A short history of MTB gold
Words & photos by Rick Gunn

I had returned to mountain biking’s mother lode.

Staring out the window of a shuttle van as it groaned toward Packsaddle Pass, I looked past a sweep of pines to a tiny box of metal perched atop the hulking granite peaks: the Sierra Buttes fire lookout.

Just to the west waited 14 miles of legendary singletrack—Downieville’s famous downhill. It had been a decade-and-a-half since my first ride here.

Less a mountain bike ride than a reenactment of the opening scene from the movie Saving Private Ryan, the recollection of that first ride conjures a kind of two-wheeled PTSD. For nearly three hours I battled rocks, and exploded through creeks, only to be catapulted into a series of spectacular endos. Picking myself up off the dirt time and again, I wobbled off the trail with a broken spoke, …