Photo: Natalie Starr
The Plan: A whirlwind weekend trip to Denver, CO to ride Mt. Evans, the highest paved road in North America.
The Challenge: What to pack?
Bringing a bike on a plane is just one of those necessary evils. Thankfully, my friend Katie Donovan (super fast, super pro) lent me her bike travel bag so I'd have no problem checking it. With your bike, helmet, and shoes in checked baggage, you're left with a carryon for clothes and toiletries. I'm here to tell you, it can be done, and it can be done in a super small, lightweight backpack so your travel experience will be easy and painless. After taking your bike apart and putting it back together twice in a span of 3 days, you'll want to worry as little about the rest of the packing as possible.
Packing for Denver was tricky for two reasons. First, the weather is predictably unpredictable and in the week leading up to the trip the temperature went from 32 to 75 in a matter of days. Second, we'd be riding from 5,000' to 14,000' in one ride, so even if it was 80 degrees in the city we would need layers once we go to the mountains.
Here's what I packed:
- MVP: For the long ride with changing conditions.
- Endurance Bib: For the coffee ride.
- Horizons Jersey: One jersey can be easily washed in the shower and worn again.
- Daybreak Wind Jacket: Easily packable, can be worn multiple times.
- Galaxie Wind Vest: ^ Ditto.
- Another Wind Jacket: Layers, guys.
- Neck gator
- Arm warmers: For under the jacket if it got really gnarly.
- Street clothes: For dinner & spectating.
We got to Denver, rebuilt our bikes, ate all the carbs and went to bed early, preparing for the huge day ahead of us. We planned to ride 130 miles and 13,000 feet from Denver to the summit of Mt. Evans and back. Blissful ignorance was on our side before we met any Denver locals who could warn us of the foolishness of this plan. When we woke up, we realized the 85 degree forecast was no joke; even at 7 am layers weren't necessary. This proved to be a little bit of a problem because wearing only my MVP and a jersey did not leave enough room for all the layers I would need at the top. I decided to ditch my arm warmers and cap as they seemed superfluous. I packed my wind vest in my handlebar bag with my snacks, and had two wind jackets in two of my jersey pockets. The last pocket was reserved for my phone, neck gator, and gloves.
First mishap of the day happened on the way to breakfast. Apparently I had made a silly mistake over torquing my headset bolt the night before, and when I went to adjust my bars, the two inner pieces were locked together so tight we couldn't put them back in correctly. So I started the ride with no compressor or top cap. But its OK because apparently, you can ride that way.
We began the 30 miles of city slog with gusto, fueled by a big breakfast in Downtown Denver. We quickly realized altitude might be a factor for the day, as my heart rate was about 170 bpm while standing still at stoplights and everyone's breathing was short, loud, and through the mouth. Just need to acclimate, I told myself, and we took it easy as we made our way West towards the mountains.
As our elevation ticked higher, the mishaps did not relent. A mistake in our route left us hiking a trail carrying our bikes, which lost us about 2 hours of valuable time and me with a broken cleat. I rode the next 10 miles unclipped until we thankfully found a bike shop that had everything we needed. New cleats and a fixed headset put a pep in my pedal as we started the climb proper, and I put on my jacket. As we climbed, we knew time would be a major factor as the temperature was quickly dropping.
Fast forward to the top of Mt. Evans at 14,000 feet at 5:45 pm. We pushed it to the last minute of sunlight to make it as close to the summit as we could. All of my layers were now on and I still shivered. Altitude gave me a headache that would not go away for the next two days and left us dizzy and nauseous if we stood still too long. My Garmin read 37 degrees but the wind on the exposed side of the mountain was much colder. Luckily, with a totally protected core I didn't feel it much except in my toes and fingers. We quickly turned around to descend and ended our ride at Echo Lake, 60 miles and 12 hours later. We were beyond lucky that our friend Natalie decided to drive up to Echo Lake to join us for the last bit of the climb and take some photos, because she agreed to pack us and our bikes into her tiny Mini Cooper and drive us the rest of the way back to Denver. We didn't make the 130 mile route we had planned, but we made it as far as we could and felt happy with our efforts. The next day as we hung with the locals at the US Open CX race in Boulder, they thought we were crazy for even attempting the ride. Apparently, people don't just ride to Evans from Denver. That's just for crazy people.
Sunday was even warmer than the day before so I was glad I packed my Endurance Bibs. In my post-ride shower the night before I gave my jersey a quick wash with Doctor Bronner's, used Tara's towel-trick to get it mostly dry, and hung it up. It was perfectly fresh for the next morning. I kept my vest in my pocket but didn't end up needing it as we explored Denver for coffee and donuts: the perfect recovery ride.