To escape into the wilds on two wheels , to carve dirt and stone, to fly through the pines and then across open ridges high above the plains below, to lose the bigger picture for the hyper focus needed to survive a technical descent, to find the strength to reach the top of a grueling climb...
These are the reasons I'm drawn to mountain biking. Being a life long escapist I find the speed and range a bike gives me to distance myself from the world is truly sublime.
If bikes are freedom then mountain bikes are heaven. To not be limited to improved surfaces is blessed escape beyond compare!
I used to think long distances off road was unthinkable. I don't think that anymore. I'm only limited by time; not will, not skill, not tactical prowess...only by my temporal pauperism.
I've been out on some long solo rides, above treeline, miles from home and civilization...and the weight of what I'm doing hits me full in the chest. I typically take it for granted that I can do whatever I get it in my crafty little head to do. But perspective will sometimes knock the wind out of you. It's both sobering and invigorating to find that you've ridden far enough that you're not sure if you can make it back.
I think that's why the Tour Divide and the Colorado Trail Race appeal to me, why I'm intrigued by the Colorado Endurance Series, and why I want to bend time and space to do the Cougar Slayer. True perspective makes you feel small. Being the speck on the surface of the world that manages to describe a big enough line to be seen from space...well, that just makes you feel strong.
The Grand Scale of the West boggles my mind. In the East I never managed to be a frightening distance from the semblance of aid. In Colorado I've found myself beyond the edges of what most people would consider comfortable.
Hearkening back to my "I Am Not Jerome Morrow" post I can't help but think that I pull off my big and small rides all on my own. I don't buy my way to success with fancy-schmancy gear, an expensive and uber-lightweight bike, or with the support of a strong riding club. It's me, my modest Cannondale MTB--The One--, and my faithful SAG crew on standby most times.
I'm my own mechanic, I change my own tubes, do all of my own stunts, and all of my own tuneups.
As cold weather creeps back into our lives I begin secretly fantasizing about weather-related suffering. I like cold weather. I like precipitation. I like seeing the plume of my own breath in the air.
I know it will be cold in Crested Butte on Saturday. That doesn't worry me in the slightest. I'll be ready.
Not too long ago I mapped an epic foothills ride. Its totally conceptual, nothing I've ridden, at least no more than bits and pieces, and the Cougar Slayer incorporates a good bit of the northern end of what I envisioned.
My epic route begins at the TH for White Ranch Open Space north of Golden. It then ascends Drew Hill, to and through Golden Gate Canyon State Park, up Apex Valley, over the Nevadaville area, down into Idaho Springs, up and over Saxon Mountain to Georgetown, north up and over into Fall River, past Kingston Peak and down into Tolland, up Rollins Pass Road then down into Eldora, then up along with the Cougar Slayer through Caribou, over to Brainerd Lake area then on north to Peaceful Valley Road. That's as far as I'd mapped it. At that point its 118 miles with some ridiculous amount of elevation gain and loss. After seeing the Cougar Slayer route I'm certain I could tie into Boulder no problem. From there it's conceivable to close the loop keeping mostly to dirt. I'll edit my map and see how far we can take it...
If you're not tired, muddy, dehydrated, sore, lost, broke down, and sporting a silly grin, then you just haven't gone far enough from civilization.