If anyone has ever watched the Tour de France and thought that the climbs in the Alps looked a little too dainty, this one might be for you. Click here to read the bicycling.com article about an authors review of her ride up the Pikes Peak Highway.
Pikes Peak is one of the tallest mountains in the Rocky Mountains, which are known as the “14ers”. The mountains have that name because they’re over 14,000 feet tall. While not the tallest point in the lower 48, Pikes Peak is less than 600 feet away from the honor. Pikes. Peak is known for the brutal switchbacks and incredibly high grade of the highway that travels up the eastern side of the mountain. Many automobile enthusiasts try their hand at a fast ascent and descent of the mountain, risking their lives around hairpin turns, feet away from deadly falls.
Cyclists view pikes peak as less of a sprint, a way of testing your reflexes and your nerves, but as a marathon.with an average grade of higher than 6 degrees (for anyone who doesn’t think that’s a lot, trust me that it is). From base to peak, the elevation increases over 7,000 feet in under 30 miles. In the Midwest, 200 feet of elevation gain in 30 miles would be seen as a noticeable uphill.
Upon completion of a ride up Pikes Peak, a cyclist is utterly spent. However, they’re not done yet. They still have to descend the mountain. While the ascent is an exercise in masochism and determination, the descent is an exercise equal parts in restraint and intestinal fortitude. During a sustained descent over 6 degrees down, speeds approaching 70 miles per hour (which is speeding even on the interstate) can be achieved on a bike. You must believe in your ability to ride and control your bid, as well as in your restraint. While you may want to descend as quickly as you can to the base of the mountain and sleep for the next three days, you need to brake almost constantly to maintain a manageable (I’m not saying go slow, I’m just saying that you probably don’t want to miss a turn and go shooting off the side of a mountain and fall thousands of feet to your death) speed.
After you finish your ride, celebrate! You are an undeniable adventurer. You rode your bike to a point where many people have difficulty breathing without exercise, you were able to power through your pain and achieve something that is universally recognized to be among the most difficult physical tests that you can undergo.