05 July 2011

Favorite Rides Around Boulder, Colorado

A couple of the my favorite training rides here in the Boulder valley area include the climb up Flagstaff Mountain and the climb to Ward, CO. Neither of these rides are anything that you can just walk out your front door with zero preparation and expect to enjoy. But with the proper training, I really love being out riding these routes and being outdoors. On Saturday I did Flagstaff Mountain twice and on Sunday I rode to Ward in an effort to train for more difficult upcoming rides in the Rocky Mountains.

I always start at my home in Louisville, CO, so that always adds a sort of warm up of about 10 miles to get to the base of Flagstaff Mountain, so round trip that's 20 miles. Then the climb up Flagstaff which is always great. As you can see in the linked info, there are two parts to the climb. The first half of climb goes to the amphitheater park where there is an amazing lookout over the Boulder valley and that is considered a Category 2 climb. The second half goes up to the top of the mountain and is considered a Category 1 climb. Here is some more information on the Flagstaff climb from the 303cycling.com website (run by my friend Kris Thompson). As Kris has termed it, the climb up Flagstaff is definitely a Boulder classic! I tend to climb to the amphitheater park more often than I go to the top and I always do this climb two or three times when I ride it (climb to the amphiteater, go back down, climb to the amphitheater again, etc.). The second half of the Flagstaff climb is definitely not for the faint at heart, it's a killer. Average grade is a whopping 11% -- 2142ft. of climbing in a little over 5 miles! If you need water on this climb, you need to make sure to stop at Chatauqua Park at the base either on the way up or the way down, because there's nothing up on top but homes.

On a sidenote, there is another ride I do on my mountain bike that is called Super Walker. This ride includes riding to Flagstaff, climbing all the way to the top of Flagstaff, going down the back side to the Walker Ranch trailhead and around the trail, then back up to the top of Flagstaff and all the way down to Chataqua park and back to Louisville, CO. The ride itself takes around four hours if I recall correctly. I did it three times in the Spring right after I got a new mountain bike. But then I experienced a couple of soccer injuries that set back my training and I haven't ridden it since then. I have kinda been waiting to get past the Triple Bypass ride next weekend before I do this one again. The ride to get to Walker Ranch is about 20 miles, so round trip that's 40 miles and the Walker Ranch trail itself is 7 miles. Add in the climbing and elevation gains and you've got one hell of a mountain bike ride. (A neighbor asked me last week if this climb is more difficult on a mountain bike or a road bike. Because of difference in gearing between a road bike and a mountain bike, the Super Walker ride is definitely much more difficult on a mountain bike.)

Another favorite climb is up Lefthand Canyon to Ward, CO, about 20 miles west of Boulder. Ward is a former mining settlement near the Peak-to-Peak Highway (SH 72) with a population of under 200 and a little general store where all the cyclists stop. The general store carries snacks, ice, water and has a port-o-let toilet that is paid for by donations, so drop a couple bucks in the kitty on top of the water cooler when you're there. Just to get to the start of Lefthand Canyon road is about 20 miles, so that's 40 miles round trip. Then up the canyon to Ward is about another 16 miles -- all of which is climbing and that last mile is atrocious! So the distance is not too bad and the grade of the climb is not too bad, but the climb is constant. So the mileage plus the 16 miles of climbing makes for one tough a workout!

I know that many other folks in the area do these rides as well, because I see many people when I'm out. But I tend to do them alone just because it's difficult to work out schedules with others. I like to ride in the morning before the heat kicks in because, once it does in the afternoon, my fluid and food intake really increases. I have also done other rides throughout the area, but these tend to be a couple of my favorites, mainly because they're practically in my back yard.

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