Since the Buffalo Bicycle Classic charity ride was canceled two weeks before, due to wildfires near the route in both Boulder and near Carter Lake, I decided to ride the same basic route alone. The charity ride starts and ends in Boulder, with the mid-way point being just west of Fort Collins. Since I live in Fort Collins, I started and ended from home, and used Boulder as the mid-way point.
It was a beautiful day for a ride. It was sunny, not cold, and the air was crisp and clear. A steady south-to-north breeze made the trip down to Boulder a little more difficult, but also gave me a gentle push back home during the second half of the ride. Here are some pictures that I took during the ride.
Near the beginning, looking back east towards Fort Collins and over Horsetooth Reservoir, from the overlook at the top of the second ridge just west of town.
About seven miles from the last picture, looking south from the top of the south dam at the Eden Valley Reservoir. The route south winds through the local foothills, and around a few local reservoirs.
A small section of the wildfire that canceled the organized ride could be seen just north of Carter Lake. Notice the stripes of orange fire retardant on the hillside, dropped by the airplanes and helicopters fighting the fire. The high-plains prairie grasses are all dried-out and yellow this time of year, and it does not take much to start a roaring wildfire.
This picture does not do this hill justice, and not just because of the ugly power lines in the fore-ground. I don’t know the percent grade, but a lot of local cyclists call the sharp curve at the bottom “crash curve,” because of all the terrible bicycle crashes that happen there each year. Even lighter riders hit speeds over 45 mph going down that hill. Lots of cyclists slide right into oncoming traffic going around that curve, many taking a 30+ mph tumble into the rocky hillside.
Even though the steep section is only about 1 mile long, it takes most riders more than 10 minutes to climb it. Its close proximity to the cycling towns of Fort Collins, Loveland, and Longmont make this a pretty popular climbing hill for cyclists (climb, rinse, repeat…).
The dam road that goes around the east-side of Carter Lake affords long views of the prairie lands to the east.
A view of part of the lake, the local foothills, and part of the dam road at Carter Lake. The dam road runs just below the first hog-back ridge that makes up the eastern border/barrier of the lake.
There are lots of small ranches and farms between Loveland/Carter Lake and Boulder, Colorado. This ranch specializes in high-end breeding stock. At first, I thought these were Belted Galloway’s but the “oreo” pattern was only seen on a few cattle, and was more irregular than with real “oreo” cows.
I turned around at the edge of the University of Colorado campus. The Performance bicycle shop was right there, so I dropped by to look around the shop and get a couple of Cliff energy bars. That Performance store gets a lot of their “test” flavors, and you never know what you are going to find.
The bike shop employees were also nice enough to let me park my bike inside the door, while I had lunch at the Big City Burrito stand across the way. People were used to seeing sweaty guys in bike shorts walking around that shopping center. I took a little extra time to stretch, use the restroom, and super-hydrate (about an hour).
The first part of the ride back took me north and west up busy Highway 36, that runs between Boulder and Estes Park. The road has a really wide shoulder, pretty views, but there is also a lot of noisy traffic. The drivers are very nice to cyclists down that way, though. Highway 36 looks like a rolling flat, but you gradually and steadily gain elevation as you travel north and west, hugging the bottom of the same ridge that runs all the way north to the Wyoming state border (about 75 miles north of Boulder). It is one of those “why does this seem harder than it looks?” kind of roads.
Just before Highway 36 really starts to climb up to the town of Lyons, the bike route turned east off of the highway, and back to the same country roads that brought me down to Boulder. This hill also looks gentle, but I found it pretty easy for my not-so-fresh legs to steadily maintain 26-30 mph down onto the prairie for almost an hour.
I saw more cyclists between Highway 36 and Carter Lake that day, than I’ve seen on any stretch of roads anywhere else ever, except during races and charity rides. I’ll bet that I rode past 30-40 cyclists going the opposite way just west of Longmont, and south of Carter Lake. There were a good 15-20 cyclists that I could see going my way as well.
Typical view of ranches below the foothills about an hour south of Carter Lake.
The tail-wind blew me home pretty quickly. If I had known about the wind helping me so much at the end, I would have ridden harder. I didn’t bonk, get dehydrated, or even have cramps that night. Even so, I was tired, and really glad to see those last couple of rollers at the edge of my home-town, Fort Collins.