Boulder County unveiled the new Overland Loop 2.3-mile mountain bike trail at Heil Valley Ranch just north of Boulder on Wednesday.
Mimi Mather, Boulder Mountainbike Alliance (BMA) board member and mountain biking nut, loves it. Now she wants more trails, more quickly, in part to realize her dream of establishing a mountain biking route between Boulder and Lyons and other regions, so Boulder riders don’t have to leave the saddle for an epic ride.
“It seems that ‘build more’ is my rally cry — build more trails and build more housing,” Mather says. (More on the latter in coming weeks).
Mather is one of the roughly 20,000 Boulder-area mountain bikers who enjoy 95 labeled trails and a number of uncharted ones from plains to peaks in Gilpin, Boulder and Larimer counties, according to BMA executive director Steve Watts.
Boulder may be a Front Range mountain biking mecca now, but as recent as 1987 mountain bikes weren’t allowed on city and county land, Watts says.
Those like Mather are helping make Boulder a mountain biker’s paradise.
Boulder + mountain biking
A former endurance racer, Mather, 42, now prefers chiller rides — quick runs up the canyon at Betasso in the morning before work, or drive-and-fly routes at spots farther afield such Picture Rock Trail in Lyons. She has her eye on flyfishing some streams that criss-cross the 7.6-mile Walker Ranch Loop, whose trailhead spurs off Flagstaff mountain, with her new folding Tenkara fly rod.
Despite a more Zen approach to biking these days after “draining the suffer bucket,” Mather dreams of epic, multi-mile rides on her carbon Kawasaki green Pivot 29er from Boulder proper without having to hop in her car.
A gift of a red Univega mountain bike from her father (to match his) at age 10 in the Adirondacks of upstate New York, where she grew up, ignited her mountain bike bug. Chasing a badass friend on Porcupine Rim Trail on a hardtail during a bachelorette trip to Moab shortly after moving to the Boulder area in 2001, inflamed it. When her sister started dating a local bike mechanic, the flame settled in.
Mather laudes Boulder County Parks and Open Space for working to develop trails, but wants quicker trail building and feels the city of Boulder and other entities place an overly heavy weight on low-density, pristine urban-nature environs.
This feeling reflects the dashed dream of a mountain bike trail link between Boulder proper and Marshall Mesa. The hiking density of the in-between areas, such as Chautauqua, make pairing mountain biking with hiking on those trails understandably difficult — slicing along trails, mountain bikes can clog up these Boulder arteries.
A similar sentiment scuttled mountain bike access on the Anemone Trail just west of Red Rocks.
But north of town, Mather sees progress and a day when mountain bikers can huff it offroad from Boulder’s Wonderland Lake to Lyons.
Additionally, a coalition of land managers are looking to establish a multi-use trail between Walker Ranch and Eldorado Canyon. Soon, Mather says, she hopes mountain bike trails will connect Boulder with Nederland.
It’s these possible regional connections that excite her most.
Mather’s day job reflects her passion for mountain biking.
She runs Root House Studio, a Boulder-based communications design firm she co-founded in 2011 with a client roster that includes national parks, national forests, the Trust for Public Land, Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks and Better Boulder.
The studio has roots in landscape architecture, a practice that melds art and design with natural systems — something that might describe mountain bike trail design — and the subject of Mather’s Master’s degree.
Inspired by time as a Vail ski bum, she and her husband decided to make the Colorado mountains home and moved to the Denver area from Michigan in the early 2000s.
The march for regional mountain bike connections continues. The National Forest Service, with BMA chipping in, is currently at work on the Magnolia Trails Project, a 44-plus mile multi-use trails system just south of Nederland.
The project is just three to five years from completion, according to BMA executive director Watts.
Mather helped produce the video at an affordable rate, Watts says. Root House will chop up the footage into 30 to 50 snippets to raise awareness on social media to help raise awareness for the project and the $250,000 to $400,000 in funds needs to support it.
BMA hosts weekly group rides, ranging from beginner to advanced. Check out the schedule here.