A day at the Frisco Bike Park with downhiller Austin Klaube | SummitDaily.com

A day at the Frisco Bike Park with downhiller Austin Klaube

The dirt makes all the difference at Frisco Bike Park.

Found on the Frisco Peninsula, within easy gawking distance of Highway 9, the park is something of a treasure hidden in plain sight. It's home to more than 75 features, split between wooden and natural hits for mountain bikes, gravity line drops for downhillers and, of course, the signature dirt jumps for, well, anyone with the guts to spend two or three seconds floating over two wheels.

"That's one thing that sets us apart, are those large jumps and hips at the bottom," said Brian Donner, operations manager for the attached Frisco Adventure Park. "It's unique. Features made with Skatelite and concrete are good depending on your area — maybe somewhere with very dusty, dry ground. But, with dirt, we can change the shape on command. It allows for more flexibility and creativity."

On a gorgeous (if windy) afternoon, I met with local downhiller Austin Klaube at the park for a photo shoot. The 21-year-old Summit native was fresh off his first two World Cup races as a bona fide pro, Mont-Sainte-Anne outside of Quebec City on Aug. 1-2 and the tiny burg of Windham, New York, on Aug. 8-9. He's first to admit he didn't place well, but it hardly scared him away from dreams of pro racing.

"Those were probably the toughest two races of my career so far," he told me while adjusting his helmet at the top of the main jump line. "Racing the best in the world is tough. It should be. But, I'm looking for redemption next time."

Redemption shouldn't be too tough to find. It only helps that he was born and bred in the rough Rocky Mountains, where he grew up racing in the Summit Mountain Challenge Series before turning his sights to the adrenaline-fueled realm of downhilling. Or, as he put it, "I found out real fast that I liked going downhill way better than going uphill."

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But, downhilling in the Summit area can be intimidating as hell (watch for a Keystone Bike Park feature on Aug. 15), and the Frisco park is custom-made for learning at a gentle pace. The lower-skills parks is home to four jump lines, from easy greens to burly blacks, and a slew of ground-level features, including bridges, berms and rollers.

Best of all: The entire thing is absolutely free.

"It's a great place to progress," Donner said. "We have stuff for children on Strider bikes — features as small as you can imagine — all the way to some of the toughest dirt jumps in Colorado. It's just a great hub to move from beginner to expert."

The main line

Klaube put his helmet back on, cinched his Novik gloves and dropped into the far left line — the big line. He was riding a DJ (aka dirt jump) bike, the sort with a single speed, a burly front fork and low, BMX-style seat.

The line begins with three jumps, each one slightly larger than the one before it. The lips are poppy, and the gaps are unforgiving: If you don't catch enough air, chances are you'll case the landing, at best, or crunch into your handlebars, at worst.

From there, the jumps get even larger. The final three are steep and poppy, and this is where Klaube shines. After a reserved start, he powers through the fourth and fifth jumps and into the sixth, launching a good 12 feet into the air. He gives the rear tire a quick whip and hangs for a second or two, then drops to the landing and rides a hip hit into the iconic Colorado flag walls at the back of the park.

"It's been a while since I rode my DJ," he told me after pedaling back to the start ramp. "I'm just used to those bigger bikes. This thing feels so small."

Also at the top were two Chicago natives, 11-year-old Keegan Rowley and 17-year-old Chase Pauza, both on even smaller BMX bikes. They're joined by 31-year-old Summit Cover resident Nick Baker, a fixture at the Keystone park and competitor in the annual Keystone Big Mountain Enduro race.

"The dirt jumps are natural, they're true," said Baker, who was riding a DJ bike like Klaube. "I like that they're easy to recreate constantly, and that's what thus sport is all about. You've got to change it up to keep it fresh."

Everyone chatted casually as Rowley dropped in, and by the time he hit the second jump, everything went silent. All eyes were on the 11-year-old, a Midwest native who's more familiar with concrete than dirt. But, you could hardly tell: he boosted just as high as Klaube on jumps four and five, then lost speed and came up a touch short on jump six.

Then, it was Pauza's turn. Like Klaube, he's a young rider on the rise. He took first at the summer Recon Tour stop at The Kitchen, a bike park in Indiana, and earned an invite to the Recon Tour finals on Nov. 1 at The Unit bike park in South Carolina. His line was impressive: massive air on hits one and two, followed by a 360 tail-whip on jump three and two more lofty, stylish airs on the final two hits.

"Damn," Klaube said. When the 17-year-old returned, the two started talking about whips and inverts and Pauza's recent win. Klaube offered to talk with his boss at Novik — an under-the-radar glove company based in Silverthorne — about potentially getting a few pairs. After all, the younger rider gave his old pair to a friend back at home.

Pauza and Rowley headed to the nearby Frisco Day Lodge for shade and water, and before leaving, Klaube reminded them to exchange numbers before heading to Chicago. A group of young riders went through the small jump line, occasionally catching air, but more often than not simply riding up and over the lips.

"You see that kid, Brody?" Klaube said to me, pointing to a young boy he knows from the local youth mountain bike league. "He's only 9, and he rips it."

And, then, it was back to the jump session.

Frisco Bike Park

What: A free public bike park with features for BMX, DJ bikes, downhill bikes and standard mountain bikes

Features: An ever-changing mix of 25-plus dirt jumps, 20-plus wooden or natural features and 30-plus gravity line hits, with sizes for riders of all abilities

Where: Frisco Adventure Park, 621 Recreation Way in Frisco

Hours: Dawn to dusk daily

Cost: Free

The park is occasionally closed after rainstorms due to wet and unstable dirt. The nearby Frisco Day lodge with snacks, water and restrooms is open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Hours might change for private rentals. To find out more about the park, see http://www.townoffrisco.com.

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