Reporting from the Ramble Ride
There comes a time in planning my summer when it is customary to decide on a big, challenging, sometimes silly adventure. After moving back to Colorado, and reconnecting with some of my more resourceful (or possibly crazy) friends, we really got a doozy on the books for July. The Ramble Ride is a supported three day destination ride from Fort Collins to Steamboat, Colorado. We decided it made sense as a training camp of sorts for the Steamboat Gravel Race, which we have also signed up for. Stay tuned for that report, it should be a doozy!
These are the lunatics I rode with, my husband Rod plus our good pals Michelle and Bill.
in this photo we are done with one big climb and you can see spirits are good! The ride is a fairly casual yet fully supported three day ride through mostly BLM (lightly maintained dirt / gravel) roads in the backcountry. It was a great opportunity to see roads and views even people who live in Colorado for ages don’t get to see. The Ramble team transports one bag, up to 60L in capacity (though this seems to be extremely discretionary), and that means as a rider you can carry as much or as little as you like. I personally felt that 3 days with 18,000 feet of climbing would be plenty challenging with just me on my bike, but to each their own!
When we got started on Thursday my goal was essentially to pedal as little as possible. Day One was around 75 miles with almost 9,000 feet of climbing. The forecast had a high temperature of 100 degrees in Fort Collins, not ideal but the benefit of climbing so much is that we could climb out of the worst of the heat. I met a really nice group of guys right around Horsetooth Reservoir and rode with them for 20 miles or so. This is a recurring theme from the ride - everyone I met on the ride was terrific. Fun, interesting, open to chatting about life and bikes. As much fun as the ride and the scenery were, the people may have been my favorite.
I met up with my husband at the first rest stop (he may have gone out a little hot!) and we cruised along a beautiful quiet dirt road with a stream, just enjoying having nothing to do all day but ride our bikes and set up camp. This led into a very pretty, and not entirely easy, climb where I met new people, chatted, and worked on my on-bike photography. Following that was 20 miles of descending and lunch (hot dogs in the middle of a hot day of riding are not recommended).
The hardest climb of the day was next and it was something. It reminded me of the Devil’s Kitchen ride in the Catskills except that it was not quite as steep, but it was three times as long. I just trucked along, did one stop with some very silly selfies, and met a delightful guy named Bob who just retired from Toyota. We climbed the rest of the hill together. He’s 60, so it was pretty impressive! After we finished the climb there were around 10 more miles of predominantly uphill rollers, where I met a couple named Marco and Hannah who were really delightful. We chatted all the way into camp.
I was hot, dehydrated, and my legs hurt, but the camp was beautiful. We set up our tent, took a makeshift bath in the river, and hung out and had dinner. People were drinking beer and even sent someone to the nearest town for more but I just chugged water and electrolytes, talked to new people, and went to bed while it was still light out.
Day Two sounded easier on paper than Day One, coming in at 80 miles but only (only!) 6,000 feet of climbing. However, in talking to a few people at camp who had done the ride we knew this may not be the case. We started out downhill on the rollers we had climbed the afternoon before and fairly soon we were climbing Deadman Hill up to an elevation over 10,000 feet. I felt great and took the same approach as I had the day before - try not to pedal in the first 30 miles. I crested the climb and felt like hey, these people don’t know what they’re talking about, day two will be no problem. We rode downhill for 10 miles or so to the lunch stop and had giant PB&J sandwiches. It was getting warm but not too bad.
After lunch is where the real fun started. 6 miles of 10% grade with a wicked headwind, totally exposed. I didn’t cry but I did swear a few times. After the 6 mile climb there was a series of death rollers with very steep up and down pitches, followed by a pretty sketchy and rocky descent to a water stop. I took my time, fearing a pinch flat the most, but tried to have fun with the descent. After that, there was an equally sketchy descent on some dirt road in the middle of being graded, which made it loose, muddy in spots, and generally a touch scary. I was pretty much done after this and by the time we made it to a paved road, with an optional turnoff to make it 80 miles, I kept to the road and pedaled straight to a Family Dollar in Walden, Colorado, where I found a Twix and a lemonade that were downright life saving.
Camp on the second night was in the city park in Walden. The town seemed genuinely happy to have 100 smelly cyclists descend upon it, which was really great, because in rural Colorado you just never know. We were all able to shower at the town pool and made a few walks to the gas station / gift shop in town for additional snacks which was absolutely wonderful. I have never appreciated a small town gas station so much. We slept as well as you can with mosquitoes buzzing around between the tent and the fly and a few lights in the park that stay on all night.
For Day Three, I was really excited. First, I couldn’t wait to get out of the constant mosquito bites in Walden. Secondly, I knew this would be by far the easiest day of riding - 50 miles and only 3,500 feet of climbing. We took off around 8:15 and pacelined with our new pals for the first 20 miles of the day, which ended up being relatively flat with a decent dirt surface. The first rest stop was at the base of Buffalo Pass and while I looked up at a threatening sky, I was so excited to get to Steamboat that I noticed some cool clouds and tried to enjoy every minute of our last big climb.
This climb was my favorite of the entire ride. Wildflowers, cool temperatures, awesome friends to chat with, and I was even able to practice some cyclocross techniques at the top where there were still a few snowbanks I had to dismount for. I reached the top of the pass, waited around for my friends for a few minutes, and figured that Rod would catch me on the descent so I may as well keep moving.
The descent into Steamboat is probably the most fun I have ever had on a bike. Rather than ride down Buffalo Pass Road, which is a sketchy and rocky jeep road, we took a trail called Flash of Gold. This was beautiful, smooth singletrack surrounded by Aspen trees and wildflowers. It was absolutely stunning, and even though I’ve had my challenges with mountain biking, it was easy and relaxing. The trail was a bit crowded but I was in no rush to get down so I pulled over for everyone going uphill (as one should per MTB etiquette anyway), told everyone to have a great ride, and generally was a happy human. Rod caught me right at the bottom of the singletrack and we rolled into town together and straight to our favorite coffee shop for a real espresso.
The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful - camping in Steamboat, a long ride back on a bus which drove home how far we rode, which was pretty crazy to experience, and some annoying traffic in the car on the way back to Denver, but it wasn’t important. This trip was just about having nothing to do all day but riding our bikes, enjoying the beautiful place we live, and connecting with other people who love the same things. I absolutely can’t wait for the next adventure.