Writing on Riding

Writing on Riding

Get a bicycle. You will not regret it. If you live. – Mark Twain

New Mexico Vacation Riding – Part 1 (La Tierra)

“I won’t even take my bike,” I said, determined to make sure the trip was only about celebrating our 25th anniversary.

My wife looked me in the eye and replied, “You’re taking your bike.”

I suppose that made sense. We had made it that far in our lives together by learning how to compromise, not by giving up all the hobbies and activities we loved. This was going to be a driving trip–about nine or 10 hours in the car to get there. Not riding would be a shame.

I posted on our local mountain bike community’s Facebook page for advice from others who had ridden trails in and near Santa Fe. I ride for the fun and the cardio benefit, but I am not conditioned for racing nor endurance. I was a little worried about pedaling long climbs in the high altitude. A fellow DFW-area rider who also was going to be in Santa Fe that week agreed we should meet up for at least one ride.

Agreeing and making it happen are two completely different things.

We arrived on Friday evening, and I got wheels on dirt Sunday morning. Less than 10 minutes from where we were staying, the La Tierra system was not unlike trails in DFW, as far as the elevation changes go. The climbs and the descents were short, but the altitude itself put me pretty far behind on the conditioning curve. The surface was dusty and grip varied from excellent to sketchy because of naturally occurring gravel. There weren’t many natural technical features, but a couple of sections featured big drops and jumps–and not only in the designated freeride area. Hustle & Flow was a standout descent trail about a mile long and packed with jumps. A shorter descent merely labeled “technical trail” featured a drop bigger than I was willing to hit out there alone.

The biggest drawback at La Tierra was the effort of staying on the right trail. I had to stop a lot to refer to MTBProject on my phone and see my blue dot moving on the screen. I was on the trail much longer than the actual distance covered should have required.

Part of the Pinyon-Juniper Woodland that spans much of the American West, the landscape reminded me of scrub-brush because the trees aren’t big enough to provide a canopy. You have to go much higher to get into the signature Rocky Mountain forests of aspens, firs, spruce, and ponderosa pine.

For my second ride, I set my sights on a wife-driven shuttle to the top of Winsor Trail downhill. It would be a 9.3 mile gravity-fest, if the reviews were to be believed. She gladly agreed, and I assured her I should not take longer than 45 minutes to an hour to complete it–including stops for photos. The drive back down alone would take her at least 35 minutes, so she would barely have to wait at all.

Boy, was I wrong.

(Continue to Part 2)

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