Summer officially ends in a couple of weeks, which means we're nearly done with prime cycling weather. The season is winding down, but I don't want to wind down with it. I guess I’m having a bit of a mid-season crisis. You've heard of mid-life crises, right? Well, this is similar, but it involves riding.
Overall, my 2023 riding season has been pretty disappointing. I sacrificed a lot of time, energy, and money to prepare for two big gravel races that ended in a mechanical DNF and a physical implosion. As a result, I feel like I’ve wasted most of the year by not doing any fun rides, which has left me a bit unfulfilled and burnt out.
Now, I just want to spend the time I have left this season actually enjoying cycling and riding the many bikes that I’ve been neglecting. To help turn things around, I’m writing a list of all the rides I hope to do before winter rolls in. I think of it as a 2023 cycling "bucket list." It's not as dramatic as a mid-life crisis, but dang it, I need to get out and do something with myself!
My 2023 “Bucket List” Rides
I’m probably going to hang the gravel bike up for a while after spending the entire spring and summer riding it to prep for Unbound Gravel and SBT GRVL. My poor road bike and my two mountain bikes have been collecting dust for months, and it’s time I put some miles on them!
The big thing I want this fall is to have goals or plans that aren’t performance based. These rides are about getting outside and just enjoying the experience. I mean, that’s why I fell in love with cycling in the first place!
Ride 1: As Many Shotgun Rides With My Son As Possible
If you’re not familiar with the Shotgun seat, it’s a small seat that mounts to a mountain bike frame, allowing you to ride with a child on your top tube. It even has cute mini handlebars that attach to your grown-up handlebars. My now 4-year-old son loves hitting trails with me, but since most of my free Sundays this spring were dedicated to training rides, we’ve barely used it this year.
I had a sad realization last month that this might be the last season we will get to use the Shotgun seat. He’s tall enough that his helmet smacks me in the face when the trail gets a bit rowdy. So it’s time to kick things into overdrive and ride with him as much as possible before he gets too big.
So far, most of our adventures have been short 1-hour stints on trails that are close to home. But I think he’s ready for something a bit more ambitious. Here’s what I’m planning: ~20 miles, 3-4 hours, and lots of snacks. I want to take him to Buffalo Creek, Colorado where there are lots of flow trails and amazing scenery for us to enjoy. Hopefully, we will make some memories to last a lifetime.
Ride 2: A MTB Century
Hall Ranch. Photo: Boulder County Parks & Open Space
I haven’t touched my XC bike since November. The tires are flat and the sealant inside dried up months ago. Compared to all my other bikes, this bike needs the most love. What better way than taking it on an epic all-day cross-country ride? It’s what I bought this bike to do!
The Boulder Monster is a local ride that links together all the trails near my house, adding up to over 60 miles of singletrack. I first heard about it when I moved to Boulder and always thought it would be a fun challenge, but I never found the time or motivation to actually do it.
Now, I'm ready knock it off my list. Even better, I moved out of Boulder, so I’m about 20 miles away from the start point. This means I can do a century (100 miles) on my mountain bike. Now that will be a real monster (but the fun kind)!
Ride 3: Climbing Superflag With My Wife
Speaking of Boulder, one of the most iconic road climbs on the Front Range is Flagstaff Mountain, specifically “Superflag” which climbs past the amphitheater where most tourists stop to tackle some seriously steep grades. When I was a skinny grad student with lots of free time (I’m none of those things now), Superflag was my benchmark climb. I would ride it a couple of times a month, sometimes more.
Now, I almost never do it. In fact, the last time I rode to the top was over two and a half years ago. After spending so many months on the gravel bike, my lightweight road bike feels like a rocket ship in comparison and I want to take advantage of that by climbing Flagstaff again.
I also want to bring my wife. She’s never done the climb, but she’s been getting more serious about cycling over the last few years, and the thing she really excels at is steep climbs. She will probably (definitely) drop me, and I really want to see that happen! I'm sure she'll appreciate the amazing views too.
What Do TPC Riders Want To Accomplish Before the Season Ends?
Mary's hoping to ride the Aquarius Trail Hut System before the year ends. I hope you make it out there, Mary! Photo: John Watson / The Radavist
I asked riders here at TPC if they felt pressed for time like me. Apparently, I’m not the only one having a little mid-season crisis. People in the shop are feeling the pressure to get out and ride, especially with the colder weather and shorter days moving in.
The best way to make something happen is to put it in writing and share it, so a few TPC employees decided to tell me about the rides they hope to knock out before the season ends. Hopefully they succeed. Maybe one will inspire you too!
Chicago to Wisconsin - Andrew Austin, Category Purchasing Manager
“I've already hit my yearly goal for mileage and taken my pilgrimage across Iowa via bike for RAGBRAI, so my motivation is low at the moment. But I've just moved to Chicago, and I think it is possible to ride to Wisconsin in a day (70-80 miles) and then hop on a train back to the City. I really hope I feel inspired enough to get out and do that some weekend soon because that will likely be my last big ride of the year!”
A Monarch Crest Weekend - Steve Gardner, Warehouse Manager
Photo: Chaffee County Visitors Bureau
“The Crest is a summer staple for me, but I've been so busy I somehow managed to miss out on several chances to go this year. Thankfully, the Crest and the surrounding trails will often stay open into the fall, weather depending. The difficult part is deciding which of the 5+ routes to take while descending from the Continental Divide!”
Silverton to Telluride - Nick Leng, Compliance Specialist
“I’ve been wanting to do more mountain bike riding down in the San Juans since my first backpacking trip out there in 2021. I’m heading down this weekend to do a shuttle route ride from Silverton to Telluride with my sister and her fiance. The ride should be around 30 miles with varied terrain and I couldn’t be more excited to get it in before the end of the season!”
Riding the Southeast Gravel Kershaw Gold Rush Route - Eugene O'Neill, SEO Manager
Photo: Southeast Gravel
“Southeast Gravel hosted a race 30 minutes north of my house in South Carolina. I never knew about this long gravel route between Liberty Hill and Lake Wateree. Recently bought some meatier tires for my All-City Space Horse, so I'm excited to test them out.”
Finish and Ride My Backyard Trails - Nick Martin, Founder
“I'd love to finish the entire 3-mile loop of trail we have been building on our land which will require some major rock work to complete. Currently we can't flow through sections of the trail that are under construction so I’m excited to unlock the flow and finish this trail build which has been ongoing for over 5 years.”
The Aquarius Trail Hut System - Mary Metcalf, CRM Manager
Photo: John Watson / The Radavist
“I am dreaming about riding the Aquarius Trail Hut System, but life is getting busy and I may have to take my second choice and hit the South Lake Tahoe trails before winter hits.”
Just Dust Off the Old Road Bike - Ian Smith, UX Engineering Manager
“Through a combination of bad luck with flat tires and untimely crashes, plus doing most of my riding this summer on my hardtail, I've neglected my road bike and haven't ridden it as much as I usually do. I don't have a particular place to ride in mind, but I'd love to complete a Gran Fondo before the season's up. That way I can make up for some lost miles and give my humble little Trek the love and appreciation it deserves.”
A Midwest E-Bike Road Trip - Dana Shin, AP Specialist
Elroy-Sparta trail. Photo: Travel Wisconsin
"I want to take the E-bikes with me on a Midwest road trip at the beginning of October — hopefully we’ll be able to ride Lake Shore Drive Trail in Chicago and the Elroy-Sparta trail in Wisconsin (oldest rail trail in the country)."
Are you feeling antsy about getting some big (or little) ride done before the season ends? Are you planning something special? Dreaming about something? Motivated by something? Are you going to be able to get it done before the season ends? I’d love to hear about it!