Mountain Biking in Seventeen Syllables

Like any recreational activity we pursue, we mountain bike because it’s fun. Sure, mountain biking is great exercise, but so is running, something a lot of hard core cyclists really don’t care to do. For many of us who are “really into it,” mountain biking offers more than just the unadulterated hedonism of “fun.” It offers us an opportunity to clear our minds of all that noise and “be one with the ride.”

If you’re thinking of that deadline at work, the fight you had with your significant other, or why junior is failing chemistry as you approach that rock garden, things may end badly. However, the ride magically melts away all those distractions and rather than feeling the weight of the world, one is free to experience the joy of being. This is when we tap into the spiritual side of mountain biking. The perfect ride is simple, yet complete, much like a heartfelt haiku. So, in the spirit of Zen and the art of mountain biking, here are 11 sets of 17 syllables inspired by my best rides.

A rider becomes one with the Kessel Run (Singletracks photo by dauw)

Left to right to left
In and out of the drainage
Shred the Kessel Run

On my second Fruita trip, I discovered the magic of the Kessel Run. This “bobsled run for bikes” is a perfect example of a trail where one can just get into the flow and focus on nothing but each coming turn.

Pain of altitude and pleasure of scenery combine to form the Yin and Yang of the Monarch Crest trail (Singletracks photo by Maddslacker)

My lungs are screaming
Scenery goes forever
The crest is epic!

The first two things most people marvel over on the Crest are the altitude and the scenery. Over the course of its 35 miles, the Monarch Crest will throw a little of everything at you. If your mind is clear and your attitude flexible, you may have an experience beyond what language can describe, but the overused word “epic” comes close.

Armored up for Palmer Park rocks

Rocks, drops, thrills and spills
City open space preserved
Bring armor today

In Colorado Springs, we are blessed to have the 750-acre Palmer Park with 20+ miles of singletrack right in the middle of the city. What makes this park truly special is the variety, concentration, and intensity of the technical challenge. This is the place that convinced me to buy body armor.

You're just not going to do any better than mid-September in Central Colorado

Bright shimmering gold
I am infinitely blessed
By the autumn leaves

Another one of the glories of living in Colorado (or various other western states) is seeing the aspens in fall. While the aspens don’t give the range of color found in the maples of New England, there’s something special about that shade of gold, especially when the sun catches it at just the right angle. On this day, I was riding an otherwise unimpressive route, but the aspens captivated me throughout.

A unique feature in Central Montana

Broad-shouldered mountains
harbor Ice Caves in August
before final plunge

The Big Snowy Mountains Loop in Central Montana has it all in terms of what’s under your knobbies–a huge climb, excellent ridgetop riding, incredible scenery and a world-class descent, all on first-rate singletrack. But the unique thing that truly sets this trail apart is the amazing ice cave that survives year-round.

One of the many gorgeous spots in the Tobacco Root Mountains

My Big Sky country
Expansive, yet intimate
Oh, how I miss you!

This one came to me, not while riding, but rather while flying. A few years after leaving Montana, I had occasion to fly back. While passing over the Tobacco Root Mountains where I had once ridden, I looked down and saw the high alpine ridges and lakes I used to frequent and I was struck with the pang of loss. ┬áThese are special mountains that achieve the perfect paradox of giving you that “BIg Sky” feel while at the same time cradling you in a very personal way.

If nature didn't want us to play on our bikes, she wouldn't have given us this

Up, down, round and round
pinion, juniper and rock
My favorite playground!

As of this writing, I’ve ridden over 320 distinct trails according to the Singletracks database. For me, Gooseberry Mesa is #1. If you’ve been there, you know–if not, you must make the time to go.

Endless traction (Singletracks photo by Jeff)

“What exquisite grip
All angles are possibe
Riding slickrock rocks!”

While it may not be at the top of everybody’s list today like it was in the past, Slickrock is still the most hyped, most well-known mountain bike in the world. It may have fallen to some degree given that it is a one-trick pony, but what a great trick it is!

Erosion isn't always a bad thing (Singletracks photo by Davebab)

Eroded badlands,
Dodging cow pies at warp speed,
Feel the prairie breeze

Mountain biking in North Dakota? Yep! Of course this is cattle country and the BLM leases much of the route to ranchers, so you’re not completely alone in this remote territory. Even with the land mines, the Maah Daah Hey is a wicked good ride.

This one kind of speaks for itself.

To poach or not poach
I wrestle with my conscience
Fun denied once more

And to finish: we don’t generally think of a haiku as an opportunity to be punny (that is usually reserved for limericks), but this one seemed so obvious to me . . .

Haiku on wheels

It had to be said;
The Yeti Five-Seven-Five
is Haiku on wheels

15 thoughts on “Mountain Biking in Seventeen Syllables

    • Making recommendations in any area can be dicey, but I never shy away from recommending the goose to advanced or adventurous riders who like techy stuff.

      The great thing is it’s just one of many great rides in the area. You could easily spend a a week or two in St George without repeating yourself on top-notch singletrack and slickrock.

      • Absolutely skibum! Last time we were there we only got one day at Goose because it snowed…but we went over to St. George/Santa Clara(?) and rode the Barrel Roll trail and Bear Claw Poppy. Great fun!

  1. Well of course I’m partial to the Kessel Run haiku, but I like the Gooseberry one too! Definitely getting back there next year…I love this post. What a great way to remember some of our favorite places.

    • Eat your Wheaties and be patient. The climb isn’t killer but it is strenuous and you’ll want to have energy for the short hike to the ice cave up top and still be fresh for the incredible descent. Also, it can take a while for the route to dry–even into late June in a heavy snow year.

      • Late June is perfect! I’ll be getting back from traveling right about then.The problem will be staying in riding shape while I’m gone. Hopefully I can bring the bike with me and check out some of these “haiku trails” in person! :D

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