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When it comes to classic American cycling, few destinations can even attempt to surpass Colorado with its big skies, high altitude and, of course, its magnificent mountains. So when Pactimo invites us to come by for a visit at its Denver offices and discover the area, well, the answer is easy.
It’s great visiting the headquarters of this groundbreaking clothing manufacturer, but it’s clear that the staff wants to get out and show off the surroundings. “You know, when it comes to cycling in Colorado, there is a real difference between Boulder and Denver,” says Ryan White, the senior product designer. “Each has a strong cycling community, but Pactimo is really a Denver company. This is where we ride. This is where we test out our equipment.”
A strong mountain sun warms the winter air, and with blue skies beckoning thoughts quickly turn to the ride. “Let’s hit Red Rocks,” says White. “It’s a perfect day and it’s a classic ride for us. You’ll see!”
We meet up with Dean and Jenna, two local racers, and make our way westward out of town, quickly clearing the downtown to ride on open roads. But Denver is like that. Despite tremendous growth in recent decades, it still remains rideable. “Denver is just very bike friendly,” says Dean, a native of the city. “You always see a lot of people riding, and people respect cyclists on the road. And then there are just so many rides in close proximity. It’s really amazing.”
Soon enough, the two riders come into Morrison, a classic western town to the foreign eye. One can just imagine the doors of a saloon swinging open back in the day. And today it is an ideal stop for lunch or a snack while on a ride, as well as the gateway to the Red Rocks Park.
Turning left off of highway 74, the landscape changes as the renowned red sandstone rock formations immediately appear. Certain of them, we learn, even have names. They are instantly defining, taking you into another world. And there is a distinct quiet in the air. Perhaps it is that motorists no longer seem to be in hurry to get anywhere once they enter Red Rocks. Or perhaps the rocks themselves impose a stillness all their own. And it comes as no surprise that a historic amphitheater was built into the heart of these mountains, creating one of the world’s most original music venues. Opened in the 1940s, it once hosted The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and remains an enviable stop on any musician’s tour.
But as the sinuous Red Rocks Park Road moves around the hillside, the road is constantly climbing as well. “You know, I came from Minnesota. I remember the first time I came to Red Rocks,” says Jenna. “I remember just thinking, ‘This is too much climbing!’ But I love it now!”
Protected by the walls of the lower canyon and with the afternoon sun directly over, the duo rides easily in their Storm jerseys, using only arm warmers to control the temperature.
But suddenly, after turning left on Trading Post Road, the pitches increase dramatically as the two climb away from the first layer of rocks and make their way toward the amphitheater. And as the skies open up again, the Denver skyline can be easily spotted on the not-too-distant horizon.
“It’s really incredible how close we are to climbs,” Jenna says. “Deer Creek Canyon is virtually out my back door and you can come out here to Red Rocks easily on a quick ride.”
“Yeah, and the climbs are plenty tough too,” adds Dean. “Especially up here.”
Finally turning on Alameda Parkway, the two pass through a tunnel cut under the rock formation before making their way to the amphitheater with its amazing vistas. After taking a brief break, Dean and Jenna ride back down the climb, but then loop around on other roads in the park, such as Slip Rock Road, a perfect respite after tackling the main climb. By now the sun is slipping behind these singular rock formations and the temperatures drop quickly, reminding us that, despite the accommodating sunshine, we are still very much in the winter. Slipping into her lightweight Divide wind vest, however, is more than sufficient for Jenna to maintain a consistent core temperature as the two ride a final lap through the park.
“You know, I may have grown up around here, but I never get bored of riding through Red Rocks,” Dean says. “This is so cool!”
“You know, it’s funny, but generally we are going so hard we don’t have a chance to enjoy the scenery, but today we did,” Jenna adds. “It sure is a lot nicer when we can enjoy the scenery!”