Note: Read this post with dramatic emphasis!
School’s out, the rains have receded; what a perfect opportunity for some rides! But wait! This is Colorado weather, not nostalgic summer weather. It can be warm, fun, and mostly painless….but it can turn within minutes to a cold, miserable and windy day.
Take a couple of weekends ago. In the morning, it was sunny, warm, and almost cloudless in Longmont. A perfect day to go biking.
And within a couple of hours of riding, it turned freezing, cloudy and, worst of all, rainy in Ward. This is the best example of how quickly the weather in Colorado can change.
As for Ride The Rockies, with it happening in the middle of June, there is rarely much to worry about, weather-wise (other than the cold at high elevations and the wind). But you always ought to be prepared. Last year, on the first day of RTR, I was having a pretty good day from Boulder up until Empire. Suddenly, it began to pour rain in Empire. I was forced to wait under a tree on the side of the road for two hours, not only to avoid the rain, but to stay warm. When the clouds seemed to be clearing over Berthoud Pass, I made my move to make it over. Little did I know I was already too late. Two miles from the top of the pass, it began not only to rain, not only to hail, but rain, snow, and hail, all at the same time. I made it to the summit of the pass, still warm from pedaling hard up the climb. People at the summit were already setting their bikes aside and waiting out the storm in the warming hut. I, knowing conditions were only going to get worse as time went on, along with being determined to continue my “ride every mile, every day” streak, daringly descended Berthoud Pass into Winter Park. Let me just say it was the worst hour of my life because I was getting cold quickly, as I wasn’t pedaling hard and only had my jersey, light coat and shorts on, nothing else. Also, the pelting rain, snow and hail mix battered my body. When I finally reached the RTR site in Winter Park, I was completely drenched and shivering uncontrollably. Fortunately, my mom arrived at the same time in a SAG and was awesome and took care of me. From this experience, I realized the weather would not always be in my favor, and needed to bring more cold weather gear along for future rides (I had none on that ride! Big mistake!)
Another challenging experience with weather I had is from my first year doing RTR in 2012. On the third day, between Carbondale and Leadville, we climbed Independence Pass, over 20 miles of strenuous climbing. The weather that day was hot without a cloud in the sky. Due to this, I drank a lot of water. I filled up both of my water bottles at the last aid station before the top of the pass, seven miles away. With two miles to go, I had already consumed all of my water! Unwilling to go back down to the aid station to fill up my water bottles, I pushed through to the top, ending up feeling very tired, hot, and a bit dehydrated. This brought to my awareness drinking plenty of water beforehand to mitigate dehydration later.
Ride The Rockies is a wonderful experience in a beautiful place…but keeping in mind that weather conditions can change – in either direction – more rapidly than you expect can help keep your ride fun and safe.