Shoulder season. Though not technically in full swing, this morning’s early winter storm looks a lot like shoulder season; that unpredictable time between glorious single track summer days, and winter mountain bike hibernation in the high ground. We’ve developed a robust Shoulder Season Survival Guide so as to make the hibernation as short as possible.
Embrace the Roadtrip
We constantly monitor the Rocky Mountain Banana Belt – network of towns and trail systems all within 6 hours of Sports Garage where trails are largely accessible long past Boulder’s first snowfall. The weekend warrior is never more at home than during the shoulder season. Embrace spontaneity and chase blue skies, because these destinations offer some of the best riding of the year. In the case of inclement local weekend weather, we begin discussing road trip options as a staff on Wednesday afternoon. Most frequented locations include:
- Fruita/Grand Junction – Kokopelli Trailhead
- Moab – Everything below the LaSalles
- Salida – S-Mountain
- Pueblo – Lake Pueblo State Park
Stay tuned for our “48 Hours In” blog post series where we further breakdown how to make the most of shoulder season road trips in these and other spots.
Watch the Weather Channel
Don’t get too upset. The long range forecast for Colorado’s front range still indicates that we’ll be riding straight through Halloween. Many meteorological sources indicate that an El Niño–like pattern for Colorado is becoming the new norm…that means warmer, drier autumns and cooler, wetter springs. Though we may need to address shoulder season survival again in April, it appears that October and November are likely to remain good riding months. Another reason for watching the weather is to scout your road trip destinations.
Get Some Gravel
At Sports Garage, we like to consider ourselves equal opportunity dirt consumers. A dirt road, whether widely traveled or primitive, is it’s own brand of exhilaration…provided you have the right tool. When we’re locked out of local single tracks, we turn to our gravel adventure rigs for escape and saddle time. Mountain bikers who eschew fire roads as a totally boring ride alternative are not necessarily in the minority. However we have discovered that the problem is not the road: it’s not having the right tool for the job. The gravel bikes we are building are tested to mountain bike standards, built with endurance geometry, and are spec’d to tackle much more than meets the eye. They are responsive, rugged, fast, and adaptable. There is plenty of joy in riding gravel year-round, but it is particularly sweet during the shoulder.
The most obvious of survival strategies, gearing up is particularly important during the shoulders. Every season in the mountains requires the proper layers, but there are a few ways to weatherproof your gravel and mountain bike wardrobe that benefit the in-between months. With high temps somewhere in the upper 40’s or 50’s, keeping your core warm is not as urgent a matter, but this is the time of year to think about your head, fingers, toes, knees, and ass.
We have curated a collection of accessories from cold weather innovators like Endura and Hestra, focusing on garments that keep all your parts warm and dry, and at the same time prevent you from sweating too heavily inside your layers. We are particularly impressed by the waterproofness and breathability ratings of the MT500 Waterproof Jacket. Also in the MT500 collection, Endura’s line of Spray trousers and baggies features a durable, 3-layer puddle and mud-proof rear panel. Start the day with a lightweight liner underneath your helmet, toe caps, and knee covers. Bring both an intermediate weight glove and your regular trail gloves: if you’re doing a big climb, your hands will likely be damp from sweat by the time you get to the top. Flying downhill in cooler temps can chill and cramp fingers quickly, so we like to have a dry glove option with wind protection.
These four simple steps in the SG Shoulder Season Survival Guide will seriously extend your off-road riding season.
- Step 1: Watch the weather.
- Step 2: Hone your road trip skills.
- Step 3: Get an adventure loving gravel rig that gives you the freedom to get out and go between road trips.
- Step 4: Identify gaps in your gear collection that make Steps 2 and 3 more comfortable.
See you on the trail!