Today Salem and I have decided to go on a bike ride to train for our upcoming bikepacking trip to Glenwood Springs, which we're planning for July. We've done a few jaunts together here and there around town, but haven't done any serious climbing yet... so we are going to tackle Lookout Mountain. I found it on Strava; it is popular with local cyclists, so it seems like a pretty good route to try.
We go to REI in the morning to buy a bike rack for Salem's car, which he's been meaning to get for a while, and then (after stopping for some coffee and chai at Starbucks) we put it on his car and get our bikes all loaded up. Since we're training for a bikepacking trip, we both bring two rear panniers; I also have my handlebar bag. We don't fill the panniers completely up, but we do put a little bit of weight in them--bike locks, full water bottles, that kind of thing. We'll slowly increase the weight on future rides until we're training with all of our camping gear and everything that we'll be taking with us in July. I tell Salem that the Lookout Mountain route is pretty popular, so we'll probably be passed by a lot of people on fancy road bikes. My excuse for being slower than them will be that I'm carrying a lot of weight on my bike. Yep. Always blame your equipment when you can.
We park near Crown Hill Lake in Wheat Ridge, then head west on 26th until Simms, move over onto 32nd, and keep to 32nd into Golden. We pass by the Coors factory on our way into town, and there is something ominous about the industrial buildings looming over us. I kinda like it and its spooky tunnel. It smells really bad around back, though--like rotten fruit or something. When we get to Golden proper, we cut straight to 19th, skipping the roads with bike lanes in favor of a more direct route. The sun is hidden behind clouds--which is probably a good thing, because I didn't bring any sunscreen or anything. I've got arm warmers on, but I'm still in shorts; it's not too cold (...........yet). The climb itself starts without much ado over on the southwest side of town.
Salem stays right on my wheel for the first 2/3 or 3/4 or so of the climb. I set a pace of 5 or 6 mph, sucking periodically on a water bottle full of a homemade sports drink (water, honey, electrolyte salts, and grape juice--it is almost sickeningly sweet, but I need all the energy I can get). I've never gone up this climb before; I think it lasts for something like 4 or 5 miles, so I try to pace myself. It's not a race or anything, after all. The scenery all around us is breathtaking. There's still snow lingering in the shadows of red cliffs, brindle with evergreens. I hope the footage I'm taking with my helmet cam turns out all right.
The gradient is manageable, though it isn't easy. Strava says it averages about 5% over the course of the climb. It gets steeper when the turns switchback up the mountain, but evens out on the straightaways. We are passed by a few cyclists--all of them riding fancy road bikes, as I predicted. Specialized, Cervelo, Orbea. Someday I'll have a bike like that, too--but for now I'm happy with Bike Rothar. She might be slow, but she's dependable--and dang comfortable to boot, and that's more important to me, anyway.
At some point, a bull terrier comes running up to me out of nowhere and keeps trying to jump up on me. He's not being vicious, but I have to come to a stop a few times to avoid running over his feet. We don't see his owner anywhere, and can't figure out where he came from. He has a collar on, but no tags, no identification whatsoever. At some point, a motorcycle passes us, and the dog goes chasing after it, leaving us behind. There's a cliff on both sides of the road--rising above us to the right, and dropping below us to the left. The dog is right in the middle of traffic, galloping around blind corners... I think to myself that he's going to be hit by a car and killed. He certainly has no fear of cars, which have to slow and serve around him. He comes back after a while, unable to catch up with the motorcyclist, and chases after Salem's rear wheel. Fortunately, another quarter mile up the road or so, its owners drive past, spot him, and stow him safely in their car. It is a relief to see him rescued.
I stop once or twice on the way up--to blow my nose, flip my map, etc.--but I try not to linger too long. I want to make it to the top without any serious breaks. Salem passes me and stays ahead for the last 1/3 or 1/4 of the climb. Toward the top, I can tell that he's slowing down to let me catch up. I take advantage of his kindness and sprint (...if you can call it a sprint...) past him so that I can be the first one to the summit.
|Salem and I pose for a selfie together at the summit. Salem is snazzy in orange; I am a dork with a Bike Depot jersey and crazy hair.|
All in all, the ascent lasted somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half (I wasn't paying super close attention). The descent takes, oh, idk, like 15 minutes? It is super fun, though. The speed limit on that road is 20 mph... we go between 25 and 30 most of the way down. I film the whole descent, so we'll see how that turns out, too.
When we get back into Golden, I take my rain pants and rain jacket off--and instantly regret it, as a cold front kinda rolls in, but I carry on without because I really don't want to stop again. We ride the gently rolling hills back the way we came, and the sky spits rain and sleet at us. Thunder rumbles in the distance. A pretty significant headwind forms, too, making the rest of the ride feel tougher than it otherwise would be. There's a hill, near Simms and 26th, that seems more difficult to surmount, in that moment, than the entirety of Lookout Mountain... but we push through. Salem lingers behind me a bit, due to the headwind (his bike setup is somewhat less aerodynamic than mine), but not by much. When we make it back to his car, it's gotten really cold, and the sky in the distance is a foreboding gray-black. One of Salem's brothers calls us as we head home, making sure we're not on Lookout Mountain anymore. Apparently Golden is now in the middle of a hailstorm, and we only just missed it. How incredibly lucky...!
We part ways after Salem drops me off, but not before he acquires some cake and protein shakes at a grocery store. (Cake is a very important cycling staple.) The first thing I do when I get back inside is take a long, hot shower to warm up, and then dig into a bowl of vegetable pasta that I made this morning.
Today was a great day. I'm so glad I have a cycling buddy in Colorado now. In all the terrible winters and emotional turmoil, I'd forgotten how much I love this sport...
Distance: 27.6 mi
Time: ~2.5 hours
Avg speed: 10.8 mph
Max speed: 30.6 mph
Elevation gain: ~1880 ft