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.