December 8, 2015/ Lucia Parker
I was sipping a beer, my second, at an alumni gathering in Denver when I accepted a new friend’s invitation to join her on an overnight bike-camp trip. This trip was comfortably abstract at the time and two beers in, overnight cycling adventures fit well within my self-perception as both a Coloradan and a Cruzbike community member. So, “yes,” I said, “count me in!”
When the official email invitation arrived not too long after that conversation, I felt the reality of my inexperience a bit more keenly. I had, in fact, never been on an overnight bicycle camping trip. Nor had I logged anything but asphalt miles on my Cruzbike. This would take some preparation and would be an adventure, as any totally new undertaking is bound to be.
Good thing this is Cruzbike and I knew exactly who to turn to for advice (and pep talks). First, my mom, Maria Parker, the reigning queen of Cruzbike adventures. She confirmed the worthiness of the undertaking and said she was jealous, that it would be a great time and that YES either of my Cruzbikes would be up for the challenge. Pep talk, check. Next up was a call with Robert Matson of NYC Recumbent Supply. Robert is the guy to talk to if you like the sound of words like expedition, adventure, fun and outdoors and want to know more about how to make all of them possible in your life. He talked me through what to carry and how to carry it. He gave me some great tips including: how much weight I should aim to carry (no more than 20 pounds), to pack early and go for a test ride (felt great), to use Ziplock plastic bags for things like toothpaste and sunscreen to save space and weight (brilliant!), to make sure that shelter and repair kit essentials were covered within the group.
Friday afternoon rolled around and I was ready. I met up with the crew in Boulder and we caught the bus to Nederland, where our pedaling would start.
Thumbs up! Bus bike racks are rad.
April, Caroline, Alana (our awesome host) and me ready to roll out of the Nederland, CO bus stop en route to the West Magnolia Road Trail Head.
In Nederland, we bought ice cream then hit the road for the quick two mile climb up to the West Magnolia Road Trail Head. This was steep, but on asphalt, so I was comfortable and happy to break a sweat that kept me warm as the high altitude temperatures dropped with the sun. Once we hit the trail head, the road turned to hard packed dirt. It was magical. The air was crisp, the mountains were layers of dark blue against the sunset sky, my Cruzbike was comfortable and a heck of a lot of fun.
Heading in to find a campsite.
The adventure escalated, literally, quickly after turning off at the trail head. The campsites we passed were full. The deeper we pedaled, the rougher and rockier the road became. We had to set up camp before dark so we lugged our fully-loaded bikes up the mountain side and found a flat site that could accommodate our tents.
There is nothing like the peace and beauty of nature deep within a forest. To me, being surrounded by trees and folded within mountains somehow unwraps the heart and mind, freeing, soothing. I had forgotten that feeling. We went to sleep under a full moon, planning to wake up with the sun and take on the next day’s much longer ride.
By the light of day, we discovered we were near a single track mountain bike trail. Well, that’s what I assume you’d call it, given I have no experience with mountain bike trails. The trail promised a more direct route out of the park and down to the road that would lead us back to Boulder Valley. So we took it.
Pics or didn’t happen, right? Me on the mountain bike trails on my front wheel drive Cruzbike.
We had definitively left my comfort zone hurtling down trails, dodging roots, rocks and boulders. Alana was very encouraging, she’s the photographer, by the way. Alana stayed with me, though I am sure she could have dusted me on those trails. She encouraged me throughout. I think we both knew this was a bit more technical than I had expected but she cheered me on, impressed by the Cruzbike’s performance.
Happy to be done with the single track, we moved on to packed dirt. The day’s route was mostly downhill. It was so beautiful! Alana is a geologist, which is awesome in a bicycle adventure friend. She pointed out peaks and named valleys and explained how they were all related. She knew the backsides of mountains I’d only recognize from the “front” (the sides that face Denver or Boulder and their highways). It was really cool!
After the dirt road ended we had a long, steep, asphalt descent back into the valley. This is where I discovered I do not have a need for speed. In fact, I have a need for control.
The valley in the distance was our destination. Steep curves ahead!
Mom/Maria had coached me on how to brake during a descent. Something about squeeze, one-two-three, release one-two-three. That worked for three cycles. Then it turned into squeeze one-two-three-four-five-six-do-I-have-to-let-go? I didn’t let go.
I’m thinking, “Oh sh**.”
My decision not to let go of my rear brake lever had consequences. The rim super heated and the tube blew. The hole was huge. Alana had a patch kit and a spare 26 inch tube plus a hand pump, a tire lever and all the knowledge you need to use such tools. We found some shade on the roadside and patched the tube. Both automobile drivers and cyclists stopped or slowed to make sure we were alright. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers. My bike was in good hands with Alana, though, and we were rolling again soon. Alana down some patch supplies, me up some practical cycling knowledge. I can now patch or change a tube. This came in handy a bit too quickly, when the tube blew a second time. This time, we admitted the hole was too gaping to be patched and put the spare tube on instead.
We rolled back into Boulder much later than anticipated sweaty and exhausted in the best way possible. Well, maybe just one flat would have been more ideal, but with two, I really learned how to fix it.
Thank you, Alana, for all of your patience and your help and for planning the whole adventure! This is one of my favorite Colorado and Cruzbike memories to date.