When I wrote my most recent column in the Denver Post about my road to becoming a cyclist, there was a lot I didn’t have room for. So here, from the cutting room floor, are the bits I had to leave out.
My early rides were on the roads east of Fort Collins. As I passed tractors in the sugar beet fields, clothes drying on the line and kids running through the sprinklers; I learned how to shift, stop and get off the bike without falling over.
As my skills and conditioning improved I moved into the hills. A Fort Collins favorite is the short ride up to Horsetooth Reservoir. In 30 minutes you can be looking down over the city with the red cliffs and the pure blue of the water surrounding you.
Cycling doesn’t just get you in shape, it gets you out. If it was just cardio I was after I could ride the stationary bike at the gym and watch Hoda and KLG do wine pairings during the fourth hour of the Today Show.
In preparation for my first official ride I finally got clip-in pedals (I had resisted because having your feet locked in so that when you fall over you can’t break your fall never seemed like a good idea) and went on increasingly challenging rides.
I took the three lakes route that goes around Horsetooth, Carter Lake and Boyd. I rode with a friend who created his own century ride when he calculated that it’s 100 miles round trip from the Noodles in downtown Fort Collins to the Boulder Noodles and I did the quintessential Rist Canyon trip. This beautiful, tucked away Canyon (I’m hoping for rain before any more of it burns) is 3,675 feet of elevation gain in 52 miles. The final climb is a killer 8 to 10 percent grade–so steep that people on foot walk faster than a guy on a bike—or in this case a woman.
But it was Hoosier Pass outside Breckenridge that almost made me give up biking for good. Long time cyclists say there’s no way to make the brakes on your road bike “smoke” but I swear I smell burning rubber. There was a semi crowding behind me, and I know there’s not much they can do in the brakes department, but I still couldn’t let go.
But this season I’m going to loosen my grip on the brakes…at least on one side.