Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Hut to Hut Backcountry Biking Day 1

From Fruita we headed out to what would either be the best part of the road trip or a 3 day nightmare death march. 3 days of self guided biking across the Colorado wilderness.

We booked the trip from Colorado Backcountry Biker a couple of weeks before we left. On booking we got sent a big document with a bunch of maps, directions, what to bring and what to expect. 

The format is really cool and ideal for what we wanted to do. You have what you need with you for a long day in the saddle - spare tubes, tools energy bars etc and when you arrive at the hut (assuming you can find it) is your bedding and a cool box full of fresh food and ice cold beer. 

It sounded great - ride backcountry singletrack all day long without carrying a ton of stuff and finish each day with food and beer.

Day 1 - Meet the Kevin aka 'The Hut Guy' at 7am with all our kit before setting off. He talked us through the route, the expected weather etc before slinging the bikes in the back of his truck and heading off into the hills. The first day was supposed to be pretty easy a 15 miler with some great singletrack to ease us into it gently. Kevin had other ideas and didn't want to "make it too easy" for us and dropped us at the bottom of a six mile climb to get us into the swing of things.

The first climb was pretty tough but the views were great, it was a strange feeling riding into the middle of nowhere with a list of directions and maps to get us safely to the hut, I hoped the directions were correct, failure was not an option!

The first taste of singletrack was not a disappointment about 4 miles of winding singletrack through a shady woodland area. The weather was sunny but not too hot and the trails were perfect.

 A few fire road climbs and some more tasty singletrack later we came to a beaver dam. I have never seen a beaver before let alone walked across a beaver dam. What if they are home?

As you can see from the angle of the photo I had to cross the dam first. Thankfully the dam was fairly solid and no beavers were home. Weather still looking good as well. 

After the beaver dam the trail cruises along in the open for a while before kicking uphill sharply. After a long and technical climb, the final climb of the day, the trail opens out. The last 2 miles is a long cruise out in the open on the top of the plateau. 

Assuming the directions are correct the hut should be around here somewhere. 1 complete, the singletrack was epic and the navigation went without a hitch. 

The hut was clean and fully stocked with everything you could want in the high calorie food department, perfect.

Beer and burgers x2 coming up!

The hut was carefully stocked with books and magazines containing articles about the local area, I went to sleep thinking about Anasazi indians hiding in cliff top fortresses. Big day tomorrow.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

18 Road Trails Fruita CO.

There is a ton of good trails in and around the Fruita area. We wondered into a few bike shops before setting off (we had no clue where the trails were). Over The Edge is the famous Fruita bike shop and is responsible for much of the trail development in the area. Here the super friendly staff, all keen bikers were eager to help out. We brought a trail guide and headed out to 18 Road trails - home to Snakes and Ladders and Zippedy Do Dah and many other great singletack gems.

The whole trail area is on a slight incline with a lower car park and an upper car park. We parked at the lower one - up hill to start, downhill finish. Once you're at the car park the network of trails is clearly marked out. The direction you ride the trails in is up to you but as you can imagine most ride better in the downhill direction.

In comparison to typical UK trails they are less technical but much faster, the surface is smooth (and dry when we where there) and very fast rolling, when the trail does get tricky you are usually carrying a ton of speed. The trails are totally engaging and flow amazingly. There are loads of sections where you are neither braking or pedalling, just hammering turns for what seems like ages. Fast flowing singletrack is my favorite type of riding and Fruita is the best place I have ever been for it.

This is a section of Zippedy Do Dah - super fast super buff singletrack rollercoaster!

Most of the trails in the 18 Road area are in a similar vein and there is a lot to choose from. They take between half an hour to an hour and a half to complete. You can join a few up to mix it up a bit but your never far from the car park if anything goes wrong. The car park is about 8km up a dirt road though so it still feels like your right out in the sticks.

We went in September but it was still really hot in the midday sun and there isn't a lot of shade. Pretty exhausting for two jet lagged brits.

On day two we hit it up before breakfast and it was really cold and clear, lots of desert animals hide away in the heat of the day. In the morning before the sun was up there were lots of deer and rabbits running around and the light is amazing. So amazing I didn't take my camera. The trade off for getting up early is forgetting important stuff because your not fully awake when getting ready. ho-hum.

After a long day in the saddle we headed back to the motel, shower, change and into town looking for food. We ended up at the Hot Tomato for pizza and beer. Its a busy little place with lots of locals in, there were not that many other options for food or drink in Fruita, its not a big place and it ain't the UK but no bother because the pizza was good and the beer was cold.

Fruita CO.

Long drive from Denver to Fruita - great scenery, long but very straightforward drive. We stayed at Balanced Rock Motel - good value, friendly staff, bike wash outside and you can take your bikes into your room - as far as a place for bikers to stay, it ticked every box.

REI in Denver

REI in Denver is massive, America does outdoor stores well. The REI in Denver even by american standards is massive and full of really cool stuff and keen knowledgable staff. We brought over $500 of stuff, cliff bars, water bottles, socks, softshell jacket, shorts, t-shirts you name it. We held off getting a load of stuff before we left because outdoor kit is significantly cheaper than the UK.

We spent the whole morning in Denver (Almost entirely in REI) then headed out to our first mountain bike destination Fruita CO - oops wrong side of the road . . thats better, off we go!

Day 1 getting there

We flew from London Heathrow - Flight went well, telly didn't work, BA gave us a bottle of champagne for our troubles - going well so far. Please let the bikes arrive safely!

Landed in Denver late at night - Bikes arrived safe - well done BA! we rented a hire car from Alamo, after pretty much dismantling the hire car to get the two bike bags in the back the supervisor noticed the car didn't have insurance so he upgraded us to this big gold beast with leather seats and a satellite radio. Free champagne and an upgrade on the hire car, so far so good.

So we stayed at some ropey motel just outside the airport for a night, then headed in to town to pick up adventure supplies from REI in Denver in the morning.


I kind of started this blog because we (me and the girlfriend) went to the US in the summer and rode some really great trails and I wanted to share it with people. Road trips with two mountain bikes in the boot and a tick list of places to see and trails to ride is a really great way of spending your time off work.

I took a fairly new bike out with me so ill write some stuff on that too but ill go through the trip first so its in chronological order albeit 5 months or so later than the events happened.