Issue: May 2013
Tags: Super James, Super Flag, Steamboat Springs, road cycling, Rist Canyon Loop, Peak to Peak Highway, Maroon Bells, Lake Dillon Loop, Lake Catamount, Estes Park, Copper Triangle, confluence park, Cheyenne Canyon, Cherry Creek State Park, Carter Lake, bikes
With dry roads and sunny days stretching out ahead of us, we’re joining the frenzy—and helping you do the same—by highlighting some of the best road cycling routes (for beginners and experts alike!) along the Front Range and in Colorado’s famed high country. Clip in and enjoy the ride.
The Ride: Cheyenne Cañon
Distance: 11.4 miles round-trip
Time: 1 hour or less
Nearly every cyclist living in or around Colorado Springs, including international pros and riders training at the U.S. Olympic Complex, uses this climb to test his or her fitness level. Anything under 20 minutes qualifies a rider as a “competitive amateur racer,” according to Chris Carmichael, a Springs resident and former U.S. Olympic cycling coach.
From Bristol Brewing (located where South Tejon Street turns into Cheyenne Boulevard), warm up with a 2.6-mile spin along Cheyenne Boulevard to the gate at the canyon entrance. Here, the road enters North Cheyenne Cañon Park and shoots up more than 1,100 feet over 3.1 miles with an average grade of seven percent. The road winds through red rock walls and is kept cool by a nearby creek and dense pine trees. A short 14 percent pitch halfway up will slow you to a crawl, but the ride mellows out shortly thereafter, switchbacking through the forest until the pavement ends at Gold Camp Road.
As you catch your breath at 7,400 feet at a dirt parking area near the top, feel free to compare your time from the gate to the summit to the record held by Boulder-based pro Tom Danielson of the Garmin-Sharp squad: 13 minutes, 34 seconds. Or ignore your competitive fire and simply enjoy the view east through the canyon, with Colorado Springs in the distance.
The descent retraces your route—be wary of vehicles on blind corners (you’ll easily exceed the posted limit of 25 mph) as well as cars pulling out of the parking lot at Helen Hunt Falls. Upon your return to the brewery, salute your ride with a pint of Red Rocket Pale Ale. —Grant Davis
At Helen Hunt Falls, take a breather or a bathroom break; it’s only a short distance to the top from this small park, which sidles up to the creek as it tumbles down a series of falls. Dip your feet in the water or kick back on one of the picnic tables.
Pikes Peak Highway (Hard)
In 2013, the toll road to the top of Pikes Peak opened to cyclists—it’s completely paved now—creating one of the most demanding rides in North America. The 8,100-foot climb starts in downtown Colorado Springs (at about 6,000 feet in elevation), rolls through Manitou Springs, and then rises up Highway 24 to Fountain Avenue, which leads to the Pikes Peak tollway entrance. From there it’s 19 miles to the mountain’s 14,117-foot summit. Toll: $12 per person, cash or credit. Distance: 60 miles round-trip.