| Pikes Peak Highway on a Bicycle
Route: Pikes Peak Highway on a bicycle
Distance: 25 miles starting in Manitou Springs (50 miles roundtrip)
Ascent Time/Total Time: 3h45m / 4h47m (excluding breaks)
For the month of September 2012, Pikes Peak is running a pilot program to gauge if bicycles should be allowed to ride on the Pikes Peak Highway. Previously, you could only legally ride a bicycle on the highway one day out the year during the Assault on the Peak event.
The fee is the normal $12 but I know there is a coupon out there for a couple bucks off.
I've always wanted to ride it so I made the drive down on September 11 to ride and remember. Having ridden the Mt Evans Highway six times previously, I thought I had a good idea of what to expect. But Pikes is much harder....
I started in Manitou Springs to make the ride a little more difficult. This wasn't really necessary as the ride is already very difficult and doesn't need to be made any harder. I consider myself a good road rider, but this route is seriously steep and long and sustained and kicked my arse. A triple chainring is advised (I wished all day I had one). For others wanting to attempt this route, I recommend starting a little higher. There are some good parking spots a couple miles past the fee booths, at Crystal Creek Reservoir, and Glen Cove Inn.
Charming Manitou Springs
From the Glen Cove Inn
The road surface is new and in excellent condition from top to bottom. Anyone who's ridden Evans knows the road is in bad shape and beats you up when you ride it. Pikes, however, is as smooth as butter and makes for a very enjoyable descent.
I had heard the Pikes Highway was much steeper than the Evans Highway and this is true. And not only is Pikes steeper, but the grade eases in only a few places above 9000', so the last vertical mile of climbing is a grind, to say the least. I don't typically take breaks when riding, but on Pikes I had to take three. In fact, I can easily say this is the hardest singular paved road bike climb I have ever done, is the hardest in Colorado, and one of the hardest in the US. There are few climbs in the world as long, as high, and steeply sustained as Pikes. The Mt Evans Highway is much easier. Mauna Kea comes to mind as something as hard or harder than Pikes (although I have not done Mauna Kea). Pikes is no joke.
Looking down the switchbacks
Dark clouds started to move in but I made the summit at 12:20pm (after starting at 8:10am). To compare, I've done the Mt Evans Bicycle Race (from Idaho Springs and 27 miles) in 2h40m. Pikes took me over an hour longer and is two miles shorter. Of course, I'm not in my then-racing shape, but I'm not bad now either.
On the summit
I had been thinking a lot about the events of 09/11/01 a lot on the ascent and it motivated me to keep pushing. And I thought about the many thanks that need to go out to military, police, fire, and all EMS for what they do. Thank you!
America the Beautiful
When you ride to 14k', the descent becomes non-trivial and must be planned for. It is cold riding a bicycle at those speeds down a 14er, so I donned my two small riding coats, leg and arm warmers, and full-finger gloves for the descent. I was warm enough and made the descent in around an hour.
If you are looking for a big challenge and a unique way to add to your Colorado mountain resume, Pikes Highway on a bicycle is a big one. Having ran Barr Trail in a single push on two separate occasions now, I can say Pikes Highway from Manitou Springs on a bicycle is comparable in difficulty. Of course, on a bike you benefit from the passive riding on the descent, but the climb itself was harder in my opinion on a bike.
Thanks for reading.
Pikes from Crystal Creek Reservoir
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):