This report has been a while in coming and for purpose of catching y’all up I have provided a day-by-day account of our adventure so far. If you don’t want to bother with the words and just want to see the photos, click the sub-titles.
The first obstacle we faced was simply getting here with our equipment. Brian’s travel saga can be summed up as a comedy of errors. He missed a couple of flights, arriving in Colorado Springs almost 3 hours later than schedule. Up in Denver, Wicked Mike discovered that Southwest had left his gear bag with riding clothes and shoes on the tarmac in Raleigh. It would Mike another two days to be reunited with his kit bag and he did the first couple of rides with flat pedals, sneakers, and gym shots- but I am getting ahead of myself. I arrived with all my things and the extra time allowed me to visit a friend who had recently moved to the Springs with his family to begin a new job at Colorado College. We had a long drive to Crested Butte that night and we arrived past 1 am after Wicked Mike drove 200 miles in 4 hours over the Continental Divide.
We awoke on Saturday to behold the amazing views from our lodgings. Mike and I were up early, our body clocks unwilling to compromise their Eastern Standard bearings. Brian, on the other hand, slept like the movie star that he is until 11am. With a late start, we went to town to sort out our bikes and the rides for the next couple of days. Due to a mix up with FedEx, Brian’s Stumpjumper found its way to Salt Lake City and we’re expecting it sometime tomorrow (Tuesday). Making lemonade from lemons, Hollywood rented a Gary Fisher Hi-Fi 29er dualie dubbed Blue Steel from The Alpineer in town. The staff there was busy but made time for us. CB Veteran Wicked Mike was recognized immediately as the “guy with the Moots Rolhoff.” I had my hydraulic lines bleed because the altitude had generated bubbles in the lines and I thought it would be a good idea to have effective braking for the descents here. We were fortunate to have our first taste of the local trails with the Alpineer’s store manager Lisa serving as our guide. We were pleased; we were very pleased. Coming back into town we met Alpineer owner and IF 29er enthusiast Travis Underwood on the trail. We turned around and rode together, but the NC crew let the locals go. We were feeling the first effects of the altitude and they were training for singlespeed worlds this month and La Ruta later this fall. Total miles: 20.
We headed out Slate d’Huez, an impressive route climbing almost 2000ft in under 12 miles, to Paradise Divide at over 11,000 ft, after a first stop at the home of Mtn Bike Hall of Fame founder Don Karle. Mike took us over to introduce Brian and I and borrow a set of clip-in pedals and shoes. Don is a mountain bike legend. As he positioned Brian on Blue Steel he mentioned many of the leading lights of mountain biking history by first name in the process of describing the trails around town. As we were chatting, Manitou Suspension founder Doug Bradbury ambled up to the backyard deck Bikes dialed in, we made the leg busting climb up to Trail 403 which descends from almost 11,800ft back down to Mt. Crested Butte where we are staying. 403 is a ribbon of wildflower hemmed trail that winds down the mountain. The descent was fast and fun. Too fun for Brian, who took a tumble when he came upon a large drainage that cut the trail too quickly. We found saw him lying on his back almost 10 feet below the trail, slightly dazed, his helmet cracked. Given his fall, the damage was light: some scrapes and light bruising. We rode home along Gothic Road having experienced on the most difficult 30 mile rides any of us had ever experienced. Total ride time: 5 hours.
We headed south of town to hit the Reno Divide-Flag-Bear Creek trails. The ride began with another long 5 mile climb to the summit. This one was easier after the prior day’s climb of Slate. We were rewarded with an indescribably amazing descent down Flag. This trail flows! We have fewer photos from this ride because we were too busy enjoying the ride and trying to out-run the rumbles of an approaching thundershower. We do have a few though. We don’t have a a shot of Brian’s scary fall at the end of Flag. I discovered him lying in a creek bed almost 15 feet below the trail. Again, he was lucky to avoid serious injury. As he said as he scrambled up the embankment, “I’m laughing.” And so we were we. We preserved through two sandy single climbs which robbed our legs of power to enjoy a ripping downhill with 33 switchbacks that brought us to the trailhead. We caught and passed a party of moto-crossers on this downhill, our human-powered bicycles proving more nimble in navigating the tight, rutted, and rocky corners. Total mileage: 17. Total hours: 4. Thanks for reading.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008