Written by Dave Leikam Tuesday, 16 July 2019 00:00
At long last summer has arrived in the west. I had been eyeing a new bike for a few years and finally the time had come to pull the trigger. I decided on the Kona Libre DL because of its pedigree as a gravel bike and also because it seemed like it would convert easily to being my go-to road steed. The Libre arrived in Salt Lake City in April and I got right to work getting it ride ready in anticipation of warm weather just around the corner. Well, in Utah, as in much of the country, the warm weather was still a long way off and there was snow being added in the high country until late May. There is a ride that I have been considering for several years that starts at the foothills near Bountiful, Utah, just north of Salt Lake City and zig-zags on a gravel road up the mountain to Bountiful Peak and Frances Peak both between 9200 and 9600 feet. I was chomping at the bit to get up there on my new bike, but from my office window I could see the thin white ribbon of snow that still covered the road above 8000 feet or so. Finally on June 15th I decided to give it a try. Starting at about 5000 feet and 85 degrees, I plodded my way up the dusty road being passed by motorcycles, ATVs, and 4WD trucks shuttling the downhill crowd up the mountain. The grade was never steeper than 5%, but it was a relentless 12 miles of rutted and washboard mountain road. As I got past the jumping off point for the downhillers, there was a gate blocking the vehicle traffic. At last, the road was all mine! From that point, it was quiet and dust free for several miles until I reached another gate and above that the road was intermittently snow covered or running with newly melted snow. I walked through several snow fields that were 100+ yards long and several feet deep until I reached Bountiful Peak. That’s where I stopped as I was gassed and the road went sharply downhill into the (for me) unknown. I hung out for a short time in the sun before turning back the way I came. I would love to say that I enjoyed the descent, but I didn’t. The bike was flawless, but that road was extremely rough and I thought my eyes were going to pop outta my head. In all, I rode about 24 miles, climbed about 4500 feet and saw some amazing views in three and a half hours.
Over the 4th of July weekend, I took a drive west to Truckee, California to visit family. Naturally, I took the Libre with me as there is a huge network of gravel roads to explore in the Tahoe/Truckee area. This area has several dirt fondo events each year including the Peter Sagan Gravel Fondo that was cancelled due to snow this year. While the ridge tops were still snow covered, the roads were dry and fast. Well, fast enough. I set out alone with a terrible sense of direction and headed toward Stampede Reservoir. Before long I saw a likely looking dirt road that took off to the right and off I went. From there I went north… or west …or? No matter, I just kept riding and once in a while I would check my location on my phone to ensure I hadn’t gotten too far off track. I never did make it to Stampede, but I did reach the shores of Boca Res to the east. Eventually, I circled back and after a short hike-a-bike got back to camp. All’s well that ends well. Can’t wait to get back there.
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