Finishing up his master’s degree in accounting, Zach Jensen might not appear to be the kind of person who would rather be on a mountain bike. If seen on campus, he would be sporting a pressed plaid button up and khakis. However, once he’s home, his Toyota Tacoma is already loaded with gear waiting for the next adventure.
After being at school or in an office all day, he is always itching to get outside.
“I have to get out and release some energy,” Jensen said. “If it comes to be Saturday evening and I haven’t done anything outside, I make that a priority and I will go for a quick little ride.”
Jensen’s urge to be outside began long before becoming confined to a desk. Growing up in nearby Hurricane, his family often went on trips with their trailer and four-wheelers to scout hikes and camp.
His personal love for the outdoors began when Jensen won a mountain bike in an online raffle his senior year of high school. Not knowing much about mountain biking, Jensen was lucky to have a friend with some experience.
With uncles famous for marking biking trails outside of Zion National Park, Jensen’s friend Mikey taught him the ropes of the mountain. Once his new bike arrived, the two began spending more time on the trails.
After returning home from a mission in Mexico for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, it was time to head to college. Jensen chose SUU so he could continue to be surrounded by the scenery he loved.
Upon arriving, he found it hard for to get in the swing of college life on campus.
“I spent a lot of time by myself when I first got here,” he said. “I wanted to just go out and do something. Mountain biking seemed natural and something to do by myself and I had the bike.”
Jensen took to the mountains and began exploring. He decided to commit to the hobby and buy a new bike. By the end of his second year at SUU, he had tried almost every biking trail within a 50 mile radius of Cedar City.
“This area is awesome,” he said. “There is a lot of great terrain and places to ride… I’d see a trail and think, ‘the next time I have an open weekend, I’m going to go to this place.’”
Over the years, Jensen has continued to discover more mountain paths, his favorites of these being the vistas in Moab like Gooseberry Mesa.
“I love to see the views,” Jensen explained. “When you’re on the rim, you get this great view of the Virgin River Valley, Kolob, Gooseberry and Smiths Mesa [sic.] Then to the east you can see Zion National Park and the Pine Valley mountains. It is just home for me up there.”
Choosing to hike rather than biking could seem like a safer and more practical approach to enjoy the outdoors. However, according to Jensen, there is something special about mountain biking.
“There is another level of difficulty,” he said. “Everywhere you go up, you have to go back down… That part is so fun because you get to go fast and you let gravity do all the work.”
Of course, all sports seem easier said than done. Mountain biking is no exception and the price of learning can be high. Riders should be aware of keeping their weight back to avoid going over the handlebars and recognize when to use front brake or no brake at all. Even the downstroke of a pedal could be the difference between staying balanced or hitting the ground.
“There is definitely a learning curve,” Jensen stated. “I’ve had some tough spills but you learn fast. You think about what you did after [you’ve fallen] and say, ‘okay, I’m going to be sure not to do that again.’”
Even though falling off a speeding mountain bike has the power to traumatize someone, Jensen understands the growing process. As a little boy, he loved to race dirt bikes and wrecked many times.
“My dad would make me get up,” Jensen explained. “He’d say, ‘you got to get back on the bike. I know you’re scared but you gotta get back on or else you will always be scared.’”
His father’s advice has been a leading force in more ways than just recovering from a bike crash. The challenges of mountain biking can often be disheartening, but with great risk comes great reward.
“There will always be obstacles along certain parts of the trail,” Jensen said. “It might be more steep or have more rocks. If I don’t get it the first time, I just go back to the bottom and keep trying it until I get it. It feels really good to overcome something.”
Jensen’s dedication and persistence on the mountain trails have also helped him succeed in his academic life.
“I think you have to put in the work in order to reap the rewards from the downhill,” he explains. “In mountain biking, it’s getting to the top that’s the hard part. You have to do the stuff that’s not really fun but it pays off.”
For Jensen, the “payoff” is on its way. In May, he will graduate from SUU’s accounting masters program and he has plans to work as a tax consultant for Deloitte LLP in Las Vegas.
Story By: Ansleigh Mikesell
Photos Courtesy of Zach Jensen