As I was walking out in the gently falling snow tonight, needing to do my write-up of the Great Bend Bicycle sponsored River Trail Ride on January 1st I wondered if I could manage to convey the conditions of the day. Hmm.. COLD.. yep, comes right back to me. Having originally planned to meet up with T. Spradley in Lawrence for their similar event on the Kansas River I found the nearer destination and the challenge of an unfamiliar trail too enticing to pass up. I had mustered a couple of other Lindsborg area riders into making the trip, namely Mark Flynn and Cale Holdsworth, so we set off in time to make the start time. We arrived fashionable early which wasn't apparently what the local riders wished to do given the overcast, blustery and chilling wind conditions. Fortunately Doug Chambers had his shop doors open to welcome us, and our toes, for the impending ride.
Cameron Chambers and a host of other Great Bend area riders had put a substantial amount of effort into getting this trail opened up specifically for this day and generally for the enjoyment of single-track enthusiast's. The trail-head is a few blocks due south from the doors of Golden Belt Bicycle and heads west from there, which is where we headed with the wind predominantly at our backs or so it seemed at the time. This was probably pure optimism at the time. That familiar feeling of exuberance for just getting the heck onto the bike and going clouds most any other feelings or thoughts of subsequent time or responsibilities.
Beginning on the north side of the river we had the option of taking the "high road", an easy flat double track, or the "low road" which had us winding through some of the typical city-deposited erosion control 'technicals' (concrete) and of course, trees. Throughout the next few miles the trail connected back and forth between trees on the banks and numerous double track sections well-worn from the 'quad's' that apparently frequent this resource of public-use space. These double-track trails eventually play an integral part of the total length of the trail giving a variety of path's to follow as one rides on west. Having never ridden on quad-tracks I found it to be quite exciting in that they are well-worn, relatively hard-packed and prone to provide an exhilarating sling-shot effect if cornered with grace. Not that I always managed the graceful part. After a few close calls, I did find that taking the outer wheel rut did keep my head from rebounding off the ever present tree just a hair's-breadth away from the inner rut. A water crossing puts the last half of the trail on the south side of the river with much more of the quad-tracks to ride, mixed with single-track. It tends to be at the riders' discretion which to take. Having lost the groups ahead of and behind me I stopped at about the 10-mile point, took stock of my feet and decided to turn around. Within yards I encountered Mark and Cale and we decided to head back east not knowing how many of the two dozen riders were planning on finishing the entire trail. We did meet up with a few more riders still headed west but "cold" and "toes" typically were heard in the conversation. Now we began to get a taste of that originally optimistic tail-wind. Not being a ferocious wind it was relatively bearable although Cale found his contacts tending to water(and freeze up without eye protection). He knew there was something that he'd neglected to bring for the day.
Once we were back in the shelter of Golden Belt Bicycle there was hot chili (as much as you could eat) and drinks for the participants. Food always tastes soooo good after a lengthy ride and I relish that feeling of being warmed up from the inside out, sniffling while managing to talk about the rides' highlights and eating at the same time. What a way to begin the New Year!
My synopsis for the River-trail at Great Bend, Kansas is that it's a great resource to have. Plenty long to make for a very decent work-out. The trail that broaches the river banks has a fair amount of sandy sections that can be frustrating for continuities-sake but rarely so lengthy that a healthy effort from an average rider can't power through it (which is something to cheer for). The double-track trails enhance the capacity for multiple riders to spread out a bit and play around, attempting different "lines" to follow and the whoop-tee-doo's are a blast no matter what. This trail is very reminiscent of the Lawrence River Trail, but deviates more-so do to the different dynamics of the water channel in general. Great work, Cam and crew, we'll look forward to making the hour drive there when we've just had enough of this damn hill in our own back yard!
Editorial Note: About 22 local riders joined Brian, Mark, and Cale, for Golden Belts New Year's ride. The Arkansas river trails near Great Bend are 12 miles each way with a little low water river crossing, some concrete technicals, and something very lacking out west, trees! It is a fun loop, definitely worth the time to ride. Contact Golden Belt Bicycle shop for trail access information. Great Bend also has a couple other short training loops and a new area opening up soon on the north shores of Barton County Lake. More info on the G.B. Trails will be added as it becomes available. ED~
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