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Marty Beene tells all on his trip through Rocky Mountain National Park

Marty Beene tells all on his trip through Rocky Mountain National Park

Marty Beene, a cycling enthusiast, recently shared his bicycle touring experiences with CycloCamping, dishing details on his memorable trip through Colorado. Beene and his teenage son participated in the Bicycle Tour of Colorado in 2011, which took them through a blizzard and other sites through Rocky Mountain National Park.

Q. What persuaded you and your son to sign up for the Bicycle Tour of Colorado?
A. My son and I (and my wife) have enjoyed recreational cycling for a long time, and had done a couple of organized one-day charity rides. In 2011, my wife, Pamela Boyes, learned that she would not be able to take a summer vacation because of work commitments, so encouraged us to do something without her. Our son, Cameron, had received a postcard ad in the mail a few weeks earlier about the BTC, so I looked up the details and signed us up.

Q. Had you cycled long distances/participated in other extended tours prior to the BTC?
A. We are all members of a local recreational club here in Alameda, California, called Team Alameda. The club offers multiple rides of various distances every weekend, including rides up to 50 or 60 miles with lots of hills. We had taken a relatively short bicycle vacation some years before (four days of riding, 25 miles at most in one day) in France when Cameron was young (a "self-guided tour," where the tour company moved our luggage from town to town), so the idea of riding 70 miles a day and camping out all week seemed exciting and fun.

Q. How did you and your son physically prepare for the ride?
A. Cameron was coming off of track season, so [he] was already in terrific physical condition. Ordinarily, we would have extended our training for two or three months before this kind of endeavor, but I had broken a finger and couldn't ride a bike until about six weeks before the tour started. As soon as I got the cast off and the pins out of my finger, we started riding as much as we could. On weekends, we did longer rides with as many hills as possible. We included one 80-mile ride (during which we endured a torrential downpour - good practice for what we encountered in Colorado), and rides to two prominent peaks here in the San Francisco Bay Area, Mount Diablo and Mount Hamilton. Mount Hamilton is often included in the Amgen Tour of California pro bike race, and Mount Diablo will be the site of that race's final stage this next spring.

Q. What were the biggest challenges of the BTC?
A. We expected the biggest challenge to be the altitude. We live at sea level, and the tour spent many miles at 8,000, 9,000, 10,000 feet and above, including one pass over 12,000 [feet]. However, with our experience backpacking in the high-altitude Sierras, we knew we could handle it as long as we simply slowed down from our usual pace. Another challenge we expected was riding so many miles on consecutive days. The schedule called for riding about 60, 65, 80, then 90 miles before the rest day, then another 70 and 55 miles the final two days. We made sure to take care of our bodies by stretching extensively each day after the rides, and were astonished to find ourselves feeling just fine each morning.

Finally, the biggest challenge was unexpected - we rode through a blizzard on Day 2 (in late June!), which was the day we crossed Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. The road had been closed overnight, but the storm had eased up in the early morning, so the ride organizers let us go ahead. About the time my son and I reached the summit, the storm had gotten stronger, with 20 miles per hour cross winds. We warmed up as best we could at the visitor center, then proceeded down the other side. Since going downhill on a bike doesn't require any physical effort, we got very cold. We arrived at the final "rest stop" to find several Park Service vehicles with engines running. A ranger approached me and directed me to immediately put my bike down and get into a nearby pickup truck - they had put Cameron into a different vehicle. I shivered violently for about 20 minutes, then we decided to get back on our bikes and keep going - there were other riders arriving who needed the heat more than we did. We continued on for the final 20 miles of the day's ride in intermittent rain, two of an estimated 300 riders who actually rode the entire distance that day out of the 1,400 plus BTC riders (the others were bused to the next town). That night, we were able to get a motel room for the night, which helped us dry out our things.

Q. What advice do you have to cyclists embarking on their first multi-day bike tour?
A. Pick a tour that fits your riding ability and personal style. There is a lot of information on cycling forums that can guide you to pick the right one. The BTC was a perfect fit for us, and there may be others that would be as well, but I also read about tours that might not be good for us. The other piece of advice would be to train diligently for the distance and terrain that will be on the ride - being fit really helped us enjoy the tour.

Q. Do you have any countries or states you wish you could visit via bike in the future?
A. We are currently planning a cycling trip to France, on which we want to ride some of the roads made famous by the Tour de France. We plan to focus on the Pyrenees, but may add a ride or two in the Alps.

back to Bicycle Touring News | posted on 3/1/2013

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