Surrey bikes: Ponderous but priceless | AspenTimes.com

Surrey bikes: Ponderous but priceless

What to do when your parents, who are by no means athletes, come to town and want a taste of the sporting life? A walk around Maroon Lake. Check – did that on their first visit to Aspen more than a decade ago.

A float trip down the Roaring Fork. Check – did that two years ago.A bike ride. Yes, a bike ride. Not the kind of bike ride most locals do; not even an all-downhill tour from Ashcroft or the Bells.But a bike ride – and one the whole family could enjoy, to boot.We were ambling about town Sunday morning in search of something to do when my school-aged daughter spotted the surrey bikes outside Aspen Bike Tours and Rentals on Spring Street.”Ohhh! Look! I’ve always wanted to ride one of those … Nana?” she said.

And that sealed the deal. We laid down the $32/hour (the smaller models are $24/hour) for a priceless pedal around the West End and downtown Aspen.If you haven’t seen them, these surrey bikes – named after the “light, four-wheeled pleasure carriage of the late 19th and early 20th cent., usually drawn by two-horses and typically having two seats and a flat top,” according to the dictionary – are a riot. And the looks you get from passers-by are even funnier.The reason is simple. In this modern-day surrey, the “horses” are the passengers, who pedal the contraption and stop it with a hand brake. There are two- and four-person models, both with a basket, ideal for small kids in front, and the “flat top” is a circus-style canvas. They have a nice little bell and no drink holders (their only flaw, in our estimation).They are relatively easy to maneuver, but surprisingly difficult to pedal uphill. We learned this quickly, as we zipped down to the West End with no troubles and panted the whole way back to town (who knew Aspen was so sloped!).

Of course the four-person surrey weighs in at around 250 pounds, a far cry from my husband’s 26-pound state-of-the-art mountain bike. And after returning our day’s entertainment to the bike shop, we had to wonder: How many tourists – who don’t know their way around town nor are as used to biking in these climes as my husband and I presumably are – find themselves trapped on the Rio Grande Trail or Herron Park with a tin behemoth to push back to the base of Aspen Mountain?Now that would really be priceless.Jeanne McGovern’s e-mail address is jmcgovern@aspentimes.com