Storms rumbled across the sky to the north. The sound of fine-crushed granite was music to our ears as we hovered around corners, tires slipping underneath us. We laughed. We drifted, thrilled and scared all at once. The next 10 minutes of steep climbing led to a plain of sage set against a backdrop of silky storm skies.
A ribbon of singletrack darted through it all and we dropped into a rugged trail. This is what we were looking for: Hartman Rocks in the Gunnison Valley.
“It’s just amazing riding out there,” said Dan Crean, owner of Double Shot Cyclery a few miles away in Gunnison, Colorado. He said at Hartman you can get in 1,000 feet an hour of climbing on the rolling terrain.
The town of 6,000 sucks in cyclists, some for the outdoor program at Western State University, and some for the 60 miles of singletrack that abounds a few miles from downtown. It also helps that just a 45-minute drive north is Crested Butte’s galaxy of alpine trails.
“It’s a great community for biking,” Crean said of Gunnison, set in a high desert valley with rolling terrain and rocky outcrops. “Everybody bikes to school, to work. There are a lot of closet racers out here too - people that never show up on a starting line, but would kill it in a race.”
Speaking of racers, Dave Wiens, a legendary mountain bike racer and Mountain Bike Hall of Famer, and now legendary advocate for trails as the Executive Director of Gunnison Trails, says Hartman is among his favorite rides anywhere.
“It’s fast, it’s flowy,” he said. “It’s a sea of sage brush with islands of granite.”
And in a region that gets hammered with summer monsoons and rapid weather changes, Hartman is refuge after the storm. While the rest of the Colorado Rockies were getting hit with heavy rains and even snow, the sun broke over Hartman, and it was game on.
“It drains really well,” Wiens said, adding that the dirt, a mix of granite, sand and soil, is near perfect following some moisture. “We call it a powder day after it rains.”
On another afternoon as the storms blotted out the Elk Mountains to the north, riders were gearing up at the bottom of lower Jack’s trail in short sleeves. Professors, travelers, people sneaking in some miles before work, and after. This town rides.
“It’s in my DNA,” said Crean.
And it’s in the DNA of nearly everyone who lives in Gunnison.
“I just love being out there,” Wiens said. “Mountain bikers have special attachment to the earth. The way we roll, we feel the earth like nobody else does.”