Big Fat Tire: Old friends, new stories and falling in love with mountain biking for the 50th time
June 8, 2017
Wednesday night (June 7) was my first "real" mountain bike ride in Summit County. It wasn't all that long or all that hard or all that adventurous. It was a loop I've done more than once, so it wasn't new territory, but I wasn't all that fast.
The day had been a mix of clouds with rain. When the clouds stood in the way of the sun it was chilly. When the rain came it was even chillier. When the clouds allowed the sun to make its presence know, I had the feeling that it was temporary and the next round of showers were on the way. I was less than optimistic that it wouldn't be grey, chilly and damp for the planned weekly ride with friends.
What it turned out to be, though, was perfect. When I left Breckenridge for the drive to Dillon, the road was still damp, but when I got to Frisco the sun was shining, and when I got to Dillon the evening sun was painting my friends and west-facing slopes in glorious afternoon glow.
The ride was perfect because it offered so much of what I love about mountain biking: friends, physical motion, concentration, beautiful scenery. We rode the Oro Grande Trail as it was bathed in the evening sun. I wore a long-sleeved jersey, but soon regretted it and had the front zipper pulled down to my lower chest to keep me from overheating on the climb.
The new aspen leaves were that intense lime green you only get in early summer, made more vibrant in what photographer's call "the magic hour." Oro Grande isn't particularly hard and it's not technical at all, but at my current level of fitness I was glad to have modest climbs I could keep a consistent spin on. There's plenty of time for steep, technical death marches — a nice, mellow spin was perfect.
I biked with a lot of folks I hadn't seen over the winter, but like all old friends you pick right off where you left off. I had a lot of news to share — love, houses, a brand-new engagement to the love of my life and best friend — and, as breath and circumstances allow, we chatted as we rode along. (It's hard to carry on a conversation once you've picked up speed on a downhill or when you're riding single file or when you're sucking air on steeper climbs.) For me, mountain biking isn't always a social experience, but I truly enjoy social rides.
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Our descent into Keystone was on semi-technical singletrack through aspen trees and over roots, rocks and the occasional switchback. It was like I was catching up with yet another old friend that was throwing me a variety of pitches — fastballs, curves and sliders, over and around the big boulders. I fell in love with mountain biking again for what must be the 50th time (it's a complicated relationship).
Annual trail stewardship speech
As I'm sure everyone has noticed, it finally feels like summer. The creeks and rivers are rising and it should be quite the runoff (the old kayaker/river rat in me keeps an eye on the river flow reports). Over the next couple weeks, or maybe longer, runoff should shift into high gear.
The good news here is that the High Country is melting out. The bad news is that it's going to be wet and muddy on the higher, shadier trails. This means practicing good trail stewardship while the melt-out is in progress. Specifically, that means:
1) If a trail has consistently muddy sections with water running down the trail, DO NOT keep going. Turn around and seek drier trails. The trail will be there for you when it dries out, with no sunbaked ruts or canals.
2) Do not ride around small mud puddles. Ride through them to avoid widening and braiding the trail. I know it seems counterintuitive, but this is for the good of the trail for years and years.
3) Check the numerous social media pages for trail conditions, like the Summit Fat Tire Society Facebook page, Summit County Trail Conditions and the town of Breckenridge trails page for updates.
Trail work and miscellany
Speaking of the Summit Fat Tire Society, there will be an evening trail-work session at Blair Witch (near the Colorado Trail and Horseshoe Gulch). Meet at the Tiger Dredge trailhead (located a few miles east of the Breckenridge Golf Club on Tiger Road) at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 15. Tools will be provided. The idea is to do light trail maintenance — cut out downed trees and all that sort of thing. It might not seem like a couple hours is a lot of time, but when enough people show up it's possible to make a real difference in the condition of a trail.
Also in Fat Tire Society news, the 20-something-year-old Poker Ride will be June 24 (I honestly don't know how long it's been going on, but it's been happening since at least the early-'90s). It is a great, long-running event for mountain bikers of all skill levels and ages, held on parts of the Breckenridge trail system for Breckenridge Bike Week (see GoBreck.com for a complete schedule and info). It's a fun ride from station to station, where each rider will be dealt a card to complete a poker hand. The riders with the best poker hands at the end of the ride win prizes, and there will be other prizes and games at the stations.
As I write, the first race of the long-running Summit Mountain Challenge series, the Frisco Roundup, came and went at the Frisco Peninsula. I haven't seen results, but I'd guess conditions were perfect and everyone rode and raced hard. I'm also guessing a great time was had by all. If you want motivation to push your skills and fitness level, give the SMC a try — the Maverick Sports crew does a great job!
This is one of my favorite times of year and I hope everyone in Summit County is able to get out, enjoy the trails and fall in love with biking against as we all emerge from winter hibernation. Be kind to the trails and each other and the land. This is a special place we call home and it deserves respect.