The Hardmen of Cycling and Riding Around Boulder

17 Oct

This past week I had decreased riding opportunities due to an increased work schedule.  That was fine in some ways because the sun is setting earlier, and mornings have a bit more chill to them these days.  However, when I’m going on about my daily business, I get envious of anyone else I see out riding.  I did have some nice rides this week though, including the obligatory spin around Wash Park, as well as a breezy cruise towards the Cherry Creek Reservoir on this past Thursday morning.  Both rides had a stiff breeze, but the clear blue skies more than made up for having to fight the wind.

The highlight of the week came Friday morning for me though.  Since I work in Longmont four afternoons a week, I have always kept the option of riding in Boulder in the back of my mind.  Longmont is about 10 miles northeast of Boulder, and is about the same time and distance to my client going through Boulder as going north on I-25.  I did not have to be to Longmont till noon, so Friday morning I packed up all I needed for the day, and threw my bike in the trunk of my work car.  I would drive there to ride anyway, but I really like it when it’s on the way to work and I can squeeze it into my schedule!

I drove just out of Boulder and parked at the Niwot (translated “left hand” in Arapahoe; long back-story to that) Park-N-Ride, and headed west towards the foothills north of Boulder.  The first part of the ride was seven miles to Highway 36, which heads north towards Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.  The ride along Niwot seems to have just a tiny bit of resistance, which is due to the almost imperceptible uphill gradient.  Most of that section is very gradual though, so no real climbing to do.

The second section of the ride was north on Hwy 36, which is an extremely popular route with local cyclists.  On this road you can see people on hybrids out for fun, serious triathletes on tri-bikes, hard-core pro roadies from the area, and everyone in between.  I love this route because of the views – as I ride north, a glance to my right is the endless plains of Eastern Colorado.  I can actually tell that Boulder County is in a valley, because the edge of the horizon is definitely higher than much of what I can see.  Hwy 36 has a lot of traffic on it, but is only a two-lane highway.  The road does have a nice 6-8 foot wide shoulder, so I feel fairly comfortable despite the traffic.  The section I rode has a lot of gradual ups and downs, so I had to keep shifting to keep my cadence steady.

After a good bit of cruising came my favorite part – the descent back into Boulder Valley on Hygiene Road.  I made a quick right off the highway, and was suddenly in a 35 mph descent.  I was able to shift to my highest gear and still freely pedal along.  The rest of that stretch heads straight east, passing creeks, cattle pastures, ranches, and horse trails.  I also like that a lot of that route rides beside the creek, so cottonwoods shade much of the road, giving it more of a country avenue feel to it.  In fact, if I pretend hard enough, there could be another 150 riders around me, and we could be headed through the French countryside.

After a couple miles going east, the route turns back south onto 75th St.  The street name is funny, because the road is still very rural, and has nothing street-like about it; just more pastures, ranches and cows.  Someone had even cut hay on Thursday or Friday morning, which really made the ride smell like a cruise through my home area in Iowa.  On this section I was pushing my time limit to make it to Longmont on time, so I had to push my speed to get back to the car.  I also experienced the mystery of all rides – feeling like I had rode into the wind on every direction of the ride.  How does that happen?  At some point I would think I would have a tail-wind!  I was hoping that the wind would help me with my final push, but to no avail.  In any case, I tried to emulate cycling’s hardmen and spin on with much aplomb.  For a taster on some of the great hardmen of cycling, check out Velo’s most recent issue featuring one of my favorite riders and hardmen, Jens Voigt.

Jens also has a following not unlike Chuck Norris.  Check out some fun facts here to learn more about what it takes to be the toughest cyclist currently in the peleton (none of them true):

I rolled back into the parking lot right on time, and realized that I may have a new Friday morning tradition, weather permitting; hardmen may not complain about the weather, and I won’t either, but that doesn’t mean I’ll avoid the rain.  So much for being as tough as Jens!  That’s ok; this ride is one of my all-time favorites, and I will gladly suffer through it anytime.

In bike/planning related news, Jay Walljasper, the editor of Utne Magazine and Minneapolis resident sheds some light on how his city quietly became one of the best places to bike in the U.S.


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