It used to be that you either had a mountain bike, a road bike or both. Not so much anymore. Add the following terms to your cycling vocabulary: cyclocross, single-speed, hardtail, full-suspension (then add inches of suspension), and of course the increasingly popular and debated “29er” (pronounced by the cool as ‘two-niner’).
With all of these options, the obvious question becomes “What should I ride?” And just like with skis, you may shudder, because the logical answer is another question: “For where and for what?”
For each of the three trail options off of Telluride’s gondola, The Prospect Trail, The Downhill Park and the Village Trail, you could potentially use three different bikes. And, with the Mountain States Cup Full Tilt Event this weekend, the diversity will be on display.
The Prospect Loop is the ultimate cross-country trail – a classic, buttery loop that begins at the top of the gondola. The trail is usually closed in June, due to elk calving, then opens on July 1. This summer it was delayed another five days due to wet conditions. It’s opening is regulated by the Forest Service.
Cyclists can access Prospect Trail from the top of the gondola, by first taking The Village Trail. Not more than 200 yards on the Village Trail, another single track diverges left and is marked by the Prospect Trail sign. The trail winds up through the woods, across ski trails, under Lift 5, then up Lift Ten to the teepee at the base of Lift 11.
Here riders can veer left, to extend the loop, or proceed straight, to more quickly access the cross-country downhill. The trail then meanders through pine and aspen trees, back to the Mountain Village. Prospect will be open to the public throughout the week and weekend, except during Saturday’s race.
The Mountain Village Downhill Park has been open to the public since the beginning of summer, but is closed this week, in preparation for the Full Tilt Competition. The Downhill Park has three miles of trails, descending a total of 1,100 feet, and contains 30 berms and multiple drops—as in mandatory airs. To watch the crazy kids ride it, check out the Full Tilt competitors as they have exclusive access for training this week, Friday and Saturday, and during the competition Sunday.
The last of the open trails accessed from the top of the Gondola is the Village Trail. Not as much climbing as Prospect, and not as gnarly as the Downhill Park, this trail offers a gentler cross-country descent down the front of the mountain.
All of these trail options, may beg the question, “What should I ride?” According to local bike shops, there is a variety to pick from, and all are selling.
“Cycling is as diverse as it has ever been,” says Jonathon Augello of Gravity Works. “Just on our wall we have everything from road bikes to cyclocross.”
According to Augello, cyclocross bikes are beefy road bikes with fatter tires. They offer cyclists a more efficient machine than a full-blown mountain bike to explore dirt roads like Illium Valley or Last Dollar Road across Hasting’s Mesa.
“We have mountain bikes that go up and mountain bikes that go down,” Augello continues, emphasizing that not all mountain bikes do the same things.
Folks decked in full-body armor, riding meaty-looking bikes with coiled shocks representative of pogo sticks, are going down. Downhill bikes have more suspension (more inches of travel) and are heavier than cross-country bikes. They’re designed to absorb when a rider lands “a drop” or must negotiate other steep natural features.
Cross-country bikes, on the other hand, are made to climb and travel across terrain and thus, are lighter and generally more rigid and agile. For cyclists that want to go up, Travis Young of Life Cycles recommends the Specialized Epic two-niner.
Two-niner or “niner” is what folks in the industry call mountain bikes that have larger, 29-inch rims versus the standard 26 inches. The larger wheels allow for the bike to roll over rough terrain more easily and smoothly.
“It climbs really well,” Young says “and is almost all we sell.” He picks up the May issue of Mountain Bike magazine and reads an article title aloud, “Should Everyone Just Stop Trying?” He quotes a sentence from the article that he has committed to memory, “This is the best mountain bike we have ever ridden.”
Young adds that Life Cycles has the bike in carbon, and it’s available for demo. The bike can range from $3,000 to $10,000, depending on which model and the quality of the components.
Co-worker Summer Colt adds, “It’s been fun to see moms and dads come in to the store with their kids and watch the kids test drive bikes in the alley. They light up, it’s pretty cool.”
Whether you know the lingo or not, there is a bike, and a trail, for everyone – from the youngest rider to those who refuse to grow up. It is no longer just a kid in a candy shop that lights up, but really, anyone, of any age, that likes to ride a bike.