Tag Archives: climbs

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.

View NCAR Climb in a larger map

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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.

View Four Mile/Sunshine Loop – Boulder, CO in a larger map

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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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