Thursday, June 16

Look Out! It's a Mountain!

I have always kind of compared Lookout Mountain, just west of Golden, to the initial climb of Furnace Mountain just south of Stanton. Truly, there is no comparison, other than in my own mind. Both climbs have represented challenges in my past cycling exploits and those challenges are equal their individual contexts.

The first time I attempted Furnace Mountain I walked a considerable portion. I believe it was my third attempt before I made it in one continuous push to the last curve before the little rollers at the top. The Furnace Mountain climb is three quarters of a mile in length and gains 700 feet in elevation. It is wicked steep. In summer the sweat explodes out of you and your body could possibly burst into flames before you reach the top.

The first time I attempted Lookout Mountain I struggled to Windy Saddle and retreated. Windy Saddle is 4 miles and 1,100 feet above the low point in Golden. A few years had passed since I struggled up Furnace Mountain successfully and hooted in victory into the muggy air above my hometown. I managed to summit the Lookout Mountain climb on my bike on the second attempt, but I was riding a lot more than back when I was wrestling with a Kentucky backroad.

Lookout Mountain is the quinessential metro Denver area bike ride. On a Saturday it is easier to ride a bike up Lookout Mountain Road than to drive. The curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum publicly expresses his annoyance at the congestion created by cyclists as they "inhibit" visitors to the museum as they crawl up the twisting, winding road to the summit parking lot.

I don't ride it as often as most. Typically I hit it twice a year or so. When we lived in Lakewood I rode it a few times on my mountain bike, expressly so I could descend the Chimney Gulch Trail and also the trails down through Apex Open Space. I probably climbed Lookout half a dozen times in late 2009.

I've been wanting to head back up since the repaving project was completed recently. The surface is smooth as butter. The downfall (pun intended) is that there is a lot of loose gravel all the way up (and more importantly DOWN) the road.

From my house to work with a side trip to the top of the Lookout Mountain climb it is 21 miles and change with well over 1,600 feet in elevation gain. I've put it off for the past couple of weeks because I needed to get up early to make my ride and then get to work on time at 9am. This morning when I reached the Buffalo Bill entrance I glanced at the time on my phone: 8:30am!

I pointed the Cannonball downhill and hung on for the ride. I only touched the brakes when absolutely necessary. I had to watch for puddles of gravel in some of the nastier curves, but otherwise it was an enjoyable ride. I reached work at 8:55am. Seven miles from the top to the door. 25 minutes. Not bad!

Next week: Genesee Mountain.

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