When testing long-travel bikes at the Bible of Bike Tests, we’re sometimes guilty of phoning it in on the uphills. Whether that means just picking the smoothest, shortest fire road climb or, god forbid, shuttling, it’s always been done for the greater good, not out of laziness. It’s a way to maximize our time on the downhills. After all, the downhill is why you’d buy a long-travel bike in the first place.
So we’ll usually skew our data-collection efforts to favor the descents. But we found something interesting on our Park City long-travel test loop. Even though the descents we chose were in the generously lift-accessed Deer Valley Resort, there were some surprisingly pleasant uphills available for reaching them. Which is a good thing, because our mid-October timing put us in Deer Valley just days after those lifts closed.
Hop on board for a lap with Gear Editor Travis Engel and Photo & Video Editor Satchel Cronk to get a sense of what the test bikes went through. Travis is riding the Specialized Enduro and Satchel is riding the Yeti SB165.
– Distance: 5.6 miles
– Elevation gain/loss: 1,440 feet
– Gap to Deer Crest, Pipeline, Deer Crest, NCS, Devo, Old-Skool, Pointy Rocks
We started in the parking lot at the base of Deer Valley Resort and pedaled over to the entrance to the St. Regis hotel. You switchback up a few access trails, starting with Finns, then Gap to Deer Crest. Each are generously benched-in traverses that, provided you’ve acclimated a bit, are a great warm-up. Then, it starts to feel a little more wooded and singletrack-y when you get onto Pipeline. Still, it’s a smooth, friendly, usually mellow grade that you can settle into.
A little past a third of the way up to a mid-mountain area called Silver Lake, you connect up with Deer Crest proper, and things open up a little more. You might even get the satisfaction of looking down on places that, just fifteen minutes earlier, you’d been looking up at.
Eventually, you spill out on a flat fire road (which, on most maps, is still considered Deer Crest) where you’ll be able to rest for a few hundred feet. Then, you’ll meet up with an intersection of Undertow, Fourpoint and Mid-Mountain. Because the resort was closed when we were testing, we pedaled up the downhill trail, Fourpoint to get some steep, technical sections in the loop, but during the regular season, you would want to duck off the fire road to the left and take mid-mountain to Silverlake. It’s what you might call a downhill-uphill that, although you’re gaining elevation, it feels fast and flowy. That puts you a quick, but steep, fire road grunt away from the top of NCS, where the Park City long-travel test loop really shows its teeth.
NCS comes in like a lion. Right off the bat there’s a natural squirrel-catcher of a rock section that I didn’t nail until day four. Then, there’s a brief, wide open traverse until you duck into the woods for some techy, behind-the-saddle puzzle-fighting, and the gnar factor keeps elevating for about a quarter mile until you cross Fourpoint again where, because we’re testing bikes, the Bible crew exits and pedals back up again for more climbing testing and, of course, more elevation.
Eventually, you link up with Devo which, compared to NCS, is a flow trail. It’s still jagged and chunky, but in a way that you don’t have to be Sam Hill to carry speed through. The baseball-to-basketball-sized rocks vary from embedded fixtures to free radicals, so it’s a mix of bouncing and surfing.
Then, about halfway down, our testers bailed out onto an access road to hike back up to bag a little more elevation. The straight fall-line fire road takes you up to Old Skool which, as the name implies, feels like a wide-open pedaly DH track from the ’90s. It’s mostly not steep, and mostly not technical, but if you help it with a few cranks here and there, it’s fast.
Skirting by multi-million dollar houses, you eventually come to the standout feature of Old Skool, which is a concrete utility bridge with a mandatory drop on the other side. Look at it your first run.
Then, you’re back to normal, wide open turning and shredding until you duck into Pointy Rocks, which is an absolute treat. A lush chute of organic dirt that is slippery when wet, you can really make some poetry once you get to know it. It spits you out, lips grinning and forearms pumping, right at the resort entrance, yards from where you started.
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This article originally appeared on Bikemag.com and was republished with permission. Cover photo by Anthony Smith.
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