From the early rebels racing down the Repack to today’s craziest freeriders flipping off massive cliffs, every era of mountain biking has needed pioneering figures to push the boundaries of what’s possible on a bike. In endurance racing, Mike Curiak was one of those key people who helped define just how long and far the human body can go on a mountain bike. He is best known for his exploits at Alaska’s brutal Iditaraces. Over his 17 year race career, he won numerous iterations of the 225-mile Iditasport and 350-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational, set a course record on the 1,100-mile Iditasport Impossible, and later completed the 1,100-mile race fully self-supported. He also helped organize the first successful Great Divide race, won the Kokopelli Trail Race, and was a nominee for the mountain bike hall of fame among other palmares.
Curiak retired from racing almost 10 years ago after winning the 2005 Iditarod Trail Invitational. These days he says he’s focused more on fun, though it’s his version of fun, i.e. multi-day bikepacking trips that require packrafting across lakes and down rivers and other adventures like that. He’s also focused on his well established Lace Mine 29 wheel-building business. I spoke to Curiak before he set off on a three-week packrafting trip through the Grand Canyon. We talked about his early entry into endurance racing, endless laps on 24-hour race courses, his experience racing in Alaska, helping create the Great Divide race, his disappointment with the direction endurance racing has gone recently, and much more.