Category Archives: Boulder

NCAR Climb

We briefly wrote about the NCAR Climb, located in Boulder, CO, in our route guide of the NCAR/Eldorado Canyon Loop, but this one deserves a guide of it’s own. Its a good, quick climb that is great for hill intervals or just as a warmup or cool down piece.

The NCAR Climb generally begins at the intersection of Table Mesa Drive and Lehigh Street, in South Boulder. From the intersection, the route begins a moderate climb up Table Mesa Drive as it cuts northwest through a neighborhood before it turns into Ncar Road. After the ride passes the neighborhood the climb becomes less steep and maintains a fairly consistent grade to the summit. The Ncar Road portion of the climb winds through a wide meadow and along the foothills of the Flatirons, providing for a lot of great views of the mountains and the plains that surround Boulder.

At the top of the climb is the National Center for Atmospheric Research building (hence NCAR), which is where we turn around and head back down (the road dead ends, you have no choice). The descent is one of the fastest and most fun in Boulder, with one straight section that provides for a lot of efforts at obtaining top end speeds on the bike. Once we hit the Table Mesa/Lehigh intersection we either turn to head back home, or continue on to the longer loops in the area, such as the El Dorado Canyon Loop mentioned above. This route is also a great place to log some miles and hill work in the running shoes.

Do it because: it’s quick, accessible and provides a good hill workout and a great place for intervals. The descent is incredibly fun and the views are great.

Distance: 1.8 miles for the climb (starting from the intersection of Table Mesa and Lehigh). It’s about a 11.4 mile roundtrip if starting in downtown Boulder (at the intersection of Pearl Street and 9th)

Directions: From the intersection of Pearl Street and 9th, head south on 9th and hop on the Boulder Creek Bike Path and take it East. At the Broadway spur head south on Broadway and remain on the bike path which will eventually take you all the way to the intersection of Broadway and Table Mesa Drive (make sure to check out our map). Take a right on Table Mesa (there is a bike lane) and continue on. The climb starts at the intersection of Table Mesa and Lehigh Street.

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Amante Coffee

Soccer uniforms, cycling, wine, happy hour and gelato.

These are the things that immediately come to mind when I think of Amante, and the fact that coffee isn’t first on the list isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Amante bills itself as “an Italian experience”, and it works hard to fit the image of a modern, Italian style cafe. The result is a blend of bohemian coffee house and Euro-mod, with some Boulderite stylings to balance everything out. Amante is full of metal tables and chairs to go along with its sleek counters, coffee cups and baristas, but at the same time the local art hanging on the walls and mountain chic clientele gives the cafes a more community oriented feel. It’s undeniably a strange mix, but don’t let it scare you away; these places are good places to hang out with a cup of coffee, and definitely worth checking out for both their location relative to the outdoors and drink amenities.

With one location on Walnut, in downtown Boulder, and the other on North Broadway, the cafes provide great anchor points for cycling sorties into the foothills surrounding Boulder. The north location, with its larger location and huge outside patio area, is a great place to start, or end, a ride, as it is located near the beginning of  the Ward/Jamestown/Lyons cycling corridor and can play host to a lot of parked bikes and their riders. The Walnut location is located near the Boulder Creek Path and the Canyon/Magnolia/4-Mile/Sugarloaf/Sunshine/Flagstaff routes, but with its smaller size and limited bike parking this location is not as well equipped to handle large cycling groups.

Coffee-wise, Amante is a decent spot to get your bean fix. Nothing spectacular, but higher quality than many other coffee shops in town. The Americano’s  (our bellwether) are smooth, dark and slightly sweet; one of the best I’ve had East of Portland. The coffee is also good, dark and more bold than most house coffees.  Amante is the exclusive distributor of Ghigo family coffee, “the most popular coffee and espresso in Northern Italy.” This doesn’t mean much to me, but if you’re into the Ghigo then this is the spot for you. The cafe shines with its happy hour deals; coffee derived cocktails and wine that are priced incredibly well for the amount of alcohol they provide you; a good place to check out between dinner and the bars on Pearl Street.

The Amante staff is haughtily attractive. There is not a lot of smiling from behind the counter, as most of them seem to be afraid to break from their Euro-hip, soccer jersey encased, style. The men generally sport long hair and fashionably scruffy faces, while the women are attractive in either a jockish or bohemian way. No swamp creatures to go along with your coffee here. They are all fast and competent, but don’t be surprised if your order elicits a slightly veiled look of contempt as your true yuppie nature is revealed.

Overall, the Amante cafes provide a relaxed environment to enjoy soccer and cycling on TnV and enjoy and pre or post ride cup of coffee or espresso. Although the cafes don’t appear to do too much on the community side of things beyond displaying local art, their locations near rides, attractive staff and high quality bean make Amante a coffee shop worth checking out, regardless of its odd Euro-chic stylings.

Amante Coffee: 2 locations

Amante Uptown
4580 Broadway.  303-448-9999
5:45am to 7:00 pm M-Sat.  5:45am to 6:00pm Sunday.

Amante Walnut
1035 Walnut St.  303-546-9999
5:45 am to 7:00 M-Th.  5:45am to 10:pm Fri
and Sat.
5:45am to 6:00pm Sun.

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Mount Sanitas

We here at TWW do not often recommend going from 0 to 60 in the first five minutes of a workout, but unfortunately for our legs there are just some routes that are worth destroying them for. We count Mount Sanitas among that group – a route that is completely unforgiving, but worth every second of leg pain.

Almost a Boulder version of the Incline, Mount Sanitas is essentially a steep hike that is variably runnable, winding up the rocky ridge Sanitas where it tops out about 1.4 miles in. The trail is well worn, with some sections cut directly into the rock ridge, making it an adventure in foot placement and pacing. The views along the way and at the top are some of the best you’ll find in the Boulder area, making the fact that you can’t feel your calves easier to accept.

One drawback; finding the way back down in order to make the run a loop is a bit confusing. The East Ridge trail winds down to the Sanitas Valley trail which we take back to the parking lot. The problem with the East Ridge trail is that it is not clearly marked. Our best advice is to follow the most worn path, and keep your eyes open for the random trail markers. Our map shows the Mount Sinatas trail, the route down via the East Ridge trail, and then the Sanitas Valley trail back to the parking lot. A more label intensive map can be found here.

Do it because: intense hike and workout only minutes from downtown Boulder. Great views of the Flatirons, the town and beyond. Lots of pretty people to ogle.

Distance: 1.4 miles to the summit, 3.0 miles roundtrip.

Directions: From 9th and Pearl Street, take Pearl Street west and take a right on 4th Street, a left on Spruce, and then another right on 4th. Take 4th north to Mapelton and take a left. There are lots on both the north and south sides of the street. Additionally, you can generally park on the road and walk up to the trailhead.

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Four Mile/Sunshine Loop

When we start out on long rides our group usually coalesces behind me, letting me lead out the first couple of miles or so. I always thought that this was because I set a decent pace, until I overheard Max one day;

“Riding behind him is like riding behind three people.”

And Craig; “I feel like I’m in a vacuum.”

And Kristian; “I don’t even feel like I’m working. My legs are going to be so fresh for the climbs.”

And me; (Silent tears. And craving for another Twinkie. And more tears).

For rides like the Four Mile/Sunshine Loop, saving energy in the early stages is key, as this ride is long, full of climbing with a lot of dirt riding thrown in to mix things up. Approachable from either the Four Mile ride or the Sunshine Canyon ride, the route forms a loop that essentially starts and ends in downtown Boulder; making it one of the most accessible long rides in town. However you start, the loop involves a lot of climbing, and some long descent stretches on dirt. Starting the loop by going up Sunshine is the most climbing intensive way, while the Four Mile start allows you to climb to the top of the loop more gradually. For the most part, the dirt is smooth and decent for road bike tires.

However, there are sections that are pretty bumped out; so watch your speed and hold on to your bars as wrecking on dirt does some awesome damage to the spandex (and the Twinkie stash). The views on the higher sections of the ride are some of our favorite in the Boulder area; the Rockies to the West, and the Foothills and Front Range to the North and South. It makes the fact that you can no longer feel your legs less daunting.

This ride is also a good one for celebrity spotting. The last time we were up there we spotted Tyler Hamilton. He doesn’t look like he enjoys Twinkies.

Do it because: It’s one of the most challenging and most accessible loops in the Boulder area. Amazing views from the top and a great mix of road and dirt to keep you on your toes.

Distance: 22 miles roundtrip

Directions: You can ride the loop by either taking Four Mile or Sunshine. From Four Mile, continue past where the pavement ends and continue on Gold Run Road as it climbs up to the town of Gold Hill, where the road will become Boulder Street. Once in town, take a right on Horsfal Street which will turn into Sunshine Canyon Drive.

If heading up through Sunshine Canyon, continue past the end of the pavement and continue climbing until the road ends in the town of Gold Hill. Take a left on Boulder Street which turns into Gold Run Road.

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NCAR/El Dorado Canyon Loop

These “Whopper Virgin” commercials drive me nuts. The premise is that taste testers travel around the world to find burger “virgins”, give them a Big Mac and a Whopper, and see which one they like the most – the “ultimate taste test.”  These isolated populations are probably growing and raising their own food. Which means that their diet is high on proteins, vegetables and fiber, and completely lacking in processed foods. The Whopper comes in an 1800 calorie package of processed beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and bacon (at your option). The Big Mac is a 540 calorie bomb with many of the same ingredients, but covered in a french dressing-like sauce. The “virgins” wolf down these burgers, give a thumbs up to the Whopper, and then the commercial fades out with some ominous voice-over about how the “virgins” have spoken. I have an idea; lets show these people about 2 hours after they eat the burgers – running around, holding their stomachs, vomiting and trying not to shit all over the town square. Maybe the producers could do a test of which burger resulted in less explosive diarrhea. The Whopper virgins have spoken!!

Thankfully we have bikes to work off any Whopper/Big Mac damage we’ve managed to do to ourselves, and thankfully mountain towns have an abundance of great rides. The NCAR/El Dorado Canyon Loop is a great flatter ride that runs through the South Boulder area. Featuring a few moderate climbs, great views of the southern Flatirons and a cool, isolated canyon, this ride is great for putting in some base building miles.

Starting from downtown Boulder, the ride takes you up the bike path that runs parallel to Broadway and runs through the CU campus. This bike path will take you all the way into South Boulder and to the first climb of this ride, the NCAR Climb which summits on top of a hill underneath the Flatirons. This climb is long and fairly gradual, providing some great views of the plains and foothills and functioned more as a warmup for the rest of the ride. The descent, however, is a ton of fun – very fast, great sight lines, and fairly smooth road. Back to the bottom of NCAR, the ride climbs up through a Boulder neighborhood that provides some more great views of the meadows that abut the Flatirons, before diving back down towards Table Mesa Road.

From Table Mesa the ride heads further south and eventually heads back to the El Dorado Canyon area. This part of the ride is my favorite – a long, slightly uphill road that heads West directly into the Canyon area, which is  a great spot for hiking and rock climbing. The road eventually comes into a small little town before it turns to dirt. This is our turnaround point. After winding back out of the canyon, the ride heads up Cherryvale Road – another long, rolling road that heads northeast. You’ll roll past meadows, farmland and a reservoir. Not the mountains, but a beautiful part of Boulder nonetheless. From Cherryvale road its easy to hop onto the Boulder Creek Path, which will take you back into downtown.

The best part of this ride is the long, fairly even straightaways that are great for intervals or sprinting. The moderate climbing is nice if your legs are sore or if you just want something more lowkey.

Do it because: the ride is a good mix of flats and climbs, with some great views of the city, mountains and plains. It is also a great ride for exploring some of the neighborhoods in the South Boulder area.

Distance: 26.5 miles

Directions: Starting at 9th and Pearl Street, take 9th South to Canyon Ave and take the Boulder Creek Path east. Hop on to the bike path in Central Park, at Arapahoe Ave and Broadway St. Take the path as it climbs up Broadway towards south Boulder. The path will parallel the CU campus. About a quarter mile after Regent Drive you can either go under Broadway or straight towards the law school. Take the tunnel under Broadway, and then turn left, as you continue to head south (you’ll be able to see CU’s law school across the street). You will cross Baseline, where the path will briefly put you onto the road. The path will continue to parallel Broadway all the way up to Table Mesa Drive (sometimes putting you onto a road). Take a right on Table Mesa (towards the Flatirons). Stay on Table Mesa, as it climbs all the way up to the NCAR campus. Turn around once you reach the top and bomb back down Table Mesa.

Toward the bottom of where Table Mesa begins to climb to NCAR you want to take a right on Lehigh St. There isn’t a stop sign here, so make sure to keep a look out for the road. Lehigh will climb and eventually crest above a large meadow before descending down all the way to Broadway (Lehigh will eventually turn into Greenbriar Road before intersecting with Broadway). At Broadway you will come to a light. Cross Broadway and you will be able to pick up a bike path, which you will take a right on (towards the south). This path will eventually put you on to Marshall Road. Take Marshall Road until it intersects with Eldorado Springs Drive, where you want to take a right. This road will take you up to a light. Go through the light, crossing Foothills Parkway, and then bear left at the convenience store. Eldorado will take you all the way back towards the canyon. Once the road turns to dirt, turnaround and head back, again crossing Foothills Parkway at the light. However, instead of heading back on Marshall Road, take a right onto Marshall Drive (your first right after you cross Foothills Parkway), and then a left onto S. Cherryvale Road, which is the first left you can take.

Cherryvale winds through the plains east of Boulder, passing farms and a resevoir before bringing you to a stop sign at the intersection of Baseline and Cherryvale. At this intersection, go straight and then take your first left on to Dimmit Drive. This road will eventually dead end at an entrance to another paved bike path. Take the path until it ends at Centennial Trail. Take a left and then your first right on to Merritt Drive. Take Merritt Drive until it intersects with Eisenhower Drive, where you will take a right and head toward the intersection of Eisenhower and Arapahoe Ave. Cross Arapahoe and then take a left on the the sidewalk/bike path that parralels Arapahoe and eventually intersect with the Boulder Creek Path to take you all the back to downtown Boulder.

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Four Mile Canyon

Four Mile is one of those narrow Boulder canyons that hides within its walls some weird little neighborhoods and a good ride. Easily accessible from downtown Boulder, this ride is close to a number of other rides in the area, including Magnolia and Sugarloaf. Gently ascending, with a few short climbs, this ride is great by itself, as part of a larger loop, or as a warm up for the other rides in the area. Shaded in a lot of areas, this ride is also a great mid-day ride during the summer months.

For as easy and accessible as Four Mile can be, its name is a bit of a misnomer on two fronts. One, the actual ride is not four miles, it turns to dirt at the 8.3 mile mark in the ride. The ride actually ends on Gold Run Road, which branches off of Four Mile Canyon Drive at about the 7.6 mile mark in the ride. This is where the steepest section of climbing is (you will see the intersection at a cluster of buildings that looks almost like the beginning of a town – Gold Run Road is a sharp right at this point). And two; Four Mile is an access point for one of the most challenging rides in Boulder – the Four Mile/Sunshine Loop. We have started out on Four Mile with thoughts of an easy ride only to find ourselves following friends past the pavement all the way up to the top of the Sunshine Canyon ride. The loop is definitely not easy, and takes awhile, and is on dirt. And Tyler Hamilton trains on it. And we want our mom now.

If doing Four Mile as an out and back, we typically stop at the end of the pavement (8.75 miles in). The descent is one of the more fun ones in Boulder, but be wary of the locals. On one of our recent rides our friend Max was almost taken out by a guy who felt careening through the turns without staying in the lines was a safer approach to driving. Awesome.

Do it because: it’s a great moderate ride when you are feeling lazy or want a mellow warmup. Great descent, and great access to harder rides.

Distance: 8.75 miles to summit (from start at 9th and Pearl Street). 17.50 miles roundtrip

Directions: From downtown Boulder (9th and Pearl Street) head south on 9th, cross Canyon Blvd and hop on to the Boulder Creek Path, heading West. The path will eventually turn to dirt as it winds up Canyon. The path will dead end at Boulder Canyon Road. From there, cross the street to Fourmile Canyon Drive.

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