Photos & Article by Giancarlo Bianchi
It’s summer, and there’s record heatwaves everywhere. While in most places in the US, you pretty much just have to suck it up, here in Colorado we have the luxury of heading into the mountains to escape the heat. For every 1000 feet the temperature decreases approximately 3.3 degrees. So given that it was forecast to get well over 100 degrees on Sunday, Andrew Kruse and I finally decided to ride Rollins Pass. A ride we had been talking about doing for about 2 years.
What’s Rollins Pass?
Well, it’s a mountain pass that takes you over the Continental Divide. It starts off peak to peak highway in Rollinsville on the east side and spits you out in Winter Park, a ski town, on the west side. Steeped in history, this route is probably most well known for being an historic railroad route which was made obsolete by the construction of the Moffat Tunnel.
So what’s the big deal?
Well, Rollins Pass is one of those local bucket list kinds of rides. You know, the kind of rides that you [should] plan for, offers epic views basically the entire time, while you’re doing it you’ll keep asking yourself why [type A fun] but if completed successfully you’ll feel quite accomplished #DoEpicShit
It’s also a ride that you can only do about 2-3 months in the summer to complete it successfully, otherwise you might have massive snow banks blocking your path and/or run into very dangerous weather.
You know that saying, fail to plan, plan to fail? Well, Andrew and I decided to do the ride at about 7am day of (planned AF). He also invited local strong dude and friend, Jameson Ribbens. I didn’t bother to take a look at the route (though I should have). I also only packed a energy bar and ham and cheese sandwich, 1 bottle with nuun, 1 liter of water in my camelback and of course a beer.
The ride out of Rollinsville was basic enough, pretty standard Colorado dirt road, honestly something you can do on a road bike. Jameson didn’t ride on Saturday so we were at the mercy of his pace setting from the get go.
Oye! Tranquilo y Tropical bro!
At about mile 5, we ran into a bike touring gang. Most of them were riding +tire bikes laden with gear. One or 2 of them were on proper fat bikes if I remember correctly. As we approached them, we waved and said hello, but then they started drafting us! The next few minutes became the strangest pace line I’ve ever been in. I mean, we weren’t exactly going easy, but they were keeping up with us, and then they began to set the pace too! One guy was even barefoot #patasucia #mindblown
After they tired we continued on and started the real ascent to Rollins Pass. Now this is about the place where I’d say if you didn’t have a mountain bike, then don’t go any further. While you might be able to make your way up on say, a gravel bike/cx bike, the way down won’t be very fun for you. The climb itself isn’t very difficult in terms of steepness, about 3% for about 12 miles (for my Miami peeps, that’s the same gradient of Key biscayne bridge), but what makes it challenging is:
“I’m not sure, I really didn’t look at the route.”
“JAMESON!!!!!!!!!!!! SON Son son”