I decided another front door to Dirty Bismarck loop ride would be good training for the upcoming Alpine Odyssey (two weeks!). The ride is just over 40 miles. On this morning's ride I added a mile when I explored a potential short cut that would have added a couple more miles of dirt. That didn't pan out, but it did add the distance.
Last time I did the ride--probably last fall--it took me four hours flat to go 40 miles. This morning I did 41 miles in 2 hours and 57 minutes. I knocked off over an hour from a year ago. And it felt good!
The Dirty Bismarck is a cool trail and dirt road loop just west of the suburbs of Superior. It's not flat, but the climbs are well spaced and moderate. The primary obstacles to pedaling progress are the dozen or so gates that control the cattle access.
The singletrack sections vary in quality. Some sections are smooth dirt, except when the surface has been churned up by hooves, there are sections if singletrack with a crusher-fines surface, and other sections are perfect examples of why the area to the south is called Rocky Flats.
Along the northern section (the Cowdrey Trail) the loop is a fast downhill dirt singletrack. When the surface is in good condition, like it was this morning, you can really crank along. There's just something cool about bombing down a nice flowing singletrack at 20+ mph.
I saw another MTBer ahead of me, and it was apparent I was going to catch him before the next cattle gate. I hammered down on the pedals hoping to catch him at the gate so it would be easier to pass. That's when I looked down and saw "24" on my cyclocomputer.
I ended up catching the other guy right at the gate, but he took off instantly after passing through so I was stuck behind him until the next gate a few hundred yards further. I know he knew I was behind him, and I assumed he'd let me pass after the next gate. Not so much.
As I followed him onto the next, and longer, section of singletrack I asked: "Can I get around?" He moved over slightly a I finally got around.
The long section after that is the narrow crusher-fines section. I tried to keep my speed up, but the fine gravel is much harder to corner in than dirt. A few times I almost blew a curve at 15-20 mph.
As I entered a long sweeping curve I watched as three deer ran along parallel to me in long graceful bounds. They cleared a wire fence like they could fly. Then as the four of us converged on the apex of the curve they geared down and fired across the trail well ahead of me and continued on deeper into the open space.
I felt good on my return home. I worried I wouldn't make it in less than three hours. And at the time I had it in my head I'd made the ride in 3 before. Imagine my shock when I discovered my best previous time was 4 hours! I seem to remember feeling pretty worked over on that previous ride too. I felt like I could have kept going this morning.
My evolution as a mountain biker over the past year has increased my endurance and my speed. Of that there is no question.