Body Found in San Luis Valley May Be Mountain Biker Mike Rust

Mar 23, 2016

UPDATE: The remains unearthed in the San Luis Valley has been positively identified as Mike. Here's the press realease from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation: 

04/25/2016—The human remains located in Saguache County in early January have been officially identified. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) confirmed the remains were of Michael Damian Rust (DOB: 10/9/1953), and notified the Saguache County Coroner’s Office and the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office as to the identity of the missing man. Rust was reported missing in Saguache County in 2009. Information that led investigators to the location of the remains is part of an active investigation.

The Saguache  County Sheriff’s Office requested that the CBI lead the investigation in connection with Rust. This is an on-going investigation. Updates will be provided as they become available.

Mike Rust on an "ordinary," aka penny farthing in Salida
Credit Photo by Jack Chivvis, courtesy of Grit and Thistle Film Company

The body of the man credited as one of the early innovators of the mountain bike may have been discovered in a remote area of Southern Colorado.

In a garage in central Colorado Springs, Marty Rust keeps his brother Mike's mountain bike.

You can find mountain bikes in almost any garage now, but this bike, the Shorty, was quietly revolutionary when it was hand-built in 1986. It looks like a compact "X" with tires on either side.

"So this is the best climbing mountain bike in the world. There's no question," says Marty. "This bike is a goat."

Don McClung, a custom bike builder in Salida, Colorado, and Mike Rust's former business partner says the bike industry still hasn't caught up to all of Mike's  innovations.

"The chain-stay is like 14 and 1/2 inches while all the other bikes of the era were like 17 and 1/2," says McClung. "This bike is really quick to ride. You just looked where you wanted it to go, and it went there."

Mike Rust was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1991 for his contributions to the sport.
But not long after this, Mike grew disenchanted with what he saw as the commercialization of mountain biking. And in 1995 he moved to the remote San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado.  Covered in sage and dotted with juniper, the Valley is a high desert roughly the size of Connecticut with only 6,000 residents.  Rust built an off-the-grid cabin by hand and lived there quietly for more than a decade. Then, in 2009, he vanished.

"He had returned home back in 2009 after doing some grocery shopping at a town aproximately an hour away," says Saguache County Sheriff Dan Warwick. "He noticed something was missing from his residence. Decided he would go looking for the person he believed burglarized his home. Called his  girlfriend and told her that someone stole something from his and he was going in pursuit. Didn’t hear from him for a day before he contacted his brother. Brother reported it to Sheriff’s office."

Some motorcycle tracks, a green vest with a stain of Mike's blood, and the broken handle of a pistol were the only clues left behind.  

"Since that time, we had no news whatsoever," says Marty Rust. "Everything was cold."

Marty says he's he spent every free moment since then searching the San Luis Valley for his brother.

Then, in early January of this year, after most had given up hope, there was a break in the case.

"I can tell you that a tip led us to check in the area that’s between highway 17 and Highway 285 within Saguache County," says Sheriff Warwick.  An anonymous phone call led him to a shallow grave not far from Mike’s property in the Valley.

"The Sheriff was able to obtain a search warrant and  they  found a body," says Marty Rust. "We’re waiting for the DNA right now."

There could be 6 to 12 month wait for a positive DNA identification of the remains, but Marty feels confident it’s Mike. A unique belt buckle given to Mike by the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame was found with the body. For Marty, that's as positive an identification as dental records.

And for the first time in years, he says, he can rest easy.

"I can now go on a hike or a walk without looking under every stone."

If the body is positively identified as Mike Rust’s, the missing person case that’s been cold for seven years may become a homicide investigation.

 

The disappearance of Mountain Biker Mike Rust will be the subject of April’s episode of Wish We Were Here, an adaption of the documentary The Rider and the Wolf by Grit and Thistle Film Company. 

Don McClung with a "Shorty" Bike
Credit Jake Brownell

Click HERE to get tickets for the April 1 benefit screening of The Rider and the Wolf at Ivywild. All proceeds will go to The Bike Clinic Too, which provides bikes to those in need in Colorado springs.