Big Fat Tire: Memorial Day trail conditions and a mountain biking identity crisis at 35 years old
May 25, 2017
For the third year in a row, I find myself sitting down to the 21st century version of taking pen to paper — the awful blank screen. Somehow, for a reason I find difficult to believe, the Summit Daily News is asking me to write about mountain biking again: a topic you'd think I'd be at least somewhat qualified to write about. Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, I often find myself winging it with the deadline looming, and while I hope to be better organized with my thoughts each week, I have my doubts. It's looking like a busy summer, and as my French friend Yves says, "Say la vee," or something like that.
Now that I've filled a certain amount of my requested word count with drivel that has nothing to do with mountain biking, I suppose I should get on track. It's 2017 (in case you didn't know) and that means mountain biking in Summit County is roughly 35 years old. I honestly have no idea who the first person to bike a mountain in the county was — it certainly wasn't me — so it might be a little older than that, but 35 is a nice, round number, and I'm sticking with it.
But 35 isn't just a nice, round number; one can argue it's also a mature number (never mind if some 35-year-olds are more mature than others). The sport has been around long enough now that there are adults with real-life jobs who started riding as kids.
What does that mean? I would hope it means the sport is no longer an awkward, gangly, angst-filled adolescent. Sometimes, though, I wonder if the sport is truly mature, and I don't mean that in a derogatory manner. I wonder if the sport really knows what it is and what it wants to be. Hiking on wheels? A fitness tool? An opportunity to race? A rad adrenaline rush? A tool for pushing "progressive skills?" Time away from the kids, office or partner? All the above?
It's a sport with a lot of faces. We now have a bewildering array of gear and bike types — there are always new ways to spend your hard-earned pay — and if you believe the way mountain biking is portrayed in the media, including by mountain bike manufacturers, you'd think that mountain bikers wear crash pads, goggles and full-face helmets, spending very little time with their wheels on the ground.
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But that's a small percentage of the sport. The rest is … well, varied. We ride all kinds of bikes on all kinds of trails, wearing all kinds of clothing for all kinds of reasons. So I suppose the question should be: Does it really matter what kind of sport we want to be? To me, the most important thing is we use the earth responsibly and ride appropriately for whatever the conditions are, be they environmental or social.
Memorial Day trail conditions
Assuming readers have looked out their windows, it should be obvious that we've had a cold, wet, snowy and occasionally miserable May so far. Most of us who have been here long enough know how quickly that can change, but at the moment there's not a whole lot that's rideable locally for Memorial Day weekend.
Before the latest mongo storm last week, the Flumes trails in north Breckenridge and some south aspects in French Gulch were either good to go or very close, but now most of those are still muddy and dotted with melting snow. Oro Grande in Dillon was good (and will dry quickly with a day or two of sunshine), as was most of the Frisco Peninsula.
All of that can change rapidly with warm weather, so please keep an eye on the Summit Fat Tire Society Facebook page or the town of Breckenridge Open Space and Trails conditions page for updates.
Otherwise, getting on dirt right now means loading up the car: Moab, Fruita, Salida, Buena Vista, Buff Creek and open space parks on the Front Range have all been dry and riding great for a while now. I even found an area that is new to me outside of Avon on the north side of Interstate 70, accessed by a trailhead at the west end of the frontage road. Most of the trails there are fairly fast and flowing, with enough climbs to wake up the legs.
Mike Zobbe is lifelong gearhead and longtime mountain biker originally from Indianapolis. He writes a weekly biking column and serves as vice president of the Summit Fat Tire Society, a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to access, maintenance and stewardship on local trails.