Back Country with Road Bike

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Yesterday’s ride turned into a crazy adventure.  I was up for an adventure.  I like riding with Vincent and haven’t seen him for a while.  He suggested we do a ride that I did last year, down to Midturn, the Red Cliff, up a gravel road to Shrine Pass, Vail Pass and then coast back down to Vail.

I said what chance to you think we’ll be able to ride that.  He said 90%.  I was thinking more like 40%, but I was okay with just seeing how it went.

It was pretty good for a while.  The ride to Red Cliff was nice.  Then you start climbing on a narrow gravel road beside a stream.  We were just talking and everything was good.  Like I said above, I’ve done this ride a couple times before on my road bike and it gets a little loose and steep towards the top.

We started running into some patches of snow on the road after a few miles.  Just short 20 meter sections, then we could ride again.  Then the sections got longer and eventually we had to walk.  The problem was that a bunch of snow mobiles had packed down the snow and it was melted everywhere but on the road.

It looked like it was going to clear up, maybe, then we got up to a sign that said Vail Pass 4 miles.  That was not good.  Walking in our road shoes on snow for 4 miles didn’t sound too fun.  And we’d already walked a lot through snow and trying to descend back through that was going to be very difficult.

So, we talked and decided to take a “short cut” and head over the ridge towards the interstate and the Vail bike path.  We started up towards the ridge, in mid-calf deep icy snow.  And it only got worse from there.  Eventually we were sinking into our crotches every once in a while.

This was serious and I mean serious bushwacking.  At the top, we could see the highway below and knew it was going to be steep in places going back down.  We were sort of walking, sliding down these deep snow ravines with our bikes.  You wouldn’t think it, but having our bikes with us really helped.  You could apply some pressure to the bike and many times that would stop you from your whole leg punching through and having to dig yourself out.

We came to a couple sheer cliffs and sort of just winged it, going in another direction to where it was the lowest.  We had to climb down one 30 foot section, using a pine tree to hold our bikes as we lowered ourselves.  Vincent sort of tossed his bike at this time.  I refused to hand him down my bike until he promised me he wasn’t going to throw it down into the snow.

I have to admit, but there were a few times that I was out of my comfort range.  That isn’t something I experience very often nowadays.  I was sort of relishing that feeling for some strange reason.  There was a real chance that it wasn’t going to turn out that great.

We finally got to the bottom and had to go across a small stream that was snow runoff.  Vincent went first and said the water wasn’t that cold.  I followed and realized that the water didn’t seem that cold because our legs were completely frozen.  I refused to put my bikes in the water, didn’t want my bearing wet, but it was iffy with the lack of foot feeling.

We then went back up a steep pitch and voilà, bike path.  We stripped down and stood on the hot asphalt and I couldn’t feel my lower legs and feet.  We stayed there for probably 20 minutes, laying on the hot asphalt and trying to warm up.  Our shins were toast, scraped raw from the icy snow.

The people riding by on the bike path always asked if we were good, which was nice.  We looked like we’d gone through a war.

Riding back down to Vail was amazingly good.  I didn’t put my socks back on and we pretty toasty warm the whole way.  It felt so good pedalling.  Whenever it flatted out, my legs were toast.

We only had 37 miles riding and walking, but we were out 5 1/2 hours.  I think we were doing the backcountry thing for about 2 hours.  It seemed much longer, but that was just the time not on the road.  We’d walked a bunch by then already.

I’m not that bad today.  And I sort of enjoyed yesterday, is a weird way.  I think the walking in the deep snow was exactly what my hip needed.  It has been babied enough and it is about time I start doing some other exercises other than pedalling around in circles.  This was pretty low impact and really strenuous.

Today we’re just going to do a normal road ride.  Maybe the Copper triangle or over to Frisco, around Lake Dillion and back to Vail.

It wasn't like this continually.  This only happened about once every 5-10 minutes.  It was sometimes pretty hard extracting myself.

It wasn’t like this continually. This only happened about once every 5-10 minutes. It was sometimes pretty hard extracting myself.

VIncent trying to use his bike to get his leg out.

VIncent trying to use his bike to get his leg out.

This is way steeper than the photo protrays.   Like steep enough it would be hard to walk down without snow.

This is way steeper than the photo protrays. Like steep enough it would be hard to walk down without snow.

Climbing down a pine tree with my bike.

Climbing down a pine tree with my bike.

Vincent forging the small stream.

Vincent forging the small stream.

Yardsale when we finally got to the bike path.

Yardsale when we finally got to the bike path.

My cogs were a little clogged with snow initially.

My cogs were a little clogged with snow initially.

 

Both my legs were scrapped pretty good.

Both my legs were scrapped pretty good.

38 thoughts on “Back Country with Road Bike

  1. Jeff D.

    Steve, I noticed in the picture of “climbing down a tree” your seat says “test” are you product testing?

     
  2. JB

    Going off-trail/path in the mountains can go back quickly. All’s well that ends well!

     
  3. gehry

    Myself? I’d have no problem turning around and heading back (and living to tell the story)!

     
  4. Zach

    I call these kinds of rides “Gilligan Rides,” as in you think you’re going out for a three hour cruiser with some friends but you end up out for a huge portion of the day, oftentimes lost and confused and bonking.

    I remember getting lost in the eastern Sierras by Reno and having to bushwack down a 25% hill and trespass through a property over barbed wire to get out onto a road. Me and the guys that I was with were exhausted and our wives were pissed, but it was one of the best rides I’ve ever done.

     
    1. JB

      I disagree somewhat. When Steve goes off-trail through the snow, he’s just betting that that route (unknown) is better than backtracking (known route).

      Also, the example in the linked article: when you keep reading a book you’re not enjoying after 100 pages. At that point, you’re betting/hoping that the book will get better. If you knew that it wouldn’t, of course you wouldn’t keep reading.

      The sunk cost argument is real, but I don’t think it applies here.

      The sunk cost is the boy scout camp that we already paid for in 2 weeks. My son doesn’t want to go, it’s going to interfere with a bunch of other activities (1st swim meet that my son is looking forward to, but doesn’t yet know that he will miss), and one of us will need to be there for a couple of nights. There is no reason to go to the camp, just because we paid for it. Now it’s a free camp: do you want to go or not?

       
  5. Jim

    Bob Roll wrote about a similar adventure in New Mexico in his book Bobke. You guys got off a bit easier than he did.

     
    1. darkcloud

      “Bob Roll wrote about a similar adventure in New Mexico in his book Bobke. You guys got off a bit easier than he did.”

      Funny you should mention that. Roll’s story was the first thing that came to mind as I read Steve’s post.

       
  6. darkcloud

    Steve, your blog makes my days even better than they already are. Icing on the cake. Thank you!!!!!

     
  7. Juan Wiserider

    That story is riduculously irresponsible and dangerously ignorant to the ways of the mountains. Sorry, but that’s the truth. Anything could have happened and you’re lucky you’re alive. When you are post holing through the snow you could have easily twisted your ankle and or your knee. How will get out? What if you made a wrong turn and a snowstorm blew in unexpectedly? What if you slipped on your road shoes and broke your hip? What if you were injured and the sun went down? Ever heard of frostbite? You’re at over 10,000 feet in early June! Bushwhacking through unfamiliar territory in deep snow! In shorts and road shoes!!

    Every year, flatlanders die doing the exact type of thing you and these jocksniffers call “adventure”. Even seasoned mountain folk get caught out, but not like the flatlanders. The problem is the unpredictable weather. Anything can happen at any time and you have to expect that it will. Ask any ski patroller or rescue person. A storm can blow in from nowhere in minutes and you’re history until some hiker finds you in August. Damn dude. Wise up.

     
    1. H Luce

      Yeah, he couldn’t feel his legs or feet, which means hypothermia was pretty close. Combine that with bad judgment due to lack of acclimation to altitude, a series of bad decisions, and there’s a recipe for a real disaster. And they weren’t carrying EPIRBs or were in cell phone range, right?

       
    2. Levi

      EXACTLY right Jaun. Lots of people have died after making less stupid decisions. This is off the charts stupid and ignorant. I’m starting to realize old Tilly has a death wish.

      I can just see the rescuers that find them or their bodies. ” Can you believe these idiots….. shorts and bike shoes…… fucking bike shoes! Jesus Fuck, these guys are the stupidest, most irresponsible jackasses ever!”

      But yes, the jock sniffers always worship the hero. Some day he’ll die doing this asinine shit and they’ll all say “he died doing what he loved”. Fucking asswipes!!!

       
      1. Chris G

        I do hate it when they find my body because I went off a beaten path. I’ll upgrade immediately to using a safety vest and gaitors on all my rides for your comfort. Thanks!

         
  8. Dave

    Would someone contact Mike Crum and ask him to post a comment on this blog entry? I find his comments/questions almost as entertaining as Steve’s stories. I will give him a starting point: “Steve, did you consider just using your bike as a sled to get down the icy hill? It might have worked if you stretched your jersey over the front wheel. Did you consider using the wheels as “snowshoes”? You could have stood on the wheels as you tossed them in front of you. Kind of like stepping stones across a creek ….”

     
  9. darkcloud

    FFS, some of you guys are pussies. What Steve did was perfectly safe. Just a challenge. There were two of them. Two riders. Two bikes. They were never in danger of dying. They were never really far from civilization.
    This was an “ADVENTURE.” Not a death march.
    Keep it up Steve. School your readership.

     
    1. Juan Wiserider

      It’s obvious you’ve never spent time in the Vail area in early June. If you had, you would realize that what Tilford and his friend did was actually very dangerous. Don’t believe me? Call Mountain Rescue and ask them.

       
  10. Jeff Butterfield

    Uncertain outcomes are kind of basic to anything truly worthy of being classified as an “adventure.” I applaud Steve and Vincent’s little 2-hour detour. And to those of you horrified by it, snuggle back on the couch in your freak’n slanket and look away if it scares you so much. Jeez.

     
  11. Jeff D.

    The only reason some of you are talking crap and saying Steve is stupid and going to die is because than you’d have to find somebody else to hate on and talk crap about. Folks you really need to worry about your own life, and let Steve worry about his. geeee! Darkcloud, Jim, & Jeff Butterfield got it figured out!

     
  12. darkcloud

    “It’s obvious you’ve never spent time in the Vail area in early June. If you had, you would realize that what Tilford and his friend did was actually very dangerous. Don’t believe me? Call Mountain Rescue and ask them.”

    I grew up in Colorado. Winter mountaineering. Multi pitch climbs. Fourteeners. Cycling. Etc.
    What Steve and Vincent did was NOT dangerous. On THAT day. I called mountain rescue and they said “Juan needs to grow a pair and to stop running around with his hair on fire.” That is an exact quote. No shit.

     
  13. Spokely

    Epic adventure Steve.
    To all the people saying it’s irresponsible – DON’T DO IT!
    If you’re built like Steve and know your own capabilities then sure thing. Simple as.

    Steve that looks f***ing great! Not sure I would make it personally, my toes would have fallen off from frostbite much earlier in that day, youre certainly made of sterner stuff than I !!!!

     

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