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  1. #1
    screenwasher
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    Ride the Rockies advice

    Folks,

    I have been a mostly silent lurker here for the past year or so with only a couple of posts. As introduction, I just turned 60, have been retired since late-2006 and biking regularly for the past couple of years after a gap of more than 10 years. I live in the Willamette valley in Oregon, do 25-50 mile recreational rides (solo and with local bike clubs) and the occasional regional organized metric century or two each year. I have also done one weeklong 300-mile loop tour of NW Oregon last summer with one of the local clubs.

    On a whim I registered for this year's Ride the Rockies. Beginner's luck or whatever, I just got notification today that I am in. Would really appreciate any guidance and advice form 50+ riders with first-hand RTR experience, especially about getting ready for the higher elevations and attendant challenges.

    Thanks a bunch.

  2. #2
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Can't tell you about the rockies- but dnvrfox will advise you of that.

    On the elevation- I live at sea level and my hills only get to 700 ft above at max. When I went to The Alps on holiday-I did not even think about the elevation- but I did have a few acclimatisation rides before I tackled Ventoux at 5,000ft. On the challenge side- Do hills- and then go and find a few more hills and get an I-Pod. I climb hills but 13 miles of continual climbing got through to me and anything to stop the boredom will help- Aswell as doing plenty of hills to get the legs and lungs in.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  3. #3
    screenwasher
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    Thanks, Stapfam. I also live at around 200 ft above sea level with nearby hilly roads at most 1,200 to 1,500 ft or so. The Ride the Rockies route this year is mostly between 5,500 and 12,000 + ft! Guess I have my work cut out for me the next 3 months to get ready.

    Cheers.

  4. #4
    Pat
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    I live in central FL. I have ridden tours in the Rockies at elevations over 12,000' (Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mtn Natl Park). I have never had a problem with exercising and elevation.

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    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by screenwasher View Post
    Thanks, Stapfam. I also live at around 200 ft above sea level with nearby hilly roads at most 1,200 to 1,500 ft or so. The Ride the Rockies route this year is mostly between 5,500 and 12,000 + ft! Guess I have my work cut out for me the next 3 months to get ready.

    Cheers.
    Right-- 3 months is not long. Find your steepest, longest hill and do it every ride-or as least as often as possible. Then in a months time do repeats up it. I only had a 15% hill for about 1 mile and started repeats on it. First time out twice was enough. When I got to 5- I got bored and just started doing longer rides taking in a variety of hills. 3,000 of climbing in 30 miles and when I did that ride on a repeat- I was ready.

    Good tip- Look at a Camelback. I have used one for years and I use a 2 litre one. Gel packs are good but the taste varies- find one that you like for when energy starts to lag. They don't work for 20 minutes or so but they do give a boost on energy.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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    Altitude acclimation necessary

    As a Colorado resident, I'm always riding at altitudes between 5,000-14,000 ft. When I travel to other cities and ride, I feel like a million bucks on even the steepest ascents, and I'm eventually limited only by my legs. Here at home, I feel like my lungs peak long before my legs. As a cyclist, you're a step ahead of the regular Joe who gets altitude sickness and all that, but you are most definitely going to feel the effects of the altitude. There isn't really a way around it, because there is simply much less oxygen in the air. Plan on drinking a lot more water than usual (on and off the bike), and don't forget your chapstick and sunscreen!

    Good altitude training tips here: http://www.ridetherockies.com/rider-...ning/#altitude

  7. #7
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Ride a lot of long climbs and go skinny. When we have cycled every day in Italy and Spain on hilly terrain but not at altitude, long climbs preceding the tour is the most important thing you can do.

    From the Ride the Rockies website...

    So how does one prepare for Riding The Rockies? We know that the longer you can train at altitude, the better prepared you will be to ride at altitude. Your respiratory distress will go down, your body will begin to produce more red blood cells to help carry oxygen and changes begin to take place at the cellular level. The whole effect is a more rapid and more efficient movement of oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. The net effect of this acclimatization to high altitude is a gradual improvement in performance.

    In an ideal world, cyclists would spend several weekend visits to altitude during the spring and then arrive in Colorado one to two weeks before Ride The Rockies to acclimatize to higher elevation.

    That's great if you've just retired following a grueling five year career at Microsoft. If you can arrange any part of this game plan, go hard.

    For the rest of us working stiffs, here's the best bet: find some of the hilliest courses in your area and ride them twice per week for several months prior to coming to Colorado. Then, plan to arrive in Colorado a day or two before the tour.
    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein

  8. #8
    Banned. DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pat View Post
    I live in central FL. I have ridden tours in the Rockies at elevations over 12,000' (Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mtn Natl Park). I have never had a problem with exercising and elevation.
    Response to altitude varies markedly from person to person. Some don't feel it, a very few get High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) or High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) - both potentially fatal.

    Most likely, one will get a headache and shortness of breath. DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL. Keep very hydrated, rested, and get to CO as far in advance as possible. It actually takes several weeks to really adjust to altitude.

    Folks from Florida and other low states complete the RTR successfully every year with no particular problems, especially if they are in great shape to begin with.

    Train as much as you can, especially on hills and the like.

    Keep in mind that Colorado is extremely dry. Even in thunderstorms, it is dry between the drops. Be prepared for snow and sleet - it can occur at any time during the summer.

    Mostly, have fun!!

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    Banned. DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Here are couple of pictures from the RTR many years back :

    Here is me at 58 years old (3.5 months after I started bicycling) riding, believe it or not, a mtn bike. This was taken on the Peak to Peak Highway going into Estes Park.



    And the rest stop a the top of Trail Ridge at 12,000 feet.


  10. #10
    screenwasher
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    Really appreciate all for the great advice and encouragement. The best I can do regionally here in Oregon within a couple hours drive is get up to around 3-5000 ft elevation. I can plan to get to Colorado a week or so ahead for a few local rides to get somewhat acclimated to the higher elevation. Thanks again.

  11. #11
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    hey, I retired from microcsoft corporate 5 years ago - way to go!

    I live at 7000' - altitude sickness is one thing. another thing is that your blood wont acclimate until 3 or 4 months have passed. that is, at altitude one's plazma thickens and the hemoglobin count rises. this is one reason why high altitude runners do well at the olympics, and why we bicyclists feel like superman when riding, say below 1000'.

    another thing for the rockies -- LOW GEARING. on my touring bike I us a 22-34 low, but you probably need'nt go so low when not carrying a load. that said, my standard geared compact double cyclocross bike is not low enough for me for long steep climbs. our grades are LONG. REALLY LONG. tens of miles, often. not always so steep, but the smaller county roads can be VERY steep. I'm 57, in pretty good, not great, shape, and have monster legs).

    jack
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  12. #12
    screenwasher
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    Thanks, jbpence. Wish I could spring for that Specialized Roubaix Elite in your fleet, but I guess n+1 will have to wait. Local dealer has a 2008 in stock in my size at a discount, but still out of the budget for an early-retiree from a tiny company with no pension or healthcare, and a 'honey I shrunk our 401K' nest egg.

    My all-purpose ride is a 2007 Jamis Aurora set up for touring with 48-36-24 chainrings and 12-32 cogs. Will this be adequate for the Rockies?

    To celebrate my making the cut for Ride the Rockies today, I went on a 36-mile ride with about 2,500 ft of total climbing, in windy low 40s weather. As the weather improves here, I hope to step up the training.

    Once again, thanks a bunch to all for the advice and encouragement.

    Cheers.

  13. #13
    tsl
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    I live in the flatlands at 500 ft and rode 5,000 to 14,130 ft last summer. I'm one of the lucky ones, apparently, since I didn't have any trouble with the altitude. I trained for the climbing and did pretty well.

    Quote Originally Posted by screenwasher View Post
    My all-purpose ride is a 2007 Jamis Aurora set up for touring with 48-36-24 chainrings and 12-32 cogs. Will this be adequate for the Rockies?
    My 52/39/30 and 12-27 were perfectly adequate for me. The climbs aren't necessarily steep, but they are long. Very long. Two of the routes I rode last year were 6% average over ten miles, each of which took me the better part of two hours. Again, it's not strength (or low gears) that get you up Colorado mountains, it's endurance.

    Train for riding hard (on the cusp of zone 5 if you have a heart rate monitor) for two hours straight, and you'll do fine. At least, that's what worked for me.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.—Peter Golkin


    Lucky for me, I work at a library and bike to work.

  14. #14
    train safe buelito's Avatar
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    you're gonna love it! It's a great ride-- you are doing at least part of the route we did 2 years ago--only in reverse-- we did the Aspen to Leadville over Independence Pass-- a beautiful road-- you can see my ride report on the following link--

    Another word of advice-- get to Colorado a couple of days before the ride starts--and ride everyday. My son lives in Denver, so I had a place to go and grandkids to ride with-- nothing strenuous or difficult, but it helped. The day before driving to the start we went to Boulder and went up Flagstaff Moutain-- not a long climb, but it was enough. Once on the ride we had no major problems with the altitude. We also slept in the gyms--if you do that, I recommend you get an eye mask to block out the light and ear plugs to block out the sound... I have done RtR 3 times, and have enjoyed everyone-- but the one 2 years ago was special

    Ride the Rockies fixed-- ride report

    train safe-
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  15. #15
    screenwasher
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    buelito, you have added inspiration and excitement to the great advice and encouragement from others. That ride report is awesome. Here I am talking about adequate gearing and you did it on a fixie!

    I plan to get to the Boulder/Fort Collins area a week ahead of RTR, as I have friends there I can crash with.

    I am really motivated now. Can't believe even now I made the lottery cut on the first attempt. I tried to get into Cycle Oregon closer to home, but it is first come-first served and filled up rapidly within a few days. RTR is by lottery and I did not even register until a couple of weeks ago.

  16. #16
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by screenwasher View Post
    My all-purpose ride is a 2007 Jamis Aurora set up for touring with 48-36-24 chainrings and 12-32 cogs. Will this be adequate for the Rockies?

    To celebrate my making the cut for Ride the Rockies today, I went on a 36-mile ride with about 2,500 ft of total climbing, in windy low 40s weather. As the weather improves here, I hope to step up the training.

    Once again, thanks a bunch to all for the advice and encouragement.

    Cheers.
    jbpence has mentioned it- but low gearing would be a good idea. 24/32 should be low enough- for even a tired old 50+er (Or you will be tired after all the training) In fact-It will be ideal but remember that when things get tough-You will use the lowest gear on the bike. The lower that gear- the slower you will be.

    I use compact gearing locally with 34/27 being my lowest gear. I have just set theTCR up with a triple with 30/27 being my lowest gear. I would like a bit lower for the mountains so will be fitting a 28t granny ring to it before my next trip to France.

    Jppe does more severe climbs than most of us and he has a 34/34 setup on his bike so if you are lower than 1 to 1 ratio on your bike it will be fine.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  17. #17
    tsl
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    You may want to pick up the book, Road Cycling Colorado by Michael Seeberg. They sell it on the Bicycle Colorado web site.

    I'm using it to plan my trip this summer. It has nearly 150 ride and route segments documented with maps, directions and descriptions, and most of them also have photos and elevation profiles. Based on my rides last year, his difficulty ratings are spot on.

    From where you're staying, you might like to warm up for RTR with his Route 14--Boulder to Estes Park and the descend on his Route 7, Devil's Gulch Road--Estes Park to Drake. On this leg, make sure you stop halfway down at the store in Glen Haven for their cinnamon rolls. Big honkin' things, only $2.75 and a very tasty treat that's not to be missed. They also have free water for cyclists.

    RTR starts this year in Glenwood Springs, where at the end of August we're having the 50+ Forum ride. You'll get a preview.

    Edit: I recommend the book for RTR because nearly all the route is covered in it. Makes a nice preview.
    Last edited by tsl; 02-28-09 at 02:08 PM. Reason: Added edit text
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
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  18. #18
    cycling for 50 plus yrs colorado dale's Avatar
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  19. #19
    Pat
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    Oh, another thing. The hills out west tend to be not so steep, but they are long. By "not so steep", I mean they seem to max out at around 7% (although Teton Pass does hit 10%). That is nothing like what you see in north Georgia or in North Carolina. But the climbs can be pretty long. Rabbit Ears Pass just east of Steamboat is 7 miles or 7%. So obviously, you want a gear that is low enough to climb comfortably for a long time at 7%.

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    I live at ~400'. Last November it took me about 3 days to get acclimated to the altitude. I ride hills pretty routinely here so they weren't so intimidating as they might be to a pure flatlander. BUT, the challenge is not climbing the hills the first day. It is climbing the hills the rest of the week. So, train, train, train. There is some good info on the RTR web site. If you don't have hills go to the nearest gym and ride a spin bike cranked way up.

    Have a good time. My 40-something buddy drove the RTR route and pronounced he wasn't up to doing it one day, let alone for a week. So, he is in training for next year. In the meantime I hope to persuade him to do some personal riding on that route a bit later in the summer.

  21. #21
    screenwasher
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    Colorado Dale, this is what the medical establishment refers to as off-label use. I heard a funny one about a retirement home nurse giving a senior citizen Viagra along with his sleeping pills. When the family questioned the need for this, the nurse explained it kept him from rolling off the bed while sleeping!!!

  22. #22
    Cycler Suzie Green's Avatar
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    I rode the "other" Colorado ride a number of years ago, Bicycle Tour of Colorado. We started in Estes Park and went south, then over Berthoud Pass, Rabbit Ears Pass, and some others that I've forgotten. Coming from New England, the first 2-3 days were the hardest. Nothing glaringly ridiculous, just feeling like I was about 20% "off" from a normal day. I didn't get any headaches or anything, and by the 4th day I was fine. If you can get there a couple of days in advance and do a bit of riding, that should help enormously.

    I've wanted to go back and do this again...maybe it's time!

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam View Post
    jbpence has mentioned it- but low gearing would be a good idea. 24/32 should be low enough- for even a tired old 50+er .....

    true. in general. 22-34 is how i spin - I am talking about when touring with 50 pounds of load. My tricross has a low of 34-27, thats (often, not always) low enough (18 pound bike, 190 pound strong-ish 57 year old rider)
    2009 Custom TI Frame Road Bike, all 2007 Campy Record, Campy Euros Wheelset
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