In the Saddle: Off-roading |

In the Saddle: Off-roading

Charles Agar
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” The New York Times travel section last Sunday ran a blurb touting the 44-mile Rio Grande Trail, and one look at the hordes of grinning tourists on two wheels makes it clear that Aspen’s network of paved bike paths are an important draw.

Thanks to the labyrinth throughout the valley, I can ride my bike pretty much anywhere without having to suck car fumes.

On Thursday I left my apartment in Aspen’s “Upper East Side,” and rode to an awe-inspiring view of the Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake via intercon­nected trails and saw only three cars on the mountain road.

Then on Sunday, I followed city bike paths along Highway 82 west of town, then hopped on the highway shoulder for a high-speed downhill to Woody Creek.

I popped a tire on the roadside gravel (and no less than five drivers and two other cyclists stopped to see if I had all I needed), then rode down Smith Way and up McLain Flats.

OK, so it would have been nice to ride my road bike from Woody Creek to Aspen on a trail, but that section isn’t paved.

It’s something the NYT article carefully noted.

For political reasons, ” and perhaps to give tourists the illusion that they’re actually “mountain biking” ” it’s cin­ders from Woody Creek to Cemetery Lane.

McLain Flats, however, offers great mountain views and little traffic (though it should be called “Great McLain Undulations,” because there is nothing flat about it).

Mayor Mick Ireland gave a hearty hello as he dropped into a lower gear and blew by me as the sun set over Snowmass, and I couldn’t help wondering if it was his $5,000 bike that gave him the advantage (maybe I’ll nick it next time I see it unlocked in front of City Hall).

Then at Cemetery Lane I returned onto the paved bike path and rode toward Aspen in the approaching dusk.

That’s when I met the bear.

I saw it crossing ahead of me and stopped. The squeal of my brakes startled it, but the bear just looked at me and took a few curious steps in my direction before I shouted to scare it off.

Back at my apartment, tired, I was grateful to live in a place where I can do this kind of real off-roading.

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