Posted by Miles Arbour
The DangerBird 350 is a bikepacking event to support cycling within the Organ Mountains Desert National Monument, and it follows the Monumental Loop route. This year, the event was opened up to pretty much anyone interested. Ride it fast, ride it slow, run it if you wanted to, experience the entire route, or just a section. It’s a cool format that could work well for other grassroots events looking to gain outside interest and support. We reached out to Matt Mason, the organizer, for a recap of the event, and while we were at it we collected some photos from a few different participants.
Words by Matt Mason, Photos by Hayley MacDonald and Matt Mason.
In 2017, six riders showed up for the DangerBird, and no one finished. Since then, the City of Las Cruces and many of its residents have fallen in love with the Monumental Loop. In an effort to persuade more locals to toe the line, we pitched it as a weeklong, free form cycling event. We encouraged everyone to ride whichever sections of the route pleased them while still perhaps pushing their limits a bit. The response was overwhelming, and the DangerBird has become much more than another hard ass bikepacking race. Although, if you ask Ben Hanus, the first finisher, it’s still that too.
The DangerBird’s official start took place on October 27th in Plaza de Las Cruces, and was the beginning of Monumental Loop Week. Pablo Lopez set the tone with a brief speech on the start line, “Be good to each other out there.” Fifteen riders, with a variety of goals, set off in high spirits. Only three riders were set on finishing the entire 328-mile route, and they quickly distanced themselves from the pack. Ben Hanus, preparing for a Triple Crown attempt in 2019, was highly motivated and pushed the pace. After suffering a sidewall tear in the Doña Ana mountains at mile 40, he experienced the generosity of Cruceños, as a new tire was driven out to him! Instead of ending his attempt, he regained the route and caught up to the leaders in Hatch at mile 75. The DangerBird rules allow this primarily because it feels good. The folks that delivered the tire were delighted to help Ben, and he was stoked to still be in the race. The three riders continued to push on with little sleep, but plenty of burritos, until mile 287, when Ben Hanus dropped the hammer and rode through the night to finish after 2 days and 21 hours. Ben Trocki and Matt Mason (single speed) came in after 3 days and 4 hours.
A second group, named “Team Shortcut” planned only to enjoy themselves. They arranged to meet some friends, and some pizza, at Tonuco Mountain after a 65 mile first day. None of them had any specific goals, but team captain Hayley MacDonald did finish the DangerBird route. They rode together, camped together, and completed the 151-mile Northern Loop. This cooperative effort focused on enjoyment is likely to become a big part of the DangerBird. Aside from the fifteen starters, another dozen riders were out enjoying riding in Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument (national mouthful!) during Monumental Loop week. In total, bikepackers rode more than 2,500 miles in seven days.
DangerBird 2019 is already taking shape. Yes, you’ll still be able to abuse yourself on 328 miles of unforgiving Chihuahuan Desert terrain, but you’ll also be invited to have fun and be yourself. We’re hoping to open DangerBird to all types of human-powered (and equestrian?) travel next year. Recently, Ella Raff ran the entire Monumental Loop and blew our minds. So, if that sounds appealing, you’re crazy, but come on down! The DangerBird will always be an endurance bikepacking race, but we don’t want to limit anyone, so if you want to ride it on a scooter, or roller blades, we want to help.
Running the Monumental Loop
Words and photos by Ella Raff
The route poses challenges for runners that simply would not exist on a bike (SO many long stretches on a road!) but equally played to my strength. When the terrain got technical and the route-finding challenging, I was nimble on my feet and able to (semi-successfully) dart around the sharp foliage to get some amazing running in. Both the running and cycling communities in Las Cruces are incredibly strong.
We each have our moments – I felt pretty smug about the relative advantages of traveling on foot when everyone talked about their various mechanical issues, and I’m sure cyclists felt smug in turn as I complained of shin splints and stress fractures. It doesn’t matter whether you’re smashing up your body or your bike, we are all motivated by seeing as much as possible by our own power. The Monumental Loop really is about getting as many people as possible connected to the awesome protected lands in the Monument. It doesn’t matter how you travel, how far you want to go, or how experienced you are, there is something for you on this loop!
Congrats to everyone who experienced the Monumental Loop this year, and a shout out to Matt Mason for putting on a great event. Details on the 2019 Danger Bird 350 can be found on our events calendar.