In the saddle: A sweet treat |

In the saddle: A sweet treat

EL JEBEL – If you’re thinking of getting out on a skinny-tired bicycle on the Rio Grande Trail in the midvalley during these fleeting days of fall, proceed with caution. It could be hazardous to your health.

A friend and I hopped on the Rio Grande at Hooks Lane near Basalt to travel downvalley Saturday for a ride into Spring Park/Missouri Heights. We ran into trouble shortly after Rock Bottom Ranch.

The slope is so close to the trail along the 3.5-mile stretch down to Catherine Bridge that the snow from the storm 10 days ago or so hasn’t melted in the shadow. Instead, it’s been compacted into a sheet of ice covered with crust. It wasn’t what we wanted to encounter on road bikes. But, of course, we didn’t get off and walk. That wouldn’t be the manly thing to do, so we picked our way through – rear wheels fish-tailing, front wheels falling into ruts. It was a taste of cycle-cross.

We survived with just a few foot dabs. The paved trail improved immensely between Catherine Bridge and Carbondale, with just a couple of shady spots. Unfortunately, we saw one poor dude take a nasty fall in one of those spots. We stopped to offer aid but he assured us he was fine.

We continued on our merry way for what was one of my best road rides of the season. We stayed on the Rio Grande down to the Thunder River Market intersection close to Glenwood Springs. We got off the trail, crossed Highway 82 and endured the steady climb to the Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley campus. The terrain gets really interesting after the college – lots of rolling hills and pastures to provide eye candy as you climb and descend multiple little hills. My riding partner described it as perfect interval training. I hadn’t realized until recently that you could make the connection from Springs Park to Fender Lane via pavement. The “discovery” opened new terrain for me. I hadn’t climbed Spring Park before. It will now rank high on my “to-do” list.

The long steady descent to the intersection with Cattle Creek Road was much appreciated. Yard work has kept me off my bikes too much lately, so the remaining climbs in Missouri Heights on the familiar route around the Strang Ranch, along King’s Row and Fender Lane were taxing after a couple hours in the saddle.

We arranged our 2 hour, 40 minute route to score a sweet treat – the screaming downhill on El Jebel Road. If that was the last day on a road bike this fall, so be it. It was a good one.

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