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Mountain Biking The Whole Enchilada, Successfully

Mountain biking the Whole Enchilada (“WE” to save my fingers) is on many a rider’s “bucket list”, as it should be, it is one amazing ride! However, do the fact it is a “shuttle ride” and only approximately 27 miles long many people under estimate it. I want everyone to really enjoy this ride and avoid many of the mistakes riders make in tackling this ride.

Mountain biking the whole enchilada

Dave and I on top of the Burro Pass climb, 2008?

I have no idea what your fitness or skill level is but I just want to make sure you understand what you are getting into on this ride. 🙂

The WE is a long and very challenging ride! It takes great skill and great fitness. Every time I ride it I see people walking the first little rocky descent on the trail that takes you to the base of Burro Pass. This frightens me as the trail only gets much harder for the next 27 or so miles. It gets much steeper, rockier and rougher as well as having two tough climbs and a lot of short climbs, it is by no means downhill the whole way!

The first climb, about 10 minutes from where the shuttle drops you off starts at 10,300 feet and goes to 11,200 feet. That climb alone is more taxing than most entire mountain bike rides. Then the Burro Pass trail descent is steep! and ROUGH! This ride is unlike any ride most mountain bikers have done and probably 50% of riders attempting it are missing at least one vital component they need to finish, much less enjoy this ride.

Many people think (including me the first time I did this trail), “27 miles, I do that all the time! And this is a shuttle ride so it is mostly down hill!”. Well, a common saying in Moab is a mile in Moab equals two anywhere else and it is true. Moab is sandy and rocky, big, square edged rocks that are angled toward you. The pedaling is harder here as the sand and rocks rob your power and speed and the descending is rough also robbing your speed and fitness (your upper body will be as tired as your legs after this ride!).

Just past halfway at the famous view point. You start near the top of the La Sals behind you!

Just past halfway at the famous view point. You start near the top of the La Sals behind you!

Burro down (the original name of this ride) is best done by a skilled rider, who is very fit and on an “enduro” bike, all the steep sections are much easier on a bike with a slack head angle (67 degrees or less) wide bars (740-820mm) and a short stem (35mm to 60mm), a dropper post and at least 2.3, tubeless “trail tires” (with a thicker sidewall to resist cuts.punctures and pinch flats). Yes, people have done it on steep head angle hardtails but why? That’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight!

I’m not trying to scare you or act elitist but this ride no joke. It really scares me watching the unprepared and/or under skilled riders get off the shuttle and start this ride. Unless you are much fitter than me (which isn’t too hard to be these days!), the ride will take at minimum four hours but your “average rider” probably takes 6-8 hours to finish. Which means you also need a heavy pack with enough food and water for 4-8 hours of exercise in a hot, dry environment and enough clothing for the cold temps at 10,000-11,200 feet (where it could be snowing sideways). This fall we started at 2:30 pm (not the smartest thing we have ever done! 😉 ) and started catching people from the 10:00 am shuttle less than halfway through the ride! When we finished we had passed many riders from the 8:00 am shuttle and they looked like Zombies, many were out of water and walking their bikes.

Mountain biking the Whole Enchilada

View from the start of Kokopelli

Now, if you are either really fit (able to do a 50 mile mtb ride), really skilled or hopefully both this is one of the best rides in the World. Honestly though, my skills are better than they have ever been but my fitness isn’t what it used to be (not because of my age but because I simply don’t train as hard as I used to) and this ride works me, I am hammered at the end. It worked me when I was really fit too, as I went faster, so. no matter what your fitness level is it will probably wear you out.

For most riders, starting a little lower than Burro Pass is a blessing! It is still really fun from Hazard (trail) down or Kokopelli down. If that turns out to be well within your fitness and ability then ride the WE a day or two later. The nice thing about these two options is they open earlier in the year and stay open later as they start lower.

If you prepare for this ride it is a blast! Make sure you are in shape enough to ride a 50 mile mtb ride and have the skills to ride steep, technical trails and enjoy your ride!

What Is It With Some Mountain Bike Riders Today?!

What is it with some mountain bikers these days? In the early days of mountain bike riding only intrepid people who were self-reliant and had a sense of adventure got into mountain biking. Now people full of fear are entering the sport (and we are trying helping them overcome those fears) and after a year or so of riding they are changing the sport. They are trying to make the trails easier to ride, “All trails should be able to be ridden by all riders.”, was posted on one of our facebook posts this spring. Another rider wrote, “if the trail has advanced features (like roots and rocks) it should be signed and have a “squirrel catcher (mtb speak for a tough move that only someone skilled enough to ride the trail can do, keeping the “squirrels” from venturing further) ” on all entrances to the trail so only experts ride it.” He went on to say, “in reality all trails should have easier go-around options on the tough sections”. What on earth makes someone feel this way?!  Many of these trails are 20-50 years old and they are way out in the woods. Who exactly is going to spend their days fixing these trails that aren’t broken? How do you make a go-around when there if a cliff going up on one side of you and cliff going down on the other?  You know what we called those trails in 1993 while riding on our fully rigid mountain bikes? “Trails”, we didn’t call them beginner, intermediate or expert, we just called them trails. You know what we did if we got to a section we could not ride? We tried it once or twice and if we failed to clear it we simply walked over it and then continued our ride. We called these sections “challenges” or “hike a bikes” they were simply part of being out on a narrow trail 10-500 miles from town. We didn’t get angry at the trail when we couldn’t make something, we didn’t call our local trail sanitizers and say, “please come make a go-around for the rock on Seven Bridges trail” and have them come out and take every “challenge” out of the trail. We laughed, yelled or screamed but we were smart enough to get off and walk before putting ourselves in danger (and sometimes our egos were bigger than our skills and we got hurt, mountain biking can be dangerous when you exceed your skill level!) we used “common sense”. Sometimes we even turned around, “that trail is too tough!” was heard more than once. Then a friend would ride it and tell us how great it was and we would give it another try.

Again, we love helping riders improve and some of our students are much better riders and racers than we are and some aren’t as good, who cares, it isn’t a contest, it is mountain biking. Doesn’t “mountain biking” make you think of nature while “road biking” conjures up images of pavement? Is nature safe and manicured or is nature harsh and rough?  Believe me famous mountain biking destinations like, Moab, Bootleg Canyon, Durango, Sedona, Squamish and Whistler are harsh and rough in places.  Doesn’t “mountain biking” sound tougher than “road biking”? Are mountains smooth and soft or jagged and gnarly? Don’t get me wrong, I love the sweet beginner trails that are being built. Many of them flow so well even “expert riders” enjoy them. Keep building sweet beginner trails, they help grow the sport and get more people riding “mountain bikes”. Even people who formerly thought mountain biking was dangerous and not for them are starting to ride. This is great, except, mountain biking is dangerous, it involves riding a bike in the mountains (remember, mountain are jagged and gnarly)! Many trails, especially older and harder to reach trails are not manicured, they are wild. All mountain bikers can ride these trails just the less skilled are going to walk many sections. At that point they can choose to not ride that trail again or challenge themselves to improve, not dumb down the trail! I would love to be able to score a goal playing ice hockey but they are not going to make the hockey goals as big as soccer goals so I can do it! They are going to make me earn my goal scoring skills, the same way they did, with good coaching and lots of deliberate practice! Heck, I might even feel good about myself. I might feel like I faced a challenge and overcame it! Aren’t growth, learning and pushing your personal limits things that make you feel good? Ski racers didn’t dumb down the slopes, they educated themselves, trained hard and they actually ice down their race courses to make them harder! There are still beginner trails for their fans, foes, friends and family but there are trails them too!

When did we get so soft? We meaning the “US”, have you ever ridden in Canada? In Quebec and British Colombia the local trails are so hard many pro cross country racers from the US could not ride them. You know what they call these super hard trails in Canada, “trails”. They rode some of these trails 20 years ago on hardtails and they ride them now on their full-suspension bikes. Some trails were built more recently and are even harder, designed to challenge riders on their “cheater” 4-6” travel bikes.  In Canada (like in the US in the early 1990s) they know some sections are harder than others so they walk the hard sections until they learn to ride them. That is part of mountain biking.

Get out and ride and challenge yourself to improve!

 

Giving Back to the MTB Trails! A New MTB Industry Initiative

A New MTB Industry Initiative: One Percent For The Trails

I owe so much to the sport of mountain biking! In 13 years as
a professional mountain bike skills coach I’ve gotten to ride
almost everywhere, met incredible people, and found a way to make a
living doing something I love.  I am so thankful and that’s why I’m
always looking for ways to give back to the sport. In addition to
volunteering my time and company resources for different bike
related groups, like Trips for Kids (www.tripsforkids.org) I have consistently
donated at least 1% of my business’s revenue to organizations that make trails,
maintain them, and work to keep them open to mountain bikes.  A
student of mine recently made the comment: “Imagine if the whole MTB
industry did that!” When I heard that, I was inspired to start
www.OnePercentForTheTrails.org

1% for the Trails is a MTB industry
Co-operative whose mission is to encourage and facilitate all
Mountain Biking Industry companies to give back a minimum of 1% of
their gross sales annually to building and maintaining sustainable
mountain bike trails and advocating riders’ access. 

1% For The Trails does not collect donations, but will  refer
MTB Industry companies to organizations raising funds for trail
projects around the world and list those Companies along with the
organizations they support.   Eligible “trail organizations” can
include everyone from IMBA, to private sector and government
entities with trail projects, local ride clubs, and the like.   Any
organized group with a stated and demonstrated purpose of enhancing
MTB trails and access. 1% Percent For The Trails is dedicated to getting
every MTB industry company to commit to the pledge.

The 1% For The Trails Pledge:
–Company Name– commits to donate a minimum of one percent of its
sales annually to organizations engaged in advocacy, maintenance,
and creation of sustainable Mountain Bike Trails.  (Cross-industry
supporters pledge to donate one percent of their MTB related revenues.)

Who should take the Pledge?
MTB industry companies including (but not limited to) manufacturers,
event promoters, retailers, distributors, Media, and everyone whose
business benefits from the existence of trails for mountain bikers
to enjoy.

Why?
Our sport needs us.  The growth of mountain biking is directly
linked to accessibility and quality of available trails.  Without
places to ride, the sport can’t grow (or even last). Trail
organizations also help to manage our local open spaces in a
sustainable manner.

What if you already donate to trail organizations?
Do you need to “take the pledge”? Industry needs to set the example for
the consumers, our customers listen. It is up to us to help the sport
grow in a sustainable way. We set an example for each other. There are
most likely companies out there who aren’t doing all they could
for the trails. If even a few of those are inspired by
OnePercentfortheTrails.org, it will make a huge difference to the
organizations they donate to and to the trails we ride and love.

If your organization is willing to step up and commit to the pledge,
or is looking for funds and would like to be listed on
onepercentforthetrails.org email us at trails@betterride.net

Mountain Bike Trail Building Passion!

By BetterRide Head Coach Andy Winohradsky

So its not quite too late for New Year’s Resolutions … and here’s one for anybody that rides a bike on dirt: get out there and get your hands dirty with a few days of trail maintenance this season.

Little story: I just got back from Miami, Florida and was blown away by the quality of the riding and the vibrant MTB scene in the area.  What?  Great mountain-bike riding in South Florida?  If you find yourself with a response similar to this, you’re not alone.  I tell my riding buddies here in Colorado the same bit and they think I’m joking, and previous to my recent journey to F-L-A, I would have thought the same.

So how do you get great riding out of a place that is a flat, sandy, swampy, bug-infested jungle?  Simple (or not), you build it!  There is one reason that the trail systems that I rode were in existence and a blast to ride: a massive amount of trail work.

Anyone that has a bit of trail building experience understands that you can’t blindly hack a trail out of the side of a hill or through a forest and expect to end up with a quality result.  Proper trail building takes knowledge and experience in addition to hard work.  A good trail has to flow well, use the natural features of the area, have some good variety, among a lot of other things that can be argued about or discussed at some other time.  But to do it right takes some skill, some vision – and in the case of South Florida – a lot of creativity … and tons of hard work.

While some trail systems benefit from beautiful vistas, lush forests, and/or diverse eco-systems, the Miami area trails had none of these.  They were drained swamps, and at least one of them was an unofficial garbage dump at some point.  They appeared to be built on discarded land, and the builders had only a few acres to work with.  Trail builders created artificial and additional elevation (in addition to the natural twenty feet – tops) with wood, rocks, dirt, old carpet … sometimes 50’s era washing machines (decoratively spray painted).  Bridges were built and snaked precariously over the numerous still swampy areas (there was even a large decaying old boat grounded in what must have previously been a canal – won’t get that in Colorado) .  The trails were undoubtedly “tree-wrappers”, which can be scoffed at by us snooty western folk, but this actually added to the atmosphere and character.  Many of the tight turns were perfectly bermed, and small – but fun – jumps and rollers were dispersed through-out in order to help keep speed and momentum.  Nothing was unsafe for a beginner, yet even a washed-up, pro-downhiller like me could have a blast (Think high-speed-six-mile-singletrack-pump-track in a tropical forest).  There were some beautiful areas that wound through the everglades, and some sections of trail went right up to the ocean, so it wasn’t like you were riding through a Mad Max themed, day-glow carnival the entire time.

My point is this: from the above rant, did it sound like I had a good time?  Those people made some awesome trails out of nothing.  I don’t plan on moving to South Florida anytime in the future but if I do, I’ll still be an avid MTB’er and I won’t be hurtin’ for a wide selection of fun trails – all because a few people were willing to dream the dream and then put it into action.

And if you ride, you too should be part of that action.  Help the cause.  There are a lot of great trails already out there, but (not enough) maintenance is always an issue.   Access to MTB’ers on many trails is threatened because of this.  There are many proposed trails (some probably near you) that need as much help as they can get.  Also, trail building doesn’t only happen out there, in the dirt: good trails need well spoken people on the paper work side of things, at the board meetings of the Recreation Department, etc.

So, skip a ride or two this season and help build some trails.  Trust me, the cold beer will taste just as good at the end of the day … maybe even better!