Joel Reichenberger: Working my way up |

Joel Reichenberger: Working my way up

— So I've started riding up the Zig Zag trail at Steamboat Ski Area to the top of the gondola.

I've done it twice this summer. That I cut 20 minutes off my time on my second trip says a lot more about my first trip than it does anything else, but that I've done it twice and figure on keeping it up as the summer rolls on says something significant about my biking ambitions this summer.

I've written maybe a dozen times about how I plan to work at something until I get good at it. At least a few of those unfulfilled claims have been about mountain biking. I spent most of the past two years riding only up and down the road to my old apartment, a still-exhausting trip along Fish Creek Falls Road.

I rode up Zig Zag once before, two years ago, and that trip didn't inspire me to do much more.

It was a hilarious disaster. It took a friend and me perhaps three hours to do the trail Barkley Robinson blazes in 30 minutes. We walked our bikes for perhaps 50 percent of the journey, and it started hailing when we got to the top.

The ride down was just as bad. I bit it twice, including once in the sloppy mud that defined the bottom of the mountain that summer as work continued on the Headwall section of the resort.

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Tired and caked in mud, I wasn't inspired to try again until this summer.

Last summer, I dabbled on Emerald a little but mostly just rode to and from home.

Now, though, I've adopted a much more consistent approach.

I've got a long way to go. My first trip to the top of the gondola this summer took two hours. Cutting 20 minutes off was easy because I was alone for the second go and didn't have anyone to stop and talk to — it was just me and this surprisingly awful audio book I stumbled upon.

I'm not very good at any sort of technical riding — why is riding on tight singletrack more difficult that it seems like it should be? — and I wear the brakes out on sections of the trail where I see 12-year-olds flying.

But both trips have been a lot better than that first one two years ago, and I remain committed to cutting time off the ride.

Dropping more than 20 more minutes this summer might be difficult, but there are plenty of ways I still can shave time other than simply pedaling faster. I hop off a lot on steep switchback sections where I lose my momentum. I ride downhill like … well, someone afraid of riding downhill.

But cutting just 20 more minutes, that does seem possible. It's my goal. One hour, 20 minutes still would have placed me pretty much last in the Thunderhead Hill Climb Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series race on Mount Werner last month.

It would mark an ext­reme amount of personal progress, however.

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