Bikers hoping to smooth the road | VailDaily.com
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Bikers hoping to smooth the road

Scott Condon
Vail, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Road bikers hope to patch a rocky relationship with Garfield County this summer.

The bicyclists say the county uses rocks that feel like boulders to them on road resurfacing projects. Some cyclists have mounted an effort to convince the commissioners to spend a little extra money, if need be, to buy smaller rock for the maintenance projects this summer.

Missouri Heights resident Jim Githens said many Garfield County roads are “unacceptable for cycling.”

For example, the county used 3/4-inch screened rock for resurfacing on lower Cattle Creek Road last summer. Rock that size creates a safety and comfort problems for cyclists, Githens said.

“It’ll shake you off your bike almost,” he said.

Other roads that cyclists say have become nearly unmanageable include the Crystal Springs Road, which climbs into Missouri Heights, just as Cattle Creek does; the road to Spring Gulch past the 7-Eleven in Carbondale; and the road between Harvey Gap and Rifle Gap reservoirs.

The rock size is particularly tough on road bikes ” light, skinny-tired bicycles that usually aren’t as forgiving as mountain bikes, which have large tires and often shock absorbers.

Githens started lobbying county officials in February to use a more accommodating surface on county roads. Githens drew on his experience as a construction manager for Aspen Earthmoving to help make his pitch. He is comfortable discussing technical aspects of road construction and is also an avid cyclist.

In a detailed letter to the county commissioners, Githens said he’s in favor of a technique called chip seal. Often, he warned, larger rock is harder to seal when it isn’t compacted enough or too little emulsion is used. That creates a rough, uneven surface.

Also, the loose rock is a skidding hazard and it causes broken windows and chips paint on vehicles.

Garfield County resident Paula Stepp, another cyclist, hopes to organize cyclists to attend a county commissioners meeting to lobby for a smoother surface on county roads. She said a number of her favorite rides on county roads are now “teeth-chattering” because of the rough surfaces.

Usually, a freshly chip-sealed road is rough for a few months but gets smoother as traffic compacts it, Stepp said.

That isn’t happening now because of the size of the rock in use, she said.

“Sweet Hill,” between Carbondale and Spring Gulch, never became smooth after it was chip-sealed two years ago and it remains barely rideable, according to Stepp.

The condition of Garfield County roads “is a pretty common topic in cycling conversation,” Stepp said.

Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt said she gets calls “all the time” from cyclists and pedestrians with complaints about the surface of county roads.

Recreation is an important part of road use in the eastern side of the county, around Carbondale and Missouri Heights, as well as the Battlement Mesa area, where there are numerous retirees, she said.

“When we grow as a county, our needs change a little bit,” Houpt said.


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