Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Fat Bikes: New Sensation

New Sensation is not just a hit song by INXS anymore!  I used to think that laying the first tracks of the day down one of Colorado’s glorious ski runs was the ultimate sensation, that was until this past weekend when my friend Elizabeth and I rented our first Fat Bikes of the season and dared to ride during one of the first snow storms of the year.

There is nothing like packing the first tracks aboard some Ground Control 26 x 4.6 tires, it’s enough to totally change your mind about mountain biking and that’s a huge endorsement given my fervent infatuation for the traditional 26 x 2.4's.

We rented 2 Specialized Fat Boys painted in Bronco Orange and Blue from University Bicycles and took them out to the Eagle trail in North Boulder.  From the first turn of the cranks we both knew that Fat Bikes would soon be hanging in our garages, perhaps even replacing my Scott Genius or her Trek Remedy. Fat Bikes were originally built to keep you on top of the mud and sand but snow is easily our favorite up here in the Rockies.

The bikes roll easily over dry packed powder and have surprisingly incredible traction even in the deep stuff.  Climbing was a breeze too with almost no wheel spin even on steep grades.  Our bikes had no suspension and with stiff tire pressure your arms will take some of the impact but that's easily addressed by reducing the tire pressure to allow the tires to absorb most of the bumps.

The weight of this hardy mount was never an issue with the 2 x 10 drive train and the carbon fiber fork was a nice touch.  I don’t particularly like grip shifters under normal conditions but with winter gloves they worked rather well and depending on the gloves grip shifters are highly recommended. The disc brakes tend to squeak when wet but there’s an easy solution; lay off ‘em.  With such a large contact patch you shouldn’t need to squeeze so hard if at all.

It was an incredible ride and who knows, a Fat Bike might just replace your old 26/27.5/29 inch wheel.  Get out and give one a try, you won’t regret it!  Thanks for clicking in and I hope to see you on the trail.

Dirt Life

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Super Betasso: Schmoopy

Boulder County singletracks will soon be under snow so when you have the opportunity to ride this time of year you better take it.  The weather this past weekend was unbelievable and crunched for time there was no doubt it had to be the long route affectionately known as Super Betasso in west Boulder.

Words cannot describe the spectacular trail system out here.  The rails out at Betasso are smooth well groomed hardpacked singletrack and when moist they provide unbelievable traction for those adrenaline junkies.  When the Dirt is dry the trails can be slippery so keep that front wheel underneath you.  The trails thread through a dense and fragrant forest with tight twists and turns and the occasional high bank turn slings you around like a high speed roller coaster.

Trees line some of the finest parts of the system and at certain speeds can add an element of danger so be careful and always ride within your limits.  The shade is abundant and the landscape is pure Colorado.  Last weekend the trail ran clockwise and my route takes you around Canyon Loop to the split then down the Betasso Link to the 4 Mile Link down and back then counter-clockwise on Benjamin Loop to finish out the Canyon Loop back to the trailhead.

It's impossible to highlight any particular area because it is all phenomenal.  I will continue to profess this trail system as possibly the best singletrack experience in Boulder and suitable for any rider of average fitness with average mountain biking skills.

You can find the Super Betasso trial profile on my Garmin page to help you plan your ride.  Don't let the season pass you by and for Dirt clods like me it'll soon be time to give those Fat Bikes a try.  Thanks for clicking in and I hope to see you on the trail.

Dirt Life

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Heil Valley Ranch

This was my first time out at Heil since the flooding last year and I knew the trail would be different but nothing could have prepared me for what I found. 

The Wapiti trail had some work done before the flood but the finished product makes this first climb so much easier and with much fewer obstacles.  The climb past the service road just past a mile into the ride saw a good deal of work to smooth out the ride.  Before the facelift this section started out quite rocky and tough to pass without the proper skills but now it will only take a little determination and is suitable for all skill levels.  This trail is near perfect all the way to the split with Ponderosa Loop but nothing compared to the Wild Turkey Loop. 

Catch Wild Turkey via Ponderosa to the right at the split.  Ponderosa splits with Wild Turkey again at 2.9 miles and this day I took the route to the right and a route I highly recommend.  Wild Turkey in this direction is almost unrecognizable.  So many man hours had to go into this trail and we should all be thankful to all the volunteers and Boulder Parks and Rec for all the amazing work, kudos!  It's all downhill in this direction and with the additional features and so many twists and turns, this well groomed trail is sure to bring a smile to any fat tire enthusiast. 

I did the Picture Rock trail down and back and work is still ongoing but seems much smoother than I last remember.  The rollercoaster ride down low is still as thrilling as ever and a can't miss.  I finished off the Wild Turkey Loop then met up with the Ponderosa Loop again before heading back down Wapiti.

There are so many cool photo opps out here, like the homestead ruins on Wapiti, the abandoned car on Picture Rock and the scenic overlook on the north side of Wild Turkey that make this ride so unique.  If you're new to Boulder County, Heil Valley Ranch is a fantastic introduction to Boulder mountain biking and well worth the time and effort.

My time was hampered by a flat in the last 4 miles or so and my speed was seriously affected.  The ride down on a squirrely flat tire made for one heck of a ride and I don't recommend riding this on a flat.  Click here for the trail profile; thanks for clicking in and I hope to see you on the trail.

Dirt Life

Sunday, October 19, 2014

School Bus: Hide and Seek

So I'm still a freshman when it comes to West Magnolia but I'm making progress.  My first attempt at School Bus went over about as well as an atomic wedgy in front of your favorite girlfriend so naturally I needed to redeem myself.  Instead of spinning my wheels I decided on a practical approach; to wield a macleod and sledge hammer.
My solution for finding the elusive school bus came in the form of volunteering.  As luck would have it, trail work was scheduled out at School Bus and I just couldn't let an opportunity to give back pass me by plus I'd get to sink my hands into some fine Rocky Mountain Dirt.  Well, even this didn't help much when I returned a couple of weeks later only to reach the top with no sign of a school bus anywhere.  Turns out that the bus is not the destination, I suppose I could have just asked.
Anyway, I did find it after all with a little help; it's just off the trail by about 20 yards just past the 1 mile mark (look for a school bus wheel lodged between 2 aspens on the left as you climb).  As for the ride, it was great.  The trail begins just a few yards from the intersection of 105-2A and 105.  Turn right on 105 and look for the trail just off to the left.
Fall colors painted the hard pack singletrack in spectacular gold and red and the Dirt was moist and tacky almost all the way up to the top.  It was a steady climb with few technical sections, one of which yours truly helped create just a couple of weeks earlier.  You travel through dense pine mixed with aspen trees and all I could hear that morning was the forest breathe with every gust of wind.
The climb is gradual with few steep sections but it is continuous and may seem long after a while.  You'll also have the opportunity to test your balance right around the 1.6 mile mark with a plank deck crossing over what appears to be hazardous soil.  Great switchbacks keep it interesting and if it's your first time be prepared for diversions because there are a couple of trail splits and it could have you sidetracked in a hurry.
Descending can be sketchy with all the tight turns and rocks and always keep an eye out for other trail users.  It was a great ride on a great trail and one you're sure to enjoy.  Click here for the trail profile - there must have been a disturbance in the force between 4.5 and 5.36 miles as my route gets a bit squirrely but the elevation doesn't seem to be affected.
Thanks for clicking in and I hope to see you on the trail.

Dirt Life

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

2014 Caribou Classic: A Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance Special Event

The 2014 Caribou Classic is behind us so we’ll have to wait another year to do this all over again.  This year the start was in the north meadow of Caribou Ranch and a great deal of thanks to the Guercio’s for hosting such a great event.  The BMA did one heck of a job putting it all together and many thanks to all the volunteers who kept the wheels rolling safely and responsibly.

It was a lollipop loop through a rocky climb up Sourdough to Left Hand Reservoir Road and the main aid station.  We then traveled up the rather steep Left Hand Rez Road to the sublime Little Raven trail.  We spilled out onto Brainard Lake Road to connect to the Brainard Cutoff.  We then connected to the boulder fields of South St. Vrain to checkpoint D and the start of the climb back up Sourdough.  You had the option of adding another grueling loop at checkpoint D but in the interest of time I decided against it.  We finally completed the loop back at the main aid station on Brainard Lake and Left Hand Rez Roads and the final stretch back to the staging area.

You would have thought I was out partying with Guns N Roses the night before the way I was riding.  I took an endo early trying to hang on with one hand on a descent as I reached for my sunglasses – the BMA sweepers were awesome offering all kinds of assistance on the trail.  The ride seemed uphill both ways and the rocks beat you up mercilessly.  The pros made it look easy but for most of us this was an absolute Sufferfest, even without the extra mileage at checkpoint D.  Click here for the ride profile (does not include extra miles).

I had a fantastic time and so did everyone else, it was a raging success and September 2015 can't come soon enough.  None of this would have been possible without the extrodinary effort and support from the following sponsors:

Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance - Improve the Trail Experience for Everyone in Boulder County
Caribou Ranch
Oskar Blues - Time For Beer
Cyclehops - Home Made Liquids & Solids
The Pros Closet
Sports Garage
Redstone Cyclery
Full Cycle
Contour Logic - Planning + Design for Smart Trail Systems
University Bicycles
The Fix
Bicycle Village
Eldorado Springs - Natural Spring Water
Spot Brand Bikes
RockyMounts - Boulder Based Bike Racks
Liberty Home Loans
NanaCakes - Life Is Too Short To Eat Boring Pancakes
RC Special Events - An Events Solution Company
Skratch Labs - Natural Hydration
Motion Fitness
Shaving Peggy - Colorado's Rock-n-Roll Band !!!

Thank you all for the memories!  -Dirt Life