Ride the Rockies 2017: Unforgettable Times in High Up Places
Why go on a seven-day bicycling tour in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado? The unforgettable experience.
Each and every small town, the open meadows, sheer cliffs, mountain passes, the streams, wildlife, fresh air, winding roads, all coalesce into a symphony of beauty that one could only experience in the Mountain Towns of Colorado.
Every day is a new opus waiting to be discovered.
The morning begins in a similar fashion, a combination of packing your bags and donning on a cycling kit. For some, there is a harmonic rhythm to the occasion. For others, it is a mad dash to stuff every bit of gear they might need in the bag before it is sent off to be sherpa’ed to the next town. For any multi-day tour, it’s always best to pack and prepare your kit the night before.
Your attire is based on the weather conditions, the highest elevation on the route, and if you forgot to pack something in your backpack. These conditions can be extremely hot or chillingly cold. There are a few times that I’ve ridden with sandals. A lesson a certain Mr. Hutch Hutchinson taught me a few RAGBRAI’s ago.
Once suited up and stripped of your belongings, you are left alone with your bike and your thoughts. How will my legs feel? How steep is the grade on the climb? Will it be freezing? Will it be blisteringly hot? Did I eat enough? Is there enough air in my tires? Is my Garmin charged? Did I drink enough coffee? Did I drink too much coffee? Where is the first aid station?
Then, as if the first pedal stroke of the bike was a gentle wave on the beach of your mind, everything is calm and the sands are smooth. The ride has started. Usually, the legs feel a bit better than you thought. Sometimes they don’t and those are the days you better take it easy on the first quarter of the ride.
On a side note… If there is one recommendation I would have for every rider, it would be to stop at Flippin’ Flapjacks every morning for an all-you-can-eat pancake and sausage breakfast. It was the rocket fuel for my Ride the Rockies (and has been for my RAGBRAI rides as well).
This year we probably started each day a bit faster than we should have and paid for it on the +10,000 ft passes. No day was too difficult and save for a few mechanicals would have been completely hassle free.
It was typical on the flat parts of the route to join a miniature pace line and fight the wind as a group. The level of endurance varies and joining a group that is a similar pace is quite common.
If you want to be on your game, hydration is key. Too much water and not enough electrolytes and you feel like you’re riding on an over filled water balloon praying you can get to the next aid station in time. Not enough fluids and a few things happen; First you go to crampville. This is a glorious place of pain and the inability to move your legs without feeling as if hot pokers are being scorched into the deep tissue of your muscles. Second, is beef jerky lips. I mean, beef jerky is delicious, but not when it is made from your own chops. This can be slowed with the extremely liberal application of Chapstick, however I always feel like I am less aerodynamic from skin friction exacerbated by the layers of goo on my upper lip. Bottom line, drink water.
Riders climb the steep mountain passes in two ways. It’s either a go-at-your-own-pace or a total suffer situation. There are a few very strong riders that motor up the climbs as if powered by the winged sandals of Hermes, but most chug along at a 5-6 mile per hour pace.
If you like to go fast, the descents were thrilling. If you are OK with descending but like to keep it classy, no problem. The majority of the passes were wide open and relatively easy to spot your line. A few of the roads were under construction but even there, the slower speed made you appreciate the landscape for a few seconds longer than you would have if you were just focusing on taking the perfect angle into the curve.
As we rolled closer to the finishing point, the relief of the climbs being over and the prospect of a cold beer kicks in and usually there is a little bit of gas in the tank left to go just a bit faster towards victory.
The Best Day was the Queen’s Stage of Ride The Rockies. It started in Durango and finished in Ridgeway. These two quintessential Colorado mountain towns were made for cycling. The route featured three major mountain passes; Coal Bank Pass (10,640’), Molas Pass (10,910’), and Red Mountain Pass (11,018’). This is a ride that I would love to do every year. Sure, three passes (it was really 5 climbs) can be a tough day, but what would life be without challenges? And the reward? Beholding the beauty that only nature can provide. Mountain peaks soaring into the sky, cliffs that take your breath away, forests that are sure to be enchanted, and a few moments where you are truly alone with your thoughts.
Pictures will never tell the whole story. There are not enough words to do it justice. The emotions and memories captured will only ever exist by being there. So, the next time you have the desire, opportunity and privilege to go on Ride The Rockies… do it.