Life on 2 Wheels: It’s such a perfect day with VIDA MTB coach Leigh Bowe
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Bikes are like books: They open up whole new worlds. So where has your bike taken you? French Creek? A tour of Europe? The heights of Nepal? If you or someone you know spends countless hours in the saddle every summer — and has the memories to prove it — send a note to sports editor Phil Lindeman at firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured in an upcoming edition of Life on 2 Wheels.
Editor’s note: For countless Summit County residents, a bicycle is more than a machine — it’s a lifestyle. Every week during the summer, we’ll ask our most adventurous residents, “Where has your bike taken you?”
It’s not even summer yet in the Colorado High Country and Leigh Bowe has already had a perfect weekend on her mountain bike.
Last weekend — just a day or two after Summit County was pummeled by 2 feet of wet, sloppy snow — the 35-year-old nurse and VIDA MTB Series coach traveled south and west with her husband, Matt, for a weekend of riding the trails between Carbondale and Montrose. Their days started simply: Wake up at the trailhead campsite, pour a leisurely cup of coffee, make a batch of breakfast burritos, relax until the sun warms the dirt, and then ride “40 miles of technical singletrack with my husband, who happens to be my best friend.” Her other best friend might come along for a stretch, or they might leave the dog at the campsite, and the day ends with a mellow dinner back at the trailhead before doing it all over again the next day. You can almost hear the leisurely strains of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” wafting over the trail.
“Colorado is kind of a mountain biking mecca,” says Bowe, a Wisconsin native who moved west for school more than a decade ago and landed in Summit County about six years back. “We absolutely have some of the best trails around, and I think that’s what attracts so many people who love mountain biking. It’s really the community, the culture, the people that got me so absorbed, so jazzed about mountain biking.”
But biking isn’t Bowe’s only idea of a perfect day. This past winter, she spent more time skiing in the backcountry than she has in years. Not like she recently discovered the backcountry — she skis in-bounds no more than three or four days per season, she says — but the snow was so good and the timing so right that she couldn’t stay out of the hills. She managed to complete a handful of local couloirs and lines she’s been eyeing for years, including a section of Buffalo Mountain and her first-ever ascent and ski descent of Peak One — Frisco’s hometown sentinel of 12,805 vertical feet.
It goes without saying that Colorado is also a skiing mecca, and Bowe is certain there’s a reason so many die-hard mountain bikers are also die-hard backcountry skiers. It comes with the territory, she says.
“I think there’s a lot of crossover between the two,” Bowe said of the bike-ski connection. “The muscle groups used are a little different, but it’s helpful to take time away from my sport, from mountain biking, to get refreshed and renewed and excited again.”
Bowe firmly believes that anyone and everyone, beginner to expert, should take a mountain-bike class with an instructor. VIDA, a female-only series founded by Summit County locals that’s now spreading across the nation, offers camps, clinics and group rides throughout the summer with coaches and ambassadors like Bowe. It’s where she started truly falling in love with the sport, back when it was known as Betty Rides: she landed her first big drop at her first clinic — also one of the first in program history — and she’s been hooked ever since.
“People don’t hesitate to take a class when they’re skiing or snowboarding and getting into those sports, but it wasn’t always the same with mountain biking,” Bowe said. “Historically I don’t think there were many options for people, but now there are with things like VIDA and other private coaches.”
Bowe’s biking calendar this summer isn’t as intense as last year — she rode in British Columbia, Chile and Argentina — but says, “Knowing me I’ll do more races than I have planned right now. She finished a Moab enduro in May, is in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this weekend for race support, and then heads to nearby Angelfire for a women’s-only enduro.
And, hopefully between it all, a few more quietly perfect days with her best friends.
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