Dude, you won the Squealer!

Every Easter Saturday, here in the desert, we have our own spring classic. It is not sanctioned, advertised, or even legal. It’s called the Squealer and it is the best “race” I have ever done. Phoenix is gifted with having badass trails right here in town and the National Trail on South Mountain is the granddaddy of them all. Seventeen miles traversing the mountain filled with cactus, rocks, stair steps, screaming technical descents, and climbing. Lots of climbing.

It is said that the time trail is the race of truth and this race is no exception. This trail favors no machine, wheel size, or drive train.  It somehow evens the playing field and when it is all said and done, the hardest man(and woman) wins. Period.

The race is run slowest riders first and the actual contenders last. Therefore I was the 10th rider to go on the day, at a nice crisp 5:54am.  I rolled out of the house in the pitch black of the pre dawn and pedaled to the 3 miles to start. Its amazing how peaceful the streets are at 4:30am.  One benefit of being slow and having an early start time is that you get to see the sun rise, and what a sunrise it was.

squealer sunrise

I normally run this race (and just about everything else) on a singlespeed. This year, for some reason, I decided to see what would happen if I rolled an “all mountain” bike in the ultimate all mountain race. Initially it seemed like I made the right choice. I cleared the first ridge and instantly caught my 1minute man and a quick glance over my shoulder showed that nobody was behind me yet. This has NEVER happened before. I was stoked and ready to hit the first real climb. I gave quick flick of the left thumb as I approached the slope we like to call the “Widow Maker”. All I heard was the sound of crunching metal and the plinking of shrapnel hitting the ground as my small chainring sheared off. It seems the singlespeed goddess was mad at me for worshiping the granny gear deity and my penance is to do the remaining 15 miles of trail with only a middle ring.

one way to make a really hard race harder

one way to make a really hard race harder

I was trying my hardest, pushing 32 lbs of 6inch travel bike down the trail but I was suffering like a dog. It would take a man much more fit than I to be competitive under these circumstances. I will admit that I looked down at the paved road below me and thought about bailing. It would have been easy, that pavement is right there and it’s all downhill to the finish line where beer and cookies are waiting.  Then I thought about why I was there in the first place, why I took that day off from work, and why I got up at 4 in the morning.  I thought about my buddy Kyle and how he convinced me many years ago to do this race. I remembered the exact moment, beers in hand watching an all female Iron Maiden cover band he told me that it was the best race ever invented and I would be a fool not to do it. He was right then, and still is to this day. I decided bailing wasn’t an option and I might as well just keep going for a mountain bike ride, enjoy the day and enjoy this amazing  trail before me.

Right about that time, I heard a bike bell ringing in the distance. As soon as I turned around there was no question who was coming straight at me in that DC jersey. It was Gnome, who started 30 minutes after me, and he was hauling ass. He had a look on his face that said he was in that special dark place of suffering,that place where the pain in his legs and lungs were happiness and nothing else mattered. When he blew past me he didn’t say a word. With his tongue hanging out of his mouth he just flashed me a quick smile in between breaths and sped on down the trail. The image of a sled dog at full stride came to mind…

puppy squealer

When all was said and done, Gnome actually won the damn thing! I asked him to try to sum up what it means to him to win this race and this is what he said:

I don’t know man. Through this week and for a few more days or even the rest of this year until the next Squealer, I’ll be saying to myself “dude, you won the Squealer” and I’ll simply be amazed every time I reflect on the day. Sure, it’s just a silly race, but It means something sincere to me which I have trouble relating to the rest of the world. It represents the depth of my love for cycling. South Mountain is my PHX back yard. It’s where I moved to in 1992 when I transplanted from SoCal and it was my escape from the city on a daily basis for those years. I love it there, and I love National Trail. When I discovered National for myself, I could not believe what I had found. That was almost 20 years ago and nary a soul was around then. Now, in retrospect, it hasn’t changed so much to matter. And after 12 years of the Squealer being in existence, and now having shown my best effort and chancing into the win… like I said, I’m just amazed. My name is on the roster next to Kyle, Bennet, Chewy and the rest. And I thought I’d never see that happen, so went into this years event with a smile, no pressure and no expectations. Yes, the way it should be, but ambition will sometimes have it’s way of distraction. But this time, I just floored it like I know how, and sought to see what I could do. I wanted to fucking rip it as hard as I could, and that’s what I did. Nothing else mattered but my line and how hard I could hit it. Fuck the rest. And now it’s done. The chicken skin welts up in my neck when I think about it. And I’m already looking forward to next April.

Dude. I won the Squealer!

And here is a list of all those past winners:

results

I share Gnome’s sentiments when it comes to this big brown mountain to the south. It is hard to put into words but for those of us that ride South Mountain and the National trail regularly, it is in our blood, it’s part of us. It is a sanctuary in the city where you can get high above the smog and the bullshit of daily life and just ride. Where the trails are still rugged and you are forced to get off and walk occasionally. Where the mountain is still in mountain biking. The Squealer is more than just a race as well. It’s our annual test of person versus the mountain and I look forward to it every year

Thanks to Jim for all of his hard work putting on this race yet again and congratulations to Gnome and the other champions on the day. Rock that winner’s bracelet with pride!

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About dirty biker

I am a fan of singletrack, singlespeeds, single malt, and single women. Tempe, Arizona, USA

37 thoughts on “Dude, you won the Squealer!

  1. that’s really cool.

    Very nicely constructed post, btw. Yall have some talent.

  2. “…he just flashed me a quick smile in between breaths and sped on down the trail…”…that made me smile…

    “…It means something sincere to me which I have trouble relating to the rest of the world. It represents the depth of my love for cycling…”…that sentiment kinda caught in my throat there, amigo…

    …nice post, dirty b & as i said before, gnomer…you deserve the win…

  3. 2 congrats: 1 to the dude that won the squealer!!! hell yeah. 2 to the dude that rode so hard he crunched the chainring!! way to ride, go hard or stay home! you did it!

  4. Great story, great job winning the “Squealer”! Being a northerner, I’ve made my way to Phoenix a few times and ridden the National a few times. Hard core trail, I have dreams about that trail.

    My bigger question is the 2008 winner. Tim “The Tool-Man Taylor, Buzz Lightyear” Allen rides?

  5. wooooowoooooooo!!! a great report DB. congrats to the gnome for winning! good times, from the looks of it.

    p.s. was this the trail we rode with lar, turkey and scandinavian jesus?

  6. I’ve done the Squealer a few times, I think always in a single speed. Good event, difficult course, great party afterwards. If you’re going to pick one to take here in Arizona, that’d be on the short list of fucking-a-hardcore. Good on ya, Gnome!

    And, DB, really, what was your low gear, a 32 x 34? That’s so much lower than your single speed! HTFU already. (Full disclosure: I am a coward and would have folded like a lawn chair. A French lawn chair.)

  7. folded like a French lawn chair. ..goddamn that’s funny BJ..

    Nice work Gnome. Reads like a hella ride.

  8. SoMo is definately one of the things I miss most about no longer living in the ‘nix, I also miss the Squealer, PMP, KK, J&SL, etc. Shit, I just miss it all around.

  9. Goddam nice. I was waiting to see the reports up here. Well written, Dirty. Well done, Gnome.

    And I am stealing the french lawn chair line for future use. Its too priceless to only be used once.

  10. Lar, I saw that pic before, and I think it should be framed and hanging on your wall.

  11. Great write up and testimonial to South Mountain riding. While Mormon/National is probably the holy grail of South Mountain riding, don’t forget about the East Loops and DC. Also, the remark about having it in your backyard definitely resonates. My office is 48th and Baseline and I’ll be getting some DC lovin’ tonight.

  12. I lived at the Ray rd Chandler loop for what? 7 years? Almost every day, I’d drop into that singtrack that begins where the sidewalk ends. I saw the formation of the reeds and that pond where the Javalina root around there before hitting the ridge up to the Heliport. Is it still there? I’ve not been on that piece for years now.

    It was an MTB oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle.

  13. @ Gnome…yup, still there. If you haven’t been back in there in a while, there’s been some additions/upgrades that you may want to check out. There’s now a pretty cool section that links DC with the Helipad that allows you to drop in from the section of DC at the top of where it drops down to Telegraph Pass. Also, there’s pretty cool climb up what’s called Black Mesa trail which links to Corona Loma. Also, I haven’t ridden them yet but there’s supposed to be some really cool new stuff to the west of Chandler and 19th Ave.

  14. Winning the “Squealer” sounded at first like winning a cupie doll off the bottom row.

    But….this was a race eh ? Over terrain that would make me fold like a French lawn chair.

    Congrats Man. Have 3 beers for me at least.

  15. @lar, yea, i remember we took the bunny trail cuz i was scared. you are a fucking baller missy. the fucking waterfall gnar…

  16. Tucson doesn’t have that. Sounds like a great race.
    Congratulations, Gnome – it was a victory meant to be.
    I do take back what I said about fresh legs. I don’t know enough to say anything about you… I’d appreciate the same courtesy in return.

    Tell me – are there people breaking glass out on that trail or is there some semblance of sanctity. This would sway my opinion of Phoenix considerably to know that there are fewer assholes breaking glass where people ride. In Tucson, it’s epidemic.

  17. I don’t race. But if I was twenty years younger-Well fuck, I’d still be old.

    Bravo zulu, my man. Ya done good.

  18. LJ – there is a quote from a mountain biking movie that I am fond of (and BGW is even in!)

    “the three biggest hazards of cycling are cars, cops, and pavement. When you get up into the hills you avoid all three”
    you could probably add broken glass to that list, so the answer is…go mountain biking!

  19. That’s badass Gnome! Congratulations. Sounds like you wanted it. You got to want it.
    Glad I read this before heading up to Prescott because this post is inspiring. Nice work, Dirty.

  20. dirty biker, I cracked my ribs mountain biking a year and a half ago. ‘Splain me that, Lucy.

  21. @Joe, gotta keep it rubber side down.

    Congrats Gnome!!!! Dirty took me to National Trail on my 1st visit out to AZ 5 years ago. It was a blast!! So much more fun than the rock-fest that is Northeast mtb’ing.

  22. I just gotta get out of this hot hell city, where the choice is endless stopping or balls to the wall shoulder riding on the main roads. I’m done with this shit. I want to have a mountain bike again. I have a pile of good old XT shit! Just need a frame and some wheels.

  23. Thanks for the props y’all. National trail lead me to cloud nine this year.

    DB, what movie are you referencing?

  24. Roaming around the dirty T are masked chollo bandits breaking glass while chanting LittleJar. they then go and dig holes in streets and laugh hardily while calling each other ese. shit is wild

  25. Standing in for dirty biker:

    Gnome, it’s a quote from Fred Wolf in the documentary, Klunkers.

    I thought that it was compulsory viewing before you were allowed to even touch a mountain bike.

  26. DeeBee – top swilly race report. who needs to know more? the KB shout out, so chilling to me still. his riding style helped shape plenty of the turns on that trail, and so it has gone w/ G-nome, too. the times i have ridden N’l from mouth to asshole, including for the squealer, have always been amongst the best rides of my life. when i actually ride, it is with a pure abandon that i acquired while riding with the likes of all of you. any laurels i ever may harvest are owed to that trail and that race.

    congratulations, G. sniggy pow champ for life.