I think I’ve probably mentioned before that getting around in Ogden is a combination of riding on streets, paved trails and mountain singletrack. Since the city is compact and our home is located in the central part of town, I often supplement my “business” trips with mountain joyrides just to spend a little more time on the bike.
Increasingly, my favorite joyrides in Ogden involve trips up onto the East Bench. Don’t be fooled by the name. The Bench is anything but flat. When I first came here, it was almost incomprehensible to me that people could ride some of these routes but I had heard and read that they did and so I wanted to as well. I started with the easiest ones, gained a level of comfort and eventually worked my way up. Now I ride to places I never really thought I could access by bicycle. It’s fun and has helped me on the roads, too, because controlling a bike on some of these surfaces can be a real adventure.
I was in the mood for just such an adventure earlier this week and so I broke out the (somewhat) fat tired Surly hardtail for a trip up into the hills. I wanted to do some serious climbing and put in 20 miles or so. For those of you who have done this sort of riding, you know that’s no small thing. I’m a pretty good climber but between the elevation gain, surface and occasional technical sections on the routes, I’m lucky to average 7 mph. It’s work, but that’s okay. This isn’t about speed. It’s about fun.
I started like I often do by heading south from our home on 22nd Street on a combination of quiet city streets and some relatively flat doubletrack that hugs the downhill side of Mt. Ogden Golf Course. I was heading to Strong’s Canyon. I like accessing the BST here because there’s this brutal climb up a service road to gain the trail that let’s me know I’m not in Kansas any more. It’s only 7/10 of a mile but it’s deceptively steep, topping out at about a 15% grade. From here, I head north on the Foothills Bike Trail.If I’m not feeling it, I can head back down to the 29th Street trailhead using this route, but if it’s “game on” I veer right at the Blue Ribbon Trail and keep climbing.
The Blue Ribbon has become one of my favorite Ogden routes. It’s one way uphill only and it’s steep. There’s one turn where I always have to dismount and walk. It’s tight and steep and I can’t get around it…at least not yet. Maybe soon. Today there are hikers on the trail heading down. They’ve ignored the signs telling them not to access. I’ve read about tensions between hikers and mountain bikers in other parts of the country but we thankfully have none of that here…at least not yet. They see me coming, move out of the way and wish me a nice day. I do the same between gasps for air.
Once I gain the BST, I know there’s a bit of a climb to Waterfall Canyon but after that it’s a raucous romp all the way down to the mouth of Ogden Canyon at 12th Street. There’s only one significant rock garden and I’ve ridden this section of trail so often now that I know how to pick my way through it. It’s just awesome.
Most days that would be it. I might veer off and bomb down 22nd street to my house or I might take the Rainbow Loop down to the canyon floor and climb the Birdsong Trail to Fillmore Street and home, but today I want to explore so I pass under 12th Street (most major streets have bike/ped tunnels here) and get ready to climb again.
I’ve only been north of Ogden Canyon on the BST one time before now and, truth be told, it was terrifying. Today as I climb out of the canyon it’s no big deal. I’ve adjusted. I am no longer a flatlander. I’m comfortable with the exposure and don’t feel as if I’m going to fall off the mountain. Just as importantly, I’m a lot stronger than I was a few months ago and so I find that it’s easier to climb under control.
I continue north as the sun sinks further into the sky. I don’t want this ride to end. I check my GPS unit somewhere above 2nd Street and realize that I’ve gotten my miles in. It’s time to head for the barn, and so that’s what I do. The plunge into the canyon is effortless and delightful but there’s one more climb ahead. Birdsong to Fillmore. After what I’ve already ridden, it’s a piece of cake. Soon enough, I’m home. Total time…just under three hours. Total miles…20. Total climbs….3,000 vertical feet. It was an epic day…one I won’t soon forget.