In the saddle: Paved paradise on Castle Creek Road
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
ASPEN – Sticking my road bike in the back of a pickup truck and driving it up to Aspen just so I can ride on fresh pavement smacks of more devotion to the sport than I actually possess, but I did just that on Tuesday.
Castle Creek Road south of town is a biker’s dream right now. Newly paved but for a tiny stretch just beyond the roundabout, the road is a sublimely smooth ribbon of black in a lush landscape. It’s even remarkable to drive on, but pedaling up the road in the early evening, after a day at work, was a joyous experience.
The last rays of the sun, poking over Aspen Highlands, bathed the trunks of aspen trees in a champagne glow as I climbed past the Conundrum turnoff. Far below the road, I could hear the rush of Castle Creek over the low hum of my tires on the flawless surface.
Granted, I didn’t ride any faster than I ever do, but I swear it felt easier.
I rode Castle Creek a couple of times last summer, and on both occasions I managed to dip my front tire into one of its classic divots even though it was circled with orange spray paint. The jolt from this conical hole jarred my teeth and sent reverberations through my bike seat and into my anatomy in a most discomforting sort of way.
That was nothing compared with my most memorable near-catastrophe on a bicycle, which also occurred on Castle Creek Road, more than a decade ago, I think.
I was cruising back down toward town, where dappled sunlight through the aspens hid certain imperfections in the pavement, namely a crater that was at least a foot in diameter and deep enough that the gravel base beneath the asphalt was laid bare. I saw it just in time to go right on through with the front tire and then the back before I could come to a stop.
Somehow, I’d managed to remain upright and was unharmed. I couldn’t say the same for the bicycle.
Both rims were bent inward in a V-shape at the point of impact. The herniated front tube bulged from the tire so that it could no longer turn through the caliper brakes. I faced a long walk down the road with my old, heavy clunker of a bike hoisted on my shoulder, but someone stopped and gave me a ride to the roundabout. I still had to carry the bike all the way into town, where the mechanics at a bike shop were duly impressed with both the damage and my survival.
This is why now is the time to ride Castle Creek Road.
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