Cycling options in the valley | VailDaily.com
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Cycling options in the valley

Shauna Farnell
Vail CO, Colorado
PHOTO BY PRESTON UTLEYWhile mountain biking, having a hydration system is as important as wearing a helmet.
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Low intensity rides

Weaving its way from East Vail to Eagle-Vail, then picking up again from Avon to Edwards, the rec path is surrounded by pines, aspens and Colorado wildflowers. The section through Vail parallels Gore Creek. With gentle grades, the path has a few short uphill sections, but is generally rolling. (That’s right. No prolonged hill climbs). Of course, all of this changes for those who elect to take the rec path up Vail Pass from East Vail. This stretch gains almost 2,000 feet of elevation over about seven miles. In other words, it’s very steep. Alternately, those who decide to park a car at the top and ride down into Vail had best make sure their brakes work well. Attaching a stroller to a bike is ill-advised when riding down Vail Pass, as grades can get veryride back to the Vail Pass parking lot, park a car in Red Cliff before the ride.

Lifts



A popular option for riders who don’t like to go uphill is at both Vail and Beaver Creek ski areas. The least taxing option by which to propel a bike uphill is placing it on a chair lift or gondola. A day lift ticket for hauling bikes costs $30 at Vail ($23 for children 5-12) and $23 at Beaver Creek, with other deals for bike rentals and multi-day tickets. Both mountains have numerous singletrack trails for the downhill trip, all marked for their level of difficulty. Be aware that the ratings ” green, blue and black ” are NOT comparable to ski trails of the same color. Green trails are tricky but fun, blues are for advanced mountain bikers and blacks-double blacks are full of rock drops and high-tech features, designed specifically for experienced downhill bikers. Summertime maps of both resorts are available at base area ticket offices.

Routes for fit riders



It’s always more satisfying to ride down the mountain ” Vail, Beaver Creek, any steep.

Road-riding

Some of the most popular road cycling routes for skinny tires in the Valley are on roads with little to no shoulder. Highway 6, which runs from Eagle-Vail to Gypsum, is an enjoyable ride, gradual downhill to Gypsum and gradual uphill back, for those who don’t mind sharing a lane with vehicular traffic. Fit riders will thrill in a 100-mile loop made by starting on Hwy 6 in Avon, heading west, and turning right onto Highway 131 at Wolcott. This highway isn’t nearly so frequented as Hwy 6, and begins with some significant climbing. This section is followed by a fast flat through sagebrush and valley scenery past 4 Eagle Ranch, more climbing, a steep descent full of curves beyond State Bridge and Bond, and another beautiful climb through walls of rock. Turn left onto Colorado River Road, a smooth dirt road suitable for a road bike with little car traffic that parallels the Colorado River. Another gradual climb will meet riders at the final segment of the loop, which then rejoins Hwy 6 at Dotsero.



Dirt options

Having a shuttle system of two cars is sometimes the way to go for those who don’t bike regularly and who are unaccustomed to the altitude. The best shuttle ride around for beginner to intermediate mountain bikers is on Shrine Pass Road. The route is a well-maintained dirt road that begins at the parking lot/rest area at exit 190 off Interstate 70 at the top of Vail Pass. The 12-mile ride begins with about a 2-mile climb (not too strenuous a grade, except that the elevation starts around 10,000 feet, which is hard on the lungs, especially for flat-landers). Stay on the main drag, and the road begins to descend after about two miles, ending at the small, scenic town of Red Cliff. For those who don’t care to turn around and ride back to the Vail Pass parking lot, park a car in Red Cliff before the ride.

Lifts

A popular option for riders who don’t like to go uphill is at both Vail and Beaver Creek ski areas. The least taxing option by which to propel a bike uphill is placing it on a chair lift or gondola. A day lift ticket for hauling bikes costs $30 at Vail ($23 for children 5-12) and $23 at Beaver Creek, with other deals for bike rentals and multi-day tickets. Both mountains have numerous singletrack trails for the downhill trip, all marked for their level of difficulty. Be aware that the ratings ” green, blue and black ” are NOT comparable to ski trails of the same color. Green trails are tricky but fun, blues are for advanced mountain bikers and blacks-double blacks are full of rock drops and high-tech features, designed specifically for experienced downhill bikers. Summertime maps of both resorts are available at base area ticket offices.

Routes for fit riders

It’s always more satisfying to ride down the mountain ” Vail, Beaver Creek, any mountain, really ” after riding up first. The green singletracks are the most fulfilling way to ride up the ski areas, but the service roads are more manageable (and will require their fair share of fitness, too). Be aware that trails in Vail’s Back Bowls, Blue Sky Basin and Two Elk Trail are closed until July 1 for wildlife calving and migration.

For those who don’t mind a good climb, the possibilities are numerous in the valley. The North Trail system in Vail is open for the summer, with trailheads off Red Sandstone Road or Davos, and can also be accessed from the trailhead at Buffehr Creek. The trail system is made up exclusively of singletrack with plenty of sharp switchbacks and the occasional cluster of rocks. It winds up, over and down the peaks facing Vail Mountain on the north side of I-70, hauling riders (who are often using the small chain ring) up along ridges overlooking Vail, then plunging them down through shadowy forests and greenery.

Some milder (shorter with less uphill) single and doubletracks can be found in Eagle off of Fourth of July Road and adjacent to Brush Creek Elementary School, which are a cozy choice in the fall once temperatures upvalley begin to cool down. Maps of local trails can be found at http://www.ecosports.com.

Two-wheel guidelines

Always wear a helmet, even when riding on the recreational path (there’s no chance for a soft landing there).

Bring enough water, a jacket, an air pump, a spare tube and a tire lever, especially when mountain biking, as the nearest bike shop is likely miles away.

Always stay on the trail. Riding off the trail destroys it, disrupts surrounding plants and wildlife and causes erosion.

When biking on the recreation path, stay to the right so oncoming and approaching riders can pass easily.

Always do a quick bike check or take your bike to a local shop, to make sure it is safe for riding (check the handlebars, brakes and tires)


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