As I came in the door after a recent unplanned Sunday ride, I thought to myself. “That was one of my top All-Time rides!”
But I couldn’t put my finger on exactly WHY it was such a great ride. Conditions weren’t what any sane rider would consider good, there were a couple inches of wet snow on top of a crusty snow base. I wasn’t on a dream mountain bike vacation, it was literally out my front door. And it wasn’t epic by any definition of the word EPIC.
It got me to reflect on past great rides. Those rides that we may find ourselves remembering and talking about years later. I got to thinking, if I could identify what makes for a great ride, maybe I could piece these ingredients together, and create more best All-Time rides.
So I made a list of what I would consider my Best All-Time rides and looked for similarities, this is what I found.
I found that these rides had some things in common:
- Solo Rides: For the most part they were solo rides. I don’t know what this says about me, but it probably isn’t good. No offense to anyone I’ve ridden with.
- Remote locations & unexpected trails: A few of them were WAY off the beaten path in remote locations. They are hiking trails where bikes are permitted, but not promoted. And places no one would ever consider taking a bike vacation. All of these were rugged, rough cut trails. And I felt I discovered something no one else had.
- Each killed a preconceived assumption about where, when, or how I can ride. They opened my eyes to a new kind of riding experience. They ALL left me daydreaming about a whole new world of riding opportunities. So the each INSPIRED me to chase that riding experience again.
So what’s the moral of the story?
Even though there are similarities between the rides, I can’t build a recipe to create an “All-Time” ride. But there is one element that I found that all these rides had. I went into each with a bit of apprehension. Maybe the CONDITIONS WEREN’T IDEAL, the RIDE TOO DIFFICULT, the ROUTE UNKNOWN.
For each one, I could have seen the challenge and backed away, stayed home, or done something more familiar.
So if you’re in doubt about going for a ride, and the excuses are starting to pile up…GO RIDE ANYWAY. You could be right, the ride might suck…but my guess is that you will discover a new element to riding that will leave you inspired to ride more.
Some of the best rides I’ve had, and a brief description of each.
- White Tanks, AZ: Feb 2015
- I had read about the upper trails at the White Tanks and heard that they were steep and technical, with lots of hike a bikes. I found that to be true, but they challenged me, it was remote enough that I was immersed in the Sonoran Desert just a few miles from Phoenix.
- Green Lakes, WY: Aug 2016
- Skirting outside the West border of the Wind Rivers Wilderness, this trail is primarily a hiking trail. I didn’t know what to expect. I started at dawn, and there was steam coming off the surrounding rivers and lakes in the dawn light. The trail then turned into a rarely ridden or hiked ribbon of singletrack over a mountain pass and into a secluded valley with a beautiful stream.
- High Cascades 100, Bend, OR: July 2015.
- After a discouraging ride the week before had left me bonked beyond recognition, my hopes were low…and I expected to suffer. I continued with my commitment to race and was faced with one beautiful 100 mile loop. Bonus, the race went surprisingly well.
- Redfish Lake, ID: August 2015.
- A great backcountry loop with amazing views and a great technical descent to the backside of the lake. It didn’t hurt that it was my first ride on my all-time favorite bike, either.
- Moab, UT Captain Ahab: May 2014
- After rain hit 12 Hours of Mesa Verde hard, the team decided to head up to Moab and ride that afternoon. I’d long written off Moab…for some reason I didn’t think the trails justified fighting the crowds in town. Captain Ahab changed all that. It’s a masterpiece, and has me looking forward to returning to Moab again.
- Marquette, MI South trails: February 2017
- A spur of the moment ride crammed into a busy weekend. It was slushy and snowy out, there was some ice on the ground. Because of the conditions, I found myself drifting back and forth down ripping descent along one of the more scenic stretches of river I’ve ever visited.
- Ogden, UT, Snowbasin trails, Dec 2013.
- My first snow ride. On a trail bike. The trails were packed and I could ride on any of the summer trails, only faster. DRIFTY!
- Wausau, WI, Wisconsin Off Road Series: Summer, 1996.
- First race. I was hooked. I’m still racing 21 years later.
- Neenah, WI to High Cliff State Park: Summer, 1995.
- The first time I rode more than 5 miles from home. It was 15 miles out, and I saw the world in a new light. Like a playground.