Zen On Dirt

Over the river and through the snow

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I have a confession to make. Before Christmas, I’d ridden my fat bike exactly once since returning from the Iditarod, and that was on a whim for so-called Global Fat Bike Day with the Gypsies. The morning after our brief 1.5 hour jaunt around Starr Pass, the front tire was flat. I didn’t bother to fix it. It’s not that I don’t like fat bikes, I think they’re great fun, but when it comes to riding from the door around here, or even from a trail head that we drive to, I really like my suspension. The hardtail has only gotten used when a) the dually has a flat b) I’m futzing with suspension set up and mad at the dually or c) I’m doing 30 second intervals up the Genser hill. It’s rocky around here, I’m getting old and soft, I like my suspension.

But, it was Christmas time and I’d promised my parents that we’d make it up to celebrate. We’d been hoping to score some last minute airline tickets for a reasonable price, but failed on that count, so we settled into the idea of the 13.5 hour drive each way. Both Scott and I had acknowledged that we’d been playing pretty hard since getting here at the end of October, with some faux-rest weeks and the occasional rainy day, but when it came down to it, we were both starting to feel pretty worked over.

So we threw the snowbikes into the car, figuring that even if we only rode once during our trip, it would at least be novel and new. And it would be a good excuse to fix my flat.


We found Boulder dry and rumors of minimal snow at 8,000 feet, so we went a bit higher up to the Sourdough trail for our first foray into snow. Some observations after nearly a year of not riding on snow:

1) Loose snow makes for out of control riding

2) Switchbacks are a whole other ball game in the snow

3) Sourdough is a lot smoother in the winter than the summer


We turned around as soon as the BS, HAB factor got too high since we had nothing to prove and rallied back to the car. I froze my hands trying to load the bikes into the car and laughed at how low my tolerance for cold had become. I know it’s all mental, but when I’m used to riding in shorts, having to work quickly to pull wheels off and load bikes was…different.


But it was fun enough that two days later we ventured back up with the intent of riding the Caribou/505 loop outside of Ned. A fairly straightforward, if not flat, ride in the summer, I was banking on the top being windswept and that that the good residents of Edora would have put in a snowshoe/ski track up the 505 climb.

To be fair, I prefaced the ride with: We could end up climbing 2,000 feet on dirt and then get completely shut down and have to turn around.


Luckily (or unluckily) for us, the snowshoe brigade had packed the snow down nicely after the dirt road climb and where they had stopped walking, the good ol’ Continental Divide wind had swept the road clear of snow. Except for where it didn’t.

By the time things started getting snowy, we were closer to Eldora than we were to Caribou, and I was convinced that there’d be a trail…eventually.


As it turns out, the only people who visited the 505 did so with normal shoes, and there were maybe 2 of them. Still, their tracks were great after after post-holing across much of the top ridge, too stubborn to turn back. Riding wasn’t going to happen, but at least I could fit both my feet and my bike in their tracks as long as I was willing to hit my shin on my pedal every step.


At some point in time I looked back to Scott and the only encouragement he could give me was, ‘Just think, you could do this for days on end on the way to Nome.’ About that…

Oh snow biking…


Luckily, we got to descend the final couple hundred feet on dirt and any ride that ends on a downhill is a ride worth doing.

Any ride that ends with an all-you-can-eat Kathmandu Buffet in Ned is worth doing. I clearly haven’t eaten there enough times in my life.


It was a quality mini-adventure that left me sore for days on end. Maybe someday I’ll embrace the snow again. Maybe someday I’ll move up to Anchorage for a month or two and race the Iditarod to Nome. Maybe I’ll spend this winter in Tucson, next winter in South America, and the following winter in New Zealand and appreciate the fat bike for getting me out of the house while visiting my parents in Boulder and keeping me from eating all the Christmas leftovers each year.

Each bike has it’s purpose, regardless of how small.


One thought on “Over the river and through the snow

  1. Snow biking, eh? What a bike!

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