Riding from Parker to Denver in Colorado

Riding from Parker to Denver in Colorado

This post is a couple of weeks late, my fault, I know, been a busy time getting caught up from my trip, taking another trip, and planning a trip later this month. While I was in the Denver area I managed to rent a bike thanks to a friend (via twitter), and decided I wanted to go for a couple of long bike rides.

Throughout the week I spent time looking at Google Maps and Strava to try to figure out what route I was going to ride. I had already planned to meet up with Joel from www.reasons2ride.com, so I wanted to find a route that worked out well with a place to meet him.

I settled on a ride from Parker Colorado, north up the Cherry Creek trail, connecting west to the C-470 trail, out to the Mary Carter Greenway Trail north, connecting to the South Platte River trail (going north). From there the plan was to hear into Denver to the SAME Café, run by friends of mine.

This route was going to be around 40 miles each way, longer in one direction than I’ve ever ridden, so I was half worried that making it back to Parker might be an issue, so I had an out, a shorter way back leaving SAME Café and heading to the Cherry Creek trail, which would have cut about 16 miles off the return route.

Friday after work, I was in Denver for the week providing custom DotNetNuke Training to a client, I stopped by the Littleton Bicycle Village store to pick up my rental bike that @Im_a_cyclepath hooked me up with. I took the front wheel off and put the bike into the back of my rental car and headed down to Parker.

I stayed the weekend in Parker with our old neighbors, realizing quickly how much we miss them, we miss our house, and we miss Parker itself. It is a great little town, on the outskirts of the suburbs of Denver, but still close enough to get easy access to things. While the bike route to SAME was 40 miles, a drive would be somewhere around 25, maybe less.

Saturday morning I got up early and planned to leave Parker at 8am. I was ready to go at 8am, but I chose to stick around the house for another 30 minutes, it was still rather chilly outside (40F), and I didn’t bring my warm tights. I left the house at 8:30am, got on the bike and took off from the neighborhood on the south side of Parker.

As I was leaving the neighborhood I realize that my Garmin Forerunner 305 Waterproof Running GPS (English & French) was in running mode, instead of cycling mode. I quickly changed the mode, without stopping the recording, to biking. The device actually stopped recording, and started up a new recording when changing modes. I would later learn that this was going to be a problem. The device showed me the data, distance, etc from my ride, but wouldn’t record the heart rate, or GPS location information, making the data itself useless. More on that later.

The ride up to meet with Joel was fairly uneventful. The trail in Parker was essentially flat, though perhaps a little downhill. The trail going west on C-470 wasn’t, lots of undulations, and roads that you end up having to cross, but being as early in the morning as I started there was very little traffic, both on the trail, and at the crossings.

Mary Carter Greenway Trail, Bear Creek Trail mergeI met Joel at the junction of the Mary Carter and the South Platte River Trail, about 32 miles or so into my ride. We chatted for a few minutes and then got on our way towards SAME Café for lunch. We ended up taking mostly city streets up to the café, which slowed us down considerably, but provided a view of Denver that I haven’t seen before.

We had a great lunch at the Café, getting to eat with Brad, one of my fraternity brothers who runs the Café along with his wife Libby. Side note: Brad is running the Boston Marathon this month, Good Luck! Lunch was excellent, though I probably should have had another two slices pizza due to amount of riding I was doing for the day. SAME Café is a pay what you can establishment. I always pay extra, but enjoy every bit of helping out their organization.

Colorado State CapitalAfter lunch Joel wanted to show me around Denver a bit, and while Natalie and I lived in Parker, we were only there for ~8 months, so we really didn’t get a lot of time to see the city as we were settling into our new home, and new neighborhood while we were there. We headed off to the State Capital for a photo opp (see right, and the header graphic above).

Denver BroncosWe also headed over to the stadium that changes names too often, but can be referred to as Mile High. Joel is a season ticket holder for the Broncos, and even has a tattoo of the team logo, while I am a life long Chiefs fan. We took a photo in front of the Broncos statue outside of the stadium, you can see I am not near as thrilled about it as Joel was ;). This was the week that Peyton announced he was going to Denver, and Tebow was being traded to the Jets, so I headed into the stadium store to see if I could find a stuffed horse for the baby.

There were a couple of things in the store that amazed me. 1) The Tebow gear was not on sale yet, even though he was traded, officially, unofficially, officially, by this point in time. 2) They didn’t have a single stuffed horse in the store. There were monkeys, bears, and other stuffed animals, but not one horse. Hello? What is your mascot again?

Scott CR1From the stadium we took the South Platte River Trail back towards the Mary Carter Greenway Trail. At the junction for the trail Joel and I sat and talked for about 30 minutes. He is riding the Ride the Rockies later this year, and I wish him all the luck in that! It is a much greater challenge than what I have coming up in doing the LIVESTRONG Challenge Davis century.

After splitting off from Joel, I had another 30 miles or so left to ride back to Parker. At this point I had done around 50 miles, with my previous long ride being 37 miles, or thereabouts. I was feeling alright at the time, but my butt was definitely starting to get a little sore from being on the bike for so long.

I made my way down the Mary Carter Greenway Trail, and as I came towards the C-470 junction my knee started to ache a bit, it was enough that I was apparently riding funny as well because another ride came up from behind me and asked if my knee hurt. He rode with me for a couple of miles, chatting, talking about riding, talking about what we do. He actually is a chef, but is between jobs, looking for something in food sales.

He ended up leaving me as we headed up the C-470 trail, back towards Parker. He was a much stronger rider, and I could tell was slowing it down quite a bit to ride with me. One thing I realized, but didn’t pay attention to, until the ride home, was that Parker is actually higher in elevation than Denver, so while there were hills on my morning ride, it was mostly downhill. That meant that going home I was going uphill the whole way.

C-470 Trail, on a breakThis slowed me down considerably. By the time I made it to the C-470 trail it was time to start taking breaks, mainly at the top of some of the climbs. I don’t know how many breaks I actually took, but it was more than a couple! :)

I learned something on my ride that Saturday in Denver. I make other people faster. At one point heading east on C-470 I was passed by an Asian rider, side note: with the biggest afro I’ve ever seen on a guy on a bike. He actually passed me while I was stopped for a break at one point. Shortly there after though I got going and ended up passing him, not 15 seconds later he came flying by me. He must have been offended that he got passed by a 250lb fat guy on a bike that was just taking a breather on a hill. I ended up seeing him a few more times, and passed him again, but this time he was stopped to throw food to some of the prairie dogs that line part of the trail. I felt like telling him he shouldn’t do that, but I didn’t have the energy to do that.

I made it back to Parker with the initial plan of driving up to Fort Collins that night so that I could stay with my brother, and go riding on Sunday. By the time I made it to the house in Parker though I crashed on the floor for an hour. My body was so tired I felt like I could hardly move. My arms were sore, my legs were dead, but not too sort, and my butt was killing me.

I ended up deciding that I wasn’t going to make it to FC that evening, and was going to be riding on Sunday. After about an hour I managed to pry myself off the floor, take a shower, and muster enough energy to head to dinner with Michael (neighbor) and then to see a movie as well. Sunday morning I took the bike back to Bicycle Village and then headed up to Fort Collins to see my brother and meet his girlfriend.

Sunday evening we took bicycles over to Beau Jo’s for dinner, I forgot how good their pizza is, and the crust with honey to dip in is excellent. I rode Greg’s Surly Big Dummy, and have decided that it would be the perfect bike for hauling the baby around Half Moon Bay. I’m looking for a used 20” one if anyone knows of one for sale!

Monday I headed off to the airport and returned to California, home for now, but I really feel like home is still in Colorado, even though we only lived there for 8 months.

I will be back, I will.

Earlier I mentioned that I had problems with the Forerunner. Well, fortunately I recorded my morning ride (screwed up) and my afternoon ride separately. This was fortunate because it meant the afternoon ride was recorded and had data, though for some reason it was truncated, showing only 36.* miles on Strava, when the Garmin showed 42 miles on the ride back.

Total mileage for the day was right above 82miles. Not bad for a guy who had never done 40 miles before, and is accustomed to riding at Sea Level, rather than at 5600-5900 feet up.

Here is the Strava profile for the return trip, due to the bad data the morning ride doesn’t work on Strava.

About the Author:

Chris Hammond
Founder of BicycleTips.com, an avid computer geek, photographer, and amateur bicycle rider. Read more about Chris Hammond.


comments powered by Disqus