The Truth About E-bike Trail Access

When I met Motoman 25 years ago, I quickly learned that he was an adventurer. Our weekends consisted of rock climbing, mountain biking, and jet skiing, among other activities. At one point I joked that I needed to return to work on Mondays so that my body could sit at a desk and recover from the adventures of the weekend. Fast forward to today, and he still loves a good adventure, but the activities involved in the adventures look a little different. Over that span of 25 years, there have been injuries, crashes, not to mention the under appreciated impacts of aging in general – all of which have impacted mobility.

During the pandemic, Motoman purchased a class 1 e-bike as a way to spend a little more time with me, a little more time outdoors, and for a different form of exercise. I’m not writing this post to educate the world on the classes of e-bikes, but I will say that the class 1 is the only e-bike that REQUIRES pedaling to move forward. What we weren’t aware of when he purchased the bike, was the magnitude of controversy surrounding the different classes of e-bikes and where they are allowed and not allowed. This is an entirely different conversation from the riders who are simply anti-e-bike. But speaking of anti-e-bikers, we’ve certainly encountered plenty of those people on the trails. Imagine taking your new e-bike out for its maiden voyage and having a complete stranger call you names like “cheater”, or worse.

Nowadays on our mountain biking adventures, he follows me. I set the pace for our little peloton of two on my old Juliana – the kind without a battery operated motor. We do this because one of the objectives of purchasing the e-bike was to spend more time together. My pace is the limiting factor between the two bikes, so I lead the way. Occasionally, he’ll pass on a particularly steep or technical section of trail, but then he waits for me to retake the lead. I share this because I think it’s important to know that not all e-bikers are out on the trail to go faster than everyone else.

We learned very quickly that it’s difficult to know where e-bikes are allowed and not allowed to be ridden. Websites* that we have used for trail discovery and research are not always up to date with the latest information. Case in point: the 18 Road Trail System in Fruita, Colorado. As of the time of writing this article, those websites* indicate that e-bikes are not allowed. The BLM website for this trail system does not mention e-bikes. Yet, I took this image onsite at 18 Road during my trip in June of 2022. Clearly, Class 1 e-bikes are allowed as of April 8, 2022.

In other instances, our ride research has led us to a trail head, only to find that the signage at the trail head prohibits e-bikes. This is particularly frustrating when you’ve driven miles to the trail head. I have wondered at times if the trail head signage hasn’t been manipulated by trail users who are anti e-bike. I have encountered signage manipulation against motorcycles in the past, so it wouldn’t come as a complete surprise to see such behavior directed at e-bikes.

As a result of this mixed information, some folks are opting to ride their class 1 e-bikes on trails where they are prohibited, stating that they’ll take their chances on getting caught. We tend to ride in places that we know without a doubt allow e-bikes. We also make a conscious decision against spending our dollars in municipalities and counties that ban class 1 e-bikes on their local trails. Does this little boycott have any impact on anything? Absolutely not. But it does make us feel slightly better about being banned.

The categorization of Class 1 e-bikes as a “motorized vehicle” seems to be the root of the problem. Some places prohibit all motorized vehicles, and I understand what they were getting at when the rule was made. Bike manufactures, or whoever the gods were that decided to call e-bikes “motorized vehicles”, really did a dis-service to users of class 1 e-bikes. These are truly pedal assist bikes that open up cycling opportunity to people with mobility limitations. I’m no lawyer nor do I play one on TV, but I suspect at some point there will be a legal challenge that the “no motorized vehicles” rule discriminates against people who use class 1 e-bikes as a means of adaptation to a disability.

Vehicles have evolved since those rules were created. I know our government can be slow to adapt, but maybe it’s time now for their rules to evolve so they can be appropriately applied to newer technologies that didn’t exist when the rules were written. Let’s be realistic, e-bikes aren’t going anywhere… except maybe faster than you!

* Websites that serve as a database of biking trails with reviews, ratings, commentary, and downloadable gpx files shall not be named in this article.

Colorado Mountain Bike Sampler

Colorado Mountain Bike Sampler

Colorado has so much to offer in terms of mountain biking. I recently made a tour of several places that I’d been wanting to ride. It was the ultimate Colorado mountain biking sampler.

Hardscrabble map at the trail head

Day 1: East Hardscrabble Trail System – Eagle, Colorado – Located just off I-70, the East Harscrabble Trail System is a “SRMA”, Special Recreational Management Area of BLM Public Land. I found a loop on MTBProject.com that I had planned to ride. Unfortunately, the description lead me to a different trail head so I ended up doing an out and back. My advise is to thoroughly research your ride to ensure this does not happen to you. The trail I rode up was clearly designed for downhill, so I ended up scrambling out of the way on a couple of occasions. What I didn’t realize at the time is there is also a West Hardscrabble trail System that is open to ATV’s and motorcycles. I spent just over an hour riding here but it was long enough to know that I’d like to go back for more. Next stop: the desert.

Day 1: 18 Road Trail System – Fruita, Colorado – Located just a few miles north of Fruita, Colorado. This location is also BLM Public Land. I arrived in the early evening. What’s great about riding at this trail system in addition to its proximity to Fruita, is there is also camping available, and well maintained vault toilets. While the trail system is located in the desert, it doesn’t have the technical rocks and ledges that tend to be present in the desert. In fact, the trails I rode were so dry and well traveled, it was almost like riding on a concrete path in places. Because this system is nestled right up against what is known as the “book cliffs”, some of the trails offer a lot of short and snappy ups and downs, so speed is key. I was able to get one ride in just before sunset on Day 1 and an early morning ride on Day 2. Trees in the area are scarce, so my suggestion is to choose a campsite wisely and avoid riding in the heat of the day. As of April 8, 2022, Class 1 E-Bikes are welcome to ride throughout the 18 Road Trail System.

A view from Mary’s Loop

Day 2: Kokopelli Loops at McInnis Canyon Conservation Area – Loma, Colorado – Located just west of Fruita, right along the Colorado/Utah border sits the McInnis Canyon Conservation Area. Trailhead parking is right off I-70, giving this trail system quick and easy access. I spent most of Day 2 riding the variety of trails available in this system: from easy green loops (Rustler’s Loop), to a very difficult black diamond trail (Moore Fun). This trail system is full of sandy, ledgy, rocky technical features. The scenery in this area is breathtaking. Trees are scarce and riding in the middle of the day in the desert is not ideal, but it’s what worked with my schedule that day.

50 Shades of Green

Day 3: Uncompahgre National Forest – Montrose, Colorado – Montrose is the gateway to the San Juan Mountains. However, just west of town is a lesser known gem for mountain biking, the Uncompahgre Plateau. If you’re a mountain biker, you’ve probably heard of a ride near Moab called “the whole enchilada”. Not to be outdone, Montrose offers “the whole uncolada”. I rode a portion of this trail and found it to be a pleasant change from the desert riding of the previous two days. The route went through the forest and it was considerably cooler on the Plateau. In my Strava upload, I ended up calling the ride 50 Shades of Green, and you can probably guess why.

Day 4: Electric Hills Trail System– Montrose, Colorado – What happens when land provided by Xcel Energy is developed into a mountain bike trail system? You end up with fantastic trail names like Flux Capacitor, Shock Therapy, and Electric Avenue, among others. The trail system is nestled in a juniper grove growing in the red high desert dirt overlooking Montrose. It’s like Christmas manifested itself as a mountain bike trail, and you’re the lucky kid riding a bike through it.

Day 5: Hartman Rocks – Gunnison, Colorado – This system is located just outside Gunnison. What I didn’t know about this trail system is that it is open to ALL the bikes… mountain bikes, e-bikes, and motorcycles. The day I rode, I saw only other mountain bikes, but motorcycle tire marks were visible in the trails I rode. What I really like about this area aside from the fact that it doesn’t discriminate against certain bike types, is the terrain itself. It’s high desert, so there were rock features, flowy single track, sand pits and lots of sage brush. Once again, trees were scarce, so I’d suggest not riding in the middle of a hot day and choosing campsites wisely.

Day 5: Methodist Mountain Trail System – Salida, Colorado – This system sits on the mountains south of town, making it quickly accessible. While I didn’t ride all the trails, the ones I did ride seemed to be very thoughtfully designed for riding up or down. Their signage also reflected the preferred riding direction. While this is nice for trail users, it made the trails feel very “human made”, unlike other trails that seem to appear and feel more like the surrounding landscape.

Royal Gorgeous

Day 5: Royal Gorge Park Trails System – Canon City, Colorado – This should really be called the Royal Gorgeous Park. It’s not an extensive trail system by any means, but the views were some of the best of the trip. While I was feeling rushed for time to finish before dark, I’d recommend taking your time and a picnic and enjoying the spectacular scenery offered on this trail system. It’s far enough from town that you’ll want to be prepared by packing everything needed for a ride on what I’d categorize as an intermediately technical trail system.

Yep, Day 5 was full. I went home with tired legs and a happy heart.

Beti Bike Bash – A Race Review

Beti Bike Bash – A Race Review

The Beti Bike Bash is a women’s only mountain bike race. As far as I know, it’s the only race of its kind. The event is known for its welcoming atmosphere to new mountain bike racers. This year it was held at Bear Creek Lake Park in Lakewood, Colorado on a beautiful autumn day in October. The event is normally held in May around Mother’s Day, but it was postponed due to the ongoing pandemic. Race categories include “New Mom” and “Never Ever” raced before as well as the typical Sport, Expert, and Pro categories.

The course: Bear Creek Lake Park is not known for technical mountain biking. What it does offer is miles of smooth, flowy single and double track. The double track is perfect for a beginner’s race because it provides ample opportunities for passing safely. The racecourse was confined to a four-mile loop with approximately 200 feet of elevation gain per lap. The category a racer selects dictates the number of laps required. 

The event typically hosts an expo area featuring sponsor booths as well as other businesses. This area is adjacent to the race start/finish line, so there’s lots of excitement and people in the area throughout the day. The racecourse itself also passes through this area so spectators have the opportunity to see and support their racer on each lap. Post-race, you’re treated to a beer and a delicious lunch. The registration fee includes a fabulous t-shirt, pair of socks, lunch, and a beer.

The Goody Bag & contents

Here’s what I like most about this race:

  • it’s nice not to have to share a racecourse with men, particularly a short racecourse that requires multiple laps (no offense, fellas!). 
  • The Beti Bike Bash t-shirts in my drawer are some of my favorites that I continue to reach for year after year. 
  • The goody bag included the t-shirt, socks, food ticket, beer ticket and some chain lube. The bag itself is a simple backpack with zippered pockets.
  •  The post-race food. It’s so nice to be able to park your bike, catch your breath, and get in line for a meal. 
  • The mistress of ceremonies – again, no offense fellas!

Improvement Opportunities: 

  • While I did appreciate the onsite food, the fact that my race was the last of the day meant that there was hardly any food left. Fortunately for me, I prefer vegetarian tacos, and that’s all that was left. There weren’t any chips or other sides by the time I got my taco.
  • The order of race start times – I think it makes more sense to order the start times such that the racers with the most fitness and experience are racing during the heat of the day. These are riders who are likely to have the ability to tolerate the heat better than, say, less experienced or older riders.
  • The bike chain lubricant in the goody bag is for “extreme” conditions. The label does specify long-distance riding and wet weather conditions. Since they didn’t use the word “or”, I’m concluding that this lube is for a long ride in the rain or snow. Ironically, those are conditions I attempt to avoid riding in. Furthermore, Colorado’s climate is pretty dry, so this particular chain lubricant isn’t ideal. Maybe I just got the leftovers again, sorta like the vegetarian taco situation.

I highly recommend this race. It’s one of only a handful of mountain bike races held in the Denver Metro area. And if you’re a beginner, this race was most certainly designed with you in mind. What are you waiting for?!

Mt. Evans – A Road Review

Mt. Evans – A Road Review

I’ve written race reviews. I’ve written ride reviews. I’ve written some equipment reviews. Now, I respectfully submit my first ever “road review”.  I recently had the opportunity to ride my bike up the highest paved road in North America. This wasn’t the first time I’ve made the ascent; I’ve done the climb a handful of times. Once when the road was closed to traffic because of a bike race, and the others when the road was open to motorized vehicles.

What made this ascent special was that the road was closed to vehicles because of the Coronavirus. If you’re a person who will only experience North America’s highest paved road from car windows, then this is yet another thing to add to the list of what’s been taken away by the pandemic of 2020.

Let’s begin with a little history lesson. First, Mt. Evans is the most prominent peak visible to the west of Denver.Denver_at_a_Glance___VISIT_DENVER It is one of Colorado’s iconic 14ers. 14ers are peaks whose summits are at or above 14,000 feet above sea level. Colorado is home to 53 such peaks. Construction on Colorado Highway 5 began back in July of 1923. After about eight years of construction, the road opened to the public. The road is about 14 miles long and begins at an elevation of 10,600 feet at Echo Lake.  It winds through the Arapahoe National forest with trees 900 – 2,000 years old. Beautiful scenery of alpine lakes, the continental divide, wild flowers and wild life abound. 

Enough about the spectacular scenery, let’s get to the road conditions.  As the highest paved road in North America, there are some challenges that go along with maintaining the road.  Winters are long and harsh and take a toll on the road.  Let’s face it, at that elevation, most cyclists are pedaling along slowly enough to easily avoid the larger holes and cracks on the ascent.  And there are many cracks in the road, particularly from mile 9 to the summit.  There are also some wheel eating sized holes along the way.  

However, on the descent, these bumps, cracks, and holes present a danger to cyclists.  I’ve witnessed bike crashes resulting in broken bones on the descent.  The best advice I’ve received for the descent is to let some air out of the tires.  The next best thing to happen is not to have to contend with vehicles on the descent.  Without cars, cyclists can really take advantage of finding the smoothest line for the descent.  In many instances, this is right down the middle of the narrow road.

Perhaps the most exciting side effect of closing the road to motorized vehicles was the abundance of mountain goats and big horn sheep at the summit.  There were so many standing on the road, laying beside the road, playing just off the road. I wish that everyone could witness that, but I suspect the cars have a tendency to drive them further away.

It may be selfish, but I’m voting to keep the road closed to vehicles indefinitely.  Having the mountain to yourself on the bike was such a treat!  I saw all forms of bikes being ridden by riders of all ages.  One fine gentleman that I spoke with was on his second ascent of the day, and he was probably 20 years my senior.  I saw two kid trailers being pulled along by brave (and strong) parents.  What a memorable family outing that would be!

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To the West of Mt. Evans

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The Mountain Goat King

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Can you see him?  And yes, the sky is really that blue in Colorado.

Tour of the Moon – A Ride Review

Tour of the Moon – A Ride Review

I have ridden in a fair number of cycling events, such as the Triple Bypass, the Yellowstone Cycle Tour, and the Copper Triangle.  While each of these events has it’s own unique characteristics that have the potential to lure me back for a second ride, the only cycling event I’ve done twice is the Icon Tour of the Moon.  The ride starts and finishes in Grand Junction, Colorado each fall.

The ride organizers have conveniently created two registration options for riders.  The first option is the Classic Loop from Grand Junction through the Colorado National Monument and back to Grand Junction for a total of 41 miles.  The other option consists of the Classic Loop plus an additional ~20 miles through the farmlands around Fruita and then returning to Grand Junction. The result is a metric century ride or 62 miles.  When my friend was asking which option we should register for, I described it as the pretty part that you’re paying for vs. the afterthought.

What I mean by that is one lane of Rim Rock Drive (the main road through the Colorado National Monument) is closed to non-ride event traffic during the ride.  This means that you only have to lookout for oncoming vehicles, and most of those are SAG vehicles or motos anyway.  This makes for a fantastic way to experience such a majestic place!  In exchange for your quiet riding pleasure, all that is required is lights on your bicycle.  Folks, it just doesn’t get any better than this!  After exiting the Colorado National Monument, you have the option to return immediately to Grand Junction or take the tour around Fruita.  While the country roads offer their own charm and views of the Grand Mesa Book Cliffs, the scenery in the Colorado National Monument is hard to beat.  The race organizers have created a segment of road called the “King/Queen of the Flats” to add some excitement to the metric century portion of the ride.

All ride entry fees include a jersey and post-ride lunch.  The lunch is typically salad, pasta, and desert.  The aid stations throughout the ride are very well stocked with fluids, bagels, cookies, fruit, trail mix, and energy bars.  The volunteers are friendly and helpful.  Law enforcement is attentive.  Overall, if the weather cooperates, this ride is a wonderful way to cap the cycling season.

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Nederland CX – A Race Review

Nederland CX – A Race Review

As I drove up Highway 72 to Nederland, I wondered just what the course for this inaugural Nederland Cyclocross race would be like.  The race flyer stated that the race course would wind through the heart of the town and include a mix of cyclocross features.  What exactly, did that description mean?  As visions or stairs and other urban cross features floated through my head, I parked and made my way to the registration tent.

The first feature I noticed was a very sharp, uphill turn onto a covered pedestrian bridge over a creek.  After retrieving my race number, I walked a bit more of the course.  I noticed another bridge and some railroad tie barriers.  I made some smalltalk with a woman nearby.  The topic of conversation quickly came around to the race course.  She mentioned on the other side of the course, that if you didn’t take the right line in one section, you were sure to end up in the lake.

At that point I decided it was in my best interest to get my bike out of the car and take a pre-ride of the course.  I didn’t mind getting dirty, but I certainly did not want to land in a lake astride my bike.  Once the current race was over, I pedaled on to the course.  I ended up behind another guy who must have already raced, because as we rode along, he told me about what was coming up around each bend.  In this section of the course that wound along the creek, the vegetation was so tall that you couldn’t see what was coming until you were there.  The first surprise was a sharp left turn.  The next surprise was a path of beaten down cat tails.  The mud below the cat tails was now being churned up by all the bike tires.  At the end of the cat tails was a steep run-up.

The next part of the course was the hard part: two- three off-camber ups and downs on loose dirt, and the steepest, loosest run-up ever.  This was followed by the steepest, loosest descent ever seen (by me!) on a cyclocross race course.  It was during this descent that I came upon the place where landing in the lake was supposedly a certainty if one were to take the wrong line.  My conclusion was that landing in the lake was only a remote possibility under the worst set of circumstances.  At the end of the lap, I began to question whether this race was something I could actually finish, let alone be competitive in.  I’d been nursing a sore shoulder all week and it would be impossible for me to shoulder the bike in any of the sections where it would make sense to do so.  I’d have to run the bike and lift it over the barriers when necessary.  I considered packing my bike in the car and going home right then and there.  Then my phone rang and Motoman wanted to know if it was raining in Nederland?  I looked up at the threatening skies and thought how miserable this course would become if the skies were to let go.

When Motoman arrived, I mentioned how hard the course was and that I was IMG_0925contemplating leaving.  His response was that it would be just as hard for everyone else as it would be for me.  As I pinned the number to my jersey, I thought to myself that I’ll just ride it; then I won’t have any expectations nor disappointment about how I finish.  Then we got a FaceTime call from our daughter who we hadn’t spoken to in a couple of days. It proved to be the perfect distraction.  When we hung up, I had only about 30 minutes before the start time to pedal around and half-heartedly warm-up.  Besides, who needs to warm-up for ride??

Promptly at 5:10 PM, the race started and we were off!  Racers were still rather clumped together when I reached the hard part of the course.  A crash in front of me forced me off the bike and to run more of the off-camber section than I would have liked.  However, as I trotted along, I realized that the women who were riding weren’t going any faster than I was.  I had started to run with my bike because I didn’t want to stop. But now that I couldn’t find a decent place to remount, I just kept going.  Two thoughts occurred to me as I finished that first lap 1) I did not want to run as much on the next lap and 2) this race was as hard for the other women as it was for me!

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Photo Credit: Cid Dennis

I dug in and settled into a pace I could sustain for five more laps.   I’m so proud to have finished such a difficult race!  Taking 2nd place was the icing on the cake!

 

 

 

 

Not only was this the hardest race I’ve finished, it was also the most expensive:

  1. Entry fee: $30
  2. Deductible for car repairs necessary from colliding with black bear on the way home: $750
  3. While tasty, the six pack of beer only drowned my sorrows temporarily.

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    Master’s Women 40+, 2nd Place Photo by: Cid Dennis

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    That’s black bear fur stuck in the wheel.

12 Bike to Work Days

Arvada is a wonderful place to live.  There isn’t much between my house and the foothills, although what’s there is gradually filling in with houses.  I love the rural feel of this community.  Seeing horses and other farm animals and wildlife on the way to the grocery store reminds me of my days back in Billings, Montana.  Many of the streets in this area are still two lane country roads.  All that quaintness gets tossed out the window, however, when you come to an intersection like Indiana & Leyden Road on any given school day at 7:10 AM. Those two lane roads can be backed up for nearly a mile in each direction as thousands of kids try to get to school at about the same time.  Combine that volume of traffic with sun glare and distracted drivers and it amounts to a risk that I wasn’t willing to take on my bike.  Like my daughter was counting down the days of school until she could sleep in, I was counting them down until I could ride to work!

Back in May, I set a goal to ride my bike to & from work 10 times before school restarted August 17th.  I rode to and from work once in May, five times in June, four times in July, and twice in August for a total of 12 commutes.  My mission was accomplished before August arrived.  What I didn’t expect when I started the commutes back in May was how many aggressive drivers I would experience on my 11 mile ride to Broomfield.  Here I had been thinking that the major safety concern was the volume of traffic at the intersection of Indiana & Leyden Road, when the real danger was the drivers I encountered on deserted rural roads before 7 AM.  In particular, Alkire Street between 88th and 96th Avenues and Simms Street north of Brocade Parkway to Highway 128 were where I experienced the most aggression.  I ended up calling in more drivers to the Colorado State Patrol in this two month span of time than I have in all my years of riding.  What was most frustrating about these encounters is that the majority of them occurred when there wasn’t an oncoming vehicle in sight…

Here’s the summary of my car vs. bike encounters during the last 12 weeks:

  • I was yelled at by a driver on Bike to Work day (June 27).  He informed me that I should be riding on a bike path.  When he finally took a breath, I interjected that I had every right to be on the road, to which he replied it was his right to run me over.
  • I was buzzed by a Federal Express truck driver on Simms Street just south of Highway 128.  I exchanged tweets with Fedex and like to think their drivers received a refresher on Colorado’s 3 foot law.  It didn’t happen again and there are MANY Fedex trucks in the area since they have a distribution facility right along that stretch of road.
  • I was honked at by a woman for taking the lane in order to avoid a three feet wide pothole in the road while descending at high speed.
  • I lost track of the number of drivers who insisted on sharing the narrow lane with me when there wasn’t another car in the opposite direction and they could so EASILY have given me just a few more inches. This particular behavior is most bothersome because it seems the underlying message is “I could get over, but avoiding a person riding a bike isn’t worth the energy it takes for me turn that steering wheel 2 inches.”

Surely, that’s not the case, right?  Maybe those drivers are new to the area and are unaware of Colorado’s laws; we do have lots of transplants here.  Here’s a little video that will help to educate you on the laws.  Oh, and when in doubt, give a cyclist more room than you think they need.  Sometimes we have to swerve, just like you do in your car.  Drivers don’t like it when other cars get too close to them, either.  Surely you can relate to  that?

Gowdy Grinder – A Race Review

I should have known how my race would end when I missed the turn off Highway 210 for Curt Gowdy State Park.  Or maybe I should have known when the friendly folks working the number pick-up table couldn’t find my race number, despite the fact I was “on the list.”  Or maybe I should have known how the race would end back on April 23 when my pre-ride was cancelled because the trails were covered with snow.  These are just a few of the signs as to how my race would end right up to the seconds after the race director yelled “go”.  However, this post is intended to be more of a race review than the excuses for my 8th place finish in the Advanced Women category.  On some level, they do go hand-in-hand.

I left the house very early on May 13 for the drive from Arvada, Colorado to Curt Gowdy State Park in southeastern Wyoming.  My race started at 11:01 AM, and I planned to arrive before 10.  I was grateful to have left enough of a cushion in my drive time to accommodate the missed turn off highway 210 which added about 30 extra minutes to my drive.  The signage within the park directing race traffic was obvious and easy to follow.  Because the number of race registrants is limited to just 325, there was ample parking as competitors arrived and departed throughout the day.

This race is self described as a “bare bones” race and as such, there were only a handful of tents setup at the Aspen Grove Trailhead, making it easy to figure out which one was the registration tent.  Despite a thorough search, the registration volunteer was unable to locate my number and waiver.  The race director quickly got involved and reassigned me to another number.  This left me with about an hour to kill before start time.  I busied myself with applying sunscreen, suiting up, checking tire pressure, taking in some calories, and a half-hearted warm up on and off the race course.  The Advanced Women’s race consisted of two loops, one ~5 mile loop, and another ~8 mile loop.  The two loops overlapped in part.  My goal was to finish the race in under two hours even though I’d never ridden the trails before.

The start line was situated on an uphill jeep trail so as to thin the flow of racers before arriving at the single track on top of the hill.  I was thrilled that mom’s were called up to the front of the 10 person peloton.  That thrill quickly passed when I realized that I was the only mom.  I knew all those other women had spent less time in a hockey rink and more time pedaling their bikes than I had.  I was even less thrilled when I got passed within the first 5 pedal strokes after the race started.  (audible sigh)

Because the April snow had foiled my plans at a pre-ride, I was very concerned about how I would find my way through the race course.  The Gowdy Grinder was quite possibly the best marked mountain bike race I have done.  There were signs at every fork in the trail as well as ribbons tied to tree branches.   Despite all this great signage, I made a wrong turn during the long loop of my race.  (I’d give specifics on exactly where this happened, but I neglected to turn on my Garmin at the start of the race.)  I back tracked and found the turn.  I’m still scratching my head as to how I missed it given the great signage.

At some point into the second loop I began to recognize the terrain from the previous loop and I knew I didn’t have too much further to go.  The terrain at Curt Gowdy was an interesting mix of flowy single track and funky rock formations that were incorporated into the trails.  It was more technical than I had anticipated, but very fun riding nonetheless.  I uncerimoniously crossed the finish line in eighth place of 10 racers and went directly to my car to change.

At the food tent, the race crew actually made sandwiches for participants.  Being that I am responsible for the cooking at our house, I was beyond thrilled to have someone build a sandwich for me.  It was quite possibly the best turkey sandwich I’ve ever had!  They also had the best macarons west of Paris.  These alone would draw me back for the race next year! Thanks Pedalhouse and Laramie Racing for a fantastic experience!

Yellowstone Cycle Tour – A Ride Review

Yellowstone Park.  You’ve probably heard of it.  Established on March 1, 1872, it was the first national park in the United States.  Some consider it the first national park in the world.  It truly is an international tourist destination.  This is evidenced by the droves of tourists arriving by the car and busload throughout the park.  For this reason, I’ve been hesitant to travel through the park by bicycle.  Sharing a road with a designated bike lane doesn’t get a second thought from me.  But sharing a narrow road with someone who may not know the park rules, local laws, nor speak the language or be able to read the signs AND being distracted by the geothermal features and wildlife is another.  Quite frankly, it wasn’t a risk I was willing to take, no matter how beautiful the scenery.

When I heard that there was an organized ride through the park in the fall, a little spark of hope was lit.  Riding a bike in my favorite season, through one of my favorite places, with support and lots of signage alerting drivers of the cyclists was just what I needed!

I did some online research and discovered the website www.cycleyellowstone.com.  Registration for the 2016 Yellowstone Cycle Tour would open on June 15, 2016 and close when sold out.  The ride was limited to 300 riders.  I marked my calendar and began to consider who I would ask to ride with me.  The drive to West Yellowstone would be a very long day in the car from Denver, and perhaps best suited for two days.  The ride from

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Kimberly is the only woman who could pair cycling clothes with cowboy boots and make it look good!

West Yellowstone to Old Faithful was 62 miles round trip.  In October, it could be snowing there.  Of all my family members and friends, Kimberly was the one person who just might be crazy enough to sign up for this adventure with me… and she did.

We arrived in beautiful West Yellowstone, Montana on the eve of October 7th.  Kimberly is a local in Bozeman and was able to score us a very nice room at the Bar N Ranch just outside of West Yellowstone.  We had an excellent dinner in the dining hall at the ranch and got up early Saturday morning for breakfast before our departure.  The ride was organized to depart in two waves.  The first wave was for what the ride organizers referred to as “more experienced riders” and the second wave was for the less experienced.  We departed somewhere in the middle between the two waves.  We settled into a slight prolonged climb for the next fifteen miles.  The buffalo and elk wasted no time and made their appearance very quickly into our ride.

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Lots of this type of signage was placed along the ride route.

The only aid station was located fifteen miles into the ride at Madison Junction.  We stopped for a bathroom break and visited the very well stocked aid station.  Ride organizers had provided an assortment of fresh fruits, candies, packaged bars, and liquids for riders.  The departure from Madison Junction was directly into a prolonged climb that leveled out on the top of a plateau about 500 vertical feet later at 7200 feet .  It was along this plateau about 7 miles from Old Faithful where the highlight of the trip occurred.  Kimberly and I were just riding along when we realized how quiet it had become because there was not another cyclist or car nearby.  The only thing nearby were the 20-30 buffalo bedded down maybe 30 feet from the road. This was the closest that I’d ever been to the giants and it was quite magnificent to see.  I very much wanted to stop for a picture, but did not want to stop for any wildlife near the road without having a car between us.

When we arrived at Old Faithful, the first order of business was to find the lunch tent.  The second order of business was to see whether Old Faithful was erupting or how long we might have to wait until the next predicted eruption.  We had about 45 minutes to wait and despite the fact that we’d both seen the eruption before, decided that it was worth the wait after pedaling for 30 miles.  We sat down to enjoy the lunch that was an option at registration.  Mine consisted of a very tasty PB&J, chips, an apple, and a cookie.  There were also other munchies available for riders at the tour tent.

After watching Old Faithful do its magic, we hopped back on the bikes.  Kimberly was vocal img_5681about her tushy not being very excited about being back in the saddle.  If she had wanted to catch the SAG wagon, she could have because they were plentiful.  But like all the Minkoff’s, she didn’t give up.   Eventually, we came back to the feed station at Madison Junction and stopped for sweets and coffee.  Much to our surprise, we found ourselves removing clothing because the weather was so warm.

On the drive back to Bozeman, we decided that despite our aches and pains, we had a fantastic time.  So much so that there is likely to be another cousins adventure next year.  Stay tuned!!

PS – Off road biking in Yellowstone is limited to very few (read: short) opportunities.  Check their website for details. Spots in the Yellowstone Cycle tour are limited and go fast.  We were essentially begged to ride single file to ensure that the event would be a go the following year.  If you are the kind of cyclist who is incapable of riding single file, don’t register for this event.  Don’t be the person who spoils this wonderful opportunity for others.  Just don’t.

 

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This is the Midway Basin Geyser area.  Yep, that’s a snow pole and it’s taller than me!

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Yep, those are buffalos laying in the meadow.  They were far enough away that I was willing to stop for a picture. (Madison Junction area)

 

The Golden Giddyup – A Race Review

2016 was the inaugural year of the Golden Giddyup.  You can read more about how it was founded on their website; they tell the story much better than I can.  I had decided not to do this race months ago when registration opened.  Then, a handful of days prior to the race, I met up with a friend who was not able to do the race due to a knee injury.  I figured she had already transferred her entry to some other person, but it turns out, it was still available.  When she asked if I wanted it, I checked my calendar and found the day to be wide open.   I had no excuse not to do the race and hated to see the entry go to waste.

Transferring the registration into my name proved to be a bit of a challenge.  While the registration page indicated that all you had to do was click a button and follow the instructions, it didn’t work for us.  After several attempts, we decided to contact race organizers for help.  Even with their intervention, I never received any confirmation emails indicating that the transfer had been successful.  I finally gave up and crossed my fingers that my name would be on someone’s list when I went to pick up my race plate late in the afternoon of Saturday, September 17th.

img_5597After all the effort that we’d put into transferring the race entry, I was somewhat surprised that my name was, in fact, on the racer’s list at packet pickup. The bigger surprise, however, was my race number.  Yep, I was lucky number 420.   After collecting my number and what few goodies remained so late in the day, I found a place to sit and wait for the “mandatory riders meeting”.

The meeting essentially covered rules and reiterated several times that if you come upon an injured person, you should stop to offer help.  It seems like a no-brainer to me, but apparently it’s happened, hence the reminder. The other message that was stressed was that passing riders have the right of way.  What that means is by the time a racer hears the words “on your left”, her time has already been beaten by the passing racer who started 20 or 30 seconds behind her.

The next morning I arrived at the start line at 7:15 AM – one hour before my scheduled race time.  As the announcers began calling up waves, I became confused.  It turns out I wasn’t the only one.  The announcers were calling wave numbers that no one had ever heard of.  For instance, my wave was number 38, but they were calling out something similar to “the fourth wave of the classic category.”  I brought it to their attention after several waves had departed.  They regrouped and started calling out the waves by the series of plate numbers included in that wave (even better), and everyone was happy again.

Unlike a traditional enduro race, this race had timed downhill and uphill stages.  The entry that had been transferred to me was a Giddyup Lite – North Table entry – meaning that I would race only the North Table Mountain leg of the race.  The race route had two timed climbing and two timed descending stages.   I’ve ridden on North Table Mountain more times than I can count, which was a significant contributing factor in my decision to do a last minute race.  Knowing the terrain so well,  I was a little nervous about how crowded it would be in the timed stages, even though the organizers were releasing racers every 20 seconds on the uphill stages and every 30 seconds on the downhill portions.  Much to my surprise, however, the timed release of racers really did wonders to ease trail congestion.  I  passed and was passed without any incidents; racers seemed to be respectful of the rules.

I’m proud to have finished the race 5th overall considering the injuries I had in June & July and their recovery time.  Sure, I’ve been riding as much as I can, but I haven’t been training for races.  I’m grateful to Linda for making my participation in the race possible.  I hope we can race it together next year!

One of the mantras of the race organizers was to “shape what you shred” – as seen on the pictured race plate above.   I can’t emphasize how much I appreciated that this was a core philosophy of the organizers.  I’ve been mountain biking in Jefferson County for five years and not once had I ever participated in a trail maintenance effort, until this year and for this race.  I found the experience to be so rewarding that I regret not doing it sooner.  I’ll be suggesting that this be an activity of every team/group that I’m involved with going forward.  Overall, I’d say everyone involved in this race was a winner, especially the trails!