the sport of mountain biking in McCall. She helped start a local chapter of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) for the middle and high school kids in McCall. The first local team was created in 2014 with just four kids participating. In their second year, there were 10-15 kids on the team and this year, forty. Clearly the program is successful and popular, and Reagan and others involved hope that eventually the school district will make mountain biking a school sport. Reagan has supported the McCall NICA team in the past by coaching, and Gravity Sports is a team sponsor as well as sponsor for some individual racers.
Reagan also was a board member of the Central Idaho Mountain Bike Association (CIMBA) for several years, and was its president for a few years until recently opting to take a break. One of the CIMBA projects she’s most excited about is the progress the group made on the Payette Lake Trail. A project years in the planning, once the Payette Lake Trail is complete, mountain bike riders – and hikers and runners – will be able to circumnavigate Payette Lake along 33 miles of trail.
The first of five construction phases will be four to five miles of trail connecting the existing Payette Rim Trail on the east side of Bear Basin to North Beach on Payette Lake. The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) mapped this section of trail, and CIMBA volunteers are working on the trail clearing and building. Reagan hopes that by summer of 2018 this first phase will be open for use. The subsequent phases will take several years to complete, but when finished, the Payette Lake Trail will be a local gem and regional attraction. Reagan continues to volunteer on this project, and invites others to participate as well.
Another local project Reagan was happy to see completed is the Pump Track, next to the McCall Skatepark which is adjacent to McCall-Donnelly High School in McCall. The Pump Track is a loop dirt trail with a series of undulating bumps and berms where kids and adults can practice their mountain biking skills.
Reagan is also justifiably proud that the International Mountain Bicycling Association awarded McCall and its area trails a Silver Ride Center status in 2015 , a rating acknowledging that McCall offers riders traveling here a world-class menu of trail options with varied terrain and skill levels as well as after-ride amenities such as accommodations, restaurants and entertainment. Reagan hopes that McCall will earn Gold status in the next few years.
In this area, most public trails are multi-use which can often include motorcycle dirt bikes as well as mountain bikes and foot traffic such as hikers and trail runners. The highly popular Loon Lake Trail loop is an example. Reagan notes that CIMBA has endeavored to team with the Central Idaho Trail Riders Alliance (CITRA) to help keep trails clear of downed trees and other obstacles during the short riding season. With both groups communicating, effort isn’t duplicated and more trail miles can be cleared and kept clear.
Reagan isn’t all about mountain bike racing, though. In fact, being so busy running Gravity Sports and trying to participate in groups like CIMBA and NICA and attend to all of life’s demands meant she wasn’t spending as much time outdoors as she hoped. She and her husband had added a husky named Stanley to their lives, and he enjoys playing on the trails and in the snow as much as they do. Remembering the initial goal that brought them to McCall – to bike and ski more – the Reagans moved to Jug Mountain three years ago. The trails – dirt in summer, groomed snow in winter – are literally right out their door, no commute required. Stanley, who is now five, had knee surgery a year ago, and while enjoying a full recovery, he can’t run as far or as fast as before when he kept up with the Reagans while they biked trails. “Now, in the summer, in the morning I ride up to the reservoir above Jug so Stanley can swim,” Reagan says. “He loves to swim and swim. Then we ride back.” In winter, the morning routine involves a skate ski.
It seems that the Reagans have figured out how to live their dream.