24 Hours in The Enchanted Forest

Craig Benson
22 min readApr 15, 2022

24 hour mountain bike racing in New Mexico

Go speed racer go! Photo by Curtis Gillen from Zia Rides

It’s 3 AM, I’m laying in the back of the spotlessly clean rental car tormented by feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, anxiously checking if the charged indicator on the bike light has turned green, as if the more I look the faster it will recharge — a watched pot and all that. I’m 15 hours into a solo 24 hour mountain bike race, 24 hours in the Enchanted Forest. I lay there wondering how, with all the focus on planning, I could have blocked out the fact that battery powered lights need recharging. This is definitely going to affect my goals. But, on the bright side, I’m getting a nice long rest and the worry has stopped “Lose Yourself” from running through my head.

24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest is a non-stop 24 hour mountain bike race held at the McGaffey campground in the Zuni mountains about 20 minutes outside of Gallup, New Mexico. It starts at 11 AM on Saturday and ends at 11 AM on Sunday. Competitors complete as many laps of the 13 mile loop as possible. It can be done as a team or solo. I’m a solo rider.

I flew into Albuquerque two days before the race. The rental car agency talked me into an upgrade due to cargo size issues, i.e. unlikely to be able to fit the bike in. I ended up with a Subaru Forester that had only 3 miles on it. It doesn’t even have license plates and it’s clean, and I mean shiny and spotless inside and out.

I picked up the rental bike and light from the bike shop. The light turned out to be a headlamp, as opposed to a handlebar mounted light which is what I was expecting. I haven’t ridden in the dark in years, I’ll just have to trust that that’s the best option. The bike is red, which, I was informed by the bike shop guy, means it’s the fastest bike. That oughta help with my goals. And, it does fit in the upgraded Subaru without any disassembly. Still a much more expensive car bill than I was expecting but it is nice not to have to take the bike apart. Hopefully I won’t get the car too dirty. Heh.

Red = Fast. Photo by Me.

It’s hot in Albuquerque, the temperature hit at least 101 as I drove through it. Glad I’m not racing there.

Craig Benson

Writing mostly about outdoors, travel, and music. Ex-software engineer and running coach; aspiring ultra endurance adventurer and climate activist