Words of wisdom, from Matt "The Show" Snyder, "Put your hands on your bars not your brakes." What follows is a true story, one that many of you have probably experienced yourselves using guidebooks. All I have to say is, I should have known to leave myself extra time/food/clothing for an unknown ride and an unfamiliar guide book.
This season, I was riding in Buena Vista, CO. A loop ride and according to the guide book, it would take me about 2.5 hours. I was riding by myself, fast and light. The first 7 miles went smoothly, faster than expected, I was in good spirits. Starting the second part of the ride, I knew something was up when the first mileage mark was off by almost a half a mile. After some doubt, I found the trail/road. There were numerous branches off the main road, and with 30 mileage markers in the guidebook I had to stop often, making my progress much slower. Now it is getting dark, I have been riding for 3 hours, much longer than the 20 miles of dirt road should have taken me. The total ride mileage should have been 23 miles, and I am nowhere near the end.
About now, it is really dark, no moon, no lights, out of food, low on water. I have been downhilling towards what I think is the end for about 5 miles, when the road dead ends!
No choice but to use my Edge 305 to backtrack till I can figure out where I should have turned. I finally get to the correct turn, deciding to push onwards towards Buena Vista rather than riding back 20 miles. My Garmin has turned off because I killed the battery using the backlight A LOT. I am really cold, low on energy and extremely hungry. I am picking my way down the dirt road, totally dark now. Luckily for me a few miles down the road I ran across a really nice hunter (Steve), and he offered me a ride to Johnson Village about 3 miles from my car.
I don't know how long it would have taken me in the dark to find my way to Buena Vista, but Steve thought it was 2-3 hours more by bike. He had me back in 20 minutes, down some road I didn't even know was there!
Lessons -- bring gear, lights and clothing at least. Also have the route on your Garmin, downloaded from MountainBikeColorado.com, to ensure that you make the correct turns and stay on the trail!