Sometimes you plan on rolling out and doing 100 miles in the mountains with friends. Sometimes you get distracted and have an adventure.
Peder and Matt and myself chanced upon the 2nd option recently. We had expected to put in some huge base miles for the upcoming race season. Plenty of smooth ups and downs were on tap, and we were geared up and ready for it.
We should have known from the start that something was amiss though. Before leaving the house Peder found both of his tires flat from thorns. Similarly, I found a flat and a thorn while leaving my house for the meetup. While en route I suffered a 2nd flat. The ride hadn’t even begun and we were 45 minutes behind “schedule” and 4 flats down.
As we neared the base of Mt. Lookout, our first climb of the day, Matt showed us an excellent and steep detour through a neighborhood. This set the mood for us ditching the beaten path and trying new things. At the top of that climb we intersected with Lookout Mountain Road and begun the extremely familiar slog up it’s switchbacked flanks. As we rounded the first bend though something caught our eyes: The Chimney Gulch trail head. Chimney Gulch is a popular hiking and MTB trail that ascends a narrow ravine to the saddle midway up Mt. Lookout. I had never ridden it.
“Steve Pamlenyi rode down this on his road bike once”
said Matt casually. I wondered out loud if anyone had ever ridden up it on a road bike. Nobody answered. I felt the invisible hand of fate grab my handlebar and jerk it left towards the trailhead. “I’m doing it!” I said. Words were exchanged. The word “crazy” was probably used. Before we knew it we were all three switching into our granny gears and churning upwards on the narrow ribbon of trail. This ride had just gotten Rodeo!
The going alternated between tricky and impossible. Some sections weren’t that difficult to ride, some were tricky with the sharp rocks, and some were all but unrideable. We all alternated between riding, hiking, and heckling each other.
Eventually we hit the shade and the snow. The going got pretty tricky.
Riding a skinny tired road bike on a mountain bike trails is so wrong that it’s entirely the right thing to do. The novelty of it is a breath of fresh air and the challenge of it is a great puzzle for both the mind and the fitness. Smiles (and some frustration) are guaranteed.
Sometimes though, Nature makes you earn your adventures x2, so she dished out a 2nd flat tire on us near the top.
Even the tire changing locations in Colorado can be pretty spectacular:
All in all our little dirt detour consumed a tire, a tube, and the better part of an hour. Our plans for a 100 mile day were dashed. No matter, we’d just done something new and fun and we were buzzed on the experience. We pushed onward another 20 miles to our new favorite mid-ride stop: The Kittredge General Store where the most delicious burritos we know of are prepared fresh daily by a wonderful and cycling-friendly group of people:
Even with the slowdowns and setbacks of the MTB the day still ended with 100km / 65 miles on tap. Much of that was climbing, and we arrived at our respective homes tired, happy, and very well fed. Without the detour the ride would have been good, but more of the same. With the added dirt the experience is burned into our memories, and for that reason we wouldn’t want it any other way.
Photos by Peder Horner, Matt Deviney, and Stephen Fitzgerald