Big Bend: What not to miss?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Big Bend: What not to miss?

    So I have a trip planned for the Big Bend area in early March. As of now, I have planned riding the top of the Fresno-Sauceda loop, #8 in the "Other side of Nowhere" guide. Riding the Solitario area another day, # 19. Riding the Contrabando trail system another day when we drive from the State Park to the National Park. Then riding the Old Ore Road in the NP another day. Other smaller rides may happen closer to our campsites or at night.

    Now I have heard a little about "Lajitas trails" and how good they are, but I haven't found anything concrete or what I do find says it's only open on race day, or that they are no longer ridable. Also heard something about an airstrip. So what's the deal, are there some Lajitas Singletrack jems that I am missing on my list? I have maybe one extra day to play with if there is one more "must hit" area.

    Also, are there any more-local forums with information? I am curious about tires, where to get maps, preferably orderable online before I go, and if the "otherside" guide is available in print.

  2. #2
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    Me and a friend just rode BBRSP in October, we did Contrabando Loop on the last day and it was by far the best stuff we rode. All the singletrack cutoffs are awesome. There was one cool trail in the center of the park right next to the main offices, called Horse Trap Trail, it was a pretty good singletrack trail with fun descents and a decent uphill climb. It would be a fun one either way you ride it.

    As far as tires, we both ran SB8's in the rear, me on 29in him on 26. The SB8's seemed fine out there, there isn't a lot of loose dirt or terrain where you need super knobby rears, there is however a lot of sand traps along the jeep trails, but there's not really much you can do about them, and I wouldn't go out there again with wider tires JUST for the sandy stuff. I was running a Bontrager Jones XR in the front, and had no problems. Basically our tires were what we would choose for Walnut Creek, and they seemed to perform pretty flawlessly in the desert.

    One thing I will say though is that if you're not already running tubeless, you really should convert before you go out there. I wasn't at the time and am now, because of it. It's puncturefest 2011 out there, and I was changing and patching tires 2-4 times a day, unfortunately.

    We got the "Otherside" book from the people working in the main office.

    It's a ton of fun and I'd love to go back, I'm sure you'll have an awesome time.

  3. #3
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    Certainly hit up Fresno-Sauceda Loop like you plan, and you seem to have your sights set on most of the known must-rides. You can find a few maps and additional information here. Another option is to swing by DesertSports in Terlingua for the local pov. You might even want to take a break from the saddle and try something different on that free day you mentioned.

    Either way, we want to see some pics and hear all about it!
    Pedigre


  4. #4
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    The very last day of our trip we went into the national park and hiked Emory Peak, the highest point in the park, took 6 hours round trip and my calves felt like they were going to explode for at least a week. I can't take too much impact on my knees so I basically had to tip-toe back down the almost 3000 feet of descent. I would have much rather spent my last day riding another 30 miles in the state park, but my compatriots were set on hiking. Anyway, now you've got me wanting to plan another trip.

  5. #5
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    I've been wanting to ride there for a while since I don't work during the week. This thread looks like it'll come in handy when I finally get off my ass and plan a trip.

  6. #6
    Rohloff
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    Desert Sports is definitely your best source of current information on riding in the Big Bend area. If you can make it, the Chihuahuan Desert Dirt Fest looks to be a lot of fun and a great way to safely explore all the great trails availible. I plan on making it and will try to remember to post up a report when I return.

    I've been out there once before a few years ago. I believe the Lajitas Loop and the Airstrip are the same trails. It's essentially a network of nice singletrack trails in the desert between FM 170 and the Lajitas Airport. I recall parking near the airport entrance just off the road. The entrance to the trail was obvious. The end of the trail wasn't so obvious to me. I ended up doing an open country trek back to the car. Getting lost wasn't much of a problem there since you are nicely sandwiched between the airport and the road.

    Make sure you are a little more prepared than usual. You will be out in the middle of nowhere with relatively little chance of getting help. You need to consider water, food, spare parts, navigation, first aid, emergency aids, etc. Here's a story and pictures that might interest you.

  7. #7
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    There is a trail called the Crystal trail in the Contrabando system that has a hillside covered in quartz. We hit it with the sun in the right place and it was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. I suggest doing that, and really the whole Contrabando system is good.

    As far as tires I suggest WIDE and tubeless with lots of sealant. The biggest issue you will be dealing with is deep sand so go with a tread that will work well for that, but like Ben said we did it on SB8s with no problem. And I'd bring some extra parts if you have them (tires and such), there just doesn't seem to be a lot of options for getting replacements out there. We had an issue with a wheel (Ben) that almost ruined the trip.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by big_papa_nuts
    We had an issue with a wheel (Ben) that almost ruined the trip.
    Damn stupid big rocks always getting in the way of my shredding.

  9. #9
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    Thanks for all the info and links. Gives a lot of good tips to ponder.
    Here's my present schedule.

    Sunday, arrive, set up camp, ride the Horsetrap loop near Sauceda. 8-10 miles.
    Monday, park at LaPosta(?), Ride The Solitario, 25-30 miles
    Tuesday, Ride the Northern loop of Sauceda-Fresno 30Miles
    Wednesday, Break Camp, drive to and ride Contrabando 20-30miles, Set camp at National Park or southern Ranch campsite
    Thursday, Free day/Rest day at NP
    Friday, ride Old Ore Road NtoS, 30miles, hitchhike a ride back to the top from Rio Village.
    Saturday, Break camp in NP, ride Lajitas/airstrip, drive home.

    These rides are going to be a fairly relaxed pace. It's not like I've got anything better to do back at camp. I will be photo/videoing along the way. I also am riding with a friend who doesn't have the same pace as me, so will be conscious of that. I know he presently has Specialized Armadillo tires, are those going to work or is tubeless the only way to go? I was going to pick up some new RR 2.25 TL Snakeskins anyway for myself, would those be sufficient down there? Or Spesh Captains? either would be set up tubeless.

    I will be coming from the North via Marfa, so will not be stopping at Desertsports before the State Park. I will call the park to see if they can post me a map and printed version of the book.

    I will be there a few weeks after the Festival, have to be in Morgan Hill during. So hopefully the trails will be a little more recognizable.

    Most importantly, how much water are you taking on how long a ride out there?
    I have a Mule, 100 oz. Should I be throwing an extra bottle on the bike as an emergency supply?

    How likely is it that I could hitchhike or arrange a ride with a ranger or camper from the Rio Grande Village back to the beginning of the Old Ore Road near dagger flat, or at least Panther Junction? Figured I may try to talk to a Ranger about their rounds, but I assume they don't have time to ferry park goers around.

  10. #10
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    What kind of vehicle are you taking? We were in a 4 door Ford Focus with 3 bikes and like 900 pounds of people and gear, we barely made it to Sauceda. The road into the state park all the way from 170, and coming the other way, once you turn off Casa Piedra, is basically hilly gravel/dirt/rock stuff. Once we got into the park, we were told we would need to use the closest campsite to the main house because all the rest would need a higher clearance vehicle to get to. So we parked at South Leyva and made camp there, left the car there the whole time and rode out from there each day, until the last day when we drove back out and did Contrabando on our way to the NP. Anyway, what I'm saying is, if you're not in a truck or suv, you might not be able to drive through the state park too much.

    The Armadillos should work fine, but I would strongly advise at least using Slime Tubes, just for that added protection and to save yourself from potentially flatting out a ton.

    I rode with a 100oz bladder and also put one 24oz bottle on my bike just in case. I only ran out of water in my CamelBak completely one time, but nobody drinks the same amount, so I'd suggest at least one bottle holder just in case. There is water supply at Sauceda, so it's not necessary to bring in like 10 gallons, because you can refill every day at Sauceda, or at the offices located in the South East corner of the park on 170, right next to the Contrabando trailhead, I forget the name of it. There's also water supplies in all the campgrounds in the NP that aren't considered "primitive," I'm pretty positive.

  11. #11
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    Water? Here are some guidelines. I usually run long rides with my 100 oz. Mule and a bottle with a sport drink with some electrolytes.

    Tires? I'm no expert on tires. Are you talking 26er or 29er? Specialized Armadillos sound like road tires to me. I think they have cyclocross tires by that name too. I'm not familiar with their mountain bike tires with the Armadillo name. RR 2.25 sounds light, racy and norrow to me. I'll probably be running Maxxis Ardent 2.4 with a little extra fresh sealant on my 29er on my trip.

    I wouldn't set my plans on catching a ride at the end of my journey. You might try parking somewhere, catching a ride and then making your way back to the car. Just keep in mind a trip like that commits you to making it all the way through. Sometimes out and back is easier.

  12. #12
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    Looks like there will be quite a few of us there in March, Im heading out there too.
    Bicycles are the physical manifestation of freedom
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  13. #13
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    Go to this site and check out the 'bike guide', lots of info:

    http://www.imba.com/epics/fresno-sauceda-loop

  14. #14
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    Ben-
    It sounds like we have planned the same trip. Just trade your Focus for my Civic and I will be following your footsteps. I'm aware of the entrance road and have already reserved a site at South Leyva. I was only thinking about driving to Laposta if the road would allow as that is the end point for the "maintained" road and the "trailhead" to the Solitario, but this drive is not necessary. When you say you "barely" made it to Sauceda, is it because the road got so bad, the car was too heavy, or what? just like to be prepared with minimum surprises.
    Also, you stayed at South Leyva which has composting toilets. Did the rangers require you to still have a porti-privy, per Ranch rules?
    You also mentioned changing rubber 2-4times a day. Are you referring to tubes, or were you actually patching/changing tires?

    Mellowdave-
    When are you going to be out there? I will be arriving February 27th and leaving the area March 5th.

    I will be riding a 29er. Still haven't decided on hardtail or full.
    I may try some Spesh Captain Armadillos set up tubeless, 2.2.

    I will maybe try to drop the car off at the end of the old ore road and get a ride back to the trail head. I think this day will be planned once I'm there.

    Txholland-
    the guide you linked to is the "otherside of nowhere" referenced in the first post. great resource.

    other than that, I find IMBA to offer little other than highlighting the fact that this place exists. but it's ok with me that they leave some of the adventure to ourselves. I am finding though that there are not many forum type resources with beneficial dialog. It seems that this thread and some on bikemojo that were referenced may be some of the first to highlight this place since it's epic designation.

  15. #15
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    Regarding our trip, we were in the Ford Focus, with three dudes all over 5'11" and 200 lbs, we had our 3 bikes, 2 hardtail 29ers and one FS 26, and all our gear, camping equipment, food, etc. The road is driveable as long as you don't go too fast and pay attention to the random bigger rocks that might give your oil pan a suckerpunch. We definitely had a few underbody scrapes, dings, and drags, but we made it in and out, and if I'm not mistaken the car owner hasn't had any problems since the trip that might have been cause while on it. You should be fine, if you can have patience and keep it under 30mph.

    As far as HT vx FS goes, I'd go with the HT. That's what I was riding. Big_papa_nuts was on a FS and I think if you ask him, he'd probably say there was no real advantage to it. I'm pretty sure he rode with his pro pedal on every second of the trip, and we didn't drop anything even the size of what you'd find on the greenbelt. I'd say for pedal efficiency so as to save energy, I'd stick with the HT.

    Oh and about the composting toilets, I think their information is probably overlapped a lot, and a porta privy might be required when you're staying at a more primitive site, but since we stayed at one with the composting toilet, they didn't mention any requirments about it to us, so I don't think you'll need it.

    When I mentioned punctures, I was changing/patching TUBES at least twice a day. None of the 3 of us actually had a tire malfunction, though we did bring extra tires just in case, just in the car though, we didn't carry them with us on rides.

    I think this place is still in it's first few years of really being on the mountain biking scene, and I think they're just now realizing what kind of economical potential it can have for them. I don't know exactly, but I'd say their facilities and information regarding and catering to mountain bikers has grown leaps and bounds in the last few years, and I'm sure it will continue to do so. It's just so far away from everything that it might not get the recognition it deserves.

  16. #16
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    I have to agree that HT 29er would be the way to go. There were only two places I remember the FS coming in handy, and I would trade those for making the rest of the trip easier.

    As far as the lack of info I honestly think it's relates the the number of people that have been out there on bikes, which I would guess is very few until recently.

  17. #17
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    leaving on Friday.
    I'm going to be taking extra parts with me in case, but does anyone have an opinion on granny rings at Big Bend? I currently run a 1x9 on my 29er with a 34f and 11-34cassette. Should I add a granny and go 36/24 in a 2x9 setup?

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by nikwashere
    leaving on Friday.
    I'm going to be taking extra parts with me in case, but does anyone have an opinion on granny rings at Big Bend? I currently run a 1x9 on my 29er with a 34f and 11-34cassette. Should I add a granny and go 36/24 in a 2x9 setup?

    1x9 is fine. I was out there a couple weeks ago and ran 1x4 (32x14-21). Besides I have ridden much out there on SS.

    Not sayin' it was easy, just sayin'.


    Definitely make the 10mi drive to Desert Sports. Besides having supplies and parts, they will give you the 411
    aLaN AT BikeMojo DOT com

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by BikeMojo
    1x9 is fine. I was out there a couple weeks ago and ran 1x4 (32x14-21). Besides I have ridden much out there on SS.

    Not sayin' it was easy, just sayin'.


    Definitely make the 10mi drive to Desert Sports. Besides having supplies and parts, they will give you the 411
    How did you like the 1x4? I can't believe in 3-4 days of riding we didn't ride together once.... I know you didn't care for the company being kept, but it would have been cool to ride with you lot at least once... guess there's always next year

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