As a World Champion Free Skier and Osprey Athlete, I’ve always had similar aspirations for mountain biking. While I have won some races, I’ve also suffered some defeats. In this agony, came the realization that I enjoyed RIDING my bike much more for fun, travel, views, being with friends and family, and the adventure, rather than the head-down singular focus of racing.
To help attain my aspirations, I started a mountain bike camp and have the immense pleasure of teaching girls and women how to ride so they don’t have to learn like I did. Osprey Packs provides complimentary demos to all gals in my KEEN Rippin Chix MTB camps. These events are perfect for learning everything from the basics to higher level skills like wheelies.
Even more than teaching mountain biking, I love to ride, ride, ride. I have zillions of favorite rides but here are my top picks in North America. Don’t be mad if your favorite one isn’t on this list, as it is most likely on my “to do” list!
1. Cream Puff – Pemberton, British Columbia
This gem was my intro to the more technical North West scene. I first tried it on my regular Juliana Roubion, with 5″ front and back, but the second time went for 7″ of suspension, a slacker head tube angle, and pads – and had way more fun. The uphill is pretty enjoyable, switchbacking thru the giant trees, while the downhill is just gnarly enough to make your heart jump a beat here and there.
This is a great trail to introduce good xc riders to the world of DH mountain biking without needing a lift or having to know how to jump. I think the Osprey Zealot is the best pack for this ride, as there is plenty of room for knee and elbow pads. I adore the roll-out tool kit at the bottom for easy access. I would also suggest renting a bike that has at least a 65 degree head tube angle and 7″ front and back. Before I did this, the trail was just a bit too scary for me.
2. Whole Enchilada, Moab Utah
Its all downhill right? WRONG. But when this trail went in, I wooped for joy to single track added to Moab’s sand pits, slick rock and double track. A must is arranging a shuttle, best done with a local company. Ask at the Chili Pepper Bike shop, and they will set you up with everything you need, including the shuttle.
Some tips: bring 4x the water you think you need along with 2x the food you think, plus warm clothes/rain jacket (yes it can be very cold up at the high altitudes even when baking hot in town). I was able to go a bit light and carry the Raven 10, but managed to stuff everything in; next time I think I’ll bring the 14. Did I mention that I LOVE purple? I also carried two water bottles on my bike, as 10 liters was not enough for me on this ride.
3. TransRockies Stage 5 Sandy Mcnabb to Bragg Creek – Alberta, Canada
This was my favorite stage of the TransRockies Bike Race – something like 9,100 feet of climbing and descending in the high alpine interior splendor of the Canadian Rockies. It also kicked my ass. This race is called “The Toughest in the World” by Mountain Bike Action. This was stage 5 of a seven day race.
Normally I would carry my biggest Osprey Hydration pack, but due to the fact were were racing, we carried only the basics, and even left our required bear spray out. I carried the Verve 3 – just the basic tools, a pump, tube, Bacon Epic Bars, chocolate, cheese, and a light rain jacket. Of course, it poured and almost snowed, and we just about froze. I think even if I had warm clothes I wouldn’t have stopped to put them on, but if I wasn’t racing, I would have put on EVERYTHING. Jason also blew a hole in his tubeless tire, which just barely held on.
After the race, we heard about a gal that got mauled to death by a bear while training in the area. My advice? Don’t leave the bear spray out of your Osprey Pack on this ride. Canada has not only black bears, but lots of Grizzlies.
4. Green Belt Trails – Austin, Texas
I always made fun of Texas, I guess it was the funny accents and overly friendly demeanor that shocked my east coast conservative roots. Then I happened to marry a Texan, and ended up visiting Texas for family all the time. The trails in downtown Austin [pictured here] are some of the best anywhere, and there are hundreds of miles of them smack dab in the center of the city.
Holy moly, I was sooooooo wrong. I LOVE Texas! Incredible food, welcoming people, fantastic road bike touring, and, surprisingly, some of the best mountain biking I have ever done. Want some great local tips? Stop by the bike repair counter at Bicycle Sport Shop in Austin, and ask for my friend James Mullins to give you some places to go. Don’t miss a swim at the cold-spring, Barton Springs; natural rock pools that are the size of about 8 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
I was a bit torn as to choose these trails, or my other favorites in Comfort, Tyler, Rocky Hill, or even Lance Armstrong’s private ranch…..
When I visit Texas, I always take LOTS of water and a bathing suit for the public swimming holes. I skip my chocolate because it melts here. Better to just pop up the ridge for the best tacos outside of Mexico. Don’t miss Torchy’s deep fried avocado taco.
5. Trail 401 – Crested Butte
When I started riding this trail, it was so under-ridden that it would disappear in sections. Now it is beyond discovered and with good reason – 10,500 foot alpine above-treeline single track, views of Colorado’s biggest peaks, and my favorite part- chest high wildflowers that are so prolific that they look fake.
We even get bruises on our knuckles from the thwaping of the flowers on our handlebars. In CB, I always ride with a big hydration pack and due to the altitude changes, I always carry gloves, hat, heavy long sleeve shirt, rain jacket, rain pants, tons of water and always tons of chocolate.
We always do this ride from town, but most out-of-towners shuttle the ride, choosing to park just past Gothic. If you are decently fit, this is a waste of time, as the shuttle takes longer than just riding there. Bring some money with you, and you can stop in the old mining town of Gothic. You won’t want to miss the museum/store there as it’s the only public building in town. Gothic is home of the Rocky Mountain Biological Labs and hosts world-class scientists all summer doing research. Ask about the weekly evening science talks. I learned recently that marmots are now coming out of their holes a whole month earlier than 1970. They have also heated patches of wildflowers 1 degree for 20 years to simulate climate change. The result – almost all the wildflowers died and were replaced by mostly invasive non-native plants.
Every area I have traveled to has amazing trails that often surprise me in the strangest of places! Have you ridden in Dayton, Ohio lately? If your favorite ride didn’t make my list, send your recommendations over to Alisongannett@mac.com so I can explore areas that I have yet to ride.
Authored By: Alison Gannett