Website dishes the goods on mountain bikes trails in Aspen, across country
October 1, 2015
Mountain bikers looking for the best intel possible on rides throughout the country are well-served checking out the MTB Project.
The website touts itself as "The next generation of mountain-bike trail maps."
It offers a lot more than maps: riders can find rides in any state. It's a good way to research new rides on trips to Durango or Moab, or maybe a way to determine which way is best to ride a loop trail that you are vaguely familiar with. It's also fun to read the descriptions and vital statistics of some favorite rides and see if you agree with the assessments.
MTB Project is a free service that was launched in 2013 in partnership with the International Mountain Bicycling Association. That's important because it gives riders assurance that every trail is a legal route in the eyes of public-land managers such as the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, according to Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association Executive Director Mike Pritchard.
"This has strengthened the site's relationships with land managers to the point where the U.S. Geological Survey is now relying on MTBProject.com data for its next-generation mapping efforts," Pritchard said in an email. "The BLM has also partnered with the site to highlight its 20 best trail systems for mountain bikers around the county, including five rides in Colorado."
The home page of the website offers a featured ride, which you can customize to your state or region. It gives the vital statistics, such as total miles, percentage on singletrack trail, how many feet you climb and descend and the high and low elevations. It also provides a meter to show if trails in that area are wet or dry.
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The maps on the site offer more than just the route. Pictures are embedded at key points, such as junctions, to give an idea of what you're looking for. There's also an interactive elevation profile that lets a rider trace elevation gain and loss while also tracking progress on a corresponding map. In other words, riders can be prepared for where their lungs will burn and where they can let 'er rip.
There is a thorough description, vetted by MTB Project and International Mountain Bicycling Association as well as a reader forum and slideshow about each trail.
The Monarch Crest, a Salida-area favorite for many Roaring Fork Valley residents, is ranked on the website as an International Mountain Bicycling Association Epic, and MTB Project considers it the top-ranked trail in Colorado and third overall in the country.
Monarch Crest and a ride outside of Crested Butte called Reno Divide were fresh on my mind after a cycling trip during Labor Day week. After completing the rides, I found the descriptions on http://www.mtbproject.com spot-on.
For me, the most fun stretch of Monarch Crest is the Rainbow Trail because you dive-bomb through forests on singletrack descents where the trail is contoured into the side of the hill, then you reach a gulch and have to climb a short, steep hill. That pattern repeats about a dozen times. The website accurately portrays that stretch.
"The trail begins with a few bits of technical terrain, which quickly smooths out to mostly mellow singletrack. It's moderately difficult, save for more than a handful of dips into gulches with very steep but short climbs back out requiring good bursts of energy to clean," http://www.mtb project.com says.
The Reno Divide ride is paired with sections of three singletrack trails to make a loop. Again, I found the description spot-on. Most interesting was learning that the route crams 3,402 feet of climbing into 18.3 miles.
Closer to home, the search engine on the website can be harnessed to learn more about an old favorite ride. By putting in "Sunnyside," the website produced a suggested combination of Smugger-Hunter-Van Horn-Hobbit-Secret-Sunnyside Loop Trail. Click on that description and a quote by Pritchard accompanies it: "A grand tour combining many of Aspen's best backyard singletrack trails."
The ride is ranked 35th in Colorado. The description proves that most riders can use the site to learn something even about familiar rides. Starting from the base of Smuggler Mountain Road, for example, this famed Aspen-area loop provides 3,221 feet of ascending over about 18 miles.
Pritchard said most of the Roaring Fork Valley rides are in the system, but there is a handful to add. He urged riders to record with their GPS-tracking application on their smartphones, take a few pictures along the way and submit the information to the system.
So far, the site's maps cover 54,538 miles on 15,177 mountain-bike trails in all states and a handful of other countries.
"All data in MTB Project is created by riders like you," the website says.
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