Klunking for Kyle: Commemorating a Life with Mountain Biking’s Original Off-Road Ride

Photos by Mike Cartier

When a community comes together, great things can happen. When a mountain bike community assembles, you get something sincerely special, extremely fun and unlike any other congregation. The cycling scene in and around Austin, Texas has long been strong, but the mountain bike community became more powerful and connected in recent years. 

So much so that the first and only lift-accessed bike park, Spider Mountain, in Texas opened in 2019 and has since been a stomping ground for both seasoned and newer, inexperienced riders alike. With the steady increase in places to ride, friends to make and diverse trail systems to visit, it’s inevitable that an increase in fun events, races and general good can spawn from the sport.

Growing up in Texas and learning the sport, I’ve come to meet and ride with many talented and special individuals of all walks of life. One person I have recently met was Jerrika “Jerri” Sterling. 

Sterling recently affixed herself within the local mountain biking community. When we met, I quickly learned how kind and positive a person she was. Soon after, I learned more about her story. She was married to Kyle Sterling who sadly passed away in 2020 from cancer. 

Jerrika and Kyle Sterling

Kyle had a strong fondness for the origins of downhill mountain biking, especially klunkers, the heavy, steel, singlespeed bikes from which modern mountain biking was born. Strong fondness might be an understatement as Sterling says he was absolutely obsessed with all things klunker bikes.

He watched videos, and collected parts and books by legendary klunker racer and mountain bike pioneer Charlie Kelly.  His computer’s screensaver was of course a photo of a klunker. Since Kyle’s passing, Sterling wanted to commemorate Kyle’s life with klunkers somehow. 

So much excitement from the crowd and riders.

Jeremiah Work is a staple in the Austin, Texas mountain bike community. Work, along with his family, team, volunteers, and athletes established a group called Team Trail Party in 2014. This group, based in Austin, has organized enduro and downhill mountain bike races and funded trail building of well-known and respected trails for almost a decade. When Work heard of Sterling’s dream, he wanted to help make it a reality. 

The top of Spider Mountain Bike Park in Burnet, TX.

“Providing good times on two wheels is our business model at Team Trail Party,” said Work. “The Klunkerz race celebrates Kyle’s passion for the sport at the same time as providing basic needs to foster kids in our region and getting them on bikes. Everything really fell into place and working with Jerri was a treat. I think it’s safe to say we’re already anxious for next year,” said Work.

Jeremiah Work, the main guy behind Team Trail Party and gravity racing in Texas.

Pair Work’s experience and strong connection to the Texas MTB community with Sterling’s drive to create a meaningful event for her late husband and something special happened.The two co-created the Klunkerz DH race, similar to the original Repack race that started it all in California.

This race did sound absolutely incredible, but how else could the community play a part in Kyle’s dreams and do something that would make him proud and contribute to the future? Sterling added that Kyle had a soft spot for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and hoped to adopt a child someday. They decided all proceeds, entry fees, raffle tickets, and merch sales would go to TruLight127 Ministries to help buy sports equipment for foster kids. 

Raffle tickets were sold and people were happy! 

The new race was held at Spider Mountain in Burnet, TX on April 16, following the second DH Race of the season. As soon as all the DH riders turned in their timing chips, the community came together to crowd the edges of the access/fire road, grab their existing or recently built klunker bikes, and bomb down the mountain clad in 70s and 80s costumes.

Tommy Breeze, Jerri’s family, and race fans alike hiked up the road for the best heckler spot!

Not only did local riders get into the spirit, but a couple special individuals made the journey to Texas to further commemorate the memory of Kyle. Charlie Kelly, one of Kyle’s heroes, along with Tommy Breeze (son of Joe Breeze) flew to Texas to celebrate Kyle’s life with one incredible klunker race. Kelly, Joe Breeze, and Gary Fisher are largely credited as key founders of downhill mountain biking as we know it. Kelly still possesses the child-like excitement of the sport which brought so much life to the event.

“At one level, Charlie was one of my husband’s heroes so his presence was a way for me to personally celebrate Kyle,” said Sterling. “The race was more about the spirit of MTB and the community behind it than who was fastest down the mountain.”

Charlie Kelly having a good laugh.
Tommy Breeze
Charlie Kelly announcing the Klunkerz DH race results.

Much of Kyle’s friends and family along with Sterling’s family congregated to enjoy what Kyle thought was special. They, along with Jeremiah Work put countless hours, days and even months of time and energy to make this day one to remember. 

The energy the event brought to the mountain scene was one to look back on and will hopefully continue into the future. Sterling and Work brought something fresh back from the history books that put smiles on hundreds of people’s faces. 

Heather on the bike she won through the raffle.

All of the people involved that donated and volunteered can safely say they made a positive difference and contributed to a cause that was incredibly important in someone’s life; all by the means of the passion for mountain biking. 

Sterling delivering handmade awards.
Top 5 Klunkerz DH 
Troy Smith not holding back with his 2nd place finish.
Kyle’s mom supporting trackside.

Kyle Sterling, 1992-2020