I decided that it was high time I got a new bike. The stable has looked a little thin in the last year. But how different would another full suspension 29er really be compared to the two brilliant ones I already own? Dedicated singlespeed? Yeah, maybe. But I can convert mine pretty easily.
Then, a golden opportunity presented itself. One I’ve been looking for, and one that requires a radically different bike than anything I’ve ever owned.
It’s a clown bike! And you can’t help but laugh when you ride it. I was thoroughly amused by how even small rocks were undetectable beneath the 4.8 Lou and Bud tires.
As fun as clown bikes may be on dirt and rocks, in my mind, they are for a completely different purpose. So I headed north with mine, in search of frozen trails and frosty trail signs.
OK, I might have been heading north for more than just frosty trails. Maybe someone preparing for something big.. ..
Our first attempts at riding trails in Winter Park were full of comic moments, but also full of success. We didn’t really know what anything would be like — snow conditions or trail status. At first we were happy just to be riding and climbing most anything.
Then we found the top of the “Zoom” trail, and, well, you can guess what happened next!
The next day we got out earlier and found colder temps and even more firm trails. Pinch me! Can riding on snow really be this fun and comfortable? I started to gain a little confidence in my clothing choices, and, well, this whole concept of snow riding.
Firm trails and superb riding are fun and all, but we’re not exactly a pair that sticks with the known, fun and easy. Let’s go see what these snow bikes can, and can’t do!
We pedaled most of a 1000′ climb on only semi-packed singletrack, much to our astonishment. It’s a climb that would be legitimate even by summer mountain bike standards.
Really? I thought these bikes were only useful in places snowmobiles have been!
Continuing on from the climb, it wasn’t too hard to find the marginal trail conditions and hike-a-bike we were looking for!
I suppose we could have continued to do fun day rides and been quite content. It was new, and challenging, and each day was better than the day before. But no… it was time to dress the big ponies up for a night out! In my mind, that’s where these bikes get really interesting.
We climbed away from Winter Park, first on semi-trail, then mega-plowed railroad grade. When the bikes are already monster trucks, adding camping gear (even winter gear!) doesn’t seem to make that huge of a difference.
As railroad grades do, in Colorado, we climbed and climbed and climbed, and for a while I was struggling behind Eszter.
The thought of watching the sunset from above treeline was pulling her up the mountain. A good thought, a good goal, and a nice strong pace.
As it was, we flirted with the edge of the trees right as the light fell, and right as the magic of winter dusk surrounded us.
The climb continued until there were no more trees, which meant there was nothing to block the wind and nothing to constrain the trail. We searched for the packed trail and pushed higher, into harsher winds and dropping temperatures. For a few minutes I felt the cold creeping in on me, struggling to add layers not that familiar to me even as the wind tried to keep them off me. I hadn’t done a perfect job of managing my temperature and calories on the way up, but it wasn’t bad. Correctable mistakes.
Eszter was on ahead, pushing into the night. The trail deteriorated after a major bowl, but we continued walking toward the pass. All layered up it was a good walk (and occasional ride) in the dark. She stopped and said, “here?” Ah, a tiny bowl with only moderate wind — not the howling kind elsewhere. A spot to call home for the night.
The half moon was already up and in full effect. The snow reflected the moonscape, reflected on our souls.
I can’t explain what it’s like, to be in such a cold and harsh environment, wrapped up in the warmth of a giant sleeping bag, wrapped up in the warmth of an overflowing heart. I am sure the borrowed puffy sleeping bag had something to do with the warmth we felt, but in the end, without the heart, what warmth do you have?
I also can’t explain what it’s like to wake up in a place like this, watching the sun grace faraway peaks, smiling at how manifestly beautiful *everything* in life is. And then eating an inside out carrot cake cookie for breakfast!
With the basics covered, warmth, food and water, we packed up our few items and moved higher toward the pass.
The wind pushed us there, our curiosity and wonder pushed harder. The best word to describe the riding was .. .. technical. Rideable, somewhat. Hard to predict, sure. But there was a certain skill to it, and it was delightful.
Just like the incredible warmth of the night, it’s an empowering feeling, to be comfortable and even thriving in a place that should otherwise be so inhospitable. Single digits and winds gusting to 30 mph!
There was no where I’d rather be than at Rollins Pass that morning, but I still kept my face covered most of the time!
Heading back the slight downhill slope was surprisingly enough to counter the wind, and it was techy fun.
Then there was nothing to do but rip packed singletrack and steep slippery roads, all the way back down. Wahooo!
And just like that, so much had changed, so much more seemed possible. Adventure on the horizon!