Embracing the Alt-Ride 

by James Herklotz, special to CMBA

Some new to Colorado and the Front Range may not realize what our wonderful warm spells – otherwise known as Indian Summers – actually mean to our trails and our ability to enjoy them responsibly. When the sun is out in February and temperatures are pushing 50 to 60 degrees after a big snowstorm, it’s very tempting to ride. Often, the snow melts within a day or two, so Green Mountain, North Table Mountain, The Hogback and the various parks that flank and ascend the foothills proper might be calling out to riders.

What you will often find, however, is that the sunny, seductive siren’s call is a lure into a trap – a corridor of gooey, peanut butter that will clog your derailleurs, choke your chain and even stop your wheels. Just 10 feet up a trail like this can make your 20-pound carbon bike weigh 50 pounds, and it’s going to be a chore getting it cleaned up again. Worse still is the damage that it does to the trail. Ruts are ugly. They dry and make for wheel catchers that slow you up and slap you down. Water loves ruts, though, and when it rains, it runs down that trench, cutting it deeper and washing the trail surface down the hill.

Furthermore, it’s human nature to avoid mud and go around it, which only serves to widen the trail, destroying vegetation that has a hard enough time holding on in our arid climate. All of this necessitates volunteers and staff devoting hours (and funding money) to restoration work where it might otherwise be used to further new trail development.

So, the best thing you can do is to network with your friends and other trail users to find out trail conditions and ride elsewhere as needed.

Plan an Alt-ride! There are lots of routes and options to enjoy limited portions of our parks. Here are a few basic Jeffco-centric ideas:

1) Hit that bike path! The C-470 path is long and you can avoid cars on it. You can link it to other paths, hit up a brewery along the way, find some crushed gravel paths and generally explore the west metro area and beyond, largely without traffic to negotiate. Go south to Chatfield and then up the South Platte to Strontia Springs Dam. You’ll probably see Bighorn Sheep in the canyon, and it’s one beautiful, car-free canyon any time of the year.

2) Ride the Morrison/Genesee backroads. A short four-mile ride up Bear Creek to Idledale leads to a nice steep dirt road called South Grapevine Road. You can grind up this guilt free in the mud and get yourself to Genesee where you can either explore the neighborhood roads, turn it around and bomb down the dirt and canyon pavement, or take the I-70 frontage road for a ripping descent to Highway 93. From there, a right turn south takes you to the entrance to Red Rocks, which is a delight to ride through on any bike. Next thing you know you are back in Morrison where a nice smothered burrito awaits at the infamous Morrison Inn.

3) Ride the tops! Did you know that there are upper parking lots for Mt. Falcon, Apex and White Ranch? While this is no guarantee that you will find good winter trail conditions through an extended stretch of Indian Summer like we’ve had, often the top of the parks have acceptable conditions of hard-packed snow and/or wet, but firm soils. The clay soils found on the lower portions of our foothills often change to a mix of decomposed granite and loam (think pine needles and dirt), which does fairly well when wet. Generally, you can ride a loop on the top of the park and skip the descent to the lower trails and leave with both a clean conscience and a clean bike. Be prepared to turn around if you are encountering poor conditions and beware of ice that forms in the shady north-side trails that stays for months.

4) Bang out laps on Dakota. Dakota Ridge, perhaps Jeffco’s most technical riding trail, is also well anointed with sunshine and rock and is typically one of the first trails to dry. There will likely be ice and some mud in the middle saddle between the two knolls that define the route – and the Zorro connector is often not viable due to mud as water seeps down the slopes of the ridge, keeping the trail wet, but much of this challenging route sheds its moisture in the heat of the glaring winter sun. (So too, avoid Mathew Winters without good information. It is slow to dry) At just a couple miles long, Dakota can go quick if you are a banger, but it’s a short ride up 93 to get back on the trail for another go. This will hone those skills for Fruita and Moab like nothing else on the Front Range. It’s not for beginners.

5) Get a Fat Bike! It’s a growing and vital winter option that should be considered. Above 8,000’ along the Front Range, the trails tend to stay snow covered (this year being an exception near Evergreen and Conifer which have seen inconsistent snow fall and much melting) or even frozen through the winter. Learn the game though, before you show up and hit the headwall of deep, untracked powder, or you butcher somebody’s hard trail packing work by flailing along. You can’t ride everything just because you have that 5” tire bike with a pie plate for a rear gear, and you will know that soon enough. Howeve, when things are dialed in and conditions are right, the experience is sublime!

That said, networking with your friends and others – being willing and able to share the status of a trail whether good or bad – is one of the best things you can do to help keep our trails the beautiful corridors of joy that they are. See you on the trails – or off, as conditions require!

***

James Herklotz is the founder of the local Facebook Group 303 Trail Monitor, with a membership after only two years of more than 6,000 mountain bikers, runners and hikers. It’s a friendly way to learn more about what is happening with the trails throughout the state (303 representing the original area code for the state of Colorado) and even a little beyond. Feel free to join!

Source: Embracing the Alt-Ride | Colorado Mountain Bike Association

Dave Wiens and the Future of IMBA | BIKE Magazine

A conversation with Dave Wiens, IMBA’s new executive director.

by Devon O’Neil, Bike Magazine

In June 2015, Bob Winston, then chair of the board of directors at the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), made a fateful inquiry. He asked Dave Wiens, the six-time Leadville 100 champion, two-time World Cup winner—the guy who defended mountain biking from Lance Armstrong!—if Wiens would help IMBA shape its strategic planning at a retreat in Park City, Utah.

At the time, Wiens was working part time as the executive director (and founder) of Gunnison Trails, an advocacy organization in Colorado’s Gunnison Valley. He was also still racing professionally for Ergon and doing about a hundred other things in the local mountain-bike world.

If I had a magic wand, I would have every mountain biker wear the same T-shirt to every volunteer thing they ever did, and it would be just a black T-shirt that said MOUNTAIN BIKER on the back of it. So that no matter what was going on, people would see eight mountain bikers working away, and they’d go, “What are those? Those are mountain bikers.”

Wiens obliged Winston, and soon after, Winston asked Wiens to serve on IMBA’s board of directors. Wiens agreed. He was six months into his term when 12-year IMBA president Mike Van Abel resigned last summer, turning an already tumultuous year for the world’s most influential mountain biking organization into a bona fide situation. Five months prior to Van Abel’s resignation, a little less than a year ago now, IMBA lost its primary sponsor in Subaru. Layoffs followed. The Trail Care Crew—a team of two that drove around the country conducting wildly popular trail-building clinics—was cut. Suddenly, strangely, it seemed unclear what IMBA’s role was—and what it would be moving forward.

Wiens, who agreed to serve as board chair after the IMBA World Summit last November, watched all of this with a curious eye. He knew the potential was there for IMBA to broaden its reach and relevance. He also knew the advocacy world had changed, and it did not favor the gorilla.

Earlier this month, Wiens made one last move in his rapid ascent to becoming the face of IMBA—he shifted from board chair to executive director. The 52-year-old Mountain Bike Hall of Famer, who still looks like a 17-year-old surfer dude, says he feels like he has been “drinking through a fire hose” as he tries to absorb the scope of his new job. He took a break Monday afternoon and rode his mom’s red, 30-year-old Panasonic City Bike four blocks from his house to the Gunnison Health Food Store, where he shared his vision for IMBA and mountain biking over lunch.

Bike: Congratulations on the job. What do you feel like you’re inheriting?
Wiens: I feel like IMBA today is financially challenged, and I believe that national advocacy isn’t the same as it ever was. So we can’t be the same IMBA that we always were. It used to be, if you wanted to support mountain biking, you couldn’t necessarily find a club to give money to, so you gave it to IMBA. Now, there’s your club, they’re doing great work, I’ll give them money because I can actually go ride their work after work. It’s a little more nebulous: what’s IMBA doing?

So IMBA needs to very definitively tell the world what we are doing. If you buy a Trek bicycle, it says “Trek” on the downtube, unless you take it off. If you build a badass trail, it doesn’t have a name on it. Nobody knows where it came from.

What do you see as the biggest issues to address after a tough year for IMBA?
Our goals all revolve around, of course, access and government relations; we have to never lose sight of that, that needs to always be a priority. And then, important to us is seeing better mountain biking opportunities on the ground, all across the country. In a lot of cases, that means more access to the bread-and-butter riding that we all enjoy. Where you can get out before work, at lunch, after work—those quick hits that we all need for our bodies and minds.

We’re just trying to be more relevant to more mountain bikers. We’ve always counted our membership in that 30,000 to 40,000 range. And it’s staying just a bit static, but we know there are a lot more mountain bikers out there. We also know from our demographic studies that our average age is in the mid-40s. So the membership of IMBA is not necessarily representative of who all is riding mountain bikes. We’d like that to change.

What did you learn from Gunnison Trails that you can apply nationally with IMBA?
That I can’t carry a big stick around to get things done, because I didn’t get anything done that way.

What’s your stance on whether bikes belong in Wilderness?
It’s hard for me to answer, because I haven’t been affected by it. There’s a ton of Wilderness around us, but our riding isn’t in it. Now, if someone all of a sudden made Hartman Rocks a Wilderness area? That wouldn’t sit well with me at all. So we have to work with every new and ongoing Wilderness proposal out there.

IMBA’s policy is, and we’re going to revisit this with our board of directors and our senior staff, because I think the way the political landscape is right now we constantly have to be looking at everything and making sure that we’re on the cutting edge of what we need to be, but right now it’s that we do not support any effort to change the Wilderness Act. And personally, I’m OK with a place where we don’t get to ride.

 You mentioned the need to have a unified voice. An obvious crux is the divide between the Sustainable Trails Coalition and IMBA. Is there room for both, or do people miss anything about IMBA’s position that forces them to feel like they have to choose?

There are people who support both organizations, and there are obviously people who support only one or the other, adamantly. So I don’t have an answer to that. I just know where we’re at, and we can’t support any organization that’s looking to change the Wilderness Act. It’s pretty black and white.

 It seems like a lot of advocates don’t think mountain bikers get enough credit for their stewardship of trails, especially when it comes to access decisions. What can be done to make land managers more aware of mountain bikers’ contribution?

If I had a magic wand, I would have every mountain biker wear the same T-shirt to every volunteer thing they ever did, and it would be just a black T-shirt that said MOUNTAIN BIKER on the back of it. So that no matter what was going on, people would see eight mountain bikers working away, and they’d go, “What are those? Those are mountain bikers.”

Source: Dave Wiens and the Future of IMBA | BIKE Magazine

Jill Outside: Too much is not enough

by Jill Homer, jilloutside.com

A crushing heat wave settled in this week, melting the last of the ice from the small ponds in our back yard. For the first time in three months, I knelt beside the pond and sprinkled fish food into the water. Two-dozen goldfish swam to the surface and sluggishly nibbled at the flakes. I watched with fascination. They spent three months hidden beneath a thick sheet of ice, in a pond so small that I wondered if it could freeze solid, and I hadn’t fed them since November. Yet there they were, as healthy as ever. I felt strong appreciation for these hardy little fish, matched in an instant by disgust in my own fragile body.

Shortly afterward, I slathered my arms and legs in sunscreen and went for a walk. That’s what I’ve been doing since I found out about my wonky thyroid levels: going to the gym, and hiking — short distances and nothing strenuous. Strangely, or maybe not strangely, I’ve been feeling symptoms to a deeper degree. Knowledge has made my head even more foggy, my body even more jittery. I think this escalation of symptoms is psychosomatic, so I stare at my hands, willing them to hold still. They never do.

Seventy degrees felt unconscionably hot, and I’d lost my will to even bother. Still, as it always has, hiking does improve my mood. I hiked my way through a difficult breakup in Juneau, back in 2009. At the time I was fairly certain I would be alone for the rest of my life, and embraced mountains as a solid if indifferent companion. Maybe I’ll hike my way through this most recent breakup with my health. (I know, poor health is likely temporary, but it never really seems like it in the midst. Just like solitude at the end of a relationship.)

I have been sad about dropping out of Iditarod. I know, of course I know, that it’s such a small loss in the scheme of world events and even my own life. I want to believe this emotion is not my own, but the dastardly work of wonky hormones. Right now, though, it feels like a threshold crossed. The end of something.

Sweat beaded on my skin as I picked my way through tangles of fallen trees to South Boulder Peak. Implausibly, given that it’s been virtually summer for at least two weeks, the ridge was still coated in ice. I continued anyway, even after a man coming down the mountain warned me that the trail was too treacherous. I didn’t feel like being careful, so of course I fell. A few yards later, I fell again. Blood glistened on my shin. I was angry, with myself of course, and plopped down on a boulder just fifty feet shy of the actual top.

The afternoon was so warm that I could stop as long as I wanted. So I sprawled out and turned up the iPod. Earlier in the week, I realized my playlists were hurting my feelings, so I refilled one with music I mostly listened to before I started endurance racing. Near the top of South Boulder mountain — just far enough from the actual peak to concede I hadn’t fully climbed it — I nearly dozed off listening to early-90s Catherine Wheel songs:

“Always, Always.
Bye bye long day.
I need to sleep so much.
Nineteen hours straight.
Too much is not enough.”

Again I thought about those tough little goldfish, who I think I’ve grown to love, and how they survived the winter without any help from me.

“It’s going to be fine,” I said out loud, sitting up. “Shake it off, shake it off.” My hands were still quivering. I felt a little bit dizzy and hand’t brought any food with me. It crossed my mind that I could take an unlucky slip at just the wrong place on the upcoming, treacherously icy downhill, and that could be the end. It was just as plausible, maybe even more plausible, than my heart stopping in the Alaska wilderness. Life is fragile. Maybe I have an autoimmune disease and maybe my lifestyle is to blame, but I don’t regret a thing.

The downhill hike passed without incident. Still, I remained little out of it. As if in an instant, the sun began to set. Beautiful pink light filtered through the trees.

“Needle stings and blisters breaking.
Swinging moods and conscious fading.
All the things you dream while spinning ’round.
Always it seems to bring you, bring you down.”

Source: Jill Outside: Too much is not enough

The Adventure Blog: Video: Mountain Biker Sets New Downhill Speed Record

Mountain biker Max Stöckl has just set a new speed record for the fastest speed downhill, breaking his own mark set back in 2011. At that time, he managed to hit 164.95 km/h (102.4 mph), but with some new science and technology, he was able to eek out just a bit more, hitting 167.6 km/h (104.14 mph) this time out. To achieve these speeds, Max flies down the side of Cerro Negro, a volcano in Nicaragua on a specially designed bike and wearing some specially designed clothing.

Source: The Adventure Blog: Video: Mountain Biker Sets New Downhill Speed Record

Wind, You Jerk

Let me tell you about a time I was on a one-way bike ride that went the opposite way, into the wind

by Brendan Leonard, semi-rad.com

My friend Jayson and I were out trail running on Saturday, for long stretches exposed to a 50 mph wind. It was the kind of wind that blows snot out of your nose, catches your lips and blows air into one of your cheeks so it flaps, and occasionally, gusts up to 60 or 70 mph and pushes you off the trail. It was so loud, we hardly talked for the last seven miles of our run. At one point, Jayson yelled, “Ah wind, my favorite element.” I laughed, and then went back to concentrating on leaning hard into the wind while we ran, like a couple of idiots whose mothers never taught them to come in out of the rain.

Wind can be an interesting thing, and by “interesting thing,” I mean “kind of an asshole sometimes.” Yes, it’s wonderful as a source of renewable energy and also helped enable boat travel possible a long time ago, but in the out-of-doors, it can be no fun at all. Especially in the wintertime.

When I first met my friend Aaron about ten years ago, we just happened upon each other while snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park, and he decided to join us in hiking to the top of Flattop Mountain. About a half-mile from the summit, the wind was blowing straight at us over the rocks, picking up snow and blasting it into any uncovered skin areas at about 40 mph. Aaron shouted, “That lets you know you’re alive!” I agreed, also silently adding that it hurts your face kind of. Aaron and I became good friends because sometimes in your life you apparently need other people who like to do painful things on the weekends.

Source: Wind, You Jerk – semi-rad.com

Commentary: Rutting Up Trails Is an Act of Pure Selfishness 

While I have the privilege and the responsibility of serving on the board of Salida Mountain Trails and having a say in how SMT’s money is spent, this wasn’t my $40,000 that was spent on this trail.

This was our $40,000.

by Greg Heil. Editor in Chief for Singletracks.com

The alarm clock squawked obnoxiously at 6am, jerking me rudely from my slumber. I wiped my bleary eyes and tried to figure out what the heck was going on.

“Seriously, what is going on right now? It’s dark outside, why is my alarm going off?” But then I remembered, “Hey, I’m going riding this morning!” It had been four days since my last ride, so I was due for a sanity check, an appointment with the two-wheeled psychiatrist.
SEE ALSO
Over a Beer: Riding to Live
By Greg Heil

I slurped down some coffee, tossed my gear in the truck, drove into town, ran some errands, and hit the trailhead about 7am. It was colder than I expected it to be: 17 degrees. Yet, the frigid air was part of the plan.

I’ve only lived in Salida for about three and a half years, but I had quickly learned to interpret the local freeze/thaw cycles. In no time I had learned how the trails melt out after a big snow storm, and the fact that, right now, if I didn’t ride while it was frozen, I’d be leaving big ruts every time I turned into the shade. Since I had to log on and get work done later, I had decided to set my alarm for o’dark’thirty to get my much-needed singletrack time in while I wouldn’t be damaging the trails, and before I had to get to my day job.

I decided to sacrifice some precious sleep and suffer through 17-degree weather, because I want to take care of these trails. Because they are my trails–my local trails. Our local trails. The trails built by our community and maintained by our community. Our trail system is truly a community resource, and I wanted to take care of them. So I got up early.

Imagine my surprise when I began pedaling up the trail and in the second corner, I faced a long stretch of ruts. And in the third corner. The 10th corner. The 15th corner.

On and on, for miles and miles, throughout my entire ride: ruts, ruts, ruts.

Source: Over a Beer: Rutting Up Trails Is an Act of Pure Selfishness | Singletracks Mountain Bike News

Give Colorado cyclists the freedom to roll through intersections

By THE DENVER POST EDITORIAL BOARD

Even in bicycle-happy Colorado, legislation that would give cyclists greater freedom at intersections is likely a bill before its time. That’s too bad, for we see benefit in the idea. Especially in Denver, where officials continue to build more infrastructure for cyclists, and bicycle commuting is a growing reality, laws that acknowledge the inherent differences between vehicles and cycles could do a lot of good.

State Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, has introduced Senate Bill 93, which would empower cyclists to treat stop signs like yield signs and red lights like stop signs. Kerr, who regularly commutes to the Capitol on his bicycle, admits his measure faces significant obstacles. Still, he tells us he remains hopeful about its passage, given bipartisan support in the House and Senate. Either way, Kerr strongly believes now is the time to get Coloradans talking about the issue, and we agree.

Obstacles include opposition from Sens. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulfur Springs, and John Cooke, R-Greeley, respectively the chairman and vice chairman of the legislature’s transportation committee.

Cooke told Denver Post reporter John Wenzel, “I would go the opposite direction and say there should be more enforcement for bicyclists who violate red lights and stop signs.”

Source: Give Colorado cyclists the freedom to roll through intersections

Colorado Classic pro cycling race to stop in Denver, Colorado Springs, Breckenridge

Professional road cyclists will race through Colorado Springs, Breckenridge and Denver next summer during the Colorado Classic, an event organizers hope will be more durable than its predecessors.

The Aug. 10-13 stage race — with pro cycling’s highest profile teams, a two-day women’s race, public riding events, live music and a rolling festival — will blend the best elements of Colorado’s lost Red Zinger Bicycle Classic, the Coors Classic and the USA Pro Challenge.

“Sustainability is the goal here,” said David Koff, the chief of RPM Events Group, an investment team that includes Denver’s Gart family and local philanthropist Ben Walton, grandson of Walmart founder Sam Walton.

Source: Colorado Classic pro cycling race to stop in Denver, Colorado Springs, Breckenridge

Proposed Colorado law would allow cyclists to roll through stop signs, red lights

A Colorado lawmaker wants to change the laws governing the types of stops cyclists must make at stop signs and traffic lights.

State Sen. Andy Kerr (D-22), an avid cyclist himself, is sponsoring the bill. He rides his bike most days from Lakewood to the state Capitol.

The proposed bill would allow cyclists to treat stop signs like yield signs. Cyclists would also be allowed to stop and then go through traffic lights.

Source: Proposed law would change rules for cyclists at stop signs, traffic lights | 9news.com