Like many, I think I can ride a mountain bike.
However there’s a big difference between cruising around the block when you were a kid and navigating your way around a maze of fir trees, roots and boulders at 20mph.
I imagined we were heading for a trail just like this.
Instead, Bob drove our group of three to the quiet grassy fields on the outskirts of town, overlooking Colorado State University football stadium where the Rolling Stones played in 1969.
“For someone whose main experience of bikes is as a drunken form of transportation, I was doing pretty well..”
We set off on the Pineridge and Foothill trails. These are cut through the long grass, just wide enough to fit a bike.
Bob tailors his tours to what his clients want – from five-hour long downhill sessions to gentle introductions to mountain biking. In our case, it was the latter with the promise of three brewery stops afterwards.
There are no terrifying downhills to tackle, just rolling fields with short climbs and easy rocky descents. The trails here are less popular than those in nearby Boulder, but almost never busy and equally as fun.
Fort Collins has around 300 days of sunshine per year. Last night it had rained for the first time in weeks. The sky was blue but there were thick patches of mud on dry trail. It felt like cycling through chocolate mousse.
As we rode, Bob chatted animatedly about the area, pointing out famous local residents like Georgia Gould who won bronze in the cross country at London 2012 Olympics – “you’ll sometimes see this woman hauling ass around these trails, that’s Georgia” – and the wildlife – “we get the odd mountain lion or coyote up here from time to time.”
Occasionally we’d come across a rocky patch, bulging with tree roots. The aim is to skilfully weave around it or ride straight over.
I tried the second approach. The handlebars jolted and I nearly flung myself into the bushes. “Brake with your back brakes first!” I heard Bob cry behind me.
At over 5,000 ft above sea level, the altitude has a surprisingly noticeable effect. With 15 per cent less oxygen than at sea level, even the smallest hill leaves you feeling breathless and constantly thirsty.
Uphills were definitely more challenging than I anticipated. I made an immediate mental note to hit the gym once I got home.
“With 15 per cent less oxygen than sea level, even the smallest hill leaves you OUT OF BREATH”
Before long, I was cruising along with a lot less fear, bouncing over small rocks rather than approaching them with wariness usually reserved for encounters with wild animals.
We covered seven miles in about forty-five minutes. For someone whose main experience of bikes is as a drunken form of transportation, this was pretty good going. Sweaty and spattered with mud, we were ready for our brewery hop around town.