Ride Report: Fat Biking Fourmile in Buena Vista, Colorado

The Buena Vista, Colorado area provides cyclists with an embarrassing wealth of riding opportunities. Since moving to BV in June, we constantly feel like we’ve won the lottery, struck it rich… hit the pay dirt of life. So, what to do with such abundance? Share it, of course!

In the process of exploring everything we can ride on two wheels, my husband/photographer, Scott, and I first rode the Fourmile Travel Management Area in August. From our stable of bikes, we chose our Surley Cross Check cyclocross bikes for our initial Fourmile foray. We took off from home and managed to ride almost 20 miles, but walked/struggled through more deep sandy stretches than polite language can describe.

Cyclocross ride in the Fourmile Recreation Area. Mt. Princeton in the distance.
All photos by Scott Anderson

Cyclocross ride in the Fourmile Recreation Area

Still, it was fantastically beautiful and right in our backyard, so a week later we approached Fourmile on our mountain bikes. Scott rides a Santa Cruz Superlight and I ride an Airborne Black Widow. We suspected that the banked, swoopy turns with numerous climbs and ascents would be much more fun on the second selection from the stable. Alas, there were still more sandy struggles and accompanying expletives than we desired.

MTB ride in the Fourmile Recreation area

MTB ride in the Fourmile Recreation area

MTB ride in the Fourmile Recreation area

As the Aspens turned to gold and dropped their leaves and the snow began to fall, periodically our thoughts returned to Fourmile and how much fun riding those dirt roads and trails should be. Then, a couple weeks ago, in honor of Scott’s 50th birthday, we decided to add two new horses to the stable. We purchased Norco Bigfoot fat bikes from Boneshaker Cycles in BV. Scott got the matte black 6.3; I got the shiny orange 6.1. After riding every kind of snow ride we could find in the first week we owned them, it occurred to us that we may have found the perfect Fourmile bikes. This time, we drove the few miles to the OHV parking lot, instead of riding from home, and purposely headed for the dreaded sand suck.

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The ride from the parking lot on 375 is just a mile and a couple switchbacks of dirt road, before turning right on 376. The plan was to attempt the dirt bike singletrack (6037), but it was a chute of ice, so we stayed on 376. We rode past a dirt biker who was camped at one of the many dispersed campsites. He stared at us as he said, “Those are some HUGE tires.” Indeed they are, and those huge tires made Scott and I two very happy campers. The route threw a bit of everything at us: dirt road, washboard, firm and dry, mud, ice, snow, sand, ascents, descents, and even a couple creek crossings (one an ice-slushy) for good measure.

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If anyone had been there to see us, they would have seen two middle-aged bikers riding it all with grins plastered on their faces. Aside from the lone dirt biker, we had the place to ourselves, so no one saw those grins. In fact, in three rides, two on beautiful late summer Saturdays, we have encountered few OHVs. Those we have encountered have had courteous and friendly riders.

Fat bikes eat up the climbs as Mt. Princeton looks on.

The visual beauty of the Fourmile Area is enough to make anyone smile: it is 100,000 acres of jaw-dropping views. The mighty Sawatch Range is generally in sight, but the rock formations give the place a taste of the Southwest. Fourmile Creek meanders along, providing wetland vegetation color to an otherwise wintery palette this time of year. The San Isabel Forest Service website states that there are “nearly 200 miles of roads and trails” in the Fourmile Travel Management Area. All 100,000 acres are on either Forest Service or BLM lands. Maps can be obtained from Friends-of-Fourmile.

Even if it had been so foggy that we missed the scenery, we would still have been ecstatic. The Bigfeet (if that’s what two Bigfoot bikes are called) performed spectacularly. They climbed every hill relentlessly, whether on mud, sand, or dirty ice. They plowed right through the creek crossings and handled rocks just dandy. But, here’s the real deal; our nemesis, sand, had been vanquished. Oh, sand is still there, taunting us, but now we just pedal blithely on.

Fourmile Travel Management area, Buena Vista, CO

Our Bigfoot vs. Sand showdown completed, we chose to keep the ride to just eight miles. We have hundreds of miles to explore and we live here, so the fun will continue. There are plenty of rides in Chaffee County to keep our cross bikes and mountain bikes exercised, but Fourmile is now Bigfoot territory.

To get to the the OHV parking:

  • From Buena Vista, drive east (towards the Arkansas River) on East Main St.
  • Turn left (N) on CR371 (aka N. Colorado ave.)
  • Turn right on 375 just before the RR Tunnel
  • Parking is on the left just after turning off CR 371

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Nancy Anderson is a lifelong cyclist, retired teacher, parent of three, and grandparent of seven. She moved in June 2014 from the Wisconsin northwoods to play in the mountains and valley of Buena Vista, Colorado.

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