Wednesday, April 29, 2015

AntiEpic 160 (unofficial) report

Over the past winter I've spent lots of time on my new 2015 Salsa Warbird Ti, riding the endless dirt roads in Weld county north-east of my house with an occasional foray into the mountains, when conditions allowed. I've been blown away by this bike; I've never owned a road or cross bike, but with the new "gravel grinder" marketing niche that has developed, there was finally something to tempt me into owning a bike with skinny tires:

With Stans Iron Cross rims and some good 40c tires set up tubeless, the Warbird is fast, efficient, and comfortable over the long haul. A big selling point for me was the capability to have 3 water bottle mounts plus a partial frame bag, allowing all day carrying capacity without a backpack. The bike doesn't have a cloaking device, but it is a stealthy black. Although part of me shudders at the idea of painting a titanium frame, the color scheme does look nice.

So with this nice new bike as a great change of pace option for winter/spring riding while the high country is snowed in and my mountain bikes gather dust, I wanted a big ride or two to motivate me and serve as training for bikepacking in the summer and fall. One of the events I set my eye on was the AntiEpic 160, a loosely organized, self-supported ride on a big dirt road loop starting and ending in Monument, CO. Turns out I could not make the official day work (Saturday April 4), but I skipped out of work the following Friday and tackled the route on my own.

I ended up with 176 miles and 11,500 ft of climbing. I did not expect that much elevation change going into it.

I stayed Thursday night at the Sundance Mountain Lodge and set out Friday morning at sunrise. I hit the high point of the loop just minutes into the ride. It was about 26 degrees at the start and I didn't have quite enough clothes to be warm. The classic dilemma, suffer a bit at the start or carry extra clothes most of the day:

The western half of the ride is along the Palmer divide and made for very different riding than the Weld county dirt roads I'm used to:

Pikes Peak back to the southwest was a constant companion most of the morning:

Lots of visibility and sparsely populated out here. At one point I started paying attention to how few people or cars I was seeing and I went two and a half hours at one stretch seeing only a single FedEx van: Not much farm, ranch, or oilfield traffic out here, unlike Weld:

By late morning I had to break out my reserve fourth water bottle. There was only one resupply point on this loop, but thankfully it was near the mid-point at Deer Trail and just a couple hours away:

Triple digit mileage meant a short-lived morale boost:

Wish I was moving as fast as these guys:

Around mid-afternoon some weather started developing to the west. I had all my rain gear packed, but I would prefer not to need it. Thankfully I never saw more than a sprinkle, but the roads were wet when I got within 20 miles of Monument on the return leg. Lucky!

A section of soft, alpine-feeling B road. It was a nice change of pace but I resented the extra energy needed, I had little to spare 12 hours into this ride:

Soon after this, the sun set, I got a flat, I got really cold, and my supply of cookies ran out. But I perservered and finished around 10:30, after about 16 hours on the bike. That's an average of 11 MPH, but I was expecting to average around 12. I think the unexpected climbing and B-road section was the cause. But I finished, that's the main thing.

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