Big Fat Tire: May snow, love and the 3 Rs of mountain biking
June 1, 2017
All through May, I had a hard time convincing myself it was actually, you know … May. Although there were a few May-like days this year — or at least May as people who live closer to sea level would understand it — I spent a lot of time watching snow fall, thinking of my poor, forlorn mountain bike.
Usually this wouldn't be that big of a problem for me, as May is often the slowest time of the year at work and I can take time for those sweet trips to the deserts, where the cactus is blooming and you get sunburned on spots you can't reach and you remember that, no, you didn't replace those pieces of camping gear you broke last year.
This year was different for me work-wise and I had to stick around the county. Except for trips to visit family in Indiana and wander downtown Chicago like a bumpkin from the deep woods, both of which involved no cycling of any kind, I mostly hung out in Summit or Superior — you can find yourself experiencing new places and things for love — where it was, more often than not, gray, damp and chilly.
As far as the averages go, this spring has been below average in the cycling sense, but above average in other ways.
Why the slow May, Mike?
Why am I mentioning all this? Is this just an opportunity for me to whine and complain to the tens of people who read my column?
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No, not really, actually. My life has been wonderful lately, but I'm supposed to write about something I know about, something I've recently experienced, and I just haven't been on the bike all that much lately. I haven't done my usual two to three desert trips for several reasons and that is usually what I write about this time of year. Coming up with an entirely new and time-appropriate subject is above my talent level.
Of course, there's always the "don't trash the trails" column — maybe I should do that one. But I must admit I get a little tired of that one, although it's a necessary one. I can write about how my love life and mountain biking intertwine, but I'll probably need to discuss that with the love life in question and she's asleep at the moment. I can write about trail projects, a subject I'm actually qualified to write about, and there are a couple coming up worth writing about, but I usually save that for the last paragraph when I still have a couple hundred words to go.
Introducing the 3 Rs
OK, here goes with something useful and informative. Now that it feels a lot more like spring (less than a month until summer begins, actually), the snow is finally starting to melt. The local SNOTEL sites are still showing impressive amounts of snow-water equivalent — along the lines of 200-plus percent above average for the date — so High Country trails might not be open until well into July, but the lower-elevation trails have started to emerge.
Now is always a time when the trails take a beating. It's understandable that folks want to get out and start riding what there is to ride, but it's important to remember what I call the "Three Rs" — respect, restraint and responsibility. And no, that doesn't mean anti-fun. It means there are other things that are important, and we need to keep them in mind and take them seriously.
For starters, be respectful of the trails. We share them with a lot of other people, and so it's OK to show some restraint. We don't have to keep riding a trail with water running down it, or ride around mud holes and de-singlize the singletrack. (I can make up words as well as Donald Trump). We, as mountain bikers, need to show we're responsible users of our public land. We lose support for access when we can't show we can use the ones we have responsibly.
Trail projects and conditions
There are numerous resources for keeping track of trail conditions. The town of Breckenridge has a trail condition link on the open space page of its website, and the town of Frisco updates bike park conditions on the Frisco Bike Park Facebook page. There are a couple other good Facebook pages to browse for the latest conditions, including the Summit Fat Tire Society page and the Summit County Trail Conditions page.
Speaking of responsibility, there are a couple trail projects this weekend (tomorrow, June 3, is National Trails Day). Friends of the Dillon Ranger District will have a workday at the Salt Lick trail system in Wildernest. Sign up for that one online at FDRD.org.
The other MTB-oriented project this weekend is overseen by Friends of Breckenridge Trails, which is closing in on the finishing touches for Mineral Hill trail. See the town of Breckenridge Open Space page for more info on that one.
Thanks for reading. Hopefully next week I'll have less brain freeze and come up with more useful (or at least entertaining) talking points.