It all really came together really quickly this year. Of course the web page was up for almost a year and a smattering of emails came in from some showing interest, but the last two weeks before the ride were almost busy. A few bowed out and a few more expressed interest, especially when the extended forecasts consistently showed that the weather was to be favorable. The week before had us inundated with stormy weather for a few days from an unseasonal Pacific storm, but by ride day everything was dry enough to ride.
Ride day found Jon, Seb who came all the way from 'Ol Blighty and myself pedaling out of the rising Sun towards the start/finish in the coolness of the high desert morning. Jon was in his "commute" mode and pedaled right past Main Street on his usual route with Seb hot on his heels. I gave a quick yell of "Main Street" as I turned and then slowed until they got turned around and caught up. We arrived at the parking lot to find Kelley from CO, Jeff from CA, and local SSer Keith waiting in the lot. As introductions were being passed back and forth, another local, Jim arrived in his way cool Corvair convertible with a Spot 29er hanging out of the back seat. The usual pre-ride milling about didn't take very long and before we knew it, the group was underway.
The easy spin on the pavement to the first singletrack of the day went by quickly, but was a decent warmup just the same. Arriving at the trailhead, we picked up two more locals, Dave and Mike before heading up the high desert singletrack. Jon took the reins and I had the sweep as we wound our way up the hardpacked track. There were a few quick stops here and there at some of the more technical and steep sections, but the ride as a whole flowed really well as we made up towards the Transitional Zone.
The singletrack gave way to rough jeep trail and an infamously named hill on it, where the group rallied for a few before portaging up. A few ups and downs through somewhat technical sections gave way to the end of the jeep trail almost too soon. Then there was the pavement...
Rising up the steep into the rising Sun
Ok, so the route took us onto the pavement, but at least it was only for five miles. It wasn't all that easy either, as it gained 1,400ft and a good portion of that was in one particular two mile stretch. The group stayed together pretty well at this point, though Mike had to peel off due to another commitment that day. Seb suffered a flat from a goathead or the like on this section, but it didn't cause any undue delay. The entrance to the next dirt section made a good rally point and taking our first real break there allowed everyone to catch up.
The next section featured a nice flat dirt road that faded into a rough and steep jeep trail with a 1,500ft elevation gain. I had scouted this section about ten days prior and it was nice and hardpacked from the monsoon rains. Just into the steep section, we were greeted by some fresh gravel, probably the result of a county commissioner playing golf with a hunter. Needless to say, the gravel made the climb a bit more difficult, if not frustrating at times. A quick rally-up at the end of the dreaded gravel found better climbing and a quick ascent out of the Transitional and into the Montane zone.
Busting into the Montane Zone
The top of the climb featured the water cache and a little extra something for the gang. Knowing that there was still a pretty big climb left that topped out over 9,000ft, everyone took advantage of the water and we were once again on our way. The temperature was just about perfect as the group made our way down an improved dirt road and into a low spot near a couple of small lakes.
High country cruising
The last climb now began in earnest, though it had some nice interspersed flats to catch your breath and ride in the saddle on. The scenery on this winding dirt road was varied and featured a nice mix of aspen stands, open meadows, lakes and dark forest conifer stands. The front runners must have really rabbited up this as the altitude, steepness and sheer climbing miles spread the group out more widely than it had all day. All that meant was that they got a bit more of a munchies break at the start of the ATV trail.
Rolling up the ATV track was about as easy as it gets up there. The track was hardpacked from the recent monsoon rains and the usual weekend parade of motorized users. The breeze picked up a bit in the open meadows and the temperatures were noticeably cooler as the group neared and passed through 9,000ft. Before we knew it, the whole bunch of us were at the first bit of real downhill, all singletrack to the reservoir that it is named for.
The pause was a quick one here because everyone was itching to get on more singletrack again and lunch was not too far away now. The flat bit at the beginning of the trail was a bit hacked up from the passing of some future Big Macs, but as the line of riders started to drop down the trail in earnest and the speeds picked up, it smoothed right out. Zipping in and out of the dark forest and aspen stands, a few bits of tight and technical kept us all in line and on our toes until busting out into a large meadow with a great run-out and cruiser section of buffed goodness to dump us out at the reservoir.
Spinning over to the forest road that accesses the next singletrack, a great round of sarcasm was enjoyed by all. "That sucked." "I want my money back." "Could you do any worse?" "You call that singletrack?" However, the smiles that were even more prevalent belied any negativity. It most certainly was a beautiful day.
The loamy forest road was just about as sandy as it gets. No matter though, we were descending it and most certainly like hungry singlespeed banshees expediting their journey to the next singletrack that awaited. The group stayed very close together as we wound our way up the slight grade that marked the beginning of the final stretch of Montane singletrack. Passing through the deep sand and babyhead filled enigmatic white sand downhill was followed by a quick trip up a short steep of soft dark colored loam brought us to the most singlespeed friendly and fast section of the day.
One last rise before lightning fast descending
The rest of the Montane singletrack went very quickly, but not too quickly. A slight grade up greeted our first mile or so, then was followed by three miles of fast and furious railing on the narrow strip of dirt. The Aspens and various conifers zipped by as we one by one fled down the trail. When it all ended, the group pedaled over a small gap on a forest road and dropped into the picnic area for a break and our waiting lunch.
Jon's lovely wife Nancy had driven up our lunch supplies and was there waiting to greet us along with Gordon The Wonder Dog and his brother, Utah. The cool breeze required another layer while sitting down to eat, but also provided the great visual explanation as to why Aspens are called "Quakies". Poor boy subs and a variety of Chex Mixes were devoured and chased with Gatorade and water. Before departing on to the last legs of the ride, some of us refilled our water at the picnic area hand pump with fresh and cold mountain water. You gotta love that.
L to R: Seb-Edge Cycle, Jon-Edge Cycle, Me-Edge Cycle, Jim-Spot 29er
Dave-Strong 29er, Kelley-Redline, Jeff-Airborne Ti and Keith-Merlin Ti
Refueled and refreshed, it was time to hit the forest road and head for the Transitional Zone again. The pace wasn't too fast to start with, it was just a lazy spin upwards a bit with a tailwind that allowed for easy digestion and more socializing. Once the route took us back onto the rough doubletrack, the pace picked up. I don't know what it is about this section as a downhill, but I find it just as fun at times as any singletrack in the valley. The group got spread out a bit and I had the chance to pass a few riders on the hardpack and gravel, using local knowledge of the "good line".
Back on the macadam again, it was off to the big sandstone/singletrack drop that paralleled our road climb in the morning. The recent rains had been good to both the sandy sections, as well as the rock. Carving around on the huge Kayenta sandstone slabs at the top was as good as it gets, everyone swooping down past the right turn at the huge Ponderosa and into the more technical Entrada section. A few cleaned the tricky drainage section and one by one we filed down into the long and narrow downhill strip of sandstone. Sometimes "too fast" just doesn't register on this section, even on a rigid singlespeed.
Exit The Dragon
Letting our rims (or discs as it was) cool off was not an option, we were on a roll and it was still mostly downhill to go. The route eventually gave way to more singletrack than rock, twisting us down into the canyon bottom and to a dry waterfall portage. The canyon bottom dead-ended at yet another dry waterfall, which was circumnavigated by a quick portage up a sidehill that topped out on the brink of two miles of swoopy fast High Desert Zone hardpack singletrack. Nobody was waiting here, everyone hit the top and just dropped the twisty track.
There is a rider in this shot...
The short climb-out at the bottom and onto the last leg of singletrack was cleaned by a few riders, which can be a tough job after 50+ miles on a 2:1 ratio. Above it was the last rally point and almost 100% downhill to go. A few twists, bursts of speed and tight switchbacks later and the whole bunch was spinning into the trailhead parking lot, but it was not really over yet. We had to get to the starting point parking lot and brave a mile of 50mph traffic and no shoulder.
The High Desert goods
We all made it in one piece, everyone finished and there were only a couple of minimal mechanical issues. It was an excellent day with a great group of people on a stellar route. Goodbyes were exchanged and as our new friends departed, Seb, Jon and I pedaled back to Jon and Nancy's casa to consume food and polish off the remnants of a pony keg of Easy Street Wheat. Yes, an excellent day, thanks to everyone who made it happen, especially those who decided to come out and enjoy a day in the Western Colorado Sun with a bunch of other singlespeed freaks.