4

'Cosmic Ray,' Writer of Arizona Biking and Hiking Guides, Dies at 74

Brutti's entertaining guides to Arizona mountain biking and hiking are still classics.
Brutti's entertaining guides to Arizona mountain biking and hiking are still classics.
amazon.com
^
Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

"Cosmic Ray" has taken off on his last great adventure.

Ray Brutti, the Flagstaff-based writer of popular Arizona local guides on mountain biking and hiking, died on October 2 at age 74. An online obituary shows he's survived by his wife of 40 years, Marcia Wiesner, daughter Elena Brutti, cousins, and "his many friends worldwide."

Known to some as the "father of mountain biking in Flagstaff," Brutti was a 33-year-old bicycle fanatic in 1979 when he moved to the northern Arizona mountain town, having completed several bike tours in Europe as well in the States. He got his name while working as a bike mechanic at Cosmic Cycles, but Cosmic Ray became a household name for many Arizona adventurers after the first edition of Fat Tire Tales and Trails was published in 1988, when mountain biking was just starting to become a thing.

He went on to publish three guides to the state's best biking and hiking trails that have seen a couple dozen revisions over the years. The covers to the guides and artwork inside, drawn by Eric Berg, along with snarky written descriptions of the trails, help make Cosmic Ray's books instantly recognizable at outdoor stores across the state.

"My maps are rough like mountain biking, not an exact science," Brutti wrote in a 1993 edition. "It's hard and dirty. It's fun and it hurts. Real sport for real people."

Brutti was a frequent visitor at Babbitt's Backcountry Outfitters in Flagstaff, said an employee, Cullen, who asked to be identified only by his first name. The guides still sell well, and employees often recommend them to out-of-town visitors, he said.

"All the employees were familiar with him," Cullen said. "He would come in and say hi. It's definitely a loss. He was a big part of the Flagstaff scene here."

Update: Justin Schmid, local mountain biker and Phoenix New Times contributor, also had this to say about Brutti and his books: "It's really easy to forget that time before Strava and Trailforks and a bunch of other smartphone apps that would help you find a good place to ride. Cosmic Ray got me lost more than a few times, but he also pointed me toward a lot of fun that I never would've found otherwise... I seriously can't imagine mountain biking in the 90s without Cosmic Ray. It wasn't just the maps, either. His mountain bike glossary was hysterical. I mean. I don't know anyone who said that stuff, but it was funny!"

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.