Photo blog: Indian Point Trail

These are some photos from a ride Adelle and I did last week on the Indian Point side of the Flowing Park loop.  To get there, take Hwy 65 onto the Mesa, turn right onto Lands End road, then left onto the first gravel road, which is 109.  Stay on the main 109 road until it ends at Flowing Park reservoir.  Ride through the side entrance by the gate on the gravel road.  Follow the signs.  If doing the whole loop, ride clockwise from the junction of Flowing Park and Indian Point (the trail is a lollipop).  It’s about 14 miles.  We rode to the junction and then just did the right side of the ride: Indian Point.  It was about 12 miles round trip.

To be honest this is not even close to being a trail I “like” to ride.  It has great views and awesome wildflowers, but that’s about it!

Indian Point trail, Grand Mesa

Indian Point trail, Grand Mesa

Views from the Indian Point trail on the Grand Mesa

Views from the Indian Point trail on the Grand Mesa

Rock Garden on the Indian Point trail on the Grand Mesa

Rock Garden on the Indian Point trail on the Grand Mesa

Trails and wildflowers on the Indian Point trail on the Grand Mesa.

Trails and wildflowers on the Indian Point trail on the Grand Mesa.

Indian Point on the Grand Mesa

Indian Point on the Grand Mesa

"Cinnamon" black bear on the Indian Point trail on the Grand Mesa.

“Cinnamon” black bear on the Indian Point trail on the Grand Mesa.

Flowing Park Reservoir on the Grand Mesa

Flowing Park Reservoir on the Grand Mesa

Steamboat Springs Mountain Biking

Who’s heading to Steamboat Springs???? Our annual Crested Butte trip has been changed to Steamboat this year because, well, we just wanted a change of scenery.  CB is awesome and its trails are scenic and fun, but it’s time to expand our horizons.  We’re going to rent a condo and enjoy 4 days of biking!  Some places we plan to hit:

The Emerald Mountain Trail System

Quarry Mountain trail at Emerald Mountain.  Taken from Singletracks.com

Quarry Mountain trail at Emerald Mountain. Taken from Singletracks.com

The Steamboat Springs Ski Resort Bike Trails

Bike Trails at Steamboat Springs Ski Resort

Bike Trails at Steamboat Springs Ski Resort

and a few other short trails on our first and last days.  We’re really excited to go check out a new place and I have a feeling the biking is going to be pretty sweet.  I’ve heard there are stiff climbs at the beginnings, but there are on most trails in Crested Butte too.  If you’re looking for info, start with their annual bike magazine.  It’s great!

Desert Summer Mountain Biking: Beat the Heat

It. is. hot. Like 100 degrees hot.  Like sweating as you walk from the car to the house hot. Like the steering wheel is too hot to touch because I’m too lazy to get a sun shield hot. It’s just plain hot. BUT that doesn’t mean mountain biking has to cease, just that one has to plan more carefully.  So here are 5 ways to “beat the heat” when biking in the desert. (Or anywhere for that matter)

1. Go early.  Well sure, that’s obvious right?  By early, I mean you should be on the trails no later than 8 or 8:30.  By 10:30, even with a breeze, it’ll be HOT. You need to be done riding by then, so plan your trail route accordingly.

2. Speaking of trail routes…Choose less strenuous rides. Maybe the dead of summer isn’t the time to choose a 14 mile ride with lots of climbing.  Maybe this is the time to choose a ride with small short climbs and lots of flowing cross country or downhill terrain.

3. Find Shade.

Find shade to rest in on hot bike rides.

Find shade to rest in on hot bike rides.

Shade is your friend.  It can be significantly cooler under the shade of a pinon or juniper tree, or even in the shade of a giant boulder, than it will be standing right in the blazing sun.

4. Wear cotton.  This is a controversial suggestion, but I believe that on very hot days wearing cotton, as opposed to a synthetic moisture-wicking material, is best.  It stays wetter longer, which means as soon as a breeze hits you or you start downhill, that damp shirt adds to the evaporative cooling effect of your own sweat.  Find the lightest weight, lightest colored shirts you can and wear those on super hot days.

5. Head for higher ground.  When all else fails, head for the mountains.  We’re lucky enough to have the Grand Mesa not far away, so we sometimes just head there for cooler temps and scenic but less-fun rides.  Sacrifices must be made when it comes to riding in July!

Overcoming Bike Fears Part III: SPEED

Go FASTER! Isn’t that what we always said as kids?  Whether it was on the swings, the merry go round or even on our bikes, we always just wanted to push the limits and go faster.  My adult self often wishes that my child self would take over sometimes and push me to go faster and faster.  Alas, it rarely happens.  Over the years I have gotten faster on my bike, especially on downhill sections of trails that I’m familiar with.  It’s taken much time and courage though, to force myself to go faster for one simple reason: it’s scary!

 

Butterknife trail in Grand Junction, Colorado

Butterknife trail in Grand Junction, Colorado

So how do you overcome the fear of speed?

1. Get familiar with a trail.  Once you’ve got a favorite trail that you know all the ins and outs of, you can start working on speeding up.  This is your favorite trail! It’s one you could ride in your sleep!  You know every rock drop, ledge, berm and roller on it.  Now let yourself go faster.  Move those fingers away from the brakes!  Look ahead!  Visualize the next move in your head; this anticipation will help you better position yourself for the move and you’ll be able to keep up some speed.

2. It’s like eating an elephant. No one says you have to suddenly fly down an entire trail at super high rates of speed.  If you see a long coasting hill coming up, just focus on going faster on that.  When the trail gets technical again, slow down. Little by little you can extend the portion of trail on which you feel comfortable riding faster.  Even if you just start with one downhill and practice to see how far you can coast up the other side, that’s better than nothing.  Take small steps.

Remember your body positioning and remember to keep looking ahead.  If you’re cruising downhill in a “ready position” with your weight over your pedals and your butt behind the seat, you’ll be ready for most drops that you might suddenly encounter.  Obviously if you’re looking head then you’ll be more likely to see those drops coming and can quickly shift to a better position if needed.

Overcoming Bike Fears Part II – Exposure

My biggest fear when biking is exposure.  Not the exposure itself…but what exposure leads to : falling, death, falling death.  I shudder at the thought, to be honest with you.  But what’s to be done?  Some trails are just exposed; there’s no escaping it.  I have three thoughts about exposure:

FIRST: ALWAYS LOOK WHERE YOU WANT TO GO.  This rule is paramount to dealing with exposure.  Don’t want to fall off the cliff? Don’t look at it!  Now that we’re clear that this is a rule that must always be followed…

 

Ease into it: If this exposure exists on a trail you know you will ride often (like one that is 10 minutes from your house) then know that you will have plenty of time to get comfortable with this portion of the trail.  You don’t have to ride it all at once or even at all.  Walk it a few times; get the feel for it.  Start to ride small bits of it and then more and more.  It may take years, but eventually you may conquer the entire thing.

Just get through it: If it’s a non-technical piece of trail then use the rule above of looking where you want to go.  The trail has few rocks in it, so you won’t have to steer.  Just pedal or coast along looking 10-15 feet in front of you at the trail (not off the cliff!) This works for me on trails like Crested Butte’s 401.

Views from the 401 Trail in Crested Butte

Views from the 401 Trail in Crested Butte

Walk it! If the trail is technical beyond what you’re comfortable with, then just walk the sections that terrify you.  We often say, “If this obstacle were in the middle of a double track trail…” but hey, sometimes they aren’t.  Sometimes obstacles are smack dab in the middle of a very exposed piece of trail that makes you think you’re going to fall off the edge of the world if you just step wrong.  In that case just walk it! No one will care!

So that’s it.  Dealing with exposure.  Just take your time, ride what you can and don’t feel bad at all about walking parts of it.  It’s better to walk and live to ride another day than crash!

Bike Trail Fears to Overcome, Part I

There’s something every one of us is afraid of.  No one is immune to fear.  Whether it’s clowns, water, the dark, or heights, something causes every one of us to get that feeling of dread in the pits of our stomachs.  How do we deal with it?  Well, avoidance is one way.  If your fear is clowns, those are pretty easy to just not be around (unless you work for the circus…in that case you’re screwed.)  Another way is to face the fear head on and do your best to conquer it.  In mountain biking this is sometimes the best technique.

But how?  How to face down the fear of death by flying over my handlebars? Or broken clavicle by tumbling down a mountain side? There are ways.  Use the following hopefully helpful tips to begin to overcome your bike fears.

1. Know your limits.  This is the most important rule of biking at any time.  Yes, it’s good to try drops or ride exposed sections of trail, but you must also know when to get off the bike and walk.  Remember that you’re out on your bike to have a good time; don’t feel pressured to go beyond what you’re currently comfortable with. Especially if the possibility of actual death is involved.

Utah's Portal trail. Photo from utahmountainbiking.com

Utah’s Portal trail. Photo from utahmountainbiking.com

This sign is a good indication that I’ve reached my limit.  Time to walk.

2. DROPS:

Depending on the type of drop you’re facing, you have one or two things to focus on: just landing the drop OR landing the drop and steering. If you’re really lucky it’s not a drop at all, but more of a ramp!

Just landing the drop: Perhaps ahead of you is just one big drop.  There’s a flat trail ahead of it with a clear path.  It seems like a fairly big drop but you know in reality it’s maybe a foot, and probably less.  Scope out the area around the drop.

  • Check for a smooth landing area, then wheel your bike back so that you have enough time to pick up some momentum.  If you have a quick release (I really hope you do), drop your seat some.  If you’ve got a dropper seat post, you are super lucky and you know it!
  • Get a little speed going (not a lot, but enough to keep you rolling), get your hand AWAY from the front brake lever, and, keeping a little speed and using your back brake if you need a little slow down, get your butt back behind your seat.  Look ahead to where you plan to go after the drop and just let it go!

 

Drop into the Gunnector Trail in Grand Junction Colorado

Drop into the Gunnector Trail in Grand Junction Colorado

This is one big drop.  The area past it is clear of rocks.  Even the entry requires no real steering: just aim down the rock. The rider is far back behind the seat with her weight centered over her pedals.

Landing the drop and steering:

  • To me, some of the most technical obstacles involve not only drops, but drops in rock-filled areas that also require me to steer.  So now, not only have I got to prepare for a big THUMP, I’ve also got to make sure my front tire lands where I need it to.
  • First, walk the obstacle with your bike.  Find the line you want to take; I try to look for a line that involves as little steering as possible. If you can make the drop and roll straight over a few tiny rocks, do that.  Don’t make the drop then try to make a turn around something unless it’s absolutely necessary.  Your tires will run over quite a few obstacles! Keep up some speed though, because just as they’ll easily run over a lot, if you’re going too slow they can also get stopped by small rocks too!
  • Once you’ve walked it and picked out a line, pick out a reference point.  In the photo below, my reference point when approaching this section is the helper rock that my front tire has just gone over.  I aim for this rock, make the first drop, hit the rock and am then perfectly lined up for the next drop.
  • Back up so you can again start with some momentum, lower your seat and again, keep your fingers away from the front brake.  The last thing you want is to accidentally grab that and go flying over the handlebars!  Look ahead as you approach the obstacle and find your reference point.  Once you’re in the thick of it, look ahead to what’s coming next.
    Riding a drop on Gunny Loop, Grand Junction, colorado

    Riding a drop on Gunny Loop, Grand Junction, Colorado

    Riding down a ramp:

  • If only all drops had ramps…Well, honestly if they did then riding wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.  Still, a ramp is a great find! Again, check out the area before you ride it (or listen to your friend if they yell, “It just rolls off!”) Find the best route down the ramp.
  • Follow the rules above: Give yourself space to get some momentum, drop your seat and look to a point of reference.  Once you’re on the ramp look up and ahead to see what’s coming next.  Keep your weight back away from the front of your bike and your fingers away from the front brake.
Playing on a ramp on Gunny Loop in Grand Junction, Colorado

Playing on a ramp on Gunny Loop in Grand Junction, Colorado

The above ramp is a simple but effective one.  I rolled down the rock in the middle because it seemed to have less of a lip on it and was more firmly in place.

Up next: Exposure!

 

Top 5 Requirements of a “Bike Town”

There are plenty of bike towns around the country: Moab, UT; Fruita, Colorado; Sedona, AZ; Crested Butte, CO…ignore my hyper-local angle, I’m just naming places I’ve either been to or that are close by! There are others, like Duluth, MN (never been there, but it’s winning lots of praise lately…)

So what does it take to be a “bike town”?  Well, here are 5 things that, in my opinion, are necessary for any place wishing to be a bike town.

1. Trails.  Obviously a bike town has to have trails. The more, the better! BUT a town doesn’t have to have 4,000 miles of trails to be a bike town.  Having consistently good, fun, well-built trails is what will get you noticed.  Got 10 really great trails in town with bomber downhill, techy sections and views?  You’re on your way!

2. Scenery.  I mean, it helps, right?  Look at Crested Butte, Colorado:

 

Views from the Upper Lower Loop in Crested Butte, Colorado

Views from the Upper Lower Loop in Crested Butte, Colorado

Trails are awesome; trails with views? Even better.

3. Pizza.  You must have a strong pizza presence to be even remotely considered a bike town.  Fruita has The Hot Tomato, Crested Butte has The Stash and The Brick Oven, even Duluth has a variety of pizza joints with 4 stars (according to yelp).  Pizza and beer after a bike ride are a must.  If you don’t have a good pizza joint, then you must at least have a good burger spot.  (Hello, Milt’s in Moab! Although Moab does have Paradox Pizza which is pretty tasty.)

4. Beer.  You must also have beer.  It’s even better if you have local beer.  Beer made in state, beer made in county (Hello Kannah Creek!) or at least micro-brewed beer! Bikers love good beer.

5. A strong supportive community Bike towns have people who love to be outdoors, who love to bike or hike or trail run, and who want more trails. They have bike groups, like COPMOBA, that make things happen and get new trails built! They have businesses in town that welcome traveling bikers and provide things like campgrounds, hotels with bike wash areas and bike racks on every corner or in front of every building.

What do you think a bike town needs?  Good coffee? a Farmer’s Market? What’s it got to have to be considered a true “bike town”?

The Strava”sphere”

Until April of this year I had never used Strava.  That’s right. Never.  It did not exist on my phone or in my life. I had a vague notion of what a QOM meant and what a “segment” was, but that was it. In fact, I hated Strava.  But, it’s difficult to judge a product without using it, right? It’s hard to back up your reasons for hating Strava without having used it.  So, when Singletracks.com set out to do a 30 days of biking challenge in April, and said they’d be using Strava to track our rides, I had no choice but to jump on the bandwagon and download it.  It’s still there, on my phone.  It’s almost July now and I haven’t trashed the app.  So what does that mean? Have I become a convert? It’s hard to say.

I like lots of things about Strava.  I like tracking my rides and seeing how hard I worked. I like seeing how far I went and how I compare to other female bikers in the area. I like to be competitive, whether it’s just with my own times or with those of other people.  I think Strava is good for that; it forces you to compete with yourself. If you’re training for races I can absolutely see how Strava is crucial to your training. You really need to know which places slowed you down and where you were able to make up time. Strava is pretty great for that.

BUT (and there’s always a but)…  I think Strava is taking over my bike rides.  When I bike, I like to take pictures.  I like to stop and rest frequently.  I like to try things over and over until I get them.  What I don’t like is thinking, man, I’ve probably screwed up my Strava time today by taking time to do a do-over on that last spot.  Is that Strava’s fault? No. It’s my own fault for letting something so insignificant get in the way of biking the way I want to bike.

Biking PBR at 18 Road in Fruita, Colorado

Biking PBR at 18 Road in Fruita, Colorado

I hate getting to a particular piece of trail and thinking, Ok.  This is where I leave everyone because this is the segment I know I can QOM on one day and I’ve got to practice! So even though I love flying down this hill behind the boyfriend, I’ve got to go first because I need to go as fast as humanely possible so that I can beat other people who also have gone as fast as humanely possible down this section of trail!

I did this just last weekend in fact.  Then I got to the end of the trail and missed the BF.  He should have been there too, but he was taking his time, enjoying his ride down, and enjoying the view.  I had simply flown down the trail in such a rush that I missed everything around me.

Again, this isn’t the fault of Strava! If it wasn’t Strava it would be some other app doing the same thing! It’s our own faults for letting technology get in the way of our biking. We feel the need to track everything, study all the stats, the times, the calories…when what we should be doing is using that phone to take photos.  Stop and capture what’s really important: having fun with your friends, enjoying nature, improving your technique. These are the things that matter.  Unless you are a racer that Strava time doesn’t really matter.

It’s the same with the riders dubbed “Strava-holes” on the trail.  These folks go off-line, ignore rules of etiquette and are just generally asses to everyone else on the trail.  But that’s not Strava’s fault.  That’s their own fault for getting so wrapped up in their times that they ignore all the other rules of biking.  They shortcut, they blast past people without saying hello and they’re just downright rude.  Don’t be a Strava-hole.  Use it if you want, but use it wisely.

I think I may start only tracking certain rides. On rides when I know I’m going alone or with just one other person who is also tracking, I might continue to use it.  But in most cases, I think I just won’t even start the app.  It’s not worth it.  I end up torn between Strava and enjoying my bike ride and honestly I’m just not willing to let the app win.

Recovering from a crash

Had a few articles published this week over on Singletracks, including this one on the mental aspects of recovering from a bike crash. 

Obviously if you’ve been seriously injured you have to physically recover before mental recovery can begin, but once it does, know that it may be a long and difficult road to get back to where you were before. Sometimes crashes don’t affect us at all, and other times we find ourselves not wanting to ride things that once upon a time would have seemed relatively easy.   Take the first step: just get back on the bike.

Biking the Bar M trail, part of Moab, Utah's Brand Trails system

Biking the Bar M trail, part of Moab, Utah’s Brand Trails system

Mountain Biking Lake Tahoe

A few years ago we took a road trip down Hwy 50 (The Loneliest Highway in America) that eventually dumped us out in Lake Tahoe.   We’d done a few rides along the way, but were excited to get a chance to check out the Tahoe Rim trail and the Flume Trail.

Almost more exciting than the biking (if that’s possible) was our decision to stay at a backcountry cabin at Spooner Lake, rented out by the folks at Flume Trail bikes (though unfortunately I don’t think they rent these anymore).  Anyway, we only had a few days to spend here, so even though it was sort of rainy the first day, we headed down the road towards Marlette Lake to begin our ride on the Flume Trail!

Chimney Rock at Marlette Lake, Lake Tahoe California

Chimney Rock at Marlette Lake, Lake Tahoe California

Even in early September there is already a chill in the air, so make sure to take plenty of layers.  You’ll warm up as you climb the first four miles on double track, but it’s still nice to have an extra windbreaker around.  At first the trail seems mostly flat, but there will be some stiff climbs along the way to the lake.  It’s a beautiful little lake though; once you get here you’ll see a few signs directing you.  Turn left to head to the Flume’s single track.  Continue reading