Category Archives: Bicycling

Prepartum pedaling video: mountain biking on the due date

Our due date was Monday, May 5, but with Ginette showing no signs of going into labor, I managed to sneak in one more mountain bike ride at Centennial Cone Park.

Below is a video of some highlights of my ride in the mountains west of Golden.

Prepartum pedaling from Mitch Tobin on Vimeo.

I had fun playing around with different camera angles and especially like the rear-view perspective. I feel like the video exaggerates my speed and makes it seem like the ride is more dangerous than it really is. Conversely, GoPro videos of skiing sometimes understate my speed and the steepness of the terrain. I think this is because snow usually looks more uniform than a mountain bike trail, especially to a wide-angle lens placed near the ground.
Centennial Cone Park

Centennial Cone Park has become a favorite because it offers lots of smooth singletrack relatively close to Denver. The nearest of the three trailheads is only a 30-35 minute drive from my house, but the park has a surprisingly wild, backcountry feel.

My route involved climbing up from Clear Creek and U.S. 6 on the Mayhem Gulch trail, then riding the main loop clockwise on the Juniper, Elk Range, and Travois trails. There’s a double-track section on Elk Range Trail, but otherwise it’s all well-maintained singletrack that never gets too rocky.

This ride features several sets of switchbacks and some taxing climbs (nearly 3,000 feet over the 17.4-mile route), but the rolling nature of the elevation profile prevents the uphills from seeming interminable.
Centennial Cone switchback
The route offers some impressive views of Clear Creek Canyon and the Front Range. I saw some of the first wildflowers of the season and also plenty of prickly pear. Even at nearly 8,000 feet, it’s still fairly dry on the lee side of the Continental Divide, so the vegetation tends to be sparse.

Centennial Cone prickly pear
Centennial Cone is popular enough that mountain biking on weekends is restricted to even-numbered days (hikers are only allowed on odd-numbered weekend days). This loop ride covers nearly the entire trail network of the 3,369-acre park, so we’re not talking about a huge area that you can endlessly explore. But compared to some other nearby mountain bike rides in the Front Range, Centennial Cone’s trails are less rocky, technical, and difficult.

With a baby about to arrive, it may be a while until I’m back at Centennial Cone, but I’m glad my next ride there won’t be too far away, in time or distance.

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Deer to Turkey to Bear Creek Loop

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get to this ride. The loop begins near the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison and follows a trio creeks–Deer, Turkey, and Bear–on a 42-mile tour of the Front Range foothills.

Create Maps or search from 80 million at MapMyRide

I rode the loop clockwise, so I began by following the C-470 trail south until I reached Deer Creek. Here’s a shot of the hogback, a geological feature that more or less marks the end of the Great Plains and the beginning of the Rockies.
Hogback
The climb into the foothills was mostly mellow, but there were a few steep pitches that burned my lungs and legs. On the final descent, along Bear Creek, you ride right past the colorful formations around Red Rocks.
Red Rocks

Seemed like there were more bikes than cars on the road during much of this ride. It was a good early season warm-up that didn’t require too much exertion, but it certainly got my heart pumping on the climbs. I’ll definitely come back to try some variations of the route.

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Cruising the Southwest Denver Loop

On Saturday I took my longest bike ride of the year, a nearly 50-mile loop through the southern and western portions of the Denver metro area.  About 90 percent of this ride is on paved multi-use paths that follow the South Platte River, Bear Creek, and Clear Creek. I can’t say I felt like a champion on the ride–it’s early in the season–but it was the first time I’ve connected these trails and I’d definitely do it again.
Below are the ride summaries from Strava and MapMyRide.

From downtown Denver the route travels south along the South Platte River along the Mary Carter Greenway until reaching Bear Creek. After heading west on this multi-use path, you reach the C470 bike trail, which follows the loop highway that nearly encircles Denver. When I reached Golden, I got on the Clear Creek trail and headed east toward home.

You wind up climbing almost 2,000 feet in this ride, but it tends to be very gradual inclines or short, steep pitches. My goal was to keep my heart rate below 140, get a lot of miles under my belt, and decompress after a long work week. The elevation/heart rate graphic below shows I did a decent job with with my ticker, and I also took plenty of breaks for photos and snacks.
Cycling 5-4-2013, Heart rate

Here are a couple shots from the middle of the ride, near Morrison:

Denver
Looking northeast toward Denver
Bear Creek Bike Path
Bear Creek Bike Path heading west to the start of the Rockies

Here’s the Coors macro-brewery in Golden. Definitely smells malty around there!

Coors brewery
Economies of scale at the Coors Brewery in Golden. So much effort for such lousy beer.

This loop is a mellow cruise that features very little traffic and it introduced me to a portion of the Front Range I’d never explored. Next I’d like to try extending this route a bit by skipping the Bear Creek trail and traveling a little farther south on the South Platte until I get to the C470 trail.

Preparing for the Triple Bypass

Triple BypassI’m three days away from one of the longest, toughest rides of my life. On Sunday, I’ll be one of thousands of cyclists taking part in the Triple Bypass, a 123-mile tour over three mountain passes in the heart of the Colorado Rockies. Starting in Avon, west of Vail, the route climbs up and over Vail Pass (10,560′), Loveland Pass (11,990′), and Juniper Pass (11,140′), on its way to Bergen Park, in the foothills west of Denver. All told, it’s 11,070 feet of climbing, virtually all of it above 7,500 feet elevation.

Here’s a Google Earth 3-D video of the route (use the arrows in the upper right corner to tilt horizon):

Below is a map of the route. I’ll be riding west to east Sunday, but even more people will be doing the reverse on Saturday, biking from Bergen Park to Avon. There are even some cyclo-masochists who’ll be doing both rides this weekend.

The Triple Bypass is legendary among endurance bicyclists, but there are even tougher rides out there. The Tour of the California Alps (aka the “Death Ride”) covers 129 miles and has 15,000 feet of climbing over five mountain passes.

I’ve done a half-dozen century rides (100+ miles) in my life and all of ’em were exhausting. Three were during the 112-mile El Tour de Tucson, down in the oxygen-rich desert, and the rest were on my 1994 cross-country bike tour, from Seattle to Washington, DC. One of those rides stretched about 115 miles across North Dakota on I-90. Granted, North Dakota is a pretty flat state, but we had to plow through a stiff headwind that evolved into monster thunderstorms. That’s the hardest day I’ve ever experienced on a bike, but Sunday could eclipse it (the forecast calls for thunderstorms in the afternoon, when I’ll surely still be pedaling).

The intimidating thing about this ride are the three big climbs, shown in the elevation profile below.

Triple Bypass Google Earth

I’ve biked the first and third passes, but never the middle one, although I’ve driven over Loveland Pass tons of times on my way to ski at A-Basin or Keystone. You can see from the elevation profile above and in the table below that Loveland is shorter than the other two passes, but it goes higher and has a steeper grade.

Triple Bypass Climbs

Distance Elevation Grade
Name Start End Length Min Max Avg.
Vail Pass 15.78 mi 25.38 mi 9.60 mi 8,534 ft 10,585 ft 4.0%
Loveland Pass 54.66 mi 63.58 mi 8.93 mi 9,346 ft 11,954 ft 5.5%
Juniper Pass 93.35 mi 106.58 mi 13.23 mi 7,734 ft 10,984 ft 4.7%

 

Why would someone deliberately subject themselves to this kind of physical punishment? It’s a question I sometimes ask myself while huffing and puffing on a big hill. For me, mountain passes are like a moving meditation: I eventually find the right gear, pedal cadence, and heart rate zone that allows me to settle into a rhythm. As a general rule, the higher and harder the climb, the more beautiful the surrounding scenery, so there’s no shortage of visual stimulation. While training, I like to listen to music on my iPhone, but sometimes I prefer to just focus on the sound of my gears spinning, my lungs breathing, my heart pounding.

I find hill climbs are a great antidote to stress, but let’s be honest: one of the main reasons I crank up these things in my granny gear for hours is for the adrenalin rush of flying down them in 20 minutes while spinning my big chain ring at 120 revolutions a minute. The Triple Bypass course will be crowded, so I’m guessing the descents will be slower than I’d prefer, but even so, the payoff to a hill climb is big carrot that help makes the suffering worthwhile. If only life were so simple and just, offering guaranteed rewards for hard work!