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  1. #1
    Senior Member Fastfwd01's Avatar
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    Colorado Cycling

    I just started cycling last year. I went from total couch potato to actually getting fairly fit before winter and I'm battling getting it back now that the weather has improved here. Hit 1k miles for the year yesterday. I've never had to tackle hills here really though much less mountains. We do have crazy winds here that I understand might help prep somebody for tackling climbs.

    I think I would really like to take a mini vacation up to Colorado and ride a century, but I'm just not sure how I will do in the mountains with elevation and climbs. I found a website that lists a lot of different events and rates the difficulty that might be some guide, but I would appreciate any input anyone has.

    Colorado Cycle Rides, Gran Fondo, Century Rides, Ultra Cycling, Cycle Tours Calendar

    I'm interested in something fun like my idea of what a Gran Fondo is maybe. Not really out to prove myself as being the fastest (I know I'm not). I don't even ride a carbon bike which might be noteworthy in the equation.

    Will I die?

  2. #2
    DLifer EricL's Avatar
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    Hi Fastfwd01 thought I'd throw in my 2 cents here. If you've never cycled at 'altitude' before you might want to come up and try your legs (and lungs) for a few days before tackling a long-distance ride in the mountains. If your heart is set on doing one of the orgainzed rides listed on the page you linked to, I'd recommend either Elephant Rock or the Denver Century to start. Elephant Rock has a ton of people, some great scenery and some decent hills to climb. I've never done the Denver Century (organized anyway but did a very similar route earlier this month) but you do get to climb Lookout Mountain which I'm sure you'll enjoy.

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    Senior Member Fastfwd01's Avatar
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    Thanks for responding. I was hoping that somebody that knew the events would chime in with feedback on what might be the most fun and friendly to someone who hasn't ridden in the mountains and at elevation, etc. I toured Colorado on my Harley in 2012 and I was amazed by all of the cyclists. I'd love to ride some of those more challenging climbs, but I know they would kick my ass if I tried it unprepared.

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    Get a bike trailer and start towing your dog or toddler around to help build strength. Borrow a dog or toddler if ya have to. Go to the grocery store and drag back six sacks of grub with it.
    Last edited by TinkerinWstuff; 03-31-15 at 10:21 AM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Fastfwd01's Avatar
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    Thanks for the input. We do have *A* 'mountain' in Oklahoma that has a road all the way to the top.

    Mt. Scott in Lawton , OK, United States | MapMyRide

    I've got a trailer hitch and bike rack coming in this week and I may have to make a trip down soon and see how tackling it goes. I'll probably need to plan on spending a few full days going up and down it as many times as I can manage. It should be an interesting experiment with my cycling if nothing else. Camp out and ride Mt. Scott a few weekends maybe and see if I can handle it before making any definite plans to make a trip up to Colorado.

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    I passed through CO on a 3 week peak bagging trip back in 2013. Note the climbs are longer and far higher than anything I have ridden in Europe!

    Will be good for you to ride Mt Scott a few times to get used to riding a bike uphill, but living in a windy flat area you should be able to train for the lower candence efforts you will encounter climbing. You won't need to tow any trailers, just point your face into the wind and do efforts into it.

    Unfortunately nothing will help you acclimatise for 4000m+ elevation... For my trip I started in CA and worked my way through the climbs gaining elevation as I went. Still suffered on the last km's on Pikes Peak which hit over 10%; as at 4300m you will only be able to output around 72% of your sea level FTP...

    Climbs I rode in CO were:

    Grand Mesa (both sides).
    Independence pass (both sides).
    Copper Triangle.
    Trail ridge rd (both sides).
    Mt Evans.
    Pikes Peak
    http://climbinglama.blogspot.com.au

  7. #7
    old and in the way grueling's Avatar
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    Even the grand tour pros complain about the altitude during the US Pro Tour, so you will not be the only person suffering. Altitude is tough on everyone. Ride into the wind - a lot. The weighted trailer will be a good idea. I do a 3 day tour over 6 passes, up to 11,500 ft. Many people come from lower flatter regions and do fine. I have ridden with Texans, Floridians, and some friends from Chicago. It is hard climbing that high, but you will make it. Walk if needed. I still do occasionally. Shameless plug - Guided Cycling in Colorado, Cycling Events | Aurora, CO

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    wow, what a weird list. I've never seen that site before. There are things on there that you won't want to do - Boulder Roubaix, Death Ride, Golden Gran Fondo, Bob Cook Memorial Mt Evans, Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop (tim was my friend's best friend)

    Here's some other lists:
    2015 Colorado Bicycle Event Calendar
    2015 Colorado Bicycling Events | Bicycle Colorado
    Bike a Century: Colorado Ride List

    Some of the real classics are:
    Copper Triangle - 80 miles, 3 high passes, beautiful mountains
    Triple Bypass - 120 miles, 3 high passes - I don't recommend b/c too high/long/expensive
    Iron Horse (do the tour - and it fills up fast so start looking at when registration opens now) - Durango is a super cool town.
    Elephant Rock - relatively easy century, but overcrowded and boring, and not in the mountains at all.
    Buff Bicycle Classic - ride from Boulder (epicenter of colorado cycling) up to the peak to peak highway, great views, then lots of easy flat later in the ride. Don't bother with the non-epic versions.

    If you have specific questions or dates in mind, check back with me.
    ...

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    Can't comment on most of your list Valygrl except the Copper Triangle.

    I mainly included this circuit in my itinerary as it is a loop (my preferred option if possible) as most of the rides I did in 3 weeks ended up being out and back. Personally it was the least enjoyable ride during those 3 weeks in CA, CO and AZ. I started in Leadville (stayed at a really nice Hostel) and rode it clockwise. First leg to Minturn was lovely. Section that was a letdown for me was the whole section right next to the I70 including the bike path to Vail pass. Path from the pass to Copper Mountain was completely closed when I was there too. Only options were to ride the way I'd come or illegally ride the 5 miles along the Interstate to Copper Mountain... Decided on the later; fortunately the passing trucks and cars gave me a wide berth! Final stretch back to Leadville was pleasant again but was a little jaded from the long section just before.
    http://climbinglama.blogspot.com.au

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    Oof, Dalai, sorry to hear. The bike path is nice, you must have hit it while they were repaving.
    ...

  11. #11
    Senior Member robabeatle's Avatar
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    @valygrl: Thanks for that list. I remember you pointing me to a ride list a couple of years ago and I was about to search for that thread as I will be in Boulder from June1-July 15. I have only done the Copper Triangle and Mt. Evans from your list. Any must do rides?

    I think I will miss a few of the century options as I think the Sunshine Hill Climb is June 6th and there are a bunch of centuries that day.

    Thanks

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    Quote Originally Posted by robabeatle View Post
    @valygrl: Thanks for that list. I remember you pointing me to a ride list a couple of years ago and I was about to search for that thread as I will be in Boulder from June1-July 15. I have only done the Copper Triangle and Mt. Evans from your list. Any must do rides?

    I think I will miss a few of the century options as I think the Sunshine Hill Climb is June 6th and there are a bunch of centuries that day.

    Thanks
    You should ride from boulder to Estes park and back as a self supported century. Boulder, lefthand, ward, allenspark, estes, and either back up hwy 7 to allenspark then down the s..st vrain to lyons, or over devils gulch down to hwy 34, then back down past carter lake.

    Also, look at the rides on the Rocky Mountain cycling club's site, especially the climbing challenge series "climbfest". There are some steep awesome roads out of Morrison, evergreen, ken Caryl. It looks like they changed their web site and I can't find the maps right now... Maybe you can find them, or search mapmyride.
    Here's one version
    RMCC Foothills Climbfest 2013 in Littleton, CO, United States | MapMyRide

    Do you know jane b. From Sabino cycles? She'll be here then too.

    Give me a shout when you get here if you want to meet me for a cup of coffee, bring a map and a highlighter and I'll mark it up for you. I'd offer to ride with you but I'm probably too slow.
    ...

  13. #13
    Senior Member robabeatle's Avatar
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    @valygrl: Hey thanks again. That is a great list.

    I don't know Jane B. I may take you up on the map marking, otherwise I will try (harder than last time) to get on the group rides in town. So maybe I will see you out there.

    I'm also bringing my mtn bike this time and hope to get on lots of trails!

    <stoked>

  14. #14
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    I am a flat lander (New Orleans.) I had always wanted to ride in Colorado but was concerned about my fitness for climbing and the altitude. I wanted to tackle Independence Pass. Two summers ago I decided I was going to finally do it. I spent a few days at 8K in the Crested Butte area, doing a few easier rides there then went to Twin Lakes on the eastern side of Independence Pass. I stayed in a bed and breakfast there then set out the next morning for my climb. I had lost my lungs at altitude before and knew that I had to take a conservative approach to the climb. I took my time and made it with no problem. I stopped a couple of times along the way to take pics, but could have made it fine without the stops. I am so glad I did that. It rates as one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I rode a bike I built myself. It is an aluminum Schwinn with mountain bike gearing which I am glad I had. I was about three turns from the top and feeling pretty good about myself when a woman who was probably in her 60's passed me like I was sitting still. That really helped with my humility! My advice to you is to do it and take your time with it. Budget time to acclimate to altitude and even then, be careful. Losing your lungs kinda sneaks up on you and it sucks.


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    Quote Originally Posted by robabeatle View Post
    I have only done the Copper Triangle and Mt. Evans from your list. Any must do rides?
    Pikes Peak. Climbing 10+% at over 4000m on approximately 72% of your sea level FTP is brutal!

    pikes.png

    Out and back over Trial Ridge Road is said to be extremely scenic. I rode it from Grand Lake in 2013 the day the only road open out of Estes Park due to flooding so I saw little of the views...
    Last edited by Dalai; 04-08-15 at 05:01 AM.
    http://climbinglama.blogspot.com.au

  16. #16
    mje
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    devils gulch down to hwy 34
    I highly recommend the low traffic Devils Gulch road from Drake to Estes Park. It starts with a gentle climb through a lovely idyllic valley for several miles. After you pass through Glenhaven, the road starts to steepen and soon you hit the infamous switchbacks. The view of the peaks of RMNP behind Estes Park from the top of the short, steep climb is absolutely fantastic. The ride down devils gulch is good too, but I prefer it the other direction.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mje View Post
    I highly recommend the low traffic Devils Gulch road from Drake to Estes Park. It starts with a gentle climb through a lovely idyllic valley for several miles. After you pass through Glenhaven, the road starts to steepen and soon you hit the infamous switchbacks. The view of the peaks of RMNP behind Estes Park from the top of the short, steep climb is absolutely fantastic. The ride down devils gulch is good too, but I prefer it the other direction.
    Devil's Gulch is a fantastic ride, but I would be surprised if it's rideable yet. I drove it a couple of months ago and it was under heavy construction. We were stopped by a flagman for almost an hour, and it was a Sunday.

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    mje
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    Quote Originally Posted by tomato coupe View Post
    Devil's Gulch is a fantastic ride, but I would be surprised if it's rideable yet. I drove it a couple of months ago and it was under heavy construction. We were stopped by a flagman for almost an hour, and it was a Sunday.
    Thanks for the update. I don't get up that way often. I found a site to track the construction status of it and nearby roads: Road Closure Map

  19. #19
    Senior Member Fastfwd01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    wow, what a weird list. I've never seen that site before. There are things on there that you won't want to do - Boulder Roubaix, Death Ride, Golden Gran Fondo, Bob Cook Memorial Mt Evans, Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop (tim was my friend's best friend)

    Here's some other lists:
    2015 Colorado Bicycle Event Calendar
    2015 Colorado Bicycling Events | Bicycle Colorado
    Bike a Century: Colorado Ride List

    Some of the real classics are:
    Copper Triangle - 80 miles, 3 high passes, beautiful mountains
    Triple Bypass - 120 miles, 3 high passes - I don't recommend b/c too high/long/expensive
    Iron Horse (do the tour - and it fills up fast so start looking at when registration opens now) - Durango is a super cool town.
    Elephant Rock - relatively easy century, but overcrowded and boring, and not in the mountains at all.
    Buff Bicycle Classic - ride from Boulder (epicenter of colorado cycling) up to the peak to peak highway, great views, then lots of easy flat later in the ride. Don't bother with the non-epic versions.

    If you have specific questions or dates in mind, check back with me.
    I appreciate everyone's responses! I'm still pretty new to all of this so if Elephant Rock is relatively easy and boring it might be just my speed. I'm a little leery of any organized events at altitude with difficult climbs being my first exposure to riding in the mountains. I was considering if I drove all the way up there to at least plot out a place take a few days maybe or even more than one spot to camp out and do some riding in the mountains. I'm not sure any of this will work out this year or not, but I ordered a book on cycling in Colorado Road Biking Colorado: Michael Seeberg: 9781565796515: Amazon.com: Books

    I would certainly like to make a trip up this year possibly. Just have to see how it works out. I've already racked up a lot of miles on my car this year.

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    Book looks good. I bought Complete Guide to Climbing (By Bike) In Colorado which lists many of the climbs...

    It is a beautiful state to ride. Definitely get there when you have the chance!
    http://climbinglama.blogspot.com.au

  21. #21
    DLifer EricL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fastfwd01 View Post
    I love this book!! I had the old edition and got the new one recently. It's very inspiring and has great descriptions of the routes and how to link them together.

  22. #22
    Senior Member robabeatle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dalai View Post
    Book looks good. I bought Complete Guide to Climbing (By Bike) In Colorado which lists many of the climbs...

    It is a beautiful state to ride. Definitely get there when you have the chance!

    Purchased, thanks!

  23. #23
    Senior Member Fastfwd01's Avatar
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    I got my book. It does give pretty detailed insight and some great tips for what to expect. I'm currently considering making a trip up to participate in the Elephant Rock Metric Century. I try to complete a metric almost every weekend here now and even though it is extremely flat it is often windy. I don't think I will have any problem with a metric at Elephant Rock at whatever elevation it will be - hopefully. I think what I might like to try after that possibly is taking the week off since I'm driving up and make a full blown vacation out of it.

    I took a trip up touring Colorado on my Harley in 2012 and really liked the Aspen area possibly the best (shocker! no, seriously, they were relatively nice and welcoming considering what might be expected). Not to say that I wasn't overwhelmed by the beauty everywhere I went. Anyway, so, I'm thinking that I might try to find a decent campsite near Aspen - I actually love camping and no place is better than Colorado for that.

    That's going to put me at about what, 7,500 to 8,000 feet? I can then take that rail to trail path up toward Glenwood Springs for as far as I like one day while getting acclimated to the elevation. I see in the book that Maroon Creek Road is closed to motorists and for $5 you can go up on a bicycle. I didn't check this out on my previous trip and this would be a great opportunity. That would give me a relatively easy climb to attempt at altitude. Depending on how it goes I might try a more challenging climb/mountain pass like Independence Pass. Otherwise, there are a number of options in the area that might be enjoyable. I'm guessing that I can probably putter up just about anything if I go slow enough LOL. I will be mindful that I will probably be logging on Strava just how slow I am going though.

    Aspen is having their Gran Fondo that next Saturday and that sounds like an exceptional event to experience. This would give me a week more or less at altitude to try to get acclimated and a Gran Fondo shouldn't be too crazy competitive to participate in. It's 50 miles though and I'm sure it will be challenging for me not being accustomed to the climbs. All the challenge I imagine that I would be interested in anyway.

    Any suggestions or input on what to expect and/or be prepared for? I would anticipate giving myself at least one rest day prior to the event in Aspen. Should I rule out attempting anything like Independence Pass before participating in an event a few days later or maybe a more mild climb to prepare me?
    Last edited by Fastfwd01; 04-17-15 at 09:30 AM.

  24. #24
    Senior Member Fastfwd01's Avatar
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    Now that I'm Googling on it - they do recommend a week at altitude. High-Altitude Cycling | Bicycling Any input is appreciated. I'm sure I can Google a lot of information on it. I question if possibly the fatigue from riding at altitude will be more harsh on my body (I'm new to this and 43 years old btw - formerly way, way out of shape, but logged over 4,000 miles since I started last year and I was pretty athletic when I was younger). How much riding I should attempt before the event, etc. Would Independence Pass just kill any chance of me enjoying the Gran Fondo on Saturday?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fastfwd01 View Post
    I'm thinking that I might try to find a decent campsite near Aspen - I actually love camping and no place is better than Colorado for that.
    I stayed one night at the Difficult campsite, located 5 miles above Aspen towards Independence Pass and had no complaints. Not sure other options for riding in the area given it is in one long valley other than Maroon Bells and Independence pass? Both sides are good though Aspen side of Independence pass is my pick of the two IMO.

    White River National Forest - Difficult Campground



    Quote Originally Posted by Fastfwd01 View Post
    Any suggestions or input on what to expect and/or be prepared for? I would anticipate giving myself at least one rest day prior to the event in Aspen. Should I rule out attempting anything like Independence Pass before participating in an event a few days later or maybe a more mild climb to prepare me?
    Realise that regardless of acclimatisation, your power produced does reduce as elevation increases.

    The Effect of Racing at Altitude | TrainingPeaks

    Hard to say if Independence Pass a few days prior to the Gran Fondo is wise, really depends on how hard you find the climb and how quickly you recover? The climb is rarely steep (average 4.7% 7% max) but is just under 20 miles of climbing from Aspen...
    http://climbinglama.blogspot.com.au

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