‘The Rider & The Wolf’ documentary brings unsolved mountain biking story to Edwards | VailDaily.com

‘The Rider & The Wolf’ documentary brings unsolved mountain biking story to Edwards

Kim Fuller
Special to the Daily
Grit & Thistle Film Co. | Special to the Daily
Grit & Thistle Film Co. | Special to the Daily |

If you go …

What: “The Rider & The Wolf” film screening.

When: 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16.

Where: Room 118, Colorado Mountain College, 150 Miller Ranch Road, Edwards.

Cost: Adult tickets are $10; student tickets are $8; kids’ tickets are $5.

More information: Visit http://www.gritandthistle.com/films/the-rider-the-wolf/ for details and to buy tickets.

Filmmaker Nathan Ward grew up in Salida when it was still a sleepy mountain town, but he was there to meet Mike Rust, or “Mike the Bike” — the man who lit up the old Western railroad stop through his love of bikes. Rust’s legacy remains in Salida, along with the dangling mystery of his disappearance.

Ward’s new film, “The Rider & The Wolf,” is a feature documentary about Rust’s tremendous influence on the sport of mountain biking in its early years, as well as the mystery around how he vanished.

The film will be shown at 6 p.m. Friday at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards. It’s an event put on by the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association.

“As a filmmaker and writer, I’m always looking for stories, and this is an interesting story — a hall of fame mountain biker disappears here in one of the biggest biking states in the country, and it barely makes the news. Why?” Ward said.

Rust went missing in 2009 without a trace, and Ward said it wasn’t until his film came out that the news really broke.

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“We did find out that one magazine had commissioned a story about Mike Rust, but they never printed it,” he said. “Through the film, we were able to get that story printed for the writer in Bicycling magazine, and since then, Mike’s story has appeared in nearly every cycling publication in North America. … As it turns out, people really are interested in knowing what happened to Mike the Bike.”

Local interest

Michelle Wolffe is on the board of directors of the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association. After her husband and daughter saw the film in Buena Vista this summer, they told her the Vail Valley would be another great venue to show it.

“I think everybody has been to a Warren Miller kind of thing — ski movies — but there is not a whole lot out there for mountain biking,” Wolffe said, “and this has that essence or feel. My husband was like, ‘This is perfect for the valley; you just need to bring it and share the story.’”

Avid mountain bikers such as Wolffe work on trails with the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association (a local chapter of the International Mountain Bike Association), and she said she wants to bring some fun and lively events into the mix.

“We are doing a lot and growing a lot,” she said, “but my attitude toward this organization is to make it more fun, with movies and night rides — things where people don’t have to dig in the dirt, and we can make them more social and expand that way.”

“The Rider & The Wolf” gives local historians and avid riders something of dynamic interest to sink their teeth into.

“People from Colorado really like hearing about the early days of mountain biking in Crested Butte, the famous Pearl Pass ride over to Aspen and some of the characters in the sport’s infancy,” Ward said. “It’s not something that we’ve heard a lot about, even living here all my life. So I think they appreciate that some of the characters from the time are finally getting talked about.”

‘Bare bones’ to big screen

Ward and his team worked on the film for more than two years with a “bare-bones crew and a bare-bones budget.”

“Most of our research was done through interviews with people that knew him, digging through boxes of old photos, searching news archives for articles about the sport of mountain biking in the early (and) late 1980s,” he said.

Although it was tough for the crew to find enough material to flesh out the early parts of the film with the history of mountain biking, they supplemented it with modern-day riding scenes using old bikes such as penny-farthings — the bikes that feature a huge front wheel and very small back wheel. They also recreated what possibly happened to Rust on the night he disappeared.

“The Rider & The Wolf” has been accepted into several adventure film festivals, including Telluride Mountainfilm, The Bicycle Film Festival, Denver Film Festival and Crested Butte Film Festival.

Ward said he wants people to know that this is a “real life bike mystery.” So what really happened to Mike the Bike?

“There are parts of Colorado that are still like the Wild West — with little law enforcement, wild characters and a free spirit,” he said. “Colorado isn’t all ski resorts and fancy shops; there is still real, living things happening out there, real challenges. ‘The Rider & The Wolf,’ shows a little slice of this world.”

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