One week in Colorado just wasn’t enough, and if I have to blame it on the average 19 mph uphill speed of our truck and a long detour through Wyoming’s Route 80 to avoid the mountain passes of I-70, then so be it. But ask anyone riding a motorcycle here, and they’ll agree we made the right decision. With the idea that some of us might decide to call this place our post-adventure home, a second week gave us a chance to experience everything that Colorado has to offer. No flukes or honeymoon effects here, just real, raw Colorado.
Get the Flash Player to see this player.
The second part of our stay in Colorado covers the Northern region, which is the motorcycling equivalent to New York’s biggest tourist attractions. Here you will find big names that attract people from all over the world, and seeing it all can’t be done in one trip.
Pikes Peak is the Empire State Building: tall and majestic with the best views at the top. Rocky Mountain National Forest is Times Square: tourists everywhere, highly patrolled, with things coming at you from every direction. Both locations are expensive, geared towards tourists, and your rides are limited by external conditions. And in Northern CO, just like NY, one must travel outside of the tourist epicenters and into neighboring areas to really discover what it is all about.
No matter what, you can’t visit the area and not see what all the hype is about. We started our trip on Pikes Peak, which, for good reason, is the second most visited mountain in the world. Consistent with my analogy, the mountain comes with an entrance fee greater than the rest of the other parks at $12, compared to $10 for Rocky Mountain National Forest, and $3 for the arguably more grandiose Mt. Evans. The top of the mountain has incredible scenery and a visitor’s shop that will sell you frozen hamburgers to the tune of $9 a pop.
If you get there early enough in the morning and pack the right winter gear for the 40-degree temperature differential, you are in for the ride of your life. However, get there after 10am and the roads are cluttered with tourists eager to put a decal right next to their station wagon stick figure family, crawling up the winding roads at 7 mph.
In search of some riders delight, we ventured north to Route 5 where we would stack Pike’s Peak against the highest paved road in North America: Mount Evans.
Just like New York City, nothing in Colorado is truly a “hidden” gem, but with a $3.00 entrance fee, and only a few cars, this mountain climb was definitely not on the radar. Major tourist attractions have to be held to a certain brand standard – clean floors and walls in a building and paved roads on the mountains. That is probably why they paved the second half of the Peak.
Mount Evans, however, doesn’t get the same treatment and adds some serious personality. Waves in the road from drastic weather changes had our bikes completely in the air, and the ruins of a famous castle in place of a visitor’s center at the top made for some incredible hiking if you could power through the altitude sickness. Additionally, the road to get there from camp, Route 103, is an incredible display of freshly paved sweepers.
Next up on the trip was the Rocky Mountain National Forest, which is the place to go if you want a quintessential Colorado experience. Just a hair cheaper than Pikes Peak at $10 per moto, beautifully paved roads display the natural Colorado Rockies when uninhabited by humans. As sport riders, however, the American backdrop of our riding experience was supposed to be just that – a backdrop.
Here the scenery is the main attraction, and the roads are just a means to an end. Drastic changes in weather systems including 35-degree temperature changes from the entrance to the peak, fog, and random downpours from the permanent clouds kept sport bikers out completely and other bikers few and far between.
The playground for sport riders was on the way back to Denver through Route 7, 72, and 119. At over 50 miles from the west side exit of the park back down to Denver, these roads had everything a sport rider could ask for. The roads are freshly paved and have the coarse deep black road surface that has the perfect amount of grit to grab the tire but not interfere with the feel. Gravel was non-existent, and the road exercised the rider’s experience with every turn combination in the book.
In the miles from the park back to camp I may have passed only 20 cars, most of which were pulled off on the side of the road while their occupants fished in the neighboring river. The route included mountain passes but also had a large section nestled between two mountains that keeps the weather predictable and warm.
Colorado still reigns supreme as an epic, motorcycle playground that favors the adventure rider, but with a little bit of planning any rider can unlock the trip of a lifetime. No matter where you’re from, or what you ride, you will be amazed at what the state has to offer, whether it’s the roads, people, scenery or all of the above.