Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mountain Biking at Centennial Cone Park

Last weekend Josh and I decided to go mountain biking. This is something we don't do very often because it is so much harder to take the dogs; and because I am not the most adventurous mountain biker and it's more fun for my hubby to go with the boys. I would prefer rolling hills to steep rocky trails for my biking experience, but after hiking at Centennial Cone Park, I knew I had to go back and try it on the bike.

If you have never been to Centennial Cone Park before, you are in for a real treat, its one of the best kept secrets in Jefferson County probably due to it's location. The park is located up Golden Gate Canyon from Golden about 10 miles and sits on a plateau in the mountains, it has rolling hills, vast meadows filled with flowers, and incredible Continental Divide Views!

The park has a main loop which is over 10 miles in length, and even though we don't bike very often I expected that Josh and I could do the loop. Ten miles on a bike isn't that far, right? We started down the trail and immediately my fear of flying over the handle bars and landing on my face breaking bones and incurring brain injuries came back to me. Josh flew past me on his bike, his wheels barely touching the ground as I held my hands tight on the brakes and slowly inched downward. This was going to be a long 10 miles; I need to get over this fear. Josh had stopped to wait for me as I slowly ride up I ask him; "what do I do, why is this so hard?" "Just stand up, don't sit on the seat" he says "the seat will bounce you off, just stand up, lean back and go."
We start back down the hill (seen in photo -->)
and I try to stand up a little, very gingerly, I try to loosen my white knuckles from the brakes very slightly and for a second there things are going alright. Then I happen to glance up and see a huge rattlesnake laying across the trail in front of me! Rattlesnakes are my other big fear, of course. I tried to pedal really fast to get enough speed to fly past the snake, with my feet in the air, so it couldn't bite me. At this point I thought, "great, now I need to worry about cracking my head open and rattlesnakes, fun."
It was here that the trail started to go uphill and shortly after, you reach one of many gates on the Open Space property you must go through.
Now, for someone who is so chicken to go downhill, I can bike up the mountain pretty darn well. I really enjoy going uphill and the strength it takes on your legs, lungs, and mind to get you up the mountain.

The grade continued uphill for about a mile and I settled into a rhythm of pedaling and pushing myself, but stopped to catch my breath. As I rested for a minute I was able to take a couple of good photos of the scenery and see where Josh was. For a guy who is so good at going down the mountain he takes forever to get up them. He was about a quarter mile behind me resting and I waited for him to catch up then we continued to the top of the mountain and were greeted with incredible continental divide views to the west.

It always feels so great to get to the top of a mountain when biking, but then I think to myself, now I have to get down this. And this was a big hill to go down. I tried to be real brave at first, I stood up like Josh had instructed, I was leaning back I was slowly easing my grip on the brake and doing pretty well when there was a really steep rocky dip ahead and I chickened out. I actually got off my bike to walk it down this little (but steep AND rocky) dip in the mountain. Thankfully it was a Monday, and there were few people in the park to witness such an act, but I was embarrassed nonetheless. After walking past the steep part I got back on my bike and forced myself to go faster down the mountain and this seemed to work for a little while; until I went so fast that and hit so many rocks that my bike was rattling.
We continued down the mountain further, and I was actually doing pretty well on my speed and feeling good about going downhill. It was at this point that Josh had a bike malfunction, he managed to bend his wheel so badly it was rubbing on the frame. I suspect this is from jumping rocks and speeding down the mountain, and say as much. He agrees and I am very disappointed that at about 2.5 miles into the loop we had to turn back.

The mountain going back us is just as steep uphill as it was downhill, but I could manage to get up most of it without stopping or walking. I even managed to get UP that steep part that I walked my bike down. I find going up steep parts of the mountain is so much easier than going down them; if you really lean into your front wheel shock and use your body as well as your legs to push yourself, you can get up almost anything. Surely the same principal can be applied going downhill?
We made it back to the car about an hour later and I could feel the soreness in my shoulders already. All in all we did about a five mile bike trip, which definitely made me sore the next day, and I can't imagine what 10 miles would have done to me.

This is where I ask for any advise on how to get over this fear, or be more stable on the bike going downhill. Comments are appreciated.
For more information on Centennial Cone Park click here.

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