Our short-travel test loop at the 2020 Bible of Bike Tests in Park City, Utah was all about variety. The climbs alternated between chunky tech and smooth grinds, and the descents were either fast and open or steep and rowdy. Not bad for pedaling in from town. Hop on board for a lap with Gear Editor Travis Engel and Photo & Video Editor Satchel Cronk to get a sense of what we put the test bikes through, and then feel free to start daydreaming about summer…
• Distance: 5.3 miles
• Elevation gain/loss: 1,360 feet
• Trails: Sweeneys, Johns, Ski Team, Treasure Hill
Finding the perfect short- and mid-travel trail-bike climb is difficult. These bikes aren’t cut out for that fire-road life. The uphills need to be challenging and long, but also technical and maybe even kinda fun. Finding the perfect descent isn’t quite as challenging. Today’s more moderate bikes tend to have capabilities that are pointedly immoderate. They can really do anything. The key is packing as many of those things into a ride as possible.
Luckily, we’re talking about Park City here. The density and quantity of trails greatly increase your odds of finding perfection. And straight from town, no less. This loop can be found in the network just west of Park City’s downtown. Bike mag’s Bible testing crew happened to be based off an access road called King Road where you’ll find the start of this particular loop. It’s well worth a ride.
At King Road’s first switchback, continue straight onto a trail called South Sweeney. It’s a mellow, grassy traverse that gets you into a patch of trees when things start to get real. A left will put you onto Sweeney Switchbacks, which ranges from moderately rocky to I-should-have-brought-a-trials-bike. It spills out onto a fire road for a quick rest. Then, you turn on to Johns, which you will probably get to know very well over the next 20 minutes. It’s an unrelenting but always makeable stack of switchbacks through white aspens and green undergrowth. You’ll start to see the light peeking in as you approach the top of Johns.
The trail will spill you out right near the top of Town Lift, just behind the Silver King mine. You’ll find a junction of fire roads and a large utility building, and you’ll want to head northwest to catch a piece of Jenni’s before veering right onto Ski Team. Some maps out there call it Red Bull, but Ski Team is the local name. There’s a fast, wide-open traverse and then a sweeper off-camber left heading into the trees. From then on, it’s a mix of behind-the saddle steeps and elbows-out charges. At one point, you’ll merge with Jenni’s and remember to veer right to stay on Ski Team. The next time you cross Jenni’s is soon after an open section, and it’s a blind corner, so remember to slow down keep an eye out for cross-traffic. Near the bottom of Ski Team, just before it opens out, is a mandatory drop that isn’t exactly rollable, so be ready to pull up.
It spills you out at Park City Mountain base, where you can hop on a few well-worn flow trail berms for the last few dozen feet of descending before reaching town. If you want to go back up to the same zone to try your hand at Sweeney Switchbacks or hop on to Mid Mountain for a more epic ride, go southeast on Lowell Avenue until you see Treasure Hill trail on the right. Follow its chunky switchbacks back up into the Sweeney network, and pick your poison from there.
This loop is just over 5 miles long and features just under 1,400 feet of climbing and descending. Each tester did the loop at least once on each of the short-travel bikes we tested in Park City. You can see our findings from these and the rest of the bikes we rode by checking out the 2020 Bible of Bike Tests. And as for the rest of the trails, this loop is just one corner of one mountain. There’s a lot to choose from out there. Have a look at Utah’s mountaintrails.org web app.
This article originally appeared on Bikemag.com and was republished with permission. Cover Photo: Margus Riga.
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