Colorado Singletrack
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2003 we biked in Colorado. The idea was to ride the famous Colorado singletrack, biking between the places with singletrack, to see whether the Colorado singletrack is the best in the world. The question remains unanswered as we have zillions of miles of singletrack to try yet. However, one thing is clear, Colorado singletrack is fantastic. Colorado has some of the best trails in the world. All places we visited offered far better singletrack than Lago di Garda, Europe's most well known mountainbike scene. The only serious competition as far as we are concerned is Lunsen a forest outside Uppsala.

Colorado singletrack is different from Swedish. The emphasis is on mountain bike. There are almost invariably large differences in elevation, enormous ascents and descents. A Colorado phenomena, we don't have at all in Uppsala Sweden, is the switchback. To learn to ride them neatly took some practice. Most days we would climb considerably more than 1000 meters. Before the trip was over we had climbed more than 50 000 meters according to our altimeter.

The Rocky Mountains are not as rocky as one would expect from their name. Compared to the Alps or the Himalaya the ranges in Colorado are smooth. They are old mountains that have been polished off by glaciers during past ice-ages. It would be difficult to find a peak one can not hike on up to the summit. If there are any perpendicular rock walls they tend to be canyon walls, where a river has carved its way through the mountains. As mountaineers we would have been disappointed. However, the Colorado Rockies are absolutely perfect for mountainbiking. Another significant difference is the altitude. There may be occasional peaks that are higher in the Alps, but the land is much higher in Colorado. Winter Park, Aspen, Crested Butte, Frisco, are situated at altitudes around 2500 meters or above, Leadville is above 3000 meters, in the Alps 1500 meters is considered high.

We were in Colorado in late July and August. The weather in Colorado followed a rather stable pattern. Mornings were clear and crisp, even chilly at altitude, followed by a warm or even hot day (especially on lower elevation). In late afternoon thunderstorms were frequent. Typically, it would be overcast by 2 or 3 a clock and by 4 a heavy thunderstorm would be striking the high ridges. So, it was always essential to be early, and home, or at least down from the high mountains before the thunder broke lose. A Colorado peculiarity is that the locals positively love rain. When we were talking to people and said things like it appears there is going to be a heavy thunderstorm, they would invariably say, "Yes, I hope so" and look very pleased. Of course after the firestorms that destroyed large tracts of forests in 2002 it is not surprising.

We cycled from place to place, pulling Bob-trailers, camping most of the time, though occasionally we would take into a motel or hotel, to have a hot shower and recharge phone and camera batteries.

Our first singletrack stop was in Winter Park, followed by Frisco, Salida, Crested Butte, Durango, Fruita, Aspen, Leadville, Frisco and Golden.

Molass Pass 3078

Information about where to ride was easily obtained. Every place we stayed in supplied various maps and trail descriptions for free. They would be handed out by the bike shops, or the local tourist information, and even the local Chamber of Commerce. Nevertheless, in most places we bought a topographic map. There are also some pretty good maps available on line on TopoZone. The best collection of links we found is The Internet's mountain bike park
. A number of sites offer statewide trail information: Colorado Mountainbiking, Trailcentral, Wildernet.

Which place has the best singletrack? It is not an easily answered question. The answer depends on the season and a number of other factors.  Salida´s  Monarch  Crest Trail along the Continental Divide is stunning.  So  is  Trail 401 in Crested  Butte. The Colorado Trail from the Upper Swan Valley in Frisco was another high point. Winter Park has an absolutely splendid network of trails. Fruita was a bit hot in late August. On the other hand when Fruita is at its best Monarch Crest and Trail 401 will be bitterly cold and possibly unrideable due to snow.  If we would have to declare a winner it would be Durango. Durango has challenging epic rides, fantastic variation, and some really splendid singletrack starting virtually in town. All rides are fairly close: i.e., there is no need for a car to get to the trail heads. If we had only one week and it was July or August we would chose Durango.

We were met with an almost incredible hospitality. People were exceedingly nice, to the extent that we can safely say that we have never met such hospitality on any of our travels. We did not see a single gun, never felt threatened for even a second (except for the dangers of septuagenarian RV-drivers). Everybody we met were friendly. Some significantly contributed to making our trip a lot more pleasant and fun.

A special thanks to Tom Purvis who before hand provided us with strategic information about Colorado singletrack and a lot of other things. Tom also helped in connecting us with people and opening some significant doors. We hope he will come to try our local singletrack in Uppsala.

Elisabeth and Tom

We also have to mention Jim and Vicky in Golden. They picked us up at the airport in Denver, showed us town, took us to a local festival, and made us feel utterly welcome in the US. We really enjoyed Golden and Denver thanks to them. Thanks a lot Jim and Vicky!

Elisabeth trailing Jim on the
Apex Trail, Golden

In Uppsala Sweden Tony and Matte (alias ‘Skägget’) at our LBS, Cykel & Skidstället, did a splendid job preparing our bikes for the trip, changing my fork and headset, re-greasing hubs, etc., making sure every part was spic and span.

We also owe Stephanie at Titus in Tempe, Arizona. Elisabeth's Klein´s integrated headset turned really bad in Frisco and there was no way to get it fixed fast. We phoned Titus on a Friday, got Stephanie on the line, she remembered us because we ride Titus at home in Sweden. We explained our miserable situation. Fortunately, she could immediately locate an XS Riddler frame that Titus had in stock. She over-nighted it to Absolutebikes in Salida. When we arrived in Salida the next day it was waiting for us. Thanks Stephanie!

At last we like to thank Andrew, Scot and Greg, at Absolutebikes. They put other work
aside to move parts from the Klein to  the  Riddler. Greg drove us up to Monarch Pass early in the morning, just to give us nice early start on the Monarch Crest Trail. Absolutebikes also lent Elisabeth a cruiser she could use while they worked on the Riddler and showed us an early Chris Cocallis design, from before Titus was founded, that they have in their Mountainbike museum.

Elisabeth cruising the historic part of Salida

Cocallis bike, a `Talentslasher´ from the eighties,
Elisabeth with her brand new Riddler

On our trips in India, South-East Asia and Europe, we used steel frames and panniers. As my steel frame had developed a tiny crack (next to the water flask holder) and we felt that we would rather have clean bikes without racks for singletrack we chose to ride our aluminium hard tails pulling all our gear in BOBs. I rode a Fisher Supercaliber, from 1999, Elisabeth a Klein Aroit Race, also from 1999.

Not many parts were original on the Fisher. It had a
105 mm coil and oil Marzocchi Marathon, a Chris King headset, a drive train with a mix of XT and XTR parts, the wheels were Mavic ceramic rims with XTR hubs. Shifters and brakes were XT. Most of it worked well. Though the shifter sometimes skipped gears. It is a harsh ride compared to the Titus Switchblade I normally use for singletrack. Nevertheless, it had advantages, it climbs like a goat, is light and easy to throw around.

We were far less satisfied with the Klein. It had a similar set-up, Mavic ceramic rims, XTR hubs, XT and XTR in the drive train, etc. But it had a far inferior fork, a Manitou SXR from 1999, which could not easily be swapped for something more modern as it had an odd dimension on the steerer tube. However, what was far worse was that the integrated headset did not work well. Much riding in the Swedish winters had fried the bearings, so it felt gritty, to the point that it would take some force to turn the handlebar.

A Klein dealer in Winter Park managed to get some lube into it, so it worked well for a couple of days. Then, in Frisco it got gritty again, now it was really bad, and it was obvious that to have it fixed would require finding a Klein dealer who knew how to work it, ordering parts from Klein, and a considerable loss of bike time. So, we decided to change the frame and get one with a normal construction and dimensions. We phoned Titus and they had an extra small Riddler frame that they could deliver to Absolutebikes in Salida the next day. Apart from the frame the most significant changes were a Chris King headset and a Fox Forx Vanilla Float. Elisabeth felt they made a significant difference and has been very happy with both. The Riddler handles wonderfully, sharp and quick steered.

Travel with MTB
Colorado Singletrack
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