Road Riding

Sorta, kinda, maybe road riding that is. With the cold front that blew in on the 16th, our plans for some camping and some fun in Salida were snowed out. All the trails were snowed in with heavy, dense cement spring snow. What to do, what to do.

Go for a road ride of course! Well, a road ride the Thelen way, which doesn't include skinny tires. In fact, there were nothing skinny about our tires for this adventure. After doing chores in the morning on Sunday, it was time to ride. The goal? Ride our fat bikes up Old Stage Road and then come home down Gold Camp Road. It was all roads, so it has to be a road ride, right? We didn't need to load down with our backpacks because of the frame bags on our bikes, but still made sure that we all the warm clothes we would usually carry. It was clear down in Colorado Springs, but clouds lingered on the mountains, lurking beyond the horizon. The weather could turn in a moment and we needed to be prepared.

Having never ridden up Old Stage before, we rode out at a comfortable but steady pace. The road was in good shape - all the snow plowed away and just a few mud puddles on the lower stretches. Up and up we climbed, further into the mountains and away from the city. We were getting some odd looks from the drivers plowing through the deepening mud, but kept going. Higher and higher, dodging deep, water filled potholes. The clouds descended to greet us as we ascended Hayman Hill in flurries of snow. It kept snowing as we approached the junction with Gold Camp Road. We didn't know what to expect on Gold Camp, but having come that far, there was no way we were going to just ride back down Old Stage. At the top, we both put on another layer, getting ready for what we hoped would be a fast and fun downhill on the snow-covered road.

There's a cabin down Gold Camp Road and the owners have a key to the gate. They'd driven in sometime earlier and we had packed in tracks to follow for a while. It was great riding - a few inches of fresh powder over the packed tracks and we were cruising. Things got a little harder if I got out of the track, but I didn't pay attention. And then - the tire tracks made a 25 point turn and we had a blank canvas of snow ahead of us. The road was slightly washed out and the edge was hard to see under the snow. No more packed tracks and easy cruising. All of a sudden, it was hard riding -  harder then riding up Old Stage! It hadn't gotten quite cold enough for a solid crust and we were punching through. I was able to ride a lot more then Nick, but it was tricky - having to float the front tire enough to compress the crust without cracking it. When I was off and pushing, I was post-holing up to my knees. The snow was that deep! It actually got harder as we got lower - the snow went from deep powder over a thin crust to wet snow with a thinner crust to finally just cement spring snow. It was a challenge of balance and even pedal strokes to keep the bike moving forward as we descended. But we didn't have to worry about cars!

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