Joel Reichenberger: Finding Steamboat strength |

Joel Reichenberger: Finding Steamboat strength

— A funny thing happened the other day, something that perhaps shed for me a little light on how this town is stacked with so many fit people. I was riding my mountain bike home from the office, from the west end of town to the east, and I decided to take the long way. I decided to pedal up Fish Creek Road, around on Steamboat Boulevard and home, adding what, at least to me, is a considerable workout to an otherwise lazy ride.

At least the trip up Fish Creek is one I became accustomed to, as I lived up the road for my first two years in Steamboat. I still remember the first time I tried to ride up the steep incline. From the intersection at Third Street, next to the post office, I didn't make it 100 feet before I had to get off and walk.

Surely some of that was the bike I had at the time, a $100 junker from K-Mart. Its brakes didn't really work, which made riding it down to Old Town a death-defying thrill. About half the gears didn't work either, which made riding it back up even more difficult. I upgraded to a real bike, a Gary Fisher hardtail, a few months later, and the results were better, at least a little.

I eventually got to the point where I could ride all the way to my apartment without stopping, but it was never easy. I'd roll into the driveway an exhausted mess.

My newer place doesn't require much uphill riding, so I haven't had to confront that hurdle since I moved.

For whatever reason, I recently decided to, however, and a funny thing happened.

It was easy.

Yeah. I didn't even break a sweat. I didn't go fast. Some other guy on a mountain bike actually sped past me like I was standing still. But I didn't stop, or even shift to my easiest gears. I could have gone twice as far.

My amazement was backed up a few days later on Mad Creek Trail. Mad Creek was one of the first trails I hiked in the Steamboat area, and I remember thinking how hard the first mile of the hike was. I remember how stunned I was when I saw someone coming down the trail on a mountain bike.

Ever since, I've assumed that pedaling up Mad Creek Trail, dealing with the steep early grade and navigating the boulder-strewn course, was impossible, at least for me.

But I attacked the trail on my bike, and it wasn't very tough. In fact, it was fun. I hopped off for a few short sections — it's not possible to ride around that giant rock in the middle of the trail, is it? — but rode the vast majority of the way without any problems.

When I picked up the ability to accomplish these tasks, I have no idea. I'm in no better physical shape than I was then, but between the skiing, the hiking, the riding and what amounts to life in Steamboat, it just seems to have happened.

Steamboat brought it out of me.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email