Female Cyclists

Something I Learned: C02


I ride between 120 and 170 miles a week: usually a mix of country roads and mountain roads--sometimes dirt and gravel roads--and many of my miles are done in the early morning and out of cell-phone range. Yet, I'm still less than comfortable when it comes to changing a tube. I can do it. I've done it several times. I'm actually pretty good at it. But anytime I hear or feel an indication of a flat, I get a little panicky. A few weeks back, I had a front flat coming down after a decent climb. I got it changed without much trouble and was on my way. The very next day I had a rear flat. It seemed to be a slow leak, so I just inflated it with C02 and hoped it would last the rest of the ride. Two miles later, totally flat. I changed the tube, and tried to use the rest of the C02. As I was releasing it, the tube literally froze and crumbled. I've heard that this can happen: I've talked to people who have gotten frostbite from C02, and who are generally weary of it. So, at this point I was stuck. I had a tube with a puncture, a completely ruined tube, and zero C02. 


Luckily, it was a brilliant day around noon, and several cyclists were out. As I was attempting to phone a friend, a man rolled up and introduced himself: Chuck. He sat down and patched my not-entirely-ruined tube. Kind people exist everywhere, but I've been especially impressed with how willing cyclists in northern Colorado are to lend a hand. It took Chuck a while to properly patch my tube, but we talked about retirement (his), local music, and the toughest climbs in the area. After patching me up, he hand-pumped air into my fixed tube, and sent me on my way. The next day, I invested in a hand-pump of my own, and now carry 2 tubes. I'll still pack a C02 cartridge, and have nothing against it, but if I had been any farther out: up a mountain or in the country, and someone as kind (and prepared) as Chuck hadn't come along, I would have been out of luck. It's a tricky thing when the only way to learn is to practice, but the best case scenario is not to have to practice. I feel a little more equip now, and a lot more grateful for kind people.  

Do It: 12,183 Feet


High Point on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park sits at 12,183 feet, which makes it not only the highest pass in Colorado, but also the highest continuous motorway in the United States. More than 8 miles of the road are above 11,000 feet. Each spring, for a few weeks, Trail Ridge is open to cyclists and pedestrians, but not to cars. This time is spent readying the visitor centers, getting water pumping at the restrooms, and generally maintaining the park. It's also, obviously, the best time to be up there. 


I recently biked from the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park (which sits at 8,400 feet) up to High Point, and around the top area--which is like being on another planet. The trees disappear, the snow on both sides of the road grows higher than can be seen over, and the air is thin. A little over forty miles and 5,000 feet of gain all in. There was some wind at the top, but I've driven the road when the wind was far worse. Overall, it was the quiet that impressed me. 


The majority of other cyclists I saw at the top were women, which is not usually the case on the roads that I frequent. I met a group of 3 women who (like me) were biking it for the first time, and another woman who was going all the way from Granby to Estes on a bike that looked to weigh almost as much as she did. She had clearly been camping for a while. A thing I've learned is that women in Colorado are not afraid to do challenging feats alone. 


I bought an annual pass for Rocky Mountain and all the rest of the national parks when I entered. Now more than ever, it seems vital that we maintain and support these treasures. I only live about 30-miles from Rocky Mountain, but every time I enter the park, it feels like such an escape. And any time spent above 11,000 is just automatically dream-like. It's important to be in these places: to feel small and get a little scare from the sheer size of everything else.