The Outsider: A love-hate relationship with Summit County mountain biking | SummitDaily.com

The Outsider: A love-hate relationship with Summit County mountain biking

I went on my first extended mountain bike ride of the season earlier this week, and, as usual, I hated life about halfway through.

To be honest it's mostly my fault. If we're being truly, brutally honest — like journalistic honest — it was entirely my fault, and it had nothing to do with the difficulty of the trail. (Come on, it was the Frisco Peninsula — the green run of mountain biking.)

Here's how it went down: I gave my Yeti a half-hearted once-over at 11:30 p.m. the night before a 9 a.m. ride, which is (again with the honesty) a good 10 hours earlier than usual for my first ride of the season. I thought I was being prepared, or at least proactive. I'm a last-minute kind of guy, and that doesn't always pair well with a gear-intensive sport like mountain biking. Add the fact that I hadn't touched my trail machine since the final ride of the season last October — an otherwise casual French Creek ride when I broke my rear derailleur hanger — and that 11:30 p.m. tune-up session devolved into oh-so-much sighing and cursing and hair-pulling.

Anyway, at about 11:45 p.m., not long after I checked the brakes and rear shock (both in good condition), I got to the rear derailleur. I thought I had it all figured out: I'd bought a replacement hanger the week before from Avalanche Sports in Breck, and, thanks to a long and powdery snowboard season, I hadn't thought twice about bike repairs since October. All I knew was that I needed a new hanger — simple enough.

But, like all things mountain biking these days, the repair was anything but simple. See, my hanger wasn't the only victim of a combination shift-rock-river debacle (no time to discuss that) suffered on my neighborhood trails in Breck a few days before the first snowstorm of fall. Nope, along with the hanger, my rear derailleur was mangled to the point that it didn't quite align with the rear cassette, and so, even though I thought ahead and bought a replacement hanger, at about midnight I was looking at a busted Shimano Deore on the eve of my first ride. After another five minutes of b******* and moaning — not to mention wrenching the derailleur with a vice — I embraced the inevitable: I'll need a brand-new rear derailleur to replace the busted one before mountain bike season truly kicks into high gear. I removed it and struggled with a modified singlespeed for the first ride of the summer.

So it goes around here, I guess. A rear derailleur now takes precedent over my Unity Kapow powder board, the same deck I mangled with a nasty core shot in early February and rode until the final two-foot dump in April. Sure, that was probably irresponsible, and I felt real sketchy dropping cliffs and taking tight tree turns on a board with a four-inch gash, but, by now, powder season is a solid seven months away, while mountain bike season is (almost) here. Besides, a snowboard doesn't require chains and gears and derailleurs. Priorities, man.

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Which brings me to the reason for a pre-season gear rant: It's biking season in the Rocky Mountains, or nearly biking season. Don't let the latest round of Memorial Day snow discourage you — the low-lying trails at Frisco Peninsula, Oro Grande and French Gulch are ready for biking. With another two or three weeks of occasional sunshine, the remaining trails below 12,000 feet will also be dry enough for travel, and by July 4, when the Firecracker 50 comes to Breck, just about everything will be rideable.

In the meantime, stop by the newsstands and grab a copy of the Summit County Bike Guide. It's new and improved this season, with revamped trail maps, descriptions and mileage details, including info on nearby connectors. In other words, it's much more useful than guides from year's past.

Along with the Summit County Bike Guide, the Summit Daily will print in-depth guides to local trails every Friday and Saturday from now until October. Again, in the past, people (primarily locals) scoffed at these as "tourist bait." This year, that's not the case. Every weekend we'll feature one standard trail — think routes like Peaks Trail and the Dillon recpath — and one "local's loop," from lunchtime laps in Carter Park to previews of the Summit Mountain Challenge series courses. Every guide comes paired with an online video, so if you're the sort who learns better by seeing rather than reading, head to http://www.summitdaily.com for our always-growing video library for local singletrack.

And with that, it's off to the bike shop for a new derailleur. Maybe next year I'll be more proactive…that is, if it ever stops snowing.

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