I like bagging peaks in a non-traditional fashion... such as running the Pikes Peaks Marathon, doing the 9-peaks of Southern California as a day hike, hiking from Palm Springs to Mt. San Jacinto (2 vertical miles of elevation gain)... so it was only natural that I bike up Mt Evans instead of hike it... afterall it is the highest paved road in the world. Granted, purists would not recognize this as truly peak-bagging, but I would contend that I expended far more energy biking up Mt Evans than I would have hiking it.
Mt. Evans is certainly a favorite challenge for Colorado cyclists because I saw 20 or 30 other cyclists on the road today. There were almost more cyclists on the road than cars (no kidding).
I wasn't sure if I was going to make it to the top or not because I haven't had a chance to bike much in the last three weeks. I'm more of a runner than a cyclist. I was going to sure give this mountain all I had... and it paid off. What a climb. 28 miles uphill (56 miles rt). 7000' elevation gain.
The ride starts at the middle school next to the visitor's center at I-70 exit 240 in Idaho Springs at about 7000' elevation. The ride breaks up into two halves. The first 13.5 miles are up CO Hwy 103 to the permit station at Echo Lake. Then the last 14.5 miles are up CO Hwy 5 to the top. The distance and elevation gain is about the same for both halves.
The first 7 miles are only about a 2-3% grade. These opening miles can fool you into thinking that this will be a simple ride. The next 7 miles are steeper (4-7% grade) until you get to Echo Lake and the permit station. At Echo Lake, the road levels out for about a half mile which is a nice respite for the legs and lungs.
The second half is a steady climb to the top. There are two downhill sections around 11,000-12,000'. These are more noticeable on the return home since you have to bike uphill on these. The road is in bad condition around 12,000' near Summit Lake. The uneven cracks and bumps in the road can really jolt the bike. The road ends at the parking lot at 14,130' (140' below the actually peak).
Overall, the bike ride went better than I anticipated. I haven't biked much lately (although I have done a lot of running). I thought it might take as much as 5 hours... especially the last section in the thin air. I certainly didn't post the fastest time up this road, but I wasn't the slowest either. For a flatlander from California, I was proud to get up the hill in 3:48. I made it to Echo Lake in 1:35 and then another 2:13 to the top. I talked to a guy at the top who made it up in 2:45! Wow.
You could tell this was my first bike ride up Mt Evans. I had a pack on my back with a 3-quart water bladder, warm clothes and tennis shoes for the top, food for lunch, etc. All the other cyclists on the road just had cycling gear and 2 water bottles which they refilled at Echo Lake.
At the top, I put on my warmer clothes because it wasn't sunny and the winds were chilly. I hiked the extra 140' up to the peak to
truly bag it.
Before I came to Colorado, I bought a set of lower gears for this climb. Best $30 I have ever spent. I needed them at the top. I was grinding the lowest 2 gears for the last miles.
The ride down was the most miserable part of the trip. The first 7 miles down were all above treeline and there were strong crosswinds whipping across the tundra and rocks. I had to use my brakes quite a bit. Once I got below treeline I could open it up and go 30-35 mph. The last 7 miles I had to pedal into a headwind (even though it was downhill) which my legs did not appreciate.
Great day. Great way to bag another 14er. My own little Tour de France stage... Le Tour was in the Alps today at a much lower elevation. The high point in this year's tour was only 8,700' in the Alps... just about the elevation I started at (granted, they *race* up their mtns for 3 weeks and I just did a slow grind). Great bike ride. It's a must-do for cyclists.