It took the Grand Junction bike mechanic a while to run me through all his local favorites, my grin growing with every trail name. “I love technical riding, BC-style!” I beamed.
“Oh, it’s a very different kind of technical here.”
True enough, there’s not a single pine needle or loamy turn to be found in western Colorado, but many rocky and dusty trail puzzles to be solved.
Starting at the Kokopelli trailhead I joined the perhaps-ironically-named Moore Fun and inched up the ridge, smashing my pedal pins left and right. While following it in the opposite direction later in the day, I found the joy promised in its title.
Another such trail was Holy Cross at Lunch Loops, mostly a walk up for mere mortals, but my downhill return was a fantastic run down a tight, nadgery rock line. Manualing off big rock slabs is something you’ll do a lot around here.
The 18 Road trails offered a touch more flow and the best-named trail, Zippety Do Da. The blue PBR (Pumps, Berms and Rollers) is an exercise in carrying speed, but channeling Aaron Gwin on his chainless Leogang run only works until about halfway down, when you have to start mashing the pedals.
Nothing focused the mind quite like the double-black-diamond Free Lunch, which I rode at twilight, hucking blind drops and hanging on for dear life. The descent off Mack Ridge at Kokopelli also needed focus and faith in the loose turns. It only has a 3-star rating on Trailforks, which hugely understates how exciting it is when ridden from west to east.
After ride three, with a pint of tangerine IPA and a rapidly vanishing pizza at Hot Tomato Café, I remembered the similar riding I’d done as a teenager. On clattering hardtails, we sent it off sandstone steps on the tiny Thurstaston Hill. We had slabby rocks too, and drifty sandy turns! It was perfect preparation for these four days in Fruita, twenty years on. I could only daydream about riding in Colorado back then. Imaginary rides tend to be better than the real thing (more backflips, for starters), but the trails here were every bit as good as I thought they might be.
Trail snack: Red bananas and pistachio muffins from Sprouts.
Bike shop: Ruby Canyon Cycles in Grand Junction helped me out with trail and tyre choice. Cheers!
Trail nose: There’s a local free magazine called RIDE, available from bike shops, that has good paper maps of the trail systems. Trailforks is good here, but some of the recommended travel directions on two-way trails are a bit iffy. The areas I sampled were Kokopelli Loops, Lunch Loops/Taberguache and 18 Road.
Train nose: I rode the California Zephyr train for a scenic meander back to Denver. Well worth the trip if you have a day to spare, and only ten bucks extra to bring your bike along.