Roger Marolt: Roger This | AspenTimes.com

Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Can you stand another column on bicycling? I swear it will have nothing to do with men in Lycra. If “men” are intent on two-wheeling through town wearing Bermuda Speedos and belly-overhang-enhancing billboard jerseys, who am I to undo 109 years of French fromageination of an otherwise perfectly respectable sport? If dressing up like that is what it takes to get people out there, I’m all for it … sort of … I guess.

What really strikes me this week is the number of cyclists in this town. Wow! Maybe I simply haven’t been paying attention, but a trip over Independence Pass on Wednesday around noon changed that. If I hadn’t been paying close attention then, I would have had more cyclists than butterflies plastered to my grill.

It’s hard not to notice that almost nobody smiles when they are pedaling. It’s potentially a big deal when you consider how long it takes many to get to the top of the pass. It’s a sufficient length of time to justify worrying about forming new grimace wrinkles. It’s got to be that French influence: all business all the time on the bike. I guess if you smiled while wearing one of those outfits, you’d look too much like a clown.

One thing about the mass of cyclists on the pass is that it makes for a really slow drive. So slow, in fact, that it is certainly faster most summer days to get to Denver by going all the way around through Glenwood and over Vail Pass. It’s silly if you think about it. We just can’t have all these cyclists and cars on the same narrow road. It’s a disaster waiting to happen! Something’s got to give.

We have to get rid of the cars! Why keep this popular bicycle route open to cars when there is another safer, just-as-quick route open for most vehicles that come over Independence Pass into Aspen? It works all winter long, right?

Are we an outdoor-activities-based tourist economy or not? Are we a cycling town or what? Are we green or … whatever the opposite of green is? Dedicating Independence Pass for bicycling makes sense.

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I think even more people would visit Aspen in the summer knowing that they could safely make that incredible ride over the Continental Divide on their bicycles, and I think many tourists would be grateful if they were forced to drive here on Interstate 70 instead of suffering the agonizingly slow, frustrating and often terrifying drive over the pass. Plus, even though this scheme most likely wouldn’t save a drop of gasoline from being burned, it certainly could be made to appear green through a little chest-thumping fanfare and enhance our all-important, save-the-world image.

Of course, this plan won’t work for all drivers, and that is why we would only close the road to vehicular traffic between 9 in the morning and 5 in the evening. We would give driving permits to people in the campgrounds and provide shuttle service for sightseers, hikers, climbers, nude sunbathers, etc. It sounds exactly like what we’ve been doing on Maroon Creek Road for about three decades. Anybody know if the plan has worked up there?

OK then, moving on – quickly, give me the name of all the local trails that follow a ridgeline so that you get a full panoramic view of this beautiful part of the world as you ride along. I’ll give you a hint – there aren’t any. Back in 2011 there was one between Aspen and Snowmass, but they got rid of it last week by making, of all things, “trail improvements.” I’m talking about the Droste Ridgeline Trail (a.k.a. a good place to ride mountain bikes.)

In case you haven’t ridden it lately, they have pretty much taken the ridge out, and it is now just a line between points “A” and “B” along the side of a hill through the scrub oak, like every other trail on the north side of the Snowmass Village area. It’s still fun. It’s certainly easier. But it’s not very unique anymore. It’s what happens when you put roadies in charge of designing mountain-bike trails. It becomes all about heart-rate monitors and steady cadence … and tight pants.

Look, if sissifying the local trails is what it takes to get people out there, I’m all for it … sort of … I guess. But couldn’t we build the new routes and keep the old ones open for people who still like challenging themselves, even if they fully understand there’s a chance they might fail and have to walk their bikes five feet through a difficult section before getting back on?

Don’t worry. Nobody’s going to know.