In which the Mountain magazine brain addled test crew ascends to Steamboat Springs, Colorado to actually test mountain bikes in the mountains.
By Marc Peruzzi | Photographs by Dave Cox | Test Directors: Sydney Fox & Nick Truitt
From the scorchin’ Sonoran hills to Moab’s red rock to the high plains drifting west of Fruita, Colorado, Mountain magazine’s bike testing has long been a desert affair. Chiefly, that’s been because we couldn’t acquire next year’s bikes before the snow buried our beloved mountain singletrack and we, in turn, layered on our grain-fed winter fatback and detonated powder for five months.
But this past fall, we collectively said, “Screw it!” (It’s a team building thing we do here.) “Let’s go camp and ride Steamboat instead.” That’s the type of loamy, rooty, snaky, lean the bike way over, up and down riding the fast trail bikes we’re testing are designed for. Maybe, we thought, we could strike surgically and ride the high elevations deep into the beery month of October.
Well, it worked. No crowds. Hero dirt. Hot springs. And not only that, but the perty yeller leaves even stayed on the shiny aspen trees for an extra few weeks so as to make for nicer photographic images. (I don’t know why I just transitioned to Sling Blade voice.) Anyway, a few years ago Steamboat dubbed itself Bike Town USA to honor all the backcountry, in-town, and lift-served riding it now offers. Having ridden all of the following locations extensively, I’d place it in the pantheon of North American alpine mountain bike destinations along with Sun Valley, Idaho; Park City, Utah; East Burke, Vermont; and naturally Crested Butte, Colorado.
As for the bikes we chose to call in, we aren’t happy with the hyper-categorization of mountain bikes of late. In real world mountain riding most of the people we see out there are best suited to ride full suspension XC race bikes with boosted handling and slacker angles designed for a mountain bike stage race rather than a short track event, or slightly deeper travel, fast riding trail bikes that don’t overly penalize on sustained 2,000- to 5,000-foot climbs. After prowling the bike trade show, these were some of the highlight bikes from that world. Rocky Mountain Bicycles smartly call the category XC Trail. Whatever you call them they’re quiver killers for fit, sustained riding in actual mountains.
From the Early Summer 2015 issue.