Category Archives: rides

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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Siamese Twin/Balanced Rock Loop

The trails that run through the Garden of the Gods Park weave, meander and intersect to create an elaborate network that is can be difficult navigate, especially when running. The Siamese Twin/Balanced Rock Loop is TWW’s effort to provide a baseline trail run that you can build off and explore from. Continue reading

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Garden of the Gods

We here at TWW try to avoid writing about obvious features in an effort to avoid putting more people into already crowded parks and recreating areas. The gigantic redstone formations that jut from the ground in shark like fashion make the Garden of the Gods hard to miss. But the park is such a scenic and accessible place to run and ride that ignoring it eliminates one of the best places to get outside in the Manitou/Colorado Springs area.

First, the bad. This park is a hotspot for RVs, families, slow walkers, motorcycles, and photographers. They clog the roadways, they meander down the trails and they add traffic and noise to a pristine environment that is better enjoyed with minimal noise pollution. On top of that are the horse tours that bring their mounts through some of the trails and liberally deposit fertilizer within sneaker striking distance.

However, there is good. Thanks to the deluge of tourists in the area, and the need to maintain the park’s geographic features, the city undertook a project that rerouted the roads, eliminating the ability of cars to drive through the park’s middle and regulating traffic to a loop that winds around the perimeter of the park, leaving the more pristine areas of the park inaccessible via car. The roadways are smooth, incredibly wide and run in only one direction around the park, cutting down on cross traffic and reducing car speed. The center of the park, its most scenically striking area and once a car thoroughfare, has been reclaimed and now sports numerous trails. Additionally, most tourists stick close to the roadways and parking lots, leaving a lot of the trails empty. And parking here is abundant, with each lot allowing easy access to the trails that ring the park.

For runners, the park sports a number of dirt trails that are mostly rolling, winding through low foothills and open meadows, with everyone allowing views of the park, the mountains to the West, and Pikes Peak. The trails are well marked and hard packed, and generally well maintained. Running along the road is another good option, as the roadway’s bike lane is wide enough for both runners and cyclists. The loop here is not long enough for a good ride, but the park is a great way to start or end a longer cycling loop. Some of the hills in the park are steep enough for climbing intervals, allowing for a tortuous, yet scenic, workout.

The Garden’s location makes it easy to loop it into longer runs or rides in the area. Check out the Intemann Trail/Red Rocks Canyon Loop and the Cheyenne Canyon Loop for routes that run through or near the park, and run our Siamese Twins Loop to explore some of the Garden’s hidden formations.  The park’s location, and perhaps one of its best features, is its location near Manitou Springs and the West Side of Colorado Springs, making a long run followed up by a cold beer possible without hopping in a car, or RV.

Trail Map here (PDF) and here (also PDF).
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Breckenridge to Vail Pass Summit – Breckenridge, CO

Vail Pass is one of the rare passes in Colorado that can be reached on a bike without playing high speed vehicle roulette. A bike path, running between Vail and Breckendrige, allows easy access over the pass and provides a great ride through amazing scenery while providing a great workout.

Breckenridge has evolved from its roots as a mining town, slowly turning the scars of gold mining into a proper ski town that is usually more affordable, and more easily accessible, than Aspen, Telluride or Vail. With abundant restaurants, bars and coffee shops, Breck is a great place to start and end the climb to Vail Pass.

The ride starts in downtown Breckenridge winds west along the bike path, which is paved the entire way. Once the ride hits Frisco, the mostly flat terrain gradually begins to climb almost 1000 feet before topping out at the summit of Vail Pass, which sits at about 10,600 feet. Along the way, the path provides great views of the Breckenridge and Copper Mountain ski resorts and the surrounding peaks, as well as views of Dillon Lake. Be prepared for extremely variable weather; this is, after all, Colorado.

Distance: 21.65 miles one way / 43.30 miles round trip

Directions: Starting at N. Main Street and Lincoln Ave. in downtown Breckendridge, head West and take a left on Watson Road and then a right on to the bike path. Stay on the bike path for about 16 miles until it ends in a parking lot near a Shell gas station. From there hop on the road that crosses CO-Highway 91 into the Copper Mountain village (you should be on Copper Road).

Continue west, past the round-a-bout and on to Beeler Pl. You will see an entrance for the bike path on the right. Hop on that and take it an additional 4.10 miles to the parking lot at the summit of Vail Pass. Return via the same route.

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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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Downtown/University of Portland Loop – Portland, OR

Remember in college when you were surrounded by pretty people and it took everything in your power to keep your neck from snapping in half as you tried to take it all in? Imagine that, but add in high speed cycling, your ass encased in spandex, and traffic, and you have our favorite part of this ride: the University of Portland campus on hot spring day (note: the students get creeped out when you circle numerous times around the soccer fields, so just try and make one pass).

The Downtown/U of P loop is an abbreviation of the Skyline to Rock Creek Road Loop, dropping the long out and back and adding in one of the best descents in Portland. Starting in downtown Portland, the ride heads up the Lovejoy/Cornell corridor and on to Skyline, where it winds north through the West Hills before dropping down Germantown Road and crossing into North Portland and back into downtown. Along the way you get to see the venerable St. John’s Bridge, the University of Portland campus and the Adidas U.S. headquarter’s campus before crossing back into downtown via the Broadway Bridge.

A couple of things to watch out for: crossing the St. John’s Bridge can be a bit scary, as the sidewalk on the bridge really isn’t wide enough to ride on. We usually just stay on the road; which is two lanes in each direction so not too bad. Also, traffic merges onto Greeley on your right a little bit after the Adidas campus; they have a yield sign but pay attention. Finally, the transition from Greeley to Interstate Ave. is a bit dicey, requiring you to cross a lane of traffic, so keep your head up.

Apart from the undergrads, we love this ride because its a great way to see a lot of Portland and has some amazing views of the Cascades, especially coming over St. John’s Bridge where, on a clear day, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood are all visible. The Germantown Road descent is one of the best, and fastest, in Portland; a great way to get used to cornering at higher speeds. The highlight of this ride for me is coming back into downtown Portland and riding down Broadway during the late afternoon, around sunset. Crossing the Broadway Bridge when the Willamette below is lit in reds and pinks is an amazing way to finish a workout. This is the ride that I do when I’m feeling unsure of Portland; it reaffirms my love of both the Northwest and this city.

Distance: 23 miles roundtrip

Directions: Starting at the Salmon Street Fountain at Tom McCall Waterfront Park; take the paved path north, making a slight left by the Steel Bridge and crossing the railroad tracks. Continue north on Naito Parkway to NW 9th Ave, and take a left. NW 9th will intersect with NW Lovejoy. From there, take the first part of the Lovejoy Loop (Lovejoy to Cornell, right on 53rd, right again on Thompson) to get up to Skyline, where you will take a right. Take Skyline for about 3.8 miles until it intersects with NW Germantown Road. Take a right on Germantown and descend to the bottom, where the road will intersect with NW Bridge Ave. Take a right and head to the intersection of NW Bridge Ave. and NW St. John’s Bridge. Take a left at the intersection on to the St. John’s Bridge.

After crossing the bridge, take a right on to N. Syracuse Street (it’s the first right that you can make. Be careful; it’s a sharp right on to a pot-holed road) which will dead end on to N Burlington Road. Take a right here and then your first left on to N Willamette Blvd. Stay on N Willamette for about 3 miles, past the U of P campus, where it will take a sharp right that bikes, but not cars, are allowed to turn at. Stay on the road until it intersects with N Greeley Ave, where you want to take a right. This road will take you past the Adidas campus and to N Interstate Ave. This is where the transition gets tricky: you have to move from the right lane over to the left, crossing the on ramp for I-5. Make sure NOT to go up the on ramp, but down towards Interstate, where you want to take a right on to the bike lane.

Once on Interstate, take a right (the light rail tracks should be on your left) and head south towards downtown, passing by the Widmer Brewery. After the intersection of Interstate and N Tillamook Street you want to bear right, on to N Larrabee Ave, which will bring you to the intersection of Larrabee and N Broadway St. Take a right on N Broadway and cross the Broadway Bridge into downtown. To ride down Broadway, and through Downtown, take a left on Broadway St., cross Burnside, and enjoy the people watching and downtown. To get back to Tom McCall Park, take a left on Salmon Street.

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Boulder Peak (Bike) Course – Boulder, CO

I have not yet attempted a triathlon; I fear that my overly heavy body would either drown or explode through my skin. Instead, I cruise sections of triathlon courses and tell myself “one day”, and then eat another twinkie.

The Boulder Peak Triathlon is one of the major events of the summer season, full of elite level athletes, weekend warriors and beginners; all getting their spandex fix through the foothills and back roads of Boulder. We love the Boulder Peak Triathlon for one reason (besides the free stuff Craig hooks us up with sometimes); the bike course. Running through a great climb, even better descents and long, fast straightaways, the Boulder Peak Bike Course is a ton of fun, without the pesky annoyance of having to swim and run thrown in.

Deviating a bit from the actual course, we usually start this ride in downtown Boulder, winding our way up north before hopping onto the course at the intersection of North Broadway and Lee Hill Road. From there the course heads west to the Old Stage Climb (exploding body time), and its great descent into Lefthand Canyon (watch out on the descent though; people hit bears here. That’s right motherfucker. BEARS). The Lefthand Canyon section is a slightly downhill, very fast section that passes some great scenery before dumping you out onto Highway 36, where you head north and onto Nelson. Nelson is another long and fast flat section with a moderate descent that will bring you to N. 63rd Street. 63rd is a rolling road that passes numerous farms and provides great views of the mountains. It will eventually bring you to the Diagonol Highway, and then to Jay Road where the real course heads into the Boulder Resevoir area. We head back to town from here, usually taking side streets through some cool neighborhoods.

We love this course simply because it is so varied; climbs, flats and everything in between. We have yet to slam into a bear at high speeds, but here’s to a New Year! And twinkies.

Distance: 28.65 miles round trip

Directions: From downtown Boulder, take 9th Street north to Pine Street and take a right. Head east and take a left on 20th Street, which will wind up a hill to a stop sign and turn into 19th Street. Take 19th Street north for 2.25 miles until it dead-ends into Yartmouth Ave., and take a left on to Yartmouth which intersects with Broadway. Take a right on Broadway and then your first left on to Lee Hill Road. Lee Hill Road turns into Old Stage Road and the biggest climb of this ride. After descending Old Stage take a right at the stop sign on to Lefthand Drive. Take Lefthand out to Highway 36 and take a left, and then your first right on to Nelson Road. Spin down Nelson until it intersects with 63rd Street where you will take a right. This road intersections with the Diaganol Highway, where you will take another right, and then a right onto Jay Road. Head down Jay and take a left on 26th Street/Folsom and then a right on to Iris Ave, which will intersect with 19th to take you back to downtown.

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