Analysing terrain data
The exposure grade describes the potential consequences of falling or slipping off the path.
Low Exposure: The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.
Medium Exposure: The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.
High Exposure: Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.
Extreme Exposure: Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.
While the entire Colorado Trail forms a mountain bike ride of epic proportions, for riders it's broken into segments by Wilderness areas where bikes aren't allowed, preventing a full singletrack through-ride.
One long, unbroken segment that makes for a great ride is the portion that runs from Highway 50 (Monarch Pass) to the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Boundary at Avalanche Trailhead on Cottonwood Pass.
Technically, south from Highway 50 the COT is bike-legal for a long ways, but as the COT in that direction climbs steeply up Fooses Creek drainage to join the Monarch Crest, the portion from Highway 50 to the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness forms its own unique segment.
This segment varies from about 9,000 feet to 10,000 feet in elevation, giving it a much longer riding season than some other portions of the COT, and also making it more manageable for intermediate riders. The singletrack along this COT segment is, overall, relatively non-technical.
As the trail runs across the flanks of the mountain, many portions are mellow, smooth, and flowy.
But when the trail drops into the steep-sided valleys, its character changes dramatically! It descends steeply down rock-filled and often switchbacked portions of singletrack.
The climbs back out the other side often necessitate hike-a-bike. Taken all together, this long portion of singletrack is a great, relatively easy mountain bike ride, but some sections definitely exceed!