This story first appeared in Upshift Online Issue 24 - August 2018.
Words and photography by Chad De Alva
Last year on a whim, four friends and I signed up for Klim’s Cow Tag Event. Getting to ride the trail system that Klim tests their gear on while searching for cow tags (exactly what you’re thinking – the tags used to mark a cow’s ear) in order to win raffle prizes and help raise money for trail advocacy was an easy sell for us. The 2017 Cow Tag exceeded all of our expectations – the trail system was outstanding and the whole experience was so good that we knew that we had to come back for the 2018 event and spend more time riding. Over the course of a year, one good idea led to another, and soon plans were made to bring an even bigger crew up to Idaho for the week leading up to the 2018 event to help Klim get ready for this year’s Cow Tag Event.
Klim hosts the Cow Tag event in the Caribou Targhee National Forest, and I can’t begin to tell you how massive this trail system is. Hundreds of miles of trail are laced all over this wonderful collection of contour lines and there are trails in this system to put a smile on every rider’s face. From rocky ridge lines with exposure and no-fall zones, to fast and flowy single track and double track where every corner is bermed to perfection. Your dream trail is here, and this trail system can be ridden for days without riding the same thing twice. So needless to say, our crew had our work cut out for us in that we needed to clear quite a bit of trail in time for the event.
The only way we were going to be able to make sure that all of the trails were open in time for the event was to divide and conquer. So we split up into small groups with a couple of chainsaws each and started attacking separate parts of the trail system. Each group had a small top-handled arborist saw and a larger rear-handled saw that we were all very thankful to have when we ran into downed trees with trunk diameters that were more than twice the length of the bar of our top handled saws. We cleared everything ranging from small aspens that were quickly dispatched to monster pine trees that decided the best place to fall over was down the trail we were trying to clear. It may sound like hard work, but as one of our guys put it, “I don’t think you can have more fun than getting to ride killer trails and use chainsaws at the same time!”
Riding with an extra 20 pounds of chainsaw kit on your back has a big impact on your riding ability, which is why I was really thankful to have a prototype luggage system from Mosko Moto with me. It turns out the upcoming Reckless 10 carries a top handled saw like a champ, and not having all of that weight on your back is a huge help when you’re riding and clearing trails for 14 hours a day. The Reckless 10 can carry an arborist saw, fuel and bar oil, and all of your tools and PPE, meaning that your backpack can weigh what it normally would for an all-day ride. Carrying chainsaws on a dirt bike is something that I’m continually playing with, and Mosko Moto’s Reckless 10 did a great job packing my saw kit through dozens of miles of hard technical single track.
After a couple of long days spent packing saws around, we finally had all of the trails cleared which meant it was now time to focus on hanging the cow tags that folks would seek out during the event. Again, we split in to small teams and got to enjoy the fruits of our labor with packs that were now much lighter absent all of our cutting kit. With rainstorms moving through the area daily, conditions ranged from slick and muddy to hero dirt perfection, which made for some truly world-class riding on trails that we had spent the last few days getting to know in many places footstep by footstep. Our days would start by planning out epic rides where we could get to every spot that a cow tag needed to be hung, and then the rest of the ridiculously long Idaho day was spent riding to hang those tags. We logged hundreds of miles on amazing trails, and spent the moments we were stopped trying to figure how this was actually called “work” because we were having too much fun.
The day of the event was finally upon us, and with it came a couple hundred riders who had come out for an epic day of riding and raising money to keep places like this open to motorcycles. Energy was high in the parking lot as groups of riders made plans to hit favorite trails, or came up with routes that would take them to the most cow tags possible. More tags visited meant more raffle tickets to win a trailer load of awesome gear donated to the event from dozens of industry companies who realize the importance of trail advocacy events like this.
Each year new companies come out to get involved with the Cow Tag. This year Alta Motors was in attendance offering demo rides on their new Redshift line of electric motorcycles. While everyone was out riding for Cow Tags during the event, I had the opportunity to take the Alta rep out for a quick trail ride. The Alta Redshift MXR that I got to ride to the top of Black canyon was unlike any other motorcycle I’ve ever ridden. The Redshift bikes have so much finite throttle control that you can put power down with so much more precision than any bike that burns dinosaurs and air. Yet, don’t for a second think that the Redshift is a docile bike that can’t hang – whack the throttle open and the bike will instantly light up the rear tire no matter what you’re doing. That’s the cool part about electric motors – you get peak torque everywhere, and Alta Motors has harnessed that fact to redefine Maximum Warp.
Riding the Alta Redshift MXR was the perfect way to mark my final ride of the trip, and I found myself back at the parking lot all too soon. Yet, this gave me a moment to stop and think about the big picture and what the Klim Cow Tag means for the motorcycle industry.
The bottom line is that if you enjoy riding on the trails that you utilize, you need to support, or better yet, get involved with an organization that’s working to ensure your access to our nation’s trails. If we as riders don’t get involved, we’re only going to lose access to our favorite riding places.
Klim’s Cow Tag event makes raising money for trail advocacy so much fun. You pay an entry fee, show up for the event, ride killer trails all day, and spend your evening feasting on free BBQ and winning great prizes from companies who all realize the value of trail advocacy. All said and done, the 2018 Cow Tag raised close to $10,000 for trail advocacy, which will go directly to organizations who are fighting for our access to trails like Riders Unite and the Blue Ribbon Coalition. If you can make one trip next year to go someplace new and ride, put the Cow Tag on your calendar. Riding for trail advocacy has never been more fun. For information on Riders Unite or Blue Ribbon Coalition click HERE