Planning for RIDE 2016

Each year at The Daily Sentinel we publish a mountain and road biking magazine called RIDE. For the past few years I’ve had the chance to lead a group of contributors in putting together a magazine that is both entertaining and informative. The magazine is available in print with the Friday Feb 26th edition of The Daily Sentinel and also will be available for free on www.gjsentinel.com. 

As we start planning g for the next edition, here’s what you can look forward to:
Information about new trails in the valley this year

Recommendations on rides for families, tourists, beginners, intermediates, advanced riders and experts

Information on races in the area: cyclocross, epic rides GJ off road, and even the USA Pro Cycling event.

Stay tuned for more information as we get ready for publication!

Happy Holidays from Grand Junction

Well for me the season has changed from mountain biking to skiing. I enjoy the change, but always look forward to getting back on my bike! The past few years we’ve had a January dry spell that has enabled us to get over to Moab for a winter bike weekend. We’ll see if El Nino prevents that this year or not.

I didn’t set any specific goals for 2015 except to have fun on my bike.  Even so, I managed to accomplish quite a few things that I’m proud of.

  1. I got a new bike and it’s a 29er! You’ve all seen it by now.  Her name is Mustang Sally and I still love her. I cannot say enough good things about this 2015 Specialized Camber Expert Carbon Evo 29er. That’s a mouthful! The bike is light, climbs well, descends smoothly and quickly and I swear sometimes it feels like there’s a motor in there.  This bike loves to go fast!

    Specialized Camber Expert Carbon Evo 29er

    Specialized Camber Expert Carbon Evo 29er

  2. I FINALLY conquered the ledges on the hill on Mary’s loop.  You know the two.  The two big ones right after the rock slab section at the beginning of Mary’s Loop.  Until this year I’d always used the “B” ramp route on the left.  This year, with the new bike, I decided to go for it and I did it! I popped right up the first ledge and then the second without missing a beat.
  3. Speaking of ledges, this year I also conquered a ledge on Horsethief that I’d never attempted before. It’s the very last one in the wash before you start the climb back to the portage.
  4. I rode lots of new trails this year including trails in Frisco, Eagle, Park City, Durango, Crested Butte and Moab.
    I was too busy riding to take many pictures. This was taken at the Sallie Barber mine.

    I was too busy riding to take many pictures. This was taken at the Sallie Barber mine in Frisco.

     

  5. I rode over 900 miles! That’s not much by some standards, but for me it seemed like a lot. I plan to make it to at least 1500 next year by actually tracking my rides to/from work and doing more rides during lunch in the spring and fall.
  6. I helped build 2 trails! In the spring I helped build the TIMe Machine trail at Lunch Loop and that one has become one of our favorites.  It’s a great way to extend a ride and we enjoy riding it in either direction.  In the fall J and I both helped build the Nor’Easter trail at the northeast end of Lunch Loop.  This is another great one for extending a ride and if you ride it from the top down it has a bit of a roller coaster feel to it.
    Team #1 surveys a rock bridge that was built during the day.

    Team #1 surveys a rock bridge that was built during the day on the TIMe Machine trail. This turned out to be a great bridge that is rideable up and down.

     

  7. Finally, I really DID have a great season of mountain biking.  We got to show Adelle the 401 trail this year and we enjoyed biking with each other and with lots of friends. Here’s to 2016 and another great year of biking!

The Moab Mountain Biking Mystery

In the past few years, every time we visit Moab for biking, we leave thinking, “How do they do it?” Here we are getting 2 miles of trails built in a year and feeling successful while they’re an hour and a half away building 30 miles a year. I met with some folks from the Moab Trail Mix group a few months ago and to be honest, I STILL don’t know how they do it. All I know is that when we head there we feel woefully inadequate when we come home.  Which we shouldn’t. In no way should we feel inferior to Moab.

Grand Junction and Moab are two very different biking destinations.  Moab biking involves lots of rock, both slickrock (entrada sandstone) and other similar rock types. There are lots of painted lines to follow and lots of fun and often technical rock features.  In recent years Moab has begun to focus more on beginner and intermediate riders with areas like the Brand Trails and Klonzo.  There are lots of variety to their trails now and lots more singletrack (as opposed to the mostly doubletrack riding they used to have), but there is still a lot of rock.

Moab's Navajo Rocks area

Moab’s Navajo Rocks area

Grand Junction trails have some rock, but depending on which area you visit, you can find trails with almost no rock, trails with some rock, or trails with lots of rock.  At 18 Road, for instance, the trails are mostly flowing dirt singletrack. This doesn’t mean there aren’t any rock features or obstacles, but they’re few and far between.  Most of the trails and obstacles here are rideable by intermediate riders.  18 Road is also a great place for kids because of trails like Kessel Run and Vegetarian.  Both are easy (the lower half of Kessel is easier than the top half) and Kessel is a lot of fun.  I’ve seen little bitty kids get to the end with huge grins on their faces and adults still have the same look at the end of it!

The Kokopelli trails are rockier.  This area does have our best “beginner” trail, Rustler’s, but even it has several rock portions.  It’s a great place for beginning mountain bikers to learn to navigate simple rock obstacles.  The best thing about Kokopelli is that as your technical skills grow, there is a trail to match.  Once you master Rustlers you can move on to Mary’s, Steve’s and Wrangler (watch out for the ending on that one).  Once those are easy, try Horsethief.  Eventually you’ll work your way up to Lion’s and Mack and then, if you’re insane enough, Moore Fun (which, by the way, is not more fun.)

18 road biking - swooping singletrack

18 road biking – swooping singletrack

Finally, there’s our Lunch Loop area which is filled with awesome narrow singletrack and lots of rock obstacles.  Even the beginner trail here, Kid’s Meal, has several rock features.  Still, there are long sections of dirt trail riding to be found here on trails like Nor’Easter, Time Machine, Clunker and Holey Bucket.

So while Moab reigns supreme when it comes to number of trails and slickrock, I think we still offer more variety.  If you think you’ve come here and ridden everything we’ve got, I bet you’re wrong.  Check out these newer and lesser known options for more scenic views and challenging rides:

Butterknife – a 14 mile technical ride with views of the Gunnison River

Sarlaac – our newest 18 Road trail.  This is a long one and difficult to get to, but I’ve heard it’s a pretty fun ride.  Best done as an out-and-back, Saarlac is closed from November – April. The link will provide you with some information, but you might want to stop into a bike shop or REI for more details.

Gunnison Bluffs (see page 13) – The Gunnison Bluffs area is scheduled for some expansion, but right now I think there’s just the one trail.  This is a great place for beginners because the views will keep more advanced riders entertained while the Spanish Trail portion of this ride will put beginners at ease.

The Rabbit Valley area – Western Rim not withstanding, there are plenty of other rugged options in the Rabbit Valley area…you could ride from Loma to Rabbit Valley via the Kokopelli Trail (that’s a LONG way though), you could check out Zion Curtain or Westwater Mesa, or the more elusive Eastern Rim trail.  There are lots of 4×4 roads here for exploration too.

Anything on the Grand Mesa.  While these aren’t my favorite trails, they do add variety and in the summer the wildflowers really can’t be beat.  There’s the Flowing Park trail (the best part of this is the Indian Point (right side) trail.  Just do this as an out – and – back.  Mesa Top is complete now, so if you’re really into punishing yourself you can ride Mesa Top out to Flowing Park, ride all 14 miles of Flowing Park and then ride back up Mesa Top.  This ends up being about 30 miles.  Mesa Top as an out and back isn’t bad either, but I’d start from the Flowing Park end. That way you get downhill on the way back.  There are other trails popping up here too, at Powderhorn Resort and at the County Line Cross Country Ski area.

Finally, we can’t forget Palisade.  The Palisade Rim Trail is technical and exposed, but offers the chance for petroglyph sightings!

 

Ah, Fall! A great time for biking and backpacking

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This is part of a column I wrote for The Daily Sentinel recently. We have made the most of our fall season this year. Between backpacking trips, trail building and a bike/camping weekend, we’ve found ourselves busy almost every weekend since mid-August.

Although my dad didn’t join us this year, we did get in two, three-day backpacking trips. For both trips we chose the Cimarron area of the Uncompahgre National Forest.

We’d drive up on a Thursday night and stay at Silver Jack Campground and then drive to the trail head the next morning.

This year we hiked up the East Fork of the Cimarron Trail for our first trip, and revisited the Middle Fork of the Cimarron Trail for our second trip.

Here’s one tip for backpacking trips: Plan layover days.  To read the rest, click here.

Bike Tip #83: Focus

One of the reasons many of us enjoy mountain biking is because it requires concentration and focus.  There is no room for thoughts of work, that fight you had last night, or whether or not El Nino will bring snow.  You must be in the moment.  If you aren’t, bad things happen.  Take this drop, for instance:

Riding a ledge drop on Horsethief Bench in Loma, Colorado

Riding a ledge drop on Horsethief Bench in Loma, Colorado

A rider must be focused here in order to successfully drop this.  If you’re too far right, the ledge gets much bigger. If you aren’t paying attention and drift left, you could catch a pedal on that tree. Focus is key in mountain biking.  When your mind starts to drift, bring it back to the trail.

Bike Tip #483 Look for the Ramp

You have no idea how many years I attempted this ledge before I found the ramp.  That’s right.  There’s a ramp here!  At some point last year I started to find ramps on ledges that used to otherwise seem impossible and let me tell you…if you can find a hint of ramp and then use your push-pull pop up skills, you’ll be amazed at the ledges you can suddenly ride!

In this picture, if you look just to the right of my back tire, you can see the ramp.  It’s not that crack.  It’s the edge of the rock.  Do you see it yet?

This is the only hard section of the easy Rustler's trail.

This is the only hard section of the easy Rustler’s trail.

finding the ramp on Rustler's Loop

Finding the ramp on Rustler’s Loop

What about now?  It’s amazing where you can find ramps! For years, literally, I’ve tried every route up this.  I tried the route shown here, I tried the crack on the right, I tried a spot on the left…and nothing worked. This ramp? This ramp works.  It worked for me, it worked for the BF and it worked for Adelle. We’ve shot up this ledge multiple times now with the help of a natural ramp.

I did the same thing last year on the Horsethief Bench trail.  I was approaching a ledge towards the end of the river section and noticed, “Hey! It’s ramped!” Up it I flew and have ever since.

The next time you’re approaching a ledge, look at it closely.  Does it have an angled side? Is there anything that resembles a ramp? If so, keep some speed, get in a gear anywhere from 1 and 2 to 1 and 4, and use that ramp to propel you up the ledge.  You may still need to stand and pedal a bit towards the end, but some momentum and the ramp should help you conquer a few more ledges.

A new plan for lunchtime biking

In the past, it’s been hard for me to actually mountain bike on my lunch break.  Road biking is easy…I bike to work, ride the 1/4 mile to the Riverfront Trail at lunch, and then go as far as I want and ride back.  Mountain biking meant I had to either put the trunk bike rack on my car or borrow the car with the rack, load up my pack, my gloves, my shoes, etc.  It seemed like more of a pain than it was worth.  BUT the new trail we built a few weeks ago changed all that.

This new trail is right on the path of a sneaky short cut entrance to Lunch Loop from Monument Road. Last week I rode Frankie the road bike out the Riverfront trail to Monument road and up to this short cut spot.  It took 16 minutes.  So I reasoned that if I rode my mountain bike to work and then out to Lunch Loop on my lunch break, I could a 30 minute single-track ride in at lunch without having to drive!

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Fall Weekends are made for biking

Fall weekends here in Western Colorado are just the best.  The temperatures mean we don’t have to get up at 7 a.m. to bike and the foliage all around us begins to turn to dusty pinks and oranges. We’re at the peak of our bike fitness, having biked through Spring and Summer, and so, weekend bike rides are great.

On Saturday we found ourselves out at Kokopelli on one of our favorite loop rides: Lion’s and Mack.  This is mostly an advanced ride.  The singletrack portion of Lion’s involves some exposure and a few tricky rock spots.  The doubletrack portion requires big lung capacity for several climbs.  The most technical aspect of the ride is Mack Ridge. Though it is rated intermediate, I think you’d better at least be at the high end of Intermediate before you try this one.

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RAT Trails

This past weekend, desperate to soak up every last bit of this Indian Summer, we drove down to Ridgway, CO to camp and bike.  The RAT (Ridgway Area Trails) group has done a great job of building a small but growing trail system just off of County Road 10 and we were anxious to check it out.

While the trails names/maps don’t exactly match right now, if you’re interested in a map you can find one by clicking here.  We had a map but soon discovered it wasn’t going to do us much good.  Fortunately, the local riders in this area are very friendly! We got help all along the way and ended up having such a good time that we went back on Sunday.

Here’s a bit of advice:  At the first intersection you can ride UP either way.  We prefer to go left.  From here you’ll follow signs that say one of, or a combination of, the following: “B/C/D/E/Rattus Maximus/Easy Way Up”.  Originally the plan was to use letters so people could just follow the alphabet…then the plans changed.  The route up will eventually be labeled everywhere (I think) as Rattus Maximus.

On your way up, you’ll pass the end of a trail called “Squeaker.” When you see the other end of it (a sign will say “Squeaker/The Maze”) turn right and do this short trail! It will spit you right back out on your climbing trail where you’ll again turn right and continue climbing back up.  Trust me, Squeaker is worth the detour!

Cruising down the Ridgway, CO "Rat Trap" trail.

Cruising down the Ridgway, CO “Rat Trap” trail.

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Park City Biking

In September we headed back to Park City, UT for some awesome high-altitude biking.  We love Park City because the trails are plentiful and well-built, unique, and a nice change from our own desert singletrack.  From all the trails we rode, here’s a selection of ones you should check out for yourself:

Wasatch Crest / Ridge Connector – Get a shuttle (we recommend Double D’s) to the top of Guardsman Pass from the 7-Eleven by Canyons Resort.  From there, hop on Scott’s Trail and climb the aptly named Puke Hill.  Enjoy the view!  Take off on the Wasatch Crest trail; you’ll descend, climb a singletrack hill with a false summit, and encounter both The Spine and Baby Spine.  If you’re so inclined, you can attempt to ride down the Spine on the left (easier) or right (much much harder).  Be warned though, that if you endo on the right and lose your bike, it could roll all the way down the ski slope before it stops.  Baby Spine is different: it’s rideable too, but has lots of potential stopper rocks.  After this you’ll have a bit more fun downhill before reaching an intersection.  Left (only accessible to bikes on even-numbered days only) takes you down the Big Water trail and into Mill Creek Canyon and Salt Lake City.  Right will take you down the “Ridge Connector.” Once a gnarly gravely doubletrack, the Ridge Connector is now an awesome singletrack trail that connects to various trails at Canyons Resort.  At the intersection with the Mid-Mountain trail, you have lots of options – Ambush to Rob’s and Colin’s is fun.  These will put you out in a subdivision right by Canyons. You can also head over to Holly’s and take that down to come out at the actual resort.  Either way the ride ends up being close to 16 miles long, with almost all of it being downhill!  What a blast!

View from the Ridge Connector trail in Park City, UT

View from the Ridge Connector trail in Park City, UT

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