The Pikes Peak highway has been open to bicycles for several years now. When I first heard about this, I could hardly wait to do the climb up the mountain and come screaming back down at high speed as my reward for making the ascent. This year, I had the chance to do the ride after attending the Medicine of Cycling Conference at USA Cycling headquarters in Colorado Springs.
My wife dropped me off at the “highway gate” where I paid my toll, checked in at the gatehouse, and noted the altitude of 7800 feet. I asked the nice woman at the booth if there was anything I needed to be aware of before I started. She explained there was some minor construction just a few miles up the road and I would need to follow all the same laws that are required of automobiles. After a quick photo I began my ride. It was only about a mile into the ride at “Camera Point,” which overlooks Ute Pass, that I started wishing for a few lower gears.
|First view of the summit|
|Looking up at the W's|
|Top of the W's|
|Summit of Pike's Peak|
Just about the time I got to the switchbacks at 12,000 feet, the sun broke through, and it began to warm up. When the road was dry I could let go of the brakes and really open up and dry off. By Glen Cove I was dry, but still very cold. I had been in the drops for a full 30 minutes without pedaling. I was sore and tired. I rested in the gift shop and warmed up by the heater for a few minutes before continuing on my way. There were fewer hard turns and I could really let the bike fly here. I spent the next few miles at 35-40 mph. Strava and Garmin says I hit 71.4 mph through here, but I find that hard to believe. It was still a big rush for sure, and a cyclist’s dream downhill. Before reaching the park gate, I hit a wall of fog and visibility was reduced to a couple hundred feet. I figured if I made it down just a little farther, I would get out of the clouds and it would be smooth sailing back down to Colorado Springs. Under 8,000 feet, I came out of the fog, visibility improved to normal, and I got on US 24 headed down into Manitou Springs. A few miles on a 4 lane highway (legal in Colorado) was amazing - I was cruising at 55 mph without pedaling as the drivers stared in astonishment at me. After 28 miles of descending, and dropping 7800 feet into Colorado Springs, I made it back to where we were staying. I was tired and sore but had accomplished something I knew I would never forget - I had earned respect the hard way.
Switchbacks - Descending off Pikes Peak in rain and sleet 8/23/17
Glen Cove - Just below treeline. Glen Cove after a rest and warming up.
To the Park Gate - This starts out at over 60mph. Really awesome part of the descent. Great flow.