Big Fat Tire: A mountain bike wish list for Summit County
September 29, 2016
This is the last column I'll write this year. We don't really know how much time until winter sets in, but on average it's usually mid-October when snow and cold persuade me to do most of my mountain biking in lower elevations. Places like Eagle, Salida, Buena Vista, Pueblo Lake State Park and Front Range trail systems like Buffalo Creek all can extend the riding season for a month (or more), and all are less than a two-hour drive from Summit.
A little further down the road are desert-riding meccas like Fruita and Moab, and I'll guess most folks who can't get enough dirt under their tires will fit in a road trip or two this autumn. Getting out to those places with friends (or even solo) is one of the great rites of autumn.
Summer MTB recap
Since it's the end of the riding season, I find myself reflecting back on what's been new on the mountain bike front. Locally, some new trails have been under construction and some existing trails have been extended. The Galina Ditch Trail reached its final destination at the intersection of the Middle Fork and South Fork of the Swan, and this gives you the opportunity to bypass all of Tiger Road on singletrack. (Not eating the dust from cars and heavy trucks while doing Colorado Trail loops will be pretty sweet.)
Another trail on which construction has started but still needs more work to open is the Mineral Hill Trail. This will provide more loop opportunities in the French Gulch area with a few fairly boney and technical sections. With a good volunteer turnout, it should be done early next summer.
Future trail connections I think would be cool — setting aside, for the sake of fantasizing, all the issues that would assuredly come up in the permitting of new trails — are as follows:
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1. A connection between the east ends of the Great Flume and Galina Ditch trails. I know there are probably people who love loose, babyhead Jeep roads overrun with Jeeps and ATVs, but for me, having to descend or climb the South Fork of the Swan is right up there with a poke in the eye or a rock in the shoe as enjoyable things.
2. Singletrack that connects the Frisco end of Peaks Trail with the Copper end of Wheeler. The bike path (er, sorry, multi-use recpath) serves a purpose, but a singletrack that snakes its way through the rocks and cliffs of Tenmile Canyon could be pretty spectacular. (I didn't say my fantasies would be easy.)
3. A trail from Bakers Tank to Boreas Pass. Boreas Pass Road can be a great route for beginners and the scenery is beautiful, but more often than not it's crowded with cars that aren't paying much attention, and when it's dusty it can give you black lung disease.
4. A couple directional, expert-level trails for mountain bikes. It would make sense for trails like these to have shuttle access, but it's not absolutely necessary. Personally, shuttling isn't my thing, but a couple trails like this might take some of the pressure off routes like Barney Ford and Nightmare on Baldy. Those two seem to get a lot of shuttle traffic and have had some conflicts between users and guys shuttling them.
Embrace the tribe
Some observations on mountain biking in general: Mountain biking and mountain bikers are a pretty diverse lot. The industry and media likes to categorize us into cross-country, trail, all mountain, enduro, free ride and downhill. I guess from a manufacturer's point of view it makes perfect sense — you can sell more stuff to more people if they believe they need a specific bike for a specific type of riding. I can see the validity in some of that — I wouldn't ride lifts at a gnarly resort with a cross-country race bike (although you could).
Still, I think what the vast majority of us do is just "mountain biking." Regardless of how many ads or how many bike porn videos show young guys in full-on stormtrooper gear hucking off cliffs, flying through the air all crossed up or laying over in a corner, with one foot out and dirt flying in a moto-style rooster tail, most of us just go out with friends and ride fairly sedately. Some of us ride harder than others, and some of us, especially as bikes have become more capable, are riding downhill a lot faster (maybe too fast for multi-use, multi-directional trails). But still, most of us are pretty sedate compared to the media images.
All that said, it does seem there is a segment of the mountain bike population that is in need of an attitude adjustment. While I'm not sure about percentages, the mountain bike community at large is growing, and as the total number of mountain bikers goes up, that means there are more people who need to ride with more respect and restraint. I've never enjoyed preaching the etiquette gospel, but it needs to be said and repeated that having fun on our bikes isn't superior to anyone else's right to enjoy the trails, or that we shouldn't be responsible users and stewards of the land.
This is something the mountain bike community and industry absolutely need to take seriously. We need to educate and police ourselves, even if it's not particularly sexy or exciting. Not only is it the right thing to do, but in the long term — the big picture — it will affect our access.
Anyway, again, this is my final column. I hope I've been fairly coherent and that folks have gained something useful and positive from my words. A professional writer I am not. Thanks to the Summit Daily for publishing my drivel, and thanks to those who have told me they've enjoyed what I've written.
Until next time, keep the rubber side down, have fun, be safe, don't run anyone off the trail and be nice to the earth.
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