Paint Fast, Ride Slow - Rendezvous Enduro 2022

Photos Cy Whitling
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Rendezvous Enduro

It’s September, hot, dry, and dusty in the Tetons. Last time I packed my brushes and paints into my bike pack we were dealing with wet roots, fresh trails, and a gloomy ambiance at my first race of the season, the NAEC. Now we’ve traded the roots and fresh-cut trail for craggy granite chunks and moondusted corners. The Montana Enduro Series has come to town, and it’s time to throw the bikes in the rig and head to the Rendezvous Enduro at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.


This time I’m painting with some watercolours mixed by Wyoming-based soil scientist Karen Vaughan who uses local pigments in her paints.

After a humbling summer flirting with the bleeding edge of high Sport and low Expert race results, I got to forgo the timing chip and ride with a “Media” plate instead. But even without partaking in any timed racing this weekend, the Rendezvous Enduro served up something special.

Cy goober2

Friday’s practice started out warm and only got hotter. We headed out for shakedown laps on the lower trails, reveling in the freshly watered berms and consistent lips that make the JHMR bikepark great. While these more traditional “bike-parky” trails aren’t part of the race course, it’s hard to pass up the opportunity to party train classics like Deepest Darkest and True Grit.


Then we’re off to practice on Dirty Harry, the enduro’s final stage. Dirty Harry is mean. Prepping to race it feels more like lacing up the gloves for a prize fight than the usual “debate which lines are faster” mentality. It’s chunky, and relentless, with a few big features, exposed catch berms that barely catch, and a bunch of crucial moves throughout. The boys figured out their lines while I got a head start on painting.

Dirty harry2
Dirty Harry IRL2

Then it’s back to the base area to queue up for a tram ride to the top. If you’re unfamiliar with Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, or “the Village,” the tram is somewhat iconic. It serves 4,100 feet of ski terrain in the winter, whisking skiers past classic lines like Corbett’s and S&S couloirs. It’s not open to mountain biking, except for one day of practice and one day of racing for the Rendezvous Enduro each year. So for one wonderful weekend we get to stack our bikes in the box, and sample the forbidden fruit, hiking trails that duck in and out of the resort’s winter boundaries. That makes for as close to “blind” racing as you’re likely to get in this day and age. Logistically, it’s hard to get more than a lap or two in practice. So there’s no real “local advantage.” No one has these trails memorized, no one has the privilege of sessioning them day in and out.

Tram IRL

So this practice is important, racing this high alpine scree blind is a recipe for road rash. But it’s hard to concentrate on the trail. The scenery is absurd. I’ve spent plenty of time running at this elevation in the Teton Range, but never riding. And on long runs my mind always wonders: “Wouldn’t this be so much more fun on the bike?” I’ve dreamed away so many hours jogging crunchily downhill, wishing I could ride these trails, play in this alpine environment. And now we are. Stage 1 drops south, out of the resort boundary, into terrain that has launched a hundred ski careers, starred in countless ski movies and edits. It’s hard to keep track as we cruise the hiking trails. Is that the cliff band with Smart Bastard? There’s Spacewalk! Also, here’s a hairpin switchback that needs sessioning. I’m giggling, euphoric as we pedal through the meadow.

Then we climb a little back into the resort, descend another hiking trail, taking chances on fast traverses and rocky turns.


Another small climb, and then a long, long descent, traversing far across the resort and back. Stage three has it all. Plenty of pedaling, some techy moves, a few tree clusters too tight for modern handlebars, and a mama and calf moose, blocking the trail. We hike-a-bike to the ridge, bushwhack back down, and keep riding as the sun sets. The stage traverses so many microclimates with each change in aspect. We bounce through PNW-flavored ferns, lined with organic soil, and then out into decomposed granite and sagebrush. It’s a long, hard stage. It doesn’t feel like a traditional “enduro” stage, it’s a different beast entirely. We’re wiped at the bottom, cruise back to sleep on our Idaho side of the Tetons, exhausted.


First tram loads early on race day, and we sit in a warm breeze on the summit next to the waffle shack as racer after racer drops. Jackson likes to brand itself as “the last of the Old West” and whatever you think of that myth, there are times it does feel positively Western.

Western Waffles
Waffles IRL

Racers spin out their gears on the first straightaway, tucking before the trail dives into the cirque. Then it’s into the physical section, don’t push too hard or you’ll have the most scenic crash of your life.


Riders move through the first three stages efficiently. The transfers are short, the temperatures are perfect, and everyone is finding their groove. Stage Three is long, twentyish to thirtyish minutes, and everyone is ready for a respite before they head up to the final stage, Dirty Harry.


Then it’s physical survival riding, the only stage that competent racers have truly memorized, trying to hit their marks and ride their lines. Chunk in the woods, a war of attrition in dusty corners, big huck out to a huge compression, pedal hard across the road, one more big wood roller and it’s over.

Dirty Harr IRL1
Dirty Harry1
Cy goober4
Cy Goober3

Painting a race as it happens often looks and feels pretty silly.

Awards, beers in the sun. Discussions of Line of the Day. There’s a little chatter over the nature of the course. Three stages of hiking trails, then a final stage that’s arguably the hardest trail in the Tetons. The phrase “Spirit of Enduro” gets thrown around too much, but this course is something different. It feels raw in a unique way. These aren’t trails made gnarly and eroded by generations of mountain bikers racing them. Instead they reflect the character of these mountains. The majority of the singletrack in the Teton Range feels like this, would ride like this, if we were allowed to ride it.

So no, it doesn’t feel like your typical enduro at a typical bike park. Instead, it feels, to me at least, like a distillation of the region. It’s got a little bit of everything that makes riding here fun. Wide open speed, complicated chunder, weird corners that don’t really support high speeds, the full gamut of dirt types, and then some really, really hard bike-specific trail as the cherry on top.

I’m thankful to live in a world where once a year we get to sample the full spectrum of Teton mountain biking. Winners are crowned, overall series podiums announced. The kids are headed back to school, that’s a wrap on bike racing in this part of the world for the year. My paintings dry in the car as I head home, euphoric with the experience of riding and painting. So much thanks to the organizers, promoters, sponsors, venues, and racers that make this sort of weekend on the bike possible.


Cy Whitling is a freelance illustrator from Idaho. He likes roots, chasing kids into new jumps, and buying art supplies that he doesn't really need.

Instagram: @cywhitling // Website: bemorestoked.com

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+11 Niels van Kampenhout Cy Whitling evasive Allen Lloyd Pete Roggeman shenzhe Nick Maffei imnotdanny Vik Banerjee trumpstinyhands justfrogurt

Cy, I go back and forth between my appreciation for your unique & wonderful take on race coverage, and my jealousy over your actual talent.

I especially enjoyed this shot:


+1 Andrew Major

Thanks so much Andrew! Someday I'll get to come out and paint your 1FG radness.


+1 Cy Whitling

I can’t wait!


+4 Cy Whitling Pete Roggeman Lynx . Tjaard Breeuwer

That painting perfectly captures that feature.  I slow rolled it (the exit is gnarly) and in my head I looked just like this painting.


+6 Cy Whitling Niels van Kampenhout Pete Roggeman Lynx . mnihiser 4Runner1

Very well done and a refreshing change from the usual mtb media. It's things like this that keep me checking in on NSMB!


+4 Cy Whitling Lynx . Allen Lloyd Pete Roggeman

I like how this is a totally unique way to do race coverage!


+3 Cy Whitling Pete Roggeman justfrogurt

This makes me miss home, a lot. 

Also, someday I'll have to tell you tales of sneaking summer tram rides with DH bikes back in 2002 or so.



I need to get the full lawless days of riding in Jackson rundown from you someday. I've heard rumors of stealthy early morning racing in Death Canyon as well...


+3 Sandy James Oates Niels van Kampenhout justfrogurt

Man, what a different and cool Race Report, really digging it. Love the technique, curious what you're using for the ink drawing part, Rapidograph with india ink?


+4 Lynx . Pete Roggeman Niels van Kampenhout Allen Lloyd

So that's actually the part I most want to refine next! Right now, for these race reports, I do some of the inking digitally, in Procreate beforehand. I'll draw some scenes that I'm pretty sure will happen, and then I'll do a few others where I draw a rider with no background or context. Then I print them on watercolor paper, and on race day, add specific details/backgrounds/context/everything else with a Pigma Sensei .3mm pen. That's also why everything gets the same border, I'm essentially printing a bunch of 3x5 pre-sketched canvases at various levels of completion.

I want to experiment with a Rapidograph, but so far I've stuck to really affordable materials, and try to digitize portions of the process to give myself a fallback in case something catastrophic happens, like dropping my pack in a puddle. With this current process I can always re-print frames if something goes wrong.

In the future, for races not close to home, and longer events, I'll probably sketch on course, do finished drawings in the evenings with those Pigma pens, and then paint the next morning. The behind the scenes workflow of trying to make enough images to tell a cohesive story in a really limited timeframe is really interesting and exciting to me, and I have a few other ideas, for collaborative art with riders/spectators that I'm excited to try.


+2 Cy Whitling Niels van Kampenhout

Figured with how the borders looked you probably were pre-printing them, and to me that makes a lot of sense to have a consistent frame (although the slight variation of hand drawn would also be cool, but time consuming until it's not after repetition) but thought you were capturing the images on a camera or phone and then drawing them "on site". 

Wasn't sure on the pen, as these days I know there's lots of more affordable options, but back in the day it was basically only rapidograph if you wanted something like that. They weren't cheap, but they worked fantastic and with a set of 5, you had all the line thicknesses you'd need, generally.

Like the watercolour abilities and look, but as you say, if they get wet could cause some problems, so wondering if you've considered using permanent inks that would then be water proof? I remember back in college they could give the same effect as water colours, just with much more permanence and a bit more work to get the effect/blending.

Definitely think this is a very cool idea instead of the stock photo/video only coverage of an event. Next logical step is doing individual rider versions from still images that races could purchase - of course with a little artistic license thrown in to help improve the overall aesthetics.


+3 Niels van Kampenhout Allen Lloyd Lynx .

As this idea was initially conceived, for the NAEC, I was trying to set myself up to race+paint and the goal was to have all art pieces pre-finished to the point that I could do two or three per gondola ride. That was hectic and exhausting. But now that I'm swapping to not racing, I think it opens up a lot more space to actually draw on site, which is my goal for the next events I do this at. Ideally I'd show up at the venue with my art supplies and a blank canvas. And with how much spare time I had at this race, I think that will be realistic to do.

I need to play around more with permanent inks. I don't have any formal art education, so I've sort of been wandering from medium to medium, trying to figure out what's portable and easy to work with, so I definitely appreciate the recommendation. I've also been dabbling in alcohol ink markers, which might be my favorite medium right now (some of these pieces have alcohol ink elements). They're not a realistic option to race with due to their size, but if I'm riding with a Media plate, I can haul a big backpack around and do more mixed media pieces with them on site.

At the NAEC I had someone request exactly what you suggest "Can you paint my kid!?" Which, I'm very down to do, but it is a little more expensive than most folks want to spontaneously pay on a race weekend haha. Still trying to figure out the process so I can offer more affordable options. Thanks so much for the feedback!


+1 Cy Whitling

Alternately, you could try Acrylics and use them thinned down to get a water coluresque look, only problem is that they dry quite fast compared to water colours, guoache and especially oils. Saying that, you could experiment also with thinned down oil paints and also use a drying additive, it can really make the oils dry very fast. For oils I'd suggest Windsor & Newton, thin for the water colour transparent consistency with mineral spirits and Liquin or Galkyd additive for speeding up dry time.


+2 Cy Whitling Pete Roggeman

I love the breaking frame you're using on some of your work for depth and dynamism. Beautiful.


+2 Pete Roggeman Niels van Kampenhout

You had me at the Subaru Baja shuttle!


+2 Cy Whitling justfrogurt

No disrespect meant to pro photographers, but I find myself looking at each individual painting for way longer than I do photos on 'photo epic' reports.


+1 Cy Whitling

Awesome Cy!

Seems like a great race indeed.


+1 Cy Whitling

Really cool!


+1 Cy Whitling

You've ruined regular race reports forever for me Cy...which I'm fine with. As a secret roadie hiding out amongst MTB-er's I also think other bike sports would benefit greatly from this type of treatment.


+1 Cy Whitling

Cy, this is such a cool niche that you’ve managed to carve out within the industry. I look forward to these articles and am amazed by the sheer quantity of pieces that you can create over a weekend. If you’re stoked on soil-sourced shades, check out my friend Crystie’s amazing work at renderedearth.com



Woah! her work is incredible, thanks so much for sharing!


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