On the Road: Downhill crawl
The Fryingpan climb: Roughly 1,000 feet in 14 miles from Basalt to Ruedi Reservoir. Two hours, round-trip, for a strong rider. Difficulty: Moderate with strenuous stretches.I can pretty much confirm the cycling guide skinny on the Frying Pan Road ride with one insight: The strenuous stretch might be the downhill coast.A friend and I set out from home last weekend intending to get in 40 miles in the saddle for no better reason than we got in 30 miles the weekend before and we’re working ourselves toward incrementally sorer butts.Since I’d never ridden it before, I suggested Frying Pan Road – seven miles upvalley from El Jebel to Basalt, and then as far up the postcard route along the Fryingpan River east of Basalt as our legs would carry us.It’s an awesome ride, winding through the red cliffs of the Seven Castles area and always right next to the water. I was close enough to spy trout hovering in holes near the river’s edge from the pavement. My companion noticed them, too, nearly veering off the road a couple of times. A future combo biking/fishing expedition is definitely in order.After a short grunt right out of Basalt, the road levels off into a slow, manageable climb. I stayed well out of granny gear – maybe because we were benefiting from a building tailwind of which I was barely cognizant.In fact, I was surprised to find, as we hit mile marker 13 (our predetermined turnaround point to log a 40-mile ride from home) that we were so close to the Ruedi dam. We’d already passed the dirt road that leads to the spillway and were just starting the steepest part of the ride – that last climb to the top of the dam with the reservoir beyond.Nonetheless, we decided to turn around, and that’s where the real riding began.It’s quite possible it took us longer to go downhill to Basalt than it had taken us to reach our turnaround point. The wind nearly brought me to a complete halt on one downhill pitch and threatened to blow us off our bikes on several occasions. I know windy afternoons are typical of springtime in the Roaring Fork Valley, but this was unprecedented, at least in my riding experience.If that wasn’t 40 miles that felt like 50, then I don’t know what is.
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