Adventure athlete Eric Porter channels his freeride roots on Teton Pass.
Living in Jackson sure has its perks. Very much an all-season ski town, there is just as much to do in the warmer months. The mountain bike trails, especially those found on Teton Pass, rival those found in places more famous for their biking. Earlier this month, Diamondback ambassador and adventure athlete Eric Porter swung by to get in some final testing laps aboard the all-new Diamondback Release 5c. We teamed up to take a spin down Lithium, an absolutely epic trail dropping nearly 3,000 feet from the top of Teton Pass all the way to the TGR offices in Wilson.
Lithium is the quintessential Teton Pass trail, accessible by a short pedal from the top of the pass road.
Porter and I take turns leading up the singletrack climb to the top of Lithium, pausing to snap a few pictures and take in the beautiful morning light. The trail starts in a wildflower meadow, where we are greeted with views of the Tetons and Jackson Hole, and starts winding its way down towards a steep ridgeline riddled with technical sections and rock gardens. After the exposure along the ridge, the trail drops into the forest and we navigate more super steep and scary loose switchbacks in the trees.
The trail features everything from high-alpine ridgelines to committing jump sections in the trees.
Now the real fun starts, thanks to the incredible trail building by the Teton Freedom Riders, a local trail building coalition that builds and maintains trails on the Pass. We enter the freeride section of the trail, which starts with a pick-your-own-line section over some trailer-sized boulders, and continues through some flowy berms into several sets of large jumps. I post up in the trees beside the trail to grab some shots of Porter boosting the jumps, sending stylish airs over the foliage. A few more jumps and fun jib features later we pop out at the bottom of the pass road, and rip down one more section of singletrack into town. Next stop? Wilson’s Stagecoach Bar for some delicious tacos and a cold beer.
Porter navigates the steep, exposed section on Lithium's main ridgeline.
As someone who has been in the game from the beginning, Eric Porter knows how to push the envelope better than most. His career started off with winning races in college, transitioning slowly to competing in the freeride world and shooting film segments.
Today, with ever-evolving bike and media industries, Porter has kept up by embracing his creative side. He brands himself as an adventure athlete, and travels the world, riding his bike up and down things like huge South American volcanoes. Some may call it bikepacking, but to him, it’s just getting out and riding a bike in places where he’s never been before.
In his mind, bikepacking does not have to be slow and boring, but can be done just as easily on the two wheels you already own to access amazing places around the world.
He uses these trips to not only tell awesome stories, but also to come up with concrete ideas on how to make the bikes he rides better, giving feedback directly to the engineers at Diamondback. The new Release was developed largely with his input from adventures over the last few years.
He says that the freerider in him has never left, it's pretty obvious why.
As much as Porter loves to adventure and travel the world, he will always embrace his inner freerider, eyeing the next big feature or air on the trail. While checking speed on the Lithium jumps, he recalled a big crash he had on a recent trip to a freeride destination in Guatemala.
“I’d much rather follow someone into big jumps, it still scares the shit out of me to ride alone on these features,” he says, “but psyching yourself up and then sending it is half the fun.”
Needless to say, he does not look scared as he effortlessly floats over a 20-foot gap on his bike, landing it clean and coming back with a kid-in-a-candy-shop grin on his face.
Lithium is home to some of the best features in the Teton Valley, Porter makes it all look so easy.
When he is not traveling, Porter has a home to come back to that many would envy. Based in Park City with his wife and two sons (who, at a very young age already rip), his backyard is home to a setup that includes several sets of jumps and a pumptrack built and maintained by himself and his wife, not to mention the amazing trail network around town.
While he loves traveling to the far reaches of the world aboard his bike, Porter's backyard is home to an enviable playground. It's both kid and adult-sized. John Watson and Justin Olsen photo.
Outside of riding bikes, Porter is both an activist and educator in the outdoor world. As VP of the Wasatch Trail Alliance, he works to protect and maintain access to the beautiful trails near his home, and promote his vision of mountain biking as a sustainable sport. A long-term goal is working to allow bike access to the famous Pacific Crest Trail.
During the winter, he is an AAIRE-certified avalanche educator, focusing on teaching snowmobile-based snow safety courses in the Utah backcountry. While he may be a professional mountain biker, Porter loves spending his time in the snow as much as on the dirt, ski touring and sledding as much as possible in the winter.
Fellow Diamondback athlete Mike Hopkins explores what is possible with the new bike.
The new Release is a whole lot more than just Diamondback’s first carbon fiber mountain bike. As a purpose built adventure mountain bike, the Release has some tricks up its sleeve. Beginning with the Level Link suspension platform, a dual link design with amazing pedaling characteristics and plenty of ramp up for big hits, the bike feels composed on any kind of terrain. At 150mm front and 130mm rear travel, it combines the best of both trail and enduro bikes, providing plenty of cushion up front to charge through chunky trails without sacrificing the pop and agility of smaller bikes.
Diamondback’s new carbon frame shares the same geometry as the alloy version, but the added stiffness and lighter weight are a noticeable improvement out on the trail, making the bike easy to maneuver through the roots and rocks found on trails like Lithium. It may not look like it, but this is a bike that like to be ridden fast and aggressively, and will not shy away from the biggest hits on the trail.
With a build kit that, for once, leaves nothing extra to be desired, Diamondback hits the nail right on the head. It comes complete with big items like a Fox 36 fork, the amazing new DPX2 trail shock and a 12-speed SRAM XO1 Eagle drivetrain. The oft-overlooked small details are equally impressive, with light and stiff Raceface ARC30 wheels, meaty Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR tubeless tires, and Ergon grips.
Photos by Max Ritter