Standing at the base of Burke Mountain staring up the line of the Mid-Mountain Express lift, fog blows across the top bringing an early morning chill to the valley below. There is a silence only broken every so often by the chirp of morning birds off to a busy day. Living on the east coast, it’s not often you find yourself in the grandeur of big mountains but Burke is deceptively big. The paved road that takes you to the peak, winding through the trees and switching back on steep pitches. Moss grows on the surface of the road where tires are rare to touch. The higher the road stretches, the signs of harsh winters show in the angle of tree trunks and the strange, almost alpine, vegetation.
The summit of Burke Mountain sits at a mere 3,267ft, but amongst the fog and early morning mist, its steep pitches seem to rival the granite peaks of its White Mountains neighbors. A pathway opens among the evergreen trees to summon riders into the dark forest and down the double black diamond designated trail. A flat and grassy section opens up to the muted morning light before dipping back into a forest, dank from the overnight rain, there is a sudden drop to the trail, down a rocky, slippery path, dappled in roots and moss. A familiar rumble breaks the hush of the damp air and blur of teal and yellow flash through the trail.
A rider comes to a screeching halt just after floating over a drop that surely would end in disaster for even the most enthusiastic mountain bikers. Adorned in the recognizable colorways of Yeti and the Red Bull motif on his full-face helmet, the rider is no ordinary trail enthusiast. It is Richie Rude. Rude, a native of Connecticut, took the Enduro World Series by storm, winning the title in consecutive years before he was old enough to order a beer. A world champion three times over (twice as a junior and once as a pro), Rude has accomplished more by the age of 23 than most will in an entire career.
Pushing his bike back up the trail, our jaws still dropped from the piece of riding that we just witnessed, pale blue eyes peek through clear goggles, Rude nods as he inspects the pathway down the steep pitch. His body resembles that of a fullback in the NFL more than it does a mountain biker. Standing at about 5’11’ and every bit of 200 lbs., Rude tears at the terrain like a bear breaking into a bakery more than he rides it. Smashing technical sections or just bypassing them entirely by launching over them, Rude takes on the track with a ‘death or glory’ approach. With speed and a brash approach to self-preservation, it’s not hard to understand why this kid is one of the best riders in the world. The best don’t ride bikes so much the bike becomes an extension of the body. As Rude surfed the slick rock and moss it was if he could feel what the tires could feel, teetering just on the point of them breaking free while maintaining maximum speed.
Standing on the final steep pitches, Knight Ide hands me a can of locally brewed beer as the sun drops and lights the horizon pink and orange. Knight has been putting shovel to earth for over a decade on Burke Mountain and was responsible for putting the finishing touches on what is now aptly named “Rude Awakening.” While the Kingdom Trails are still what most mountain bikers think of when East Burke, VT is brought up, Burke Mountain is quickly becoming a destination all on its own. The hotel and conference center offers secure indoor bike storage, a bike wash, and is adding new trails every year. A new flow trail and lift access give riders the opportunity to ride pro level trails day long, including the ‘Rude Awakening’. While Rude blasted down the final challenging stretches of the trail, Knights eyes lit up in the evening light witnessing his newly finished creation getting shredded by one of the best.
This coming weekend, September 15-16, Burke Mountain, along with Victory Hills, will host the North American Continental Enduro Series. It is safe to say that Richie Rude will have some home court advantage while also showcasing the trails to the rest of the North American Enduro community.
If you find yourself heading to East Burke, VT to ride the Kingdom Trails pack some extra time and hit the slopes of Burke and get a taste of the ‘Rude Awakening’