Dirt Rag Magazine

Featured Ride: Doctor Park, Colorado



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Trail information and photos courtesy of MTB Project.

Autumn colors are beginning to show in the Colorado high country. The Doctor Park trail is beloved by locals, especially in the fall when the aspens are turning and the landscape is covered in bright yellows and oranges.

The Doctor Park singletrack trail is just under 7 miles one way, but is connected to Crested Butte’s massive trail network that could provide several days of riding.  You can actually drive to the trailhead, but it’s on a 4×4-only access road. Most people grind out the climb up the Jeep road and Doctor Gulch trail to access this fabled descent, which turns it into a 20-mile ride.

The first mile of the Doctor Park descent is a climb through dark, damp forests up to 10,900 feet. At the top, the landscape opens up into a beautiful meadow. Take a break and enjoy the views—but know that the views will only get better.

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From there, the trail dives onto very skinny, bermed singletrack. From the get-go, this trail throws some gnar your way. Be ready for rooty, rocky drops, and super fun corners to navigate. This initial difficult section gives way to some very flowing trail that’s surrounded by aspens. This section is just plain fast, fun, with a few very technical rock gardens thrown in for good measure.

At the end of this mostly non-technical portion, the trail tips upwards for the final time. The descent off this climb is the most technical portion of this trail. It’s filled with tight switchbacks, loose sand, big rock drops and fun optional lines. You end up around 8,400 feet and multiple options for continuing the ride.

Special thanks to the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association, which oversees this trail.


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SRAM Stories: One of many – Colorado trail reunion


Words: Mary Dishman
Photos: Adrian Marcoux

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Trails are the basis of everything in mountain biking. They’re the arteries that flow life into every ride. They’re the blank canvas, the empty sheet. They’re the beginning, middle and end of every mountain bike story.

Whether beaten into submission by machines, carefully sculpted with blistered hands and simple tools, or worn into being by centuries of animal traffic, each trail is as varied as the people who ride it. The trail’s story changes with each passing rider — every one of them having their own distinct perspective and definition of speed, space, time, adventure, danger and awesome — and each is another “One of Many.”

The following is one in a collection of short stories from three different trips to three different trails. If presented as simple trail beta, these pieces might detail the dirt — and a turn here, a climb there, a drop after that. But seen through the eyes of each of these riders, these stories represent unique experiences — one of many stories that happen each day.

You are one of many. What is your story?


Every June, my trail map emerges from winter hibernation and finds its way back onto the coffee table, where it will live until the snow starts to fall again. And each time I unfold the accordion and focus in on the trip I’m planning, I start getting antsy. It has been three seasons since I last pedaled in these parts on the map, and my patience for snow melting has run out.

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The San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado are a rugged, stunning and very high mountain range that is heavily concentrated in minerals. One hundred and fifty years ago, these mountains separated the booming mining metropolises of Telluride, Silverton, Ouray and Durango. Today we are able to access and ride in the San Juans because of the old mining infrastructure. The trails that used to connect these towns, which were simply carved into the sides of the mountains, are now popular scenic roads that take you deep into the backcountry. The old mule and horse paths have transformed into the most perfectly pitched, 18-inch-wide flowy singletrack that fluently contours the topography.

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Mary Dishman’s main trail companion; a Juliana Roubion equipped with SRAM X01, SRAM ROAM 60 wheels, SRAM Guide RSC brakes, RockShox Pike RCT3, RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 and RockShox Reverb Stealth

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The trail that attracts the most mountain bikers to the San Juans is, without a doubt, the Colorado Trail. Completed in 1987, and connecting Denver to Durango, the Colorado Trail is 486 miles long and passes through eight mountain ranges. This long-distance trail provides easy access to miles and miles of some of the country’s best alpine singletrack.

I’ve lived in Durango for more than 10 years now and have found that the CT running through the San Juans to Durango acts as our highway, an artery that breathes seemingly unlimited riding possibilities into the area. When I say “highway” I literally mean high way. The CT winds through the region at elevations of between 11,000 and 12,500 feet above sea level for about 60 miles on a ribbon of singletrack that you can usually see for days in front of you. Our tree line is around 11,800 feet, so you might imagine the high alpine panoramic landscape.

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Cascading off this main artery into the adjacent drainages below are dozens of trails that act as the veins in this equation. There is a lifetime’s worth of riding in this mountain range alone. But the window we get every year is short — three months, maybe. When it’s time, you motivate.

The cycling community in Durango is filled with a passion and history I have yet to see anywhere else. Among all the sport’s old legends is a mix of younger pros ranging from XC to Enduro riders. The local youth mountain bike development program, called Durango Devo, has grown from just 8 participants to over 700 in just 10 years. The program even offers a pushbike group that has more than 50 little munchkins per school year. The Explorers group is comprised of about 40 mini “Magellans” who tackle multiple-day bike-packing trips each spring, summer and fall. And alongside all of the kids and pros riding around town, there is a plethora of locals that just get after it.

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Riding around on the local town trails with friends is always a hoot, but I feel there is something about riding in the high mountains that strengthens friendships. It could be the task at hand: It’s not always fun to pedal uphill for hours at a time, or to get caught in a lightning storm. Sometimes a little suffering can get the best of you, but your buddy’s contrasting attitude — and a bit of humor — can really pull you through. It could also be the dirt. The dirt you find in and around the Colorado Trail is some of the best I’ve pedaled on. It’s the icing on the cake. It makes those high-fives sting. Quality rides makes quality friends.

This summer, I had the chance to take some fine Canadian folks on some of the most quality riding I have ever found. I was a little scared, at first, because of the unusually wet spring and unknown trail conditions. I was feeling the pressure to show them our best rides because they were coming from the mountain bike meccas of Whistler and Squamish.

After scheming for endless hours with the map, I came up with a three-day itinerary. But there was still a problem with the plan: I had no idea exactly how much snow and debris we would find. The local consensus was that there would be a blanket of snow covering the trail. But the temperatures were rising rapidly and, as I mentioned earlier, my snow-melting patience was gone.

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Downed trees, high creek-crossings and snow were to be expected in the early season obstacle course. The drifts and other snowy patches not only added a remarkable contrast to the scenery, they also gave us an awareness of our presence in this rugged vastness. Raging waterfalls now cascading off cliffs will be mere trickles by late summer, baby skunk cabbage that will soon be taller than your handlebars and the spastic, curious, chirping marmots that were just waking up: It all added to the vitality these mountains emanate.

Every June, the first big high-country ride brings me a boost of energy and ear-to-ear smiles, because it rekindles my passion for mountainous adventure. We were all feeling the electric mountain buzz as we pedaled in, around and through this main-artery trail, laying down fresh tracks in the dirt and snow.

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We gathered, about ready to start a descent off the artery, dropping into one of its mind-melting veins. The anticipation was killing me. You could stare at this trail all day long on the map and understand that it drops down a steep ridgeline. You can see that it descends 2,500 feet in just under 4 miles. And I could talk about the most perfect aspen grove the trail winds through till I’m blue in the face. But to experience it again, with friends, and watch their expressions as they began to understand what I had been talking about, and showing them on the map, was like being there for first time all over again. Maybe even better.

Sometimes you just have to go to know.


More in this series: One Of Many – Della Creek Dog Fighting

 

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Race Report: Crested Butte Fat Bike World Championships


Just so we are clear, this story is about Crested Butte Fat Bike World Championships, as in SSCXWC and SSWC and #fatbikeshit. The acronyms UCI and USAC had nothing to do with the super-fat-tire race that went down last weekend high in the Colorado mountains.

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Crested Butte, Colorado, claims itself as the birthplace of mountain biking (in tandem with Marin County, California, of course), making it a fitting place to host a “world championship” for one of mountain biking’s newest iterations. But just like it shares that mantle, it has to share another: Midwesterners argue that they have hosted a citizens fat bike “championship” race for several years near Cable, Wisconsin, called Fat Bike Birkie. Others will tell you that Noquemanon World Championship Snowbike in Marquette, Michigan, which ran in 2012 and 2013, was first. On a more formal note, USA Cycling will run Fat Bike Nationals in Ogden, Utah, February 27.

Technicalities aside, there’s nothing bad about getting a bunch of knobby-tire lovers together for a weekend dedicated to fun. The four-day event was hosted by the chamber of commerce and sponsored by Borealis Fat Bikes of Colorado Springs. A relay/team race and bike demo kicked things off Thursday, January 28, followed by a regional advocacy and access summit on Friday.

The official, so-called world championship race happened on Saturday, when about 260 people gathered to ride a six-mile loop—three passes for the open class and five times for the elites—on a wide, groomed track normally only open to Nordic skiers.

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Two hundred and sixty is also the number of people estimated to have showed up to race the first Single Speed World Championships of mountain biking in 1999, so Crested Butte Fat Bike Worlds is off to a proper start.

The event was very inclusive with categories including 55-plus, junior men and women, and adaptive racers. Kids on fat bikes were probably the coolest thing I saw all weekend. Most of the participants hailed from Colorado or one of the surrounding Rocky Mountain states. A handful of those were racing on demo bikes, having never powered a fat bike prior to the event, including the elite men’s winner, professional American road cyclist Robbie Squire.

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Sanctioned shenanigans were decidedly tame when compared to the SSWC events (which I was under the impression this event was trying to replicate, at least somewhat), but the outdoor performance by Lez Zeppelin, an all-female Led Zeppelin tribute band was fantastically awesome and Odell Brewing was pouring tasty brews all weekend.

Race planner and chamber of commerce director Dave Ochs loudly proclaimed to the finish-line crowd that Fat Bike Worlds would never be taken away from Crested Butte, so there were no drunken games played to see which city would host the race, next, though free marijuana from the local distributor was included in some of the winners’ prize packs.

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No matter what, Crested Butte is one of the most picturesque, charming mountain towns in Colorado—the archetype for a place were you’d be pleased to be trapped by a snowstorm for several days. And the bicycle culture is deeply ingrained. Adjacent each of the in-town bus stops were tall snow drifts with several rusty, old bicycles crammed into them, unlocked—apparently the formal method of bike parking. But it’s not an easy place to get to, and then there is Colorado’s penchant for dumping non-bike-friendly powder to contend with. As the locals said, “We don’t ride on snow days—we ski.”

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At the end of it all, a rider still walked away with a permanent mark on his bottom, a la SSWC. Andre-Paul Michaud, winner of the men’s open race (pictured below in black), was the only champion who consented to having his skin branded, literally, with the event logo. Michaud, hailing from Durango, Colorado, laid down his three laps in one hour, 18 minutes and was rewarded by being laid face-down in the snow to have a hot branding iron pressed into his flesh (video from Bikepackers Magazine).

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Crested Butte Fat Bike Worlds will need to figure out its niche personality, especially in order to compete with the multitude of other fat bike races occurring in the state and across the country around the same time. Either way it leans—by growing more serious with a bigger industry presence or crawling a bit more underground—throwing yourself around in the snow with a few hundred new friends then drinking local beer, listening to live music and going skiing the next day is a recipe for a good time.

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Don’t Miss: Old Man Winter Rally


Oskar Blues’ Old Man Winter Rally had a wildly successful first year in 2015, with nearly 700 riders from Tour de France participants to 10-year-olds on fat bikes, and is set to go even bigger in 2016. The event takes place in Boulder County, Colorado, on February 7, 2016, and you’re invited.

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Choose either the 50km or 100km route of dirt, snow, sweat, and beer. The 50km option offers a scenic spin along the paved and gravel farm roads on the east side of the Foothills Highway. The 100km route promises leg-burning climbs, bone-chilling descents, and an exhilarating adventure in the dramatic canyons west of Boulder. Whether you tackle it on a road bike, cross bike, mountain bike or fat bike is entirely up to you.

Every participant (1,000 are expected) can look forward to luxury aid stations with heat and eats, a hot meal and a cold beer at the finish line, and a rousing post-ride party with live music, contests, and a massive raffle. Funds raised from the event will go toward local trail maintenance via the Oskar Blue Can’d Aid Foundation. Register now.

Photos courtesy of Eddie Clark/Adventure Fit/Oskar Blues.

 

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Featured Ride: Phil’s World near Cortez, CO

The Phil’s World trail system, near Cortez, Colorado, is a worthy destination for a multitude of reasons. First, the riding is absolutely amazing. Second, this riding area illustrates what can be achieved when local advocacy groups are able to form strong partnerships with land managers like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Phil’s World exists on BLM land that’s been designated a “Backyard to Backcountry” treasure. Read more about the BLM’s initiative to connect communities with recreational opportunities here. A portion of the land on which these trails exist is leased by the Kokopelli Bike Club, which asks non-members to contribute $3 per person when riding at Phil’s World.

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Back to the riding. The Phil’s world system is comprised of 26.8 miles of purpose-built directional singletrack. These trails traverse rolling terrain with climbs less than 400 feet of elevation.

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Roller coaster singletrack through the high desert of SW Colorado.

— Jeff Fox on Dec 5, 2013

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Check out MTB Project for all the Phil’s World details.


Photos courtesy of MTB Project.

 

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The Phil’s World trail system, near Cortez, Colorado, is a worthy destination for a multitude of reasons. First, the riding is absolutely amazing. Second, this riding area illustrates what can be achieved when local advocacy groups are able to form strong partnerships with land managers like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Phil’s World exists on BLM land that’s been designated a “Backyard to Backcountry” treasure. Read more about the BLM’s initiative to connect communities with recreational opportunities here. A portion of the land on which these trails exist is leased by the Kokopelli Bike Club, which asks non-members to contribute $3 per person when riding at Phil’s World.

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Back to the riding. The Phil’s world system is comprised of 26.8 miles of purpose-built directional singletrack. These trails traverse rolling terrain with climbs less than 400 feet of elevation.

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Roller coaster singletrack through the high desert of SW Colorado.

— Jeff Fox on Dec 5, 2013

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Check out MTB Project for all the Phil’s World details.


Photos courtesy of MTB Project.

 

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The Journeywoman


Jessica Martin arrived at the top of Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs after hiking and riding a 13-mile, 8000-foot vertical trail. She was wearing a multi-colored tutu because “bikes are about fun; this is supposed to be fun.” Alongside two friends she popped champagne, ate donuts and took a few photographs, but otherwise there was little fanfare around what she had achieved.

It was late morning on Sept. 24, 2015, and Martin, a not-famous, not-professional mountain biker uninterested in self-promotion, had just become the first woman to summit all of Colorado’s legal-to-ride 14,000-foot peaks by mountain bike.

Mt. Elbert. Photo: Joey Klein

Mt. Elbert. Photo: Joey Klein

A few days later, Martin and her high school chemistry teacher (the second woman to ski all of Colorado’s fourteeners) would summit Mt. Elbert via bike before enjoying one of the better trail descents. Martin had already ridden Elbert, but that was back in 2012 and she was determined to tackle all of them in a single season.

The standout thing about Martin is that she’s a privateer and has only been mountain biking for about five years. This is an honest-to-goodness, “she’s just like you and me” story, with a warm-spirited 29-year-old at the center doing something purely for passion’s sake on her days off, with her own money and by the power of her own volition.

And—as someone who is unsponsored—she rode each fourteener on a bike that our current trends would demonize as wholly inappropriate for the job: an aluminum 2011 Yeti ASR-7 with a 180mm FOX 36 fork that weighs a whopping 34 pounds. (For Mt. Sherman, she got to borrow a new carbon Yeti.)

Mt. Elbert. Photo: Joey Klein

Mt. Elbert. Photo: Joey Klein

Martin owns a home in Golden, Colorado, where she works for Donor Alliance doing the delicate job of tissue and organ recovery. She also occasionally helps out at the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), which helped strengthen her ethos of ethical riding.

Martin spent countless hours painstakingly ascertaining the legality of mountain biking on each peak. Twenty-seven of Colorado’s fourteeners (there are 53 total) are outside of Wilderness areas—places with no bicycle access whatsoever—but many of those were still tossups and required endless research down Internet rabbit holes and multiple phone calls to overseeing land managers.

“I always wanted to stick to riding what I knew was absolutely legal. I’m not here to stir any pots or start any user group conflicts, and I don’t want anyone to be able to come back and question my motives,” she said. “I know people are going to look up to this and I already have riders asking for beta. I simply wanted to celebrate what we are able to ride.”

Greys and Torreys. Photo: Joey Klein

Greys and Torreys. Photo: Joey Klein

The number of legal fourteeners Martin came up with is 14, and she took her 34-pound Yeti to the top of every single one between July 31 and October 2, even though it meant carrying the bike on her back as she scrambled across precarious scree and talus fields thousands of feet above tree line (which is roughly 12,000 feet).

“The first two peaks I did, I was able to summit with my bike so it just wasn’t a question that I would take it to the top of each one. My bike is my team and it gets me as far as it can,” said Martin. “But it’s also from my backcountry splitboarding and mountaineering mindset. In those activities, you never leave gear behind.”

Mt. Antero. Photo: Heather DeNeen Bonewitz

Mt. Antero. Photo: Heather DeNeen Bonewitz

The obvious question here is, “Why?” Why haul a bicycle into thin air facing treacherous terrain, often-unrideable trails, unpredictable weather, very long hours, early mornings, late nights and lots of cold pizza?

For Martin, the answer has multiple dimensions, each of them personal. It struck me as remarkable—especially in the face of criticism that mountain bikers don’t belong in the backcountry and can’t appreciate it—that her answer sounds much like one from any nature-loving pioneer adventurer, be they a climber, mountaineer, backpacker or otherwise: “It’s the type of riding that makes me come alive,” she said. “I love being completely out in nature, vulnerable, exposed and discovering. It’s not that this is the best way to experience life. As long as you find the thing that makes you feel alive, you’re winning.”

With a smile, she added: “Weeknight group rides just don’t do that for me.”

Martin’s project started in 2012 when she and her ex-boyfriend tackled Mt. Elbert (Colorado’s highest peak) after hearing of some friends doing it by bike. The trail was almost entirely rideable on the way down—so good that they had to stop a few times to let their brakes cool.

“It’s impossible to describe the feeling up there when you’re looking down and knowing that you’re literally above everything in the state and that the trail below is you is totally rideable,” she said. “The summit is the most profound part of the journey.”

Pikes Peak. Photo: Brian Doss

Pikes Peak. Photo: Brian Doss

Elbert planted a seed that took a while to develop. Last year, Martin attempted to ride Mt. Sherman but hit snow near the top that was so steep it was impassible in cycling shoes, so that was the first one she went back for this year on July 31. Under a full moon, Martin started her trek at 3:15 a.m., arrived at the top for sunrise and was back at her car by 8:30.

It was the fastest summit, by far. She admits that Elbert and Sherman tricked her into thinking the adventure would be easier than it was, but they also committed her to figuring out how to tackle the project of riding up and down each accessible fourteener. Martin freely admits that she wasn’t sure it would be possible, but wanted to give it a go, anyway.

The journey took on a new meaning for Martin in October 2014, when she crashed on a technical-but-familiar trail in Moab, Utah. She broke her arm so severely that it required surgery, lots of metal and four months of absolutely no bike riding to put the broken bones back together.

Mt. Elbert. Photo: Brittany Konsella

Mt. Elbert. Photo: Joey Klein

“It’s insane how the mental impact of that wreck resonated. There’s not a single ride when I don’t think about the crash, whether I feel fear or just feel the hardware vibrating in my arm,” she said. “The fourteeners became a way to challenge myself and test my bravery, but I accept that some risks aren’t worth it and I took a very cautious approach even though I was pushing my limits. I had nothing to prove, but there’s something unique about dealing with the consequences of the terrain you are in and overcoming your fears.”

The project wasn’t entirely straightforward. Though Martin had occasional trailhead-based support or company from friends, she undertook several of the peaks alone (it’s simply not easy to find people with the time, gear and ability to ride bikes up and down fourteeners on Thursdays or Fridays). The most difficult was Mt. Princeton, which turned into an 18-hour epic. This is how Martin described the journey on her Facebook wall:

Mt. Princeton. Photo: Jessica Martin

Mt. Princeton. Photo: Jessica Martin

Yesterday was a test of my limits like I have never had. I set out on a solo mission on Mt Princeton. I pedaled 4 miles up a dirt road to the start of the trail. The singletrack stopped as fast as it started and it quickly became a slow slog, shouldering the bike almost the whole way through scree and talus fields. My spirit suffered with every step I took, knowing that literally none of what I was climbing was rideable on the way down. My stubborn determination pushed me to the summit after a slow 7 hour slog with my 34 pound stallion of a bike. I celebrated with some warm coffee and a juicy palisade peach.

I knew the descent was going to be slower and more challenging than the ascent but I had no idea what I was in for. It was pure treachery, slowly picking my way down the endless fields of unrideable rock. I became so deflated as the clock ticked and I looked down at how far I had to go. Having the bike in tow was unwieldy as I maneuvered through the rocky terrain and, to top it off, I had developed a pressure sore on my ankle during the climb and I was now limping with every step. Sunset was fast approaching and I knew I would be finishing in the dark. I was able to get texts out to friends, got head lamps prepped and layered up for the dropping temps and wind.

Before long I was scrambling in complete darkness. Fear set in and I entered survival mode. I was alone, thirsty, hungry and scared. One misstep could send me or my bike tumbling down the mountain and all I had was a headlamp to guide me from one cairn to the next. I remember coming around a corner and seeing the rocky trail fade into singletrack and I was overcome with relief, the cessation of suffering was near.

It wasn’t long until the trail met the rutted 4WD road and I made my way down to where my friend Joey was staged with relief goodies. After a few minutes in a warm truck, electrolytes, snacks and a better head lamp, I [pedaled] down the road to complete the ride. My adventure comprised 18 hours, 15 miles, 5,783 feet of vertical, two bruised toenails, one bum ankle and one happy Jess overwhelmed with gratitude for persevering and surviving an epic solo adventure.

Mt. Antero. Photo by Heather DeNeen Bonewitz

Mt. Antero. Photo by Heather DeNeen Bonewitz

“Would I do it again? No. My grandmother could have come down Princeton faster because I had to pick up my bike and set it down again with every step, but there was no way I was giving up suffering in the throes of it,” said Martin when I asked her about Princeton. “Every time I got back to my car after finishing another fourteener, I arrived a changed person that was elated and inspired. Whether it’s trusting yourself or finding appreciation and respect for nature, or enjoying a mind-blowing descent, there was a combination of things that changed me each time.”

Most of the fourteeners simply aren’t great mountain bike rides: they are serviced by legacy trails, meaning the routes are so steep and rocky you’d have to have super-human strength to climb them and be “Danny Macaskill on steroids” to maneuver down. Martin can count on one hand the number of peaks she would recommend if you’re looking for an exciting descent. “A fun descent is the best part but the completion, in one piece, and being able to start planning the next one…that was the best.”

Greys and Torreys. Photo: Joey Klein

Greys and Torreys. Photo: Joey Klein

Martin is quick to point out that if you’re willing to spend some timing hiking with your bike, it’s worth the suffering. She strongly recommends you don’t attempt fourteeners by bike during peak hours or on weekends when the crowds could make your descent almost impossible to ride. Her nontraditional work schedule allowed her to be out on weekdays but, even then, she was still encountering groups of hikers.

She always made a point to pull off the trail to let hikers pass and strike up conversations whenever possible, which often resulted in exchanges of information as more and more hikers wanted to keep up with her progress. Martin was “awestruck” and humbled by the on-trail support she received, and emphasized that she was conscious of giving the (often hard-core) hikers who climb fourteeners a positive backcountry trail experience with a mountain biker.

Greys and Torreys. Photo: Joey Klein

Greys and Torreys. Photo: Joey Klein

“I didn’t care how long it took me. The personal interaction with others is more important than the actual ride,” she said. “Of course we’d all love to shred hard on the way down, but I would rather maintain responsible riding etiquette than scare people.”

Martin credits her success in part to the fact she was never hard-focused on setting a record, and that these rides were some of her first where she had to do all of the planning, preparation and be wholly self-sufficient. She moved methodically up and down the mountains; took photos to remember paths through rock fields after dirt trails disappeared; carried several pounds of extra clothing, backup batteries, real food, multiple lights and a bivvy sack; did extensive pre-trip planning and regularly texted people along the route (most peaks have great cell service above tree line).

“It was simply a personal goal and was never about making a splash of publicity. By the time I finished, I realized that it took only two months to accomplish the most profound and meaningful thing I have ever done,” she said. “I will never be the fastest or best technical rider, and it’s hard to set big goals in mountain biking anymore, but this was something where I could grow, thrive and come alive.”

Mt. Antero. Photo: Joey Klein

Mt. Antero. Photo: Joey Klein

Martin’s fourteenth fourteener attempt, Pikes Peak, began imperfectly. The parking lot was already packed at 5 a.m., forcing her to start later than planned. On that morning, she was feeling added pressure because two friends would be waiting at the top to ride the mostly-bikeable descent with her in celebration.

She was running on very little sleep, nerves, excitement and the tiredness of having done an 18-mile mountain bike ride the day before. Martin shrugs with a sheepish smile as she mentions that, “It was hard to turn down an autumn ride on a trail I really enjoy.”

Pikes Peak. Photo: Brian Doss

Pikes Peak. Photo: Brian Doss

The bottom of the trail has several stairs, which can be a discouraging way to begin a very long climb. The first several miles were also packed with hikers. Pikes Peak—thanks to its accessibility from a metro area, multiple vehicle access options and (perhaps) the presence of a donut shop on the peak—is one of the most popular fourteeners.

Eventually she passed a junction and the trail cleared out, offering a decent number of ridable sections. At one point, Martin ran into a group of women hikers on their way down. “One of them and said that once they realized I was a girl coming in the distance they said to each other, ‘Fuck yea, sister! That’s one strong chick!’”

Martin said she felt like she was moving slower than molasses but when she finally looked at her Strava data after the ride, it turned out she had beat the reigning Queen of the Mountain by one minute (total riding time 6 hours and 41 minutes).

“With a heavy ass pack and no sleep, it’s amazing what your body will do when you’re committed to something,” she said. “I never went into it looking for that; the journey was never about competition.” But it was a nice capstone to a hell of an adventure.

The trail on Pikes Peak is like kitty litter: sand and decomposed granite. The final mile to and from the top is completely covered in giant rocks so that it’s wholly unrideable. Martin was shaking with joy as she reached the top. The cog railway happened to be arriving at the same time, so her final summit push was greeted by the train’s honking as her friends cheered her on and presented her with champagne and fresh donuts.

They didn’t hang around long before taking off on descent. “I was grinning the whole way down,” said Martin, who chased the wheel of Tammy Donahugh, a friend and former professional mountain biker.

“She’s one of my mountain bike heroes, so I was in awe getting to ride with her,” said Martin. “Just being able to ride with people I care about brought it all back to the bigger picture of the community of mountain biking; that’s what matters.”

Pikes Peak. Photo: Brian Doss

Pikes Peak. Photo: Brian Doss

On the drive home, Martin looked back at Pikes Peak in her rear view mirror and started bawling. “I was that chick crying in a car and then laughing at myself. People were probably thinking I’d just been broken up with,” she said. “Now, every day it’s like ‘wow, I did it,’ and it takes on a different form.”

So what’s next? Since most of her free days were devoted to the fourteener project, Martin is looking forward to getting her life back and socializing with people she hasn’t seen in nearly three months. Other than that, she’s excited for another season of backcountry snowboarding and will spend some time processing the journey.

“You can find inspiration and strength outside of your comfort zone and I had no idea I was capable of doing that,” she said. “It’s so cliché, but life is fucking short and you have to find a way to take advantage of our limited time here. This is one way I can move mountain biking forward and show what women are capable of doing.”

Mt. Sherman. Photo: Joey Klein

Mt. Sherman. Photo: Joey Klein

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Photo gallery: 2015 Leadville Trail 100


Few mountain bike races have earned the title of “legendary,” but if one is a shoo-in for the list it’s the Leadville Trail 100. With a starting elevation above 10,000 feet, it climbs to more than 14,000 through thin, Colorado air. In a race where just finishing is a victory, this year Alban Lakata took the Men’s victory in 5 hours, 58 minutes and 35 seconds, while Annika Langvad took the Women’s victory in 6 hours, 59 minutes and 24 seconds. Lakata is a three-time winner, the reigning Cross Country World Champion and was the first to finish the course in less than six hours. There were more than 1,600 starters.

Photographer Rocky Arroyo was there to capture the action in this photo gallery. Click on the magnifying glass to see full-size images.

 

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Featured Ride: Teocalli Ridge Loop near Crested Butte, Colorado



Photos courtesy of MTB Project.

 

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This post marks the beginning of a partnership between us here at Dirt Rag and MTB Project, the nation’s leading digital trail database. Each week we’ll be featuring one MTB Project’s best rides when it’s most seasonally relevant. Of course, we’d love to hear your suggestions, email your favorites to [email protected] or comment below.

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Since we’re rolling into the heart of summer, we thought we’d take a look at some of the high-country rides that simply aren’t accessible much of the year. First up, Teocalli Ridge Loop outside of Crested Butte, Colorado.

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This classic 11.5-mile high-country loop offers approximately 2,184 feet of ascent and descent, reaching a maximum elevation of 11,255 feet.

Local Crested Butte cinematographer, Rex Lint, captured the beautiful summer wildflowers with a drone in this Teocalli Ridge video.

Asside from beautiful views of Teocalli Mountain, Castle Peak, Pearl Pass, and the Middle Brush Creek drainage, you’ll also get to enjoy a bunch of newly-constructed switchbacks on the descent back down to your car.

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If you’re fortunate enough to enjoy this and other trails around Crested Butte, consider supporting the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association in appreciation for all of their hard work and sweat equity. And, if you’re thinking of planing a trip to area, the kind folks of Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley have put together a website to help you plan your trip and connect to the local community.



Photos courtesy of MTB Project.

 

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Long-term review: Yeti 575


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When the 575 was first introduced a decade ago, it broke the mold for trail bikes. With 5.75 inches of travel, it doubled what other companies were offering, plus it featured a 69-degree head-tube angle, which was unheard of at the time. Back then, it was considered so slack that Yeti told dealers it was 71 degrees. The 575 continues to remain hugely popular and has helped galvanize Yeti Cycles’ cult following.

It’s been 10 years Dirt Rag’s original 575 review in Issue #110, and since then the bike has become an iconic player in the Colorado company’s line. Its characteristics have helped define a genre of bikes whose traits are now common throughout the market. Rear travel remains the same at 146mm and it’s paired with a 150mm Fox 34 up front.

Over the years there have been several updates; the most notable this year has been increasing the wheel size from 26 inches to 27.5. Almost everything about the bike, from kinematics to geometry, was redesigned and optimized around this larger wheel size.

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Other updates include ISCG-05 tabs, interchangeable dropouts for a 135mm QR or 12x142mm thru axle, and a PressFit 30 bottom bracket. Yeti offers four different kit options: a least-expensive Enduro build, the equally-priced Race kit with Shimano components or SRAM X01, and the highest-end Pro build with Shimano XTR.

I’ve had the chance to ride our 575 test bike with the Race kit on trails around Dirt Rag headquarters in Pittsburgh, and also on Yeti’s home turf along the Front Range of Colorado. This difference in terrain has allowed me to experience two different sides of the 575.

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Back East, the bike feels very responsive and agile. It is quick to accelerate out of turns and through power moves. It maintains maneuverability in tighter settings, but feels very balanced. Sometimes bikes that do well at slower speeds tend to feel a bit twitchy when you’re moving fast, but the slacker angles of the 575 kept me confident when I needed to get behind the saddle. With a solid Race spec, the 575 was a bike I could immediately relate to.

Along the Front Range, the 575 settled into its plush, trophy-truck personality. The single-pivot suspension design utilizes a pivot-less rear triangle relying on the flex engineered into the redesigned butted-aluminum seat stays. The seatstays provide enough compliance as the wheel moves through its travel.

The 575 has had a history of customer feedback concerning its wallow-y mid-stroke, meaning it would blow through the middle portion of its rear travel too quickly. Traditionally there have been a couple of ways around this: air pressure in the shock or more compression damping. But for 2014 Yeti re-designed the hard points of the suspension to improve the kinematics of the rear-wheel travel and eliminate the wallow while still providing a plush suspension feel.

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The same responsive and neutral handling was apparent on Yeti’s home trails in Colorado, but as the terrain opened up and descents got faster, I noticed something that I didn’t in Pennsylvania: I felt very high on the bike. The XL I tested has a long head tube measuring 6.3 inches, which is at least an inch longer than most competing bikes of this size. Even with the stem slammed to the headset, the bars are nearly an inch higher than what I typically run. Combined with a 13.60-inch bottom-bracket height, the bike felt more comfortable being steered than carved while hovering over the saddle in a ready position.

The 575 eats the rough rather than skipping through it. In other words, it has plushness rather than a sport-tuned feel. The long 47.5-inch wheelbase means stability and confidence holding a line through technical terrain. Combine that stability with the softer feel of its suspension and the bike is willing to devour rough trails. This is where it felt most within its element.

When ascending, the bike really benefits from the Climb setting on the Fox CTD shock. The Trail option isn’t bad if you’re going up and down, but walking feels more efficient than Descend. Don’t expect much anti-squat from the suspension. Those three settings really make a difference when going uphill with this bike. The 575 has always been a gateway into Yeti’s tribe. Chris Conroy, president of Yeti Cycles, puts it like this: “Your first BMW probably isn’t a 5 series or an M3. It’s probably a 3 series.”

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That doesn’t mean it isn’t one hell of a car. It’s a good analogy for how the company views the 575. It’s a more accessible introduction into the brand and it features several of the same design principles that all Yeti bikes are known for, like longer top tubes and slacker angles. The latest super bikes, like the SB5c and SB6c, build on those principles and offer extremely high-end performance. The 575 comes from the same mentality and innovation that drives all their models but is less focused on the podium.

It was a game changer 10 years ago and continues to be a relevant bike in a now-crowded category. The simple and proven suspension design allows the price point to remain relatively low when compared to the newer SB bikes. With a lot of sexy new offerings out of the Yeti camp, the 575 remains a relevant option for most trail riders. If you’re looking to graduate to The Tribe as a trail rider, then the 575 is your introduction.

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Video: ‘Crossing the Divide, Protecting the Places We Ride’


Trails are useless to mountain bikers when they’re off limits. But that access also needs to be balanced with the needs of other user groups and especially the environment.

“Crossing the Divide, Protecting the Places We Ride”, produced by Grit and Thistle Film Company, documents how IMBA and its chapters work with the conservation and recreation communities to create bike-friendly land protection designations. The goal is to both protect the natural landscapes and ensure the continuation of thriving recreation-based economies, including mountain biking. The film focuses on pending federal legislation that seeks to protect land in Colorado’s Summit, Eagle and Pitkin Counties.

Find out more here.

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Featured Trail Friday: Monarch Crest Trail, Colorado


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Photo by BobinConifer

Trail stats

  • Difficulty: Advanced
  • Length: 35 miles
  • Average Singletracks.com rating: 4.93 out of 5 stars

Description

This is one of the premier shuttle rides in the state and with good reason. With over 30 miles of mostly singletrack trails and all of the best scenery Colorado has to offer, this trail is a must-ride. As a shuttle ride you’ll climb about 2,300 feet (much of it above 11,000 feet) and you’ll descent about 6,000 feet total.

The first part of the ride is above treeline and is not technical in any way. You’ll top out at about 11,960 feet and then begin the first major descent down an old fire road to Marshall Pass (this is about the 10 mile mark). From here you can choose to descend down more fire road to the bottom or you can climb up the Rainbow Trail (recommended). Here you’ll find some dense forest sections and some steeper climbs.

Finally, head left onto the Silver Creek trail and follow this baby all the way down to a forest service road. The Silver Creek trail is pretty technical with some large scree fields, switchbacks, and some rough sections of trail. At the end of the singletrack you’ll ride through a large streambed and out to the forest road.

Go down a bit here until you see a sign for the Rainbow Trail. Here you can take the Rainbow Trail back to US 285 or stay on the road for a quicker descent. An awesome ride, but watch for thunderstorms and be prepared for a long day. Shuttle services are available—check the internet for more information. Trail is usually open (read: clear of snow) from July to August.

added by mudhunny

User reviews

An awesome trail and a must in my book. A lot of up and down until you hit Silver Creek. It was a little more climbing than I anticipated. The altitude peaked at just under than 12,100 feet and you feel every bit of it. The views are unreal and worth every second of climbing but be prepared. — 7ofClubs

WOW. Yeah, this thing is sick. Ride it if you can. I didn’t get a pinch flat myself, but I agree with the previous dude, this trail is perfect pinch flat conditions… Nonetheless, this is definitely worthy of its epic rating. It is a must-ride. As for the technical difficulty, it is hard to call because there are a few hike-a-bike sections for sure… I’ll rate the trail black but if you’re a intermediate rider who is wondering if this is within your grade, I would say definitely go for it. Bring as many power bars as you can safely carry and go for it. — arnolda14

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Featured Trail Friday is a partnership with Singletracks.com, an online community of trail guides and reviews. Join the Singletracks membership and get access to topographic maps and GPS routes.

What’s your review?

Have you ridden the Monarch Crest Trail? Share your review in the comments below.

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