It’s 4:45 a.m. and 21 degrees, the world beyond the small light on my bike is awash in the glow of a full moon. As I look to the west, I hear my dog’s tags jangling along the juniper-filled ridgeline. I love this spot and I love riding my bike up here no matter the time of day or the weather.
I am Todd Mallow. I have been riding and racing mountain bikes for 30 years. In that time, I’ve had three sub-9-hour Leadville 100’s, several top-five finishes in Colorado Endurance Series races, countless self-supported adventures, an Enduro podium here and a few scars and broken bones there. I’ve learned a lot, and hopefully, if you are new to mountain biking, some of what you read here will inspire you to embrace this beautiful sport. If you are an experienced mountain biker, my hope is my words will stoke the flames and keep the fire burning bright.
I owe much of who I am to the lessons I have learned through mountain biking. I was cocky and headstrong in the beginning, and this resulted in foolish and ill-advised things like starting races too fast and blowing up spectacularly. In my first attempt at a 100-mile race, I imploded and hitchhiked back to the finish line. I had to think about whether I wanted to put my mind and body through that kind of suffering ever again.
One year later, I was lined up at the 2003 Leadville 100. What compelled me to revisit the possibility of failure? I was hooked and I was married to the process. To get to the finish line, I
trained with people who were faster than me. I came to love the mental and physical effort it takes to do six-hour training rides. As the years pass, I’ve become a better mountain biker; something that keeps me motivated. I learned to never convince myself that I won’t be better than I was yesterday, last week, last year.
Not everyone wants a giant belt buckle, or to ride for six hours at a time. However, we all want to get better at what we love. As I get older, busier, and wiser, I have shifted my focus to staying as fit as possible and maximizing the fun-per-mile quotient of each ride. A big part of what keeps me motivated
is practicing technical features and riding with people who make them look easy.
My first mountain bike was fully rigid, with 26” wheels. My current bike is a Specialized Stumpjumper EVO. This bike is more than capable of 50-plus mile adventures with tons of climbing. As a bonus, it has in-frame storage and very modern geometry so it can get you down those rock-strewn descents and up the next ridgeline.
For every rider, helmets, shoes, and hydration systems are a personal choice. I love my Specialized Ambush helmet with MIPS protection; it is a true mountain bike helmet, providing great coverage and protection. Specialized makes great shoes and the Cliplite 2FO is my favorite. This shoe is comfortable, stiff when you need to put the power down, and you can hike-a-bike without feeling like you’re wearing ice skates. For hydration, I love short rides where I use a water bottle and stuff my keys and phone in the pockets of my bib shorts. If I know the ride is going to be longer, I reach for my EVOC
hydration pack. EVOC makes great packs out of super durable materials.
Western Colorado is home to some of the finest single-track in the world. Most years, I can ride year-round. In the summer, I take advantage of cool mornings and uncrowded trails. As the snowline recedes in the high country, I can venture higher by driving less than an hour from home. Near the Colorado/Utah border lies the Rabbit Valley and Kokopelli trail systems. These trail systems are typically the first to dry out after it rains and, in the winter, they have historically seen less snow than other trial systems.
If you love challenging, ledge-filled trails with steep climbs and even steeper descents then the Lunch Loop trail system will not disappoint. From the iconic Ribbon to Free Lunch (the first designated freeride trail in the US built on BLM land) this trail system will test the most seasoned rider.
Less than an hour from Grand Junction, atop Glade Park, is the Turkey Flats trail system. Weaving in and out of aspens and pine trees, this trail system is an oasis and is beautiful in the fall.
The Uncompahgre Plateau is home to some great trails such as: Scout, Corral Fork and Ute Creek on the west end. Closer to Montrose, is the Spring Creek trail system and the Whole Uncoloada.
Everyone is talking about the Palisade Plunge. It begins atop the Grand Mesa and makes its way some 32 miles later to the town of Palisade. The first 12 miles affords riders views of the La Salle and San Juan Mountains. The final 20 miles is filled with high-speed descents, punchy climbs, exposure, and technical features. If you are going to ride this trail come prepared with plenty of food, water, and good judgment of your ability.
Follow me on Instagram @singletrack_sage