This past weekend was filled with many, many miles on my mountain bike. Some of those miles were solo, some shared with Donna and some shared with my friends Adam, Carin and Ann.
The thing I sometimes forget, or maybe have just come to accept since I’ve lived in Colorado so long, is how the terrain here can be a little less than friendly unless you can learn to enjoy a little pain from time to time.
A good percentage of the ski resorts here now offer lift rides to mountain bikers. In Vail you can even ride up in a cushy gondola with your bike, have a leisurely lunch of haute food complete with mind blowing views across the Rockies, then hop on an expensive, full suspension rental bike and literally coast all the way to the bottom on trails ranging from smooth fire roads to higher consequence, technical singletrack trails. It’s like skiing…ride up in comfort, ski down via your choice in terrain, repeat.
If you’ve read any of my blog entries from prior winter months, you already know that me and my friends will get up in the middle of the night, drive an hour or so to our ski resort of choice and climb to the highest point at that resort long before the lifts ever open. Then, at about 15 minutes or so before they drop the ropes for “first chair”, we clip in to our bindings and rip some solitary turns back to the base. We have a monster workout and beautiful ski down done before the first person’s butt even hits the chair.
Painful and miserable? Can be.
Worth it? Always.
Knowing that about my winter preferences for ski outings, it’s probably no surprise that those preferences roll over into the summer months when my mountain bike gets top billing over my skis. Like skiing, some of the best terrain is not served via inbounds lifts so accessing it requires some work. But even on the days when we want to ride the terrain inside the resorts, we still prefer to work for the downhills, even if it is for only one trip down.
My friend Carin has been here in Colorado for a couple of months (from CA). Strong rider for sure, but something I was reminded of when I started riding with her was the fact that we live at over a mile high in elevation to start with and everything we typically ride involves going up from there. For someone coming from lower elevations, that’s a recipe for some serious pain. However, while it was fun to giggle as she gasped for air while climbing steep singletrack for hours on end in the first two or three weeks she was here, something inherent in her spirit came shining through those gasps — she loves to ride.
Carin, like Adam, Ann, Danny, Kris and a few more of my friends, actually enjoy working hard on a bike. It’s a matter of deep appreciation for something you’ve created. Sometimes you stand atop a ridge after a couple hours of grueling climbing, hands on your knees, quads completely pumped out, lungs heaving in oxygen dep and you’re left with nothing except the knowledge that YOU, and no one else (including a lift), got yourself up there. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not instant, it’s not always “fun”, it’s not always pretty, but at the end of the day when you lay your head on your pillow, you are 100% satisfied that you did something to fill your soul.
We are extremely fortunate to live in Colorado and get to ride in some amazingly beautiful places. Sharing that with people who enjoy the suffering and understand the rewards is just icing on the cake.
Here’s a quote from my friend Adam. Pretty much explains why I love riding with him.
“Even with the scrapes, bruises, and thoughts of giving up encountered while biking, somehow I still smile every time I go for a ride…..”
Climb high, ski hard, pedal far, paddle long, live big.