Guest Post by Moe
I have been wanting to get out to visit Luke in one of his adventurous locations for a couple years now. Last year he was in Arizona, now he is in Colorado. This year, I finally made it happen. A few months ago I told Luke to get me his work schedule as soon as he knew it. From there, I could clear my schedule here at home and check flights to see if it would be possible for me to go out and ride with him. He is in Grand Junction right now which is a much more expensive flight than Denver. So, we decided that if I could make it happen, I would fly to Denver and he would pick me up there to save on flight cost. It was determined that we would ride the front range to save travel time since I would only have a few days to ride. Once he received his work schedule for July, he sent it to me and I got to work looking up flight prices and making sure I didn’t have any prior engagements for the dates I wanted to go. A few text messages back and forth with him and boom, dates were locked in and flights were booked. I would leave early on Wednesday morning and since Luke had to work Sunday, return Saturday night. Other than telling him that I didn’t want to ride much over 10,000’, I left all of the ride planning up to Luke.
Fast forward a couple weeks and I’m sitting in Luke’s van on my way to Big Ring Cycles to pick up my rental steed. Get the bike, a couple tubes (my 29r tubes wouldn’t work), a few gels and we are on our way. We headed up the hill, then partially back down the hill in another direction to end up in Winter Park. Luke had reserved a room at the “Vintage” hotel. We were skeptical due to the name of the place, but it was a great place. While checking in, two guys ride their bikes right into the front door and hop off to walk to the elevators and go up to their rooms. I thought, “dang, this place is pretty bike friendly”.
After carrying all of our gear up to the room, we take off looking for some lunch. There is a gondola/ski lift that runs from upper Winter Park Resort to lower Winter Park Resort. It was a great way to shuttle back and forth and avoid a 700’ climb back to the hotel each time. We had some lunch while noticing there were no other cross country type riders there. Everyone was wearing full face helmets, flat shoes, full shin and knee pads, full forearm and elbow pads and what looked like a set of football shoulder pads under their jerseys. Luke joked that maybe there were people hiding along the trails with spears and tridents trying to knock you off of your bike and that is why everyone was dressed for battle.
After lunch, we suited up and took off on ride #1 from the hotel. We hopped on the “Green horn it” downhill trail to drop to the bottom of the resort area and get on the trails that would take us away from the downhill area and to the XC area. The ride started with a nice descent followed by a couple short steep ups. A little flat section followed until about mile 10 there was a 2 mile climb that kicked me right in the lungs. There were many trails in this area and we hit several that local riders had told us about. They were all great fun. Mostly short connectors or loops that would have been really nice to follow a local through, but we made the best of it while stopping often to check out maps. We headed downhill and popped out at the town of Winter Park. There is a really nice paved bike/longboard/walking/running/rollerblading path that runs from Winter Park to Winter Park Resort. It is about 4 miles between the two. It turns out that this bike path is a pretty serious climb all the way to the resort. I was expecting more of a mellow cruise through the woods. Nope, just another 450’ climb to get back to the resort. Once back at the resort, we got cleaned up and headed out for pizza. https://www.strava.com/activities/640229764
Thursday started with heading to the bike shop in Frasier to add some air to the rear shock on my rental bike. The bike I had rented was a Cannondale Habit 3 Carbon. It was a really sweet bike, but very different from what I’m used to. Honestly, I wanted a XC full suspension, but nobody had those for rent. Everything was more all-mountain or Enduro. Since I usually ride a rigid single speed, I’m not used to riding a full suspension and not even used to climbing too much in the seated position. I found it absolutely impossible to climb standing on the rental bike and it just didn’t climb very well seated either. Of course, part of this was my poor ability to climb in general compounded with climbing actual mountains about 8500’ higher than where I usually ride. The bike was riding like a pogo stick. On the other hand, I could descent like a rocket. The thing was stable and handled very well at high speeds going downhill. While at the shop, one of the guys gave us some great route intel while the other researched the shock on the rental bike online and found out that it is not a very good shock. Pumped it up way higher than it should need to be and headed out the door to ride. We took off right from the bike shop for a nice big loop.
The ride started with a nice mellow 3% grade road climb for a few miles. We then hit the single track entrance and the grade picked up to an average of 8% for over 3 miles. Luke dropped me like a bad habit going up this climb. This is where I first started to get worried about being eaten by a mountain lion or a bear. Weird thoughts start filling your mind when you are in the pain cave and have no idea how much longer you will be there. Or, if you will ever see your friend again…. About that time, a turkey explodes out of the brush about 3’ from the trail and 2’ in front of me. I nearly ruined my shorts. Apparently, the ole’ girl had a nest next to the trail. She ran down the trail pretending to be hurt so I would keep following her and not mess with her nest. What seemed like hours later, I finally reached the top and saw Luke there waiting for me. From there, we hit what I was sure would be an incredible downhill. We were FLYING down this thing and bang, a large rock had hit my rear tire which was not setup tubeless. Shortly after that I get the feeling of the squirmy flat tire followed quickly by the totally flat tire with rocks banging the rim. I yell to Luke “FLAT TIRE!!!!!” and hit the brakes hard (I didn’t want to have to replace the rim or tire on the rental bike). It seems that Luke heard me and was hitting the brakes as he rounded the corner also. I get stopped and can clearly hear Luke continuing down the mountain. No problem at all, except Luke has the CO2 and the inflator……
I figure that he will get to the bottom, wait a bit, then assume that I’m dead and go on into town. So, I go ahead and swap tubes in the tire and put the wheel back in the bike. All I need now is air. Hopefully someone else will come by and have some type of inflation device. About 15 minutes goes by and I hear someone coming up the hill. Luke had waited a couple minutes at the bottom, then climbed back up to bring me the CO2. He didn’t seem to upset about the extra climbing he had to do. I don’t think he even cracked a sweat. I inflated the tire, and off we went. We bombed down the rest of the hill, hit several more miles of single track and then popped out on the road for the descent back into town. A great ride other than the flat tire and taxing first climb. https://www.strava.com/activities/641118419 FRASIER SCENERY AND CANNONDALE HABIT 3 PHOTOS
Ride #3 would be in Buffalo Creek. We parked at the top of the trail and headed out for the “Big Loop” ride. Luke expressed how this trail is one of his favorites. It sure seemed sweet at the start. It was super flowy, fast and just roller climbs. I could keep momentum and just stand to shoot up the short steep rollers and stay really close to his wheel here. I was loving it. The trail was very solid with what was a crushed limestone type top layer. It was loose and slick, ensuring you kept your focus on the trail. We were really cruising and knocking out the miles. Before long we popped out at the top of a very large valley that looked like a forest fire had wiped it clean several years ago and things had not grown back yet. The trail was beautiful and fun down through there. Things were getting quite sandy and loose in the trail though. Going downhill this just added a few sketchy places where you had to do a nice two wheel drift through corners. Going uphill, this SUCKED. And SUCKED bad…. I was in the granny gear and crawling through what was more than 1” of loose sandy crushed rock. Literally climbing in quicksand. Climbing is not my strong suit, and climbing in loose deep sand is embarrassing slow for me. Once at the top of this, we hit some more sweet flowing trails that somewhat erased how bad the climb was from my memory. Then we emerged from the nice flowing shaded single track into the open valley again.
We were near the top and had an awesome descent through the valley, then through some timber, then more valley until we arrived at a FS service road at the very bottom. From this point, it was just one large climb back to the car Luke says. He takes off like a rocket while I start working my way into it. I make it a few hundred meters before clicking to the granny ring on front. I spin and I spin and I spin seemingly going nowhere up this hill. Watching my garmin elevation reading I see 100’ go by, then 200’, then 300’. I wonder to myself where did we start? Was it 7000’ or 8000’? It turns out that it was nearly 8000’. This climb started about 6800’ and the car was at 8000’. Oh boy…. I’m in trouble.
I climbed and climbed and then climbed some more. The entire time I’m exposed to full sun and feeling like it is baking me. There was a breeze that felt nice often, and the temperature wasn’t crazy hot, but I was miserable. My body decided that the only thing I wanted to drink was cold water. Well, I didn’t have any of that. I had a few ounces of water left in my camelback and a half bottle of sports drink. Nothing sounded good to eat either. I was bonking and bonking hard. I sat down on a log along the trail at one point and was hoping this would end soon. I took breaks every couple hundred feet of elevation. The trail was sandy and loose, and when only moving about 3mph, the bike was very hard to keep on track and in the trail. I was wandering back and forth across the trail and having a difficult time staying upright. I did come across a mule deer that wasn’t even concerned with me being there. Likely because I was moving too slow to spook it. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally made it back to the van. Luke had been there for nearly 40 minutes waiting on me. I told Luke that I was done, and possibly done for the weekend. I wanted to die… BUFFALO CREEK BREAK TIME AND MULE DEER PHOTO
It took me nearly 15 minutes to get the bike on the rack, and get into the van. I felt sick, hot, tired, and somewhat embarrassed that I had let myself get into this shape. With the A/C full throttle I tried to cool down and just couldn’t get cool or comfortable. We pulled over to check out a campsite and I got out of the van and sat in the shade along the van in the rocks. Within 10 seconds, I was laying in the gravel road trying to get my body to cooperate with me and not puke or pass out. Luke remembered that he had a Gatorade in the van and gave that to me. I chugged down 32 oz in about 30 seconds hoping that would help. It took nearly 10 minutes, but I started to feel better. We got back into the van and headed towards civilization. We pulled into the first gas station we saw. Both of us ended up with chocolate milk and a Klondike bar. It was delicious and brought me back to life. https://www.strava.com/activities/642222775
We made it to Golden and had a great burger at Bob’s Atomic Burgers across the street from the Coors brewery.
Grabbed a hotel for the night in town and I was still unsure if I wanted to ride anymore. My spirits were broken from that last climb. After a night of rest, I woke up feeling pretty good and wanting to ride one more time before I had to go home. We decided to hit North Table Mountain near Golden. There was a 14 mile loop that we should be able to knock out in a couple hours. The climbs looked mellow and there wasn’t a bunch of elevation change. We arrived at the trailhead about 8:30 am and hit the trail.
The trail started with a fairly steep climb on a paved trail. I was feeling much better than expected. We reached a flat area and saw a single track heading off to the right. It was really worn in single track, but the weeds were tall along the trail. I thought “is this the right trail?”…. We continued on and the trail turned downhill after a mile or so. When I say downhill, I mean the most technical chunky, rocky boulder ridden descent of the entire trip. We really ripped this downhill at a pretty good pace. After popping out at a lower parking lot we found a trail at the other end that went back up. Well, it seemed that we should have brought backpacking gear to strap our bikes to. This climb was absolutely impossible to climb on a bike, and even impossible to push a bike up. We had to carry our bikes. GPS data shows this trail was near 30% grade. We climbed for about 15 minutes, then saw rock climbers another 1000’ above us. At this point, we retreated and headed back down. Once back at the parking lot, we took the road back to our original starting point and tried this trail again. We rode it the other direction this time and found it to be very fast and nearly flat.
Speaking of flat…. This is when I pinch flatted again. It seemed odds were against us for this last ride. But, I swapped the tube and we were back at it. We knocked out 4 more miles or so before we needed to be back at the van and get the rental bike back to the shop. https://www.strava.com/activities/642873850
After loading up our gear, we headed to town. We dropped the bike, then hung out at the whitewater stream in Golden to clean up before I needed to get on an airplane. We had lunch at the farmers market, then headed to the airport. Luke dropped me off, and I waited for my plane to arrive. Several hours later, I was back at home and ready to rest up.
It was a great trip and I had a blast. Luke gave quite the tour of the front range on trails that I hadn’t been on yet. I plan to try to catch up with him again in the future at one of his adventurous locations.