By Kristin Butcher
Photo by Eddie Clark
For most of us, our passion for riding started when we were simply kids playing on bikes. then we turned into 'cyclists' and began sorting ourselves into razor-thin niches. With divisions based upon minutia like wheel size or the irony of one's throat beard, it's easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of a particular riding style. that is, until stepping foot into Valmont Bike Park.
Located in the People's republic of Boulder, Colorado, the features of this $3.2-million bike wonderland read like a rider's letter to Santa. the swanky
entrance greets visitors with a playground and clean bathrooms, but unlike other city parks, there's a cog design embedded in the playground padding,
a tool station outside the bathrooms and picnic tables with spectacular
Pouring down from the park's highest point are slopestyle courses ranging
in scale from mere-mortal to superhero, a dual-slalom course with a fancy pneumatic starting gate, one of two pump tracks and flow trails that twirl riders through a series of head-high berms. tucked on the other side of the creek are a few miles of singletrack with a mountainous backdrop, and weaving throughout the park is the permanent cyclocross course that started all of this. there is no gate. No secret handshake. No 'bro code.' It's 7:00 p.m. on a thursday and bikes roam the park like ants. Teenage boys wearing their sisters' jeans launch into the air with the lightness and control that come with wispy bodies made of rubber and dumb luck. Kids from the
trailer park across the street have spent most of their summer here taking turns on a clapped-out Huffy.
A train of expensive cross-country rigs rolls down the small slopestyle
line, seatposts jacked sky high. And even though it's nearly dark, impossibly
small kids on even smaller bikes are everywhere scooting over rock gardens,
pausing awkwardly in the middle of pump tracks and hauling around the figure-8 'tot track' with surprisingly few casualties.
As the sun creeps behind the mountains, an ethereal glow spills onto the
surreal scene of old pros, families, racers and aspiring weekend warriors. Right now, we're all part of the same tribe soaking up this last perfect hour at the park.
As I pack up to go home, a silver-haired couple stops to take in the view. "Can you imagine if we'd had this when we were young?" the husband asks. "What do you mean 'when we were young?'" she pedals through the entrance, her grinning husband in tow.
And just like that, they too became another couple of kids playing on their bikes at Valmont