Big city, great riding
If you've got a bike, Denver has the trails
Denver, our state’s capital, has become a vibrant city with excellent opportunities to enjoy world-class culinary, artistic and sport offerings.
Like many of us on the Western Slope, I periodically travel to Denver for work and pleasure. Denver also boasts more than 850 miles of bike paths and is at the doorstep of the Rocky Mountains. On my most recent trip, I brought my bike and was treated to guided rides up Lookout Mountain and the Stockyard Loop.
Lookout Mountain was included in a stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in 2012. The climb is 4.6 miles long with an average gradient of 5.4 percent and 1,219 feet of climbing. It is classified as a Category 2 climb by the International Cycling Union.
I met former Saturn Cycling teammate Peter Stubenrauch at his house in Golden, and we rode together to the base of the climb. The “official” climb starts at a stone gate about a half-mile up the road from the turnoff on U.S. Highway 6 and finishes at a graveyard sign at the top of the mountain.
We climbed at a moderate pace and discussed the state of professional cycling and our predictions for the Tour de France. It was a beautiful day, and hundreds of people were riding the climb, but auto traffic was light. Most of the climb is in open grasslands, but near the top there is a dramatic transition from grasslands to heavy forest.
The views are spectacular. The lower one-third of the climb offers great views of the Coors Brewery and Colorado School of Mines, the second portion offers great views of downtown Denver, and the top section provides views of forest and the Flatirons in Boulder.
We didn’t have time to make it a loop, so we turned around at the top. The official record time for the climb is 16:31, and we notched 25:50. We weren’t racing, but there is no way I could go nine minutes faster.
We descended the same way that we climbed, and the descent is smooth and fast. There are several sharp switchbacks that require braking, but there are many sweeping turns that you can take at speed. This ride is without a doubt one of the best city rides available in Colorado.
The next day, I rode with Colorado Mesa University Trustee Doug Price and Shaw Construction CEO Steve Meyer. We started at Doug’s house and rode a loop called the Stockyard Loop. This is a flat loop consisting of bike paths and city streets.
We started on the Cherry Creek bike path. It was national Bike to Work Day, so the path was congested with what seemed to be an endless stream of riders. We rode downstream toward Confluence Park and the South Platte River.
Because of the sheer volume of riders, we exited the path and rode along an industrial area of Denver along city streets. We wound our way toward the old Stockyard and then looped back south toward Doug’s house.
Along the way, I noticed a rack of bright red bikes and stopped to check them out. It was called B-Cycle, and it’s an innovative transportation system. You can rent a bike for 24 hours and use it as transportation or for pleasure. There are dozens of stations where you can check in and out a bike, but you can keep using different bikes for up to 24 hours without paying an additional fee. The pricing is quite reasonable, with a 24-hour rental costing $8 or a weekly rental costing $20.
Once we got back on our way, we continued riding city streets for the rest of the loop. The entire loop was 13.5 miles, and we gained a whopping 270 vertical feet. We ended the day with some good sushi and cold beers.
I was happy that I brought my bike and got to spend some time with friends doing my favorite activity. It was nice to ride some new areas as well, but I couldn’t help but compare those rides to my favorite ride in my our backyard: Colorado National Monument. And I couldn’t wait to get home and ride to Cold Shivers Point.