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You don’t have to head out on a huge road trip if you want to find big, big rides. Some of the most gut-wrenching and soul-affirming epics around are right here in our backyard. By Isaac Stokes.

23 Jungle Fever Sonya Looney knew the three-

day, 20,000-plus-vertical La Ruta was going to be tough, but she managed to find more than mud, disappointment, lion’s breath and Montezuma’s revenge when she raced across Costa Rica.

34 ELWAYVILLE Have you ever looked at your life through the bikes you have owned? Peter Kray gets nostalgic.

departments 7 EDITOR’S LETTER Bikes are still cool.

9 QUICK HITS Boulder Food Rescue, Adaptive Hand Cycles, Outlaws of Dirt...

12 FLASHPOINT Are mountain bikers going to be the new conservationists? Oldschool environmentalists may need to team up with bikers in order to save public lands.

15 hot spot Salida has a lot more to offer cyclists than the famed Monarch Crest Trail. Local rider Chris Kassar spills the beta on the


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town’s best dirt and pavement.

17 The trail Hop a B-Cycle and cruise around Denver with this GPS map.

27 gear We give you the best in new bikes and hot cycle accessories.

32 the road Brendan Leonard rides across the country on a $100 ride.

ON THE COVER: Matt McFee finds singletrack bliss in Durango’s aspen stands. By ann Keller/

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APRIL 2013 •





What spins your wheels?





EDITOR-AT-LARGE PETER KRAY CONTRIBUTING WRITERS mark eller, brendan leonard, hilary Oliver, isaac stokes









Photo: Orin Salah

©2013 Summit Publishing, LLC. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission of the publisher.

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That moment on perfect singletrack when you can let go and the bike just runs.

jaymemoye Traveling to places that scare me (literally or figuratively)—and writing about it.


Bar Method: It literally helps me pedal harder, but I also feel amazing after each class.

cameronmartindell My wheels are always spinning. I’m looking for that thing that stops me in my tracks.


Blue eyes, honest actions, extreme integrity, dark beer, Salida singletrack.


Big views, inspiring adventures, following my heart, taking risks, connecting with people, failing and overcoming. Oh, and good beer!

markeller Call me a contrarian—the best part of the ride for me is pointing the bike uphill, stomping on the pedals and getting to the top as fast as possible.

brendanleonard Something about riding a bike that’s become part of happiness for me. I don’t know if I like riding my bike, or if I just hate not riding my bike.

Emily Maye

E D I TO R ’ S L E T T E R

The Bontrager Cycling Team means business.

Youth Movement I’m not sure who thought it would be a good idea to put a house full of young, strapping male athletes across the street from Boulder’s Fairview High School—maybe it was a clever recruiting ploy—but they seem to behave themselves. Maybe that’s because the under-23-year-old dudes on the Bontrager Cycling Team have only one thing on their minds—riding their bikes faster than anyone else on the planet. So far, they have been pretty damn good at that objective. The team, which was founded in 2009, was created to develop young, promising riders and since its inception, 11 have advanced to the WorldTour so far, including local hero Taylor Phinney, now a five-time world champion, as well as former American champion Ben King, British national time trial champion Alex Dowsett and most recently, Americans Joe Dombrowski and Ian Boswell. The 13 guys currently living and training together across the street from the high school are on target to become the next stars of the sport. Already, they are competing with the big boys in major events like the Tour of California and the Pro Challenge here in Colorado. There’s are a lot of reasons to believe in these kids. I have had the chance to ride with the guys on the team a few times now, including Taylor—who rode up next to me and said “there’s always one media guy who thinks he can drop us,” to which I replied, “that guy is not me.” He didn’t drop us, not really. Though we did pick up the pace as we cruised past the wind farm on the Morgul-Bismark ride (a route steeped in meaning, since it was here that Davis Phinney, Andy Hampsten and other stars of a shinier era made their names). It’s inspiring to see athletes who are in the midst of making the jump from dreamers to winners. It’s also a good reminder that the currently muchmaligned sport of cycling still has a ton of heart beating at the core.There was a powerful story in the Wall Street Journal last month about Phinney hanging tough in a brutal Italian stage race, inspired by his famed bikeracing father Davis who now suffers from Parkinson’s. Taylor refused to drop out of the race, despite falling into a certain last place, mostly because it’s something his dad would not do. There was no podium, just character, and a dogged determination to simply keep riding. Cycling needs more stories like that because it needs people to believe in it again, if not for the pros at least for the kids who want to be pros. I have been lucky enough to have had the chance to ride with Andy Hampsten, too. He’s the only American to win the infamously difficult Giro d’Italia as well as well as being a cyclist who has a clean reputation. He doesn’t want to talk about the ugliness that’s lingering around the sport these days. All he wants to do is bike around Italy, enjoying wine and food and bumping into former cyclists. He’s at the point now where he just enjoys the bike for the sake of riding. It’s easy to be cynical about pro cycling. The sport has a long way to go to regain its reputation. But it’s impossible to be cynical about riding. And that is what’s so great about the kids on the Bontrager Team. Who knows where their bikes will take them, but, for now, there’s a lot of inspiration to be had by doing nothing more than just getting out there and riding, and dreaming.

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Refresh Your Ride

Yes, you can satisfy that brand-new-bike craving without a brand-new-bike budget. You know you’ve done it. At the trailhead, at the bike shop, you sneak a lustful glance at the newest mountain bike models. You think: How much more fun would I have on that bike? If you’re ready to drop $4,000 on a new setup, read no further. Otherwise, here are six tips from bike mechanics on how to refresh your current ride and lust no more (okay, lust less).

Tune in to your tires Bike manufacturers often skimp on stock tires to keep costs down, so an upgrade can feel like heaven. Even if your tread still looks good, older tires dry out and get hard, so you lose out on cornering and braking performance. $50-100

New wheels keep on turnin’ Over time, bearings deteriorate, spokes fatigue and wheels lose their “pop.” The wheels are another place where manufacturers often cut corners on stock components. A new set of wheels can lighten—and liven—up the ride, says Nick Soloninka at Salvagetti Bicycle Workshop in Denver. $400-1,200

Shift into new cables and housing This might sound elementary, but Bryce Kirk, owner of Tam Bikes in Mill Valley, Calif., says new shifting cables and housing can make a fiveyear-old bike feel brand new. Cables stretch and wear with age, which can cause derailleurs to skip. If your shifting isn’t smooth as butter, it could be time for a replacement. $80-100

Get hip to longer handlebars If you’re looking to modernize your ride, wider, lighter handlebars and a shorter stem can bring you up to date, according to Kirk. Though it all depends on the terrain you frequent. Soloninka says that for the Front Range, a shorter stem and wider stance gives more stability (think about your hand placement doing pushups) for leaning the bike under you around corners. $50-200

Brake dance Disc brakes can bring an old-school V-Brake rig into the 21st century, and newer technology keeps brake fluid cooler longer, so it degrades more slowly. Plus, newer levers are more adjustable, which means more ergonomic. $250-300

Drop it A dropper post takes two wheels to the next level, making for a super-responsive bike on technical terrain. $300-500 —Hilary Oliver

courtesy boulder food rescue

moveable feast: human power delivers and saves energy


Courtesy absolute bikes


Meals on Wheels

Boulder Food Resuce pedals perishable food “waste” to the hungry. If you pass someone hauling a couple hundred pounds of food stacked above their head on a bicycle trailer, it’s likely a Boulder Food Rescue volunteer. The Boulderbased non-profit uses bicycles to rescue and transport perishable foods from groceries, bakeries and other businesses to recipients that serve homeless, lowincome and at-risk populations. Food production in the U.S. consumes large quantities of energy, water and land and yet 40 percent of food goes uneaten, according to a 2012 National Resources Defense Council report. Consider that one in six Americans are hungry and the math is easy. “Food is being thrown away literally blocks away from where people are going hungry,” says Hana Dansky, Boulder Food Rescue co-founder. “It just makes sense to bike it and save energy.” Since Boulder Food Rescue began in 2011, the organization has grown from three founders and two interns to over 120 volunteers and has rescued more than 250,000 pounds of food. About 85 percent of the transport is human-powered, with volunteers hauling bike trailers with up to 200 pounds of food at a time. The organization faced criticism early on about its choice to use bicycles, but co-founder Caleb Phillips is confident that sticking with bikes has been a key to its success. “Boulder has this amazing, vibrant community of passionate cyclists,” says Phillips. “By choosing bikes we basically tapped ourselves into a whole community that really wanted to support people that were crazy enough to do the right thing.” The frequent, small-scale shipments allow for rescue of fresh fruits and vegetables—items that fill a nutritional void for many recipients—that would otherwise expire. “The shelters in Boulder have more stale bread, rice, meat and dairy than they could ever possibly use,” Phillips says. “What they’re really hurting for is fresh fruits and vegetables, so that’s what we try to focus on the most.” The volunteers and organizers are not just porters, either. They are educators, public speakers and outreach coordinators. “They are such nimble and vibrant activists,” says Shari Leyshon, Director of Nutrition and Kitchen Initiatives at Bridge House, a resource house for homeless and low-income families. “They are premier experts in the community on food waste.” —Casey Flynn APRIL 2013 •



Frisco is your hub for adventure with 80 miles of paved pathway, a bike park and endless single track. Whatever your direction the path starts in Frisco.



Ready to Ride

Inaugural Trail Running Conference to be Held in Estes Park

Ride It by Hand Late on a Friday afternoon in August, a group of construction workers hoisted a 20-foot wall overhead. The heavy slab pitched awkwardly, falling back on 23-year-old Jake O’Connor standing below. In that instant, O’Connor’s life changed forever, but what he didn’t expect was that this accident would lead him to his life’s work: he is now improving the lives of disabled people by developing adaptive handcycles that help get them back to the wild. Paralyzed from the waist down, O’Connor figured he would never again spend time in the wilderness doing what he loved, but a year after his injury some friends introduced him to the burgeoning sport of road handcycling. O’Connor enjoyed it and began to compete, but found his true passion when he got the chance to test an off-road handcycle. “I was so thrilled to be back in the wilderness—I thought that was all over,” says O’Connor, now 35 and based in Crested Butte. “I bought one a week later and ideas started flying. I schemed about how I could throw a backpack on it to hike with my friends, use it to get to the rivers I used to fish and get back out to hunt.” After breaking his handcycle numerous times, O’Connor decided to use his design and manufacturing experience from years of working construction to create and build a burlier version that could handle gnarly off-road terrain and singletrack. His design attracted attention, spurring him to start Reactive Adaptations in 2010. The result is a cooperative effort between athletes and experts meant to fill a gap in the market by creating robust adaptive sports equipment. Since its inception, ReActive has pushed the edge on developing groundbreaking technology. The company’s main products, the Bomber RS, a burly kneel-in hand cycle, and the Nuke, a recumbent version, allow athletes of all abilities, including amputees and quadriplegics, to get deep into the backcountry. O’Connor explains that while quadriplegics have some level of impairment in all four limbs, many have partial hand, arm and/or wrist function, enabling them to ride cycles outfitted with adaptive gear. O’Connor has plans for a hybrid handcycle that uses a foot pedal for one-legged amputees, and Nordic skis that allow an athlete to use his upper body for propulsion while sitting in a bucket atop a rigid cage. As a joint project with friend and fellow paraplegic Drew Willis, O’Connor is designing a handcycle light enough to survive the Leadville 100 course, and the pair has plans to climb Mt. Elbert and Mt. Princeton this summer. “The sky’s the limit,” says O’Connor. “There are no excuses for why people with disabilities can’t do what they did before getting hurt.” —Chris Kassar

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As the number of trail runners and races continues to grow, Estes Park is preparing to host the first trail running conference ever held in North America. Planned for June 20-21, The Estes Trail Ascent will focus on training, technique, shoes, gear and nutrition, as well as the future of trail running in the U.S., including trail preservation. The event will also feature a trail running director college for race promoters, the first of its kind on U.S. soil, and a 5.9-mile race. The brainchild of Estes Park resident and founder of Active at Altitude Terry Chiplin, the conference is in partnership with the Estes Park Medical Center and the Family Medical Clinic, with the support of the American Trail Running Association. New Balance has signed on as a conference sponsor, as well as ViEndurance, an Estes Park-based manufacturer of endurance gels. Conference cost is $42 for two days, or $22 for one. Chiplin says keeping fees low is critical. “Part of the beauty of trail running is that by its nature, it’s a very minimalist sport,” he says. “The conference price reflects that.” Find out more at

Core Advantage

Riding a bike takes more than powerful legs. Boulder resident and professional cyclist Tom Danielson describes how developing core strength reduced his back pain and increased his performance in the new book Tom Danielson’s Core Advantage: Core Strength for Cycling’s Winning Edge (VelpoPress 2013). Danielson partnered with personal trainer Allison Westfahl, the founder of The Athletic Edge, a fitness consulting company based in Boulder, to pen the 224-page book, which includes a forward by Patrick Dempsey. The 50 exercises inside are designed for cyclists or all levels, amateur to pro, and modeled by Danielson. This is the first book to focus on core strength for cyclists. —Jayme Moye

Outlaws of Dirt The Outlaws of Dirt Pump & Jump Series begins May 31 in Lyons. The series includes competitions in dirt jumping for BMX and MTB, as well as dual slalom and pump track racing. The four events in the series include a full bike festival complete with a vendor village, riding clinics, live entertainment and a Saturday night party. Chris Olivier, the Denverite behind PlusSizeBMX, got the idea for the series after the success of last year’s bike events at the Lyons’ Outdoor Games. “We’re really excited about this, and hope it will get the communities more involved in utilizing these incredible facilities,” says Olivier.



This season, Grand Targhee Ski Resort in Wyoming became the first and only resort to allow fatbiking on the Nordic ski trails.


courtesy imba



Share the Trail We can all get along when multi-use trail projects unite Colorado communities.

Mountain Bike-servation

Instead of butting heads, mountain bikers and conservation groups are finding new and creative ways to achieve their goals together.

Dedicated to dirt: conservation projects like trail building can help mountain bikers and old-school enviros find common ground.

By Mark Eller The most succesful future conservationists may be more familiar with Danny MacAskill than John Muir. “I believe that there’s a crisis in the conservation movement today, and that it’s going to be mountain bikers and climbers who will save it,” says Brady Robinson. The director of the Access Fund, a climbing advocacy non-profit based in Boulder, Colorado. “Look at traditional conservation groups, like the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society,” says Robinson. “They do great work protecting natural landscapes, but they face a common challenge: Their members are aging and young people are not signing on in sufficient numbers.” Older conservationists should take heed, because if the conservation movement is going to survive, Robinson argues, it must learn to embrace new audiences and new forms of recreation. A 2009 study funded by the Nature Conservancy concluded, “One of the greatest threats to conservation may be declining public support due to fewer people engaged in outdoor recreation.” Can bikes change that?

Bikes Booming

Bicycling certainly attracts that youthful audience —according the Outdoor Industry Association, it’s one of the top five most popular outdoor activities for young people. But some conservation-minded groups are still warming


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up to the idea that mountain biking can be compatible with conservation values. Studies have shown that the impacts of mountain biking on the natural world are similar to those of hiking, but many foot travelers are skeptical of the idea that knobby tires and hiking boots should both be welcomed in outdoor spaces. “To be blunt, it’s not always easy to tell if mountain bikers are focused on experiencing the natural world or if they are more caught up in finding a physical challenge,” says Sloan Shoemaker, director of the Colorado-based Wilderness Workshop. Yet, as a mountain biker himself, Shoemaker admits that biking in the woods can provide a relaxing experience in a natural setting. Of course, it’s hard to know what someone else is experiencing when they are hiking, biking or running on a trail. When it comes to protecting and preserving natural areas, the crucial issue is whether recreational users and conservationists can find the common ground to work together. “At the end of the day, we need each other,” says Shoemaker. “In the current, highly polarized political world there’s very little chance to advance land protection bills that will preserve natural places without a broad base of support. We need to find strategies that will protect the land and still allow recreational uses—without a balanced approach we are not going to succeed.”

Can hikers, mountain bikers, trail runners, off-road pogo stickers and who-knowswhat-else enthusiasts all get along on Colorado trails? In general, the answer seems to be affirmative. According to Tom Hoby, the Director of Parks and Open Space for Jefferson County, conflicts between different types of trail users are statistically quite small. “For the most part, people are friendly and display good trail etiquette,” says Hoby. “The majority of the new trails we build are meant for hikers, bikers and runners to share. But there’s also a need to provide adequate hiking-only experiences, and it may be time to consider adding bikespecific trails as well.” Here’s a look at some multi-use trail projects that are helping bring Colorado communities together: Near Golden, at Jefferson County’s North Table Mountain, a new 14-mile trail system provides both shared-use and single-use (hiking only) access. “Our initial survey of local residents indicated that they wanted a balanced approach—not purely a nature preserve with minimal access, but they didn’t want a total bias toward recreation either,” says Hoby. “The public process wasn’t perfect—I wish we had done a better job with our initial campaign to inform the public about our vision for the trails. But now that it’s open we are receiving a lot of positive feedback from both the neighbors and visitors.” Just outside Crested Butte, The Trust for Public Land purchased a large section of land on the edge of town that had been owned by the local Kochevar family since 1905. The conservation transaction was the largest in the town’s history. The success not only preserves Crested Butte’s natural backdrop—scenic Smith Hill—it unlocks the possibility of a new network of trails between existing protected areas along the Slate River and around nearby lakes. Currently, the Lupine Trail accommodates mountain biking, hiking, running and crosscountry skiing. The Nature Conservancy’s $29.5 million-dollar investment in the Colorado River Corridor spans multiple states. In the South Platte, the Triple Creek Greenway Corridor Project will see $3.4 million in Great Outdoors Colorado lottery funding devoted to developing conservation and recreational opportunities. “We spent a lot of time out in communities across Colorado and we heard the same themes repeatedly over the last couple of years,” says GOCO Board Chair Peggy Moñtano. People want recreational opportunities close to home, they value Colorado’s rivers and they want more trails.” —M.E.


Getting Dirty

Bringing recreation and conservation interests closer together sounds good, but how to get past the biases that these communities may have for each other? One activity that seems to do the trick is bringing people together to work on volunteer-based projects. Jenn Archuleta is the Trails Project Director for the Boulder Mountainbike Alliance, and she also serves on the board of the Wildlands Restoration Volunteers. “I don’t build trails purely with the intent of providing an awesome riding experience. I also want to protect natural resources. The great thing about trail projects is that they do both—a well-designed trail is fun to

ride and integrated into the landscape in a way that respects resources.” Archuleta’s background includes work with conservation groups like the Fourteeners Initiative and Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado. She agrees that there are elements of mistrust about partnering with mountain bikers. “I think part of it is that the bikes themselves are hard to get past, especially for the older generation that prefers hiking. There’s this high-tech piece of equipment on the trail and it’s just hard to see past that at first,” she says. Tim Sullivan, the Colorado State Director of the Nature Conservancy, agrees that trail projects can help build trust and understanding. He points to a recent volunteer effort at Boulder County’s

Show Me the Money

Perhaps the biggest reason why it’s in everybody’s interest to integrate recreation and conservation is that both help drive Colorado’s economy. Outdoor activities generated $13.2 billion of in-state consumer spending last year, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. Well-preserved natural areas and plentiful opportunities for recreation provide the foundation for one of the most popular destinations for outdoor enthusiasts from around the globe. Sullivan points out that his organization, The Nature Conservancy, changed its tagline a few years ago. “We moved away from a mission statement that seemed to indicate a minimum of human interaction. Now it says we will ‘conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.’ That includes giving people the chance to experience those places through recreation, so they can build an affinity for nature and the desire to protect it.”


The Trust for Public Land/J.C. Leacock

The long view: many successful new conservation areas like this along the slate river in Crested butte, which belonged to private landowners before being purchased by the trust for public lands, include singletrack.

Heil Ranch that attracted more than 100 people from Boulder businesses in the outdoor industry. “When you stand next to someone and work together to move a rock or re-route a segment of trail, it creates a sense of community,” says Sullivan. “Conservation is a value. It’s compatible with all kinds of recreational activities, so long as they are carried out in a way that respects the natural world.”

Freelannce writer Mark Eller is the communications director for the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

APRIL 2013 •





Crank it

for a cause avon, Colorado

ULE 2013 SCHED May 18

June 22 La Sportiva Beaver Creek Summer Solstice 5k and 10k Trail Run, Plus Kids Fun Run

A charity bike event benefitting SOS Outreach, a nonprofit youth development organization. Starts at Beaver Creek and takes riders along the scenic banks of the Colorado & Eagle rivers. Choose from 100, 68 & 42 mile routes on great roads. Fully supported with spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains, makes it one of the don’t miss century rides in Colorado.

Saturday, July 27

Support youth while taking in spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains.

July 6


(don’t tell the tourists)

La Sportiva Vail HillClimb 7.5 Mile Trail Run

July 21 La Sportiva Vail Half Marathon Trail Run


Aug. 4


La Sportiva Berry Picker 5k Trail Run

Aug. 25 La Sportiva 10@10,000 Ft 5k and 10k Trail Run SEPT. 15 La Sportiva EverGold 5k & 11k Trail Run Dates subject to change.


MOUNTAINS! Register at or call 970.926.9292

La Sportiva Boneyard Boogie 10k Trail Run

970-479-2280 |

Photograph by Scott McClarrinon

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Apple, iPad, and iPhone are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc.


© 2013 H. Mark Weidman


Beyond the Crest


There is far more to the Salida, Colorado, cycle scene than the famed Monarch Crest epic. The town has truly boosted its support of the two-wheeled lifestyle, so get down here and explore some lesser known treasures.

not far from beer: tenderfoot mountain singlerack is an easy pedal out of downtown salida AND A LONG SPIN ON THE PAVEMENT OFTEN ENDS UP BACK AT THE VIC.

By Chris Kassar The Monarch Crest Trail is a truly unique, must-do ride, but it’s definitely not the only act in town. Whether you roll skinny or fat tires, the active little town of Salida, nestled on the Arkansas with the Collegiate Peaks out the door, offers pedaling for all abilities. Check out our favorites.


Little Rainbow Trail Just finished last fall, this forgiving singletrack on the flanks of Methodist Mountain is perfect for beginners and flowy enough for experienced riders. With sweeping curves, sandy flats and countless whoop-de-dos, Little Rainbow (~5 miles one way) has it all. From Little Rainbow you can explore more gnarly terrain (not for newbies) on Lost Trail, Racetrack and Deadbird. Get There: From Hwy 50 in Salida, turn left onto CR 110 (Piñón Ridge Trail). Go 2.5 miles, the trailhead is on your left. For GPS data and a free ViewRanger mobile phone download go to: (Route Code ELEV 0009).

Rainbow Trail— Silver Creek Loop Need something bigger? This 19-mile adventure

begins with a gradual road climb at the base of Marshall Pass. It merges with sweet, flowing singletrack that cruises through forest, climbs ridges and plummets down to Poncha Pass. Get There: Head south for 5.5 miles on Hwy 285 from Poncha Springs. Make a right turn at Mears Junction/CR200. Go ~4 miles to the Shirley Site parking lot. For GPS data and a free ViewRanger mobile phone download go to: gpsadventure (Route Code ELEV 0011).

Salida Mountain Trails (‘S’ Mountain/Tenderfoot) With 15 miles (and growing yearly) of superb riding through beautiful red rock and piñón-juniper forest, this area offers something for everyone. To get your lungs burning, climb the Frontside Trail, a series of short, challenging switchbacks. At the top, enjoy the breathtaking views in all directions. Get There: Park at Absolute Bikes ( to start the ride and to get all the info you need. Absolute Bikes Adventures will also take you on any one of these rides and more. For GPS data and a free ViewRanger mobile phone download go to: (Route Code ELEV 0013).

Local’s Loop

This moderately challenging 20-mile loop will get your heart pumping and your soul soaring as you ride in the shadow of an array of majestic and massive mountains. Enjoy the gradual climb away from town as you head northwest on Hwy 291 for ~7 miles. Turn south (left) onto 285 and savor the downhill respite before pushing up Hurricane Hill (7700’). Embrace gravity once you’ve topped out, but slow down long enough to turn left onto CR 140/Airport Rd , an empty, tranquil rolling route that brings you hauling back into town. For GPS data and a free ViewRanger mobile phone download go to: (Route Code ELEV 0008).

Poncha Pass Passes like Independence and Cottonwood get a lot of attention, but ride up Poncha Pass (9,010 feet) and you won’t be disappointed. You’ll be greeted with sensational views of the Arkansas and San Luis Valleys and jaw-dropping vistas of the Sangre de Cristos and Sawatch Mountains. Ride west on blissfully quiet CR 140. When you reach Hwy 285, head south and huff and puff until you reach the top of the pass (7 miles from Poncha Springs). You can head back to town from here, but if you want to grab a glimpse of the rugged, glaciated peaks of the Sangres, you’ll have to descend a bit. Looking for a big day? Cruise all the way to Villa Grove, grab supplies at the store and climb back over the pass to Salida (~ 54 miles RT). For GPS data and a free ViewRanger mobile phone download go to: (Route Code ELEV 0012) • APRIL 2013 •


Presented by:

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs and the Federal Highway Administration

For more information, go to or contact 303-757-9982,


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(C) 2013 Open Cycle Map. Map data CCBYSA 2012. and contributors




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B-Cycle Blowout

Trails don’t have to be in the wild. Download the free ViewRanger GPS app, join B-Cycle and hit downtown Denver.

By Cameron Martindell

cherry creek trail (39.7346, -104.994003)

When you B-Cycle (, you simply borrow a bike from a convenient station, get to where you need to go, and park it for the next B-Cycler. The bike sharing system is in place in sixteen cities across North America, including Denver and Boulder in Colorado, and has met with such success because it’s so easy—you can have a bike when you need it and not worry about it when you don’t. Denver B-Cyclers can purchase a $59 season pass this month (normally $80) online or just grab a day pass at a B-Cycle station. Want to give it a try? Here’s a fun little 12-mile loop in downtown Denver that includes some scenic waypoints that you can download to your mobile phone using the free ViewRanger app (see sidebar) to get you started.

market street station (39.749798, -104.998184)


universe at the Market Street RTD station along the 16th Street Mall. When you’re ready to ride, simply swipe your card ($8 gives you 24-hour access for 30 minute stints), grab a bike and follow the route.

Where to start but the center of the Denver


Just two blocks of pedalling and you’re southbound on the Cherry Creek Trail. Cruise all the way down to E. 7th Avenue and turn east for your first stop.

governor’s park (39.727222, -104.983635)


Park your bike at the B-cycle on Grant Street and walk through Governors Park to check out the beautiful Grant-Humphreys Mansion. Completed in 1902, the mansion is architecturally stunning and historically significant for Colorado. historycolorado. org/plan-event/history-mansion

cheesman Park (39.732903, -104.965996)


Get back on your bike and continue east on E. 7th Avenue and turn north on Williams St. to cruise through Cheesman Park.

Check in (39.74818, -104.968445)


Know where the B-Cycle stations are because there are no extra fees for half-hour stints. Just check in and check out and the clock resets.

denver city park (39.748215, -104.95977)


Denver City Park has lots of engaging options. Pick a trail that looks good and just let it guide you along. The Denver Zoo is in the southwest corner and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science along with an IMAX is on the far east side of the park (conveniently, along with a B-Cycle station).

eat UP (39.756989, -104.985611)


Time to find some food. If you opt for a B-Cycle membership you’ll get discounts at great eateries like Billy’s Gourmet Hot Dogs ( on Larimer Street.

Dessert (39.759232, -105.010544)


For something sweet head over to the iconic Little Man Ice Cream ( set in a giant milk pail and you’re in a good position to return to the start of this adventure by just popping over Highland Bridge back to the 16th Street Mall to catch your bus home or to walk the mall if you skipped that at the start. •

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Download the app and this route on your phone for free now:

Route code ELEV0007

APRIL 2013 •





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e g n a r t fron


Topped Out: There is still a long, long haul from the top of Hall Ranch to the end of this epic ride.

Steve Zdawczynski/

Think you need to head down I-70 to find big rides? These three monster singletrack sessions here on the Front Range will fulfill your need for the epic right in the backyard. by Isaac Stokes


How to define an epic? How about off the reservation—way off? Wandering and very lost. Desperate repairs made with improvised cave man tools in the rain. Rides so good the branded scars on your forearms still bring you a wry smile years later. Rides so long you thought about killing a man over a half bag of Fritos. They should be soul stirring, that’s the point. We spend hours watching pro sports heroes weep with joy celebrating victories and yet we don’t know those emotions firsthand much anymore. So go for a ride that might make you cry from misery or blistering glory, or both. And belive it or not, you don’t have to head to Leadville or Moab for that type of experience. The beauty of the following three epic rides is that they are right here, front and center in the Front Range. Each one of these sojourns is less than 45 minutes from civilization, and all deliver a monster day behind bars. Lord, one of them even has a cappuccino stop midpoint. Get ready to get epic—and still make it home for dinner.

Matthew Winters—Mount Falcon— Lair O’ the Bear Morrison

Length: 21.4 miles The Ride: This epic is within spitting distance of Denver and packs more venom than Fox News. The initial, burly climb up Dakota Ridge is a swift kick to the tender bits, and the pedal grinding technofest along the ridge provides another dose of strong

medicine, but the airy views will knock your ankle socks off. You’ll then tangle with a series of nasty water bar problems (hey, it’s always nice to be walking in the first 30 minutes of multi-hour campaign). The trail meets highway 93 and you can coast to Morrison. A short hop brings you to Mount Falcon and 1,000 feet of vertical up Castle Trail, with a few more evil waterbars thrown in the name of moral turpitude. The upper parking lot of Mount Falcon is a false summit, and marks the back half of the ride. Meander through the rural subdivisions and dig it out on the short climb on Parmalee Gulch Road to the O’Fallon signed trailhead on the right. This descent is like buttah—until it isn’t. The climb at the saddle separates the merely insane from the clinically insane. The next descent is purpose built singletrack with rock ladders, hairpin turns and open sight lines galore. The Bear Creek Trail funnels you downstream along the river and through the recreation milieu of strollers, dog walkers and fellow mountain bikers. Shoot the canyon on highway 74 back to Morrison—a milkshake from the Blue Cow ( is rightly in order. Suffer (again) up highway 93 and left on Red Rock Park Road, and pick up Red Rocks Trail where several Moab-esque slickrock climbs provide a rocking challenge—if you are not already spent. The final segment offers up some high-speed goodness amid more recreational diaspora, and the sunny parking lot demands a well-earned microbrew on the tailgate. Huzzah.

MAPS AND GPS: For information and maps for the parks in this ride head to openspace_T56_R108.htm. You can also downlad the free ViewRanger phone app and GPS route for this ride here: (Route Code ELEV 0014).

Heil—Picture Rock—Hall Boulder, Lyons

Length: 28.5 miles The Ride: Fat tired folks know these trails individually but a tiny (tired) few have ever knocked out the whole shabang. The routing takes this ride to 11 (don’t even look at it!), and pilots you from stem to stern over the entire length of Boulder Country’s open space parks Heil Ranch and Hall Ranch, two of the most amazing pieces of propery in the state. It clocks in at a solid five hours in the saddle. You read right. Imagine in succession: Wapiti, Wild Turkey, Picture Rock, Bitterbrush, Nelson, Antelope, Lyons/Coffee/ Pause/Gasp/Picture Rock, Wild Turkey, Wapiti. Yar and double yar. These 28.5 hard, rocking miles are not as easy as you may think. It’s as epic as epic can be. Don’t believe the hype? Wait till you’re humping back up the über technical naughty-by-nature Picture Rock (aka Prostate Rock) on the return. It will most definitely leave a mark. Head out from the Heil trailhead, spin up the legs and swear off spicy breakfast burritos. The Wapiti Trail gets you going. The trail has been nicely reworked the last few seasons (see page 12), but APRIL 2013 •


Isaac Stokes

dog days: singletreack this tasty makes us pant, too.

thundering chunder awaits. Lower your seatpost and up your pain threshold as you slide down the Wild Turkey Trail to the Picture Rock Trail. The 5 miles of Picture Rock deliver a complete quiver of trail conditions. Multitudes of fanged rocks in just plain mean locations, bermed rock halfpipe corners, and a blistering and buff red dirt ribbon finale. Dang. Gold stars, but you are only a third of the way home. Here comes Hall. Head up the Bitterbrush Trail a.k.a. “the rock garden” which is tough on fresh legs, and a hot mess with legs that ain’t. The views of Longs Peak offer up inspiration at the nadir of Nelson Loop, and the endorphins of the mach speed GS turns descent all way to the terminus of the Antelope Trail kick up hope that the tank isn’t quite on “E”. Spin Apple Valley Road down to Lyons, deposit your bike in the rack at the Stone Cup (thestonecup. com) grab a quadruple espresso and update your Facebook status to “worked”. The first part of the climb back up Picture Rock rides as good up as down, the second half not so much. Turning north at the junction of Wild Turkey and riding away from your car/ couch/salvation hurts when you are already smelling the barn. But his chapter of the ride offers splendid isolation to satisfy Ed Abbey, with rolling sidehills and deep forest groves. Dig down deep. The last deceptively uphill segment past the bench on Ponderosa will have you paging all of Lance’s best doctors, but gravity and your umpteenth wind will flush you down Wapiti. Dust to glory—how will you ever reintegrate into polite society?

MAPS AND GPS: For information and maps of the parks in this ride head to dept/openspace/pages/default.aspx You can also




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SHop Around These local bikes shops will not only supply you with gear and repairs, but beta on big rides, too. Tin Shed Sports • Nederland Josh Harrod who manages the newest bike shop in Ned is insane about local trails and more than willing to dish out ideas on how to make them epic. While you are here, definitely stop by Salto next door, where you can fuel up with a tasty sandwich and a big coffee. Happy Trails • Nederland Randy, the owner of Happy Trails, which used to be located in the train car across the street, more or less singlehandedly made Ned a mountain bike destination. Whether he is proud or scared of that honor, it’s well worth your while to stop by, chat or maybe even join him for a spin. 303-258-3435 Boulder Cycle Sport • Boulder You often get a lot of attitude at bike shops in Boulder. But there’s nothing but smiles and a good vibe here. There are three loacations (two in north Boulder, one right near the beer at Southern Sun in south Boulder). Better yet, they sponsor a velo club with group rides and race support for $100/year.

Devil’s Backbone—Blue Sky— Horsetooth Loveland, Fort Collins

Length: 28+ miles The ride: One of the best kept secrets on the Front Range, this epic ménage-a-trois transports you from Loveland to The Fort all via primo singletrack. This all-day, all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of red dirt yields at least 28 miles of riding, and offers literally unlimited options for additional miles in Horsetooth Park and beyond. It also offers a fantastic trailside tavern to pass time should you blissfully be struck down by a mechanical mid ride… just sayin’. From the Devil’s Backbone trailhead blaze through the open valley, staying right at each turn. The trail gives up some primo riding with micro anaerobic climbs and off pitch hardrock problems amidst glorious sandstone hogbacks and tabletop plateaus. Just as the trail starts to put you on the ropes you bust through to the all-world singletrack of the Blue Sky Trail. This warp-speed machine of an undulating magic carpet ride will land you at Horsetooth Reservoir. Note the beer garden at the Horsetooth Hideaway ( From the trailhead start up the infamous service road, a.k.a. the wall of death, to the Wathen Trail. At the summit, you can see the many miles back to your starting point. Devour every energy bar in sight, plus the stale Halloween candy in your pack. Wathen throws down an all-star descent. Round out the route via Spring Creek/Harrington/

Steve Zdawczynski/

downlad the free ViewRanger phone app and GPS route for this ride here: (Route Code ELEV 0015).

Spinal Tap: Heading up into some technical terrain on the Devil’s Backbone Trail in Loveland.

Stout (mmm, Stout) and finish with Sawmill. Now, turn south and run it all back on the pilgrimage to the car, and mind the rattlesnakes while savoring that midday vitamin D.

MAPS AND GPS: For information on the parks, and maps in this ride head to naturalresources/bbone.cfm and parks/htmp.cfm. You can also downlad the free ViewRanger phone app and GPS route for this ride here: (Route Code ELEV 0016). BIG BONUS:

Nederland—Boulder The beauty of this ride is that there is no one way to do it. You can get as creative as you want using

the system of trails in Nederaland and dirt and paved roads all the way back down into Boulder. We suggest putting a few laps down on the Hobbit Trails if you want to head back via Magnolia Road or perhaps spinning a bit around Mud Lake before taking a route down north of town. Or you can create a true epic if you tack on the Sourdough Trail. The one constant here is catching a ride from the main Boulder bus station and riding the RTD Route N ( bus up to Nederland. The 6:50 a.m. or 8:10 a.m. buses on the weekends are the best bets, but get there early to join the lineup of riderrs stowing their bikes underneath. When you reach Nederland, make friends and hop on a casual ride or stop by Tin Shed Sports or Happy Trails (see sidebar) and ask for beta on a route back down that will match your time and abilities. •

Get in

Route to be announced and registrations accepted beginning April 24! APRIL 2013 •


Trails run longer. Knuckles run whiter. Rewards come sweeter.

Enter the


BiKe The BoAT


Win 3 nights of lodging, 2 days of bike rentals, and 2 passes to Strawberry Park Hot Springs. Enter between April 1 and August 31, 2013 for the fall 2013 vacation. With more than 500 miles of single track and a new bike park, you gotta get up here and experience Bike Town USA速. To enter, and for restrictions, visit

Courtesy Sonya Looney

Jungle Fever

Our endurance mountain bike champ had always dreamed of powering through La Ruta, the famed fat-tire race across Costa Rica. But sometimes the mud, the heat and what the tropics can do to your insides have their way with you.


icture railroad tracks on a bridge the length of a football field perched hundreds of feet above a crocodile infested river. At first glance, the bridge doesn’t seem so bad. But soon, you are gingerly stepping across wet ties in stiff cycling shoes, carrying your bike and dizzy with vertigo. One slip on the dicey bridge would result in severe consequences. You wonder if anyone has ever fallen. If a train ever shows up. The bridge is so long, you can’t see the end, just a line of similar, gingerly stepping racers carrying their bikes in front of you... and stretching back behind you. There are tense murmurs in various foreign tongues. The only thing you can do now is laugh because you are deep, deep into to La Ruta. La Ruta de los Conquistadores is a coast-tocoast mountain bike stage race across the country of Costa Rica, touted as one of the toughest races on the planet. For the 20th anniversary of the race in 2012, La Ruta reverted from a four-day, 240-mile,

by Sonya Looney 39,000-vertical-feet sufferfest back to the original three-day, 160-mile, 20,000-plus-vertical-foot epic. I had heard about the miles of mud and the jungle, and I could not wait to roll into the heat of competition. For me the race presented not just a challenge when it came to racing—I have competed in brutally hard mountain bike stage races everywhere from Brekenridge to Nepal—but a chance to experience the country from the saddle. A triathlete and record-holding distance swimmer named Roman Urbina first dreamt of La Ruta in 1981 and pulled it off a year later. “I had read a few history books and thought it was really amazing how the Spanish Conquistadors had crossed the country,” he says. “So I looked up the author of the books, met him and got his help mapping the course. Then, every weekend I would go out and ride parts of it until I had a clear idea of the whole thing. I thought it would also be a new thing to do since MTB was just starting in

Costa Rica and it would help raise awareness about conserving and protecting the rainforest and rivers.” Twenty years later in the Pacific Coast town of Jaco, the start line is blaringly chaotic at dawn as I vie for position in the start chute along with hundreds of racers from 30 different countries. Stage 1 promises 68 miles and 12,000 feet of elevation gain across some very difficult terrain, not to mention blistering hot and humid temperatures. And the pain begins at once—the first climb is a shock to the system. I’m carrying far too much water and the hill is tougher than I had anticipated. If the whole race is this steep, I’m in big trouble, I grumble to myself as I fall back in the field.


ventually I settle into a rhythm, and we arrive in the Carrarra section in the jungle. We head downhill, but the descents are greasy, steep and slick with red mud. I let the brakes go a APRIL 2013 •


Courtesy Sonya Looney

Deep Training: Bike Yoga

Anxious racers carefully step from wet plank to wet plank trying not to look down at the river 200 feet below. few times and just let the bike find its way. But it’s not long before I crash. And again. After a few more slides, I do what other racers are starting to do—run with my bike. And I begin to realize something about the mud, which is either red or white. The red mud allows for traction. The white mud is like trying to ride on ice. Hike-a-biking doesn’t bother me after some of the other big adventure-style mountain bike races I’ve done, but it’s tricky in this slop. I try to take in the beauty of the jungle, looking for a sloths and parrots in the bright green foilage. It’s not long before, my bike sounds like a cement mixer thanks to sandy mud junking up the drivetrain.

But at each river crossing, I dunk the bike in the water and try to wipe off at least some of the grit. The rumor was that La Ruta is almost all riding in the muddy jungle but it turns out that it’s only an hour and a half of it—I’m oddly disappointed because the next, more insidious, obstacle, the extreme heat and humidity, is taking its toll on me. I’m melting as I flog myself up the vertical roads. I try to use the lion’s breath that I learned in yoga, sticking my tongue out with a roar of an exhale. It’s supposed to help dissipate heat, but, at this point, I think it probably just scares everyone around me. The breathing does give me a bit of my composure back,

Yoga is an essential part of my training, not just to keep me flexible, but also to keep me sane and grounded. I like to do a short sun salutation sequence when I’m traveling or at a race to keep my body feeling fresh and healthy. Before bed, I do a figure four on the floor, supine twists, then a final shavasana (corpse pose). And then there’s the lion’s breath, that got me through the worst of La Ruta: stick your tongue out, cross your eyes and exhale out the mouth forcefully (scare those around you). If you are not on a bike, the traditional way to practice this is in simhasana, or lion’s pose. You kneel with your right ankle over your left and your heel into you perineum (um, the taint). You then press hands to knees and splay out your fingers. Now go ahead and roar. —S.L.

but I’m nauseous from the heat. Finally, I reach the end of the stage, somehow taking second place for the day with a race time of seven-and-a-half hours. Not long after the finish, my stomach feels like a toxic balloon. Some discomfort morphs into exploding bowels. Montezuma has put his claws in me. I can’t sleep. I crawl on my hands and knees to the bathroom all night, telling myself that somehow I will have the strength to start Stage 2 in the morning. I sip weakly on water, wrestling with the decision: should I race in

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this state? The shrill sound of my alarm reminds me that it’s already 4:00 a.m. Stage 2 features a ride to the top of 10,000-foot Irazu Volcano outside Turrialba and I don’t want to miss that. And I definitely don’t want to miss the rocket descent to the finish (though it’s supposedly heinous). There’s only one way to know. I pull on my bike kit and try to eat some toast. Stage 2 doesn’t start well. I’m so weak I can barely turn the pedals. I only make it six miles. Six miles that include 3,000-feet of climbing. I’m reduced to stumbling next to my bike while the entire field leaves me in the dust. I’m too weak, too sick to ride. It’s over. After a long argument with myself, I decide to watch the rest of the stage from a support car instead of finishing my Costa Rica trip in a hospital bed. Bitterly disappointed, I try to make the best of it. Watching the looks on my fellow racers still in the game—there’s lots of determination on those faces but also looks of defeat and anguish. And as they near the top of Irazu in foggy cold conditions after 9,000-feet of elevation gain (much of it surprisingly on pavement), there are weary expressions of relief. It’s tough to be out of the competition but those are the breaks in this sport and at least I can soak in Costa Rica instead of just grunting through pedal strokes.


he next morning, I feel somewhat normal and decide to try to ride the final stage of the race. There’s an optional rafting trip this morning before the stage starts but I figure I should just focus on riding if I’m going to get back out there. The organizers cut some nasty sections from Stage 3 compared to previous years—it’s mostly flat spanning over just 43 miles—so I think I can manage. But it

starts in a sketchy neighborhood of Turrialba and I’m further deflated as I look out on a steady drizzle, but I step outside and the rain is warm. It begins to pour but it’s not sharp and painful like the cold mountain rain I’m used to back home. Since I bailed on Stage 2, I’m out of contention for the race, so I take the opportunity to ride at a more leisurely pace near the back of the pack and snap a bunch of photos. It’s a luxury I rarely have in a race like this and I begin to enjoy it. The course is fast with a few sketchy river crossings. By the time I get to those infamous railroad bridges, there’s a 20 minute pile-up of people as we bottleneck onto the bridge. Onlookers and racers are yelling in Spanish. Anxious racers carefully step from wet plank to plank trying not to look down at the river 200 feet below. I do the only thing I can do—just keep moving. Once our feet are back on solid ground, we have to ride down jarring railroad tracks. My eyes shake in their sockets. Specks of mud hammer my eyes. My seat jackhammers my butt with each railroad tie. My back protests. At last, we tear across beach-y terrain that parallels the teal of the Caribbean. The stage has taken just two-and-a-half hours. Despite missing the chance to podium and stomach illness, I feel joyous. As I pedal onto white sand and make my way to the finish line, I’m greeted by a horde of zealous racers who have survived this three-day quest across the country. We share stories over Imperial, the national beer of Costa Rica, and I remember why I love adventure-style mountain bike races. No matter the results, they are always more than bike races. EO contributing editor Sonya Looney won her second Yak Attack race across Nepal in March.

Roman Urbina The founder of La Ruta expounds on 20 years of the conquistadors’ race course. How did it feel to see the 20th race? It felt fantastic to see over 500 racers from 30 countries sharing the joy of mountain biking, exploring and challenging themselves. What is the biggest challenge for racers? The total elevation gain in a single ride. Most single day races or rides do not climb 12,000 feet in 100 K, so there are some hard hills. How does La Ruta help Costa Rica? Costa Rica is now known abroad in the cycling community, people hear about the race and it plants a small seed of interest. It’s a great example for the youth of Costa Rica to see so many people mountain biking. This year’s winner, Paolo Montoya, was just a very young boy when his father twice won La Ruta. Paolo got picked up by an international pro team from Italy after his first win a few years ago and was able to race in Europe for a few seasons, later he went to the Olympics. Also, racers have many economic needs like hotels, food, transportation. So many dreams are born that benefit our economy in more ways than you can imagine. —S.L.

APRIL 2013 •


FREE SNOWCAT SKIING ON THE RIDGE. Enjoy free snowcat rides to some of Loveland’s most exhilarating terrain on Loveland’s new Ridge Cat Tours. The Ridge Cat will provide access to Field of Dreams, Velvet Hammer, Tickler and Marmot when conditions permit. Visit for all the details.


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Be Spoke

bikes and booty


Meet new rides and accessories with that certain something. by Doug Schnitzspahn

1. Osprey Raptor 10 We have yet to strap on a better bike pack than the Raptor 10, with its perfectly balanced carrying compartments, easy-to-access bite valve and smart helmet carrying system. $129;

2. Icebreaker Tech T Lite Logobike Everyone has a merino top that breathes when it’s warm and stays snug when it gets chilly, but NewZealand-based Icebreaker mixed it up a bit and put new bike friendly graphics from American guest artist Adam Haynes ( on its latest tops for men and women. $75;

3. Ultralite Cirrus Ok, road weenies, here’s a little porn for you. Colorado-based Ultralite boasts the lightest pedal system you can buy. These titanium stubs, which we were surprised were so damn effective when we got them on the pavement, weigh in at just 112 grams for the pair—including cleats. Plus, they are made in-state. $395;

4. Kuat Dirtbag Not every bike accessory has to be ridiculously

expensive. These racks live up to their name at $13 and bolt anywhere they are welcome. New sizes fit road bikes and snowbikes. $13;

5. Native Eyewear Kodiak Another Colorado-based brand, Native got the cool factor just right on these interchangeable-lensshades—the comfiest we wore on long rides or just chilling around town. $129;

6. Giro Amare Giro’s in-mold composite reinforcement allows the brand to provide more ventilation without sacrificing the all-important protective qualities of this helmet. Classy women’s styling (dig the flash of polka dots) gives panache on the blacktop. $180;

7. Skratch Labs The brainchild of Dr. Allen Lim, Skratch Labs works thanks to the right balance of sugars that optimize fuel supply and gastric emptying. The salt content is precisely calculated to match the amount an average athlete loses while sweating. And the all-natural flavors keep us from gagging. $1.95 single serving, $19.50 1-pound package;


APRIL 2013 •



5th annual save our snow Celebration 24th annual enduro 11th annual spyder grind 9th annual red ball beach bash









5/4 Cuatro de mayo fiesta 10th annual huck rock n’ roll Terrain Park Competition 5/18 rail Jam fREE 5/26 12th annual festival of the brewpubs










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SHAKIN’ AT THE BASIN CONCERT SERIES 5/4 Crazy oTTo 5/11 high five 5/18 six million dollar band 5/25 The luv broThers 5/26 hardsCrabble



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Spot Honey Badger Yes, EO readers, it has come to the point where our favorite mountain bike for most trails is a belt-drive single speed. It’s not just because we telemark and fly fish Tenkara rods—this thing is simply fun and it absolutely digs into technical climbs and flies on the downs. Credit the new geometry which gives it more guts and climbing mojo than the brand’s already awesome Rocker. The Gates Carbon Drive is hassle-free and oh-so-silent on lonely singletrack. $2,599;


Raleigh Misceo Trail i11 Yep, we were high on Gates Carbon Drive bikes this season. But this is no singlespeed–the Misceo Trail i11 features Shimano hydraulic brakes and internally geared Shimano Alfine components that give it 11 speeds on that belt (yes, it goes to 11), which makes it the best commuter bike you could own. No hassles in mud. It eats up dirt or pavement. No broken deraileurs or chains falling off. And you never get chain grease on your work pants. $1,750;


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Specialized Amira SL4 Pro SRAM Compact Our XX-chromosomed roadie editors swore by the Amira’s light, stiff FACT 11r carbon frame and female performance geometry. Plus, the SRAM componentry was a very welcome surprise at this price point. $4,750;

PLEASE DRINK STRANAHAN’S RESPONSIBLY. Stranahan’s® Colorado Whiskey. 47% Alc/Vol. (94 proof). ©2012 Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, Denver, CO.

APRIL 2013 •


Spring time in Salida.

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We’re hitting the road again at this summer’s hottest events! Come by our booth for chances to win cool gear and getaways from our sponsors! MountainFilm in Telluride, May 24-27 2013 GoPro Summer Mountain Games, Vail, June 6-9 Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival, Cañon City, June 21-22


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Giant Trance X 29er 0 Giant’s Trance X was our mainstay ride for a long time—it offered plush suspension alongside responsive climbing at a reasonable price. Sold. But the bike got left by the wayside as we fell in love with 29ers. No longer. The 5-inches-of-dreamy-travel 29er Trance X serves up internal cable routing and a suspension designed explicitly for big wheels that creates a shorter wheelbase. $4,250;

BOULDER Women’s Obstacle Adventure Run

3 miles. 11 obstacles. Girl Power! park

Diamondback Mason Meet the 29er hardtail made for the Valmont Bike Park (or any other freeriding with pedaling required). A product of the Pacific Northwest, the uber-slack Mason serves up 140 mm of travel in the front fork and a seat dropper for those big hits, but still has the stiffness (and big wheels) to dig in and climb. $2,200;

Big Shot BIkes Big Shot Bikes is elevating the fixie beyond the provenance of tight-jeanwearing hipsters. But that doesn’t mean they’re taking away the ironic cool. The company lets you design your very own machine online, choosing the frame size, handlebar design, colors. The bikes spec with a flip flop hub, meaning you can run them as a fixie or a single speed, depending on how many PBRs you want to swill. Best of all, it’s a great price for a solid custom ride. $429;

SHAPE Diva Dash is a women’s-only 5K run dotted with fun obstacles sure to challenge your agility, balance, strength and speed. Add copious amounts of tutus, boas and bling, and you’ve got the SHAPE Diva Dash!


May 4th

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APRIL 2013 •


Courtesy Brendan Leonard






Reveling in the child-like joy of pedaling across the country on a cheap bike

S cortez | dolores | mancos


by Brendan Leonard

omewhere around mile 2,500, I glanced over into someone’s rural Louisiana front yard and saw, among a couple dozen other half-forgotten items, a child’s bike tipped over on the lawn. It was tiny, pink, with training wheels and streamers, white tires and a white seat. I wanted to take a photo of it so I’d remember it later, but it turns out I didn’t need to. In America, you learn to ride a bike when you’re a kid. Everyone does, from boys who live down the street from the Valmont Bike Park in Boulder to little girls who live on potholed blacktop roads in middle-of-nowhere Louisiana. It’s a rite of passage, lodged somewhere between learning to tie your shoes and going to prom (or skipping prom). But somewhere around the age of 16, most of us ditch bicycles. They’re kids’ toys. Most Americans get a driver’s license, and, for the rest of their lives, the only experience they have with bicycles is when someone riding one gets in their way. Maybe they honk the horn, maybe they swerve, maybe they yell obscenities, maybe they do nothing when that cyclist is holding them up from wherever they’re trying to get. I’ve experienced all those moments—from the cyclist’s perspective—in five years of riding central Denver’s streets. I pedaled by that little girl’s bike in Louisiana, through the clammy, early March air, and I pictured someone teaching her to ride it. They didn’t say, “You have to learn to ride a bike so that when you’re older, people driving cars can be mean to you.” Whoever it was—Mom, Dad, an aunt or uncle—pushed that little girl on her pink bike until they could muster up the hope to let go, and when she finally got it, they said, “See, isn’t it fun?” In the middle of my cross-country bike ride, that’s what I spent a couple minutes imagining. When you ride a bike eight hours a day for a month and a half, you have time to think about a lot of things, I guess.

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y old pal Tony asked me on Facebook if I wanted to ride across the country. I said yes, because he didn’t ask questions like “can you get the time off work?” or “can you afford it?” He just asked if I wanted to. Well shit, who wouldn’t? Turns out, since Tony and I had become friends back in high school (when we were washing dishes in the back of the Pinicon Restaurant in New Hampton, Iowa), he’d become an entrepreneur, a triathlete and a successful chiropractor, and could afford to take along a starving non-profit employee like me. I knew there would be stories. With Tony, there always are. He’s that guy things just happen to, partly because he makes them happen. We used to drink our way across Iowa during RAGBRAI, the annual cross-state bike ride that 10,000 cyclists (loose use of that term) sign up for every year (20,000 show up). One year, Tony grabbed one of those giant pickle jars that sits at the end of every dive bar in America, paid for all the pickles in it and handed them out until they were gone. Then he had the bartender fill the rest of the jar with ice and vodka, and he drank out of it until the end of the night, walking around chatting people up with a two-foot-tall glass of green liquid. Did I mention he’s seven feet tall? Actually 6’ 11 ¾” if you press him, but it’s a lot easier to say “seven feet” to the half dozen people who ask you every time you get off your bicycle when you’re riding across the country. I bought a 1988 Raleigh Team USA from a guy in Broomfield for the ride. I’d been riding tough steel bikes around Denver for years, and I figured the same kind could make it from San Diego to Florida just fine. The seller put it on Craigslist the weekend after I smashed my Surly into the back of a Honda Accord and crumpled the downtube, and I thought it would be funny to ride a $100 bike across America. I got five 20s out of an ATM, drove to his place, saw that it was

basically rideable, gave him the money and took the bike home where I stripped it. I swapped all the parts off my Surly for the original Team USA components and bought clear nail polish to cover the dings in the red, white and blue paint job. Of which there were many. I had a $400 Easton wheelset on a $100 bike. I wanted it to be a good story, a story about consumption, recycling, about not needing expensive gear to have an adventure. I wanted it to be about something meaningful. In the end, Tony and I pedaled 3,000 miles in 49 days, and there were 1,000 stories, all of which have come out multiple times in conversations in the three years since we finished. I hear the words “when I did this bike tour a couple years ago…” come out of my mouth so often, I can’t believe the ride only lasted a few weeks. When I run my finger along the map, I see a line punctuated with stories about bicycles.


ur second day of the ride, we unwittingly found ourselves riding alongside the Boulevard Road Race near Alpine, California. There we were—two guys with 50-pound trailers struggling up steep hills amongst packs of road racers on ultralight bikes. We got cheers, not from spectators, but from the racers, as they passed us, flying by. While staying with my friends Angie and Jarrett in Phoenix, Jarrett, who hadn’t ridden a bike since college, showed me the new Trek road bike he’d bought to train for a century to raise money to help fight leukemia and lymphoma, a sort of recompense for the support he’d received when he fought Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2007. I remember him worrying about being in shape to ride 15 miles the next morning, let alone 100 miles in a single day in June, and asking, “Are these jerseys supposed to be this tight?” as he walked out into the living room. He was as uncomfortable in his new kit as if he were wearing a ballerina costume. In Silver City, New Mexico, I asked the mechanic installing a new crank on Tony’s bike if he might know a guy named Maynard, who used to work the Tour de Gila, the annual bike race in Silver City that draws a few big names. He said, “Of course, Maynard is a good friend,” and asked, “How do you know him?” And I said, “Maynard lives five blocks from me in Denver and is a total rascal. I just had coffee with him three weeks ago.” In Austin, I installed a new cassette and brake pads on the patio at Juan Pelota, the coffee shop adjoining Lance Armstrong’s bike shop, while I waited for my old pal Russell to come meet us for dinner. Russell told me stories of his career as a pedicab driver in Austin, and found an actual Team USA mechanic to work on my $100 bike, to address a creaking I thought was in the bottom bracket. It turned out to be nothing but a harmless noise coming from my saddle. In Florida, my uncle Tim pedaled out 20 miles from Niceville on his new Raleigh road bike to meet us. He had bought the bike a few months before, when he returned from a weekend ride on his old clunker and listened to a podcast I’d made about my old steel road bike in Denver. He had gone out to ride a couple more hours, then promptly went to the cycle shop to get a better bike. Tony and I encountered little trouble from people along the way beyond some isolated incidents. Someone threw a soda at me in Louisiana, a few

Courtesy Brendan Leonard



THE SIMPLE LIFE: “I wanted it to be a story about consumption, recycling, about not needing expensive gear to have an adventure.”

aggressive drivers buzzed us in the South, and someone swerved at Tony as he stood on the shoulder waiting for me, forcing him to dive into the ditch. I spun the wheels of my Team USA, burning through tires and calories, and later in the trip, when I got a little tired of long days on the road and worrying about unpredictable motorists, I wondered what it is in us that loves the idea of a child on a bicycle, but is capable of such hate toward adults on bicycles? As the days of a bike tour pile up, you start to understand that strangers love to come up and talk to you. They’d never just walk up to someone on a motorcycle or someone driving a pickup truck and start asking questions, but I think people figure anybody dumb enough to pedal a bicycle with 40 or 50 pounds of crap tied to it must be harmless. I loved it, first the small talk, then the big talk, some local chatter. These were folks who were interested in something I was doing. And a few people said some things we’d laugh about for miles down the road. Outside a convenience store in Uvalde, Texas, as I strapped a bottle of Gatorade to my BOB trailer, a man walked up to me and asked where we were headed. I said maybe San Antonio that day, but eventually Florida, and he said, “Man, that guy over there is so tall, I can’t believe he can even ride a bike. Look how big he is!” I just laughed and said Tony usually dropped me a mile or two out of town. I wanted to explain that yes, Tony did, in fact, possess normal, even above-average motor coordination, and that being a foot taller than most men did not cause the same problems as inhaling ether. After the guy drove off in his pickup, I told Tony the story, and he said, “I wish I would have

known he said that. I would have pedaled over here and crashed my bike in front of you guys.”


ony and I talk, long distance, about another adventure in our future. He runs his business ventures in Chicago. I bounce around the West, living out of a van and writing. I wish we could line something up, because I know if I go on one or two more bike tours with him, I’ll probably have enough material for a book. Now, I’m that guy walking up to the folks standing by fully loaded bikes at convenience stores, as they sit munching calories for their next 20 miles. I hope that they feel like talking, like sharing some stories from the road, and then maybe I can relate some of my own experiences, and maybe offer some encouragement. But I always start with the small talk: Where you guys headed? •

APRIL 2013 •




here may be no greater sense of personal freedom than when you first learn how to ride a bike. That’s because unlike falling in love, heading to college or finally moving out of your parent’s basement, learning how to pedal yourself around the block is largely a freedom without consequences attached. What few setbacks there are always get paired with a scenic ride or a good sweat. And I, for one, would certainly take a skinned knee over a broken heart, or a flat tire over an empty bank account. Through all life’s learning moments, few memories stay sweeter than that of flying down your first big hill with the wind in your hair and the world beneath your wheels… and realizing you can experience that thrill as many times as you want. Which is why this column is dedicated to the bikes I’ve owned—or borrowed—and to all the Denver days that got spun through their spokes:

Kevin howdeshell /


A Two-Wheeled Autobiography

The Big Wheel It wasn’t even mine. It belonged to a kid down the block. But I rode that Big Wheel every chance I got, and once or twice even parked it inside my gate. Riding it made me feel like the Easy Rider, like some mechanized cowboy or motorcycle cop. Screaming down the driveway into the evergreen bushes resulted in my first bloody elbow. And I’ve always admired the badass genius of that huge front wheel, the Harley-styled handlebars and the setback seat. I think the only American toy that ever rivaled it for coolness was the G.I. Joe with the Kung Fu Grip.

Your ride says everything about who you are… and who you have become. by PETER KRAY

The Scorcher The Scorcher was a 3-speed with a red frame, raised red handlebars and another bright orange flame burning up the banana seat. Even more importantly, it was a Schwinn, while my brother rode a Huffy, which was as big a rivalry as Ford vs. Chevy with all the trash we would talk. That bike was my gateway to 7-11 Slurpees and endless summer days cruising Park Hill’s elm-lined streets. We did put baseball cards in the spokes and little license plates on the rear, and it felt like someone locked our legs in cement when both bikes were stolen from under the lilacs in the backyard. With the next bikes, we also bought locks.

The Paperboy Bike I got the paperboy bike at the same time I got a paper route. I don’t know if I ever knew its model, or make. But I do know it was the original mountain bike. It sure carried a load—not in rear panniers either, but in front-loaded Sunday-edition heavy duty cloth bags that lurched with every handlebar twist—and it still popped curbs, navigated snow, outran angry dogs and taught me the perils of impending manhood when I slipped off the seat and bounced my crotch off the top tube to discover what it meant to get “racked.” I bought it for $25 from another paperboy who had inherited it from some other paperboy, and is the only bike I ever owned that paid for itself. It also introduced me to the sexy side of cycling when I pedaled a Machbeuf Catholic School girl in her green plaid skirt home on the handlebars.

The Nishiki 10-Speed The 1979 movie Breaking Away changed America’s


perception of cycling, from that of transportation and pastime to real life sport. (Except, of course, in Indiana where the cycle-racing movie was set, and here in Colorado, and in particular Boulder, where the Red Zinger Bicycle Classic was already drawing to a close at the time of the movie’s release, and plenty of kids had begun to drink the tour bike Kool-Aid from bottles on their top tubes.) By the time I got that 10-speed there was also an obvious hierarchy between serious racers who rode Flying Dutchmans in real races (and who knew how to pronounce Campagnolo), and those of us who rode Nishikis and went to school wearing the little turned up bicycle-beanie hats. Of course I had a blast on that heavy metal bike and rode it once—expedition style—over Vail and Loveland Passes.

The Witcomb Custom Frame What I remember most about going to the North Boulder Park Criterium when the Red Zinger became the Coors Classic was how walking to the race, it seemed as if the Grateful Dead was playing from every house. “Fire on the Mountain.” “Shakedown Street.” That and the international racers and crossover talents like the speed skater siblings Eric and Beth Heiden, and how, when we were following a stage from Denver to Vail, a cop pulled us over going 70 down Floyd Hill to let the peloton pass. I thought of that when I found a photo of my dad’s old friend Don Welch, a former ski school director at Vail whom I called when I was researching American Snow, a book I wrote about U.S. snowsports. The very next day another friend called to offer to return a custom Witcomb frame Don had given to my dad, that I had given the other

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friend to paint a jean jacket with Stagger Lee on the back. It’s sitting here in my office right now, and I’m thinking about making a café cruiser out of it.

The Schwinn Cruiser If singletrack is your style, you might notice the lack of comment given here to mountain bikes. In the past 20 years I’ve owned three—a Cannondale, a Trek and something I bought from a sporting goods store in Upstate New York with pedals that fell off in a month. They all took me on incredible trails and a few near-disastrous downhills. They showed me views that were clear and perfect. But they rarely ever took me anywhere I wouldn’t be just as happy to travel by foot. My Schwinn always gives me something deeper than that. Black and green like some stealth Batmobile, I have ridden it on century rides, down sandy arroyos and especially on bar nights all high on a pint of beer with the August evening heat coming off the street. There is something elegantly utilitarian about that bike, with its coaster brakes and padded seat. It reminds me of the women you see in Europe on the black Raleighs in long black jackets and knee high black boots, with their hair in the air as they pedal their way to work. And there are several fantasies that come from that. Perhaps the most lasting being that a day—especially a work day—should need nothing more than two wheels, a little time in the office, a little time at a restaurant or coffee shop and a long tour home to be considered a success. Peter Kray is Elevation Outdoors’ editor-at-large and co-founder of The Gear Institute (

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Elevation Outdoors April 2013  

April 2013 edition of Elevation Outdoors