Show your trails love: Mountain bike tips to protect Summit County singletrack
June 5, 2015
The sun is finally shining, and the temperature is finally rising. Hooray for that!
There is still a crazy amount of snow out there, but it's starting to melt and that means wet, muddy trails. This week, I will delve into the obligatory subject of early-season riding here in Summit.
I know that many of you get sick of hearing this over and over, but it bears repeating: Don't trash the trails! There are places where the soils can handle use when fairly wet, but typical Summit soil — with its fairly high-organic content — is susceptible to degradation under wet abuse. This isn't as sticky as some of the more gumbo-type clay soils you find around the state. I know what it's like to be jonesin' to get a bit real dirt under your tires, but we need to be thinking long-term when it comes to our trails.
What does that mean? It's actually fairly simple and not as wholly restrictive as you might think.
Know your trails
Think in terms of where it is dry to ride. (Positive thinking and all that). Think, "Where can I ride that will be dry?" Think in terms of elevation and aspect. Lower-elevation trails on sunny aspects melt out and dry out faster. Examples of this are: Oro Grande and the lower Frey Gulch area near Keystone and Dillon; the Frisco Peninsula; and the Minnie Mine/X10u8 in French Gulch.
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When in doubt, turn around
If it does start getting wet, be willing to turn around! Yep, this isn't the most enjoyable thing to do — no doubt about that — but the trail and everyone who uses the trail (including you) will be grateful. Different people like different kinds of trails, but most people don't enjoy widened, rutted-out singletrack.
There are some caveats to this. You can ride a trail that is mostly dry (By mostly, I mean 95 percent or better) with the occasional wet section without too much of a negative impact, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. For starters, don't ride around small muddy sections. Short sections — like less than 25 feet — are just fine. Just stay on the trail! Longer muddy sections should be walked. It's always best to stay on the trail; but if you walk off the trail, walk far enough away that you're dispersing your impact.
Ride the Jeep roads
If you just have to get out, regardless of the mud, the many miles of Jeep roads and double-tracks can take a lot more abuse than singletrack. Yep, I know — lots of people turn their nose up at the thought, but it's better than nothing and much better than trashing the singletrack we all share.
Do your homework
Find out what's dry before you head out. For many of us, once we get a destination in mind and our tires are rolling, we have a hard time turning around, so know the conditions before you leave the trailhead. There are a bunch of resources to get trail conditions these days. The Summit Fat Tire Society's Facebook page gets a lot of chatter on trail conditions. There is also a Summit County trail conditions page on FB, as well. The town of Breckenridge's website has a trail-condition page that is usually fairly up to date. It focuses on trails south of the Colorado Trail, but it may expand further north sometime in the future.
So yeah, in closing, show some respect, be responsible and be willing to act with a little restraint. The trails will stay in better shape, and a bit of personal responsibility gives those who would rather see mountain bikes banned from the trails less ammunition to make their arguments.
In other news, National Trail Day is tomorrow, June 6. There are two opportunities to give a little back to your trails: The Friends of Dillon Ranger District will host a day on the Frisco Peninsula, while the town of Breckenridge will host a day to continue to extend the Wire Patch trail up French Gulch. I'll get on my "give at least one day a year to a trail project" soapbox in another column, but needless to say, these are worthy projects, and we'd love to see you out there with a digging tool in hand.
By the time this is published, the first Summit Mountain Challenge race of the year will have wrapped up at the Frisco Peninsula. I keep threatening to race, but I remain fat and slow, and my ego bruises too easily when I get my butt kicked. Happily, many of you aren't as fragile as I, and I hope everyone had a blast. The SMC is a great community series. Westy and the Mav Sports crew not only put on an outstanding race series — they give a lot back to the locals trails. Just as you should.
Mike Zobbe is the president of the Summit County Fat Tire Society (www.summitfattire.org). He writes a weekly summer-season column on mountain biking for the Summit Daily.
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