On the road: The thing about the Frying Pan | AspenTimes.com

On the road: The thing about the Frying Pan

Frying Pan Road follows the Fryingpan River, as seen from Basalt Mountain. (Aspen Times file)

The road is two words, the river is one. Don’t ask me why.I always like cycling up Frying Pan Road. You can leave from Basalt and just spin for as long as you please – no stoplights or interruptions, not even a major jog in the road. The pavement rises at an easy, almost imperceptible rate – it is, after all, the old Midland railroad grade – so that you gain hundreds of feet over time without ever having to grind.Ruedi Reservoir disrupted or drowned the original river bed and railroad grade, so there are steeper climbs at the dam and around the lake. But the lion’s share of Frying Pan Road’s 32 miles (the paved portion, that is, from Basalt to the Fryingpan Lakes road) make for gentle, laid-back riding, at least by mountain standards.But don’t be lulled into complacency by the Pan’s seemingly mellow temperament. Because there are two things that will clobber the unsuspecting cyclist: first, the legendary Fryingpan Valley headwinds, which inevitably strike the rider both coming and going, utterly regardless of timing, weather, bicycling karma or anything else. This is a frustrating, illogical but absolute law of the Fryingpan. Second, the gentle rise on the way up equates to a gentle drop on the way down. In other words, with the exception of a few miles around the reservoir, there is no coasting Frying Pan Road; you must pedal nearly every mile up and back.Independence Pass and other local out-and-back rides consist of a long ascent and a screaming tuck back home. On such rides, only half the total mileage really requires much work, and the second half is almost like a bonus. Not so on the Frying Pan.From Seven Castles to Meredith to Norrie to Nast, in each direction, your pedals must rotate and your thighs will eventually burn. It may not be a boil, but it’s certainly a simmer. By the time you return to Basalt, 64 miles later, you’ll know you’ve covered some miles.

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