In an effort to provide residents and visitors to Colorado with a summary of the best options to tour Colorado this summer, I have compiled a fine list of organized event rides, professional bike tour companies, USA Pro Challenge tours, and Do-it-yourself planning tips to encourage you to get out and cycle the great variety of cycling routes we have to offer here in Colorado.
|Quintessential Colorado cycling - the view down Independence Pass (west side). Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer.|
I have collected the best ways that I know to tour Colorado on a bike:
ORGANIZED EVENT RIDES
If you like having set dates on the calendar to aim for to be in top form and you like the atmosphere of thousands of people in colorful lycra populating the best climbs and roads in Colorado - you will enjoy these cycling events listed below. They also happen to pass through some of the most welcoming cities in the state where you are sure to see a few cowboy hats and find a craft beer or BBQ. These challenging tours are guaranteed fun to register with a pack of old friends or to meet new friends along the way. But word of advice - you need to like people to go on these huge bike tours. Come prepared - in body and gear - for an entire week of riding outside in Colorado and you will have a successful vacation.
Three to seven day cycling tours of Colorado (in date order):
June 6-8, 2015 - Death Ride Tour, Silverton, 225mi (3-days)
This tour begins in Silverton, rides to Telluride on Day 1, to Durango on Day 2, and back to Silverton on Day 3. Description: Fantastic scenery, tough long climbs, mixture of some group meals, you must arrange your own hotels, mandatory fundraising for ALS is required. ROUTE, Registration cost: $125 + Fundraising minimum $250
June 13-20, 2015 - The Denver Post Ride The Rockies (week-long tour)
The biggest name in Colorado week-long tours. RTR is a full week of perfect routes, post-ride entertainment, tons of services and thousands of participants. This year's route starts in Grand Junction and travels to Hotchkiss - Gunnison - Crested Butte - Sailda - Canon City - Westcliff. The route includes the Colorado National Monument, Grand Mesa and Cottonwood Pass. This is NOT a loop route, so allow more travel time. The event is so popular there is a yearly lottery for registration. When I did the event, we arranged hotels and I have to say the costs added up! ROUTE, Registration cost: $495.
June 21-27, 2015 - Bicycle Tour of Colorado (week-long tour)
If you are an experienced hard-core rider - you will be more at-home on this ride (or if you like to start your rides at 6AM!). The top 8% of Ride the Rockies riders will find themselves in the mid 50% of this ride. At least that was my experience after riding both events. This year's route is a beauty: starting AND ending in Breckenridge, you will ride from Breck - Leadville - Carbondale - Hotchkiss - Crested Butte - Salida - Breck. You will climb Fremont Pass, Independence Pass, McClure Pass, Kebler Pass, Cottonwood Pass, and Hoosier Pass. This list is creme of the crop. I enjoyed the full camping services offered: set-up and tear-down of tents and hot coffee in the morning! ROUTE, Registration cost: $450-495.
July 18-20, 2015 - Courage Classic, Summit and Eagle Counties (3-days)
Now this is a great cause! The event benefits the Children's Hospital Colorado Foundation. If you prefer to stay in the same location and cycle out is various directions - you will like this ride. Based in the scenic Copper Mountain Village, this ride has a mandatory fundraising obligation. Meals are included in your registration and camping is available. July is the perfect time to ride in Summit County - one of my favorite areas of Colorado. ROUTE, Registration cost: $95-120, + Fundraising minimum of $300.
July 18-25, 2015 - 109˚ West Bicycle Tour, SW Colorado (week-long tour)
They call themselves The Best of the West, and if you live in the southwest corner of Colorado, or in California, Arizona, New Mexico or Texas, this event ride is more accessible to you (and you will likely be more used to the hot weather of July). This event offers ride options: single-day, multi-day or full-week. The week-long route begins in Telluride - Montrose - Crested Butte - Buena Vista - Aspen - Hotchkiss - Palisade. This is NOT a loop ride. ROUTE, Registration cost: $650.
July 24-26, 2015 - Hop, Rock and Roll, bike and music, Northern Front Range (3-days)
This is something totally new: I am not sure which takes priority on this event ride - the beer, the music or the bikes, but you get all three in an event packed 3-days in the hills outside of Fort Collins, CO. You will ride 35-miles per day and stop at local breweries along the way, followed by food truck nourishment and evening live music. You will camp at Parrish Ranch on Friday and Saturday night, with bag transport included. ROUTE, Registration cost: $99-150.
August 2-8, 2015 - Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour, Gunnison, 472mi, (week-long tour)
This is a road bike tour, not a mountain bike tour, and it is a LOOP route. The event takes place in central Colorado in August - the ideal month for high-country cycling. You will start and end in Gunnison, riding to Salida - Frisco - Leadville - Glenwood Springs - Hotchkiss - Gunnison. Hotels, camping and catered meals are an option. This is the perfect ride for those wanting to use that terrific form they have worked all summer to attain. ROUTE, Registration cost: $470.
August 9-14, 2015 - Breck Epic, Breckenridge, 6-day 7-stage race, 35-50mi a day (MTB)
This is a race. Not for the meek, but if you love mountain biking you will love this week of riding around the hills of Breckenridge, Colorado. Again you will get to stay in one place and ride your heart out (it's all at altitude) every day. By the end of the week, you will have ridden (raced) the best mountain bike climbs near Breck. ROUTE, Registration cost: $799.
September 7-10, 2015 - 4-H Clover Ride, Fort Collins (4-days) 222 miles total
As a fundraiser for the 4-H Foundation, this is a ride where you ride out and back from the same location daily but experience different local rides near Fort Collins. Expect to ride 222 miles and climb 10,000 feet in four days of riding, returning to the comfort of the same hotel room nightly. This event selects a post-ride brewery every day plus organized groups meals out at local restaurants every night. This is the closest thing you will find to combining a professional guided tour with an organized cycling event ride. ROUTE, Registration cost: $700-800 ($300 donation to 4-H included in registration).
September 18-20, 2015 - The Denver Post Pedal the Plains, Eastern Plains, (3-days)
I would describe this ride as a collection of friendly people riding their bikes out on the plains (translate that to mean continuous pedaling over rolling hills). Scheduled in the fall, this ride is prime for those wanting to get in those last miles before snowfall. Organized by the same hard-working folks who plan Ride the Rockies (with an easier to operate website this time), they know what riders need on an event ride. They also offer a family-fun ride, a century ride, or the 3-day tour. ROUTE, Registration cost: $280-295.
|The kind of scenery we got to ride through daily on Ride the Rockies event ride. Photo not by me because that is me on the right.|
PROFESSIONAL BIKE TOUR COMPANY
If you do not have the time to plan out all the details of route finding, hotel, sag and services - consider joining a professional cycling tour company. They have put in months to years of time into planning the details of one single route. They also receive feedback from clients to continuously improve their services. You are the recipient of all this knowledge. For a price. Sure it costs more, but if you need to condense your vacation time for biggest bang for buck and reduce your time away from family or job - these guided tours are perfect for hard working, hard playing cyclists. They are also ideal for those who enjoy riding in smalls groups of 12-30 cyclists.
Colorado Bike Tour Companies (in alphabetical order)
Adventure Cycling Association
This national and international company runs fairly priced tours that book up fast to popular areas. Tours start from various cities around Colorado, compare tours to see your options.
Offering self-guides, multi-sport, day trips, custom trips, and brews and cruise tours, this is the company for families or persons wanting to make cycling part of their vacation to Colorado (because there is more to Colorado than just cycling).
Very established, very popular, very reasonably priced tours which basically cover your costs and the costs of the guides and support people. Based in Colorado, but volunteers guide tours locally, nationwide and world-wide.
* The Tour Companies listed in the next section (below) also guide general bike tours in Colorado: Lizard Head Cycling, Finish Line Cycling, Colorado and Wilderness Rides and Guides.
Front Range Ride Guide
Guiding mountain bike rides in Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins and along the front Range of Colorado. Locally owned and operated.
Offering self-guided tours, Kokopelli Trail and Colorado Trail tours. Based in Durango, CO and Sedona, AZ ,this premium mountain bike tour company has been operating tours throughout western USA since 2007. They have a great informative website.
These women get to have a good time mountain biking, running, hiking, doing yoga and reconnecting to nature, nutrition, body, mind and spirit. Owned and operated by a local woman named Colleen Cannon who recruits a group of inspiring women guides.
For a larger list of tour companies said to be operating in Colorado, please visit: Page 97 of Bicycle Paper. I just recently discovered this resource.
FOLLOW THE PRO TOUR
Why not let others plan your route for you. The organizers of the USA Pro Challenge, study, discuss, and plan the best routes to bring a squadron of pro riders and team cars from town to town every August in Colorado. Follow their lead on where to ride. You might not always want to take the big highway options, and you probably won't want to exceed 80-100 miles a day on a bike (the pros sometimes ride 120 miles or more), but looking over their carefully chosen routes (which change yearly) provides an excellent window into options for outstanding local cycling. There is nothing the pros can do that you cannot, you might just do it a little slower, over a revised route.
I have learned a lot about cycling in France, Belgium and California by watching where the pros ride. By combining your own rides with a half a day of viewing the race is highly recommended. I have learned by chasing the Tour de France that three days of race viewing combined with a rest day and 3-4 good hard days of riding, per week, is just perfect (you'll need the rest day from chasing the race, not from riding hard). Watching a race cover ground you know well because you have ridden the route yourself, is thrilling.
If you have a plenitude of cash and ride a bike quite well, you can join a guided tour that follows this race:
Tour Companies that will guide you to the 2015 USA Pro Challenge (in order of cost)
Finish Line Cycling - August 17-24, 2015 (4 or 8 day packages)
Meeting point is in Denver; you will ride 30-50 miles a day with options for longer rides. Small group size; during the 8-day tour you will see all stage of the pro race. Exact details not yet published. TOUR DETAILS, Cost: *approximately $1400-3000 per person.
Lizard Head Cycling Guide - August 16-22, 2015 (7-days, 7-nights)
Meeting point is in Denver; you will ride 150-550 miles, ranging from 25-123 miles a day. Recommended for Intermediate to Advanced cyclists knowledgeable of long mountain descents and climbs. This is a fully supported tour offering different mileage options for intermediate riders. TOUR DETAILS, Cost: $3,095 per person (double occupancy).
Cognoscenti - August 21-26, 2015 (6 days)
You won't see the whole race (just Stage 6 & Stage 7), but you will hobnob with local celebs and enjoy five-star treatment based out of Boulder, CO. Cognoscenti has formed to show us how to treat guests the Italian way: food, wine, pro guides, pro photographers and the best hotels. TOUR DETAILS, Cost: $5940
Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides - August 20-29 (7-day trip)
Guided by professional bike coaches, this is to be a four star treatment of riding the best segments and watching the race live. 20-guests only (7 spots remaining). TOUR DETAILS, Cost: $7500.
Train Right - USA Pro Challenge Experience - August 17-23 (7-days)
This is the sponsored tour of the USA Pro Challenge ,guided by Chris Carmichael and his troop of coaches, mechanics and support personnel. A 5-star tour/challenge of cycling, you will ride your hardest and then find yourself inside the VIP tents to watch the pros. Making your way post race to the comfiest hotel rooms in town and diner with the pro riders that night. You will ride the entire length of every stage of the tour before the pro riders. You may even attend a training camp in Colorado for $2799 the month before, to make sure you are in top shape. TOUR DETAILS, Cost: $10,750 per person.
I have no direct experience with any of these tour companies listed above, although I have a friend who rode the route of the Amgen Tour of California with the Carmichael group and his experience catapulted him to ride many more difficult tours world-wide.
|You too could ride your bike through this mass of fun before the race on race day after paying $10,750. Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer at the USA Pro Challenge on Independence Pass 2013, or 2012, I've lost track by now.|
D-I-Y BIKE TOURING
For those of us (and I am in this camp) who enjoy planning a ride as much as doing the ride (and talking about the ride after the ride) - you will want the joy (read: control) of researching the resources and planning the route yourself. Destination rides, exploring a new area or chasing a cycling event often spark my interest to plan a cycling vacation or get-away. Here is my tip: google madly for information written on the websites of organized event or tour companies; use their knowledge of routes, distances, and tourist resources to plan your own trips.
I also search for local blogs or local bike clubs, as well as city websites that might list local rides. Bike shops are another great resource. Ride with GPS, Map my Ride or STRAVA can help you narrow down the best local rides, while instantly providing you with a map. Ride with GPS has a new Ambassador program where a local cyclists recommends 4-6 routes in a given area. This is a PERFECT for planning your cycling vacation. All you need on top of that is a good hotel or campsite, the best coffee shop and beer place, where the local bike shop is located and where to find a yummy meal. Chances are the Ride with GPS Ambassador will have all that listed for you.
Planning my own routes and daily agenda gives me the freedom to go when I want, where I want, with whom I want.
Most days riding in Colorado, you will have the entire road and mountain to yourself (and maybe a dozen other cyclists).
|Peering down a juicy descent. Just me and the mountain. Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer.|
Where to road bike ride in Colorado
You will notice the same city names being mentioned throughout all of these tours. That is because the best cycling in Colorado centers around these same towns, making them the locations where you should concentrate your cycling vacation: Gunnison, Crested Butte, Buena Vista, Salida, Breckenridge, Frisco, Copper Mountain, Vail, Avon, Steamboat Springs, Glenwood Springs, Aspen, Hotchkiss, Palisade, Delta, Telluride, Durango, Silverton, Golden, Loveland, and Fort Collins. I would add Boulder to the list - a lovely place for a bike ride but a nightmare for road permits for any event ride or race.
At the bottom of this page I give some suggestions for Putting It All Together: how to combine one location with various local climbs.
I created this map below to indicate where some of the most popular climbs are located in Colorado. However never underestimate the joy of a more horizontal pedal along a river or through a grand glacial valley.
|A map of my favorite climbs in Colorado: Map of 26 recommended bike climbs in Colorado: interactive map link|
Additional resources by Pedal Dancer® to help you plan your Colorado cycling vacation:
- SUMMIT COUNTY CYCLING
- COLORADO CLIMBS
- COLORADO CYCLING
- Cycling Climbs of Colorado - a Fine List
- Recommended Road Bike Rides Near Vail, Colorado
- Recommended Road Bike Rides Near Aspen
- Exact route maps of USA Pro Challenge 2015 Announced Summer in Colorado!
- Route of 2015 Bicycle Tour of Colorado (BTC) announced in January.
- I am a Ride with GPS Ambassador to Summit County, Colorado
I hope this post provides you with more options for your cycling vacation to Colorado.