The need for speed

Fast trails exist across Colorado

Curt’s Lane switchbacks at the Tabegauche/Lunch Loop trail system is one of several areas of trail in Colorado made for high speeds.

Curt’s Lane switchbacks at the Tabegauche/Lunch Loop trail system is one of several areas of trail in Colorado made for high speeds.

Purpose-built, fast, flowing trails and hero dirt just call out for speed. Lately, I’ve found myself with more confidence when it comes to speed. I’ve been lucky enough to get to blast down some great trails over the years and wanted to share them. Before I do, however, it’s important to remember a few bits of trail etiquette:

Keep your eyes open and your speed down a little if you’re on a two-way trail. You never know when someone is going to come around a corner, or when you’re going to drop over a hill and see someone climbing. Be aware and be courteous. Uphill climbers have the right of way, as do hikers and horseback riders.

On one-way trails, look ahead and use your brakes appropriately. Don’t go so fast that you run off the edges of the trail. This leads to erosion and trail widening. 

I can’t stress enough how important it is to be aware of your surroundings if you’re planning to go full speed down a trail. Be safe and have fun.

Here are my favorite western Colorado trails for speed:

Trail #2 in Rabbit Valley

After a scenic cross-country ride on Rabbit Valley’s Western Rim trail, there’s nothing better than the downhill thrill of Trail #2. With its fast, steep downhills, one almost has no reason to pedal (except for that ONE hill). It’s a mix of single- and double-track hills, a few brief rocky sections, and lots of fun, flowing trail. (This trail is open to two-way traffic and dirt bikes)

PBR at 18 Road

Nothing beats a directional, purpose-built downhill trail, and PBR delivers on speed, jumps, and berms. The best aspect of PBR is the fact that it’s directional — no uphill traffic allowed.

This means you can relax a bit more and focus on practicing your jumps, cornering technique, and speed without the fear of running into an uphill rider. This does NOT mean you’ll never encounter one — anything is possible and it’s always best to be aware of your surroundings.

Kessel Run at 18 Road

Speaking of awesome directional-flow trails, it doesn’t get any better than Kessel Run. If you get to the bottom of this trail and don’t have a smile on your face, then mountain biking isn’t the sport for you. A word of caution: Lots of families travel this trail, so watch out for adorable kids on their strider bikes.

New Curt’s & Curt’s Down 
at Lunch Loop ­

On New Curt’s, keep your eyes open for hikers and runners, and enjoy the A and B options that allow you to jump or roll a few features.

Keep your speed going as you head for the Curt’s switchbacks, but be aware that this section of trail is popular. You’ll most likely encounter hikers and/or runners here, so be prepared.

Rib Cage, Here for More, 
DRB/ESB at Phil’s World in Cortez

Rib Cage, for those who’ve never ridden it, has some of the steepest “whoop-de-whoos” I’ve ever encountered. Lay off the brakes and enjoy.

Since all of Phil’s World is directional, there’s little chance of anyone coming the wrong way on a trail. After Ribs, keep the flow going on Here for More and DRB/ESB until you come screeching back into the parking lot.

Cowboy/Big Canyon 
at the Sale Barn Trail head, 
Telegraph Trails, Durango

Unfortunately, Cowboy and Big Canyon are open to two-way traffic, so it’s important to watch for uphill riders and hikers. If you’re lucky enough to have this trail to yourself, you’ll find yourself comparing parts of it to Doctor Park in Crested Butte. Although Cowboy is a bit more in the open, the Big Canyon trail follows a small forest and wash.

It’s filled with tight turns and though it seems to be flat, you’ll find yourself picking up quite a bit of speed before you pop out of the trees behind the car dealership at the intersection of Highway 160 and Dominguez Drive.

Doctor Park in Crested Butte

I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t include Doctor Park. Though the climb is a soul-sucking several miles on double track, the downhill is one of the best around.

What starts as a fairly technical, chunky-rock trail turns into a smooth, fast, Star Wars-like trip through the aspens for what feels like hours. Shuttle it or be prepared to pedal an extra eight miles on the gravel Spring Creek Road.

401 Trail Crested Butte

A classic if there ever was one. The views from the 401 trail make it worth the climb, but its endless switchbacks and flowers taller than your bike make it truly a unique mountain bike experience.

I know this doesn’t even begin to cover some of the great trails in our area for speed (Rustler’s downhill, anyone? Ridgway’s Squeaker?), but it’s at least a start on my list of favorites. Got a downhill favorite of your own? Send me some information and we’ll start working on a feature article for the 2018 RIDE Magazine.


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