I took my Giant XTC out for a ride/walk for 15 days this past month in the beautiful mountains of Colorado. It is without a doubt the toughest most rewarding adventure that I have ever attempted. The articles and the videos do not do the scenery justice. The epic mountain views and fields of multicoloured flowers were amazing.
I am a sucker for a good video and this one for the Colorado trail race got me hooked.
The trail was put together in the 80’s and consists of about 350 miles of single track and another bunch of two track and some gravel transfer sections to get you around wilderness areas that bikes are not allowed. So, 550 miles and 70000 ft of climbing self supported camping adventure. I went on a shopping spree and collected the required bike bags and camping equipment. I bought pretty good stuff and it was tested with rain, hail, cool temperatures at night and sunshine. Additionally, I purchased a Delrome tracker that let me communicate with no cell reception and it provided a bread crump track to let my wife and family know where I was and what was going on. A great device for the solo traveller.
The good (great):
- Views that get better the farther south you get, you end up in very remote parts of Colorado.
- Satisfaction of completing a challenging task, took me 15 days at a “comfortable pace” top racers do it in 4 days (they ride all night and are beasts).
- Mountain sheep, elk, deer, marmots, weasels, cute ginny pigs with flowers in their mouths and the absence of bear and cougar.
- Getting acclimatized and actually using something other than your granny gear for assents.
- The bike stood up well, one burped tire and 5 sets of brake pads.
- Great people on the trail. Met a kid who did the 2800 mile continental divide race in 17 days, a guy paragliding the trail and many great hikers, usually young or older.
- Views so beautiful you actually walked so you did not miss them.
- I rode in the monsoon season. You need to wait until July/Aug for the snow to clear. Still, I had hail 3 times. Thunderstorms most afternoons that you needed to plan for so you don’t get hit by lightening above treeline. Every day had some sun so I could always dry my tent and cloths.
- I left behind two titanium sporks, one in a hotel and one on the trail. Very sad.
- My phone/camera died on the first day. Only pics I have are from the first day and hiker John who sent me some.
- Hike a bike of three varieties. 1st coming from no elevation you have no lungs. Sometimes you would just stand on the trail and breath instead of pedaling up stuff you ride in Ontario. I pushed and thought some not so nice thoughts about the people who put the trail there. I came up with a classification system. Class 1: push your bike up the hill. Class 2, push your bike forward, apply the brakes and walk to your bike and the worst Class 3, lift your fully loaded bike up rock ledges and then yourself. Class 3 was the test and explicative substitutes were used to shorten the classification.
- I actually knocked myself out on the last day. I went over the bars on a decent and broke my nose, bent my glasses and but my tooth through my lip.
- Do not wear carbon race shoes, they disintegrated on the trail, toes popping through the bottoms and heel blisters. Be prepared for hikes maybe flat pedals.
- No matter how low your gear ratio is go lower. I had a 30 tooth front and a 46 on the back, I would go 26/50.
- Pay attention to trail makers, did an extra 2500 ft of climbing because I was having too much fun on the singletrack.
- Eat lots, I left 10 lbs on the trail somewhere.
I would highly recommend this adventure or pick your own. It is very satisfying to complete something that you are not sure if you can do. I thought I may have needed to drop some of the trail in the middle do to time constraints but managed to pick up some time on the transfer sections and complete it. Get out of your comfort zone and DO IT.