Monday, August 29

Singletrack Dreams

I've owned a mountain bike since 1995 not counting the Huffy Mountain Storm I bought from The Evil Walmart in 1992, and I've only just recently accepted that I've been a closet mountain biker all along.

Way back when I rode around the fringe of the Red River Gorge of eastern Kentucky and around the oil fields and public lands of the Daniel Boone National Forest. I rode mainly on old logging roads, fire roads and some trail-ish things here and there. In the RRG proper mountain biking is prohibited on all but one trail, a designated mountain bike trail (The Powder Mill Trail), that's overgrown and mostly unknown. I tried to ride it once.

I did manage to find some favorite areas to ride and I often returned to my haunts to ply the landscape on the Cannonball back when it resembled a mid-90s era mountain bike. It was a fine bike for learning the ropes. Aluminum frame, solid wheels and fantastic gearing. I didn't have any single track to ride, or downhill, and there were no other mountain bikers to feed off of. I rode a lot on the roads, but I tried to get off road as much as possible.

I had a great pavement/dirt loop I used to ride from Slade that actually involved a significant technical descent of a loose and steep 4WD road. And then there was that whole Spaas/Short Creek area. I loved riding down Spaas Creek Road from Hatton Ridge.

My absolute favorite ride a was a loop with a couple of variations that started near the mouth of Bald Rock Fork on Big Sinking Creek. I rode along the northern banks and hillsides of Big Sinking following oil roads and occasionally dropping into the dry creek bed (it sinks) before picking up New Virginia Road at the mouth of Little Sinking Creek. At New Virginia there was a rocky and technical climb that I never mastered which was followed by a fun and mostly smooth road that wound in and out of shaded hollows back to the mouth of Bald Rock Fork. The loop is only 4 miles, but it was always a lot of fun.

There were a couple of exploratory singletrack jaunts up to Cave Run near Morehead, but there was little there to get me hooked on trail riding. I rode the Buckskin Trail but ended up with a flat and a three mile hike pushing a bike. I took Mandy on Caney Loop, a well known and well respected 9 mile loop near the dam, but horses had destroyed all of the hollow crossings and any damp or muddy area, making for numerous mandatory hike-a-bikes. Its just not fun to go for a mountain bike ride and then spend most of the day pushing or carrying your bike.

I've been leery in Colorado of biking on trails because of some misconceptions I'm starting to disprove to myself. First, I've always believed it would be far too frustrating to share narrow trails with hikers. And each time I've gone out to ride I've found few hikers and have always managed to share the trail successfully and enjoyably. Of course I avoid highly congested trails on weekends, but still, the world of trail sharing mire I imagined has yet to materialize. The second issue that has kept me away was a lack of skill on my part. I always believed riding on trails would require a level of technical prowess I just do not seem to possess. But in recent weeks I've found I actually enjoy and excel at fast singletrack descents. I've managed to do some climbs I didn't think I would and I've walked a few I couldn't with no shame.

The last trail ride I did involved a great ride high on the NE side of North Table Mountain with steep slopes above and below and amazing views of the metro area. The trail was just rough enough to keep my attention fixed, but just enjoyable enough that the few glimpses of the stunning view I managed didn't distract me too much.

I crave the proprioceptive input that biking off-road provides. There's nothing like a well flowing trail that you can just crank along on to stimulate the nerves and feed the brain.

I love, love, love the Buffalo Creek area, and wish I'd had more time the first day I went out there to do a couple more laps on the Strawberry Jack descent, or to find some more fun descents to do. But I've discovered only in this past week that there are some pretty fun trails between my house and work, out around town and within easy striking distance.

I've been mapping out some from home rides to get me onto dirt when I only have a couple of hours. Its really amazing to me how much good mountain biking there is to be had within my field of view each day: North and South Table, Green Mountain, Chimney Gulch, Apex OS, Golden Gate Canyon SP, White Ranch OS, Bear Creek Lake, Standley Lake, Mount Falcon OS, Centennial Cone OS, Community Ditch area (Dirty Bismark), and so much more up in the foothills or only a short drive away in the mountains or down in the Splatte...too much, too close.

It's hard for me not to go blasting over to Arvada Bike tonight to order a bike. I need to be patient. I need to make sure I make the right decision...


Talked to Richard at the bike shop and he can get me a fantastic deal on a 2011 Cannondale Trail SL 2.

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