New book offers advice for peddling passes

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— Managers of local bicycle shops say they are selling more road bikes than at anytime in the preceding 10 years.

Several credit the resurgence to Lance Armstrong's stirring assault on Alpe de Huez in the Tour de France. Translation: many of those shiny new bikes with the startlingly skinny tires will be headed for the summits of Colorado's mountain passes this summer.

Kurt Magsamen's timing is perfect. With the images of Armstrong leaving his competition in the dust still fresh in our minds, Magsamen has authored a new book devoted to helping citizen riders launch their own climb to the heights.

"Cycling Colorado's Mountain Passes" offers detailed information about cycling 34 of Colorado's most noteworthy mountain passes. They are organized by geographical regions of the state.

Routt County's Rabbit Ears and Gore passes are right up front.

"I've been riding in Colorado for 20 years and always, the high passes have had a special attraction not unlike the summits of big peaks," Magsamen writes in his introduction. "Whenever I wanted to ride a pass, the first source of information was whatever tattered road atlas was at hand. These contain precious little information for a cyclist. How steep is the grade? How sustained? A summit elevation is fine, if it's on the map at all. But what about a starting elevation?"

Magsamen provides all that information plus the best points for starting and stopping the ride. He also addresses traffic and safety conditions.

But the best part of each chapter is a "mileage log" which describes the climb by linking conditions to precise mileage points. This information combined with clear maps and charts showing the elevation profile of the climb and descent, make it possible for cyclists to anticipate riding passes they've never seen before.

For example, Magsamen writes of Red Mountain Pass (the Million Dollar Highway), beginning from Silverton: 1.1 The Columbine, a ghost restaurant; 6.9 Old buildings. The road is poor and gets narrower; 7.6 Prominent 20 mph curve; 9.0 road is extremely narrow; 9.7 Start climbing.

Magsamen routinely begins most of his narratives from either the north or east side of the pass, depending on its orientation. That makes his narrative on Rabbit Ears a little odd for Steamboat readers, because he starts his ride from Muddy Pass on the east side. That's something almost no one in Steamboat does, even though it's by far the easiest approach.

Of the long downhill from the West summit of Rabbit Ears into the Yampa Valley, Magsamen writes: "The western side is a rocket ride down and conversely, an unrelenting grind up."

"Cycling Colorado's Mountain Passes" would be useful to any hill climber looking to push his or her limits.

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