Bikes, Trails, and Friendship: Ten Years of Epic Journeys

Kait Boyle and Kurt Refsnider are the faces behind Industry Nine – Pivot Pro Backcountry Team, friends, adventure partners and the newest additions to the Trail Butter Pro team (lucky us!!). 

Most recently Kurt and Kait both rode their bikes from their respective hometowns in Arizona and Idaho, to the start line of the Unbound XL Gravel events. Nothing like a 1,200+ mile taper to get you ready to race 350 miles alongside some of the best riders in the world! And, of course, they crushed it!

In this blog post, Kait and Kurt take a ride down memory lane and dish on the shared shenanigans they've experienced over their decade long friendship.

The first time I heard about Kurt, I was working at Prescott College and a friend and colleague of mine, Greg, told me the school had hired a new Earth Sciences professor, that this guy was a mountain biker and had won the Tour Divide. I had just recently started mountain biking and was curious to try bikepacking, so this fact was quite impressive to me. But after meeting him, the nerdy, humble and quiet Tour Divide winner became just another friend. The next year I bikepacked the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (the 2,700 dirt bike route the Tour Divide races), and the following year Kurt asked me to co-teach the Geology through Bikepacking course with him as the Adventure Education instructor. Ten years later, we’ve now bikepacked and traveled with bikes in 10 countries, Kurt has coached me through my own successful ultra-endurance racing career, and I’ve been wow-ed over and over as I’ve cheered him on in continuing to set records and win in the hardest ultra races. But through it all, it was this summer when he rode the 3,330 miles of the Continental Divide Trail over three months that I was the most Wow-ed by him. Kurt really loves riding his mountain bike. 

-- Kait

I met Kait at a group ride I organized shortly after I moved to Prescott, Arizona in 2012. She showed up on a rough-looking old Spot singlespeed and looked completely at ease on the steep and technical trails. She taught Adventure Ed field courses, so she wasn't around town much. A year later, we crossed paths on a remote dirt road in Wyoming, her still on that same bike in the middle of a 2,500-mile ride, and she adamantly claims that she only lubed her chain three times that entire trip (I'm still not sure I believe that claim)! In subsequent years, we started teaching together, racing together, and undertaking enormous bikepacking adventures in big mountain ranges around the world. Through all that, we've learned what one another needs to find enjoyment during demanding trips and to trust one another's judgment and perspectives. All that is critical in any great backcountry partnership (and friendship, for that matter), and I'm eager to see where we end up on the next big adventure.  

-- Kurt

Kait and Kurt take on the CDT. Photo by Jeff Kerkove.

Here are a few vignettes from past years of adventuring together:

Moos Alp!

During our first trip to the Alps in 2014, we found ourselves deep in yet another impossibly hard, big day. On that trip, it felt like every day was impossibly hard and big, yet few of those days were over 40 miles long. The food and espresso available at many of the mountain huts and alps were often a carrot to achieving high pass after high pass each day as the huts were often perched high along a climb and provided just the break, reward, and energy to fuel the final push of that 5,000’ climb. (An alp, the namesake for the range, is a barn/dairy facility high in the mountains where farmers bring their cows to graze and live all summer. Some alps have cafes serving espresso, beverages, and food for summer trekkers and tourists.)

Photo 1: Kait in the Alps / Photo 2: Kurt on his way to Moose Alp

One day, with deep fatigue in our legs, the Moos Alp was the final carrot of the day (moos is German for moss). Based on the signs we passed as we climbed, this alp would have gelato and pizza. We climbed for hours, occasionally uttering a slow cry Moooooss Alllppp, trying in vain to will the alp closer. We passed a sign for the Moos Alp to be in just another few kilometers, and I felt a second wind of energy and started riding faster. Kurt started chanting Moos Alp, followed by the Batman theme tune that sounds something like nananana nah nah!!!  That chant has since become the tune to any long effort together, and Kurt named the little periwinkle Tacoma pickup he bought later that year Moos, which still lives on today. 



I was deeply asleep in my sleeping bag, laying on the cool gravelly sand of a desert wash when the first sensation of the awake world I felt was burning in my nose. Then, the sound of rustling and from the pitch dark came Kurt’s voice, “Oh no, it got you.” 

I had been skunked. 

Kait skunked! Enough said.

I sat up in my sleeping bag, WHAT?!. I was so confused. I was sleeping. Kurt had heard something, and being skittish about animals at night after a recent and terrifying encounter with a hungry polar bear on Baffin Island, had turned and grabbed his light to investigate. He startled the skunk, and it sprayed me, adjacent to him by a few feet, directly, squarely, straight onto my head. UGH. We were in the middle of the desert in Arizona. The only water nearby was a manky puddle. We trudged over to it in dismay with an empty water bottle and sunscreen in hand to wash my hair. The only other gel-like scented substance I had was chamois cream. Sunscreen it was. I bent over and scrubbed my hair with sunscreen as Kurt poured bottle after bottle after bottle over my head. I have a lot of hair, and this exercise took a long time. Eventually my hair smelled like skunk with a side of Neutrogena SPF 70. It was the best we would achieve at 2 am. I crawled back in my sleeping bag and went back to sleep. I’m a really good sleeper. 

In the morning, we rode the Black Canyon Trail towards Black Canyon City, where we had been hoping to stop for pie. A down-canyon breeze kept my aroma mostly behind me, and Kurt slowly faded into the distance behind me. Once in Black Canyon City, Kurt emerged from the single gas station with a bar of Ivory soap that was so old the plastic wrapping was disintegrating and the soap was cracking apart. We rolled over to the spigot outside the Rock Springs Cafe, and I washed my hair and backpack again, with tourists spectating as they enjoyed their acclaimed pie. I didn’t dare go inside for pie, but we ate out on the patio, and I don’t recall anyone being too offended, although I guess no one chose to sit down near us. 


Sharing Race Miles

A few years ago, Kait and I were both preparing for mountain bike ultras on the Arizona Trail. She was chasing the record in the AZT300 (on the southernmost 300 miles of the trail), and I was tackling the full length of the trail across the state in the AZT750. Both of us had raced these events before, and our goals and splits were ambitious to say the least. The two races started the same morning, but I hadn't expected to see much of Kait after the start. But I was delighted to be proven wrong! 

Kurt and Kait crush the AZT

At dusk on the first night, I was in the lead with Neil, another racer, and we stopped along the trail to fill bottles and eat some food. After just a few minutes there, we heard the sound of a bike coasting toward us - it was Kait! She had apparently been just behind us all afternoon and was absolutely flying. Neil commended her riding and was instantly off in an effort to maintain the lead. Kait and I ended up riding together for much of the night before I had to stop and sleep. Since her race was "only" a couple days long, she kept going without sleeping that first night. She was in great spirits and riding strongly, very comfortably pushing the same pace I was and well on track for the record. 

I caught up to her the second evening, and we spent a few more hours riding. She was starting to show some substantial fatigue after 35 hours of pedaling, but her momentum was enormous and so dang impressive, and she was still riding as smoothly as ever on the very technical trail. Once again, I stopped to sleep, and she kept on pedaling, en route to shaving something like 12 hours off the women's record and posting the 4th fastest time ever for the AZT300! I was so, so proud of and inspired by that effort and seeing everything come together for her after numerous prior attempts with mixed success. I went on to set the record for the 750, but what made the week so much more special was getting to share those miles with Kait. And seeing her success was powerful fuel for me, and that's been one of the highlights of our friendship over the years - being inspired by the feats of one another.


The Escalator is Slowing…

Kurt is allergic to nuts (except peanuts, almonds and cashews, which makes Trail Butter particularly exciting for him). But walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, etc. will make him vomit and react enough that he really should be carrying epinephrine. Over the years of traveling and riding together it seems like he is the most frequent offender when it comes to poisoning himself (though as this is co-written, I have to admit that I have accidentally given him food with “poison,” as he calls it). Traveling internationally he has had to learn the words for the various nuts, and tends to avoid all baked goods where nuts are likely lurking or cross contamination is likely. So when we arrived in Japan where both the language and the alphabet were foreign to us, Kurt was planning on being extra careful with the food he bought. 

Scene from the Tokyo airport.

We landed in Tokyo at 11pm and decided to sleep in the airport for the night before building our bikes and riding away from the airport on our loaded rigs with everything we traveled with, straight through the city and onto our bikepacking route. I fell asleep under the escalator to the sound of some lovely soft Japanese music. 

“Kait, wake up.” I awoke to Kurt nudging my shoulder. 

“I ate some walnuts.” 

“What??? How???” I was baffled. We had eaten dinner on the plane and hadn’t gone anywhere in the airport other than baggage claim since landing in Tokyo. 

“There were some in a GoMacro bar that I brought from home.”

“What?? Hmph. Do you need any benadryl?”

“I already took some.”

“Okay, well wake me up if you get worse,” I said in my drowsy haze.

“Thanks," he replied. "And the sing-songy sound of the Japanese lady's voice saying 'The Escalator is slowing, please watch your step' on repeat is driving me crazy."

“Oh, I thought that was music. Thanks for ruining it.”


HUGE thanks to Kait and Kurt for contributing to Trail Talk and, welcome to the Trail Butter Pro Team!

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