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Colorado Cycling Vacation - What is the right tool? (bike/gearing)

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Colorado Cycling Vacation - What is the right tool? (bike/gearing)

Old 05-16-15, 11:48 AM
  #1  
ullearn
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Colorado Cycling Vacation - What is the right tool? (bike/gearing)

Pretty sure I am the tool in this equation, but with that out of the way.... Going to be spending 10 days vacationing (first acclimating) then riding some of the high passes, roads, and whatever else I can find.

Rides:
  • Independence Pass
  • Pikes Peak
  • Recommendations...

So the question is do I bring the road bike (compact double) or full suspension 29er?

Road Bike options:
  • Current Setup - 9speed 50/34 Compact Double road range 11/27 gears
  • Swap rear cassette and derailure to 11-34 / XT long cage

MTB options:
  • Current Setup - stock Trek Fuel EX7
  • Swap some 700x32c touring tires on it

Obviously I would love to bring both, but we are taking the fuel sipping Prius from Texas and while we go hiking I want to be able to throw the bike into the car for security; just can't do that with two bikes.

I don't have much to any MTB riding planned, but it's Colorado so it just seems wrong to not bring the MTB as we will be in places from Durango, Ouray, Leadville, Summit County, Rocky Mountain NP, and Colorado Springs.
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Old 05-16-15, 12:46 PM
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Do you intend to be on or off road? If you're not going off-roading there's no sensible reason to have a mountain bike just cause you're in the mountains. One bike for everything would be a cross bike or roadie with long reach calipers, and two wheel sets, road slicks and cross tires.
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Old 05-16-15, 01:20 PM
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Your current gears are probably fine for CO but it really depends on your weight and fitness and whatnot and whether you're carrying much besides you and your bike. If you find yourself in your 34/27 whenever it gets less than perfectly flat (I don't know what part of Texas you live in) then maybe you should go with the MTB RD on your road bike.
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Old 05-16-15, 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by ullearn View Post
Pretty sure I am the tool in this equation, but with that out of the way.... Going to be spending 10 days vacationing (first acclimating) then riding some of the high passes, roads, and whatever else I can find.

Rides:
  • Independence Pass
  • Pikes Peak
  • Recommendations...

So the question is do I bring the road bike (compact double) or full suspension 29er?

Road Bike options:
  • Current Setup - 9speed 50/34 Compact Double road range 11/27 gears
  • Swap rear cassette and derailure to 11-34 / XT long cage

MTB options:
  • Current Setup - stock Trek Fuel EX7
  • Swap some 700x32c touring tires on it

Obviously I would love to bring both, but we are taking the fuel sipping Prius from Texas and while we go hiking I want to be able to throw the bike into the car for security; just can't do that with two bikes.

I don't have much to any MTB riding planned, but it's Colorado so it just seems wrong to not bring the MTB as we will be in places from Durango, Ouray, Leadville, Summit County, Rocky Mountain NP, and Colorado Springs.
As said previously, it's going to depend on fitness etc... We're flatlanders and we spend time out in CO every year riding. Our bikes are set up with 11-28 11 speeds with 50-34 compacts and it works just fine. When we were on 10 speeds, our rear cassette was a 12-27 and that was fine too but we like the 28 better. I've also ridden an 11-32 11 speed but I really hate the gear spacing and, truthfully, I don't think I'd ever use the 32 anyhow.

We also did that riding - different rides, more around the Vail area - without acclimation to the altitude. Didn't seem like a big problem.

J.
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Old 05-16-15, 02:39 PM
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Pikes Peak limited access to top.
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Old 05-16-15, 04:41 PM
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I would bring the road bike, and then rent the mtb on the day or two you really want to go play in the dirt. 34/27 should be adequate for those passes, unless you drop to the 34 for anything that's uphill...

When is the trip?

Pikes is limited (but I understand open) to bikes -- Mt Evans is the better option (more accessible). Those roads aren't open yet (crews shoot for Memorial Day Weekend). Independence Pass looks like it's shooting for 22 May (Independence Pass Foundation) ...

Riding Trail Ridge Rd is awesome. Definitely plan for that. If you bag Independence, Evans, and Trail Ridge in the same trip, that would be a bucket list trip for sure.

Some reading info COLORADO CLIMBS - Pedal Dancer®

and here, this article may be entertaining if not insightful... Pikes Peak | Bicycling
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Old 05-16-15, 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by superdex View Post
When is the trip?

Pikes is limited (but I understand open) to bikes -- Mt Evans is the better option (more accessible). ... If you bag Independence, Evans, and Trail Ridge in the same trip, that would be a bucket list trip for sure.
Thanks superdex and everyone else for the rest of the responses; I didn't realize Pikes Peak was packed in at the top until now. I saw Mt Evans after doing some reading and it's tempting; wasn't sure if t was snowed in too or when they open it to cars as well.

We are heading up Next Saturday but none of the riding will be until after Memorial Day and hopefully the larger crowds head back to work.

To reply to some of the other questions:
- From the Austin area we have some hills but nothing as long as CO, just short steep bits. If you come in town and want a challenge check out our Tour das Hugel route; it can make Lance with extra red blood cells cry - http://www.dashugel.com
- I am in the 165lb range and decent to good enough riding shape
- No planned MTB riding, but I do feel if I leave it at home I will for sure find some reason to want it Ex. Ride up Pikes Peak and ride down Barr Trail (I am sure the hikers hate this)
- Turns out I think I have a 11-28 cassette so I will probably just go this route; that way I don't have to move a bunch of parts around bikes for one trip. #ShutUpLegs
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Old 05-16-15, 07:51 PM
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If you're going to go pass hunting you'll have different needs than staying on the bike path. Whatever bike you end up with, I would recommend that you come prepared to climb, i.e. light wheels and low gears. How's your fitness? Independence Pass climbs about 4000' in 20 miles. A fairly significant undertaking for anyone not living at altitude. Don't underestimate what you will be dealing with. Also, be prepared for inclimate weather in the mountains! Have fun!!
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Old 05-16-15, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by ullearn View Post
Thanks superdex and everyone else for the rest of the responses; I didn't realize Pikes Peak was packed in at the top until now. I saw Mt Evans after doing some reading and it's tempting; wasn't sure if t was snowed in too or when they open it to cars as well.

We are heading up Next Saturday but none of the riding will be until after Memorial Day and hopefully the larger crowds head back to work.
C-DOT works hard to open Evans and Trail Ridge by Memorial Day weekend. Keep an eye here: Mt. Evans on CO 5 road conditions and here: Road Status Report - Rocky Mountain National Park (U.S. National Park Service)

Keep in mind things get wonky at higher elevation: You'll need more water, you'll have less power, and the weather can change in minutes. Plan on getting up and down early -- t-storms are almost like clockwork after 12pm. Pack a jacket for the rollercoaster fun on the way down.
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Old 05-16-15, 09:24 PM
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Are acclimated to 9,000+ feet altitude?
Bring layers of clothing and more water than you think you'll need.
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Old 05-17-15, 05:17 AM
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I spent a week riding there two years ago. My compact double and 11-25t were more than enough for Trail Ridge Road, Independence Pass, and Vail Pass. As crazy as it sounds, try the bike path going over Vail Pass. It is that or the interstate, and they won't let you ride on the interstate. It is a really nice path that runs roughly parallel to the highway all the way from Breckenridge to Vail and continues on across the state. There is also so beautiful riding around Aspen. I would love to go back and use Breckenridge as a base, and ride Mt. Evans as well as the Copper Triangle. I think the Copper Triangle in one day would be a nice challenge.

Even in June, on Trail Ridge, I had to stop at the treeline and wait about an hour for the ice on the road to thaw so they would open it. Road conditions are definitely a concern at the higher altitudes.

I found the mountains there to be surprisingly easy. It turns out that I have no problem spinning up a 4% grade for 25 miles. It is the 10-15% for 2 mile grades around here that hurt me.

One of the nice things about being out there is that there are bike shops everywhere. You can use their floor pumps to air up your tires, maybe buy a souvenir jersey, or if you need a spare tube or forget anything, you should be covered. Most of them also rent mountain bikes, so if you want to hit the trails for a day, you should be good.
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Old 05-17-15, 05:51 AM
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Road bike for sure. MTBs are possible to rent, if you find yourself wanting to ride dirt.

As said, it's really early for the high passes. Independence and Trail Ridge are long shots, Pikes Peak and Mt Evans are likely a no-go. Mt Evans descent is awful. Copper Triangle is probably to snowy on the bike path, but check with a bike shop in the area to be sure.

Someone said pack a jacket for descents - not JUST a jacket - leg warmers, long sleeve jersey, vest, warm long finger gloves, hat AND jacket - MINIUMUM.

We're in a thunderstorm pattern right now, so riding early will be necessary. That could change by the middle of next week, but you can't tell in advance.

If the high mountains have bad weather, there is great hilly riding out of Boulder, Golden and west side of Denver (morrison, evergreen).
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Old 05-19-15, 08:50 AM
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Will for sure be acclimating and layering up / down; plus watching the weather and heading out early. I ended up weening out and slapped on the big gears last night just to be safe; since who knows when I will be back to CO to do these rides again.

I call it Fraken-Climbing-Beans!



Not sure if I am proud or cringe at the mutation, but one thing is for sure. If I can't climb the hills it is definitely Not About the Bike. I am pretty sure the rear cassette weighs more than the rear wheel and tire. Thanks for all the advice and replies!
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Old 05-19-15, 10:46 AM
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Originally Posted by ullearn View Post
Will for sure be acclimating and layering up / down; plus watching the weather and heading out early. I ended up weening out and slapped on the big gears last night just to be safe; since who knows when I will be back to CO to do these rides again.

I call it Fraken-Climbing-Beans!



Not sure if I am proud or cringe at the mutation, but one thing is for sure. If I can't climb the hills it is definitely Not About the Bike. I am pretty sure the rear cassette weighs more than the rear wheel and tire. Thanks for all the advice and replies!
I put on a similar SRAM set up when I went to Italy a few years ago. 50x34 up front and a 34 large cog in the rear. It was nice to have that low gear for some of the long climbs.

I remember doing Independence Pass back in 2000. Climbed up from U.S.F.S. campground Difficult just outside of Aspen. I was riding my touring bike, but not with any load. A few weeks before I had finished a self contained tour from Seattle to Cortez, CO, where I regularly crossed passes in the 6,000' to 11,500' range in MT, WY and CO. Despite having experience riding at altitude, I still found Independence taxing.

While paying attention to the forecast can help, you should always carry some extra clothing if you are going to be at high altitude. Storms can develop without warning, especially in the afternoon. Last year I was riding in MT. One day was beautiful. Not a cloud in the sky--until I was half way up a 7,900' pass. A storm developed and hit me just as I got to the summit. It rained, hailed and even snowed on me during the 26 mile descent. Of course the sun came back out when I got to the bottom. A few days later I got caught in another fast developing storm at 7,200', but it only rained that time. This was in late June.
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Old 05-19-15, 10:52 AM
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You said you're going to go hiking. That should satisfy your need to get away from the road. In fact hiking can get you into Wilderness, where you cannot go on wheels. Take a road bike and enjoy the scenery.

You said you're going to Ouray, do the Million Dollar Highway.
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