CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. — The Sluice is nuice! That’s my takeaway after riding the first purpose-built, downhill, mountain-bike-only trail on Colorado's Front Range.
Back in June, we got to go up to Floyd Hill Open Space in Clear Creek County to see the work the Colorado Mountain Bike Association (COMBA) and contractors for Clear Creek County were doing on the fresh trail system.
That day, they were working on Segment 4 (what is now known as The Sluice). Our web guru Ali and I schlepped my big TV gear up there along with the Dave Knox. Dave is the rad dude who organizes volunteers for COMBA and has been helping coordinate this project with Clear Creek County. From the second we started down Segment 4, I knew I had to come back and rip that Bad Larry on my bike.
There was a big celebration and ribbon cutting for the trail in August when it opened to the public. I, however, was back in Massachusetts for my mother’s birthday (I won’t say how many decades she’s seen). As soon as I got back to work, I started coordinating a day to go up and check out the new trail.
Today was that day. I rode up with some of the good people lending their time and skill to help COMBA finish off the trail system. They have about 8 miles total finished now and hope to get the full 12 to 13-mile system done by next summer.
It was a decent little crank up to the worksite. The ride flashed some berm-tastic moments of MTB (mountain bike, for novices) designed brilliance.
I shot some video of the dudes digging, and talked to Dave about why user-specific trails are important, helpful and rare in the Front Range.
Essentially he said that they allow different trail users to enjoy their experience more freely. Hikers don’t have to worry about getting trucked by bikers. MTBers don’t need to stall the send to allow a runner to pass.
From what I’ve seen, a little courtesy goes a long way in these interactions, but I was stoked to bomb the Sluice worry-free. Well, except for the thousands of dollars in camera gear I had tucked away in my backpack.
While hiker-only designations aren’t exactly a rarity, biker-only ones are. Mostly that’s because there just isn’t a lot of room for more trails in Colorado, especially on the Front Range. Open space operators would need to reassign trails from multi-use to single-use - a process that can’t be done without making someone mad.
Floyd Hill, however, is a fresh project. An opportunity COMBA and Clear Creek County are taking full advantage of by building The Sluice for MTBers, specifically.
Full of new information and fresh pick-ax NATS (that’s TV talk for sound), I was ready to be on my way to what Dave called "Disney Land" of this trail system for a biker. It’s still not all that well marked up there, and not everything is on The Proj. yet, so I made sure to get solid directions from the COMBA guys. It was a bit of a crank out of the worksite, followed by a nice mellow slog up to the beginning of The Sluice.
‘Bout to be shred time.
There's a 700-foot vertical drop on the Sluice over 1.3 miles, and this trail rips from the tippy top all the way down. There's a mainline route that’s rated blue-black, but there’s a ton of massive options, some rated double-black. I stayed on the mainline, as this was my first rip (and the aforementioned camera gear).
My Evil insurgent handled all the rock work like nothing, except when I misread the trail and went butt over teakettle. A little scraped knee, and I was on my way. More rocks led me to some sweet flow. The very bottom of the trail has some rad jumps built into it.
At the end, it was a sweet ride right into the parking lot, and back to the news van.
I can’t wait to get up there again. Riding a trail for the first time is always tough, especially one with as many options as this one. It really keeps ya on your toes, but it's a wicked sweet ride. You could ride that thing a dozen times and never repeat the same line.
Maybe someday… someday... maybe... we’ll get some more MTB-only trails to enjoy on the Front Range. Until then, Sluice it up!
Mike Grady is a mountain biker and wicked-talented photojournalist at 9NEWS.
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