CYCLING: Preparing for a mountain bike ‘exploration ride’ |

CYCLING: Preparing for a mountain bike ‘exploration ride’

Photos by Ryan Cranston
Staff Photo |

In today’s fast-paced, internet-based information overload, some old-school ways of doing things are often overlooked. It’s really easy to sit down at your computer and Google “mountain bike trails Grand Junction, Colorado.” You’ll pull some good results from that search. What you won’t get is the satisfaction of doing research, using your own intuition, and then physically going out into the Wild West and finding the stuff for yourself.

A quick refresher in geography is in order. Grab a good map (I like the National Geographic topos) and dedicate a few evenings to finding some good routes. Start by highlighting all the singletrack that is open to bikes. Don’t overlook the moto singletrack; often it can be just as good if not better than some of the MTB-only trails. Link together the trails with roads and ATV tracks until you have a route that looks good. Pay close attention to the elevation gain and loss and use your knowledge of what you look for in a fun ride to plan your route. Now comes the fun part: Go explore it!

This has become my favorite way to do mountain bike rides over the past few years. I did this very thing a couple days ago and was rewarded with some super narrow, pristine singletrack and one of the very best descents that I’ve ever ridden. It was right there under my nose, one drainage east of a trail I ride frequently every year. Boy, did I feel dumb. It’s very easy to get stuck in the rut of “Well, I know this trail, and know it will be OK, so I’ll just do it.” No! Try something new! Everything is more exciting the first time, right? You’re not always going to find the singletrack of your dreams, but you will find some gems on occasion. When you do it is all worthwhile.


When going on an “exploration ride,” prepare yourself mentally by acknowledging that you may not even find any rideable trail, and that this is first and foremost an exploratory mission. Be honest with yourself and your abilities. That way you’re never disappointed, and when you do find what you’re looking for, it won’t soon be forgotten.

It’s also critical to be prepared for the unknown on rides like this. Take all the emergency repair items you might need, first aid, plenty of food and water, maps, GPS, SPOT messenger, etc. Take a buddy with you, and tell someone exactly where you are going, when to expect you back, and don’t deviate from the plan.

Come visit us at Ruby Canyon Cycles, 301 Main St., if you’re interested in exploring, we’ll gladly point you in the right direction.

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