Fat, single, track

CBMR’s new Luge trail caters to hand cycles

Imagine blasting along on a mountain bike as flowers and aspen trees whiz by, when suddenly you encounter a football-sized rock that threatens to knock you off balance…

On your average single-track trail you would have to ride through grass, bushes and fragile wildflowers to avoid such an obstacle—taking the risk of bad karma or tongue-lashings from more environmentally sensitive people. Not so on Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s new extra-wide Luge trail.
This weekend the Adaptive Sports Center will once again host the U.S. Hand Cycling Off-Road Championships.
And this year adaptive participants will get their chance at tackling a trail specifically designed for hand cycles, which are three- or four-wheeled devices that you “pedal” with your hands. Actually, you pedal and steer with your hands, so oftentimes one hand is on the pedals and another on the steering bars.
Normal single track typically runs about 24 inches wide (if two feet sounds a little too wide, stop and measure Trail 401 sometime. It’s wider than you think).
Luge, on the other hand, is at least 40 inches wide. A California Condor could probably make a safe landing on Luge. But it’s not quite as wide as what some refer to as doubletrack—parallel trails made by ATV traffic. Plus, there is no grassy hump in the middle to negotiate.
For two-wheeled bikers like myself, Luge is wide enough to offer multiple ways down the trail. I can just steer around that football-sized rock, or (preferably) ride right over it.
You can ride fast and cut through the apex of a turn, or hit the outside and bank into it.
CBMR’s Mountain Sports Team gravity coach Christian Robertson says Luge was built for two purposes. In addition to being a trail specifically designed for handcycles, Robertson says, Luge is also intended to be a good trail for beginner riders. “We needed something like that with all the traffic we’re getting on the lift now,” he says. “We wanted to do it wide enough and make the berms more like banked turns so handcycles can do it without tipping over, but we also threw some features in there to try to introduce riders to things like rollers, doubles and small tables [a.k.a., jumps].”
For handcycles, which are often limited to dirt roads, Luge can offer the thrill of traditional “single-track” riding. There are some exceptions. Many trails you might think of as single track are so worn that handcycles can safely navigate them without risking environmental damage—or human damage, for that matter. Handcycles are frequently seen on trails like A-Line at Whistler and Boulevard at Winter Park.
Now, I’ll admit that I’m not a handcyclist. My puny bird arms can barely pound a nail. But I can’t imagine adaptive cyclists not having fun on the Luge trail.
Adaptive Sports Center programming director Chris Read says, “I had a participant out using a downhill bike on the Luge a few weeks back and there were big smiles—that says it all.” A downhill adaptive bike has four wheels and extra beefy suspension, compared to the three-wheeled, more cross-country oriented machines pioneered by One Off Handcycles.
“The CBMR crew did an excellent job with that trail. It’s perfect for our adaptive bikes,” Read says.
But the trail probably isn’t called Luge just because it is extra wide. For the most part, the trail is quite smooth, with only a few rocks jutting out here and there. Big banked turns help keep your momentum going, and there are occasional jumps in the road that are fun to hop off of or just roll over.
The width also keeps those shoulder-cracking trees a little farther away, so you can really open up and go as fast as you want. Experienced downhill bikers will probably ride this trail in the big ring (if they have one) clocking 30 miles an hour or more in some sections. Braking, for the most part, is optional.
The trail starts at the top of the Red Lady Express and ends near the top of Warming House Hill. It only takes five to 10 minutes to ride from top to bottom, but it’s a rush the whole way. It is a green-rated trail, and probably the greenest one at CBMR, but if you’re not having fun on this trail, you’re not going fast enough.
The off-road handcycling competition this weekend will feature four events: a cross-country race, a downhill race, a hill climb and a trials event at the post office. The cross-country and downhill courses will both feature some or all of the Luge trail. At press time Read said they were still getting the course finalized.
For more information about the event call 349-2296, or check out adaptivesportscenter.org, ushandcycling.org, and oneoffhandcycle.com.

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