Ultra-endurance super pro Taylor Lideen has conquered all in the world of long distance mountain biking; 24-hour races, 100-milers, he’s annihilated them all. Now he’s turning his sights toward a new challenge, one where his toughest competition is himself.
Taylor has turned his focus to the Arizona Trail 300 (AZT), a 300-mile singletrack effort from the Mexican border to Superior, Arizona, along the rough and rugged Arizona trail.
Taylor checked in with us for a sneak peek at his AZT bike set up and his mental focus heading into his new project.
MTB Race News: What is the nature of the AZT project you are working on?
Taylor Lideen: With the cancellation of Old Pueblo I knew I wanted to keep my focus on a specific goal, and center it around a personal challenge. I’ve always had an interest in bikepacking, but in all honesty, I was afraid of giving it a try. I struggle with feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, and other things like that, so I pushed away from events like the AZT. I believed my negative self-talk would be brought to the surface, and I wanted to avoid that at all costs.
After many years, lots of talks, time to myself, and finally learning how to even approach these types of issues, I am ready to start facing them. I am learning to understand and embrace all the feelings and thoughts I have, and move through them versus against them.
The “race” has been moved to the fall, so I will be doing it as an individual time trial. I am going to be aiming for the FKT (fastest known time) record, but this effort is absolutely focused on dealing with the highs and lows I will experience out there. I had a pretty major mental breakdown at Old Pueblo last year, and my hope was to face that head on during the 24-hour event this year – but instead I’ll be doing it on the AZT alone.
MTB Race News: What made you decide to take this project on? Have you attempted anything like this before?
Taylor Lideen: For me there is nothing more exciting than a new adventure on the bike. I really felt like this was an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons, so I just set my mind to it. I have a checkered past with mental health issues and went through a pretty dark place this past fall. I found myself running away from everything that was going on in my head, rather than facing it. To me, this AZT effort is going to be a way I can get into my head, while trying to move with the dark times rather than resist them. I have a little experience with bikepacking, but nothing to this extent.
MTB Race News: What changes have you made to your bike set up? Tires, suspension set up, packs, etc…
Taylor Lideen: I’ll be using my Pivot Mach 4 SL with Stan’s wheels (we aren’t 100% sure what rim at the moment but likely Flows), Fox 32 Stepcast with 100mm of travel, and all of my Shimano XTR bits. I’ll also be running a 4iiii dual sided power meter – that’s a first for me in terms of seeing my power balance, but I’m super excited about it. Tire choice is incredibly important out there because of how rocky and primitive the trail is. At the moment my plan is to run Maxxis Rekon 2.4 front and rear.
This biggest change are all the bags on the bike. I’m running a frame bag that accommodates the vertical shock, a top tube bag, a feed bag by the stem, and a massive saddle bag. I’m not bringing any sleeping gear, so the plan is to bring as many calories as possible. I am aiming to pack 20,000 calories on the bike, along with some tools, and plenty of Velocio gear to stay warm at night. It’s crazy how many logistics go into this bikepacking thing, but it’s been super fun to learn!
MTB Race News: What’s your thought process on wheel selection?
Taylor Lideen: I was really torn between No Tubes podiums and flows but ultimately settled on the flows. The reason for this is to get that larger footprint for the tires. It’s so rugged and loose out there I really want all the traction I can get especially on the steep climbs. The weight penalty is very minimal and the flow rims are absolutely bomb proof. Kenny at Stan’s and I have gone over the pros and cons for each and we both agree that with the gnarly terrain, the wider profile is the way to go. I’ve been using the flows for nearly ever ride lately and I couldn’t be happier with them for rides like this! I actually tossed on 4 piston Shimano XT brakes as well so the bike feels like a solid mix of trail and XC with that combo!
MTB Race News: Tell us something we don’t know about your bike like, do you have a new mantra sticker on your handlebar.
Taylor Lideen: Hmmm, something people may not know. Well, I run my brakes moto, and like my suspension pretty firm – especially when it’s loaded down with my gear. I always like to have a mantra or two on the handlebar for these long events, but I usually don’t make up my mind until closer to the event about what I want them to say. My go to is usually “Be Patient” and “Don’t Bitch”. I’ll likely have “Be Patient” on there because there is no doubt this effort requires patience. It’s kinda insane how rugged and slow rolling (I’m talking an average overall speed of ~8mph) most sections are on the AZT, so it’s all about going through the motions and not rushing it.
MTB Race News: When will you take on the AZT
Taylor Lideen: I was originally planning a start date for February 24th but unfortunately I had some pretty scary things pop up. We are actually making a film around this effort centered around mental health and my struggles with anxiety and depression in the hopes it can help others. I actually fell into a bit of a dark episode that lasted roughly 3 weeks so training was basically at a standstill and there was just no way I could ask my body and mind to do this type of effort. I have now moved my planned start date to the end of March and had to change my personal expectations but I am ok with that.
Update: Since submitting this story Taylor suffered a heavy training crash that leaving him with a fractured clavicle that required surgery. His AZT attempt is currently on hold.
Currently the fastest known times for the Arizona trail 300 were set by Kurt Refsnider in 2014 with a time of 1 day 21 hours and 7 minutes and Kaitlyn Boyle with a time of 2 days 2 hours and 57 minutes.