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Old 04-06-09, 11:43 AM   #1
CycleKraft
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Winter Park to Estes Park??? Help!

A call out to my Colorado neighbors. I need help/direction. My wife and I are going to be in Winter Park the first week of June '09 and I'm planning on riding my bike from Winter Park to Estes Park via Hwy 34 (trail Ridge Rd). I've Google'd until my eyes turned red and haven't found any site that can offer information.

Here's what I'd like to know.
- Has anyone here done this?
- Can it be done? Any restrictions on bike traffic?
- Vehicle traffic concerns?
- Gearing? My current low gear is 23t x 34t. Is that low enough?
- Any help or advice is welcomed.

Thanks!
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Old 04-06-09, 11:56 AM   #2
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it's doable, and there aren't any restrictions. What you will deal with is traffic (my suggestion is get an EARLY start), but the ride I've done up there we received quite a bit of respect from cars, vans, 50ft busses, etc.

re: gearing. What hills do you climb now? 34/23 might work, or might kill you, depending on your legs It's a steeper climb coming up the Granby side, but nothing over 7% http://www.rmnp.com/RMNP-Areas-TrailRidge.HTML --I know I couldn't do 34/23, especially for 20+ miles of climbing. My knees would hate me. I went up with a 34/27 and kept the cadence at a reasonable level.
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Old 04-06-09, 12:08 PM   #3
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My current low gear is 23t x 34t. Is that low enough?

If you have a 23T chainring and a 34T cassette, that should be fine. If you meant a 34T chainring, you need to get a 27T cassette....and that is assuming you are a strong climber.

Don't forget you are riding at elevation and you lose power as you gain elevation.
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Old 04-06-09, 12:19 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by superdex View Post
it's doable, and there aren't any restrictions. What you will deal with is traffic (my suggestion is get an EARLY start), but the ride I've done up there we received quite a bit of respect from cars, vans, 50ft busses, etc.

re: gearing. What hills do you climb now? 34/23 might work, or might kill you, depending on your legs It's a steeper climb coming up the Granby side, but nothing over 7% http://www.rmnp.com/RMNP-Areas-TrailRidge.HTML --I know I couldn't do 34/23, especially for 20+ miles of climbing. My knees would hate me. I went up with a 34/27 and kept the cadence at a reasonable level.
Thanks superdex. Good info!

An early start is a good plan, which I will follow. As far as how I climb now? Well...hills being relative, I ride a lot of "hills" but nothing as long or steep as Colorado mountains. Although 40+ years of age, I'm a strong climber. I've completed Ironman Wisconsin's course, which is rolling hills and a few out of the saddle climbs. I'm guessing I'll be better off if I get a 25 or 27t on the back end. I've had knee surgery and would probably have issues if I end up grinding low cadence for hours.

I'll take your advice on the 34t x 27. Thanks again for the great info!
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Old 04-06-09, 12:23 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by merlin55 View Post
My current low gear is 23t x 34t. Is that low enough?

If you have a 23T chainring and a 34T cassette, that should be fine. If you meant a 34T chainring, you need to get a 27T cassette....and that is assuming you are a strong climber.

Don't forget you are riding at elevation and you lose power as you gain elevation.
Thanks Merlin.
Yes...I have a 34t Chainring (compact double 34t x 50t) and a 11-23 cassette.
I think your advice of getting a 27t on the cassette is a good idea. At least I'd have a bail-out gear if I needed it. As it stands I can spin out a 5-6% climb at 90-rpm with my current set up. Having the 27t would be nice since I'll be riding for 20 miles this way.
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Old 04-06-09, 03:30 PM   #6
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I'll add a little more.

Services: once you get past Grand Lake, you *might* find potable water in some of the campgrounds, but don't count on getting water until the visitor center almost at the top - which also has a snackbar/store, bathrooms, etc. Check with the park service what services will be available that time of year.

Weather: Even though you may think of June as summer, up at altitude it's just barely spring. Expect to see some snow on the sides of the road (not likely on the road). Also, it's very common for there to be afternoon thunderstorms, which can be severe. The earlier you get up and over the top, the better. From about 4 miles (?) from the top on each side, you are above treeline and very exposed, and if there is lightning in the area, you want to get the heck out of there.

If I were you, I would check the NOAA weather forecast here, and if it's forecasting t-storms for your ride day, start from Granby or Grand Lake so you can be up and over the top before the storms start. I'm not trying to scare you, I think your ride is an excellent idea, but the t-storms are just nothing you want to be out riding in.

Whatever the forecast, bring lots of warm clothes for the descent.

By the way, Berthod Pass is a nice ride too (the other way on Hwy 40).

Have a wonderful ride!
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Old 04-06-09, 04:01 PM   #7
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The top of Trail Ridge near the end of June. Notice the snow pack, and everyone wearing jackets.

Trail Ridge has been closed in June several times the past few summers for snow on the road. It generally does not even get plowed and opened until the Memorial Day Weekend.


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Old 04-06-09, 04:14 PM   #8
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An interesting story going the other way. I was on that RTR ride.

http://www.pdafit.com/biking/rtr98/rtr2.html
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Old 04-06-09, 07:50 PM   #9
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Do yourself a favor and get the 12-27. I can tackle about anything here in CO with that. Our climbs aren't usually that steep, but they are long.
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Old 04-08-09, 05:12 PM   #10
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It's a great ride, and you have great advice from the posters above. Be sure and stop at the visitors center near the top, rest, adjust your clothing for the descent and check your brakes. Be very careful not to overheat your rims on the descent, it's long and steep. One thing that can't be said enough.....start early.

It's a fun and BEAUTIFUL ride, have fun!!!
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Old 04-13-09, 12:01 PM   #11
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just a thought, estes to grand lake is a bit harder than grand lake to estes, so make sure you have something left in the tank for the return trip. i dont think either of them is a killer, by colorado standards, but theyre both long and steady.
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Old 04-13-09, 12:26 PM   #12
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I was just in the Grand Lake side of the park for some snow shoeing. If you plan to camp, keep in mind that they just cut down all the trees in the campground on that side because of beetle damage. Check out the attached photo.
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Old 04-19-09, 07:48 PM   #13
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+1 on the start early
+1 on lower gearing
+1 bring rain jacket - it can get quite cold at the top even on the hottest summer day

Top of your water before you leave Grand Lake. We did this ride last summer and did not see any water between Grand Lake and the Visitor's Center near the top. Traffic is generally very bike friendly.

I forget the mileage, but when you get to the Continental Divide (leaving from the Grand Laked side), you are NOT at the top - this was a bit dejecting for my wife. There was a Park employee at the Continental Divide sign (everyone takes pics there), and they misinformed us that it was only a mile to the top from there...

Have fun! its a great ride!!!!!!

don't forget the camera
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Old 04-20-09, 08:26 AM   #14
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You can get water in the Colorado River campground in the park, (the one with all the trees cut down above) if you need more water before starting the climb.
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Old 05-05-09, 05:24 PM   #15
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I rode it in the other direction (Estes to Granby) a few years back. My low was either 30/25 or 30/27 (can't remember which), and I was pulling 30 pounds of crap behind me (trailer - we were on a multi-day tour). So if you get a 27 on the rear, and aren't pulling loads of stuff, you should be fine. As another already stated, it's not that it's super steep, just long...
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