Riding all the trails: How one rider conquered Crested Butte and beyond

Kemble Widmer completed the amazing TrailQuest challenge in just one year

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored post was created in collaboration with the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association

Kemble Widmer’s desire to improve his skills and fitness turned into a summer long obsession. Photo courtesy Kemble Widmer

For the better part of 20 years, Kemble Widmer was the most casual of casual mountain bikers. The IT consultant based near Colorado’s populous Front Range would squeeze in a handful of after-work rides a year, piloting an old Trek 930 with 26-inch wheels and cantilever brakes. Then Widmer moved to Crested Butte and everything changed.

Realizing that riding singletrack was embedded in the area’s cultural core, Widmer decided it was time for an upgrade. He parted ways with his old hardtail and bought a full suspension Santa Cruz Tall Boy. Then he downloaded the CBGTrails App, a locally focused and exceptionally accurate MTB maps and tracking platform. Initially, Widmer’s goals were modest. Using the app, he started exploring. Soon, though, exploration became an obsession as we’ll explain in a moment.

Greater Gunnison County is home to some of the world’s premier singletrack. Photo courtesy Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association

Launched in 2015, CBGTrails aims to compile in one place all of the information needed to find and pick appropriate trails. Think of it as a locally-focused version of MTBProject or Trailforks, but better because it’s an open-source mapping program that allows the locally-based designers to easily update the remote and ever-changing trails, say for example after a Forest Service reroute.

“It’s no knock against those other apps,” explained CBGTrails creator Derrick Nehrenberg. “But they don’t include all of our trails. In fact, they leave off quite a bit of fantastic singletrack.”

Crested Butte may be best known for its alpine singletrack, but there’s plenty of challenging high desert riding just down the road at Hartman Rocks. Photo courtesy Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association

For those unfamiliar with the area, greater Gunnison County, which includes Crested Butte and Gunnison, has over 150 mountain bike trails covering 783 miles (at last count), ranging from chunky high alpine singletrack to smooth desert flow and a whole lot of in between. Indeed, the birthplace of the sport remains a Mecca for anyone seeking dirty two-wheeled nirvana.

Besides helping riders find their way around that expansive trail network, CBGTrails is the gateway to TrailQuest, a game where riders attempt to ride as many unique trail miles as possible, and whose achievements are tracked via a leaderboard where you can see who has ridden the most. To play, simply download the app and sign up for a TrailQuest account. Then sync with your Strava app and it’s game on. Once you’re linked, any ride you record in Strava automatically syncs to TrailQuest through the CBGTrails app. In the spring of 2018, Widmer did just that and was immediately hooked.

Widmer’s personal trail quest included plenty of off-bike adventures. Here he gets a little help from fellow TrailQuest completer Frank Konsella. Photo courtesy Kemble Widmer

“It started out as a way to access the maps and ride tracking,” Widmer explained. “But then I started seeing my name move up the TrailQuest leaderboard and my goals started to change. I went from wanting to finish in the top 10 (at the end of the riding season), to the top 5, to thinking, if I keep at this maybe I can ride all the trails in one season.”

In doing so Widmer would become the third rider to complete the game (behind Brittany and Frank Konsella), but the first to do it in one season. Of course, it would not be an easy task. While the majority of the trails close to Gunnison and Crested Butte are well-maintained and easy to follow, things get a little more “rustic” the further afield you go.

Much of the area’s best riding is above treeline, as seen here on Trail 400. Photo courtesy Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association

“I call them adventure rides,” continued Widmer, who currently works as a tech consultant and was thus able to ride during the day and work at night. “You’d be slogging through mud bogs, or get stuck behind cows, or have to climb over a bunch of downed trees. It really makes you appreciate the work that (local advocacy organizations) Gunnison Trails and CBMBA do in maintaining the closer-in trails. But the payoff was seeing so many amazing and diverse places, and almost always having the trail to yourself.”

Widmer estimates he spent about 90 days on the bike, climbing roughly 250,000 vertical feet. His longest days were around 10 hours, with the average in the 4.5-hour range. Along the way, he suffered all manner of minor calamity.

Widmer learned a lot about what one needs to bring when venturing out into the backcountry. Photo courtesy Kemble Widmer

“I had one ride where I snapped a chain and had no link to fix it, so I had to ride downhill with no chain for a while,” Widmer recalled. “Another time I sheared a screw off a cleat and didn’t have an extra, so I only had one foot clipped in. I also sheared a pedal on one ride and had to ride on the spindle for a while. And I tried to save some of the best high altitude rides for the end, but then we got an early snowstorm that packed in some of those trails so I ended having to hike through 3-4-foot snow drifts to complete the game.”

Among Widmer’s favorite newly discovered riding zones was the Fossil Ridge area. Photo courtesy Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association

Widmer says the worst, though, was one ride where he pedaled for 6-7 hours with 6000 feet of climbing, then got back to his car and the sync failed, meaning he lost all the ride data. “I was so distraught that it wouldn’t count,” he admitted. “So I went back the next day and re-rode the exact same 30 miles.”

Of course, most CBGTrails App users won’t be that obsessive — and that’s okay.

“Using the app is such a great way to custom pick the style of ride or trail you want,” Widmer explained. “And if you’ve done the main trails and want to explore an area without a lot of people, it’s a great resource to find new zones.”

Whether taking on the TrailQuest challenge — or simply looking for a new place to ride — the CBGTrails App can help you get there. Photo courtesy Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association

Widmer’s top off-the-beaten-trail recommendations include Fossil Ridge, the Needles zone south of Sargents, and the area east of Taylor Reservoir around the Timberline Trail. For more info, just download the CBGTrails App and start exploring.


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