Monday, 5 January 2015

Western Colorado mountain biking - blue skies and blizzards

Every other year it's the time to head to Colorado for Christmas with the in-laws.  There are a few great things about this biannual trip, primary of course is visiting family.  A close second is the nearly hundred percent chance that I will get to ride a bike outdoors for a week or so.

This year, the temperature in western Colorado was not as warm as most  years, but  it was still much warmer than in Canada.  I had to wear the full gear from gloves to tights to a skull cap, but it was still so much better than the trainer!!

My favorite shop in Grand Junction is The Bike Shop on North Ave.  The guys there are not young punks, but they are young at heart and have a ton of experience.  I usually ride on the road there because I miss the miles during the winter.  However, with it being so cold, I decided to forego the skinny tires and demo a mountain bike. 

This turned out to be a great decision for 2 reasons.  First, the temperature was cold enough that a road ride would have caused significant shrinkage due to cold ambient temperature and wind resistance.  Secondly, I demo'd a Niner Jet 9 Carbon which was surprisingly awesome.

Day1. Beautiful day, beautiful bike, smiles.

I was lucky to get a beautiful day on the Redlands, a reddish colored area of mesa type dunes covered in trails of all sorts.  I'm not a crazy downhiller or jumper or technical junky; I like to ride XC, climb, and collect views as I go.  The skies were a perfect blue and I only saw two other people on my trail that day ... very peaceful.  The second day of riding was a little different ... it started cold and cloudy, and soon became a snow storm with poor visibility. So snowy in fact, that a pair of ski goggles would have been perfect.  That said, the trail was in great shape and offered great views even in the snow storm (not so much for my camera though).

Day 2. Blizzard, smiles on the inside.

The Jet 9 was also a highlight.  After the theft of my Ibis Mojo, which I haven't been able to replace yet, it was fun to ride something new. The Jet 9 was spec'd with SRAM components, Stans NoTubes rims, and a carbon bar - a few things which I have wanted to try first hand.  I believe the handling of this 29er was superb.  Anything from switchbacks to narrow balance sections to fast downhill sweepers - it performed flawlessly.  I'm not sure how much the 29" wheels had to with it versus the frame design, etc, but it was much better than my old Mojo.  It was even the same obnoxious orange color that the old Mojo, but just a little nicer with the shiny paint appearance.

The other thing I noted about riding in Colorado, was that the locals idea of challenging for mountain bike trails is different than here in Alberta (at least where I ride).  The shop guy said "try the kids practice trail first, if that's OK then you should be good anywhere in that area."  Glad I did try that first.  The "kids" trail required balance riding on cliff edge trails, narrow rock bridges over gullies, and climbing up slick rock steps around blind corners.  At home, that would have freaked most of us out.  I belong on the road, but I still have fun scaring myself once in a while - keeps me feeling alive.

If you have a chance to ride western Colorado, stop by The Bike Shop, and see the Redlands before going to the Kokopelli trail.  Awesome times.

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