Mountain Biking Betasso Preserve, Boulder CO (2011)

In early summer 2011, I sign up for a mountain bike ride at Betasso Preserve just west of Boulder in the foothills of Boulder Valley. There are two mountain bike loop trails: the Canyon Loop, which is 3.3 miles in length, and the much newer Benjamin Loop, which is 3.1 miles in length. My first taste of these trails is exhilarating, despite my riding my old, in-town commuter bike -- an older Trek 8000 SL. Both trails are moderately difficult in terms of steepness, and moderately technical. There are many opportunities for high-speed descents and turns. As a Florida flatlander for most of my mountain biking life, the trails are nearly a perfect match for my skills.Dom Bettaso Preserve Bldr May 2011.jpg

In some places the trail is cut into the side of the mountain, so there is -- at times -- a seriously disconcerting drop off as the mountain bicyclist rides the narrow single-track trail.

The direction of the two trails reverses from clockwise to counter-clockwise every few weeks. In my opinion, and that of many other mountain bikers I have heard from is that the Benjamin Loop is far more enjoyable than the older Canyon Loop, and that the clockwise direction of the Benjamin Loop is far more crazy fun than the counter-clockwise direction. There are three sections in the clockwise direction of Benjamin that provide what I find to be wildly enjoyable downhill rides that are akin to a mountain bike version of a rollercoaster. At Benjamin, I call the three “Rollercoaster #1”, “Rollercoaster #2” and “Rollercoaster #3.”

Here is a YouTube video of me riding #3:

The adrenalin rush I feel on the ride is so uplifting that I vow to ride the trails many times in the future. And to do so with a more serious FULL suspension mountain bike, rather than my commuter bike. Within a few weeks, I find the bike I need. It is a Giant NRS 2. Within a matter of hours, I return to Betasso. Riding a full-suspension bike is an unexpectedly extreme thrill. I am almost flying at screaming speeds over very rocky, twisting, narrow single-track. Pure joy.

The big danger I now finding myself guarding against is that the full-suspension bad boy is always tempting me to ride way faster than my skill level. It is hard to resist going at blinding speeds now…

Homesteading, Mining, and Ranching

In the early 20th century, homesteaders moved into the area. In 1915, Steve Betasso of Italy purchased the property with profits from a successful local mining business. The property remained in the Betasso family as a ranch until 1975.

Boulder County’s First Open Space Purchase

In 1975, after the death of his wife, Steve Betasso’s son Ernie sold 773 acres of the ranch to Boulder County. This marked Boulder County’s first major open space acquisition. Ernie Betasso, dedicated to the land, helped the department oversee the preserve until his death in 1983.



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