I had an assignment to compete in the Buffalo Creek Race, the first mountain bike race of the season here on the Front Range of Colorado, and write a report on it for the Rocky Mountain Sports magazine. The race was held in early April, in those days, and the weather had been fine the previous three years, with temps in the 70s and sunshine.
This particular year, however, that was not the case. The day before the race, a storm front moved in and dumped about two feet of snow on the foothills, and a foot in Denver. So, not only was the race canceled, but I had a half-dozen mountain bike club members with nowhere to go. They had all signed up to do the race, and each of them was bummed by the cancellation.
So, I called them all up, and suggested that we do a club ride, since the race was off. I figured we could take some four-wheel drives and make it to the winter gate on Jackson Creek Road, then ride up the road on the packed snowmobile tracks I knew we would find.
Everyone was good to go, and we ended up at the gate, that morning, with fresh snow falling. Once everyone was on the bikes, we took off up the hill. The going was slow, and strenuous, but we all had fun. No one had snow chains or studded tires, and the Surly Pugsley, with its 4-inch wide tires, was not yet dreamt of. But we managed to climb quite a way before deciding to turn back.
That was when the real fun started. Not only did no one have tires built for the snow, but none of us had disc brakes, either. Discs were rare in 1996, unlike today, so we were all running rim brakes; v-brakes mostly, though a couple of people were still running cantilevers.
Down the steep hill we headed. Icy rims rendered our brakes useless, while the steepness of the hill provided constant acceleration. We found that all we could do was to hold on, wait until the speed got high enough to scare us, then crash into a snow bank in order to stop.
Then, after getting the laughter under control, we would get back on the bike and do it again.
I really wish I had a video of that ride.
I wrote an article about our snowy adventure, to fill the magazine space left blank by the race cancellation, and submitted it to the editor. He liked it, and ran it in the next issue. It was, I think, my most popular piece, ever. The magazine received a number of positive letters about it, anyway.
I can tell you one thing, for sure: That ride was a heckuva lot more fun than three laps of that race course ever was!