biking cameron pass

the pig

So my buddy Toots had his bachelor party this weekend. The plan was to chill with a bunch of buddies in the mountains before getting hitched forever. Mikey reserved a few campsites for us just a touch west of Cameron Pass, and I thought it would be fun to take a self-supported bike touring ride up there.

I should have known better, given the following two facts:

  • James Perry, one of the strongest bikers I know, mentioned he did it once and said it was really hard
  • when I sent out mail detailing my plan via email and asking if anyone else wanted to join me, the response was deafening radio silence

Oh well.

10,276 feet

I would have preferred to ride my road bike, but I don’t have a rack for it, so I loaded up my commuter cum touring bike. I tried to keep it relatively light, bringing a sleeping bag and liner, ground cloth, Thermarest, bivy sack, and a few clothes. Maybe the camp pillow was a bit excessive, but it only added about a half pound. What killed me was the water — I had a 100 oz Camelback along with another 16 oz water bottle. All in all, the bike plus gear came to about 50 lbs. So heavy!

I got out of the house at about 8:45am on Saturday, and turned north to head up into the Poudre Canyon. I must admit that I was surprised at how much I was affected by pedalling my pig of a bike, but it was very frustrating to be on a road that isn’t that steep, but to only be doing about 12 mph.

so tired

After an hour, I was feeling pretty awful, and I realized it was because I was wearing the Camelback, which was causing me some serious lower back pain. My first attempt at strapping it to my bike rack ended up with my Thermarest and Camelback getting sucked inbetween my wheel and rack after about 100 yards, causing my wheel to lock up and me to veer into the road. Not cool, but luckily, there were no other cars there. I was cursing myself for only bringing one bungee cord, but I jerry-rigged an acceptable solution. Providence prevailed though, as after about another mile or so of riding, I found a brand new bungee cord on the shoulder which I snagged and incorporated into my system. Score!

I took my first food break at 2 hours into the ride, my second break at 3 hours, and then starting from the 4th hour on, I had to stop every 30 minutes due to exhaustion. Again, I was amazed at how much more power it took to move a heavy bike. I definitely had a few bad moments, such as needing to lie down in the shoulder of the road to recuperate a few times, and when my iPod batteries died, that truly sucked. It was a nice surprise to reach the top of Cameron Pass (10,276 ft.) about 5 miles sooner than I’d expected though.

the crags

The Crags campground was a mere 3 miles on the other side of the pass, and soon, I was at the campsite, where Monty made me a fine post-ride meal of rice and salmon. I probably owe him my life for that one… Total riding time up was 6 hours, 37 minutes; 67 miles; 10.1 mph moving average.

I initially didn’t want to do the ride back on Sunday, but Mike Brown convinced me that I should, and so I loaded up the Pig with all my gear again, and we headed home. The three miles to get back up to the pass were slow, but once we popped over, the first 10 miles were gravy, as it was all coasting.

endless road

Soon enough, it got miserable though, since Poudre Canyon is not entirely downhill all the way, with lots of false flats and even a few middling climbs that you don’t notice on the way up, but certainly do on the way down when you’re fatigued and sore. Add in a mind-numbing 20 mph headwind, and those are the ingredients for a miserable time. Luckily, Mike had some pity on me, and I was able to suck his wheel pretty much the entire way down. Thank the gods he was there, or it would have been ugly. As it was, I cracked a few miles before reaching my house, with no power left in my legs, but we did finally end up making it home. The return trip was 4 hours, 6 minutes; 68 miles; 16.4 mph moving average. A little better, but not much.

Conclusion: the first day of bike touring is going to be hard no matter what. Making your first day 54 straight miles of uphill is stupid.

ps, the party itself was good, but you don’t blog the details of a bachelor party.