Intimidating bicycle ride up Little Park Road exciting, beautiful
Little Park Road is probably one of the least ridden, but most intimidating and spectacular rides in the Grand Valley. It is so steep and long that no matter what, you are going to suffer.
The college kids had an unsanctioned race up the hill about seven years ago. It was a cool fall day and there was a group of about 30 warming up before about an hour of pain. My friend, Todd Brock, noticed a very fit-looking college woman and said, “Oh great, now I’m going to get killed by a girl!” I looked at him and said, “Dude, that ain’t happenin’!”
We had a neutral rollout and when we made the hard right turn onto Little Park Road the race was on.
The group splintered immediately; the pace was high and there were only four of us left. I looked at my heart rate monitor and figured I could up the pace. It was now only three of us.
Mikey Allen decided that my pace was too slow and moved to the front with Nate Keck (the former Mesa State College coach) and me on his wheel. I was beginning to struggle and was soon gapped off the back.
About five minutes later I looked left as a rider passed me. It was the fit-looking college woman! She smiled at me as she passed and said, “Hang in there, you’re doing great!”
She continued to out-distance me and I never saw her again. I had been passed by one other rider and she finished fourth on the climb.
Until this year I have only climbed Little Park a few times. Quite frankly, I was scared and scarred (emotionally) by this hill.
I will usually meet a group of friends to start our ride in the parking lot of the old Ultimate Fitness. From there we ride toward the monument and take a left turn on D Road. You have about two miles to warm up before you make a hard right turn hit the start of the climb on Little Park Road. Start your timing watch from the turn.
From this point you have roughly 11½ miles and 2,700 feet of climbing to the top. The climb has three distinct sections, or steps up, and each one is steep and hard. Because of the length and severity of the pitch, Little Park Road would most likely be considered one of the higher rated climbs facing riders in the Tour de France.
The first section goes from the turn to the Billings Canyon trail system. You begin climbing, and it gets really steep by the second mile. This section of the road is about a 17.5 percent pitch. It will feel like you are not moving.
It is not uncommon for trucks loaded with mountain bikes to pass you as they drive UP the road to ride down the Ribbon Trail system. At this point you will be thinking to yourself, “That looks pretty smart … why am I suffering like this?”
You get a quick downhill to recover at the end of the first section. Use this time wisely and take a drink.
The second leg up is the shortest and easiest. Of course, on Little Park Road, easy is a relative term. The views from this section are wonderful. You can look west and see the road in the monument as it snakes up to Cold Shivers Point.
The third section begins just past the turnoff to Bangs Canyon. It is deceptively long and hard. When you ride over the cattle guard, put your bike in the easiest gear you have and pace yourself. It starts steep and then gets steeper from there. You are in for about 12-15 minutes of hard climbing.
When you see the parking lot for the Ribbon Trail, you are pretty close to done. Your lungs and legs will welcome the flattening of the road.
The road rolls for about three miles and then you have a small descent before the last “little” bonus climb to the top.
I put “little” in quotes because nothing is little on Little Park Road. This final climb is only a half mile, but like everything else on this road it is steep and hard.
I have made the mistake many times of thinking that I could just power over this in my big ring, only to explode with about 300 meters to go. Use your small chain ring and pace yourself here as well.
When the road starts bending to the left you are almost done. Don’t start your sprint too early, however, because these steep climbs are relentless. Wait until you can see the mail box on the left and then sprint with all you have. Stop your watch and see what your time is. The record is about 46 or 47 minutes, but anything under an hour is respectable.
You will be tired and sore at this point, but should feel a great sense of accomplishment. The reward is not just the fitness you gain and the calories you burned, but also the descent back to town.