Here are some simple tips for cycling Grand Mesa from the parking lot at the intersection of I-70 and Hwy 65, a 29 mile, 6000 ft. climb.
Cycle with Friends – In our case we rode with our tandem-riding friends, Randy and Nancy. Aside from the magical thinking, “If they can do it, we can do it,” both Nancy and Randy are great conversationalists who make the miles melt away.
Find a hill with a coffee shop – The tiny town of Mesa has a lovely little coffee shop called Blink as in “if you Blink twice, you’ll miss it”. It’s perfectly situated about 10 miles into the ride, just before the hill gets really steep. There’s nothing that says “We can do it” better than a strong, delicious cup of coffee.
Make a plan for stops and refueling breaks – We learned a little tip from some German cyclists we met in Laos. With loaded touring bikes they stop every 150 meters (450 ft.) in elevation climbed and have a quick snack and drink. For the Grand Mesa ride, Eric and I agreed to stop every 700 ft climbed (we were riding unloaded, light-weight road bikes). This gave us a goal and a concerted time to take pictures and chat.
Eat an elk burger while listening to live music – OK. I admit this was an unplanned, lucky bonus, but finding a rustic restaurant/old hunting lodge about 3 miles from the summit made us determined to repeat this ride some day in the future.
Make snow angels – I’m very jealous that I didn’t think of this fun (and sweat removing) idea. But, I will definitely copy Randy and Nancy for the next ride. But seriously, the idea of making snow angels proves my most important point for surviving a climb.
HAVE FUN ON THE UPHILL.
The added bonus of the climb is the downhill, which, in this case, was 24 miles of no pedaling, reaching death-defying speeds 40 mph for Eric and me, and 47 mph on the tandem.
Although we chose this ride for training purposes for Ride the Rockies, we will definitely repeat the ride just for fun!