Taylor Lideen: Interview & Sneak Peek at Taylor’s AZT Bike

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. 

taylor lideen pivot mach 4 bikepacking
Taylor with full AZT bike setup. Photo by: Dylan Harris

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!

taylor lideen pivot mach 4 fox mob stans notubes no tubes
Taylor’s Pivot Mach 4 Photo by: Dylan Harris

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. 

azt 300 arizona trail
Arizona trail 300 route and elevation

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.

Taylor following his recent crash. Courtesy of @tlideen on Instagram

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.

True Grit Epic – Santa Clara, Utah

Fast Times Posted at NUE Series Opener in Southern Utah with Biggest Ever Field

Saturday’s True Grit Epic saw it’s biggest-ever field with over 600 racers taking on the treacherous, rock-strewn course tucked in the south west corner of Utah. The record-setting participants were rewarded with some of the best race conditions possible with calm winds, temperatures in the low 60s and overcast skies keeping the sun at bay.

All this allowed racers to post some of the fastest times around the notoriously techy True Grit course.

Gwendalyn Gibson (Norco) had some fun while destroying the marathon event. Photo by: Shannon Boffeli/MTB Race News

The NUE opener experienced a youth infusion with riders like Gwendalyn Gibson (Norco) and Hannah Finchamp (Clif Bar) who just recently left the junior ranks. 50 miles was not too much for these youngsters though as the powered away from the outset battling each other most of the day.

Gibson took the win with Finchamp just minutes back. It wasn’t all about the kids though as Jenni Smith (Kenda/Cannondale) who just turned 45 rallied all day and finished just behind in 3rd. Nicole Tittensor (Scott) and Liza Hartlaub (GU Energy Labs) finished off the podium in 4th and 5th.

Nicole Tittensor (Scott) leads Jen Hanks into the Waterfall. Photo by: Shannon Boffeli/MTB Race News

The men’s marathon was a showdown between Justin Lindine (Apex) and another youngster testing out the long distance scene, Zach Calton (Spry/ LPB Sotheby’s).

The two rode wheel-to-wheel through the most technical first half of the race before Lindine opened a gap and took the win after just missing it last year in a sprint finish.

Justin Lindine (Apex) showed his early-season form taking the men’s marathon title. Photo by: Shannon Boffeli/MTB Race News

Former winner Alex Grant (Maybird/Cannondale) took third followed by Nic Beechan (Trek) and Clayton Otto (Giant).

The kids came out in force for the 2018 True Grit. Photo by: Shannon Boffeli/MTB Race News

Dave Harris won the 50+ marathon event but had to leave part of his face on the course to do so proving that even living in St. George and riding these trails everyday doesn’t give you a free pass on the True Grit course.

Local speedster and 50+ marathon champ Dave Harris left some blood on course. Photo by: Shannon Boffeli/MTB Race News

100 Mile 

Taylor Lideen charges toward the finish. Photo by: Shannon Boffeli/MTB Race News

100-mile winner Taylor Lideen (Pivot/DNA Cycling) turned in one of the most impressive rides at the True Grit taking the win just three weeks after winning the solo race at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. When asked if he considered doing the 50 mile event instead he said, “Never, I don’t have that kind of fire in my legs right now – my goal was just to set my pace and see how it went.”

Lideen was challenged throughout the opening lap and a half by Pete Karinen (Broken Spoke Racing) before a flat, on the second pass through Zen trail, sent him back in the pack and Brazilian Stefano Barberi (Team Barberi) took up the chase. He couldn’t catch Lideen as he finally finished second followed by David Krimstock (Pearl Izumi/Pivot). Pete Karinen rallied after his flat to finish fourth with Coulton Hartrich in fifth.

2017 NUE marathon champion Jen Toops (Pearl Izumi/Pivot) traveled out from Ohio the NUE opener. Photo by: Shannon Boffeli/MTB Race News

Larissa Connors smashed the True Grit course winning by 30 minutes over Sparky Sears (First Hand MTB) and Carla Williams (Joe’s Bike Shop). Connors was so fast she would have placed just off the podium in the open men’s category in 7th.

Chase Hansen (CZ Racing) finished 4th followed by Lauren Cantwell.

Hannah Finchamp (Clif Bar) making an impressive debut at True Grit. Photo by: Shannon Boffeli/ MTB Race News

By far the most exciting part of the 2018 True Grit Epic despite the great weather, amazing views, brutally fun course, and fantastic volunteers and staff was the number of young racers on hand.

The number of participants under the age of 21 was truly impressive and a testament to the success of the NICA high school racing league in the southwest. Dozens and dozens of kids strapped on their helmets and conquered one of the toughest endurance events in the country with many even contending for race wins. It was an exciting development I hope we continue to see for years to come.

Riders have to decide between riding or taking in the incredible views at True Grit. Photo by: Shannon Boffeli/MTB Race News



Photo Gallery




True Grit 100-Miler – Santa Clara, Utah

Taylor Lideen Repeats as True Grit Champion and Joey Lythgoe Takes First 100 Mile Win

Written by: Shannon Boffeli


Once again riders from all across the country made the trek to Santa Clara, Utah, to take in the desert singletrack oasis tucked in the southwestern corner of the state. Warm weather and ideal trail conditions greeted the 500 riders registered for this year’s True Grit Epic.

The fact that the NUE series finale would be moving out west in 2017 provided extra buzz as many of those in attendance would be making a run at the series title, a challenge that is typically out of reach for most racers out west who have a hard time traveling to the east coast for the series final. This year’s finale will be located in Big Bear, California.

100-mile open male winner Taylor Lideen leading Dylan Johnson.

Open Male

The open men’s field included a healthy bunch of seasoned NUE racers looking to kick off 2017 with a race win.

Last year’s True Grit champ Taylor Lideen (Elevated Legs) looked poised to repeat after a winter of training in sunny Arizona.

Looking to unseat Lideen as champion was 2016 NUE series champion Dylan Johnson (Cameron Racing). Johnson was making his first appearance at the Utah race. Following a long trip out from the east coast Johnson wasn’t left with much time to ride the True Grit course prior to race day and would be racing blind for the first of two laps.

Not to be counted out was Colorado duo David Krimstock (Giant) and Josh Tostado (Santa Cruz); both experienced ultra-endurance riders capable of taking the title in Santa Clara. Perennial contender Cary Smith (The Hub) of Jackson, Wyoming is always in the mix and should never be counted out of a 100-mile event.

This impressive bunch departed downtown Santa Clara just as the sun rose Saturday morning. Once on course, it didn’t take long for Lideen and Johnson to establish themselves up front. A sight the chasers would have to get used to seeing all day.

Misfortune struck Cary Smith early on as one puncture led to another leaving the Wyoming strongman walking his bike on course in the first hour of the race and forcing him to call it a day much earlier than he would have liked.

This left the two leaders out front with Josh Tostado solo behind, doing his best to chase down the leaders.

“I felt really good the first lap and a half but toward the end of lap two the heat started to get to me.” The Breckenridge-based rider shared after the finish.

This was a common theme for most riders even with temperatures creeping just above the mid-seventies many riders, who traveled south from snowy, cold winter locations, were quickly overheating.

Lideen wasn’t feeling the heat though. In fact, the Phoenix-based rider was in the opposite situation. “I thought it was so cold this morning,” he remembered at the finish. “Mary (his wife and support crew) and I had to drive the van around this morning to get the heater running so I could warm up.”

Now in the seventies he was feeling comfortable and midway through the second lap he started opening up a gap on Johnson, who had stayed glued to his wheel following all his lines throughout the day.

On the long, false-flat climb of Stucki Springs, Lideen slowly pulled away from the reigning series champ who was also dealing with a broken saddle that cracked toward the end of the rugged Zen trail.

Lideen could feel a gap opening and kept the hammer down, deciding he wouldn’t look back until the very end, just a mile or so from the finish when his win was all but secured.

The two-time True Grit winner was ecstatic at the finish. Through big smiles Lideen had this to say about the course, “I think this the best single day endurance racecourse. It’s true mountain biking. I like seeing more and more people racing with dropper posts each year. Some of this stuff gets gnarly on an XC bike. I think it’s great.”

Johnson, comfortably held on to second spot crossing the line just over 10 minutes behind the race leader.

Josh Tostado took third but was feeling the heat, coming from the sun and Giant rider David Krimstock who was closing the gap on Tostado late in the race.

In the end, just over a minute separated the two with Tostado taking third.

Krimstock would finish the day in fourth place with not much time to spare over final podium finisher Heath Thumel (Race Pace Bicycles).

100-mile female winner Joey Lythgoe. Photo by Crawling Spider

Open Female

The women’s event featured one overall favorite and several lesser-known challengers looking to compete for the top spot on the podium.

Previous True Grit 100 race winner and ultra-endurance superstar Sonya Looney (Freakshow/Scott) was looking to continue her winning ways in Utah but would be challenged by former 50-mile winner Joey Lythgoe (Kuhl) and successful triathlete and road racer Shirley Lydsman (Red Rock Bicycles) who just recently found a love for the dirt.

The race got off to a fast start with several of the women mixing in with the men. The main contenders were all well established early on until Looney suffered a flat on one of the opening descents costing her time early on.

Lythgoe established herself out front and never let off the gas for the rest of the race. After the first of two laps the Kuhl rider’s lead was just over 10 minutes and almost double that at the finish line.

Lydsman meanwhile, surprised herself with a strong showing occupying the second spot throughout the race. Her fitness and ability on the mountain bike showed as she tackled one of the most technical racecourses on the NUE circuit.

Sonya Looney never recovered from her early flat. Loosing significant time and getting into the red zone trying to catch back up left the defending True Grit champ in a very dark place suffering from heat stroke for much of the day.

She worked her way back to the fourth spot but was never able to overtake third-placed rider Abelyn Broughton (Fitzgerald’s Bicycles) in the end.

Chase Edwards finished off the podium in fifth.

Riders flows over the rocks on Zen trail. Photo by: Crawling Spider


At the beginning of the day the big question on everyone’s mind was, ‘Is Gordon Wadsworth here.’ It was rumored the multi-time NUE singlespeed champion and last year’s True Grit winner would be in Utah defending his True Grit win from 2016.

Steven Mills (New West Medical) stood on the start most interested in Wadsworth’s location. Mills was determined to rectify his mistakes from 2016 that let Wadsworth steal his race win. Mills led all of last year’s 100-mile event until an inexplicable course deviation just 10 miles from the finish meant he needed to ride back on course and complete the section he missed dropping him from first to third.

Mills took no chances this year and if Wadsworth was on hand Mills was determined to take him on. He threw a heavier gear on than he rode in ’16 and went hard right from the start.

Mills got out early, mixing in toward the front with many of the fastest geared competitors. And although Wadsworth ultimately didn’t make the trip out west Mills rode as if he were there.

He went out so hard in fact that even his closest chasers couldn’t see or follow him.

“He kind of has a great game plan for this race,” said second place finisher Quin Bingham (America First/Bikers Edge). “He has a big gear and gets out front really fast with the geared guys. Then he was just gone. I chased for awhile but you eventually just kind of forget about him.”

Mills also rode a hardtail on the rough southern Utah course but that didn’t seem to slow him down much.

Out front all day Mills eventually finished with a time of 7 hours 28 minutes. Good enough for first in singlespeed and ninth overall.

Bingham finished just 12 minutes behind the leader. Mark Schafer (Team Eastside Cycles) finished third.

Kip Biese, last year’s NUE singlespeed runner-up came home in fourth.


Masters Men 50+

Last year’s True Grit winner Greg Golet returned as the overall favorite in the 100-mile event. In addition to taking last year’s race win he also finished second in the overall NUE series barely getting beat out in the series final by top rival Jeff Clayton.

Clayton wasn’t on hand in Santa Clara giving Golet a clear shot at another True Grit title.

He proved to be up to the challenge turning in a blistering sub-eight-hour time, the only masters racer to do so.

Golet had a clean ride with no issues throughout the day. His consistent pace got him to the finish line almost a full hour ahead of second place and provided him with a great start for his shot at the 2017 NUE title.

Tim Phillips crossed the line in second at 8 hours 46 minutes followed by Sten Hertsens (Carborocket) just five minutes later.

Next the NUE heads back east to the Cohutta 100 in Ducktown, Tennessee April 29th. Check back for full coverage only on MTB Race News.

Click Here for full results from the True Grit 100