Road Riding in Colorado
Road riding in
Colorado is pleasant. The traffic is generally well behaved,
though at times it can be rather buisy. American cities tend to
widely dispersed, without much of a centre, and some hours there can be
a lot of traffic. Cars are almost invariably huge. The car of
choice in Colorado is a cross-breed, half truck, half American
sedan, with a V8 engine. RVs with bad drivers can be a nuisance,
particularly when they have a car and a boat and what not trailing
after a 40 feet bus.
There is an excellent Colorado Bicycling Map that
is published by the Colorado Department of Transportation. It maps most
roads with significant variables, shoulder width, traffic volume,
distances, altitudes, grades, etc. Virtually all riding in Colorado
involves mountains. One either climbs or coasts down hill. Carrying
luggage can slow things down quite a bit. Riding up hill can be
strenuous, riding down hill the rims can get glowing hot.
There are plenty of campsites. Virtually all of them presumes that one
has a car. The USFS sites are often in beautiful spots. They have water
and a toilet but never hot showers. All sites consists of a delimited
territory that contains a table with benches and a fire place.
Americans love camp fires. The USFS sites are attended, but one pays by
tucking bills in an envelope that is placed in a box. The USFS sites
are splendid, though drawbacks are that they are often far from shops
and restaurants and they don't have showers.
We preferred the private campings, largely because they invariably have
showers and a small shop. After a long days ride you need a
It is quite possible to hitchhike, even with two bikes and two fully
|We began in Golden, at 1759 meters altitude, severely jet
lagged and headed for
Estes Park at 2358 meters via Boulder. It was hot and at an elevation
we were not
It was a hard day.
When we arrived in
Estes Park, situated above 2300 meters, we realized that we risked
mountain sickness if we would continue the next day. In fact we were so
exhausted that we did not even consider to continue. We had a day of
Camping above Estes
We started early for
the Ridge Road, one of the highest highways in the US. The ride was
very strenuous. It climbs 1600 meters along a ridge with several
saddles, as soon as one reaches one there is another in sight, till one
reaches the "high point" at 3710 meter. There is a place with vast
souvenir shops, and some foods at the Fall River Pass.
|Then, it was virtually down hill all the way to Granby. We
camped for a night and then continued to Winter Park the next day.
After some days riding in Winter Park we continued to
Frisco via Gremlin. A nice ride down
the Colorado River. The road from Gremlin to Frisco was far less
pleasant. There was unexpectedly much traffic and some vehicles were
enormous, pulling wide boats, sets of ATVs, etc., etc. From
to Frisco we enjoyed a separate paved bike path along the shores of the
|After the enjoyable singletrack in Frisco we crossed
the 3449 metre Freemont Pass. There was a bike path through the Ten
Mile Canyon to Copper Mountain. The ascent to Freemont Pass was long,
with several false crests. From Freemont Pass it
was a pleasant ride to Salida mostly downhill through the upper Arkansas Valley. The
views of the Collegiate Peaks were excellent.
From Salida we
continued to Crested Butte. Tom our friend in Salida
caught up with us in the morning and gave us a ride to the crest of
Monarch Pass (3477). On the descent to Gunnison I had a disastrous flat
tire. It virtually exploded. After a change of tubes it exploded again
after less than a kilometre. Fortunately, a friendly motorist stopped,
managed to squeeze my bike and Bob into the car, and drove me to
Gunnison, while Elisabeth biked after us. He had been in a similar
once, and said he was paying back for the help he had got then. Tune Up
Bikes in Gunnison fixed the wheel, fortunately it was not damaged
although I had
been braking with the rim right on the asphalt. One of the guys who
worked in the shop lived in Crested Butte and invited us to ride with
him up there. Of course we did.
Elisabeth at Monarch Pass
Ready to ride
The ride from Crested
Butte to Durango took us four
days. The first
night we reached a USFS campground by the Blue Mesa reservoir. It was
intensively touristed, with a Marina, and a National Park. When we had
pitched our tent on some grass, with dog turds and cigarette butts all
were told we had to move it as it was on “habitate” unless we wanted to
be fined. We moved but
wondered how one could allow the gorge to be filled with water
and run speed boats on it, and then mind when we camped on some grass.
Nevertheless, it was a beautiful place.
to move the tent
The next day brought
us to Ridgway. We spent most of the day climbing
the mountains between the Blue Mesa and Montrose. When we left Montrose
we had a strong head wind and a cold rain was beginning to fall. In
desperation we tried to hitchhike. We had not more than made a sign
that we wanted a ride before a couple stopped and our bikes and BOBs
were loaded on their pickup truck. They were going to Ridgway. They
were really nice people. Invited us to go out with their friends. We
took into a hotel, went to their house for a drink and then went out
for Mexican food. It was a splendid evening.
The following day we
crossed the Red Mountain Pass (3358 m) and descended to Silverton. We
camped next to a bunch of other cyclists who were touring Colorado on
road bikes with a support van. We talked cycling and drank beer with
The next day we crossed two passes, the Molass Pass
(3325) and Coal Bank Pass (3243), and then coasted along the San Juan
Skyway down to Durango. A
drop of 1250 meters on a road with nice wide shoulders.
The ride from Durango to Fruita took us two days. By now, we felt that the more time we spent on the road
the less we had for singletrack, so we hitchhiked whenever pulling the
BOBs uphill felt like pulling a piano after the bike. Outside Durango Ski Resort, where the NORBA finals were held, we got
a ride with a brother taking his sister for lunch in Silverton. They
were cyclists too, pleasant to meet, and it started to rain heavily, so
we felt pretty lucky.
We camped a night in Silverton and ascended Red Mountain Pass on the
Million Dollar highway to Oury and then coasted down to Grand Junction
with a good tail wind most of the day. We had some difficulty finding a
motel first, as Grand Junction is very dispersed and has some really
odd street numbers, like 15 3/4
Street, etc. Eventually, we found a
good motel and had a good nights sleep before we went to Fruita the
|Returning to Denver Joe and Judith our neighbours at
the camping in Fruita gave us a ride to Delta. They were heading for
The first 20
kilometres beyond Delta took us through a barren dessert like landscape.
When we ascended into the mountains a cold rain began to fall. Then,
Bob and Barbara turned up. First when they passed us coming down
hill they stopped and asked the classic questions about who we were and
where we were going. A little while later, when the rain was getting
bad, they caught up with us from behind and offered us a ride to Silver
Meadow, our goal for the day. There was a lovely camping, with
hot showers, and a buffet dinner, as much as you could eat, for a
Bob and Barbara
|The next morning we climbed the Mac Lure Pass (2688).
We thoroughly enjoyed being back in the high mountains, the coolness
and the greenness after the heat of Grand Junction. The descent down
lush Crystal River Valley down from Mac Lure Pass was splendid. From
Carbondale we rode pleasant bike paths to Aspen.
From Aspen we climbed the Roaring Fork River Valley to Independence
Pass (3686 m) a beautiful ride passing lakes, gorges, and abandoned
On the other side was fast descent between some of the highest peaks in
the Sawatch Mountains to Leadville.
Elisabeth on the very crest
Going from Leadville to Frisco was much easier than the other way. We
soon gained the 450 altitude meters to the Freemont Pass (3449). Then
down to Frisco. The very pass is not a pretty sight as the whole area
has been strip mined. Though further on there is a beautiful mountain
for Loveland Pass and Golden we had the first really heavy weather
in Colorado. By the time we reached Dillon a hard cold rain was
falling. The weather forecast had predicted that snow might fall. We
were cold and wet and stopped for a while in Keystone to get warm and
then set off again ascending the Loveland Pass. We were quite
uncomfortable as it seemed it might begin to rain again any minute so
tried to hitch. Now, a friendly couple John and Marcelle (hope we
remember the names right), stopped their van asking if we needed any
help, we explained the situation, and they said fine, we are going to
Boulder so you can go with us to Golden. They saved us a hard ascent in
evil weather so we very happy and grateful. How much we loved those
american pickup trucks.