Big Fat Tire: The fabled Poker Ride returns for Breck Bike Week, June 26 | SummitDaily.com

Big Fat Tire: The fabled Poker Ride returns for Breck Bike Week, June 26

Welcome to summer! Blue sky (at least in the morning) and long days, along with more and more dry trails, makes for a mountain-biker's utopia here in the land of many trails. This past week was downright hot by Summit County standards. It was also dry, which left a lot of trails loose and dusty. The heat has also made for some sweaty riders.

Then, the Wednesday rains came. It left an explosion of wildflowers and created hero dirt and, at least temporarily, knocked back the fire danger. What's the marketing department cliché around here? "Came for the winter, stayed for the summer?" Well, it's a bit more complex than that, at least for me, but I will say that when I moved here many years ago as an aspiring ski bum, I didn't know summer would be so sweet.

Return of the Poker Ride

This week marks the return of Breck Bike Week. The gang at Maverick Sports partnered up with the town of Breckenridge to hit the reset button on the event, trying to make it more of an event that creates enthusiasm with not just visitors, but locals, too. The schedule has a great mix of rides and fun stuff for pavement and dirt cyclists alike, and the event that is nearest to my heart is the Poker Ride on Sunday, starting at 9 a.m.

What's a poker ride? If you don't know yet, a poker ride is a fun, non-competitive event in which you ride a set route with checkpoints. Along the way, you are dealt cards, and those cards are noted on your score sheet. At the end of the course, there's a party – usually with food and beverages, in this case at Napper Tandy's in downtown Breck around 1 p.m. when the ride ends — and the best poker hand wins. There are usually other prizes for things like the worst hand and anything else that the organizers can think of.

The Breck Poker Ride has a long history. I can't remember the exact year it started, but, when digging through my old t-shirts, I found one from 1990, and I'm pretty sure it began a couple years before that.

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The original ride was started by Ben and Cynthia Gordon, who owned the Knorr House bike and ski shop. The Knorr House was located on Main and was one of the stalwart outdoor/bike shops in town. Like a lot of these events, it started as a low-key way to promote a business and grew into a major community gathering. I don't remember the maximum number of participants in those years, but it grew to 200 or 300 at one point and was an early fundraiser for the (then) Breckenridge (now Summit) Fat Tire Society.

Back then, the loops and checkpoints rambled throughout the National Forest lands (There wasn't nearly the kind of regulatory oversight on events on Federal lands that there is today) and was fairly hardcore: to complete the whole thing might be an all-day affair, although nobody cared if you took a few shortcuts.

After Ben and Cynthia moved on to other things, another bike shop that is no longer with us, Great Adventure Sports, took over, and the event continued to draw in the hundreds. I remember one year, when the "long course" was so long that only a few people were dumb enough to do the whole thing (I'm pleading the Fifth on who one of the riders was) and missed most of the post-event awards and beer.

Post-Great Adventure, the ride became part of Breck Bike Week. Byron Sweezy took the helm. Since holding events on National Forest land had become more restrictive, and Breck Bike week was (and still is), well, about Breck, the event became a series of loops on town-maintained trails. As most of us know, this isn't necessarily a step in the wrong direction: It's easy to build a course of 15-20 miles on sweet singletrack around here.

This brings us to the present. The Breck Poker Ride still benefits the Summit Fat Tire Society, and Westy and crew have put together a great prize list and great courses. Volunteers from the Fat Tire Society will be manning the checkpoints to not only deal you a card, but also to lead fun games for a quick break. Awards include an ALUBOO frame from Boo Cycles, which will be given out at the after party.

For more info on the ride and to pre-register, go to the events page at http://www.mavsports.com. There will be day-of registration at the Wellington parking lot in downtown, beginning at 8 a.m. Hope to see you there.

Mike's ramblings

Other thoughts: Riding through aspen groves when the sky is blue, the air is warm and a breeze is making the leaves sing makes me smile.

Why is it that you only cut a sidewall when your tire is brand new, and it's almost impossible to get the rim off, so you can fit a new tube? And, why is it these things always happen in the spot that has more mosquitos per cubic foot than any other place you've been or will ever be? (Helpful hint: Always carry something to boot a torn sidewall. A dollar bill works, although I never throw away all my gel wrappers. They make great tire boots.)

The IMBA trail care crew visit to Breckenridge last Saturday was a great success. The turnout was great, and 40-plus attendees knocked out about a thousand feet of new trail on the town's Mineral Hill trail, which is still under construction. This is a great start to a trail that will connect Lincoln Park to Side Door in French Gulch.

There are other trail-building volunteer opportunities coming up on Aug. 6 and Aug. 27. Go to http://www.townofbreckenridge.com and click to the Open Space page for more information.