The Routt to Adventure: Mountain Biking on Emerald (with video)
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Even four days after mountain biking, it hurt to sit down too quickly.
I have never been mountain biking and couldn’t tell you the last time I was on a bicycle. That didn’t keep me from riding the Rotary Trail on the backside of Emerald Mountain last week.
Guided by a co-worker, friend and avid cyclist, I got my first taste of the sport. To be frank, the “aftertaste” lingers for a long time.
I putted around the parking lot at Ski Haus, where I chose to rent a front suspension bike. I was shakier than a plate of Jello in an earthquake. My front tire wobbled left and right, pointing confidently in one direction as often as a busted compass.
Clicking through the gears, I gained a little stability. I was sure the balance and rhythm of riding a bike would all come back to me. I mean, it’s literally like riding a bike.
With a helmet in hand, we drove to the backside of Emerald Mountain to the Rotary and Ridge trailhead off Routt County Road 45. After a few laps around the parking lot and a quick rundown of the gears, we hit the trail.
The trail starts by going uphill. Thankfully, after five minutes, my friend said the hardest part was behind us. I was happy to hear that since my thighs were already screaming at me.
I learned to lean forward while chugging uphill and not to glide with one leg down. That’s called “storking.” The proper alternative is to have both pedals and feet even with each other. That way, you don’t smack a pedal or toe off a rock or object in the trail.
By the time I felt strong going uphill, it was time to go down. About 20 feet into the downhill section, I wished we were going up again. Downhill was scary.
The trail was dry, so I was skidding a bit and not turning as smoothly or sharply as I would have liked. The first switchback section was ugly. I’m glad the trailhead parking lot had been empty. No one was there to harshly critique my lack of technique or laugh as I slowly descended.
In the next set of switchbacks, I figured out my balance, how to lean toward the outside and more often than not, the bike turned as I asked it to.
I remembered my friend’s advice to stay loose, something that is difficult for me in any situation. With every breath, I focused on releasing the tension in my shoulders and hips. I felt more fluid. I carried more speed going into turns and finished the trail with a smile on my face.
The Rotary Trail has a little bit of everything but might not be the best trail for total newbies. That being said, it has new signs along the way, explaining exactly how to handle the next section. All Trails marks the trail as about 4 miles long,
What to bring
Repair kit: I wasn’t carrying anything, personally, but my friend and guide had a patch kit, an extra tube, an all-purpose tool and a few other essentials.
Long clothing: My main intention in wearing a long shirt was to cover up my pink shoulders. They had seen enough sun in recent days. But, if I were to have fallen, a long shirt is preferred over a short sleeve shirt. The more skin covered, the less skin that will experience road burn.
What to leave at home
Anything remotely heavy: A lot of experienced bikers are obsessed with lightweight equipment. As a newbie cyclist, I, too, would rather not carry a lot of weight. Ascending uphill with my body weight and bike weight is bad enough. Opt for the lightest water bottle possible and don’t put anything in your backpack that you don’t need.
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