Yesterday’s mountain bike ride on the trails west of Loveland and Fort Collins, Colorado is a good example of why I maintain a certain level of fitness. I stay fit so that with minimal notice I can go out and participate in an adventure.
A few weeks ago, I had a chance to ride with a new woman, Andrea Gregory. She’s been a great inspiration for me, her technical skills are much better than mine. Her favorite trail in the area is Mill Creek (Horsetooth Mountain Open Space in Larimer County). Locals know that descending this trail involves steep, rocky and loose sections. There are tight corners, exposed roots and of course several obligatory trees near the trail to catch your handlebars if you’re not paying attention. She descends the trail with ease and rides most of it.
Andrea had this idea to do a ride she called The Whole Enchilada. Unfortunately, our calendars wouldn’t mesh and she did the Whole Enchilada ride with her husband, Joe, last Thursday.
I wanted the Enchilada. I dropped a note to my Sunday ride list and asked if I could rally some interest in a route similar to The Whole Enchilada, and luckily there were takers! We did The Big Ride.
Ride distance: 42 miles
Out time (riding, hike-a-bike, mechanicals, refueling, regrouping, chatting with trail buds): 7:15
Moving time (I believe this includes ride time plus hike-a-bike, bike barely moving and stop time under 1 minute): 5:16
Time (I believe this is ride time): 4:53
Elevation gain: 5712 feet
You can find a map and ride details here.
I would describe the pace, when we were rolling, as steady and mostly conversational. This was great. Garmin Connect link above doesn’t show grade percentages or heart rate summary data, so I'll add attachments. I’m attaching two pdf screen shots from Garmin Training Center that show just over four hours of the ride was aerobic (Zones 1and 2). Don’t take “aerobic” and “mostly conversational” to mean an easy ride. It wasn’t.
It’s the technical sections, steep climbs and steep descents that make the ride tough. It’s difficult to describe Devil’s Backbone, which is the first technical trail in the ride. I’ll have to get some photos or video – but as everyone knows, those never do justice to a trail. In short, a good percentage of it is rocky. Continuous rocks, off-camber rocks and rocks on climbs. Unrelenting rocks.
In addition to rocky sections, The Big Ride route has climbs. Tough climbs. In the first attachment, The Big Ride, you’ll see a 40% grade on one of the climbs. This anomaly is when I decided to conquer a section of trail with a do-over. I picked up the front end of the bike and swung it around to go backand try again. So, this isn't a real trail number. The Big Ride 2 attachment, shows second grade over 30% and is also false. It's from a hike-a-bike out of Coyote Ridge, again I picked up my bike.
The remaining 10 pieces of the ride data showing grades right around 20% or more on the climbs, are indeed riding sections. Locals that have climbed Devil’s Backbone, Indian Summer, Blue Sky to Coyote Ridge, the service road at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space and the Towers Road can probably identify those sections right now in their noggin-memory-bank.
As for the hair-raising descents well over 20% and some over 30% - yes I believe those numbers to be true. These are scare-my-pants-off sections that many of the riders in the group descended skillfully. That doesn’t mean bombing downhill hell for leather; it means deftly dancing down the mountain.
I was nowhere close to deft. I walked some of the steepest, loosest descents. I will be deft on this trail. I will develop more skills. I dream of deftness.
Barb Schultz, absolutely a skillful rider, is someone I’ve seen often on the trails but have not ridden with until yesterday. She did the entire The Big Ride loop with me - and - did the loop last summer. She regularly does big, and bigger rides. She’s one of those endurance machines – and– has the technical skills to boot. She’s one more inspiration to bolster my technical skills.
In summary, I’m rich. I have tremendous fortune in great trails to ride, a buffet of excellent riders to learn from, a several excellent riders that love adventures, good health and decent fitness right now.
Rich, I tell you, rich.