Sanders: Riding in the fall, the best time to be a mountain biker |

Sanders: Riding in the fall, the best time to be a mountain biker

Keith Sanders
Mountain Biking with Keith

One of the harsh realities of seeing summer go is that the days are getting shorter and the temperatures are slowly starting to dip day by day. On the upside, fall is one of the best times to ride. The leaves are changing, trails are empty and the occasional bugle of the elk makes it all worthwhile.

The shorter days and variety of fall weather can create a bit if difficulty in getting out to ride. It is much harder to fit in that afternoon or after work ride before darkness sets in. Your favorite route may be a bit too long to beat the setting of the sun or your transition into being your kids after school transportation unit may have upset your schedule. If you do a little bit of planning you can still fit in that quality ride for yourself.

Our trail system spoils us. It’s not just the huge variety of options. Hundreds of miles of trails, two bike parks and incredible easy access make it very unique in North America and the world. The trail system only gets better with each passing year and new improvements. One of the great things about the new trails that have been added in the last few years is that they allow you to do shorter rides closer to home while you can regulate how much time you have to play.

I thought I would give you a few options for your shorter rides Take a bit of time to make your own. Be creative and put together something that allows you to cut the ride short or extend it depending on the influences of your time. A few things that will help your own custom route. Find an access point that allows you to climb a bit at first then access your trail options to fit your time, i.e. shorter or longer. I tend to think of all rides as beginning from your home. If that is not an option for you then pick an easily accessible trailhead to plan your routes. For the purpose of article space I’ll talk about an option based out of the Town of Winter Park.

Winter Park trail options

You have quite a variety here. Start at the center of town in Hideaway Park. A great starting point is Leland Creek to Sundog to Akima’s Way. From there you have a few more options. I like to connect Akima’s Way to the new reroute of WTB which brings you the upper part of D4. If you are running out of time you can then loop back to D3 and Sunset Pink which will drop you out on Vasquez Road or retrace your route at the beginning.

If you are looking to add a bit to the route you can do some of the new Leap Frog additions or descend D4 to Vasquez Road then drop down to Twin Bridges. From Twin Bridges you can head back on Little Vasquez or continue your ride up Blue Sky and potentially to Chickadee.

This type of ride lets you piece together a variety of trails to suite your needs. You can mix it up to keep it fresh by reversing the route and mixing up the order.

A few things that will help you be more comfortable and safer on your rides.

• Wear wool socks. You can get them in the cycling length so you don’t have to wear your ski or hiking socks.

• Toe warmers- these are neoprene covers that go over the front part of your shoe to block the wind and insulate the shoe. You would be surprised how well these work. This is a must have item for your cycling wardrobe.

• Knee warmers- they cover the knee and part of the thigh. Another must have item for your cycling wardrobe.

• Long finger gloves.

• Flashing light for your seatpost or seat. Be safe, even if you can see well, should you be on a road at dusk then try to be as safe as possible.

• Light for your handlebar just in case something happens and you have to come home after dark (bring a flashlight if you don’t have a handlebar light).

All of these things can be found at our local bike shops.

Hunting season

Don’t forget that hunting seasons are upon us and taking a few precautions can go a long way towards making your ride safer. A reminder that all public lands in the Winter Park area are open to hunting. Here are a few things that can make you more visible and a bit safer.

Many hunters are not used to seeing mountain bikers in the woods. Try to avoid riding at sunrise and sunset as the low light makes it more difficult to clearly see. Wear bright colors. Pick up a hunters orange vest or very brightly colored jersey or shell to wear. Put some brightly colored surveyers tape on your helmet, hydration pack and handlebars. Make a bit of noise but you don’t need to be loud. Hanging a bell from your bike or having a bell on your handlebars that you can ring often will let others know you are around.

Now go out, have fun and be safe.

Group rides:

Beavers Sports Shop at the Best Western in Winter Park does a weekly group ride on Friday’s at 6 p.m. (new time) Intermediate and above skill level. Come join in! 970-726-5988

Looking for more information? Like Grand Mountain Bike Alliance (GMBA) on Facebook. GMBA is your local mountain bike group. Check out Great site by the Winter Park Chamber!

Keith Sanders is the President of the Grand Mountain Bike Alliance, 3x US National Mountain Bike Champion and owner of Beavers Sports Shop. You can reach me at

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