Sunday, February 3, 2013

Gettin' outta Mordor

Fridays and Saturdays are my days off and this past week I was determined to get out on the cross bike and find some gravel roads to ride. I busted out my Front Range trail map Thursday night and tried to find a loop. There's plenty of little side roads around here to do out-and-backs, but there aren't many options for creating a route without overlap.

Just out of town, down Rt 7 and into Boulder County, there's a handful of roads on the map and a thin red line called 119 that seemed to connect all the way back to town, weaving itself through the mountains behind the Twin Sisters Peaks. 

That became my weekend's aim. 

It took some getting to though. 

Before I get ahead of myself, this was also my first time out using products from Backcountry Research. With a TSE picture as a backdrop to the site and plenty of Dicky references, I knew there was a relationship there, I just didn't realize how much of one until I got my "Whammer Deal Grandiose" and saw Mr. Dillen on all the tags. That's quite some celebrity. 
Awesome Strap with an Awesome view
I fooled around with the Race Strap for a bit, but ended up only using the tube tourniquet and tulbag. It eliminated the old Thompson stem bag I was using to carry tube and tools. It was nice to make some room in my jersey pockets, but I don't see myself really appreciating these well-made products until race day when I'll carry multiple tubes and supplies. I think they'll work a little better holding 29er tubes and on a thicker top tube or under a wider saddle.

Back to the riding.

Have I mentioned how unrelenting the wind is here? I feel like I must've. It's particularly forceful the closer you get to the 14, 259' Long's Peak. Whether coming up on Rt 7 from Lyons or heading out of town like I did these rides, the winds blow like the mountain doesn't want you getting any closer.

It's like Mt Doom. And the winds have powers I didn't think were possible.
Tour of Mordor
Fish Creek Rd turns to gravel just above Mary's Lake and is a nice off-pavement shortcut up to Lily Lake. One switchback was all ice requiring a dismount, but most of the climb was fast packed snow. Almost to the top, those winds hit me so hard I almost couldn't pedal. Friday it was overcast, cold, and I wasn't feeling all that well, so I listened to my body and the wind and turned around at that point. Saturday the only clouds in the sky were made up of the snow peeling off the high mountains. The sun was bright and warm so I kept pushing on.
ice bend

Once I got to Lily Lake I stopped to check my map and see what turns I had to make next. Hand to back jersey pocket. It wasn't there! Damnit, the wind blew it out. Then I tried for my iphone. That got pulled out too!

Now I have the perfect story to express how bad the wind is here.

The wind was so strong that it got ahold of my map, not super surprising, but also pulled it out with such force that it took my phone with it. Luckily I found both when I went looking down the hill; the phone, un-cracked on the side of the road and the map hung up in a bush.

not posed; this is how I stopped. stem to tree more efficient than brake to rim
tube tourniquet after first ride. not the sexiest piece of gear,  I know
Finding 82, then 119 wasn't too hard, but I definitely kept checking the map to make sure I was on track. 82 is a beautiful stretch of crushed gravel in the shadow of Mt. Doom. 119 was gated off and was obviously mostly used by backcountry enthusiasts of the gas guzzling variety. Deep sand, rocky, with long stretches of melting snow. Steep too.
Mt Doom, aka Longs Peak
It ended up being mostly a hike-a-bike.
warm enough to shed gloves and turn snow rotten
I didn't mind though. The views were spectacular, the sun was warm, and I was glad to be out exploring a new route.
glad to know i'm going the right way
I couldn't tell how far I was getting by looking at the map, so when I got to the dark side of a mountain at 3:40, with several hundred feet of mountain side ahead of me, and only the shortest of rideable stretches, I aired on the side of caution and turned around. It was a good choice too. Not only did the sun go down just as I was riding up the driveway, but when I looked at my route on strava it showed how much of 119 remained. If I attempt this route again I'm going to opt to take the Mariachi, in the Summer, starting much earlier in the day

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