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mountain biking

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How to Adventure with your Significant Other (And Still Like Each Other Afterward)

August 28, 2015

[First let me say that I am overwhelmed by the response to my post about how trails have changed my life. Thanks to all of you that shared your stories. Knowing that I’m among kindred spirits feels pretty darn good! XO, Jen]

A video came across my Facebook feed this morning from the folks at Dakine that had me crying tears of laughter right into my coffee. The video follows the exploits of a young couple, stereotypical gender roles reversed, out “enjoying” a day on mountain bikes. If you haven’t seen the video, you can watch it here:

If you have spent any amount of time in the outdoors with a significant other, a lot of this probably looks pretty familiar.

The meltdown this guy has at 1:20 looks a whole lot like when I threw down my camera gear and cried at Kalalau and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “your hands wouldn’t hurt if you didn’t brake so much!” while out on the bike. I don’t think I’m nearly as whiney as this guy (dear god, I hope I’m not!) but there is a whole lot of truth in this video.

At first I thought it was just us. I thought that every other couple was surely out having blissful adventures together and then recounting the day’s shenanigans over beers, just like in those Mich Ultra commercials that they show during the Tour de France. You know what I’m talking about, right? The commercials that show smiling, fit-looking people out recreating with members of the opposite sex who are presumably their significant others and then happily celebrating with a cold Mich Ultra afterwards? I can tell you from experience that those are not an accurate depiction of reality (and we know this is true because no one looks that happy while drinking Mich Ultra).

Anyway, the point that I’m trying to make is that adventuring with your significant other is hard. And while I know many couples that seem to have it figured out, I know just as many that say yeah, not us. And that’s ok. What matters isn’t that you’re out riding or hiking or skiing with your partner. What matters is that you’re out riding or hiking or skiing at all. And that what you’re doing is working for everyone. And that everyone is happy.

But just because I think it’s totally ok to do your own thing doesn’t mean that I don’t have some advice for those of you who are hellbent on hitting the trail with your significant other. Want some unsolicited advice on how to keep everyone happy? Read on!

Be honest about what you’re getting them into. This is a big one. Don’t try to trick your spouse/domestic partner/girlfriend/boyfriend/friend-with-benefits into thinking that your adventure is going to be something that it isn’t. Don’t tell them that the ride will be easy if you know it is going to be hard and don’t, for the love of god, tell them that something won’t be technical if it will. A little bit of warning goes a long way. And keep in mind that what is easy for you might not be easy for them. And vice versa.

Set all expectations early. Are you going to wait for them? Do they want you to wait for them? How far apart is too far apart? Talk about all this stuff before you go. Some people desperately want their riding partners to wait for them at regular intervals. For me, it’s demoralizing and makes me feel bad. I’d rather you go ahead and do your own thing so I can focus on doing mine. Figure out what your partner wants and then do that.

Don’t do the “bitch stop”. You know when you’re riding with someone and they stop and wait as you huff and puff your way up the hill only to take off down the trail the very second you roll up? My husband and I call this the “bitch stop”. Don’t do it! Just because you are fully recovered does not mean that the person behind you is ready to roll. Give them a second to catch their breath.

Stop doubting yourself. Stop apologizing. If someone is riding (or hiking or climbing or whatever) with you, especially if they are doing it for a second (or third or fourth or hundredth) time, it’s because they want to be out there with you. Stop doubting that you are good enough. And stop apologizing. Stop apologizing for being too slow or too fast (unless you broke the aforementioned agreed upon expectations) or for riding too well or too poorly. Just stop! And yes, this is something that I have to remind myself of all the time.

Go it alone. It may seem strange to see “don’t ride/hike/run/ski together” on a list of suggestions for how TO do all those things but, let’s be honest, it’s a pretty good piece of advice. Just because you and your significant other enjoy the same hobbies doesn’t mean that you have to do those same hobbies together all the time. Set off on your own or grab a friend and hit the trail. Doing things at your own pace and in your own way doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with your relationship. It means that you’re healthy, happy, and independent. And you’ll have more to talk about when you meet up over drinks later!

I will be honest and tell you that we don’t adventure together much these days. Throwing a kid into the mix made getting out at the same time infinitely harder. But someday, I hope, we can hit the trail together again. And when we do, I hope we can be an actual old married couple … not just people who bicker like one!

Happy trails, y’all!

Got any advice for those brave enough to hit the trail with their significant other? Any funny war stories to share? Drop me a line in the comments!



Live, Play, Travel

Nature’s Classroom

August 26, 2015
Colorado Trail, Kenosha Pass, Colorado

I am thrilled to be partnering with REI on their #everytrailconnects project. Talking about trails and what they mean to me? Yeah, sign me up! Thanks to the good folks at REI for this opportunity!

I was several hours into my ride over Rollins Pass when I realized how far I was from where I started.

I wasn’t thinking about the miles I had ridden, the feet I had climbed, or the fact that I was halfway over a freaking mountain en route to a town on the other side of the Continental Divide.

I was thinking about how far I had come since I first stepped foot on a trail.

401 Trail, Crested Butte, Colorado

Hoosier Pass, Colorado

I was somewhat of a late bloomer in the outdoor world, if you consider being a freshman in college as being “late”. I had always loved the outdoors and always been a tomboy but it wasn’t until the ripe old age of 18 that I fell in love with skinny strips of dirt and the rush that you get from facing your fears.

As with many outdoorsy women of my generation, it was a boy that got me out on the trail. He was a mountain biker and I was smitten. I was also scared. As we cruised the easy riverside trails near my university town, tears welled in my eyes and my arms shook with fear. It was the easiest, least threatening mountain bike ride imaginable … and I was terrified.

A lot has changed since then. I lost the boyfriend, kept the bike, and got way more comfortable in the outdoors. And I owe it all to time spent on the trail.

Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Trails have been a path to freedom and a way to push my limits. They have taught me patience, perseverance, and self-reliance. They turned a little girl that was afraid of everything into a woman that has no qualms about setting out by herself on long backcountry adventures with nary another human in sight.

Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawaii

Horsethief Bench Trail, Fruita, Colorado

The adventures have gotten bigger since those early days and the trails have gotten harder, higher, and infinitely longer. The obstacles that once made me quake with fear go unnoticed and new challenges present themselves. It is on narrow ribbons of rock and dirt that I have learned how strong I am and how brave I can be. The trails have taught me to focus on what I’m doing, to not look down, and to never look back.

Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawaii

Few things bring about personal growth like a heaping dose of discomfort and my days on the trails have provided it in spades. The experiences I have had – the joy, fear, pain, elation – have been the catalysts that made me who I am today.

I don’t have it all figured out, and sometimes I still stumble and shake, but it happens less often now and in places that I’d never have imagined I’d be. And I owe it all to time spent on tiny slivers of dirt.

Have trails made a difference in your life? I want to hear about it! Leave me a comment below and let me know what trails mean to you.

This post was created in partnership with and sponsored by REI. 


Shredly: A Love Story

August 24, 2015

When I first started mountain biking (circa 1999 – which is like, whoah!) I wore a t-shirt, a pair of green-ish khaki-ish shorts, and Tevas. And I rode a lot. There are no pictures of those days, fortunately, but I can promise you that it wasn’t a good look. It also wasn’t very comfortable.

After a while I graduated to lycra and that, in it’s various forms, was my on-the-bike uniform for the next 15 years. There were jerseys and chamois. Tri shorts and tri tops. Cycling tanks and skinsuits. They all looked a little different but they were all skin tight.

As my cycling wardrobe slowly gravitated away from basic black and towards being covered with sponsor logos, I started feeling a little self-conscious. Team kits are great and all but sometimes I didn’t want to look like I was headed to a race. Sometimes I wanted to wear some normal freaking clothes, clothes that I could lounge around in afterwards without having to think about sucking in my stomach or whether I should down that post-ride beer (the answer to that question is always yes, by the way).

And thus, the search for baggies began.

I tried a few brands, whose names I won’t mention, and didn’t love them. They never seemed to fit quite right. They always seemed to ride up. They always sent me running back to my lycra. I gave up.

And then one day, while perusing Outdoor Divas, I stumbled upon Shredly shorts and decided that maybe it was time to give baggies another try.

I grabbed a couple pairs and scurried into the fitting room to try them on. I loved the gorgeous patterns and buttery soft fabric. I didn’t like how long they were. I’m all of 5’4″ if I stand really, really tall and the majority of that height is in my torso (making many women’s specific bikes a terrible idea for me, but that’s a topic for another post). My femurs? They’re comically short. And the Shredlys felt way too long.

I hung them back up and went on my merry way. But I kept thinking about them.

A few months later we were in Fruita and I found myself eyeing the selection of baggies at Over the Edge. I once again grabbed a pair of Shredlys and tried them on. I showed them to my husband and asked if he thought they were way too long. They’re baggies, he said. They’re supposed to be long.

So I bit the bullet. I ponied up to the counter, handed over my credit card, and wondered I was making a big mistake.

shredly reviewAn hour later I was out at Kokopelli’s, making my way around some of my favorite trails in the state. And I was obsessed. These shorts? They didn’t ride up. They didn’t annoy me. They didn’t make me want to give up on baggies forever. I was in love.

It’s been almost a year now and I can tell you that I have more than gotten my money’s worth. These days I wear them pretty much anytime I’m on my mountain bike. Or on my paddleboard. Or when I pull the kid in his trailer down to the bakery for a croissant and cortado. They weren’t cheap but, please believe, that they have paid for themselves many times over.

shredly review

shredly review

Thanks for the folks at Shredly for making beautiful baggies that actually fit female cyclists. I, and my desire to not wear lycra all the time, thank you.

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My fellow mountain bikers, let’s stop being jerks, ok?

July 27, 2015

Summer has arrived on Colorado’s Front Range which means that, if you want to not roast and enjoy halfway quiet trails, you have to get out before the sun gets too high. With that in mind, I headed out early yesterday morning for a quick lap at Centennial Cone. It was a beautiful day and everyone I came across was in good spirits. The sun was shining, the trail was in great shape, and the wildflowers were off the hook. It was a good morning.

I was probably ten miles into the twelve mile loop when I damn near got ran over.

It was the point in the ride when fatigue was starting to set in and the point in the day when the mercury was starting to rise. I was slogging my way up a hill, thinking about coffee and breakfast, when a guy came barreling down from above. I realized he didn’t see me and moved to the side of the trail, despite having right of way. When he realized what was about to happen, he grabbed a fistful of breaks, and skidded a good twenty feet. There was a look of panic on his face (and presumably on mine as well). With inches to go he recovered, cruised around the 135-pound obstacle in his way, and rode away without a word.

I had a word. It started with an F and rhymed with trucker. And it was stuck in my head for the rest of my ride.

I have been riding mountain bikes for a long time but episodes like this, rare as they may be, still leave me shaken. They still make me resent my fellow mountain bikers. And maybe worst of all, they remind me of where the anti-bike crowd is coming from.

Before I left my “real” job, I worked for an agency that was on the front lines of a lot of the discussions about trail use. And while my own job (unfortunately!) wasn’t related to trail access, a lot of the people around me dealt with these issues every single day. From my cube I could hear their phone calls with concerned members of the public on all sides of access issues.

When people talk about being afraid of bikes on the trail, I tend to shake my head. Sometimes I fear that my eyes may actually get stuck in their sockets from all that rolling. I get that bikes, especially in large numbers, can disrupt your hiking experience, and if that is the reason for not wanting them on the trail, that is a discussion that I am happy to have. But I don’t for a second believe that every single time someone rides at Marshall Mesa or Betasso or Hall Ranch or wherever that they nearly get ran off the trail. And the reason I don’t believe it is because, while I do my share of riding, I also hike and run those same trails. Most mountain bikers are friendly and courteous. Most go out of their way to not scare people. Most are good ambassadors for the sport.

But there are a few assholes in every group. And those assholes give the rest of us a bad name.

Look, I get that it’s fun to ride your bike downhill fast. Believe me, I am right there with you on that. But a crowded, multi-directional trail on a busy summer weekend is not the time or place to do it. When you pack that many people onto a trail, especially when they’re going in different directions, you’re asking for trouble. If you can’t slow down to go around an uphill rider without completely losing control of your bike, you are going too fast. And when you scare hikers or other bikers, you’re undoing all of the work that the bike advocates do.

Cycling in it’s various forms is kind of my thing and I am as pro-bike as they come. And if the way you’re acting on a trail is making me think that something needs to change? You’re probably acting like a jerk. If we want access to these busy trails, we have to be good neighbors. We have to remember that we are not the only ones out there. And, sometimes, we need to slow the hell down. A fast, multidirectional trail on a busy summer weekend is not your personal bike park.

I realize that I’m probably preaching to the choir here, and that the folks that behave in this way will most likely never read this blog. And yes, this rant is probably firmly sealing my place in the damn kids, get off my lawn demographic. And that’s fine. Because, while this type of experience won’t stop me from riding my bike on the trails, it may stop others. And if nothing else, maybe some rattled hiker or mountain biker or equestrian will someday come across this post and realize that we’re not all like that. A lot of us (in fact, I would argue that it’s most of us) want to be good neighbors. And we get just as pissed about this behavior as you do.

All ranting aside, it was still a glorious morning!

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Live, Play, Travel

How not to ride Rollins Pass

July 21, 2015


There are a couple ways to get from Boulder to Winter Park. The usual route is to drive I-70 to the town of Empire and then go over twisty Berthoud Pass. This is the fast, easy way to get there. During the summer you have the option of driving Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park and then taking the highway down from Grand Lake. This will use up a lot more of your time but it takes you right through the heart of a national park, and that definitely counts for something.

And then there’s Rollins Pass which, depending on your perspective, is either the hard route, the scenic route, or the best route.

Rollins Pass traverses 35 bumpy miles up and over the Continental Divide between the towns of Rollinsville and Winter Park. Were it not for a tunnel near the top of the pass that is sealed up and a couple railroad trestles that can no longer support the weight of a vehicle, cars would still be able to drive the road in it’s entirety. These days, if you want to see all of Rollins Pass, you’re going to have to burn calories, not fuel, to do it.

Rollins Pass has been on my bucket list for a long time. This is partially because we spend a lot of time in Winter Park and riding to it instead of in it had a certain appeal. But mostly it was because of the trestles.

A hundred years or so ago, Rollins Pass was home to the Denver and Salt Lake Railway. The old route was abandoned in 1928 when a tunnel was blasted through the mountain and the Moffat Tunnel was born. Many of the old railroad trestles fell in to disrepair but some are rideable today. When you do Rollins Pass the right way, you ride over things that look like this.

Those trestles are the main reason I wanted to do this ride.

Late last week we found ourselves with a rare free weekend ahead of us. We decided to head to Winter Park to spend the weekend camping, hanging out, and soaking up summer mountain goodness. I had been wanting to ride Rollins Pass for a while but due to the logistics involved I hadn’t gotten around to it (I have the legs to ride to Winter Park, but not to get all the way back home). When I realized that this may be my opportunity for a shuttle, I knew I had to seize it.

I’ll meet you guys out there, I said to the husband and kid. It’s time to scratch another item off the bucket list.

The ride up the road toward the top of the pass isn’t super hard. The route climbs 3,000 feet in around 15 miles but it’s never very steep. It’s just bumpy. As I set off up the road the sun was shining and the humming birds were buzzing around over head. The four-wheelers were friendly when they passed me and only kicked up a little dust. I was on my bike, with visions of railroad trestles dancing in my head. Life was looking good.

After 15 miles or so you reach the Needle’s Eye Tunnel, which is the first obstacle that keeps cars from driving all the way to Winter Park. The tunnel is closed to vehicles but a steep hiker trail goes up and over it. Hike-a-bikes are not my favorite thing (are hike-a-bikes anyone’s favorite thing?) but the section was short and the views were stellar. And I knew that the trestles lay just ahead.

I dropped down from the hike-a-bike section on the other side of the tunnel and continued up what I thought was the road. I noticed a turn off to my right but didn’t think much of it. I was sure I was on the right path. As the road I was on got worse, I found myself hiking again. I don’t remember reading about two hiking sections, I thought. But I trudged on anyway, thinking that maybe I was just in piss poor shape and everyone else makes easy work of this section of road.

Eventually I reached the 11,000-foot summit of Rollins Pass itself. When I saw a couple pickup trucks coming up from the other side, I started to have my doubts. How could those cars get up here and over the trestles? That’s not possible. I considered retracing my steps and taking a different road but knew that my family would be waiting for me in Winter Park and that the price for rolling in later than expected would be having to ride all the way to our campsite.

I reassessed my goals and reminded myself that Goal#1, all along, was to arrive in Winter Park in one piece. Goal #2 was to ride the trestles. I pushed on down the road.

I did pass a few trestles on the way but none of them were anything that could be ridden. A few days later I pulled up Google Earth and clearly saw where I went wrong. That nasty hike-a-bike that I didn’t know was part of the ride? It’s not. While I was sweating and cursing my way up the hill, the road I was supposed to be on was just out of sight on the hillside below me.

It wasn’t all a bust. I still got in 35 high altitude miles and a good bit of climbing. I got to ride my bike above treeline and chat with friendly (if not somewhat incredulous) ATV drivers (You RODE all the way up here? You must have good legs …”). And I still got to stuff my face with burritos and bourbon and go camping with my family and friends when the day was done.

And now I have an excuse to go back and do it again.

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