Living in a mild climate, the first big ride of summer is lost on me. It would probably be associated with sunburn, blown out dusty trails or dehydration. But having just visited Ogden, in Utah, I went for a sunday ride with two of the Competitive Cyclist Mountain Bike Team pro riders, and what would be their first big alpine ride of the summer.
The route was mapped out from Justin Lindine’s house, and would take us up into the mountains beyond his house, above 2900m (~10 000ft), and drop us back down again. Jason Sager estimated about 80km of riding, with the majority on double track or 4 wheeler routes. While he’d ridden a lot of it on a motor bike, he’d never done the route of Ben Lomond by bike. Rides nearby in the previous weeks had been hampered by snow, preventing a through route.
We started about 10am, rolling out on quiet roads and right into the North Ogden Canyon Road climb. There was a trail (Parallel Canyon Road trail) we could take, but given the amount of climbing we’d have already, we were all happy to keep to something faster rolling at first.
By the time we reached the pass, it was clear Justin’s legs didn’t feel too bad for having raced and won a marathon the previous day. He did take the opportunity to have his wife leave their car on the pass with his backpack and more water in it. Smart play!
The road pass was a quick descent and sent us up the next valley, where we finally hit dirt on Avon Pass Road. We were in 4 wheeler country, and also had a couple of kids with their dad for company, as they buzzed around on tiny motorbikes. The fields were green, thanks to the recent rains and snow melt. The sun warmed up, and I was already getting low on fuel trying to match the easy tempo of these two.
Over the pass we turned left into Forest Trail 620 – double track with plenty of rocks and enough features to keep it interesting. This took us higher, and we had plenty of motorised recreational vehicles for company. The whole route is open to motorbikes.
At this point things started to get hard. For me. The sun baked. Food just disappeared, and in hindsight I was a fair way into a hunger flat. We climbed, climbed, climbed and turned left onto another unnamed trail, with more climbing. I was solo most of the time, making promises to myself about never losing fitness again. No photos were taken. It was a dark place. We moved onto Devils Gate Valley road, then forest road 20084. More up. More grovelling. We reached a pass somewhere past Black Mountain. I had some Clif Shots from Jason and felt like a different person.
We were up around 9000ft, and descended into a bowl around the corner, with patchy snow. There was a fountain and second guessing how clean the water may be, we filled up.
Of course the problem with stopping and starting at altitude is the pain in your legs. Each time we paused and started, it flooded in. Every. Single. Time.
The climb got steeper, we got higher and we were finally within sight of the top. A 4 wheeler passenger asked if we wanted a beer. Jason said yes and parked his bike against their vehicle, much to their amusement. He took a beer and some colder water from their cooler, and stowed them.
And then back to the climbing.
We could even see west, on the great nothingness of the western part of Utah.
Finally, a few last bends brought us to the top – Inspiration Point.
We’d made the climb. By Jason’s recking it was about 14 miles, or say 24km, of descending – although we did need to make our way along the ridgeline trail first, named Fort 001. I don’t get to ride much exposed singletrack like this (actually I do, but never enough to feel comfortable). And the views were stunning, dropping on our right to Ogden, and our left to the basin we had just climbed out of.
Justin was Captain Sensible and brought out some chain lube from his pack. I know I needed the 4 watts that it would assist with compared to the dry chain I had from riding through meltwater.
The trail was all that’d you’d expect, but it wasn’t just free flowing. The first few sections were interspersed with some hike-a-bike. Partly due to the terrain, partly due to a couple of snow patches. We went up, over, along and around the rocky ridge top – always with dramatic views, short breaths, and screaming legs.
It was a while negotiating the ridge. But it was incredible. Looking down to the valley about 1500m below us, it felt like it was right at our feet. I found it really hard to maintain a perspective, and gauge an idea of how far away it really was.
Soon enough we hit snow patches that were a bit longer, but for the most part the trail was great to ride. Only the climbs were a struggle due to the loose rock and thin air. But technically, it was a blast.
After one more hike up and over, we were near the top of the switchbacks on the Skyline trail.
The top switchbacks still had some snow, but none of us needed to use our bikes for self-arrest. After the short top section the rest was rideable, as long as you got the best line through the tight and rocky switchbacks.
From here, it wasn’t really time for photos. The other two rode away from me (again) and we saw a group of six motorbike riders, all in various states of trouble on the switchbacks. That’s a lot of bike to have stalled in a steep, loose, singletrack corner.
We just continued to descend. Back to the treeline, then through more tall grass. It was dry and pretty rough, not having had much traffic up it yet this season. Justin flatted, thankfully in the shade.
The lower sections required more concentration, as the trees and undergrowth were really overgrown. It was a case of having about 5-10m visibility, and a stopping distance of about 30m due to the speed you were going.
After what seemed like an age, plenty of blown corners, near misses, and moments where I was certain I couldn’t concentrate anymore, we got back to North Ogden Canyon Road, and rolled down the descent back to Justin’s, ate watermelon, dreamt of fried food, and looked back to the Skyline trail to see where we had just come from.
It was an epic day out, and barely 70km. The first big ride of summer.