Looking for new rides? Follow the dirt bikes but bring your granny gear.
By Len Zanni
Driving to our company headquarters in a Colorado mountain towns often takes me past a choice BLM spot (let’s call it the Playland) frequented by the motorized crowd. Unrecognizable by yawning road-tripping riders speeding by en route to storied riding spots to the north and south and hardly worth the drive for those from the closest resort town, the area is the backyard for a few local dirt bikers.
The riding is so good in this trail network that I’ll admit to the fact that I’ve parked my bike-rack clad vehicle, which screams cyclist, a bit covertly for fear of tipping off fellow riders driving past, yet I submit these words as inspiration. Good single track is, after all, like fine wine – better consumed amongst friends than stored in some cold, dark place.
Bash our throttle-twisting cousins as you rack up the mileage behind the wheel of your hybrid, but if you’re looking for some quality ‘track, expand your horizons and follow your instincts, nose and the exhaust. Whoops, massive braking bumps, occasionally bermed turns and some steep hike-a-bike sections are the tell-tale signs. Perhaps I’m sympathetic because I have ridden dirt bikes in the past (I’m a card-carrying IMBA member - even sport the socks and T’s with passion) or perhaps I’m just the curious sort with low standards and a jones for any open trail but I’m not against exploiting the fruits of the motorized world. Share the trails right?
Riding there one recent fall afternoon, I heard one rider turning hot laps on his four-stroke until he escaped the oncoming rain shower and packed his bike into a van. Waving as I passed by him (he did wave back), I zipped up my vest to ward off the chill and rejoiced in the fact that I was now alone. With its red dirt, pungent sagebrush and contorted pinyon, the area, is a smorgasbord of short, loose power climbs, rolling buffed descents peppered with some spooky drops and miles of tight single track. Some trails are clearly best when ridden one way so an open attitude and a little time to investigate the best direction and trails will help you reap the spoils.
Find this gem and you’ll be rewarded with enough single and double track to ride for a solid two hours with just a few crossings of the paved road or your own tracks in the sand. Best of all, these banana belt trails are often accessible from April through November. The downside is that trails created by and abused by dirt bikes often sport short steep climbs that are barely rideable in the granny gear or force frequent dismounts. Braking bumps loom like moguls on some descents and the climbs can be rutted due to the erosion caused by spinning rear dirt bike wheels.
This style of riding isn’t for everyone but the technical challenges and power climbs will help your riding and the joy of riding new terrain will put a smile on the face of all but the most bitter, motorhead-loathing Front Range eco-snob. Hey, that just means less crowded trails for the rest of us right? So, where is it you ask? I’ll never tell.