I’ve been having a lot of fun mountain biking near Fruita, Colorado. It’s a very different type of fun from road cycling and cycle touring, but mountain biking has definitely earned its place in my free-time activities list.
Here are the things I’m enjoying:
The scenery. Painted petroglyphs, red sandstone arches, cliffs carved from ancient rivers, slick rock ledges, river valleys, stunning vistas, the beauty of desert cactus and yucca in bloom, the bright green of collared lizards, herds of big-horn sheep grazing at sunset, snakes slithering across hot trails in search of shade, barren moon-scape-like fields, and the smell of desert cedar and sage brush in bloom are examples of the beauty near our front door.
The mental challenge. Mountain biking forces me to be mindful and present. I have to work hard to concentrate and not let my mind wander. Tiny rock obstacles, hidden tree roots, or a shift from hard-packed dirt to soft flour-like soil can cause a fall. I will jump off my bike at the first sign of steep, rocky sandy descents, narrow tire-grabbing gaps between rocks, and trails at cliff edges or across steep slopes where one mistake would mean death by falling off the cliff.
The variety. I’ve ridden four different areas near our house and each one provides a very different experience. The Road 18 Trails remind me of a day of skiing. There is fairly gradual uphill with many different downhill options graded from easy to difficult just like a ski hill. We took Kessler’s Run which rewards us with a long, flowing, roller-coaster-like downhill. The Western Rim Trail near the Kokopelli Trail is a beautiful loop with great views overlooking the Colorado River and some awe-inspiring cliffs and rock formations. The Water Tower Trails, inside the Grand Junction City limits offer some family-friendly fun with easier trails and whimsical art carvings hidden among the tress making the rides perfect for an afternoon scavenger hunt. The Lunch Loop Trails and the Tabaguache are future aspirations. They are too hard, rocky, hilly, and technical for me to enjoy at my present beginner-intermediate ability level.
For all the fun things about mountain biking, there is one thing that made me kind of sad. I had to replace the Schwable Marathon Plus tires that had carried me across 11 countries and over 9000 miles with some very knobby, heavy duty Continental Trail King mountain bike tires. It’s true that my BMC was born to be a hard-tail, mountain bike and it’s working well on the trails described above. But we had such a fantastic touring history together that changing the tires and removing the Old Man Mountain Racks was the symbolic end to our cycle touring journey. I felt like I was betraying my friend.
Not to worry, though. The tires and rack are hanging in the garage and ready for a fall tour with Eric.