Last week I packed up my ’97 Honda Passport with my newly equipped Cove G-Spot for a couple days of riding in the mountains. I had recently sold my DH bike and built up my old trail bike for its intended purpose, which is a full-fledged Freeride bike. After wallowing around on a big bike for the last couple seasons I was excited to ride a lighter, more nimble bike.

The main changes I made to it were getting a new Saint drivetrain and shifter, putting on the DT Swiss 2350 wheels I’ve had waiting to be put to use and a new MRP Raze rear shock. Oh, and some new tires and handlebars to top it off.

Cove
My Cove ready for some dirt and fun.

The Saint drivetrain and DT Swiss wheels performed as expected and I felt the extra stiffness they brought to the table immediately. I’m a firm believer that you can go too light on a good Freeride bike and just the right amount of weight in the air and on hard impacts is welcome feeling in my book.

The real winner in my book was the MRP Raze rear shock. I think that good suspension should be like a good referee – you don’t know it is there unless it is stepping in during a bad situation. In other words, after 2 runs I had it dialed in and I never once felt that it was screwing me up or holding me back in any way but it certainly saved my butt once or twice.

My destinations were Trestle Bike Park at Winter Park and then Keystone Bike Park. We’ve got a lot of great bike parks in Colorado and these are two of the best in my book. I hadn’t been to Winter Park in almost 2 year and hadn’t been to Keystone in almost 4 years so it was past time to hit them up again.

First up, Winter Park…

After driving there Monday night my buddy Jeff and I woke up to clear skies and perfect conditions. I had heard about all the work they had done to the mountain since my last trip and I was pumped to check it all out.

Ready for the lifts to open.
Ready for the lifts to open.

The best trail on the mountain for me was definitely Rain Maker. Set up as their version of the famous A-Line trail in Whistler, it is a whole lot of jumps and berms on the way down. While most of the jumps are table tops, there are a few legit gaps.

Here’s a video of just a fraction of the jumps on the way down…

In fact, I got caught off guard and didn’t realize that on my first run. After a couple dozen “safe” jumps I hit a jump blind not realizing there was a decent gap and a knuckle on the landing. I ended up testing the MRP Raze and my new cranks and handlebars right off the bat. Everything held up fine and I rode it out but I made a note to look before I leapt.

One of the nice things about Rainmaker is that you can connect other trails to it towards the bottom for some variety. My favorite option was No Quarter, which had some fun drops, jumps and other assorted fun thrown into it. You had to have a little more skill to navigate everything on No Quarter, which is why it was a less traveled than the bottom of Rainmaker.

Bridge drop on No Quarter
Bridge drop on No Quarter

At the bottom you had the BeAllYouCanBe trail (yes, that is how it is spelled). It has some pretty big moves on it, including a sweet step-down to step-up jump and a 20 foot gap I couldn’t seem to get enough speed to clear all the way – all I could manage was getting the front wheel to dirt and using the case deck, which had to be good enough that day.

Oh, and I guess I should mention the Banana Peel trail. It is a mini-slopestyle course as a trail and reminded me a lot of Air Supply up at The Ranch. It was a legit course with big, committed moves. It looked like a lot of fun but I had to admit to myself that it was a bit over my head right now.

Ever since The Ranch shut down last year I haven’t had a place to practice my “go so big it’s scary” skills and they aren’t as sharp as they used to be. It is hard to walk away from something as challenging and fun as that trail looked. But I didn’t want to push it and get hurt while I still had another day of riding to go…or at least that was my excuse.

There are several other trails down the mountain but most of them kind of blur into each other a bit, with the exception of Cruel and Unusual Punishment. That was another legit trail with some serious moves on it, including a super fun step-down gap towards the end of the trail. It would some practice to get it all dialed in but definitely worth a look if you’re there.

All in all it was one of the better days of riding I have had in while. 9 runs, no wrecks and I walked away riding everything I felt like I should be able to hit. After packing the bikes and having a beer Jeff and I hit the road for a short drive to Keystone.

Packin' up after a great day of riding Winter Park.
Packin’ up after a great day of riding Winter Park.

After getting to Keystone we checking into the Alpine Lodge. I mention it by name because it rocked. It had the best hot tub I’ve seen in a hotel for a long time and was across the street from the best pizza place in town, Pizza 101. After several slices of the Godzilla pizza and going well past the recommended soak time in the hot tub we hit the bed to get some sleep.

Waiting for our pizza.
Waiting for our pizza.

The first thing I’ll say about Keystone is that I love that mountain. It was my favorite when I moved here and for various reasons I strayed from it but going there again reminded me of why I love it so much.

It is f’n GNARLY!

Steep, rocky, twisting through the trees it never gives you chance to relax. You have to be on it from top to bottom and if you let your attention wander for a second you are toast.

Throw in some super legit skinnies (remember those?) and doubles in the woods and you have a recipe for a lot of big ass grins. Plus they’ve done a lot of work cleaning up the trails and even though they are still super rough they aren’t the bike-killing bomb-hole filled tracks they used to be.

We started out with Cowboy Up, TNT and Asylum. You’ll find out real quick how your day is going to be on those tracks. Cowboy Up is classic Keystone with the trail twisting through the trees and challenging you at every turn with rocks and roots. TNT opens up to be a more high speed track but it still has you flying over rock filled terrain that can easily ruin your day. Good times for sure.

Asylum is a crazy trail that starts off with a log ride leading to a 6+ foot drop and includes a corkscrew bridge as well. Along the way you hit some of the steepest, nuttiest trail on the mountain and your flow better be flowing.

After that we hit Milky Way to Motorhead. Milky Way is nutty trail with pinpoint doubles in the woods and several moves connecting into each other, requiring some flow on a trail that works hard to prevent it. Motorhead is more Keystone madness and connects to Paid In Full, which was the main DH course back during the Mountain States Cup days.

Towards the bottom of that run we linked into the stunt trails with more skinnies, steep rocky madness and bridge rides. One of the skinnies is really skinny, measuring in at 8 inches across with some wider spots where you had to turn. In my opinion few things feel as good as riding a good skinny.

On the 3rd run of the day we took Milky Way again (cleared all the gaps and stuff I missed the first time) and hooked into Jam Rock. Like the name suggests it is the steepest, rockiest trail on the mountain, which is saying something. It has some of my favorite moves on it, including a big left hand hip leading into a pretty big double that has you flying through some trees.

It also has a sweet step down gap that uses a natural rock lip as the kicker. You can check a pic of me hitting it below.

Hitting the rock kicker on Jam Rock
Hitting the rock kicker on Jam Rock

Towards the bottom of that run I had a near miss going over my handlebars (still don’t know how I managed to get out of that one) and I had a front wheel slip off a log ride. Luckily it wasn’t very high but I did go straight to my face and chest – my hands went out in front of me but the log went between them.

I hit so hard I cracked the lenses of my goggles in half and split the mouth guard on my fullface helmet. But after a minute or two I figured I was mostly alright and went back and rode that thing again. You’ve got to get back on that horse when you get bucked off and I knew I would be really pissed at myself if I walked away.

Split Goggles
The aftermath of my wreck.

On the way back to ride the log again I came across this cool “art work” on the trail. I guess if I hadn’t of crashed I wouldn’t have seen it so somehow it was a good thing.

Some cool random trail art.
Some cool random trail art.

As we made our way down the rest of the mountain the weather turned and the lifts got shut down due to lightening in the area. To be honest I was good with calling it day – 3 runs down Keystone felt like 2-3 times as many runs on most any other mountain. Plus my ribs were starting to hurt and I could tell that I was going to feel my crash the next day.

So we packed it up early and hit the road home. I’ve already decided I need to get back to Keystone soon, I didn’t get to ride all the trails and I just love the challenges it throws at you.

It was a short trip but it was a lot of fun and it re-established my love of hitting some great Bike Parks. Having the right bike for the job certainly helped and I was pumped on how my Cove G-Spot performed. All in all it reminded me why I love bikes so much – great friends, fun times, amazing bikes and unreal scenery make it the best sport in the world.

That’s it for now, hope you enjoyed this recap and it gave you a short distraction from the fact that you aren’t riding right now. Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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