In the age of Coachella-sized mega mountain bike festivals and corporate takeovers, hidden away on an island in the desert sky, a party forms. Or as the locals call it, a Pachanga—a Mountain Bike Pachanga, to be exact—that lasts for three days: a beacon, lit by a campfire, calling you and your closest riding buddies to the high desert to ride some trails, demo a few bikes, and build lasting memories. At its soul, this is how the Pachanga began—10 friends who care about the trails and riding in their town, looking to have a good time together, and wanting to show off how awesome Tucson, AZ is.
Five years ago TORCA (Tucson Off-Road Cyclists and Activists) was founded in a pick-up truck on the way back from a trip to Angel Fire. We had two goals in mind, 1) maintain and fix Tucson's oft-neglected, but amazing trails, and 2) show them off to the world. There is a hidden gem in Tucson that is overlooked because of all the amazing places to ride in Arizona. But for those seeking adventure and gnar, discovering Tucson is like discovering the best taco cart in the parking lot of your favorite bar. Don't take our word for it, though; check out Vital's 2017 Test Sessions they were held right here on these same trails.
All of this comes at a price, though. Buying tools, feeding volunteers, and raising awareness don't come cheap. So how does an advocacy group raise money and do the right thing for the community? Maybe hold a bake sale, raffle off some rad socks, or even put a tip jar on the side of the trail as we do trail work? Sure, all of those things might work, and most of us at TORCA would love to eat some brownies. But we wanted to do something that spoke to us—represented the feeling of Tucson and what it means to ride here. We decided, let’s just throw a yearly big-a$$ mountain bike party in the heart of our mountain, smack dab in the middle of some of the techiest, raddest trails in the U.S. Let’s invite the bike manufacturers and all of our friends, have a friendly timed competition, buy a piñata, and lube up the cornhole for some good ol' fashioned fun. Let’s put the F.U.N. into Fundraising.
Like any good Pachanga, ours starts with work—a lot of work. TORCA is known for putting in work, with over 2,000 hours a year in volunteer trail work (our motto is "Because Trails Don't Fix Themselves"). So we do what we do best, and get busy. Posters have to be designed and passed around, bike vendors have to be contacted, beer has to be sampled, and meetings are held (so, so many meetings…). But most importantly, trails have to be spruced up. We can't have our prize hog showing up to the County Fair with no make-up on. Plus, trail work is what we live for; so any excuse to spend another weekend digging in the dirt makes us all a little happier. Every weekend for the 4 weeks leading up to the Pachanga, we spend working on the trails; it’s a labor of love, but we wouldn't have it any other way.
After 7 months of planning and work, it’s time for us to open the gates to our Disneyland—time to let all the excited boys and girls into the best damn amusement park in Arizona.
Day 1 begins with campers rolling in and finding their spots, taking in the desert, and tossing high fives around to all their friends, silently telling each other this weekend is going to be RAD! After campers settle it’s time for them to head up to 9000’ to the first attraction of the weekend for some aspen shredding (Yes. 9000' feet. In the desert! With real trees! And yellow leaves on the ground! I know, it sounds weird. The desert is supposed to be dry and brown everywhere.). After you have had more laps than you can handle, it’s time to head back to camp to recoup, take some swings at the piñata, partake in the welcome dinner, and rest for the big day ahead.
Day 2: What can I even say about Day 2? Let’s just say this—by the time we pry the 8th demo bike from your clutch-locked hands and replace it with a taco, you won't be able to do anything but smile and eat. It has more events than I have words. We have the Poker Ride with so many prizes, we are handing them out to people with pairs of 10's. We have demos. We have world famous tacos. But most importantly, we have a romantic fireside cornhole competition. We spend 7 months working, planning, and meeting. But what draws the biggest crowd and is the most fun? The $40 cornhole set that we buy and set-up for Saturday night. Why is it so fun, you ask? Because everyone just spent the day riding bikes with 200 of their closest riding homies on some of the best trails in the west, and now get to #cornholeandchill, reminiscing on a day well-spent on a bike.
Day 3: El Grandioso Final. That Pachanga is about to come to end; no one ever wants a good thing to end, but this isn't your average mountain bike party. We don't fizzle out at the end. We make sure you leave happy, tired, and with any luck, even a little bloody. Sunday has events coming at you left and right again. We have the Ladies All Ride skills clinic and more demos. But most importantly, it is time to roll out the Funduro.
Everyone has heard of an Enduro, and some may have even heard of a beerduro. But we doubt most have heard of a Funduro. Sure, you may be the fastest down the mountain on this day and walk away with a little medal. But this day is all about fun, and to take home the top prize one must be extraordinarily ordinary. The Averagest Joe stands atop our podium—Dude or Dudette. It doesn't matter; when you are shooting to be average, all that matters is how average you can be. The Funduro runs down La Milagrosa, a.k.a. "Millie", and there isn't another trail west of the Mississippi that brings more pain and joy to those that ride it; and to sweeten that pot, we have added a friendly competition on it. After thinking Friday and Saturday were untoppable, and that Sunday you were just going to coast your way out of town, we send you on your way with the most memorable day of them all.
As you pack your camping gear, load your bikes, and give your homies one more high five for the road, we just want you to remember one thing: all this fun was for a good cause. Every single penny you just spent goes right back to one of the hardest-working mountain bike non-profits in the country. We could have just asked for a donation, but at the end of the day, that’s not what we are about. TORCA is about promoting trail work and mountain biking by showing how fun it can be. We all started riding because it’s fun. And at the end of the day, we want to make contributing to us as absolutely fun as we possibly can.
If you would like to Pachanga with us this year, and we hope you will, registration is here. See you October 20-22, 2017 in Tucson, Arizona.
More info: torca.org/2017-pachanga