Enjoy all of the pictures, there’s even a route video underneath!!! Story begins below!
Well, I just finished my favorite bike trip of my life. I completed a giant Colorado loop consisting of 222 miles in 2 days.
How did we get here?
Come closer and let me explain.
My first true road bike came into my life 16 months ago, and I am now finishing up my second season. I ride a Felt Z85. To date, I have done a total of 4,635 miles on this bike. Last year I did about 2,200 miles. This year I am at around 2,800 miles with 1 month left of my season.
In the beginning, my first bike rides were 15 miles. I can remember I did 25 miles in 2 days, and got some serious cramps that caused me to stop.
Fast forward to today, I did 133 miles in one day, followed by 90 miles the following day!
I have had a ride like this on my mind for well over a year. I thought it would be the coolest thing ever to ride 90 miles to Glenwood Springs, sit in the springs, and come back the next day. Then, I thought, if I am to ride that far, why come back the same exact way?
So, I started looking at how far away Aspen was. 133 miles is what it turned out to be. I decided it was feasible due to the fact that I did the Triple Bypass this year, which was a difficult 117 miles long, climbing over 4 passes compiling 9,900 feet. In comparison, this route would be 16 miles longer, but 70 miles were gradually downhill, leaving the first 13 miles and the final 40 miles climbing a mere 4,500 feet.
The second day was much more difficult over 90 miles, but we will get into that later!
I completed this trip with a friend of mine, Ross, who has a tremendous amount of long distance experience in cycling. We kept a reasonable pace for the 2 days so we wouldn’t burn ourselves out.
To start, we set out at 7:30 am heading West towards Vail. This is actually a late start for the given mileage, but, the weather is getting cold in Colorado. This particular morning, it was probably around 38 degrees outside. We brought extra layers for this, but let me tell you, we still suffered. We froze. We stopped inside the hut at the top of Vail Pass for 15 minutes to try and warm up our fingers and toes.
We then had to descend for 15 miles into the town of Vail. Typically, this well maintained descent allows for fun speeds above 45mph! This morning, those speeds could potentially cause frostbite. We took our time going down into the Valley.
We stopped again for 10 minutes for a hot coffee to get some forced heat inside of our body as well as caffeine to keep us moving forward.
At this point we had only done about 30 miles in 3 hours. We averaged only 10 mph to start. You can do the math, 13 hours is not the amount of daylight that we have. The next 35 miles were from Vail to Gypsum. We pass some great scenery as well as the Eagle County Airport. We stopped for lunch at this Halfway point of 65 miles. We ate at a “Brooklyn Deli”. I had a chicken caesar salad. This is typically a meal I feel great eating on a bike ride. The greens are great to get into your body because it will be quicker digested and into your blood than the solid protein of the chicken. That will help sustain me a bit longer. Then I also get some carbs from the bread and dressing. Not gonna lie, I was upset with the croutons, they can really make or break the dish!
Anyway, I finally felt like I was warmer and shed my extra layers. This is a much more comfortable outfit as long as it is warm enough.
Now we have about 25 miles until Glenwood Springs. In 15 miles we get to ride in the majestic Glenwood Canyon. I have literally been waiting for this specific 10 mile section for over a year!! Driving it is amazing, but the bike path weaves below the highway. It was awe-inspiring. It was something that was for me, and I will remember it forever.
As we pull into Glenwood Springs, we take a break and regroup before we make our last effort towards Aspen. We have 40 miles to go, and about 3 hours of sunlight. Really not THAT difficult, however it doesn’t leave much time for dilly dallying either.
So we put our head down, and just pushed forward. The view of Mt. Sopris is ridiculous. The mountain is massive in the distance off the right hand side of the road. We were also now down around 5,000 feet in elevation, versus my home of 9,000 feet. There was so much more rich green colors across the plains. Lush is the word that comes to mind.
At this point my right foot was starting to really be a nag to me. My shoe is the slightest bit small and some days it is extremely frustrating…this was one of those days. As we went through the rolling hills for the last 20 miles of the day, I started to taste the end. When we clicked into mile 118, I was officially on my longest distance cycling in one day. The last 15 miles dragged.
We are now 2 miles outside of Aspen, and we get blessed with a beautiful orange sky setting behind the mountains. We also see 2 people paragliding down in the sunset. It was one of the coolest things that I have seen.
Finally, we arrive. 133 miles complete. I make sure to take a picture with the screen on my Garmin. Definitely a feat for me.
We check into the hotel, shower, warm up, etc. Then our sore bodies made their way down a few blocks into town for some food. A large buffalo burger, a few nut brown ales, and it was time to turn in. 10 pm bedtime, with a planned 8:00 departure left plenty of time to rest.
The next morning I looked on google for breakfast and it turns out the cafe I found was completely vegan. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried Tempeh Bacon, but I honestly wouldn’t recommend it.
Nevertheless, it is time to start day number 2. We are fortunate to have a warmer start, maybe like 43 degrees? Woo!
We did receive sunlight on us for most of the first leg.
This was the most challenging section on our chart.
The Western Climb up Independence Pass.
This means 18 miles, nonstop climbing, with a total climb of about a mile in elevation! It took us roughly 3.5 hours to labor up this beast of a climb. It is the ride of a life. Narrow canyon roads weaving up the mountain, opening to a giant end climb wrapping around the valley.
Noon, and we’re standing on top of the world. Now we get an easy 15 mile back on the descent. A fun descent indeed, although not extremely high on my list personally.
This drops us down into Twin Lakes as we have an incredibly tough section coming up. This next section was supposed to be an easier section with potential to make up some time. Boy were we wrong. The 15 mile stretch into Leadville was plagued by wind. Some of the hardest, most consistent headwinds that I have ever face. For 2 hours we battled 20-30 mph constant headwinds. Typically on this relatively flat terrain, I should be able to easily carry a 16-20 mph average depending on how hard I am going after it.
Today…we were struggling to push 10 mph.
It was incredibly draining, physically and mentally.
We made it to Leadville around 4 pm. 60 miles down, a long 7.5 hours to complete under difficult circumstances.
For the 2 days, we are now at 192 miles. We have our eyes on the prize. It is going to take grit and pure soul to push through this final chapter.
For what it’s worth, this next section is quite favorable in terms of difficulty. We had about 14 miles of gradual climbing to the top of Freemont Pass, before our final 18 mile descent to finish this ride.
This descent allowed me to hit my highest speed in my entire life on a bike.
I have had 49.9 be my previous high speed since June!
It is late in the day and it is chilly when you go that fast! We let ourselves roll down back into town to find ourselves at Highside Brewery. A victory beer surrounded by some great friends!
What an experience!!
I am truly thrilled that we did it!
The funniest part? My picture was put in the paper the next day!
On to planning the next epic adventure!!