Play, Travel

For the Love of Canyon Climbs

June 15, 2015

When it comes to mountain biking, there’s a lot of different things to like.

Some people love the technical challenge, the rush, the trying to not get bloodied up while riding the hard stuff. Some people see it as a way to get out on the trail with their friends or their dog. Some people only like it if they can hop a shuttle or chairlift to the top of a mountain and ride downhill as fast as they can. Those are all valid reasons to love mountain biking and perfectly acceptable ways to enjoy time on a bike.

As for me? I love it for a lot of reasons, but mostly I’m in it for the solitude.

This presents a bit of a problem in a town with lots of cyclists crammed onto limited trails. We have some pretty good mountain biking in Boulder but we also have a lot of people that really love to ride. It gets crowded.

Visit any of the local trails on a weekend (or even a weekday – because no one works in Boulder) and you’ll find hundreds of people doing the exact same thing you are: riding a bike on dirt. People are friendly and the vibe is good but there’s still a lot of talking that happens, a lot of interacting, a lot of moving over to let people pass. This isn’t a bad thing, unless you’re trying to get away from it all.

Contrary to what most people probably think, the place to find solitude in Boulder isn’t on the trails. It’s on the road.

Several windy canyon roads make their way out of town and deep into the foothills. They’re paved at first and then, often, they turn to dirt. They meet up with other roads and trails and take you far out of town. They’re beautiful and they’re blissfully quiet.

Yesterday I rode Fourmile Canyon up to the tiny town of Sunset and then turned onto the Switzerland Trail to head toward Gold Hill. The hummingbirds buzzed over my head and the hot, high altitude sun turned my skin gold. I crave these types of rides. Lots of pain. Lots of suffering. Lots of time to think. And barely another soul in site. It occurred to me while I was out there, turning pedals and grunting my way uphill, that this is what I love. The kind of ride where it’s just you, your bike, the birds, and endless miles that tilt ever upward.

Sometimes that kind of zen happens on the trails. Sometimes it happens on quiet roads that climb big hills in the middle of nowhere.

Don’t get me wrong, I love riding singletrack. Cruising Hall Ranch or the Colorado Trail or 401 or any other tight and twisty trail anywhere in the west is almost certainly more fun than climbing canyon roads. Those narrow ribbons of trail are the stuff that shit-eating grins are made of. They’re why we all get hooked on mountain biking, the reason we drop serious coin on fancy bikes with lots of travel. They’re just not the only game in town, especially in this town.

I know that “I love riding my mountain bike on dirt roads” isn’t a sexy thing to say. And I’m ok with that because all the people that think boring gravel rides in the canyons are lame? They leave lots of room on the road for me.

And that’s just how I like it.

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