In the dark days of the year, when the days are short and there’s not enough light to ride before or after work, I frequently ride at mid-day, over lunch for an hour or so. The rides are not very complicated. They take about an hour to complete. And they are geographically diverse so that I don’t get that stuck in a rut feeling where I’m always going to Washington Park or out to the Cherry Creek Reservoir and back, like some mindless lemming with no itch for new places and sights. They are also useful as easy recovery rides. These short loops include the Stock Show Loop, which takes you mostly north and slightly east of downtown, the Eisenhower Park Loop (south and east) and the Bible Park Loop (east and south). Bryant Street takes you south and west.
Most of what you need to know is on the maps themselves. But a few words are probably helpful.
Bryant Street Loop features my favorite short hill in metro Denver, between Dartmouth and Bates, two blocks of sheer steepness that flirt with the mid-teens in grade. Were the hill longer, the neighborhood would be overrun with Lycra. There are a few other, smaller hills, too, on Zuni Street as well. If they catch your attention, check out the Hill Junky Circuit. I’ve suggested riding this loop clockwise for two reasons. It makes the Mississippi stretch more manageable (a longish downhill run instead of a slow slog uphill) and it makes the navigation to Washington St (the one-way southbound that parallels Emerson St) a lot easier. But if you’re persistent enough, you’ll figure out how to make it work. The sketchiest part of the ride is between Platte River Dr and Broadway on Mississippi. The road is rough. There’s a gloomy underpass. And sometimes the traffic is intense. Don’t let these factors throw you off. Either time your entrance into the tunnel so the bulk of the traffic has passed, or find and use a sidewalk on the north side of Mississippi for a relatively safe passage through. Don’t miss the sheer bliss of the bike lane northbound on Emerson St. It is a great alternative to Washington Park.
If you are signed up for the Triple Bypass and think you need one more hard training ride to be completely ready, here’s the ticket. The Silver Road Half Century starts in Georgetown, rides up and over Guanella Pass, and returns to Georgetown. 48 miles, more or less, and more than 6,000 vertical feet up to a high point of 11,669. Twice. The combination of serious climbing and serious altitude should be irresistible. The SRHC will be held on June 30, 2013, in conjunction with the Guanella Pass Hill Climb, an organized USAC sanctioned race. So if you are into hard rides but not racing, the SRHC is the one for you. The ride is limited to the first 250 riders who sign up and is fully supported with aid stations, first aid support, and Al’s Pit BBQ on the U.S. 285 side of the ride. (Al’s, by the way, is worth a trip in its own right, but probably not when you are halfway through this ride, with 3,000+ feet of climbing still to go.)
You’ll have to get up early–the ride starts at 7:00 a.m. in waves of 50 a few minutes apart to avoid congestion with the racers, the first group of which head out at 8:45. The ride benefits Colorado Lungs4Life, The Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease, Georgetown Trust for Conservation and Preservation, and the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado Junior Development Program. These are serious charities and the ride expects you to raise serious money: registration costs $55 and you must raise $150 or more to enter the ride. At the $150 level you get a beautiful hat and t-shirt. Above that level there are these jerseys and vests from Pactimo.
Tollgate Creek is the major tributary of Sand Creek and drains (or at least used to before Cherry Creek and Aurora Reservoirs were built) the eastern plains between the two reservoirs. As close as it is to most urban cyclists, it sees little bicycle traffic. If the lack of use reflects uncertainty about how to link it up to make a loop, this map will help. The trail proper runs from the historic Delaney Farm in Aurora south to Iliff Ave. A branch of the trail heads southeast at Horseshoe Park and winds down to Quincy Ave with an optional tour on the Highline Canal further south to the Aurora Reservoir.
The route shown here is Denver-centric and takes advantage of Montview Blvd and the little-used but very quiet 25th Ave to reach Fitzsimmons Parkway. A bridge across Sand Creek spills you out on 30th Ave and then to Sable Blvd. Sable Blvd will carry you south to the junction with the Highline Canal (apprximately 2nd Ave). Sable Blvd between 30th Ave and the Highline Canal offers very good on-street cycling. There’s a jog at 6th Ave and a left turn back onto Sable, but it’s entirely manageable if you make the turn from the right (north) turn-lane of two. The intersection with, and turn onto, the Highline Canal Trail is not so friendly. First, a very narrow bike lane carries you up a hill to where the trail crosses Sable. Second, the concrete median has a diagonal cut in it for cyclists but it’s a hump, it’s narrow, and not easily accessible if there’s traffic behind you. Third, there’s no turn lane. So if you’re feeling pinched by traffic your first time through, stop to the right, in the bike lane. Wait for traffic to clear behind you and roll into the median slowly while you gauge the flow of northbound traffic. Once across you’re on a great stretch of the Highline Trail. It winds along the canal, passes by the Aurora city center and joins the Tollgate Trail at Alameda Ave. Exit right and up then immediately down to access Tollgate Trail. I’m always a little confused here because you leave a smooth gray concrete trail and connect to Tollgate on a rough, dusty looking stretch of pavement that hardly looks like a trail at all. Go south from here to smooth sailing on Tollgate Trail. At Mississippi Ave you surface, go east, then drop down again to creek level. At Mexico and Iliff Ave negotiate at-grade crossings with traffic lights. You’ll approach a triple trail junction just before Iliff. There’s little signage but the baseball field at Horseshoe Park will be your sign to turn west to cross the creek and then head south.
Follow the trail south through the sprawling Wheel and Olympic Parks to reach the Cherry Creek Reservoir Spillway Trail. Fine riding continues. Cross Chambers Rd at the light. Ride south. Just before reaching the reservoir be wary of high speed traffic at the Parker Rd and Hampden Ave interchange. There are traffic lights at both crossings and they are essential at rush hour. Enter Cherry Creek State Park and make choices about returning to where you start. Turn right for the direct route (along the Cherry Creek Trail) or left to circle the park or explore points beyond.
If you ride this in reverse order, the only caution is the turn from Fitzsimmons Parkway onto Peoria St to reach 25th Ave. It is uphill, there are only two lanes, and there can be high traffic intensity during rush hours. It is a short tenth of a mile but if you are feeling beleaguered, there’s a narrow sidewalk you can use.