Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Colorado Trail: Molas Pass -> Durango

I've been looking forward to my Colorado trip all summer; particularly riding the Colorado Trail from Molas Pass to Durango. The plan was for Jordan and I to meet Lindsay on the way through Gunnison. Then we would stash our camping gear in the middle of the ride at Hotel Draw before driving back to Molas Pass to start the two day ride. Each day would be a 65 km alpine ride with 1,500 meters of climbing.

The trip certainly didn't get off to the smoothest start. On Saturday Erik picked the Wattage Cottage (my bike) and I up at the airport in Denver, but the bike box would only fit in the bottom of his hatchback. So, we unpacked, then repacked all his camping and biking gear at the airport. I'm not sure that the can of white gas and various sharp camping tools were appreciated by TSA, but it is a loading zone after all.

Soon we were in the parking lot at Buff Creek assembling my bike. The bike did not escape the trip unscathed: missing brake pad, bent derailleur hanger, missing brake lever pin, and a bubble in the brake line. Also, my suspension was still spewing oil and air from the two unsuccessful services by the bike shop. Erik's rear hub was dying too.

Headed out from Molas Pass on Day 1.

After disassembling my multi-tool and reassembling it as part of my brake lever, Erik and I hobbled onto the trails.

Lindsay somewhere between Molas Pass and Hotel Draw.

After a few more random mechanical failures, Erik and I headed southwest from Buff Creek towards the epic White Pine ride.

More from Day 1 on the CO Trail.

White Pine was a test too. Erik's hub prevented him from using his lowest gears, so he walked a lot of the climb - good for me. Not having a front brake for the descent - bad for me.

Great earthy tones on Day 1.

From White Pine it was on to Gunnison where I hoped to pick up a bleed kit. Sunday night in Gunnison is not the time to find an open bike shop, nor could the appropriate fittings be cobbled together at either hardware. So, we continued on to Durango.

Headed out from Hotel Draw on Day 2.

The next morning, while Lindsay and Jordan set up the car shuttle, I headed to Durango to find a bike shop to do a brake bleed. By 11:30, still without a front brake, the three of us were on the trail. An hour later my derailleur snapped in half. I headed back to the parking lot, while they continued.

I remember Jordan saying this was the last climb of Day 2. Not!

It took all five bike shops in Durango to find a compatible derailleur, but I forgot to buy new housing anyways. The next day my new derailleur worked quite well as a single speed chain tensioner.

Great overlook north into the San Juans.

After Durango I headed up to Hotel Draw to meet up after their ride from Molas Pass; they rolled in a solid hour after dark.

The next morning Jordan and I headed out for Durango; Lindsay had decided she'd reached her saddle sore quota and drove around. The never ending and incredibly spectacular alpine section of Day 2:


This sums up the view.


The trail eventually exits the view to the left along the horizon. In the process you do go over several significant climbs, wouldn't want it to be too easy right?


The view just doesn't get old.


22 miles after leaving the car we dropped out of the alpine and found our first water supply. As I had elected to bring one small water bottle, I was ecstatic.


The descent continued with a seemingly endless and rippin' ride into a deep canyon.


Which ended in a big climb back out of the canyon. I was very resentful of this climb, possibly because I was 5,000 vertical feet into climbing on my janky single speed.


But, to my great delight, I did manage to whack a grouse with a rock, which to my even greater disappointment, I could not convince Jordan to eat for dinner. That last climb did bring a long long long descent right into Durango. It had some of everything, tech, chunder, and flow:


This is a great ride. I can't wait to go back for both sections. It has it all: lung crushing climbs, endless alpine views, classic descents, smooth, tech, and everything in between.

Heading back to the Front Range, Lindsay and I were stoked to ride the Monarch Crest. I was excited to get revenge after a memorable single speed adventure a few years ago, but it wasn't meant to be. I came down with a stomach bug, and spent the day puking in the parking lot while Lindsay had a great ride. Third time's the charm, right?