Sunday, June 26, 2016

let's go to colorado

If you like to ride your bike amidst beautiful scenery you should consider the Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour. This tour is celebrating its 10th anniversary, July 31 to August 6, 2106 with an epic loop ride from Idaho Springs. Climbs include Loveland and Fremont Passes, Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park, and on the last day, the chance to ride up and down Mount Evans.

This tour is capped at 500 riders but is still growing, so the number has never been more than half of that. This tour is small enough that you get to know the organizers, the volunteers, the other riders. Some opt for hotels, but we still see each other on the road from time to time. A lot of folks set up a tent, or rent one from Theo the SherpaPacker, or choose "indoor camping" in the gym of the school where we're staying.
We are a small enough group that we are never the reason for long lines at restaurants in the towns we visit. We're a big enough group that there are a lot of people to pass you as you ride up a mountain pass. And a few to be passed.
This is a great tour made possible by some great people, and I don't want to see it go away. If you like to ride a bike, a multi-day tour is a wonderful thing. All you have to worry about each day is where to ride, and what to eat. Minimal stress.
And if you don't think you're capable of riding in the mountains, trust me, you are. If you ride rolling hills you already know how to climb. Just put a bunch of those short climbs together, followed by a celebration at the summit, and you've saved up all those little downhills for your descent.
Come on, you know you want to. Let's go to Colorado.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

mt evans again

On the last day of the tour we'll wake up and roll out of the Evergreen Middle School. In less than a mile we'll be on Squaw Pass Road. This is where the suburbs of Denver bump up against the mountains.
Another 18 miles and about 3,000 feet of climbing will get us to Echo Lake and the entrance to Mt Evans Road. If the week has beaten me down into a tired old man, well, it's all downhill from here to Idaho Springs. But, if there's any fight left in me, I'll make the turn and add another 14 miles and 3,500 feet of climbing to the last day of CRMBT 2016.
Mt Evans Road has a lot of switchbacks, the first of them through lush forest for a few miles shortly after you start the climb. Eventually it opens up a little and you can look down on Echo Lake and see where you've been.
Shortly after that you are above tree-line for the rest of the climb. The road lends itself to some pretty amazing views. By this point you are more likely to see the road cut out of the mountain far ahead of you than to see much of it behind you.
And if you keep pedaling you will eventually reach the real switchbacks which mean you are oh so close to the top. Relatively close. There are still 15 switchbacks, five miles and 1300 feet of elevation gain to get to the top.
Then, you've made it! The remnants of a restaurant that was destroyed when lightening hit its propane tank, a sign with elevation on it, and some spectacular views await.
 As you head down, the switchbacks unfold in front of you. Funny how they go by so much more quickly on the way down. But you will need to control your speed. Lots of tight turns and cracked pavement are your reward at this elevation.
Between Echo Lake and Idaho Springs you'll be able to let loose a little more, brake a little less. This is where you get to enjoy the descent that you earned over the previous several hours. You should still have a little speed as you roll into Idaho Springs at the end of another fantastic bike tour.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

peak to peak

After our rest day in Estes Park this year's CRMBT will take us south on the aptly named Peak to Peak Highway. This National Scenic Byway is a 55 mile stretch from Estes Park at the northern end to Blackhawk/Central City to the south. It passes through Allenspark, Ward, and Nederland. Great views are abundant of small lakes, canyons and Longs Peak along the way.
The starting and ending elevations only differ by a few hundred feet. And our maximum elevation this day will only reach 9,391 feet, the second lowest max elevation on any day of this tour. But by the time we make it up and down all the peaks on in this route we will have climbed almost 10,000 feet on this penultimate day of the tour.
We'll have one more night to sleep in the cool mountain air. We will have earned that sleep on this day, and need that sleep the following day. Everyone will want to be well rested as we again have the chance to ride our bikes higher on a paved road than anywhere else in the world!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

can I get to estes park?

On the fifth day......we get to rest. CRMBT has stopped in Estes Park a couple times. Once in 2010 when we did this route in the other direction, starting in Edwards, we also had a rest day here. And in 2013, when we started in Loveland, we spent the first night here. Both years I was challenged on the way to Estes Park.
In 2010 we rode up the Peak-to-Peak Highway from Golden, challenged by some steep rollers, but enjoying a beautiful Colorado morning. The challenges were enough to make me want to stop in Nederland for an early lunch 30 miles into the 74 mile ride. While lunch at Katmandu Restaurant was delicious, I would regret the time I lost later. The beautiful morning turned into a wonderful afternoon. Temperatures were cool but comfortable.
Then a few clouds moved in, but the day was still pleasant. Over the next couple hours the clouds grew darker, the temps cooler, and it became more and more obvious that the light jacket I had in my pocket was not enough to keep me warm or dry. What started as a light rain became a downpour, and when the temperatures tumbled into the 30's, being on the road, on a bike, became miserable. It couldn't get any worse. Then it did. It began to hail. I would say that "golf ball" sized hail would not be an exaggeration, "quarter sized" is a certainty. I spotted a group of cyclists that had pulled off the road to take shelter under the canopy on a porch of a closed business. The hail was hard enough that cars were pulling off the road as we huddled together for warmth. My ride ended 16 miles outside of Estes Park that day.
The SAG van and some volunteers with bike racks shuttled back and forth from town to get us all in to Estes Park where a warm shower and dry sleeping bag awaited me. The rest of the evening and all the next day were gorgeous, and by the time we left I had been able to explore quite a bit of this place.
In 2013 we rode from Loveland to Estes Park and it was a short, hot day that still managed to kick me in the butt just a little. As we neared the high point for the day the heat, altitude, and maybe a little dehydration combined to make me dizzy and nauseous. One of the mechanics stopped to check on me as I stood on the side of the road. He gave me some powdered Gatorade and had me sit in the shade for a few minutes. That was enough to get me back on the bike for a push through the last few switchbacks and descent into town.
So I know it will be a challenge to get to Estes Park. But I will get there, and I'll have a rest day to look forward to in a great Colorado mountain town.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

trail ridge road

Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in America. It spans Rocky Mountain National Park from Grand Lake in the west, to Estes Park in the east, a 48 mile journey through the park. It's highest point is 12,183 feet, but even more amazing is that it remains above treeline (near 11,550') for 11 miles!
We'll be heading north form Grand Lake  on our way to a rest day in Estes Park. I will want to leave early to be able to stop for lots of pictures.
If you've never been to RMNP, you should go if you get the chance. A drive on Trail Ridge Road would be a memorable experience. And if you get to experience it on a bike, it will be a day you'll never forget!