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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Smooth Rides for a Bad Back

So my back issues have basically rendered technical terrain not an option. I was a "roadie" before I discovered mountain biking, so Im back to the spandex mostly, but still can't quit the trails entirely. I get the shakes if I don't hit the dirt once a week. So here's the list I got so far listed by proximity and desired smoothness factor.

Updated List:
-Specific loop at NTM 12 miles
-Green Mountain Loop (Mtbproject.com) 8 miles
-Centennial Cone: Mayhem Gulch -> Elk Range (no Travois Trail, do out-and-back) 12 miles
-STM options
-Buff Creek - Shinglemill, Little Scraggy
-Bear Creek Lake Park (desired smoothness) 7-10 miles
-Elk Meadows 6 miles
-Marshall Mesa (Dirty Bismark) 15 miles
-North Fork Trail 19 miles
-Staunton State Park 10-15 miles
-Erie Trails (never done) 7 miles
-Hildebrand Ranch and Wetland Connector trails at chatfield 10-12 miles
-South Valley Loops 5-6 miles
-Meyer Ranch
-Flying J (short, never ridden) 4 miles

South of Denver:
-Ridgeline
-Philip S Miller Park
-Dawson Butte Open Space
-Spruce Mountain
-Spruce Meadows
-Greenland Open Space.

Co Springs:
-Talon Trail and South Talon Loop/Sundance (Cheyenne Mountain)

North of Denver:
-Lory State Park
-Bobcat Ridge(parts)
-Soapstone Prairie

Passable but rockier:
-Betasso
-Marshall Mesa
-3 sisters
-Myer Ranch? (not sure about this one)

Destination rides:
-Soda Creek loop -Keystone

Gravel:
-Old Fall River Road and down Trail Ridge

Fat Biking:
-Flying J
-NTM community ditch roads/trails.
-Snow Mountain Ranch
-Breckenridge XC trails

So any ideas on the unknowns? Any others I missed? It's really the descending that causes problems.
 

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Bummer, hope your back heals up!

I'd suggest Centennial Cone starting at Mayhem Gulch, then out and back on the traversing trail until it gets rocky.

Careful on the Marshall Mesa area trails, some are pretty rocky particularly out in the Doudy end of things (the small-bumpy-rocky type, not technical, but definitely not smooth).

Betasso does have some rocks (I thought it was totally smooth until I brought a friend who doesn't like any rocks and found out it actually is a tad rocky!).

If you're in the area, Walker Ranch is really smooth if you avoid 100% of the normal loop - instead, starting from the normal parking lot, head the other direction up a mile of smooth singletrack to the Meyers Ranch trailhead, then up smooth doubletrack to the end (gets steep near the end). Nice viewpoint at the top. Coming down you'd have to watch your speed unless your back can take jumps off the water bars (also not advised for weekends with foot traffic, but if you're descending slowly anyway it could be fine). Also you can combine with Flagstaff if you want to get a ton of climbing in (and don't mind mountain biking up the road).
 

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Not to avoid the question, but I assume you have tried riding a mid to long travel bike with plus size (2.5" to 3.0") tires at 14ish psi? That tends to render most trails smoothish anyway.

good luck with your back, I empathize.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Great suggestions on Staunton and Lory. I didn't include Cent Cone because its one of my favorite rides and if I go there I'll just get angry that I can't ride it the way I used to, but yeah Mayhem up to basically evening sun loop as an out-and-back is a doable long ride. Also interesting suggestion on Walker.

As for the bike its your standard 120mm 29'er Fiox Float 32 type rig. A little less pressure than usual and I run about 28psi in my 2.3-2.5s. I have thought about going to a 140mm bike. Well honestly, I've even thought about going to a Bucksaw or mid-fat FS like a 6fattie FSR or something. Question on 120 to 140: Is there just a greater flat spot in the "spring-rate" curve on something a little bigger, if you know what I mean? Obviously Im not running out of travel with my "new" riding style.
 

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As for the bike its your standard 120mm 29'er Fiox Float 32 type rig. A little less pressure than usual and I run about 28psi in my 2.3-2.5s. I have thought about going to a 140mm bike. Well honestly, I've even thought about going to a Bucksaw or mid-fat FS like a 6fattie FSR or something. Question on 120 to 140: Is there just a greater flat spot in the "spring-rate" curve on something a little bigger, if you know what I mean? Obviously Im not running out of travel with my "new" riding style.
What about bike designs? SC bikes sit you more upright than most brands. Not sure if that will help or hinder.
Another thought...yoga, to build your core? I have lower back prob from skiing moguls and yoga and stretching has pretty much eliminated that issue.
 

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Bummer about your back. That's no fun and very painful.

Are you overweight? because that can effect your back. I was just asking because of your user name. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #9
What about bike designs? SC bikes sit you more upright than most brands. Not sure if that will help or hinder.
Another thought...yoga, to build your core? I have lower back prob from skiing moguls and yoga and stretching has pretty much eliminated that issue.
To get technical on my issue, Spine doc says L5-S1 and prescribed Mackenzie PT. Will be going for a second opinion though, cause all the mackenzie pt did was aggrevate the hell out of it. My issues are really related to standing for a long time; my legs get tired. So sitting is preferred. And leaning forward helps.

This is where the descents get me. Not only do I have to stand for a good amount of time, but then Im also transmitting a lot of the jarring of the rocky terrain up to my back and a few times, on both chimney and apex descents, my leg would get weak enough to not support me on 2 foot drops or kicker like features when I would land. It would be a quick jolt and my heal would drop on impact. There were a few other times in rock gardens where I could feel the fatigue real bad as well. Those few times were enough for me to know that I shouldn't be riding like this right now.

I can climb the tech stuff without any problem, but I have to find a smooth way down, So, Ill climb chimney and take Lookout down... kinda ****ty.

As for PT like alternatives, I continue to do core type work and Ive gained about 10-15 lbs over this past year, so dropping that is my current priority, Im 6' and about 192ish, in good shape Im usually around 180, hopefully that helps a little.

They say leg weakness is a bad sign, but not many folks are bombing chimney and launching their bike to find the leg weakness.
 

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Soda Creek is pretty darn smooth. I rode it several times while recovering from back injury (and accompanying drop foot) then surgery.

Some other smooth stuff south of Denver that is in Douglas County: Ridgeline, Philip S Miller Park, Dawson Butte Open Space, Spruce Mountain, Spruce Meadows, Greenland Open Space.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Soda Creek is pretty darn smooth. I rode it several times while recovering from back injury (and accompanying drop foot) then surgery.

Some other smooth stuff south of Denver that is in Douglas County: Ridgeline, Philip S Miller Park, Dawson Butte Open Space, Spruce Mountain, Spruce Meadows, Greenland Open Space.
Yeah some of my ideas are/were speculative, so thanks for the soda creek input. Just because a website says "green" doesnt mean its not a rocky consistency. I am committed to no more tech until at least next season.

I've updated the list as well. How bout this buff creek loop? Climb Nice kitty and then take shinglemill back down. Thats a good 10-12 mile loop that gets me out there, without much concern for tech. Never done it though. Anyone have thoughts on that loop?
 

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To get technical on my issue, Spine doc says L5-S1 and prescribed Mackenzie PT. Will be going for a second opinion though, cause all the mackenzie pt did was aggrevate the hell out of it. My issues are really related to standing for a long time; my legs get tired. So sitting is preferred. And leaning forward helps.

This is where the descents get me. Not only do I have to stand for a good amount of time, but then Im also transmitting a lot of the jarring of the rocky terrain up to my back and a few times, on both chimney and apex descents, my leg would get weak enough to not support me on 2 foot drops or kicker like features when I would land. It would be a quick jolt and my heal would drop on impact. There were a few other times in rock gardens where I could feel the fatigue real bad as well. Those few times were enough for me to know that I shouldn't be riding like this right now.

I can climb the tech stuff without any problem, but I have to find a smooth way down, So, Ill climb chimney and take Lookout down... kinda ****ty.

As for PT like alternatives, I continue to do core type work and Ive gained about 10-15 lbs over this past year, so dropping that is my current priority, Im 6' and about 192ish, in good shape Im usually around 180, hopefully that helps a little.

They say leg weakness is a bad sign, but not many folks are bombing chimney and launching their bike to find the leg weakness.
Sorry to hear. Not a qualified medical professional in any way, but between years in DH and Moto, I've helped a lot of friends from "Doc says no more riding" back to "braaap" status by introducing them to simple, good form deadlift lifting routines. Core muscle is an amazing thing.
 

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To get technical on my issue, Spine doc says L5-S1 and prescribed Mackenzie PT. Will be going for a second opinion though, cause all the mackenzie pt did was aggrevate the hell out of it. My issues are really related to standing for a long time; my legs get tired. So sitting is preferred. And leaning forward helps.
Everyone is different, but fwiw, I was diagnosed with 2 herniated discs (L4-L5 and L5-S1) several years ago after more than 20 years of lumbagos, sciatica and various back spasm episodes that were really an issue. The chiropractor that I was seeing at the time put me on a "spine decompression" treatment and that just changed my life. I maybe have a couple of flare-ups a year nowadays, but I can ride, run, lift and ski. Chiropractic spinal decompression, check it out.
 

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Everyone is different, but fwiw, I was diagnosed with 2 herniated discs (L4-L5 and L5-S1) several years ago after more than 20 years of lumbagos, sciatica and various back spasm episodes that were really an issue. The chiropractor that I was seeing at the time put me on a "spine decompression" treatment and that just changed my life. I maybe have a couple of flare-ups a year nowadays, but I can ride, run, lift and ski. Chiropractic spinal decompression, check it out.
Yeah nerve problems are real annoying, because they present in so many different ways and it seems to be different from week to week, but only slightly. It's been frustrating for sure.

Oddly enough, when its bad like when I've been bending down and picking up kids all day, hanging from a monkey bar for 20 seconds gives me temporary relief, so its funny you bring up the decompression.

Probably the most painful thing right now is knowing that I shouldnt compete in the Golden Giddyup even though Im registered for the full.

Looks like I have a pretty good list going here though. Any smooth high country rides to add to this list? Things like Monarch Crest have been on my to-do list for a while, but it looks like I may need an alternative.
 

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Oddly enough, when its bad like when I've been bending down and picking up kids all day, hanging from a monkey bar for 20 seconds gives me temporary relief, so its funny you bring up the decompression.
I really want an inversion table...
 

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Looks like I have a pretty good list going here though. Any smooth high country rides to add to this list? Things like Monarch Crest have been on my to-do list for a while, but it looks like I may need an alternative.
Most of the Crested Butte rides are pretty smooth and not real technical. Deer Creek, Snodgrass and 401 have almost no tech, although 401 would be a pretty long downhill.
 

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Some other smooth stuff south of Denver that is in Douglas County: Ridgeline, Philip S Miller Park, Dawson Butte Open Space, Spruce Mountain, Spruce Meadows, Greenland Open Space.
Yeah, I live in Douglas County and they live by wide and smooth. I hope the new cooperation with COMBA will help with better trails being built at Hess Reservoir.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Most of the Crested Butte rides are pretty smooth and not real technical. Deer Creek, Snodgrass and 401 have almost no tech, although 401 would be a pretty long downhill.
Luckily, I got a good early morning run at the 401 loop last summer before all this started. It wasnt techy, but in the trees, definitely was getting rutted out, which can make for bumpy descents.

I did a Lupine -> Lower Loop loop also and I think thats probably still a safe bet. snodgrass was also im my list last time I went there, so maybe Ill check that out next time. Amazing how great this list is getting and spoiled we are in Colorado.
 

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Most of the Crested Butte rides are pretty smooth and not real technical. Deer Creek, Snodgrass and 401 have almost no tech, although 401 would be a pretty long downhill.
The Crest isn't any worse than 401 or Deer Creek for non-smooth. Silver Creek has some bumpy bits, but Rainbow is smooth (mostly). If you choose the Starvation option off the Crest, there is less bump, just a couple short sections of talus that you can walk in 2 minutes.

Been decades since I rode Snod, so I can't remember clearly.
 

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I really want an inversion table...
The beauty of the decompression therapy is that it isolates the trouble spot (say, L4-L5) and stretches the spine at that level, which relieves pressure on the disc and brings in new blood flow and O2. It's really worked for me so I'm an advocate and I've only had to have 2 or 3 sessions in about 7 years (so not that expensive and non-invasive). When my first-ever session ended it felt like I had wings.
 
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