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Cycling over the Rocky Mountains

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Cycling over the Rocky Mountains

Old 02-20-19, 12:42 PM
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rdrumm729
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Cycling over the Rocky Mountains

Hey friends. This summer I'll be cycling from NYC to San Francisco. My main concern (apart from the headwinds I will face due to heading east > west) is the rocky mountains. I plan on going through the rocky mountains west of Denver via the bike paths along i70. Has anybody done this? How is it? I expect it to be very challenging given the +5000 feet elevation gain over the course of 60 miles.
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Old 02-20-19, 02:40 PM
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While I may be mistaken, I believe you'll have to find an alternate route for the first leg out of Denver. I-70 goes through the Eisenhower tunnel for about 12 miles, and you have a choice of going north through Granby, south through Colorado Springs, or over some gravel passes.

FWIW, the Adventure Cycling Trans America route goes through Canon City and turns north, running under I-70 around Silverthorne.
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Old 02-20-19, 02:42 PM
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Looks as though you are new around here.

Unless you have a really big reason to cycle through Denver,
You should consider crossing the Rockies west of Fort Collins. (60 miles north of Denver)

East to west - - Use Colorado Hwy 14 to Walden, then US 40 to Utah.
This is a much safer route with less traffic and ample services.

Hwy 14 thru the Poudre Canyon is stunning.
You can bike on a canal service road deep into the wilderness at Cameron Pass if you wish.
Walden is on the TransAm with bike friendly camping at the park.
Steamboat is a upscale ski/summer town that is hip & pricey.
Gets pretty darn empty west of Craig.

Highly suggest jaunt from Jensen, Utah into Dinosaur National Monument - fabulous sheer wall scenery.
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Old 02-20-19, 05:01 PM
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Originally Posted by rdrumm729 View Post
(apart from the headwinds I will face due to heading east > west)
From reading along in this forum, it seems that this is not as obviously the case as it seems. Local prevailing winds can be very different and this might be good news for you. You should be able to find a few recent posts (past few weeks/months) on this in this sub-forum.
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Old 02-20-19, 07:28 PM
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I cycle over the Divide at Loveland Pass regularly and enjoy the trip. The bike routes along I-70 are great.

The grades are not difficult, 6% max in a few places. Altitude is noticeable at 12,000'. Wind is often as much a factor as the grade. You may need to time the Loveland Pass ascent to avoid afternoon electrical storms above tree line.

You may want to break the climb up over two days. Camping spots are kind of rare. There may be a warmshowers host in Idaho Springs or nearby. There are rustic cabins at a rafting and ziplining place past Idaho Springs. You might be able to find a campsite off trail along the Bakerville Loveland Trail on National Forest land.
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Old 02-20-19, 07:48 PM
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For what it is worth, you have quite a few paved passes over the continental divide in addition to following the I-70 corridor all the way.

Roughly speaking in Northern Colorado these include:
I-70 corridor until the tunnel where you don't go through but take US-6 over Loveland Pass instead.
I-70 corridor to Berthoud Pass where you follow US 40 over.
Trail Ridge Road where you follow US34 through Rocky Mountain National Park ending in Granby with US 40
CO-14 over Cameron Pass and then down to Walden (meeting the Adventure Cycling route coming from the south)

You can also come from the south via roughly the Arkansas Valley and cross over to Breckenridge on Hoosier Pass (Adventure Cycling Route), between Leadville/Copper via Fremont Pass or via Leadville/Vail via Tennessee Pass or Leadville/Aspen via Independence Pass. There are also passes a bit further south...

It depends a bit where you are coming from before Colorado and where you are headed afterwards...but my personal experience/biases include:
* Trail Ridge Pass is pretty awesome, though one has to watch for RVs and at time narrow roads. It is the highest crossing (barely, a little over 200ft higher than Loveland and also slightly higher than Independence Pass)
* Cameron Pass would be one of the easier passes, both total elevation and fairly gradual grades. If your previous travels brought you along the Platte in Nebraska there is a natural cutover from Sterling CO via Fort Collins.
* I wouldn't normally follow the I-70 corridor through rest of CO but instead find my way further north (US 40 via Steamboat/Craig/Vernal/etc) so if I got into the I-70 corridor, I would then head north via Willow Creek Pass or similar directions to head north...
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Old 02-20-19, 08:15 PM
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Colorado's hills pale in comparison to places like Utah, Nevada, and California. A day of riding in Texas Hill Country or in the Ozarks will provide you with more elevation gain. On a recent coast-to-coast ride, I had two days in eastern Kansas that had more climbing than the median day in Colorado.

Yes, parts of Colorado are at high elevation, but its mountains aren't particularly steep, and the roads are graded the opposite of aggressively. You'll be fine.
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Old 02-20-19, 09:06 PM
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Effective a couple years ago, you can now ride from Denver to Glenwood Springs following I-70 w/o actually riding on it!
Here is a Google Maps link of the route: https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Denv...39.5505376!3e1

At first glance it looks like a route down I-70, but note the bicycle mode is selected in the upper left of the screen, and when you zoom in, you will see either a MUP, or a parallel local road, or a detour up over Loveland Pass on US 6.
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Old 02-20-19, 11:05 PM
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Hey, rdrumm729!

As shimangolo sez, it is no longer necessary to ride on any portion of the I70 shoulder between Denver and Glenwood Springs. Because of the narrow tunnels, Hwy6 is still off limits to bicycle travel west of Golden to I70, so cyclists have to take Hwy40 from ~Lookout Mountain to the I70/Hwy6 junction. From there it's an amazing ride on some of N.A.'s best paths, quiet side roads and of course the breathless Hwy6 over Loveland Pass. Dillon Reservoir, Ten Mile Canyon, Red Canyon, Hanging Lake, Glenwood Canyon! I'm jealous.

The east side of Loveland Pass is 4.5 miles at an average of 5.4% (but a maximum grade of ~9%). Depending on whether it was early or late in the stage, it would rate a cat1 or cat2. But, and it's a big but, the west side (downhill in your direction) is a loooooong 8.2 mile, 5.8% avg. downhill. Schweet.

If this was a single pathway, with just one name, and it was built on an old rail bed, it would be hailed as one of the premier trails in the country. Great ride!
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Old 02-21-19, 12:06 AM
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check out the Triple Bypass route. While there may be easier ways, the route along i70 is pretty.

https://triplebypass.org/maps/
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Old 02-21-19, 07:26 AM
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Originally Posted by rdrumm729 View Post
Hey friends. This summer I'll be cycling from NYC to San Francisco. My main concern (apart from the headwinds I will face due to heading east > west) is the rocky mountains. I plan on going through the rocky mountains west of Denver via the bike paths along i70. Has anybody done this? How is it? I expect it to be very challenging given the +5000 feet elevation gain over the course of 60 miles.
you dont have to go over the front range. When I rode across Nebraska into Wyoming I entered Colorado from the North Valley into Walden,CO. Its a very easy grade from Saratoga Springs, WY into Walden, CO. And beautiful!
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Old 02-21-19, 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by boomhauer View Post
Its a very easy grade from Saratoga Springs, WY into Walden, CO. And beautiful!
Did you soak in the public pool in Saratoga? I went from there to Walden. Much of the day was into a vicious headwind. The four of us who ended up camping in the town park were all spent. But it was a pretty ride.
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Old 02-21-19, 12:23 PM
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Its funny I never see US Highway 50 posted as a cross country route. Used that from CA-NV border straight across middle of USA to Delaware. An abolutely great rouite that avoids modern interstate and goes through the heart of small town (some big) America. Crossed the Rockies west to east at Sargents , over Monarch Pass, and followed it through Pueblo on the other side. Hell of a climb matched by Hell of a downhill into Kansas.
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Old 02-21-19, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by fork crown View Post
Its funny I never see US Highway 50 posted as a cross country route.
Portions of it are discussed here from time to time. Some of it is used by Adventure Cycling's Western Express and Great Parks South routes. BITD I rode it from Poncha Springs to Montrose, CO while riding part of the latter.
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Old 02-21-19, 01:39 PM
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My Colorado raised friends, I met in California said , because it snows there every winter, the highway engineers got the roads graded less steep ..
than they are on the Coast range that never sees snow..
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Old 02-21-19, 02:04 PM
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Funny I never see the easiest crossing of North America's Great Continental Divide, New Mexico Hwy 9, mentioned as a cross country route. Maybe 'easier' and 'easiest' don't override ipso facto other considerations?
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Old 02-21-19, 03:27 PM
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Ironically, I just ordered a couple of books from Amazon about road biking in Colorado.

Also, I recently drove to Colorado on I-70 from Salina Kansas into Denver. Curious as to where to access the bike trails that follow I-70.
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Old 02-21-19, 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
FWIW, the Adventure Cycling Trans America route goes through Canon City and turns north, running under I-70 around Silverthorne.
I have done ^^this.

Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
You should consider crossing the Rockies west of Fort Collins. (60 miles north of Denver)
I have done ^^this as well.

Both are good routes. Beautiful. You should consider a 3-day rest break immediately upon reaching between 5000-8000 ft to acclimate, and drink PLENTY of water. Other than the 3-days to let your blood get in shape for altitude, you will already be a freaking MONSTER from crossing the steep-a$$ed Appalachians and the Great Plains - uphill and against the wind! You will be fine in the Rocky Mountains, I promise! Other than typical mountain weather the Rockies will be a welcome mental relief from all that never-ending horizon through Kansas and Eastern Colorado that make you feel like you are getting nowhere.

Last edited by JoeyBike; 02-21-19 at 05:45 PM.
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Old 02-21-19, 05:46 PM
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Originally Posted by superdex View Post
check out the Triple Bypass route. While there may be easier ways, the route along i70 is pretty.

https://triplebypass.org/maps/
^^ I'll second this, I've done this ride a few times (many years ago).

Well done on taking this on. There's gotta be books out there on the subject. You may need more tyres than you think. Maybe try to hook up with local sportives/events as you go?

Great adventure, I hope you can make a book out of it or something. Good luck!
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Old 02-21-19, 05:57 PM
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Originally Posted by fork crown View Post
Its funny I never see US Highway 50 posted as a cross country route. Used that from CA-NV border straight across middle of USA to Delaware. An abolutely great rouite that avoids modern interstate and goes through the heart of small town (some big) America. Crossed the Rockies west to east at Sargents , over Monarch Pass, and followed it through Pueblo on the other side. Hell of a climb matched by Hell of a downhill into Kansas.
Sheer coincidence; I just saw this article posted today: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/t...rica-route-50/
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Old 02-21-19, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by WaveyGravey View Post
Ironically, I just ordered a couple of books from Amazon about road biking in Colorado.

Also, I recently drove to Colorado on I-70 from Salina Kansas into Denver. Curious as to where to access the bike trails that follow I-70.
If you play close attention, Google Maps on bike mode does a pretty good job. The trickiest part I can think of heading westbound is getting on a MUP east of Idaho Springs where US 40 meets US 6 and joins I-70. You have to go the wrong way up a highway exit ramp for a few feet. It's a crappy path there, too. Probably the nicest part east of the Divide is the Bakerville-Loveland Trail, which is easy to find. And there's a great MUP route from Keystone to Breckenridge, before joining up again with I-70. Or you can ride north around Dillon Lake, both ways are easy to see. There's new MUP from Genessee to Evergreen, which shows up on Google Maps, and easy to see at the highway exit for the buffalo overlook. East of Vail, it's all obvious frontage road/US 6, then the real crown jewel into Glenwood. After that my experience is over.

Heading eastbound, there's a tricky spot west of Idaho Springs, where there's a nice path to nowhere, but that's only a mile or so. You can either bushwhack down to the USFS office on Mt Evan Rd and a nice picnic area, or backtrack to the road. It's a fun area to explore--colorful old drinking towns with a mining problem.
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Old 02-21-19, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
It's a fun area to explore--colorful old drinking towns with a mining problem.
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Old 02-22-19, 06:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Shimagnolo View Post
Sheer coincidence; I just saw this article posted today: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/t...rica-route-50/
Thank you for the read. Boy did ths bring back memories. Yes Nevada is one big desert. My friend and I remember passing a sign that said "no service for the next 80 miles". There was nothing, not one building. Only a few cars would pass per hour. The picture mid way down is whet I remember most. You would bike the desert looking at a mountain range dozens of miles ahead. After climbing and getting to the summit you could look ahead and see the road "tunnel visioning" into the next mountain range dozens of miles away. (Day 9 we did this 4 times). As desolate as it is there's a beautity that stays with me to this day (34 years later). I live in a county with 1.3 million people. It still is amazing to me that there are roads where I ony saw 10 people in a day....
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Old 02-22-19, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by fork crown View Post
My friend and I remember passing a sign that said "no service for the next 80 miles". There was nothing, not one building.
And US 50 is hardly the "Loneliest Road" even though it has that title.
US 6 south of US 50 is far emptier. 168 miles between services.
US 50 has traffic counts of 600 daily vehicles in eastern Nevada.
US 6 has traffic counts in the 200 range east of Warm Springs.

Decades ago there used to be a scattering of cafe/bars on both US 50 & US 6.
On US 6, the ones at Warm Springs, Lockes, and Currant are long closed.
On US 50, Cold Springs and Major's Place are sometimes open, sometimes not.
I suspect that in another 5 or 10 years they will be gone, too.
Which makes cycling Nevada even harder.

I have been in touch with Nevada DOT to provide water for cyclists at DOT shops.
These are scattered across Nevada in very remote locations. Ideal for cyclists.
I have gotten all kinds of legalistic reasons why this cannot be done - -
but I am persisting and believe that some accommodations may soon be available.

Pic - Stone Cabin Valley on US 6

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Old 02-22-19, 09:04 AM
  #25  
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I would reconsider doing I-70 through Utah in the summer unless you're ready to ride through a desert where you will travel about 120 miles with no services whatsoever. Heading West from Green River there's a sign, "Next Services 117 Miles". On the other hand you'll pass near Moab, which is hard to pass up, except it is quite hot in the summer time.

I would prefer a route that goes through Utah along I-80 instead.
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