Yes, winter is near. But while the leaves are still on (some) of the trees, and the air has yet to turn as frigid as it most assuredly will, let’s talk mountain biking. If you’ve got a final fall ride in store, or if you’re determined to weather the winter, you’ll want to know what the best gear to take is. According to Active Junky, there are 5 Pieces of Gear for Fall Bike Rides that are must-haves. Naturally, we’re excited to see that the Osprey Escapist 20 is one of them. Here’s what AJ has to say about it:
The perfect mountain biking pack almost defies description: you want something that’s svelte and low-profile so you don’t feel off-balance while swinging through singletrack. But you need something that can carry your tools, food, layers, and oddball sundries. No pack has achieved that Platonic ideal quite yet, but Osprey’s Escapist 20 comes damn close. The panel-loading backpack boasts a breathable ventilated harness, with a mesh hip belt, a hydration sleeve, twin water bottle mesh pockets, and a discrete, stowable rain cover. Inside the front panel, you find a cache of storage options that cater to bike tools, while the main compartment offers cavernous storage for the bigger items like a jacket or vest. As with most cycle-specific Osprey packs, the Escapist has also been outfitted with a LiftLock helmet attachment (which slips through the helmet’s vents to be easily carried) and a strap for clipping on a flashing light—features that make this pack ideal for commuting as well as mountain biking. A zipped top pouch keeps must-haves like your phone or sunglasses within easy reach, and the variety of compressible straps lets you synch things down to dial in a light, nimble feel while in the saddle. And—of course—the bag works well while enjoying outdoor activities other than mountain biking…
The colors set in and the trails disappear under a thick bed of red, green and yellow leaves. The trails that have been nice and dry for most of the summer turn into sticky, muddy terrain and the shinny roots stare at you, trying to make you slip on every turn. The hot summer days make way to chilling, dark and rainy days. When all these elements come together, it only means one thing — it’s time for epic rides!
The sun has been shining steadily and the temps have been unbelievably warm here in southwest Montana. I spent the first week back home climbing in the Gallatin canyon, rallying up local bike trails and having pints with friends I had not seen all summer.
It wasn’t too long before we began to scheme on some new route potential in the southern Beartooths. We had been eyeing this spectacular crack system that was defended by a ominous 15-foot roof and it now seemed like the time
to go piece it together. We left the Gallatin Valley in the “Blue Streak”, a 1986 foggy-blue Subaru with a white stripe down its center. Off at a top speed of 65mph we meandered through many a two-lane roads finally arriving at our lengthy dirt access road. This little Suby shines best on the dirt and we quickly navigated with controlled sideway slides to our destination.
The first day we checked out the line making sure it would go, and decided it would need a few bolts to piece the cracks together.
On day two, we began our ascent armed with a double set of cams, may nuts, one 60-meter lead line, a 60-meter tag line and a bolt kit. The first pitch was a slightly dirty 5.10+ that ended in a bat guano filled slot. Pitch 2 got us in to the goods: a 5.11+ flared gaping mouth of a crack that traversed over 20 feet.
Pitch 3, a 5.12-, followed incipient cracks on thin gear for 50 feet to the base of the roof, which we named the route after – “The Traditional Bitch Slap” or TBS, due to the way we felt after pulling through it.
Pitch 4, a 5.11+, started off just above the lip of the roof, right into a tough stem corner. The climbing was sustained stemming with a powerful lay back crux.
Back on the ground, we enjoyed a tasty frothy beverage and loaded back into the Blue Streak. Pressing play on the tape deck and dropping the transmission to four low, we established the Blue Streak’s theme song that weekend, and those fine cuban-rooted-rhythms blared through its one speaker as we climbed up the steep hill to once again to access the two lane roads that would lead us home through a gauntlet of ungulates.
If you have been to Silverton, Colo. you have stared up at Kendall Mountain rising 4,000 feet directly above town. I have been fortunate enough to tackle the peak successfully many times in the winter, but I had never made the climb in the summer. I much prefer to ski down something big after a climb instead of walking down, hence the reason that most of the San Juan’s summits I visit comes when they lie under a mantle of white.
With a warm day predicted for the backyard of Durango, I opted to gain some elevation and escape what would hopefully be the last batch of summer heat in town. I packed up the car and started up Highway 550 for the short drive to Silverton.
I parked at the base of Kendall mountain and boarded my trusty steed (A nearly new mountain bike with 6 inches of travel and 29″ wheels). As I hopped on the saddle I took in the spectacular fall foilage that was in absolute peak color.
The jeep road starts gaining elevation quickly as it wraps around the west side of Kendall Mountain. As the grade steepens the oxygen level heads in the opposite direction. I find myself riding in a style known as “delivering the mail” where I go from edge to edge of the road to reduce the pitch to a level my tiring legs and granny gear can handle. I push my bike up some really steep sections and ride a few of the tamer portions. At treeline the road becomes unridable. I’m sure someone could ride it from here, but that someone is not me. I ditch my bike behind the last tree at about 11,800 feet and trade my bike shoes for some hiking shoes and head up the road.
The grade is about 10 percent, which makes for brutal biking, but perfect hiking. I walk the jeep road through a huge basin, wondering how in the world they built this road by hand over a century ago. The road climbs for another 2 miles and then ends a couple hundred feet below the summit. I billy-goat up through scree and boulders to gain the summit. After 2.5 hours I am looking 4,000 feet down on Silverton.
The town looks like a model complete with multiple steam trains. A slight breeze blows at my back and provides some white noise to what is otherwise an environment completely void of sound.
After a few minutes I reverse the process. I make good time to the road and quickly descend to me bike. What took 90 minutes to ride up, take me 7 to ride down. I enjoy the plush suspension on my new bike and feel like I am on a flying sofa.
I toss the bike on the roof and head south in the fading evening light. In 30 minutes I have a date with some grilled Ahi and a nice cold beer or two.
See you on the trail.