Devil’s Backbone trail: Remembering how to Mountain Bike

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I got my new bike from Boulder Cyclesport in the middle of February. The earliest I’ve ever got a new bike. It was great. But there was also a problem. There weren’t any trails (within a six-hour drive) dry, and I wasn’t about to destroy a brand new bike in Colorado’s special blend of snowy-sand-slush. So I had to wait. Social Meedja has been filled with friends either training in Tuscon, or preparing to race the US Cups in California. Sun-filled, tan-lined photos have flashed up before me as I’ve been riding on the road or skiing. But patience is a virtue, especially when our MTB season extends from the beginning of March until the end of September. I have time.

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With that mindset, I headed north to Loveland, Colorado with Bryan. Not exactly known as a mountain bike mecca, Loveland has exactly one trail, but it’s a beauty. The Devil’s Backbone trail is about 5 miles long, and ridden as an out and back. The trailhead was packed, and we could see an ant-like procession wandering up the strip of dirt away from the car park. I was worried we had picked the wrong spring Saturday for our trail time. We hit the dirt and friend-passed as many people as possible. A friend-pass is where you are disgustingly polite and smiley to every person you meet, no matter how oblivious they are to your presence. It’s annoying, but it’s about the only way mountain bikes are tolerated on multi-use trails on the Front Range.

Soon, we’d reached the half-mile threshold, and the hikers disappeared. It’s a known fact that traveling more than half a mile from a trailhead is the easiest way to avoid crowds. From here on, Bryan and I had the trail almost entirely to ourselves. Enough so that we could stop and session multiple sections of trail without anyone passing us. The trail climbs quickly onto a ridge-line, the main reason most of the hikers don’t make it that far. From there, jagged sandstone ridges cross the trail, creating a series of step ups and step down that are super tricky. It’s a great way to test some new equipment, re-learn things that should be second memory, and generally have a good time. We did all of those things. The middle, empty section of trail allowed us to pick up some speed and find the proverbial flow. It was needed. From rusty half-movements leading to dabs and rock scraps, I ended the day confident that I would be back at it soon enough.

Spring 2015: version 1.0

Spring is happening in Boulder. The clocks have changed to summertime, the weather has improved and there are flowers poking their eager heads through the snow.

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Altitude Sickness – an introduction

I’ve never suffered with altitude sickness before. I thought it was a condition that befell only the unfit, the unprepared and the unaware. I was wrong. Having been back in Colorado for an entire week since the trip to England, and having trained hard during that week, I didn’t consider the possibility of acclimitisation being a problem. I agreed to go for a backcountry tour to the Indian Peaks, in the west of Boulder county, without worrying that I was in any way unsafe to be in the hills.

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The Baddick – Callaway Wedding

My Brother is a married man!

A whirlwind trip to England started with a fantastic stag do (that’s a Bachelor Party, Americans) organised by Frank’s good friends Richard and Keiran. I’d been feeling like I was failing in my best man duties when they started organising the festivities, but I soon realised that they were the right people to do it, and they did Frank really proud. We found ourselves in rural Herefordshire late on a Friday night, after just landing in Heathrow. The weekend was mainly outside, situated at a fantastic campsite in rolling hills. That’s about all that was suitable for this blog. I can say that by the time we left on Sunday, I had absolutely no idea what time zone I was in!

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Twenty four hours in Iceland. What would you do?

What would you do with 24 hours in Reykjavik?

Halgrimskirkje

Halgrimskirkje

In a stroke of Marketing genius, Icelandair offers free stopovers in Iceland at no extra cost on your ticket. Christa and I took up this offer, only to realise that even one day in Iceland will set you back at least $500. Even with the high price of everything on the island, we set off with just over 24 hours to explore Reykjavik and the surrounding area. We found that even one day was enough to get a feel for Reykjavik, even if we didn’t have a chance to explore further inland to find the real beauty of this wild country.

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Old Man Winter: a bike race.

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The Old Man Winter came about due to the new trend of “Gravel Grinders” that is sweeping the country. The idea is simple: we ride our bikes on all kinds of terrain, and races should do the same. I wasn’t sure if it really was a race until I saw the $1000 put up for the winner, and that every self-centred bike rider (me included) in Boulder was lining up to do it.

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2015 Colorado Mountain Bike race Calendar

This calendar was correct as of February 4th, 2015. Some races will get cancelled or change dates, so please check this information carefully. More races will be added when the dates are known.

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The demise of the front derraileur

The Rabo-Liv Team Bike of 2015 World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot

The Rabo-Liv Team Bike of 2015 World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot | Photo by Thomas Maheux via Instagram

A new generation is a rare thing in Cyclocross. With 2015 marking the first World Championship in the post Nys era, the rainbow jerseys were decided by skills and equipment developed in just the last couple of years. Disc brakes are now accepted as worthy of the rainbow stripes, but a subtler change has swept across the pro’s bikes: The front derailleur is no longer dominant, and in its place are a variety of set-ups from both SRAM and Shimano.

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Back on the horse – Mid winter miles

The fifth of January marked the end of my sloth-like Christmas. Three weeks of binging on cake and drinking endless cup of tea had to eventually cease. I started riding again this week, and the weather in Boulder has treated me very well so far. We’ve had a mixed week of snowy nights and dry days. I’ve ridden outside every other day, and found enough entertainment to keep me busy whilst riding the rollers inside.

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The Balancing Act

Bike riding is fun. You know that already. For some of us, racing bikes is just as fun as riding bikes. The rush of pinning on a number, sharing conspiratory glances with competitors on the start line, and drinking the best tasting beer at the end adds another level to why we’re in the cycling community. But then comes the urge. The urge to get faster. Somewhere in there, riding around mid pack fails to satisfy you. You want more. You think about that dreaded word “training”, and decide to stop waving at fellow riders travelling in the opposite direction. It’s a terrible spiral.  For those of us who live in the cycling mecca of the Front Range, we’ve lost a lot of friends down such a tortuous pathway. At some point, when you’re hammering straight past another awesome photo opportunity while struggling to stay attached to your riding ‘buddies’, you realise something is wrong. Really wrong. But it’s OK. There’s a balance to be found. Training to become a cool person who takes photos and still wins races is a difficult balancing act, and it takes way more dedication than just chugging the occasional protein shake and weighing out your quinoa every morning.

To be outside at the nicest of times, when the sun is shining brightest, you have to suffer through a few thunderstorms first.

To be outside at the nicest of times, when the sun is shining brightest, you have to suffer through a few thunderstorms first.

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