Ode to Summer

Photos and words by brand ambassador, Leslie Kehmeier

The sound of scraping frost off my windshield in the mornings is a good sign that summer is now gone. It’s definitely not forgotten as it was a memorable one for me. There were plenty of eye-opening experiences and fond memories.

From May to September, I found myself partway around the world, stationed in the high Alps while Chris (my husband and adventure buddy) worked with an international team of trail builders, developing new mountain bike trails in Sölden, Austria. They take their mountain biking seriously there and have been creating a large-scale bike park, boldly named the Bike Republic Sölden. As “citizens of the Republic” we had a backyard full of fantastic riding with everything from steep and challenging terrain to some new and exciting flow-based lines.

With such a stellar basecamp, I stuck close to Sölden and the surrounding Ötztal Valley for the first part of summer. Most days,  I immersed myself in landscape and culture on foot or by bike. Despite its reputation as a world-class destination for skiing, Sölden is still a rural countryside at heart. While I was documenting the developing trails and riding the ones already on the ground, I discovered a community of people (and animals) that make this little village in Austria very unique. Fortunately, I made friends wherever my bike led me.  

To catch our breath and recharge our batteries, we flew home to Colorado mid-summer to reconnect with friends and family. It was speed-visiting at its finest with the days planned right down to the minute. Thankfully our ride time didn’t suffer and we ticked some summertime classic off the list.

One of the highlights was two days of dawn patrol rides across the Grand Mesa on the Flowing Park trail. It’s one of those high alpine gems that is tops for the summer riding experience. Chris celebrated in style with a shirtless and chamois only homage to his one of his favorite trails.

Meanwhile…back in Europe.

During the second half of the summer, I spent some time further afield, exploring Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and the United Kingdom. Perhaps the most fun-filled week was in the Czech Republic when I linked up with the Knoxville crew.

We discovered plenty of sweet singletrack and delicious beer. From there, I stopped in Northern Norway for a balls-to-the-wall project before landing in Scotland and Northern Ireland for a few weeks.

There I experienced both ends of the mountain bike spectrum from the rawest and rugged trails I’ve ever ridden to trail centers that reshaped my vision for what the future of mountain biking might be. Chris discovered that he doesn’t think deep-fried black pudding is the best thing he’s ever had.

In the final weeks of my live-abroad adventure, I savored the coffee, pastries and pomme frites I had grown accustomed to all summer. I rode my favorite trails a few more times and burned the views of the mountain tops and idyllic valleys into my mind, for what I hope might be, forever.