Mountain biking above the trees
Ryan Summerlin March 26, 2014
Jeff Nussbaumer, a Denver resident who hails from Minnesota, first caught a glimpse of the high peaks and jagged ridgelines of the Rocky Mountains during a ride along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
“I rode portions of the trail through Colorado and thought how cool it would be to ride up on those ridges,” Nussbaumer said.
Nussbaumer never gave up on that dream of high-altitude and above treeline mountain biking and eventually moved his family to Colorado to both begin a new career and start to attempt some of the routes.
He is now on a quest to ensure the trails he enjoys biking remain open for years to come by seeking public and political support for state and national recognition of the route.
‘Leave no trace’
In Europe, bikers can ride anywhere they want within reason, Nussbaumer said. Though here in the U.S. that is not the case.
The route he has created already has to circle around Rocky Mountain National Park as the park does not allow bicycles except for on its paved roads.
Nussbaumer said he fears more of the areas the route crosses have the potential to be changed to wilderness areas where cyclists aren’t allowed.
While he said he believes the intentions behind creating wilderness areas, to keep the areas as pristine as possible, are good, he also believes that responsible mountain bikers can be just as good if not better stewards of the natural environment than hikers.
The guidebook author focuses on the idea of “leave no trace,” in his book “Ride Along the Divide, A High Elevation Mountain Bike Route.”
The idea is to take out whatever you pack in and do everything in your power to not harm the environment in these sensitive areas.
“It’s all about minimizing your impact on the land,” he said.
High Altitude route realized
Nussbaumer’s dream was to set up a high-altitude mountain bike route following the continental divide in Colorado’s peaks.
His first big accomplishment came in 2006 when he tackled a portion of the Continental Divide Trail from Granby to the Wyoming border. Much of the trail was ridable, though Nussbaumer soon discovered that riding up the steep, rocky, and sometimes exposed ridgelines was no easy task.
He came back from that trip with a better understanding of what was needed in terms of equipment and physical fitness in order to complete such challenging rides and made adjustments to his gear and bicycle in order to better accommodate the demanding terrain.
He made adjustments to his Trek 880 model bike so the two-wheeled machine could easily handle the climbing and descending of the extreme terrain.
Over the next seven mountain biking seasons, Nussbaumer and a few of his riding buddies would forge a 1,500 mile route through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains from Encampment, Wyo., to Chama, NM.
He concentrated on keeping the route in the high elevations and along ridgelines that afford the best views of the spectacular state we call home.
After all was said and done, Nussbaumer created a guidebook to his route and titled it Ride Along the Divide, or RAD.
The book highlights trails ranging from half-day mini-adventures to multi-day rides for the more dedicated riders that wind through the mountains in and around Grand County as well as throughout the rest of the state.
The book is a guide to Nussbaumer’s route over the Continental Divide, designed for those brave enough to attempt the trip on two wheels instead of two feet.
During the ride, bikers top out on 14,000 foot peaks, make use of steep single track trails, and blast down old logging roads.
The route book also describes where good places to camp along the ride are, and where you can restock your food and supplies.
Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334