Steve (my father) and I spent a few days riding around above Boulder. I rode from Denver up to Boulder through Golden, which is the only way I know how, although not terribly direct. Then we hit the Betasso trails for some mountain biking, scary crash included.
Up early the next morning to take the bus up to Nederland. An easy day was planned, so we explored the town a bit, got some great BBQ, took a nap, and then set out heading South. After getting to Rollinsville, we switched to dirt and headed West towards the divide.
We were following the Rollins Pass Road, which now dead ends, but was one of the first railroads over the divide. There’s still an active train line (I saw an Amtrak, that must be a great ride!), but it uses a tunnel through instead of clinging to the side of the mountains.
The third day we headed North on the Peak to Peak towards the bustling town of Ward, which did have a small store, providing us with some microwaved burritos for lunch. Rocketing down Lefthand Canyon was a hoot. There’s never any shoulders on canyon roads, but during the middle of a weekday, we saw more bikes than cars, so we could take the lane and not feel strapped for space. When you are riding the white line and your bike wants to go 35MPH with traffic passing a few feet away, it can be a little nerve wracking.
Near the bottom, we diverted over Lee Hill Road for a little coda on the mountains with the steepest climbing of the trip at the end of the ride.
Despite my hopeful words about the end of winter in the last post, April was a deluge of snow. Every week a new storm rolled in just as things were melting from the previous dump. Boulder got a record setting four feet.. for April! Fine time to sell your snow bike, Doty ;)
Red rocks at Red Rocks
During a dry spell, friend Kevin had the great idea to ride to Red Rocks. This had never occurred to me before. I knew it was there. I frequently rode within a small handful of miles of it. I knew it was awesome, but The Doty’s foggy brain sometimes fails to put things together.
I’m not going to declare winter dead(again), but today was nearly 80 degrees and there’s no snow in the forecast. I took the newly birthed monster cross bike (more details in a future post) to go explore the beginning of the Colorado Trail. They say it runs from “Denver to Durango”, which is almost true.. The trailhead is at the base of Waterton canyon just outside of Littleton (which is basically Denver). You get some awesome dirt road for seven or so miles before the single track begins. I was able to ride a good section of this without a mountain bike, which bodes well for future plans…
No, the plans have nothing to do with sheep, they were just there. I want to ride the Colorado Trail this summer. Using a mountain bike, carrying camping gear. So far signs look good. Maybe in the next week or two I’ll get to do an overnighter and test out the rig..
Winter is finally dying, alternating weeks of 70 degree sunny days and dumping huge quantities of snow. Lots of riding in the city..
BNSF over Cherry Creek
On the mountain bike trails at the lowest altitude..
Greenwood Village Mountain Bike Trail
And on the paths in the foothills. Plenty to do, but I’m still waiting for things to melt higher up!
By Bear Creek
Today and tomorrow comprise a narrow window where the trails at lower elevation have just finished drying, but the storm at the end of the week hasn’t hit yet. Of course, that means that I had to ride the new bike over to a mountain to try it out. The bike is green and named Kermit. The mountain is brown, and named Green Mountain.
Green Bike and Green Mountain
I wanted to explore the northwestern quadrant as my map tells me that has the most interesting trails. There is also a connection over there to another trail system which I have ridden and know to be awesome. I ended up dinking around on the eastern side; whenever I peeked my now sunburnt nose over the top of any ridge, I was blasted in the face with a minor gale. I stole some views, but otherwise crept away and left the wind and the western side to their own devices.
Kermit meets the Front Range
The mountains were calling, and I answered by moving to Colorado. I spent the first few months living outside of the town of Golden, right smack at the feet of the Front Range. It was three miles to the grocery store, six to a cafe or bus station, but several trails systems were at the front door.
Fire in the Sky
With the first snow in Fall, I knew that life would continue to be tough out there without a car. Riding 20 miles home from a date in Boulder in the dead of night in the rain? Fun a few times, but not sustainable.
Cold Angry Horse
So into Denver I fled. Buried within a protective layer of suburbs, strip malls, and pawn shops, there a handful of neighborhoods in the center that are urban, walkable, and even somewhat hip. The bus system is strong and the traffic light. I want to check out Fort Collins soon, but I really think I might just stay in Denver for a while.
Some nagging injuries and ailments kept me cooped up in my tiny but awesome apartment for a good chunk of the winter, but I made the best of it. Skiing was tried (and quickly abandoned after an MCL sprain), the snow bike used in glory for one week and then sold, and now Spring is arriving. The lowest trails are just now dry, time to go explore..
Last summer I went on a road trip with the cousin and his parents through Colorado and Utah. We brought mountain bikes on the rack and managed to get a fair bit of riding in, which was very crucial after all of that driving!
While in Utah, we stayed with one our uncles who has built a house several thousand feet over a reservoir. He has to store water all winter long because the pipes would freeze, but I think the views make it worth it:
We stopped in Moab for one night and managed to sneak in two rides. The slick rock trail is something truly amazing, and I can’t wait to get back out there to ride everything else!
You probably heard this already, but the whole West was on fire last summer. There are many theories as to why, but there was clearly a drought, and it was comparatively hot. Haze obscured the sky all summer long except for brief respites right after the occasional rain.
Smoke from Squaw Pass Road
I loaded up my touring bike and set off into the mountains, climbing 5,000 feet the first day and wondering how far I was going to actually make it. The mountains in Colorado sure are a lot bigger than those in Illinois.. I slept the first night above 10,000 feet and woke up feeling much more used to the altitude. I stopped by the base of Mount Evans, which had the highest paved road in the world until recently. The cyclists at the bottom said that conditions were perfect, so I changed plans and went for it. I will admit to doing some bike pushing, but it was quite ride back down: dropping 7,000 feet in one go into Idaho Springs.
On top of Mt Evans
The first Continental Divide crossing was over Berthoud Pass. I snaked up the road from Idaho Springs along an extremely generous shoulder (apparently used for snow storage in the winter) which allowed me to ignore the heavy traffic of Corvettes. I was headed for Winter Park to meet some friends and do some downhill biking. The Corvettes were headed to the same spot, but for a convention, it turned out. Downhill riding was scary/fun/interesting: wearing body armor, bikes that can barely be pedaled but have 8 inches of suspension, huge berms, steep hills, jumps. I went OTB on a black diamond trail pretty early in the day and kept things a little more conservative after that.
The final stretch was to recross the Divide over Rollins Pass. This has the Moffat Road, which is the remnant of the first railroad to go over the Rockies around the turn of the century. It had a nasty tendency to derail and plunge the whole train thousands of feet down the side of the mountain, so when a better option was carved underneath the mountains nearby, it was abandoned. Most of the route is unimproved jeep road and the topmost section is off limits to motorized vehicles. I spent all day dreaming of doing this with a full suspension bike instead of having my body shaken and abused.
Aside from being a great experience, I was able to learn a lot about touring in the mountains to plan future trips. Planning based on elevation changes is more important than mileage. There’s actually quite a bit of water around if you have a filter. Humanity never seems very far away in the Front Range, so there’s no need to carry a week’s worth of food. This is just the beginning..
We boarded an Amtrak and then rode back across Illinois last summer. Most of our suspicions were confirmed: it’s mostly pancake flat, humidity sure does suck, and there are lots (and lots, and lots) of farms.
Barn in the USA
There were some surprises, however. Western Illinois is actually very hilly in a rolling sort of way, making 50 miles of otherwise boring farmland quite strenuous/interesting. The long abandoned canal system we followed back showed a good variety of wildlife. These canals were dug long before cars were invented, and we rode along the mule path on either side. Except for when it met a town, the route felt shockingly distant from humanity. Forests and marshland; this is how I imagine uncultivated Illinois used to be.
Heron on the I&M
Back in Chicago
Due to some of the lowest airline fares I have ever witnessed, Erica and I were able to visit her parents in Northern Vermont while winter was still going strong. I packed the fat bike into a few boxes and entrusted its fate to the FedEx gods.
The riding was all that you could ask for. Seemingly endless miles of wide, well packed snowmobile trails snaked through the woods with not a care in the world for the steepness of the hill (oof). The fat bike can truly fly (downhill) in such conditions!
Snowmobile Trails in Vermont
Breaking trail in the woods to get to the snomo trails was an exercise in futility, however. There was a firm crust on top of some softer snow underneath. Walking in boots, you would post hole most of the time. The tires aired down to super low PSI managed a little bit better, but still would eventually break through. A few more days with snow shoes to pack things down, and it could have been all biking, all the time. I guess it was an exercise in the virtues of snow shoeing, after all..
The Blog is dead. Long live The Blog. My first attempt at blogging mostly concerned itself with some very detailed discussions about touring bicycles and my restoration/updating of an old Schwinn Passage. This was fun and some people who own Passages have written to say they found it useful, but it proved to be an awful lot of work for a very narrow audience. This was a death sentence.
I completed the planned work on the Passage in 2010. The following changes brought me to a very capable road touring machine:
- Shoulder width ergo-bend handlebars.
- Modern brake levers that provide a usable hand position. The levers pulled a different amount of cable, so I had to get a new front brake.
- SKS Fenders and some Surly Nice Racks.
- Re-spaced rear hub to allow for 7 speed freewheel. This also needed the wheel to be re-dished.
- Wide range Shimano hyper-glide freewheel. Updated chainrings to better match the freewheel.
- A used Brooks B17 saddle.
- New bar tape, lights, pedals, tires, cables, tubes, rear derailleur, oil, bottle cages, chain, lock, grease, and some much needed attention.
My Schwinn Passage, fully loaded before a tour.
So how’d everything work out? In a word: great! The drive train upgrades gave me a nice big range of gears and the switch to a hyperglide freewheel made the old friction shifters very easy to operate. The cockpit and saddle improvements made the bike exceedingly comfortable for long rides. I went on a few tours that summer with a ton of gear: panniers front and back, stuff on both racks. I quickly realized that I wasn’t using half of the crap I was carrying and that I was missing some of the most exciting riding because I was limited to the sides of roads. In the Spring of 2011 I bought a Salsa Fargo and haven’t looked back. Shortly afterward, my girlfriend’s brother had his bike stolen. I was riding the Fargo instead of the Passage, so I gave the Passage a new home where I believe it’s still being ridden regularly.
With Fatty Lumpkin in Iceland