As a seasoned mountain biker who has navigated his own mental landscape in backcountry races, Loki Events promoter Matt Johnson knows how to motivate people. It’s second nature.
“People have thanked me for heckling them because they forget about the pain and start laughing on the bike. I strive for that right there,” Johnson said.
He strikes a dynamic balance between high-energy hype man and wholesome camp counselor. He’s also well known for taking selfies with participants — it wouldn’t be a Matt Johnson race without them.
After 20 years of mountain biking, Johnson founded Loki Events in 2019 and promoted its first race, The Chubb Enduro, in spring of 2020. Loki Events now has hosted 26 races, with 125 to 160 riders per event. Johnson works with timing manager Andy Schuette and course director Jeff Powell to organize the races.
“Mountain bikers are super-friendly and are known to help people on-trail,” Powell said. “I’ve been mountain biking for over 30 years, and it’s a great way to make new friends.”
Powell hikes in the hills to scout potential courses with marking tape, gloves, and a folding saw. He incorporates feedback from past races into future designs.
“My favorite part about being the course director is having the ability to be creative with the courses and give the racers something new each time,” Powell said.
In the spirit of environmental stewardship, Loki Events conducts pre-race trail maintenance. After each race, remnants of the course are removed without a trace.
“We leave the trail better than how we found it,” Powell said.
Molding the Community
Fifty-two-year-old Katherine Luh started racing with Loki Events at the Greensfelder Enduro in spring of 2022. She says she enjoys the music, snacks, and signature Matt Johnson selfie.
“Matt is super fun and highly motivating,” Luh said.
As a beginner, Luh says she appreciates Johnson’s inclusive nature and concern for safety. He doesn’t leave racers high and dry.
“There’s room for people like me who are just starting out,” she said. “That’s one thing I love about Matt’s events. They’re accessible for the pro or novice rider.”
Cade Pummill, an 18-year-old pro from Kansas City, has raced with Loki Events since The Chubb Enduro in 2021 and can speak to Johnson’s motivational tactics.
“You can recognize his voice from a mile away. He’ll cheer you on, and if you have a bad day, he’ll say, ‘Oh, you’ll do better next time.’ He’s a positive guy,” Pummill said.
Not only are Loki Events races appropriate for a range of rider skill levels, but they cater to different types of riding styles. Its endurance (cross country) races can span up to 100 miles, whereas its enduro races are only 16 to 20 miles long but have up to 2,400 feet of vertical descent. The goal of an endurance race is to finish with the best time, start to finish; enduro races are broken into timed stages and untimed segments called “transfers” or “transitions.” With only the timed stages counting toward the rider’s score, enduro races are more social and laid-back — but they also take place on more technical trails.
Here’s a look at what Loki Events has on tap for 2023:
Missouri Enduro Series
Loki Events will host the Missouri Enduro Series this year with four distinct courses in different locations. Racers can sign up for the series at lokievents.com and receive a discount if they register for all four races up front.
The Zombiewood Enduro – March 5
Racers have the opportunity to ride through A/B lines, berms, and several rock sections over the course of seven miles. There will be roughly 200 feet of vertical descent in Castlewood State Park in Ballwin, Missouri, and 300 feet of vertical descent on the Zombie Trail in Wildwood, Missouri.
The Greensfelder Enduro – March 23
Twenty miles of singletrack in Pacific, Missouri, tests a rider’s ability to handle challenging descents and technical maneuvers.
The Chubb Enduro – April 30
On Chubb Trail in Eureka, Missouri, all levels are welcome to navigate seven stages of rocks, roots, tight turns, and steep descents for 13 miles. Riders can expect 200 to 350 feet of vertical descent per stage.
The St. G’Narles Enduro – June 4
Sixteen miles through Matson Hill and Klondike Park, St. G’Narles finishes at Good News Brewing Company in Augusta, Missouri, after steep singletrack, raw rock gardens, and fast downhill stages.
Loki Events Endurance Series
Like the Enduro Series, racers can sign up for the series at lokievents.com.
Burnin’ at the Bluff 6/12 hr – April 15
At the Council Bluff Campground in Belleview, Missouri, racers can ride solo or team up with three people to complete a 12-hour race. Solo riders also have the option to ride for either six or 12 hours.
Wolf Creek 6/12/24 hr – May 20
The aim is to complete as many laps as possible in a given time on this mostly flat, fast trail in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Riders can opt for the six-, 12- or 24-hour race.
One-Eyed Dog 100/50/24/12 mile – September 17
This cross country course on the Ozark Trail hosts 11,000 feet of elevation gain over 100 miles of rugged singletrack. Riders can complete the 50-mile, 24-mile, or 12-mile version with less elevation gain.
BT Epic – October 14
Organized by Scott Davis and partnering with Loki Events, the BT Epic takes place at Bass’ River Resort in Steelville, Missouri, during peak fall foliage season. Riders can expect 11 to 12 miles of gravel and 5,000 feet of elevation gain on a 56-mile course that runs on the Berryman Trail and parts of the Courtois section of the Ozark Trail.
Author: Aurora Blanchard is regular contributor to Terrain Magazine.
Top Image: Race promoter Matt Johnson (foreground) with podium winners at a Loki Events race. (Alex Noguera)
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