Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Rocky Mountain High

Photo: Mattias Fredriksson
Few things can scare you and thrill you at the same time but riding fat tires between 7000 and 14000 feet of elevation on uneven terrain is like nothing you've ever experienced.  Dirt just sweetens the ride and if you did it right you'll find some in your pocket sharing some room with your beer money.

Things happen often and sometimes fast on a mountain bike, that's why we ride 'em.  For me it's about sinking a nobby into fine Rocky Mountain soil until the trail heads downhill then it's all about the flow.  Make it down in one piece and you can grab a Red Bull and pour one out for the privilege to do it again.

We're lucky to live in high altitude with the Rocky Mountains in our back yard, it's no wonder cyclists from around the world head for the hills to step up their game.

I came across a cool article on the Red Bulletin; Click here for some insight on how mountain bike training has evolved.

"Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Dirt Life

Monday, July 28, 2014

What's New?

This blog has just become more usable!

You can now search my blog and go directly to the ride you had in mind.  Just type a keyword or phrase and you're there.  For those who are familiar with this blog you know that you'll also find links to my Garmin page for detailed maps and trail profiles at the end of each post to help you plan your ride.

More enhancements are in the works like additional pages with quick links from bike shops to brew pubs and I'm even working on a cool t-shirt to show off your Dirt life.

You'll find the search bar at the top right, you can't miss it.  Try some of my favorite trails using these keywords or phrases.
  1. Betasso
  2. Heil Ranch
  3. Sourdough
  4. Hall Ranch
  5. Caribou
Thanks for clicking in and I hope to see you out on the trail.

Dirt Life

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Waldrop / Sourdough North: Cannonball Run

A black Lamborghini Countach racing down a California highway at break neck speeds; what impressionable young man can ever forget that opening scene?  So I’m standing at the trailhead just off the Brainard Rec Area parking lot contemplating the Waldrop or N. Sourdough trail.  According to most trail guides I’m in for a black diamond run whichever route I choose and at first I feel like Burt Reynolds but soon I’ll feel like Dom DeLuise.

Right out of the gate and past the 814/835 split the tread is absolutely amazing – a superb mix of moist Dirt, pine needles and fine Rocky Mountain gravel.  Waldrop (trail 814) slopes gradually on tight single-track before the cannonballs make their first appearance.  The insanity continues as the descent progresses, sometimes steeply, over boulders that would give any would-be Cannonballer pause.

A rider with supreme rock hopping abilities cold probably make it down on two wheels but for an intermediate rider like myself, with a mortgage, I thought it wise to avoid Dr. Nikolas Van Helsing and dismounted where appropriate.  Your sense of smell will be overcome with the aromas of pine forest, rain and moist Dirt kept ripe by the abundant shade; will surely take your mind off the treacherous terrain.

At 1.68 miles you reach a trail junction with the Brainard Snowshoe trail.  Clouds were building and I didn’t have much time for exploring more unfamiliar terrain so I stuck to the main trail to the right.  Here it got a little wet but the black clay mud stuck to the ground which made for nice traction, for mud anyway.  You’ll roll along a couple of raised platforms to keep you above the really soggy stuff – they’re about 6 to 8 inches wide and will test your balance – before reaching a sweet bridge over the South Saint Vrain creek at 1.84 miles.  The rushing water was quite a sight and flows west in case you lose your bearings – also a nice boardwalk at 2 miles.

From here it is a short climb to another trail split at 2.17 miles with South Saint Vrain trail No. 909; I chose to stay right toward Sourdough Trail 835.  The trail in this direction starts flowing nicely but the rocks reappear with a familiar vengeance.  You reach another split at 4.05 miles and here’s where I made my first mistake.  Having caught up with some other riders I decided to head in their same direction or left on Sourdough 835; that worked out about as well as a couple of priests in a red Ferrari trying to win a date.  In hindsight I probably should have gone right toward the Red Rock trailhead but I was riding solo and if I had any trouble out here in the wilderness I thought it would be safer to be near other trail users.

This section of Sourdough was gnarly (see opening paragraph pic) I found myself dismounting often to avoid any pain and suffering.  I soon lost track of my comrades and after about half a mile I finally spilled out onto an isolated forest road tucked away within a canopy of pine trees now simmering in the cool mist of cloud cover.  The trail sign pointed left so naturally I went all Bradshaw/Tillis and headed right to a dead end at the private and secluded Duncan Park.  After the short detour I was back on track, so I thought.  Having passed a few feeder roads and missing the trail along the way I was relieved to catch up with a firewood delivery truck and followed them out to Hwy 72.  From here it was one long climb back to the Brainard Rec Area parking lot.

Turning around and retracing my route would have meant more hike-a-bike and could have felt longer than sitting through Cannonball Run 2.  You’ll quickly find that Black Diamond up here in the Rockies means boulders and the Waldrop/Sourdough tandem is full of ‘em.  I wouldn’t recommend riding alone out here but if you do make sure you stick close to other trail users.  I had the wherewithal to bring along my Garmin handheld but thankfully I didn’t need to use it. 

You can find the route profile at Waldrop Sourdough North; this was one heck of a ride and one I won’t soon forget.  Thanks for clicking in and hope to see you on the trail.

Dirt Life

Friday, June 20, 2014

Centennial Cone | The Ultimate Multi

“We got 4:11 Positrac outback, 750 double pumper, Edelbrock intake, bored over 30, 11 to 1 pop up pistons, turbo-jet 390 power.”  What do you call a ride that has got everything?  David Wooderson calls it a Chevelle, I call it Centennial Cone.  The sweet mounds down in JeffCo have got the good stuff and last weekend I thought I’d give the 16 mile loop a try and what I found was pure Colorado mountain biking.

Before you go make sure to check your calendar because mountain bikes are only allowed on even numbered days on the weekends, during the week it’s a free for all.

So I began at the Mayhem Gulch trailhead off the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic Hwy) or Hwy 6 out of Golden Colorado.  The climbing starts immediately at a moderate grade.  The trail is super smooth with very few obstacles and the climb is continuous through the first 2 miles.  The trail splits at the 1.51 mile mark; to the left is the Juniper trail and Mayhem Gulch continues to the right, which is the route I took this day.

Continue climbing for ¾ miles to the first downhill section at mile mark 2.22.  For the next half mile you will need a hammer and chisel to wipe the smile off your face.  At 2.31 miles you reach a second split this time with the Travois trail; go right.  The trail narrows a bit and in some areas the steep drop-offs coupled with loose tread make this section a thrilling yet precarious part of the ride – off to the right you’ll have fantastic views of Clear Creek.  At 2.77 miles the next climb begins.  You’ll reach another short downhill section at 3.68 miles so catch your breath because another climb awaits at 4.16 miles.  This climb is relatively short and feels tough after all the climbing you’ve done so far.

At 4.59 miles at an elevation of 7800 feet “you stand at the threshold to the magical world of sensual delights that most men dare not dream of.”  Hold on over the next 1.85 miles for one of the most enjoyable things you’ll ever do on a mountain bike.  The trail will traverse through dense forest on clear tacky single-track with some challenging switchbacks.  You can catch some insane speeds through this section but be extremely careful because trees and rock line the trail all the way to Elk Creek.  The shade is a bonus since most of the trail to this point has been under full exposure.  At the 6.44 mile mark you reach the bottom and you’re now standing on a well-constructed pedestrian bridge over Elk Creek – stop and enjoy a few moments because your longest climb comes next.

For the next 2.28 miles you’ll climb through tranquil forest on smooth single-track.  This climb is at a lower grade than the climbs before but fatigue will not make it seem so.  The final quarter mile of this climb gets steep and very technical, only the studliest rider will make it on two wheels.  You’ll reach another peak at 8.80 miles followed by 0.85 miles of downhill bliss.  You’ll see a bit more rocks here but nothing larger than softball size.  At 9.43 miles you reach another trail split, this time with the Sunset Trail – go right to continue on the Travois trail.

The trail starts to open up around here exchanging pine trees for wild flowers and open meadows.  You meet back up with the Sunset trail at about the 10 mile mark.  At 10.64 miles you’ll come to a small trailhead parking area and also the end of single-track for the time being.  There’s a lot of sun on this leg of the ride so hopefully you lathered up with some SPF.

The wide double-track Dirt road winds through open fields and private ranch lands so be respectful and close all the gates behind you.  It seems like a lot of climbing at first but hang in there because the end is near.  You finally reach the highest point (7958 feet in elevation) of the ride at 12.22 miles and it is literally all downhill from here.  You’ll catch the Juniper trail at another trailhead at around the 13.72 mile mark.  Enjoy all your hard work; barring any mishaps you’ve all but finished this epic ride.  You’ll come across the split with Mayhem Gulch at 14.84 miles for the final slide home.  The tread gets loose so watch your speed and slow down around every blind corner because chances are there is someone coming up.

I’m not kidding when I say this was the best trail I’ve ever ridden, and that says a lot given the extensive trail systems in and around Boulder County.  This trail has everything and I believe anyone can do it although a beginner or someone from lower elevation may not be able to finish it their first time out.  If I were to make a suggestion, for the part-time enthusiast or visitor ride up 4.59 miles and stop just before the descent and turn around.  The climb out from Elk Creek is a bear and will be a bit much for someone who’s not used to this kind of a workout.

You can find the trail profile at Centennial Cone and try clicking on the player tab for a larger view and to watch the route play out.  Thanks for clicking in and I hope to see you on the trail.

Dirt Life